Chris Leslie: Now that we have reached the final stages of consideration of the Finance Bill, may I join the Minister in commending all hon. Members in all parts of the House who took part in the scrutiny, and in considering all the details? As he said, there were 31 hours of consideration of the Bill. I particularly pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson), for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell), and for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood). Let us be honest: they did the heavy lifting in Committee and on Report, as did—in an equal but perhaps less audible way—my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), the Opposition Whip, who made sure we kept to time and that everything was pursued diligently. Many hon. Members, certainly from the Opposition side of the Chamber, pushed Ministers and probed on specific matters of policy, and I grant that Ministers tried to

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address many of those points, though they were ably assisted, I suspect, by the officials from the Treasury, who also put a lot of work into these Finance Bills.

The Bill is long on clauses but short on ambition, I am afraid. I said on Second Reading that our goal was to try to improve the specifics. We have tried our best in a number of areas, but I fear we have not always succeeded in persuading Ministers to see the error of their ways. Let us consider some of these specifics, such as the crass and ill-timed tax cut for investment fund managers through the abolition of stamp duty reserve tax. At a time when so many people in this country are struggling with cuts to tax credits, such as the bedroom tax, and finding it difficult to make ends meet, the Government’s priority was to give that support and help first and foremost to those poor, hard-up investment fund managers. It is a badge of shame that that was their priority.

Ian Swales: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Leslie: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is an investment fund manager who has done well out of this, but I will give way and find out.

Ian Swales: The hon. Gentleman is repeating something we have discussed over and over again. Does he not understand that the money from the change in stamp duty goes to the investment funds, not the manager, and that, in fact, millions of ordinary people up and down the country benefit from this change?

Chris Leslie: I am sure those investment fund managers have absolutely no interest in the abolition of SDRT in any way! I thought the hon. Gentleman was once a Liberal Democrat. Before the general election, the Liberal Democrats used to pretend they were in favour of standing up for the vast majority of people, against the vested interests in society who tend to look after their best interests, yet here he is again, voting for tax cuts for investment fund managers. This is a specific element of the Bill that we opposed. We tried to persuade the Government to drop that measure, but we were unsuccessful.

Mark Field: I feel I must stand up for investment fund managers, not least because their business brings significant amounts of money to the UK. I reiterate the sensible words of the hon. Member for Redcar (Ian Swales): ultimately it is all of us who are investors in such funds who will reap the benefits of ensuring that this business comes to these shores, rather than to many other globally competitive financial centres.

Chris Leslie: The hon. Gentleman represents very many of those investment fund managers. He is doing the job he was sent to do, but this is a matter of priorities, and I have to say that the Opposition just disagree. The Treasury has finite resources at its disposal, and at a time of pressures, cuts, and rises in tax—through VAT and in other ways—that hit the least well-off in society, I just disagree with Ministers and Members on the Government Benches that this should have been the priority.

There were other specific areas where we tried to persuade the Government to improve the Bill, such as the proposal to give shares to employees in exchange for employment rights. We believe that undermines what

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should be a healthy approach to employee share ownership, because it gives the sense that something is being taken away, and that there is a disadvantage. That point was voiced not just by Opposition Members, but by some Government Members. Again, however, we could not persuade the Government on that.

So many tax loopholes need to be addressed, and the Finance Bill should have been the opportunity to tackle some of them, not least the notorious quoted eurobond exemption, which is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds. Ministers ought to have had the courage to take on that issue. Some of the Bill’s proposals for pensions flexibility are sensible, but big questions remain about the advice we will be able to give retirees to make sure that they get the guidance they need, at that most crucial point in their financial lives, to make the right choice, if they are not purchasing an annuity. Ministers have not lived up to the challenge of ensuring that that guidance and advice is possible. In the debate, I heard that that guidance may currently equate to 15 minutes of face-to-face advice—perhaps I should say face-to-faces advice, because the Minister with responsibility for pensions is now saying, “We will give you some guidance, but it might be as part of a group of people.” The Government have to improve the legislation in this area.

The Bill contains a proposal for a married couples allowance. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and, I suspect, the Chancellor personally disagree with it, but in a coalition they have to throw a bit of meat to the Back Benchers. The allowance discriminates between forms of partnership and does not help many married couples at all, as we see when we look at the total number who will benefit. If we have tax cuts to give, they should be given to as many people as possible.

Of course, we also tried to improve the specifics and dissuade the Government from continuing their tax cut for millionaires—the reduction from 50p to 45p in tax on earnings of more than £150,000. Again, that is a sign of their priorities: they stand up for those who already have significant wealth in society, but do not respond to the needs and requirements of the least well-off.

We tried our best to improve the Bill, but it missed a number of opportunities. Significant reforms should have been in it, but are conspicuous by their absence. Why did the Treasury not put the cost of living concerns front and centre in this legislation? I am not just talking about making sure that energy companies stop ripping off households up and down the country, or about passing on wholesale price reductions to ordinary households; the Bill should have contained, for example, steps towards a 10p starting rate of tax. There are a number of ways in which cost of living issues should have been far higher up in this legislation.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): The Conservative Government of the early 1970s recognised that there was a cost of living problem in this country, and they gave a cost of living payment, through the wage packet, to the low-paid in industries.

Chris Leslie: One would have thought that by now Ministers would have twigged that for all the talk of growth and the recovery, their constituents, never mind ours, are not seeing the benefits in their daily lives. That

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should have been a focus in the Finance Bill. It should have focused more on housing, as we have a crisis in this country, whereby demand exceeds supply and we have the lowest level of house building since the 1920s. Yet Ministers seem intent on structuring a lopsided recovery in our housing market, failing to deliver the 200,000 properties a year we should be aiming towards by 2020. In addition, many tenants are being ripped off by lettings agencies in our private rented sector. We need reforms to deal with those sorts of things and the Budget ducked those issues, as did the Finance Bill.

The Bill could have dealt with some of the exploitative zero-hours contracts. It should have contained measures to help small and medium-sized enterprises with business rates, because many firms in our constituencies are finding it difficult to get by. We should make sure that we help them, not just with business rates but by making sure that the banks do their job and provide credit. Those are the sorts of reforms that would make a big difference, but again, they were not in this Finance Bill.

Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): The hon. Gentleman should at least acknowledge that we dropped the small business rate by at least 1p, which has helped businesses. Will he guarantee before the House that he would not increase corporation tax should the country be unfortunate enough to see a Labour Government in power after 2015?

Chris Leslie: That is already on the record. Our view is that the proposed change in corporation tax from next April—from 21p to 20p—should not proceed. That help, instead of going to 2% of companies, should go to 98% of businesses, including the small and medium-sized companies that are the backbone of our economy and that form the bedrock of enterprise in this country. Funnelling that resource through business rates is our preferred choice, but we will set out all our plans in a manifesto, as I suspect the Minister will do as well. We had a debate on this matter earlier, in which we focused on annual investment allowances—the capital allowances for businesses. As we all know, the Minister cut that allowance to a very small level straight after the general election, causing great chaos for very many businesses. Amazingly, it is going up again, in time, coincidently, for the next general election. He revealed in the small print today that it is a temporary change, so the allowance will presumably go back down again.

Mr Gauke rose—

Chris Leslie: I will give way to the Minister if he will tell us what that investment allowance will fall back down to in 2015. Will he tell us?

Mr Gauke: It is hardly in the small print. It was in the announcement that was made when we extended and increased the annual investment allowance until December 2015. After that, it is a rate of £25,000. That rate is in the public domain, and, presumably, it is the rate that the Opposition have as well.

As the hon. Gentleman did not quite respond to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr Newmark), let me ask it again. The Labour party has given a heavy hint this week that it could increase corporation tax up to 26%, as that would still be the

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lowest rate in the G7—that is the test that it has set itself. Will he provide some reassurance today that a Labour Government would not increase corporation tax to 26%?

Chris Leslie: We know the Minister’s game. He is again trying to scare firms and businesses with various suggestions on tax. We have made it very clear that we need to ensure that corporation tax levels remain at their most competitive among the G7. We will set out our tax plans in a manifesto, as the Minister will be required to do as well. If my hon. Friends think that VAT is due to stay at 20% under a Conservative Government, they should think again. I have heard that the Conservatives may wish to increase VAT to 21% or 22%. I will give way to the Minister if he can rule it out for us right now, here in the Chamber, that he does not have any plans to increase VAT in the next Parliament. Will he rule that out?

Mr Gauke: I will tell the hon. Gentleman what we can do: we can continue to reduce the deficit without increasing taxes. That is more than he can offer. Unlike his party, we have not given a heavy hint that the test based on the most competitive rate in the G7. Canada has a rate of 26.5%. If the Labour party imposed a rate of 26%, it raises the question of whether it would be complying with that commitment.

Chris Leslie: Let the record show that the Conservative Minister did not rule out increasing VAT to above 20%. It is telling that he gave a heavy hint that that remains open as an option. We can have these discussions and examine these particular issues, but I am looking at the missed opportunities—the things that should have been in the Finance Bill. We are now on its Third Reading, and it is time that Ministers realised that people from across the country are crying out for significant changes and improvements that will affect their lives.

I am thinking, for example, of the 5 million people in low pay and the incentives to deliver a living wage. That could have been part of the Finance Bill, but it is not. I am thinking of those families who are struggling with the high cost of child care, which is increasing at a rate higher than inflation. If only the Minister had designed his bank levy properly in the first place and collected the £2.5 billion that he promised the country, we could afford to move from 15 hours of free child care for working parents of three and four-year-olds to 25 hours. That is the sort of reform that could make a big and appreciable difference to the lives of working people up and down the country.

Mr Jim Cunningham: Once again, it comes back to helping families with the cost of living. The Government cut Sure Start, nursery places and so on. Although they boast that they expanded that provision, they did not—they cut it, although we do not have the exact figures. The situation is exacerbated for a lot of families by the bedroom tax, which is forcing people into more expensive accommodation and thereby driving rents up. There is also a lack of social house building in this country.

Chris Leslie: That is my point. The Press Gallery is not bursting at the seams because the Government do not want people to think about what could have been in

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the Finance Bill. That is not something they want to talk about. They want it to be a “steady as she goes” Finance Bill. They do not want to address the problems of the bedroom tax or to supply real help to the long-term unemployed through starter jobs to give them the opportunity to repair their CVs and get a foot on the ladder. Repeating the bankers bonus tax would have supplied the revenue for that. There are funded ways of doing those things; despite how Ministers seem to want to portray it, this is not about unfunded commitments or borrowing. There are clear, practical and well-costed ways of delivering real improvements to people’s lives, but Ministers refused to do them.

Why are Ministers missing the opportunity offered by this Bill? As far as they are concerned, everything is fine with the economy. It is all going perfectly well. That is their view, but I am afraid that we disagree on that point. As far as Ministers are concerned everything is fine with living standards, but the OBR has said that people will be worse off in real wage terms in 2015 than they were in 2010. Ministers think that everything is fine in the welfare system, but they do not realise that the welfare bill is rising because they are not tackling the root causes of welfare inflation, such as rising rents, long-term unemployment and the subsidies required for low wages. Those are the sorts of challenges that should have been covered in the Finance Bill but are not.

On the deficit and the national debt, Ministers think that everything is fine even though the past couple of months have seen the deficit rise. It is going in the wrong direction. They have added a third to the national debt, which is now at £1.2 trillion. If interest rates go up even by 25 basis points—0.25%—an extra £2 billion of public expenditure will be required to service the debt that they will be accumulating.

Ministers think that everything is fine with productivity, yet infrastructure output is down by 10% compared with in 2010. They think that everything is fine in the housing market, yet we can see by the lopsided nature of what is happening in the economy that there are real risks that mortgage rates might well rise prematurely because of how they have failed to recognise the need to match demand and supply more effectively. They might be satisfied with the state of the economy, but we are not.

Mr Cunningham: It is interesting that my hon. Friend has mentioned interest rates, because, one way or another, they are bound to go up over the next 12 to 18 months. That will have a major effect on negative equity for people who have bought their houses, but, more importantly, it can affect small businesses that want to borrow money and are not getting much help from the banks at the moment. The Government spend half their time blaming a Labour Government for the mess that the banks created. They have never attacked the bankers, who made the economic situation worse, not better. They are apologising for the bankers and blaming us.

