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Julia Goldsworthy: We support certain parts of the Bill, but some of the serious concerns that we expressed on Second Reading remain on Third Reading. However, we broadly welcome the proposals on real estate investment trusts, which are a classic example of the way in which consultation can produce workable legislation. The proposals have been welcomed by industry, because the Government took time to consult, so we largely support them. By contrast, the Government did not consult professionals on their inheritance tax treatment of trusts, and the result was poorly drafted proposals that would have affected large
5 July 2006 : Column 934
numbers of individuals and called into question fundamental assumptions in IHT such as the spouse exemption. Dozens of amendments were tabled to improve the proposals. The spouse exemption has been safeguarded, but it is still not clear how many individuals will be affected by the changes.

Ministers continue to insist that a minority of a minority will be affected, but they have failed to produce evidence to back that up. The Select Committee on Treasury asked for background information before the Standing Committee considered the issue, but it was not produced. I asked for that information in written parliamentary questions, only to be told that it was not normal procedure to release it. There is a significant public interest in making that information available, as it would allay the fears of many people who are still concerned that they will be affected by the changes, so I hope that Ministers will reconsider their decision and publish the information. Despite the many amendments made in Committee and on Report, uncertainty remains, so I am sure that we will revisit the relevant clauses and schedules in future Finance Bills.

Other changes that were made without any warning include the withdrawal of the home computer initiative, which is another example of the Government throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Indeed, they abolished the initiative without prior warning or consultation. Instead of tightening the definition of relevant equipment, they have removed the scheme altogether, even though it helped to achieve computer access for many households, including low-income households. Besides affecting those families, the scheme’s sudden withdrawal has resulted in businesses losing their core work, and has disrupted Government Departments that were planning further roll-outs when the withdrawal was announced.

Confidence in any similar schemes that may be announced by the Government has been affected because, ultimately, businesses need to be certain of the stability of the systems that they use. Once again, however, that confidence has been undermined or eroded. One has only to look at the changes to corporation tax to see how further instability and complication have been introduced. Gordon Brown has introduced changes virtually every year, and although we welcome the situation that we are now in, why has it taken the Chancellor such a long and circuitous route to arrive back exactly where he started?

There have been many measures to tackle fraud and evasion, including missing trader fraud, which we discussed again this afternoon. Although the closure of loopholes in the tax system is welcome, considerable complexity has been added to the tax system by the Bill, and the concern is that it will result in a cat and mouse process, with further complication required every year to overcome further loopholes that have been created by further more complex legislation.

Fundamentally, we see the significance of the Bill in what it does not do, mainly in terms of green action. Limited changes are present in the Bill. We welcome the revalorisation of fuel duty and the climate change levy, but at best these measures will only halt the decline that we have seen in green taxes as a proportion of the total tax take. They will not increase the proportion that it represents. We are disappointed that the Government
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did not adopt the new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson), as it would have helped make strategy, which is clearly lacking from the Government and the Treasury, very clear. I find it astounding that the Paymaster General can refer to the constructive debate that took place on the new clause yesterday, but refuse to support it.

What we see in the Bill is tokenism of the worst kind, which has been announced with fanfare but will do next to nothing to change behaviour. The clearest example is the introduction of a new band of vehicle excise duty for the most polluting cars, which introduces a differential in value to the next band down equivalent to less than a tank of petrol for the most polluting cars. I was glad to hear the comments of the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs. Villiers) about those proposals in her remarks on Third Reading, but we saw no proposals from the Conservatives for green measures. We have seen tokenism from those on the Conservative Benches, too.

To conclude, what we would like to have seen but in large part did not see is action to follow the rhetoric that is so often expressed by the Government on green issues and on many other important matters. We have not seen any significant simplification of our tax regime. We have not seen any changes to make the tax regime fairer. Inequalities are still growing, and the richest 20 per cent. are still paying less in tax as a proportion of their income than the poorest. We have also not seen any greater devolution of spending power in the Bill. The United Kingdom remains one of the most centralised states in Europe.

I would like to associate myself and my colleagues with the thanks expressed by the Paymaster General to all Members of the House. The Clerks have been very helpful in their assistance with amendments, as have many organisations, such as the Law Society, the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG, among many others.

There have been some welcome aspects to the Bill, but we are disappointed by the lack of action on green issues and we therefore cannot support the Bill on Third Reading. There are still significant problems relating to trusts, inheritance tax and other matters about which I have expressed my concerns. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your patience in dealing with all of us.

7.8 pm

Sir George Young: It is 10 years since I last served on the Standing Committee on the Finance Bill, and it will be 10 years before I do that again. I mean no disrespect to my colleagues who served on the Standing Committee, or, indeed, to Ministers. On the contrary, it is a reflection of the increased length and complexity of the Finance Bill that only those with the most acute understanding of the country’s tax system can play a useful role on the Standing Committee. It is rather like a soap opera. If one misses a few episodes, it is very difficult to catch up with the plot.

I shall make three comments. One must be ever alert to globalisation. There may be very good reasons for some of the tax changes that we make in this country, but one must be aware of the impact that they may
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have on the highly mobile capital industry, which can locate its investments anywhere.

