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6.54 pm

Dawn Primarolo: All of our debate this afternoon has revolved around four points: the question of the quorum; the remit of the Committee; the importance of the House of Commons in retaining absolute control over issues of tax; and the question of the definition of a minor issue, and how that is dealt with.

May I deal first with the quorum? Select Committee quorums are normally between one third and one quarter, and require three members out of a total of 11. Departmental committees normally require four out of 13, but sometimes the Treasury departmental committee requires three out of 12. The procedure taken in the proposal is the normal procedure for quorums.

The issues raised by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) go to the heart of questions about the power of the House. Members of Parliament will have the majority in the Joint Committee at every opportunity and can assert their supremacy. There will be seven such Members on that Committee.

Mr. Forth rose--

Dawn Primarolo: No, I shall not give way. The right hon. Gentleman spoke for a long time, and I covered many issues in my opening remarks. However, it is right that clear answers should be given to the House.

The right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) asked about the remit of the Committee and its powers. As he knows, paragraph 25 of the report on legislative procedure for tax simplification Bills states:

That answers many questions asked by Conservative Members in the House--

The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst asked a legitimate question about the role of this House--and this House alone--in determining tax issues. The main features of the project on the tax law rewrite can be summarised as follows: it aims to restructure existing legislation into a more logical order than its present purposes allow. Its remit is not to revise the underlying tax policy. Anything that happens in the Joint Committee comes back to the House of Commons, and it will be for the House to determine what happens. Given the dedication that Members have shown this afternoon to what is quite a small matter, I have every confidence that, when we move on to more substantive matters on the power of the House of Commons, they will assert the same precision and concentration in targeting the main issues.

The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst made many points about excluding the House of Lords from decisions, starting with an example from 1671. Tax will remain for the House of Commons. As I said, after

15 Jan 2001 : Column 76

the Joint Committee has considered a Bill, it will come back to the House of Commons for final agreement. It is not open to the other place to change rates, tax or any of those issues.

There was also a question about how tax should be decided by the House of Commons and how the House set in train those procedures. The Joint Committee does not diminish the role of the House of Commons because, ultimately, it will be for the whole House to decide if a Bill proceeds or not. However, the House has long had procedures for Bills that restate the law with, or without, minor amendments. Tax simplification Bills are a new type of those Bills. Tax legislation has long benefited from the courts' decisions and judicial interpretation. We are using the expertise of other people in much the same way. I should say that the House agreed overwhelmingly to that principle after the debate on 19 December 2000 on a motion providing for the Joint Committee to be appointed in the way suggested.

The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst said that this is a new proposal. However, the Joint Committee on Consolidation of Bills--which are of a very similar type to tax simplification Bills--was formed in 1894. Legislation of 1949 allowed minor changes to consolidation Bills and, of course, what is minor is a matter for the House of Commons to determine. That brings me to the final point of the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who said that simplification inevitably entails change. The project is to simplify the language and structure of the legislation, not the underlying tax system.

Minor changes include such things as legislating for extra statutory concessions or repealing obsolete legislation, and of course I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the provisions are ultimately a matter for the judgment of the House. What is or is not a minor change needs to be scrutinised very carefully, and he will see 66 changes in annexe 1 of the explanatory notes. Where the Bill varies from the legislation in respect of such a minor change is specifically identified--clause by clause, line by line--to assist the Joint Committee to undertake its work.

The House's powers on tax are defended and preserved; the House will make the final decision; the quorum proposal follows normal practice; Select Committees have a right to have advisers and, therefore, to call expert witnesses, should they decide to do so; and the Chairman of the Committee will be a Back Bencher.

I expect all members of the Committee from this House to ensure that they defend the House's rights on tax matters, attend the Committee and vote for such a Chairman.

Question put:--

The House divided: Ayes 279, Noes 4.

Division No. 51
[7.1 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Bailey, Adrian
Ballard, Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom
Breed, Colin
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnett, John
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Dawson, Hilton
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foulkes, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Hain, Peter
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Harvey, Nick
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hill, Keith
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Joyce, Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Oaten, Mark
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Pearson, Ian
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Joan
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Squire, Ms Rachel
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Vaz, Keith
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Willis, Phil
Winnick, David
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Mr. Mike Hall.


Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Chope, Christopher
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Redwood, Rt Hon John

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Eric Forth and
Mr. David Ruffley.

Question accordingly agreed to.

15 Jan 2001 : Column 78


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