Chris Leslie: Government Members and Ministers do not understand how important it is that we ensure that the recovery is sustained and sustainable. A premature rise in interest rates has considerable risks. Three quarters of credit and debt is floating, so if interest rates do rise prematurely, significant harm will come to many householders. Even a quarter point rise in interest rates

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will cost the typical householder £240 per year.




The hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) may be relaxed, as the Chancellor is relaxed, about interest rates. The Chancellor says that he is not bothered—that he is relaxed about rising interest rates. Is the hon. Lady relaxed about rising interest rates? I will give way to her if she is.

Dr Thérèse Coffey: All I will say is thank God we have not had a Labour Government for the past four years, because I expect that interest rates would now be at 10% and people would be handing back their keys and hoping that the hon. Gentleman does not get into power next year.

Chris Leslie: I do not know what evidence the hon. Lady has for that spurious assertion.

We will see what happens in the coming months. We will make sure that mortgage customers in the hon. Lady’s constituency know that the increases in interest rates are partly related to the condition of the housing market, which is causing significant risk. The Governor of the Bank of England is trying to deal with this very lopsided situation. Of course, it is a matter for him to decide on. Government Members need to speak to the Chancellor to get him to pull his finger out on the housing market and make sure that this is pursued correctly. They do not understand why it is important for the recovery to be fair for all—to be something that everybody in every part of the country benefits from. The richest 1% having been doing especially well in the past year.

Mr Gauke: The hon. Gentleman says that it is important that the whole country benefits from the recovery, and I entirely agree. Does he accept that three out of four new jobs created in the past year have been outside London?

Chris Leslie rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Just to be helpful, there are three more speakers to come. The debate that is ping-ponging across the Chamber is very interesting, but I would like to hear from Back Benchers as well.

Chris Leslie: You are completely right, Mr Deputy Speaker. We have had this debate going on throughout the day.

The Minister is a Member of Parliament for Hertfordshire. If his constituents find work in London, under one set of statistics the jobs are classified as located in London, but under the set of statistics he prefers, they are located in Hertfordshire and not London. We can talk about the methodology used in relation to these things.

Ultimately, this Finance Bill is not focused on the long-term best interests of this country. It is not a long-term Finance Bill for stability and for the vast majority of this country; it is a short-term Finance Bill from a part-time Chancellor who is more concerned about getting from here to election day than building a sustained recovery that is fair for all. The defining challenge of our times is to reconnect the wealth of our

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country with the ordinary finances of households up and down the country. I urge my hon. Friends to vote against the Finance Bill and to send this Bill and these Ministers back to the Treasury drawing board.

6.38 pm

Mark Field: I am glad that I am looking more youthful and Conservative this afternoon, Mr Deputy Speaker.

This is a very good Bill containing much that I agree with. The Minister has rightly pointed out that it does some important things, particularly on something close to my heart—the theatre industry in my constituency—but also on technology, which is one of the big growth areas for the future prosperity of this country.

I want to talk about an ongoing concern of mine. The Minister will be aware of what I am about to say. Barely a fortnight ago, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs began writing to some 5.5 million taxpayers to confess that it had got things wrong. Errors in the pay-as-you-earn calculation had led the taxman to charge some 2 million fellow citizens too much tax and a further 3.5 million Britons had been assessed too leniently. That latter group now faces the prospect of several years of repayments. All this is in spite of expensive IT and personnel reforms that were meant to improve the system’s accuracy.

That news came at a time when the House was scrutinising this Finance Bill, which proposes bestowing ever more powers upon that organisation—in my view, an unjust reward for yet another year of error-strewn performance. Meanwhile, a consultation is now under way as to whether HMRC should be given direct access to UK citizens’ bank accounts so that it can claim from source any tax that it believes it is owed. I share the view of many people on the Government Benches who are concerned that this coalition Government are overseeing the transfer of very considerable powers to the state. I fear that a precedent will be set for a future Labour Government, which we all hope will not come any time soon. However, such a Government might well be minded to expand further the taxman’s remit.

Will the Minister reconsider the new accelerated payments regime that is proposed in the Bill—other Members have spoken on that in the past couple of days—about which I raised my own concerns at Second Reading? It is vital that the Treasury considers carefully the impact of granting such powers to an organisation that, I am afraid, has proven itself time and again to have incorrectly calculated tax on a grand scale.

Mr Gauke: Since 1944, there has been an end-of-year reconciliation under the PAYE system, because not all the information necessary to calculate the PAYE amount is available to HMRC during the year. To some extent, the PAYE amount is a provisional one, which is corrected at the end of the year. Notifying people at the end of the year quickly is not the system failing; that is how the PAYE system operates. It is not errors; that is the system.

Mark Field: I do appreciate that, but the Minister will also appreciate that trust in many institutions, whether Government, banks or this House, has been at an all-time low in recent decades. If we are going to pass on more powers to such institutions we—

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Mrs Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mark Field: If the hon. Lady will excuse me, I will make some progress, as there are other Members who want to speak.

We are now looking at drawing tax avoidance measures so widely. It has been common practice for investors to err on the side of caution and sign up, as the Minister knows, to the HMRC’s own disclosure of tax avoidance schemes—DOTAS—register. Currently, if the UK tax authorities wish to challenge the legitimacy of a DOTAS-registered scheme in court, the taxpayer is permitted to hold on to the disputed tax while the case is being resolved. The Government believe that that incentivises scheme promoters to sit back and delay resolution, so they propose extending the accelerated payments measure to existing DOTAS-registered schemes. That will mean that disputed tax is paid up front to the HMRC, and will be returned if a scheme is subsequently found to be legitimate.

I quite understand why the Minister has felt tempted to explore that route. There is, I understand, a desperate need for money to shore up the public finances, which are still far less rosy than any of us would wish, with a recovery that remains somewhat fragile. There is also, understandably and justifiably, a consciousness of the need to deal more quickly with the tens of thousands of outstanding mass-marketed avoidance cases that are currently clogging up the courts.

However, there is also a vital issue of principle at stake. The Government have been celebrating and espousing their reverence for the eight-centuries-old principles set out in Magna Carta. It was that charter that established the supremacy of the law by dictating that no Englishman could be punished without first going through the proper legal process. That set in train a constitutional revolution that has seen billions across the globe having their rights expanded and protected against an all-powerful state.