Secondly, we must do all we can to remove the driver for complexity in the tax system, and we must do even more to get more people outwith the warm embrace of the tax system. We seem to be making slow progress towards the simpler tax system that we all want.

Finally, we were particularly fortunate to have the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) in the Standing Committee, because he was able to give us the ministerial rebuttal of our amendments minutes before the Minister. I hope that it will not be too long before his energy and talents are recognised and rewarded.

7.10 pm

Stewart Hosie: Some of the measures in the Finance Bill are welcome, as was the Government’s willingness on some occasions to listen and make changes. Of those changes, the inclusion of those with parental responsibilities for vulnerable children in the trust regime was particularly helpful, although a number of other helpful suggestions made by hon. Members on both sides of the House were not taken on board in such a positive manner.

The Bill provided an excellent opportunity to debate the supplementary charge in the North sea, which we believe is a damaging change to the regime. Likewise, the Government’s change to the blended oil regime was subject to detailed debate and correspondence.

We had a useful debate on REITs, which we welcome. Although we believe that the regime, with its stock exchange listing element, is still rigid, we welcome the commitment to review the matter on an ongoing basis, which we too will do.

We also had a useful debate on the high cost of fuel. However, it was disappointing that the Government still failed to recognise the requirement to introduce a fuel tax regulator both to provide specific assistance for the road haulage industry and to help those in sparsely populated rural areas who need a car.

The Finance Bill was the result of a Budget that one commentator described as “heavy with light measures”. Chief among those light measures was the abolition of the home computer initiative. The Paymaster General said on a number of occasions that alternatives would be put in place, and today she discussed proposals to provide computers in community centres and by community education departments. However, if someone on a low wage wants to educate themselves and to improve their IT skills, they need a computer in the home. Following the abolition of the home computer initiative, I suspect that a similar initiative will have to be reintroduced in the future.

The Bill is a missed opportunity. Although there was talk about additional assistance for research and development, expenditure on R and D in the UK is half that of our major European competitors, and the rate in Scotland is about half that of the UK. The position is deplorable, and the Bill includes very little to improve the situation.

Our key difficulty with the Finance Bill is the changes on the North sea. The Bill takes billions more out, and makes unnecessary changes to the supplementary charge
5 July 2006 : Column 937
and the blended regime system, yet it offers nothing in return for new exploration and for the development and extraction of heavy oil in the central North sea, the fields west of Shetland and the fields in the very deep water west of Scotland. For that reason, if no other, we will oppose Third Reading tonight.

7.13 pm

Mr. Gauke: Unlike my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), this was my first experience of the Finance Bill, and I want to make one or two observations. [ Interruption. ] I know that hon. Members are keen to watch France play Portugal.

As we have progressed through the Bill, I have been surprised by how frequently the European Union has cropped up. On Second Reading I addressed the question of why we are substantially changing group relief as a consequence of a European Court of Justice judgment. That is usually an important issue, yet the UK Government have little scope for manoeuvre given the existing constitutional position. Several times during the Bill’s passage—for example, when we attempted to tackle missing trader intra-community fraud, leasing rules or film taxation—we found that the motivation for changing the law was that it was required by an ECJ judgment or potential judgment.

I echo the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire as regards the sheer complexity of the tax system and, as a consequence, the need for outside expert advice. [ Interruption. ] The Economic Secretary anticipates my point. An error or oversight by Treasury officials was spotted by an eagle-eyed professional adviser—[Hon. Members: “Name her!”] Her name is Mrs. Rachel Gauke, a lawyer at Travis Smith. It would be fair to say that other errors have been spotted by professional advisers who are not necessarily as eagle-eyed as my wife.

The Government got themselves in a bit of a muddle on their initial drafting with regard to trusts. They attempted to tackle it without consultation, so that professional advisers were unable to provide their input, although they did when the draft Bill was published. To be fair, I must add that the Government have made a substantial number of amendments in that area, for which I am grateful. We now have a better Bill than we did initially—better, but not good enough. The complexity in the tax system remains considerable. Speaking as a non-tax lawyer, it is always difficult to grasp even the relatively small elements that we cover in the course of a Finance Bill.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire said, we live in a globalised world where capital flows from one jurisdiction to another, and we have to be careful to ensure that we have a fair system that not only deals with evasion but is manageable for individuals and for businesses. Conservative Members are deeply concerned that that balance is increasingly being got wrong, which is of major concern for the long-term competitiveness of the British economy.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

5 July 2006 : Column 938

The House divided: Ayes 287, Noes 203.
Division No. 282]
[7.18 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
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
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Mr. Gordon
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, Mr. David
Harris, Mr. Tom
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw

James, Mrs. Siân C.
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Lynne
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
MacDougall, Mr. John
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh Mr. John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
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
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
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
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, Mr. Don
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Ussher, Kitty
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watts, Mr. Dave

Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Frank Roy and
Tony Cunningham

Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Conway, Derek
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, Mr. Jeffrey M.
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Featherstone, Lynne
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Hemming, John
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, David
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey

Maples, Mr. John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Paice, Mr. James
Paisley, rh Rev. Ian
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Price, Adam
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, David
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wright, Jeremy
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Noes:

Andrew Rosindell and
Mr. Crispin Blunt

Question accordingly agreed to.
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