Previous SectionIndexHome Page

12 Feb 2003 : Column 935—continued

Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Not three hours ago I raised a point of order with Mr. Speaker, in which I pointed out that the chairman of the Labour party had made very strong statements about the problems that gave rise to the action at Heathrow. Not very long after I raised that point of order, the chairman of the Labour party appeared on the radio again, not in this House, and made statements that appear to contradict his earlier statement. That is a very serious matter.

We are dealing with life and death. It seems appropriate that there should be clarity. Conservative Members support the actions that the Government are taking. We want to have the opportunity to ensure that, in a sober-minded fashion, the nation can hear a clear account. Have you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, received from Ministers any request to make a statement about this matter?

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As you will be aware, my constituency lies directly to the west of Heathrow, under the flight path, and a large number of my constituents work either at Heathrow or for various airlines. There is immense confusion after the contradictory statements from the chairman of the Labour party. Whereas my constituents and I do not expect detailed information that might be security sensitive, I would ask you whether you have yet received any request for any clarification to be made at this very difficult time, which is what my constituents would want?

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Mr. Speaker has on many occasions deprecated Ministers' making outside the House statements that should have been made in it. It is a folly that is compounded when contradictory statements are made. Would you be kind enough to have a word with

12 Feb 2003 : Column 936

Mr. Speaker? I realise that he cannot summon a Minister to make a statement, but could the concern that is felt both in the House and in the country, with people feeling exceptionally confused and worried, be reflected in a message to Ministers, so that before the House rises tonight we have a statement of clarification?

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I understand that other hon. Members will have local concerns, and the whole House obviously has deep concern over what is acknowledged on all sides to be a grave matter, but, as has already been recognised in one of the points of order, the Chair cannot dictate when a Minister of the Crown should come to the House.

I am aware that the Government gave a commitment some while ago that they would keep the House informed. I am sure that they will have heard what right hon. and hon. Members have said, and I imagine that this matter could further be pursued through the usual channels.

The straight answer is that the Chair has not received any indication as of now that there is to be any further ministerial statement in the course of this sitting day.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Just for clarification and to help the House, which I know you want to do, when you say that the Chair has no power, is it not the case that, procedurally, if the Speaker granted an urgent question on the matter, the Minister would be obliged to give an account of events to the House? That and perhaps other procedures are available to the House and the Speaker for us to ensure that we hear about vital matters from Ministers rather than hearing contradictory accounts on the radio or, indeed, anywhere else.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The right hon. Gentleman is correct that that procedure exists, but it cannot apply at this point in the sitting day. There is a time when submissions can be made to Mr. Speaker, which he considers totally impartially and on which he reaches a decision. It is open to any right hon. or hon. Member to make such a request to be considered at the next opportune time.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You probably recall that the IRA terrorist attack on Heathrow was mounted from my constituency and that the aircraft involved in the last crash at Heathrow came down in my constituency, so you can guess how my constituents feel at the moment. I have been trying all day to get information that I can convey to my constituents to reassure them about what is going on so that they know that their interests are being looked after. Is there any way at all that my constituents, who are rightly worried by what is happening, can get some information from someone? If we cannot get a Minister to the House, can you suggest how else we can get some facts?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman's concern is perfectly understandable bearing in mind the geographical placing of his constituency, but I cannot

12 Feb 2003 : Column 937

add to my ruling. I am sure that the concerns that are felt will be reflected in the Government's thinking and no doubt in the mind of Mr. Speaker if he is called on to adjudicate on another request for an urgent question.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Do you think that Mr. Speaker would be more minded to grant an urgent question tomorrow bearing in mind the fact that the co-operation of hon. Members on both sides of the House is essential on matters of security and intelligence, so the Government's behaviour should be of a higher standard than is usually the case in the party political situation?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I cannot possibly anticipate how Mr. Speaker will react to any such matter that is put to him. I do know, however, that he will give it sober and impartial consideration. We must now move on.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Orders [28 June 2001 and 29 October 2002],

Question agreed to.

12 Feb 2003 : Column 938

Orders of the Day

Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Bill

As amended in the Joint Committee, considered.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

Question agreed to.

Order for Third Reading read.

[Relevant document: The First Report from the Joint Committee on Tax Law Rewrite Bills, Session 2002–03, on the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Bill, HC 287—I.]

4.33 pm

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I am pleased to open the Third Reading debate on a Bill that rewrites income tax rules on employment income, pensions and taxable social security benefits. It has been produced by the tax law rewrite project, which is a long-term undertaking to modernise direct tax legislation so that it is clearer and easier to use. Before dealing with the specifics of the Bill itself, it may be helpful if I explain a little about the work of the project.

The project was set up in 1996 to rewrite most of the direct tax law, currently running at more than 7,000 pages of legislation enacted over the past 200 years. The key aim of the project is to produce rewritten legislation that is acceptable by all the main users as clearer and easier to apply. While making measures more accessible, the project takes a great deal of care to preserve the effect of the present legislation apart from minor agreed changes.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): I wonder whether the right hon. Lady can help me. She said that the project reflects the 1996 announcement to rewrite tax rules over many years. How up to date is it? Has it taken into account all the new taxes that the Government have imposed on the British people?

Dawn Primarolo: The project was started in 1996 by the previous Administration and the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), and is supported by the Government. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is yes—both the Capital Allowances Act 2001 considered by the House two years ago and the Bill cover all the legislation to date. If he cares to scrutinise the Committee proceedings, he will find some interesting debate on the more unusual measures that the previous Government introduced into our tax system. I am sure that he is waiting with bated breath to read that as his essential bedtime reading.

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester): I am sure that there have been failings by Members on both sides of the House in the past. However, was the Inland Revenue asked to provide a full compliance cost assessment of each measure while, at the same time, looking at the way in which they could be rewritten? Will the right hon. Lady put that full compliance cost into the public domain? Having looked at the matter, has she

12 Feb 2003 : Column 939

concluded that the best way to simplify the burden of dealing with those forms is not merely to rewrite them but to simplify the tax system itself?

Next Section

IndexHome Page