Yet at the same time, our Government are now overseeing the creation of a law that will permit HMRC to confiscate a citizen’s property before the courts have established who is legitimately entitled to it. The DOTAS register was a good idea. It was designed to promote openness and transparency in investors’ relations with the HMRC. It is now, in effect, introducing retrospective legislation, with DOTAS declaration being used as a stick with which to beat legitimate investors—those who had never planned on having the liquid assets to meet disputed liabilities.

No doubt the Government—any Government—feel they can railroad those proposals through on a wave of popular demand for new measures to tackle tax avoidance, but although I agree that we have to clamp down on illegitimate tax avoidance, I worry about the potentially very wide-ranging consequences, including the fundamental undermining of the Government’s overarching aim to make Britain a place that is open for business. I support many of the underlying measures in the Bill that are focused on that aim, but this measure expands a profoundly anti-Conservative notion of retrospective legislation. The Minister and I have both been shadow Ministers; we know the number of Finance Bills proposed by the erstwhile Labour Administration in the latter half of the last decade that we expressed concern about because

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they contained precisely this type of anti-avoidance legislation with retrospective elements. We have to recognise that considerable hardship is imposed on many of those who are affected by such provisions.

I addressed these issues in an article in The Daily Telegraph several months ago. I was and continue to be inundated with letters and e-mails from ordinary people across the country who are utterly dismayed that a Conservative-led Government would initiate such a change in law. Let me highlight some of their comments, so that the Minister is fully aware of the impact of the proposal. One correspondent advised me:

“If this goes through, HMRC will be able to demand immediate and upfront payment of the money it says I owe as a result of their changing the law retrospectively—but without me even being able to present any arguments to the tax courts in my defence. If this were to happen I would need to lose my home in order to pay the bill. It is a monstrous injustice.”

Another correspondent wrote:

“If one was to listen to the Government, it could easily be believed that users of the structures declared under the DOTAS are malicious, super rich individuals, out to escape payment of their ‘fair share’, in contrast to ‘honest taxpayers’. I have been an employee of a company that provided a remuneration structure duly registered under the DOTAS.

In the aftermath of the most severe economic crisis in generations, the IT industry, in which I work, got hit very hard. I have been subjected to rate cut after rate cut since 2009, and for me, nominal income is only going in one direction: down. Yet, if I listen to”

the Government,

“it sounds like complying with an ‘accelerated payment’ will be but a well-deserved inconvenience, forcing me maybe to sell one of my numerous yachts or…homes. I am shocked and appalled at the cynical discourse that consists of creating this false image. I personally feel deeply insulted…. I am not a rich person by any stretch of the imagination; my partner and I rent a one bedroom apartment, and we live modestly.”

What is slightly depressing is that this sort of scrutiny has not really happened. I well understand why the Labour Opposition feel they do not want to stand up for those individuals affected by the accelerated payments regime. I ask the Minister once again in the implementation of the Bill to consider an exception in the case of existing DOTAS-registered schemes whose promoters have taken all reasonable measures to enable a dispute to be brought before the statutory appeals tribunal. I think there should also be a right to appeal against an accelerated payment on the ground that the money is not due, or that a follower notice or accelerated payment notice is not applicable.

Although the Government say the legislation is not retrospective, as it does not change an underlying tax liability, it will in fact apply with retrospective effect over the past 10 years to anyone who currently has an open appeal or inquiry. In my view, if the provision is to come into effect, it should be applied only in cases involving tax planning carried out after Royal Assent to this Finance Bill.

I am sorry if I sound a little churlish. The Minister is well aware, because we have discussed this privately as well as on the Floor of the House, that I think there is much that is good in the Bill, but it is right that these things are properly scrutinised and that scrutiny is ongoing. We are putting into place certain measures that I think set a potentially dangerous precedent and run counter to a principle that should be close to all our hearts: that the British tax system and the British economy

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should be open for business and open to the opportunities that we all want our constituents to benefit from as we move into a strong economic recovery in the years ahead.

6.49 pm

Chris Evans (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field), who always speaks with great expertise in his field. I served on the Bill Committee—I have not missed a Finance Bill Committee since I entered the House. On the first Committee on which I served in 2010 I was full of enthusiasm and, having listened to the Minister, I am still filled with that enthusiasm as he has negotiated a thousand different ways to say no. I pay tribute to all the Members who served on that Committee.

As we approach the general election, the public are crying out for help to ease their burdens as the economy belatedly shows some green shoots of recovery. People around their kitchen tables wondering how they will pay their bills, those in the workplace who are worried about their job security, and those running a small business will judge the Bill on three tests—are taxes fair for my family and myself, do business taxes encourage growth and are they fair, and how will pensions reform—

Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con): The hon. Gentleman mentions business taxes. The shadow Minister was repeatedly pressed to say whether business taxes might rise under the next Government. We know from what the Opposition have said that business taxes could rise to 26.5%, the level that they are at in Canada. Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that that could be a major brake on business development in the future?

Chris Evans: Of course I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern. I shared the concern that the very first act in the very first Budget of this Government was to put VAT up to 20%, increasing the tax burden by 2.5% for businesses all over the country. That was not exactly pro-business, but I am not here to talk about what the Tory Government have done or not done.

Let us deal with facts. Working people have seen their wages fall by £1,600 a year on average under this Government. Real wages will have fallen by 5.6% by the end of the Parliament. People feel worse off. On growth—the one test that the Tories said they would achieve—after three years of a flatlining economy, we see the economy growing by only 4.6%. The Chancellor does not talk about his forecast that the economy would grow by 9.2% in 2010. Our present rate of growth is far slower than that of America at 6.6% or Germany at 5.7%. GDP growth this year is still expected to be lower than the independent Office for Budget Responsibility forecast in 2010.

On borrowing, on which the Conservatives attacked the Labour Government, the present Government promised to balance the books by 2015, but borrowing will be £75 billion that year. Over this Parliament borrowing is forecast to be £190 billion more than planned at the time of the first spending review. National debt as a percentage of GDP is not forecast to start falling until 2016-17, breaking one of the Government’s own fiscal rules.

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All the headlines following the Budget were about pension reform. Yes, annuities need to be reformed, and I support increased flexibility for people in retirement and reform of the pension market so that people get a better deal. However, the Labour party has consistently called for reforms to the annuities market and a cap on pension fund charges over the past three years. The Government have failed to reform the private pensions market to stop people being ripped off and to create a system that savers can trust. The Government are failing to prevent savers from being ripped off by delaying bringing in a cap on charges. This is costing savers up to £230,000. The Government are failing to make tax relief on pensions fair, with 15% of all relief—£4 billion—going to the richest 1% of taxpayers.

