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Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): My hon. Friend rightly said that tax law should be readily comprehensible to an intelligent layman, and provided quotations to that effect. Does he agree that the Bill should be readily comprehensible to an intelligent outsider attending to our proceedings? Will he therefore do the House the favour of summarising in a sentence its purpose and effect?

Mr. Ottaway: I do not think that the Bill is incomprehensible. As I said, I think that it is a big improvement, although it would be inappropriate for this moment to pass without pointing out that there are those who think that it could be improved further, and that three-part numbering would be an improvement in the eyes of many.

The report discusses changing the name of the Joint Committee to illustrate a change from a Committee of simplification to a Committee that rewrites. It proposes that the Committee should be renamed the Joint Committee on tax law rewrite Bills. It is important to make the distinction between a rewrite and a simplification. There is no doubt that simplification of the law is required, and many commentators have said at some length that tax law needs improving. I recommend to those who have not had an opportunity to read it--I know that the Minister has--a paper produced by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, entitled "Towards a better tax system", which suggests how the famous, or infamous, IR35 law could be simplified and improved.

We are now embarked on the first step of an important project--the rewriting of tax law. However, unless future Finance Acts are drafted in the rewritten style, we shall forever be going backwards: it will be two steps back and one step forward. I hope the Minister will confirm that future Acts will be so written, because otherwise it will be like painting the Forth bridge when it is rusting faster than it is being painted.

13 Feb 2001 : Column 254

There is only one way in which what I want can be achieved. As I said on Second Reading, if resources for the tax rewrite project are increased and more staff are available, it will be possible to introduce the rewritten legislation faster than tax law is being made.

Despite what I have said, I believe that this is a successful project. It is an important step forward, and we wish the Bill a fair wind.

9.56 pm

Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe): I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) reached that conclusion, because I, too, support a Bill that I consider to represent the successful outcome of a long process pursued by the House and by successive Governments.

As Chancellor of the Exchequer, I was responsible for the launch of the tax rewrite project. I got my just deserts a few years later, when I was persuaded by the usual channels that I should therefore take on the obligations of chairing a Joint Committee on tax simplification. As it happened, it proved to be a reasonable undertaking; there was general satisfaction that the tax rewrite project team had done its work properly. The Committee reported its satisfaction with the Bill, and said that it did not think that any matters needed to be drawn to the House's attention.

I rarely speak in support of the Minister, but I congratulate the Government on continuing the project on a truly bipartisan basis. It has taken a long time for this conclusion to be reached, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South says, there is no difference between the two sides on the desirability of making the House's intentions, and the policy that we decide on tax, as comprehensible as possible to the intelligent layman outside. That is the whole point of the undertaking.

My hon. Friend pointed out that "Joint Committee on Tax Simplification Bills" was probably a misnomer. My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) asked what the "intelligent layman" would think. I see no way in which we could produce a clear and easy read on tax policy--particularly on capital allowances--for the normal educated layman.

This is a highly specialised subject. When I first announced the details of the project, in my 1996 Budget, I said that the task on which we were embarking was rather like that of turning "War and Peace" into lucid Swahili. Indeed, that would doubtless be an easy project compared with this: simplifying tax law involves addressing a more specialised audience.

Although the process has fulfilled a useful purpose, I readily acknowledge the importance of discussing it properly on Third Reading. After all, we are embarked on a novel procedure, and we must ensure that we do not remove from the House as a whole its responsibility--its sole responsibility--for making the final judgment on tax policy and the burden of taxation as it falls on individuals and companies throughout the economy.

Mr. Hogg: What worries many Members is the possibility that substantive changes to law have occurred, rather than mere rewriting. What reassurance can my right hon. and learned Friend give that the Committee and all its members were satisfied that no substantive change in the law had been made?

13 Feb 2001 : Column 255

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Motion made, and question proposed, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business),

Question put:--

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. Speaker: I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.

The House having divided: Ayes 309, Noes 33.

Division No. 121
[10 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald
(Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baker, Norman
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Breed, Colin
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnett, John
Butler, Mrs Christine
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clelland, David
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Denham, Rt Hon John
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foulkes, George
Galbraith, Sam
Gapes, Mike
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Jimmy
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Joyce, Eric
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Keetch, Paul
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
Kirkwood, Archy
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moore, Michael
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Pearson, Ian
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Raynsford, Nick
Rendel, David
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salmond, Alex
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tipping, Paddy
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Willis, Phil
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James
Wright, Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Don Touhig and
Mr. Jim Dowd.


Ballard, Jackie
Beggs, Roy
Bercow, John
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cran, James
Day, Stephen
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Fearn, Ronnie
Gray, James
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Hunter, Andrew
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Leigh, Edward
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Luff, Peter
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Ottaway, Richard
Paisley, Rev Ian
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Ruffley, David
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Soames, Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Steen, Anthony
Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Eric Forth and
Mr. Christopher Chope.

Question accordingly agreed to.

13 Feb 2001 : Column 257

Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

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