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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman has now made three references to something that is clearly outside the scope of the motion before us. I suggest that he desist.

Mr. Forth: That was just a bit of whimsy, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I thought that it was brief enough to escape your notice--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Even whimsy must be taken in moderation.

Mr. Forth: I shall try to restrict my whimsy, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to get on with the really meaty part of what I want to say.

The quotation from 1860 continues:

Intriguingly, another resolution passed on the same day reads as follows:

At that time, too--we are talking about relatively recent times now--the House of Commons was very jealous of its rights.

The last quotation that "Erskine May" refers to in connection with the subject dates from 1910; the historians

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present will know the importance of that date. The heading is "Relations between the Two Houses and Duration of Parliament":

It is clear that, as I think we all know and understand, history shows us that it is to this elected House of Commons that the rights are given in the matter of taxation. The old but potent phrase "No taxation without representation", to which I shall refer briefly later, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is the handy reference to that principle--a principle that the resolution before us, if we supported it, would be in danger of breaching.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): At a certain point in my right hon. Friend's speech I noticed that the Paymaster General--the one Government Member present, apart from the Whip--seemed to be in agreement with him.

Dawn Primarolo indicated assent.

Mr. Redwood: The Paymaster General seems to be agreeing with my right hon. Friend's extremely learned and lucid argument that this House, rather than the other place, should have control of taxation matters. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will subject to some analysis the wording:

I suspect that that, rather than the principle of where the power over taxation should lie, is the real issue between him and the hon. Lady. I share my right hon. Friend's fear that the motion before us could lead to stealth taxes by the back door, and I think that it is here that the Minister would be even more vulnerable.

Mr. Forth: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, but I fear that it is not only the Minister with whom I am at odds, but our right hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), who is wrapped up in the process and naturally, I think, approves of it. He appears not to believe that there is any possibility built into the mechanisms in the motion that the tax rate or burden could be altered, even within the phrase

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) that in the end, whether inadvertently or deliberately, that phrase could give effect to a change in taxation

Mr. Jack: Does my right hon. Friend consider that the change in the rate of taxation is a minor matter?

Mr. Forth: That is the whole point at issue. We do not at this stage know whether the members of the Committee will regard it as a minor matter. Simply referring to it as a minor matter in the motion tells us no more about what the Committee will or will not regard as a minor matter. Given that the Committee will be dominated by Members

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of a tax-raising Government, I should have thought that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) pointed out--I will come back to this later when I speak about the quorum--it is all too possible that decisions could be made by a thinly attended Committee that could easily be dominated by Government Members.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Fylde and I may readily agree that rates of taxation are an extremely important matter, but I am not confident, given the Committee's proposed composition, that we can rest easy in our mind that it will never use the mechanisms that will be made available to it by this motion--if we agree to it--to alter rates of taxation. That is the source of my anxiety.

Mr. Burnett: It is, of course, for this House to implement and enact any changes. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the power of the Committee to consider tax simplification Bills--including Bills on corporation tax, capital gains tax, and any taxation measure--gives it such great influence that it is an unwarranted trespass on the powers of this House?

Mr. Forth: That is what I am suggesting. It will presumably be a matter for the Government whether they designate a Bill as a tax simplification matter. Even within the designation process, something could be concealed by the Government--either by incompetence, which would be entirely possible and, in fact, very likely, or by malice, which would be equally possible--and connived at by those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who are enthusiastic about the process that would give rise to the sort of breach that the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Mr. Bercow: My right hon. Friend said a moment ago that it was a matter for the Government to determine whether something constituted a tax simplification measure. I do not know whether his beady eye noticed that at that point the Paymaster General shook her head, obviously dissenting from what he was saying. I am sure that she will want to clarify the situation by speedily rushing to the Dispatch Box.

Mr. Forth: I suspect that the Minister, courteous and considerate as ever, will want to listen very carefully to the entire debate and then seek to wind it up, with the permission of the House. I would not want to rush the Minister into giving a reply at this stage. I have only just got into my stride, in any case, and have a number of other points to make.

I resorted once more to "Erskine May". On page 63, under the heading "The Principal Power of the Commons", it says:

It then says on page 798:

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It is perfectly clear from "Erskine May" and the historical records to which I briefly referred, notwithstanding the times at which the House then sat, that these matters are well entrenched and well established in our history and in the only constitution that we have--namely, our statute, resolutions of the House of Commons and in "Erskine May", which some might think is as close to a written constitution as we may ever have. That matter is therefore beyond doubt.

We seem to be sliding, quietly but inexorably, from the well-established position that I thought was well understood--that this representative, elected, accountable House of Commons was the sole repository of responsibility for tax and taxation matters--to being asked to nod through a mechanism whereby another place is fully engaged in this process.

Mr. Jack: I am trying to follow my right hon. Friend with care. Where, in the rewritten Capital Allowances Bill that the Committee will consider, are measures that raise the fears that he mentions in the context of the supremacy of this House to determine tax matters?

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