When we talk about the reform of pension markets and the ending of annuities, I believe we should set three tests. The first is the advice test. Is there robust advice for people providing for their retirement, with measures to prevent mis-selling? Forget the patronising “buy a Lamborghini”. I do not believe the people of Britain are so naive as to go out and buy a Lamborghini. As a former financial adviser, I am talking about good advice. With the reform of the annuities market there will be new products—products that we have not thought of before, such as bonds, investment trusts and all sorts of vehicles that people can invest in. Those will be complicated and people will need advice, but that will not be achieved by 15 minutes of guidance, where advisers cannot sell.

The second test is fairness. The new system must be fair, with those on middle and low incomes still being able to access products that give them the certainty they want in retirement. The billions we spend on pension tax relief must not benefit only those at the very top.

The third test is cost. The Government should ensure that this does not result in extra costs to the state, either through social care or through pensioners falling back on means-tested benefits, such as housing benefit. The Treasury must publish an analysis of the risks it considers when costing this policy. I was deeply concerned when the Minister said this afternoon that this change, which is the biggest ever to the pensions market, is still to be worked out and that a consultation on advice is still running. For those facing this change, advice is vital.

I talked for little short of half an hour yesterday on the other major change introduced in the Bill: exchanging employment rights for company shares. I will try to break it down into two fundamental arguments. First, if an employer has an employee they are suspicious of, why would they give them shares in the company? Equally, if a company wants to trade shares for rights, does that mean it trusts the employee? Will they be hard-working and industrious for that company? Secondly, if a company is going to dismiss an employee, why would it give them shares in the company anyway? Surely share save schemes should be used to reward employees for hard, industrious work, but that is not happening. We still need reform.

We have talked about a report and analysis. Even though the statistics now show that after a 33-week consultation only five of the 200 companies that responded said that they were interested in taking up the scheme, the Government still say that it is far too early to even think about a report.

As we bring to a conclusion our consideration of the Finance Bill, which I am sure all of us who served on

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the Bill Committee are excited about, the one question we have to ask ourselves is this: is it fair to the people of Britain? Based on the statistics, it is not. I will therefore be joining my colleagues in the Lobby tonight and voting against the Bill.

6.56 pm

Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree): It is always a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans). I want to focus on one small aspect of the Bill, new clause 10, which I know Opposition Members hold dear to their hearts. A couple of years ago the Government extended the £25,000 rate tenfold to £250,000. I told the Chancellor that that was going down extremely well with small businesses and asked whether there was any chance that we could extend it a little longer. He said, “I can do better than that; I’ll double it again, to £500,000.” That takes in pretty much 99% of companies, which is a good thing.

For some reason, Labour wanted to enshrine in law the need to review the impact of the annual investment allowance, which I find peculiar. I do not think it is necessary at all. Governments review every year what is going on and whether tax cuts or increases work. I see no need to introduce that requirement into law.

However, I thought that it might be helpful for Opposition Members if I offered a quick review of what we have done for business. I have come up with 10 points. First, we have lowered corporation tax. Secondly, we have cut the business rate by extending the small business rate relief scheme. Thirdly, we have brought in electronic invoicing. Fourthly, we have raised the threshold for the enterprise investment scheme. Fifthly, we have introduced the seed enterprise investment scheme, helping small businesses get a kick start. Sixthly, we have brought in the employment allowance, saving businesses £2,000. Seventhly, we have cut national insurance contributions for under-21-year-olds, saving businesses £500 per young person they employ. Eighthly, we have introduced the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill. Ninthly, we have frozen fuel duty, making it cheaper for people to go back and forth to work. Finally, we have improved the research and development relief for businesses. We have done a lot for businesses.

What has the impact been on businesses? The confidence index is at an all-time high. We have rebalanced the economy, with growth of 3% in construction, services and manufacturing. We do not need to enshrine in law the need to review the impact of the investment allowance on business, because actions speak louder than words. The Government’s long-term economic plan is working and Britain is back in business.

7 pm

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, 1 July).

The Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The House divided:

Ayes 289, Noes 228.

Division No. 32]


7 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, rh Alistair

Byles, Dan

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Sir William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clark, rh Greg

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Elphicke, Charlie

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Sir Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Huppert, Dr Julian

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, rh Sir Richard

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Sir John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reid, Mr Alan

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Turner, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Stephen

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Claire Perry


Jenny Willott


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, Heidi

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brown, rh Mr Gordon

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Burden, Richard

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Coaker, Vernon

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Paisley, Ian

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Wood, Mike

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Bridget Phillipson


Susan Elan Jones

Question accordingly agreed to.

2 July 2014 : Column 1042

2 July 2014 : Column 1043

2 July 2014 : Column 1044

2 July 2014 : Column 1045

Bill read the Third time and passed.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


That the draft Housing (Right to Buy) (Maximum Percentage Discount) (England) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 5 June, be approved.—(Mark Lancaster.)

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Local Government

That the draft Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 3 April 2014, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.—(Mark Lancaster.)

2 July 2014 : Column 1046

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


That the draft Armed Forces Act (Continuation) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 13 May 2014, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.—(Mark Lancaster.)

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Legal Aid and Advice

That the draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Amendment of Schedule 1) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 31 March 2014, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.—(Mark Lancaster.)

The Speaker’s opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 9 July (Standing Order No. 41A).

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

International Immunities and Privileges

That the draft African Legal Support Facility (Legal Capacities) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 6 May 2014, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.—(Mark Lancaster.)

Question put and agreed to.

Electoral Commission (Motion)


That the Motion in the name of Mr Andrew Lansley relating to the Electoral Commission shall be treated as if it related to an instrument subject to the provisions of Standing Order No. 118 (Delegated Legislation Committees) in respect of which notice has been given that the instrument be approved.—(Mark Lancaster.)


Bus Services for Beacon Heights (Walsall)

7.15 pm

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab): The petition is from the residents of Beacon Heights park homes. A petition in similar terms has been signed by 65 people.

