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Huw Irranca-Davies: No doubt my hon. Friend will have read the academic tome by Jost Krippendorf entitled "The Holiday Makers." It suggests that the best solution is to remain at home and spend the money that we would have spent on holidays on improving the quality of life there. Does my hon. Friend believe that the Liberal Democrats, or anyone else, would win an election on that basis?
My hon. Friend made a light-hearted point. He is right: we can take pot shots at each other. The House will not be surprised to learn that, later in my speech, I shall take pot shots at the Opposition, which I can do with great delight and sometimes with effect, but there is a broader issue. We are not going to persuade ourselves or our constituents who can afford holidays to stay at home. I will not stay at home for my holidays if I can possibly afford not to, so why should I bid others do so?
The difficulty is that people conduct their lives according to certain patterns. They should be able to go on holiday and, if they want to go elsewhere, they should be able to do so. If we were to stop them, we would do so by means of swingeing tax increases that are unrealistic in our society for the foreseeable future. We must therefore take a different view in the context of our
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tax regime. We must think about what we do, vitally, in this country to cut emissions, but also about what we do to grapple with the effects of climate change.
We should consider a swingeing top rate for vehicle excise duty, and a future rate for vehicles that have not yet been built. We should take account of the effects of the tax on the behaviour of manufacturers as well as that of consumers. That has been attempted in the United States, with some success in California in terms of total fleet emission requirements for manufacturers. Unfortunately, the federal Government bottled it by, for instance, excluding sports utility vehicles and pick-up trucks, which are big sellers in the United States. However, California had some success with a fleet average to leverage on manufacturers. I hope that future Finance Bills will consider similar action and that negotiations will begin with vehicle manufacturers.
I have said enough about the environment. I want to say a little about the trusts regime. It has been difficult for those of us who support the broad direction of Government policy to grasp fully the effects of the change in the tax regime for accumulation and maintenance trusts. I am not an accountant but a solicitor and I have not done trust work, apart from a little, probably 20 years ago. According to my recollectionI thought that it was still the casediscretionary trusts attracted a 10-year anniversary charge, which I believe used to be 10 per cent. That may have been done away with, but I suspect that the regime still exists.
That tax has applied to trusts for many years and I think it has been supported on all sides. The difficulty on this occasion is that the Government have not given clear enough information on how many people might be affected by the changes to the accumulation and maintenance trust tax regime that are proposed in the Bill. I would welcome more clarity.
A point raised with me by a constituenta good point, which I have not seen raised elsewhereis that a number of people will have made wills and will no longer have the mental capacity to change them in the light of the changed legislation, particularly those with Alzheimer's or other kinds of dementia. That will constitute a difficulty unless there is another option. There is an arrangement which has existed for many yearsI am not sure whether it has existed since the Wills Act 1837, but it has certainly existed for a long timewhereby up to two years after a death, the beneficiaries can effectively rewrite the will. People who have died in the past six weeks may have been caught by that, so the practice may be going on at this moment.
We need more clarity. If it is simply a question of taxing the rich, to put it in crude terms, it will not surprise the Minister to learn that I am broadly in favour of that: I think it is a pretty good idea. If it spreads much more widely, however, I might like to have another think about it.
The speeches of the two spokeswomen for the Opposition parties bemused me somewhat. Let me take them seriatim. As far as I could tell, the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs. Villiers), the shadow Chief Secretary, concentrated on four main issues. Many of us were told that when we made speeches, or wrote essays, pamphlets or books, a strong focus was important. The four issues on which the hon. Lady chose to focus did not surprise me, but they did disappoint me.
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First, the hon. Lady talked about tax complexity, which she linked with instability and unpredictability. If a tax regime is broadly similar and continues, as has been the case with ours, there are people who are paid a great deal to find the loopholes in it. When they have done so, the answer is either to plug the loopholes or to make fundamental changes in the regime. Broadly, the Government have tended to plug the loopholes. We have a broad base of stability and predictability for our tax regime, but when loopholes are plugged the process tends to become lengthy and somewhat complex.
It is all very well for Members to go on about simplicity and getting rid of complexity, and about how many pages there are in the Bill, the explanatory notes and all the other accompanying documents. We are talking about a holy grail that will never be attained. People talk about the need to cut the amount of regulationI shall say something about that laterbut year in year out, Governments of both colours produce about 3,000 statutory instruments because we live in a complex society.
The hon. Lady attacked the Government for tax complexity, and then said that that would lead to instability. Paradoxically, in the view of some Members, the stability that we have leads to complexity. The Government and the Chancellor have made an ideological or political decision to go around trying to plug loopholes rather than making huge fundamental changes. I support that approach. Yes, it will lead to some complexity, but I think that the instability for which the hon. Lady also castigated the Government is a worse option.
Stephen Hesford : I was going to make the same point, but does my hon. Friend agree that it goes further? What my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is trying to do, for the sake of fair taxation, is create certainty rather than the uncertainty that would allow tax lawyers and tax accountants to attack what the Government are trying to do, and attack our revenue base.
Rob Marris: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Plugging loopholes may lead to lengthier Finance Bills, but it also leads to more certainty andon occasionto more simplicity, because then there is no way round the tax: one engages in a series of transactions, and one pays the tax.
Surprisingly, given her past as an MEP, the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet extolled the virtues of Ireland's economy, as other Members have done, including the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood). In doing so, they somehow overlook the massive transfer of funds through the European Unionsome of those who have argued how wonderful Ireland is do not actually agree with our being in the EUand do not mention the huge capital flows into Ireland, which have brought about success. Such success is a wonderful thing. I support the UK's membership of the EU and a 25-state EU that includes the Republic of Ireland. Ireland has benefited greatly from the EU and it has dealt wisely with the structural funds transferred to it, but to describe it as a low-tax economy that is so successful that it now has a higher gross domestic product per capita than the UK is to overlook the factor to which I refer. Moreover, its GDP per capita is in fact still lower than the UK's.
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The second point made by the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet, on which I intervened, concerned the home computing initiative. That seems to have become a big deal, and I am happy for the Government to look at it again. To judge by the tenor of her remarks, she, like most people, seems not to regard it as a point of principlethe initiative is worth some £150 million, which is a relatively small amountyet it is a quarter of her critique, as shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, of the Government's Finance Bill. I can understand why: there is not a lot else that she can have a go at the Government about.
The third leg of the hon. Lady's argument involved having a go at the Government on self-invested personal pensions. The Government got wrong their "second home" provision, and I and other Memberssome of whom are here todaysaid so. Many of us in this life like to have things both ways, myself included. We and the Opposition said to the Government, "We think you've got it wrong". So the Government did quite a lot of research and talked to a number of people and said, "You may have a point: perhaps the provision does need some fine tuning." Then, the Opposition weighed in and gave the Government a kicking for listening. That is having it both ways. That is politics.
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