House of Commons portcullis
House of Commons
Session 2003 - 04
Publications on the internet
Standing Committee Debates
Finance Bill

Finance Bill

Standing Committee A

Thursday 6 May 2004


[Mr. John McWilliam in the Chair]

Finance Bill

(except clauses 4, 5, 20, 28, 57 to 77, 86, 111 and 282 to 289, and schedules 1, 3, 11, 12, 21 and 37 to 39)

8.55 am

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Paul Boateng): I beg to move

    That, during proceedings on the Finance Bill (except Clauses 4, 5, 20, 28, 57 to 77, 86, 111 and 282 to 289 and Schedules 1, 3, 11, 12, 21 and 37 to 39), the Committee do meet at half-past Nine o'clock and half-past Two o'clock on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the House is sitting, other than Thursday 10th June 2004.

On behalf of the Committee, I extend a warm welcome to you, Mr. McWilliam, and to Sir John Butterfill, as you assume your responsibilities at the commencement of our proceedings. I know that I speak for the whole Committee when I say that I particularly welcome your stewardship. You are noted for being tough-minded, but at the same time we know that, when that twinkle in your eye appears, you are about to extend a latitude that, having looked around me, I have no doubt many Committee members will take advantage of.

Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford) (Con): Surely not.

Mr. Boateng: I fear so.

I also know, Mr. McWilliam, that your co-Chair, Sir John, will add his particular style and experience to the Committee, not least because, many years ago, a number of us had the pleasure to serve with him on a Finance Bill. Even though on the Government side, he demonstrated a capacity to speak at some length in the furtherance of the entirely justifiable cause of widows who had found themselves at a disadvantage as a result of a financial instrument that was causing many of them to lose their homes. Such was the length at which he spoke that it caused a certain amount of alarm at that time—way back in 1988—on the part of the then Government Whip. I very much hope that none of my colleagues will follow his example in that respect, because my experience is that disturbing the peace of mind of the Government Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), in any way is likely to have extremely unfortunate results. I fear that Labour Members will not be emulating Sir John in that respect.

On our part, I also extend a particularly warm welcome to the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Mr. Flight), who leads for the Opposition on the Committee. As a noted City expert, he brings a depth of experience and knowledge to the proceedings. Joking apart, he always participates fully and with a great deal of knowledge and warmth in the debate.

My right hon. Friend the Paymaster General will lead on the Bill and will do so, I think, in a way that demonstrates her mastery of successive Finance Bills. I

Column Number: 004

think that she has the longest record of any Minister as a leader of proceedings on the Government side in a Finance Bill. We will particularly welcome her leadership.

Looking around me at those who sit on the other side, I think that it would be wrong for me not to mention one old stager, who is not present this morning but will be joining the Committee at some stage. I refer to the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies). He has been around for some time. I remember serving with him in the early 1980s on the Finance Bill. He is an object lesson to several of the younger Members sitting on the Opposition Benches. They knew who they are—I do not feel the need to point them out or name them. We on the Government Benches know them as the Beastie Boys—Beastie as opposed to beastly—of the Conservative Benches. They are led by an hon. Member who, although young and very much a Beastie Boy, has risen to some prominence in the course of his brief political career. He has left his mark on the stamp duty land tax as a result of his contribution in opposition to myself the last time the Committee sat.

We welcome the contribution of all right hon. and hon. Members—a contribution that will be faithfully recorded by Hansard, whose representative we also note in his place and welcome. The Clerks, who are particularly experienced, will keep contributions perpetually in order. I say that advisedly, Mr. McWilliam, because I note that from time to time the Clerks stir into life, and even the most experienced of Chairs—

The Chairman: Order. It is my job to keep things in order, and if the Clerk stirs into life and says a word, it is because we are very old friends.

Mr. Boateng: I see. That is a very helpful explanation of the signs of life that are so occasionally demonstrated by your distinguished Clerk, Mr. McWilliam, whom I would also count as an old friend.

This is an important Committee, on which we all value sitting, and we all look forward to the hours and days of proceedings that lie ahead.

Mr. Howard Flight (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): May I add our welcome to your chairing our deliberations, Mr. McWilliam? I know that it will be humorous as well as firm. May I also add a welcome to Sir John Butterfill. With 158 pages of pension legislation, it is appropriate that he should join you, Mr. McWilliam, given his own background and specialist knowledge. I thank the Chief Secretary for his kind and, I might say, fruity and patriarchal words.

Mr. Boateng: Fruity and patriarchal? I am not sure I like that.

The Chairman: Order. Nothing unparliamentary has been said so far.

Mr. Flight: I also welcome the Paymaster General. I believe that this is her 10th Finance Bill, and as I have said in the past, I greatly admire her grasp of tax law, even though I may not agree with her views. It is my fifth Finance Bill, so I am still quite a youngster,

Column Number: 005

relatively. May I also add our welcome to the Financial Secretary and the Economic Secretary? At 574 pages, this will be a long Bill.

I express my particular pleasure at being joined by my team on the Opposition Benches. As the Chief Secretary said, my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk) was very much blooded by his experience with the ghastly stamp duty land tax provisions. I am delighted to have my neighbour and hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) here, who has the advantage of knowing the Treasury from the inside, and my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne), who will be working on and contributing to the new, 158-page pension regime.