The petition states:

The Petition of a resident of Beacon Heights Park Homes Park,

Declares that following the removal of the 934 and 936 bus services from Beacon Road, Walsall after 7pm and on Sundays many elderly people who do not drive cannot access public transport at those times and further that the Petitioner calls for a bus service or minibus to be introduced to replace the 934 and 936 bus service.

The Petitioner therefore requests that the House of Commons urges the Government to take all possible steps to encourage Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council to consider the objections of the local residents.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Mr Speaker: It is a splendid thing when somebody who introduces a petition has a brother behind her in support.

2 July 2014 : Column 1047

NHS Service Provision in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

7.16 pm

Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab): The petition states:

The Petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that the Petitioners object to the closure of the Park End Clinic, Skelton Medical Centre, and Skelton NHS walk-in centre; further that the Petitioners object to the proposed closure of minor injuries units at East Cleveland and Guisborough Hospitals; further that the Petitioners are concerned these reductions in provision of primary care services will increase demand on the Accident and Emergency Department at James Cook University Hospital; further that the Petitioners believe that Ministers in the Department of Health should meet with the honourable Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland to discuss these closures, and regret that Ministers have not committed to such a meeting.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges Ministers to meet with the honourable Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland to discuss these changes in service provision, and encourages NHS England and the South Tees NHS Clinical Commissioning Group to abandon these closures.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


2 July 2014 : Column 1048

Nigeria (Abducted Girls)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mark Lancaster.)

7.17 pm

Mr Gordon Brown (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Lab): I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for permitting me to raise the desperate and continuing plight of more than 200 Nigerian girls who were abducted from school on 14 April and have been held in captivity for the past 80 days, with no sign of their imminent release. These wholly innocent young girls—Lugwa Abuga, Rhoda John, Comfort Amos, Maryamu Yakubu and 200 others—are now incarcerated in the forest areas of Borno state. Some have perhaps been dispersed across three other countries: Niger, Cameroon and Chad. Their physical and mental health is a worry for everyone.

We now know that the girls were kidnapped by the terrorist group, Boko Haram, whose name in Hausa means “western education is a sin”. They are being held hostage simply because they wanted an education. Their only crime in the eyes of Boko Haram is that they wanted to be at school. Eleven weeks in captivity will seem like an eternity for young, once-optimistic 14, 15 and 16-year-old girls, whose future was all ahead of them until that day.

I am sure that everybody in the Chamber would accept that such an outrage is every parent’s nightmare: your child leaves home and goes to school, but never comes home again; you wake up every morning not knowing whether your child is dead or alive, and spend every waking hour of the day not knowing whether your child is being molested, raped, trafficked or sold into slavery; and you have the terrible truth brought home to you that schools are no longer safe havens for your children, but theatres of war.

Boko Haram’s perversion of its faith is so profound that it is apparently unperturbed by practising violence against young girls, even rape that causes unwanted pregnancies—damage to young girls that will endure and be lifelong, and that cannot be wished away even if they are returned safely to their homes.

As we heard only a few minutes ago, in a Committee Room of the House of Commons, from Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Finance Minister and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy—my grateful thanks to you, Mr Speaker, for chairing the event—across the country, tragedy is being piled on tragedy. There has been a series of attacks: a wave of bombings in Borno state yesterday; an explosion in a shopping mall in Abuja last week, which killed 24 people; a medical college raid last week in Kano, killing eight; a hotel bombing in Bauchi city, killing 10; and attacks on four churches, killing 24. Residents of remote villages in northern Nigeria are fearful of night raids and running short of food and supplies. They are fleeing to the mountain caves, or to bigger towns. With more than 1,000 reported abductions in the past year alone, and more than 5,000 deaths at the hands of Boko Haram in the past five years, the governor of Borno state, who has courageously spoken out, is warning that failure to help his embattled schools and families will spell disaster for the rule of law in the whole of Nigeria.

The 200 girls, whose faces and names are now known to the world, thanks to the efforts of the brave chairman of the Chibok community council, are not the only

2 July 2014 : Column 1049

victims. There is another, less obvious, set of victims: the thousands of girls, and many boys, who can no longer go to school. Schools are closed in many parts of Borno state, and teachers are in fear of their lives. Education International, the global teachers’ union, which is well organised and engaged with this problem, has reported in the past few years on the murder of 171 teachers who were shot, usually in their own home and in front of their families, who were then kidnapped by gunmen. Their crime was to dare to teach girls at all. We therefore have another emergency in Nigeria: education in Borno state is coming to a standstill for fear of terrorists, and that demands an international and domestic response.

In the days immediately after the abduction, I and many others tried to secure international attention and the widest possible global support for the Nigerian girls. A month ago, an enormous wave of concern was expressed in every capital of the world. There was, as we know, a period of intense publicity, and a worldwide campaign to bring back our girls secured 1 million supporters, but once again the attention span of the world has proved limited, and interest has ebbed. Even when it was reported last week that another 90 children—60 girls and 30 boys—had been kidnapped, there was only a flicker of attention across the world.

Following the speech by Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala this evening, I wanted a debate before the summer recess—thanks to you it has happened, Mr Speaker—because it is time to wake up fully not just to the horror of what is happening, but to the ramifications for children, Nigeria and that part of Africa if nothing is done. A few terrorists can never be allowed at any time to blackmail a whole nation. We must do more to help the Nigerian Government back up the endeavours of President Goodluck Jonathan to secure the rescue of the girls and make inroads into the advances made by the terrorists.

I am here to thank the Government for what they have done so far, and for their moral, physical and military support to the Nigerian people. I know that the President of Nigeria wishes to give thanks for the offers of support from China, the United States, France and Israel, as well as Britain. I have met the President on three occasions recently, and he has sent an additional 5,000 troops to the Borno state and is ready to do more. As a result of his pleas to the international community, Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Britain and the US have already established an external intelligence response unit to share security information. While it is right to recognise that there has been a great deal of international support, it is also right to acknowledge that in its hour of need, Nigeria requires more helicopter support, more aircraft cover, and more surveillance equipment. I believe that we should also support President Jonathan’s call for a better co-ordinated system for sharing intelligence across borders, and for, if necessary, the use of special forces and law enforcement agencies to help Nigeria confront terrorism.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I sought the right hon. Gentleman’s permission to intervene, and I thank him for bringing this matter to the House. The House is filled with Members who are equally concerned about this issue, and on behalf of the Church groups and my

2 July 2014 : Column 1050

constituents, I want to share the right hon. Gentleman’s concerns publicly in the Chamber today. There has been an unwillingness, or perhaps the Nigerian Government have been unable, to respond in the way that we back home think they should. Is that because they are unable to seek the covert assistance that they need in order to ascertain where the schoolchildren are and bring them back? Does he feel that perhaps the covert assistant that this Government could offer is one way forward?

