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Mr. Francois: Where is the evidence?

Dawn Primarolo: I am putting the evidence to the Committee.

In the Netherlands and in Sweden, whatever the Finance Ministers decide to do, as in the UK, there have been rising costs, poor targets and a lack of impact on the important areas that the Committee has identified.

The hon. Gentleman asked why the Government did not target misuse of the scheme. That is a bit rich, as the Conservatives did not manage to get any of their amendments selected, for precisely the reason that we constantly give: it is extremely difficult to draft legislation to cover certain types of equipment while excluding others, because the technology is changing.

The hon. Member for Rayleigh said, "Well let's do it once a year." Once a year, he wants a completely new statement that would be out of date already, excluding equipment that would not otherwise have been included in the system. Opposition Members say that the scheme should be restricted—perhaps to basic rate taxpayers or someone else—while complaining about administrative burdens and the scheme's complexities. So, the Government had to take a decision. If the scheme is poorly targeted and abused and if we cannot target it sensibly, the Government must determine the best way to proceed, and the best way to proceed is the way that the Government have said: through our digital strategy and the announcements that I have made today.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) asked, "Why change overnight?" We had problems in the system, which I will come to, and we could not find a way to squeeze them out of the system, and we needed to ensure that we refocused. I cannot see how that could have been done in any other way. When the scheme was introduced in 1999, it was made clear that it would be kept under review. When the digital strategy came out, it was made clear that that review was ongoing, particularly in respect of targeting. There can be no doubt in any
2 May 2006 : Column 919
quarter that the Government were considering this, although I accept that some people do not like the outcome.

Peter Luff: Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Dawn Primarolo: No, it has been a very long debate.

Peter Luff: Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Dawn Primarolo: No, I should like to complete—

Peter Luff: Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Dawn Primarolo: No, I do not wish to give way.

It has now been suggested—I can only suggest that it is wilful misinterpretation of the proposed changes—that the removal of the tax exemption in section 320 of the ITEPA 2003 is somehow undermined where an employer provides computer equipment solely for work purposes and that, where any private use is not significant, no tax charge will arise. That was the case before 1999, and it is the case now. Employers need to work under that system; they have worked under it in the past. The idea that the Opposition have wrung a concession out of the Government is preposterous. All the Government have said is that employers must operate under the same rules as applied in 1999, and that if they require guidance and they want to discuss it we are happy to do so—but the idea that this is something new is just ridiculous.

The hon. Member for Rayleigh referred to the regulatory impact assessment and says that it analysed the impact of removing the tax exemptions, but he should read a bit further because it then refers to mobile phones and computers. It summarised the evidence of misuse, but it also made it clear that that was only one of the reasons on which the decision was based. There was a lack of focus, poor targeting, rising costs and abuse.

Let us deal with the abuse. I am sorry that I did not take longer in introducing the clause, by going through the types of things that are now being offered. We have got PCs, which will be

We have then got option 7—I will not embarrass the taxpayer by saying who is offering such schemes—that says:

Then, having made it clear that this is about what is on loan to employees—this comes to the point about take-up—one of the websites very helpfully asks:

that is, comes to the end of the negotiated settlement—and it says,

So people who have already got a computer will get another one, but the scheme is supposed to be about take-up by the low paid and the excluded.

The website then says:

2 May 2006 : Column 920

That is not the purpose of the scheme, but the website goes further. I really do not know how this will be used: apparently, people can have as part of their package a massage ball. I have not figured out, because I do not have one, exactly how that is plugged into the computer and is part of the HCI—and I do not want to hear any rude comments—but I am sure that the hon. Member for Rayleigh might prefer to take up the mug warmer option in the HCI, or perhaps he would like to go further.

Peter Luff: Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Dawn Primarolo: Not at the moment, because the hon. Gentleman asked me for the evidence and then ridiculed me when I did not provide it. I am going on to give it.

Perhaps the home cinema package is helping the excluded—or iPods, which are great, but are hardly about ensuring the take-up of information and communications technology initiatives by the socially excluded. I freely admit that I made a mistake in being much too kind to the hon. Gentleman. I referred to websites and said that I would let him have details. I should have said that if he looks at the sites, he will see that about 75 per cent. show signs of offering leisure equipment outside of the intended exemption.

What have the Government done? My hon. Friends the Members for North Swindon (Mr. Wills), for North Durham (Mr. Jones) and for Wolverhampton, South-West referred to that. We have refocused on the low paid and the unemployed, and on making sure that we truly have a strategy that reaches the parts that are excluded from information technology.

When removing any tax relief, the Government have not only to consider its popularity, but whether it is still meeting its aims and is not imposing an unfair burden on the taxpayer population as a whole. The tax exemption was a popular scheme and has given many employees access to home computers since 1999, but it does nothing to help those groups who are the most technologically excluded—those on the minimum wage, those not in employment and the elderly. That is what the Government are moving to do and that is why they are removing the HCI exemption. I commend the clause to the House.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 281, Noes 158.

Division No. 221
[8.41 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Mr. Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cousins, Jim
Creagh, Mary
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
Johnson, rh Alan
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
MacDougall, Mr. John
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh Mr. John
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Salter, Martin
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, Ms Rosie
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Dr. Tony

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Frank Roy and
Mr. Alan Campbell


Afriyie, Adam
Alexander, Danny
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Barker, Gregory
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Bruce, Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burt, Alistair
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Forth, rh Mr. Eric
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Harper, Mr. Mark
Hayes, Mr. John
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, David
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Laws, Mr. David
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, David
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Rennie, Willie
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Spink, Bob
Stanley, rh Sir John
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wishart, Pete

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Henry Bellingham and
Mr. David Evennett

Question accordingly agreed to.

2 May 2006 : Column 923

Clause 61 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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