We also have invaluable support from Conservative Members of Parliament with great experience, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) and my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford. My hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Bacon) brings the discipline of the Public Accounts Committee to the proceedings. I add my welcome to our Liberal Democrat colleagues, the hon. Members for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) and for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett). As time goes by I am more and more of the impression that they should join us: we have a lot in common. I also welcome the Clerk—who will have to put up with my tabling activities for another three months—the police and the officials.

There will be some important debates during consideration of this year's Bill, particularly in relation to the new pension regime, and perhaps there will be less agreement on the various new avoidance disclosure measures. There are a lot of technical measures, some of which have not been thought through fully. As we begin considering the Bill, I would just comment that there is a tendency for tax legislation to go down the route of ''Let's have something that you can use to hit everything,'' when there may not be the intent to use it other than in situations of perceived wrongdoing. I feel that such a legislative approach is wrong, because it can put a lot of innocent employees in a difficult position, but we will get into the meat of that in due course. I thank you, Mr. McWilliam, for looking after us.

Mr. David Laws (Yeovil) (LD): I, too, welcome you to the Chair, Mr. McWilliam, and I thank the Chief Secretary for his comments. We look forward to him and his team playing an important part in our debates during the next few weeks. I join the shadow Chief Secretary in paying tribute to the work that the Paymaster General has done on Finance Bills over the years. To serve on Committees considering 10 Finance Bills is quite a record. Only the Chief Secretary can advise us what she has done to deserve such a sentence, but we look forward to her part in the debates, and we welcome other Labour Members who have been given the great opportunity to serve on the Committee. I am also grateful to the shadow Chief Secretary for his kind, if somewhat frightening, words, and I welcome him and his excellent team to the debate.

The Bill is not one of the greatest political Finance Bills of all time. Indeed, some would say that in parts it

Column Number: 006

is even on the dull side. I hope that our debate will be more constructive that it might have been if we were dealing with a more political Finance Bill. I hope that we can tempt the Chief Secretary and his colleagues, including the Economic Secretary, to be more generous than they would be if they were dealing with a more political Finance Bill in taking on board amendments and improvements where they seem to be justified.

Question put and agreed to.


    That, during proceedings on the Finance Bill (except Clauses 4, 5, 20, 28, 57 to 77, 86, 111 and 282 to 289 and Schedules 1, 3, 11, 12, 21 and 37 to 39), the Committee do meet at half-past Nine o'clock and half-past Two o'clock on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the House is sitting, other than Thursday 10th June 2004.

The Chairman: I thank hon. Members for their warm welcome.

I have several announcements to make. First, copies of the Ways and Means and money resolutions agreed by the House, on which the Bill is founded, are available in the Room.

In view of the resolutions of the House relating to the declaration of interests, right hon. and hon. Members are required to declare relevant interests when they table amendments as well as when they speak to them. Copies of the rules are available from the Clerk. I suppose I had better declare an interest: as I am retiring at the next general election, the pensions clauses are of particular interest to me. As usual, because of the quantity of paperwork, boxes are available to store papers between sittings and hon. Members who make use of that facility should note that the cabinet that contains the boxes will be locked when the Committee is not sitting.

I remind the Committee that adequate notice of amendments must be given. Neither I nor my co-Chairman will as a rule call starred amendments, including any that may be reached during an afternoon sitting.

I give a health warning on the briefings that hon. Members may have had from various people. Sometimes, those who try to brief Committees do not realise that there are rules on how we go through the Bill, and that it is therefore not in order to discuss something that is not being considered by the Committee at a particular time. It becomes especially complex when we are dealing with groups of amendments.

Finally, I ask everyone to switch off their mobile telephones and refrain from using electronic devices.


    That the order in which proceedings in Standing Committee on the Finance Bill are to be taken shall be: Clauses 1 to 3 and 6 to 19; Schedule 2, Clauses 21 to 27 and 29; Schedule 4; Clause 30; Schedule 5; Clauses 31 to 41; Schedule 6; Clauses 42 to 47; Schedule 7; Clause 48; Schedule 8; Clause 49; Schedule 9; Clauses 50 to 52; Schedule 10; Clauses 53 to 56 and 78; Schedule 13; Clauses 79 and 80; Schedule 14; Clauses 81 to 84; Schedule 15; Clause 85; Schedule 16; Clause 87; Schedule 17; Clause 88; Schedule 18; Clause 89; Schedule 19; Clause 90; Schedule 20; Clauses 91 to 110 and 112; Schedule 22; Clauses 113 to 127; Schedule 23; Clause 128; Schedule 24; Clauses 129 to 134; Schedule 25; Clause 135; Schedule 26; Clause 136; Schedule 27; Clauses 137 to 155 and 157; Schedule 28; Clauses 156 and 158; Schedule 29; Clauses 159 to 168; Schedule 30; Clauses 169 to 193;

Column Number: 007

    Schedule 31; Clauses 194 to 205; Schedule 32; Clauses 206 to 267; Schedule 33; Clauses 268 and 269; Schedule 34; Clauses 270 and 271; Schedule 35; Clause 272; Schedule 36; Clauses 273 to 281 and 290 to 307; new Clauses; new Schedules; Clause 308; Schedule 40; Clauses 309 and 310.—[Mr. Boateng.]


House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2004
Prepared 6 May 2004