Mr Brown: I am grateful for the support of the Churches in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency and elsewhere. Support from around the world is giving succour and confidence to the Nigerian people. I met schoolchildren who have been writing letters to the Nigerian President in support of Nigeria’s efforts to try to capture the terrorists and release the girls. He is absolutely right that there is a real problem. If the girls have been dispersed to a number of different places, a rescue mission for one group would immediately put the other groups at risk. That is the dilemma that confronts the Nigerian Government, as I understand it. That is why they need additional support to monitor what is happening and, if it is necessary to intervene, the troops, security services and the air cover to do so.

There is a second thing that we can do to help. We cannot have safe schools if we do not have safe communities. In addition to the rising military and security presence in these towns, we need to allocate extra resources to reassure parents, teachers and children that they can go to school. The safe schools initiative, launched this afternoon in Britain by Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is a plan to rebuild the burnt-out schools that have been the casualties of terrorist incursions, starting with the Chibok school. Our promise must be that it will be rebuilt immediately and made safe, so that when the girls are returned to their homes, their school at Chibok is safe for them to learn in without fear. The worry for many in northern Nigeria is that their school will be the next to face a terrorist raid.

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for securing such an excellent debate. Does he agree that in the north some of the problems arise from illiteracy, from the fact that people cannot find jobs, and from extreme poverty? Sadly, this is encouraging some people to move towards religious fundamentalism.

Mr Brown: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. He has a very honourable record in fighting for the causes of poor people in Africa, Asia and every part of the world, and I want to acknowledge the work that he has done over many years. He is absolutely right. Ngozi, the Finance Minister, referred to that point only a few minutes ago. The Government of Nigeria have to do more—she says they will do more—to help young unemployed people to get work, and to enable young ambitious girls and boys to complete their education by having safe schools, and universities and colleges, to go to.

The whole world should help Nigeria in this emergency. It has to make its schools safer, so that there is confidence among pupils and families that children can go to school. That may mean better perimeter fencing, walls,

2 July 2014 : Column 1051

lighting, and communication and security systems to keep people in touch. We have to reassure people that everything possible is being done, otherwise we will give a propaganda advantage to the terrorists.

The Safe Schools fund has already attracted $10 million from the Nigerian Government, $10 million from the business community, £1 million from the UK and $1.5 million from Norway. Money is coming from other countries in the EU, and there are promises from the United States of America. I hope that one outcome of the debate will be to convince the Government that it is worth providing more than £1 million. Without this initiative, many of the other measures in which we are engaged to help education in Nigeria cannot be successful.

The United Nations has just passed a Security Council resolution that says that schools should have the same legal protection in conflict areas as hospitals. The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack is calling on each nation to introduce and integrate guidelines into their military manuals’ rules of engagement and operational orders, so that schools have the chance of being safe havens, rather than being militarised. I hope the Government can encourage every Administration in Africa to do that.

As we heard this evening from Ngozi, and in speeches by the Secretary of State for International Development, the deputy leader of the Labour party and the Chair of the Select Committee on International Development, the kidnaps are part of a wider problem. In the last few weeks alone, we have seen reports of young girls raped and then murdered in India, and we have seen public outrage at the death sentence passed on a young Sudanese mother simply because a woman is considered to have no right to choose her own religion. Attention is now moving to Iraq, where extreme Islamists are fighting for demands that include changing the Iraqi constitution to legalise marriage for girls at the age of eight. This week and every week, around 200,000 school-age girls—some only 10, 11 or 12—are married off against their will because they have no rights that properly protect them. For many, child marriage will be preceded by genital mutilation—still to be successfully outlawed in many African countries.

A total of 7 million school-age children as young as eight or nine will be in full-time work, some of it slave labour in fields and in domestic service, and many will be trafficked into prostitution as part of a subterranean world of international trade in girl slave labour when they should be at school. As a result, 32 million school-age girls are not going to school today, or any other day. The basic right to be in education is denied to 500 million girls who will never complete their education.

Thus the abductions, the killings, the rapes, the mutilations, the trafficking, the exclusion from opportunity and the kidnaps are not isolated incidents, but part of a pattern whereby girls’ rights are not taken seriously enough in many countries, or indeed by the international community as a whole. The violation of girls’ rights is commonplace. In the end, in some countries, rights are only what the rulers decree, so that the opportunities for girls are no more than what a few patriarchs are prepared to bestow. Seventy years after the universal declaration of human rights, we are, in my view, in the midst of what I see as a great global civil rights struggle—a

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liberation struggle that has yet to establish, in every country of the world, every girl’s right to life, education and dignity. It is falling to girls themselves to lead the fight for rights, largely because of the failure of us as adults, who should be discharging our responsibility for and to them.

A few days ago, there was a youth takeover of the African Union in Addis Ababa; then 20 parliamentary takeovers by young people who occupied, with the permission of the parliamentarians, national assemblies in support of the Chibok girls. This was backed up by demonstrations in cities across the world, including in Rio, Lagos, Hanoi, Cairo and Islamabad. These young people still need the world to see their problem and their fight for what it is.

The bigger truth is that for years we have somehow assumed a clear, if often rocky, pathway towards human rights and universal education, but today in Pakistan the Council of Islamic Ideology is calling for all age limits on girl brides to be abolished; India has just passed up on yet another chance to outlaw child labour; countries all across Africa are failing to act on genital mutilation; and progress to get 58 million out-of-school children into school has stalled in recent years. We should not and must not stand by as many countries in the world lurch backwards when it comes to the imposition, preservation and upholding of girls’ rights.

In northern Nigeria today, we have on the one side terrorists, murderers, rapists and cowards hellbent on acts of depravity, and on the other side we have the defiant, relentless, brave beyond comprehension young people who are desperately fighting for a future but are too often oblivious to our attention. We must be clear that in the battle between the girls of the world and the backward-looking extremists, there will, in the end, be only one winner, but we should not have to wait another half-century with millions of lives ruined, millions of dreams destroyed, millions of hopes and aspirations crushed, for the world to deliver—as we must for the Nigerian girls, and for girls everywhere—the opportunities that should be and are every girl’s birthright.

7.34 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Hugo Swire): I am most grateful to the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) for securing this evening’s important debate, which unites the House. I would like to take the opportunity to praise the right hon. Gentleman’s ongoing work as UN Special Envoy for Global Education to promote the vital importance of education. I pay tribute to the determination he has shown in helping Nigeria face the scourge of gender-based violence and terrorism. I am aware of the meeting that he had earlier—chaired by you, I believe, Mr Speaker—with the Nigerian Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, among others.

I know that Members on both sides of the House will join me in utterly condemning the actions of Boko Haram. Its members prey on, and deliberately target, the weak, the innocent and the vulnerable. They have no regard for religion, ethnicity, gender or human life, and, as we have just heard, they are bringing untold misery to Nigerians and people throughout the region. The

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appalling Chibok abductions may have focused the attention of the world on Boko Haram’s activities, but that is, alas, just one example of the death and devastation that it is inflicting on northern Nigeria. It is 79 days since the abductions—79 days, and 219 schoolgirls are still missing; 79 days during which at least another 200 people, women, girls, boys and young men, have been abducted.

I commend the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath for his important work in spearheading the safe schools initiative, which was designed to protect children at school. In recognition of the vital work that it will undertake, and of the potential that education has to transform Nigeria and the lives of individual children, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minster announced on 17 May that the United Kingdom would contribute £1 million of support directly to the initiative. That will be in addition to existing commitments to support education throughout Nigeria.

As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said at the 12 June London Ministerial on security in Nigeria,

“We want to make sure that Boko Haram does not succeed in its twisted mission to deny education to girls.”

So—in addition to our support for the safe schools initiative, and in the first partnership of its kind in Nigeria—the Department for International Development and USAID will work to share resources and experiences to provide safe places in which children can learn. As a result, an additional 1 million children will receive a better education in northern Nigeria by 2020, and more than half of those children will be girls. During the current financial year, DFID will spend approximately £20 million on education projects in Nigeria. That is a signal of our determination to demonstrate that education is a right, not a privilege, and that it should be free from the fear of terrorism and abduction. Overall, we have seen a dramatic increase in DFID’s investment in education as a result of the steps that we have taken to meet our commitment of 0.7% of gross national income to international development.

The search for the schoolgirls—led by the Nigerian Government, but supported by the international community—continues. British experts are working in Nigeria alongside others from the United States, France, Canada and elsewhere to analyse and process the available intelligence and supply advice to the Nigerian authorities. We have provided, and will continue to provide, surveillance support. The resolve of the United Kingdom and the international community to continue the search and reunite the girls with their families remains unwavering. However, to ensure that the tragedy of Chibok cannot be repeated, we must end the scourge of Boko Haram.

Last week Abuja was shaken by another bomb attack, the third in as many months. More than 200 died in an attack in Jos on 20 May. A suicide bomber attacked a university in Kano on 23 June. Even those watching the World cup in public have been callously targeted and killed. Meanwhile, the murderous reported Boko Haram attacks in the north-east of Nigeria continue. The latest occurred yesterday: a car bomb attack in Maiduguri. More than 2,000 people are believed to have died at the hands of Boko Haram or others connected to them since the beginning of this year, including 59 boys who were murdered at the federal government college in February, when militants blocked the exits of a boys’

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dormitory, set it on fire, and killed the boys who tried to escape the flames. Those left inside were burned alive.

The international community has mobilised to help Nigeria face this threat. Last week the UN listed Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau and the terrorist organisation Ansaru on the al-Qaeda sanctions list. This followed the listing of Boko Haram on 22 May. It is now an offence for any individual or entity to provide financial or material support to Ansaru, Shekau or Boko Haram, including the provision of arms or recruits.

These latest listings were among a series of commitments made at the London Ministerial to strengthen regional and international co-ordination, and reaffirm our commitment to the fight against Boko Haram. Nigeria and her neighbours Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Niger participated, with the US, France, Canada, the EU, and our international partners the UN and the African Union. Given the Chibok abductions, it was fitting that this ministerial was held in the margins of the summit to end sexual violence in conflict.

Nigeria and her neighbours agreed to establish a regional intelligence fusion unit to share and process intelligence. Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger will each contribute a battalion to the multinational joint taskforce and increase the frequency of simultaneous or co-ordinated border patrols. The UK, the US and France will between them provide support to the regional intelligence-sharing arrangement and training for the taskforce battalions, and we, the participants at the ministerial, were united in our agreement that any effective response must be fully in accordance with human rights.

British commitments, in addition to the pledge to bring a million more boys and girls into basic education in northern Nigeria by 2020 that I mentioned a few moments ago, include: significantly expanding our training and assistance to the Nigerian armed forces, particularly helping to train those units deployed on counter-insurgency operations, to strengthen their capacity to tackle Boko Haram; and support for the Nigerian presidential initiative for the north-east—PINE—supporting development and prosperity, including the provision of basic services and infrastructure to those communities most at risk.

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman, and indeed the whole House, will agree with me that the UK should be proud of its contribution to the fight against Boko Haram and in standing alongside Nigeria in the face of extremism and mindless violence. Our commitment, and that of the international community, to defeating Boko Haram, to ending the scourge of terrorism in Nigeria, to securing the safe return of the missing schoolgirls, to preventing sexual violence in conflict, and to the empowerment and education of women and girls was underlined last month at the ministerial meeting here in London.

In the wake of the heinous abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls, I am pleased that the countries of the region have all endorsed the ending sexual violence in conflict declaration. It underlines the importance of eliminating this horrific practice around the world, and the right hon. Gentleman will no doubt be supportive of the Prime Minister’s initiative to host a girls summit later this month. This will seek global commitment on

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issues the right hon. Gentleman raised in his speech this evening, such as early forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for keeping this issue very much in the thoughts of everyone in this House. I have discovered in my role as a Foreign

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Office Minister that events overtake events and it is too easy to forget those that matter. This is one that most surely does.

Question put and agreed to.

7.44 pm

House adjourned.