Finance Bill

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Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton): I do not wish to disappoint the hon. Member for Buckingham, but I wish to add a few remarks before we proceed to the next motion. I begin by welcoming you, Mr. Gale, to the Chair. We look forward to the next six—possibly seven or eight—weeks of Committee sittings under your guidance and the guidance of your fellow Chairman, Mr. Benton. We hope that he will be as generous as you have already been in allowing us to remove our jackets when appropriate.

I welcome all hon. Members to the Committee. The danger of a sittings motion is that the Committee can turn into an Oscar night in which thanks become welcomes, and I will therefore not single out too many individuals. However, I particularly welcome the Paymaster General to the Committee. She and I are possibly the only members of the Committee, and certainly the only members on the Front Benches, who have served on every Finance Bill Committee since the 1997 election. Unlike her, I was not on Finance Bill Committees before that, but I acted as a researcher for my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) on Finance Bills between 1989 and 1993. If I add those four Finance Bills to the six in the past Parliament, I have a pedigree, or perhaps a sentence, to declare.

10.45 am

I welcome the Conservative Front Benchers led by the hon. Member for Buckingham, who will, I hope, be present in many of our meetings. I look forward both to jousting with him and to enjoying his jousts with others. I am sure that he will joust in a way that excites and interests the listener. When I listen to him I always think that he ought to apply to appear on ''Just a Minute'', as he is the Member of Parliament most

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qualified to speak in the way required by that wonderful radio programme. I would be happy to act as his referee if he were looking for another job.

I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett), who brings to the Committee his expertise as a former tax lawyer. I have enjoyed his pertinent contributions in previous Finance Bill Committees.

I look forward to many contributions from Labour Members. I am sure that they will want not only to extol the virtues of the Government's legislation, but to join the Opposition in trying to find the problems that lie therein. I am sure that the Whips will give them leave to speak for as long and as often as they want.

It strikes me that prior to some of our morning proceedings a few football matches will take place. We shall see whether or not the World cup enters into our discussions, but I am sure that a few pagers will be vibrating with results.

It is worth making a serious point in this short debate. I shall not make a long point because the Paymaster General is well aware of my thoughts on this subject. Accountants, tax lawyers, tax advisers and business people look to Parliament to improve the way in which we develop tax law. One of their observations is that the proceedings of the Finance Bill Committee often do not help them when they are considering the interpretation of the law and trying to apply it. We have an onerous task, and we should recall the number of people who will trawl through our speeches—especially those by Treasury Ministers—to see the original intention behind the many words added to the statute book. Our proceedings are serious, and I hope that we can do better than many of our predecessors.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): I rise, first, to salute your chairmanship of the Committee, Mr. Gale, and that of Mr. Benton, and I appreciate the kind words from both Government and Opposition Front Benchers.

In furtherance of the agenda laid out in the Finance Bill, the Government will undoubtedly get particular help from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Ann McKechin). When we discussed oil taxation in the House, I was struck by her willingness to join in and justify increases in tax. There are rising stars on the Back Benches, as well as established stars on the Front Benches.

In all seriousness, I hope that much of the Bill touches upon matters connected with business. When Opposition Members ask for detail and justification on how numbers, rates of tax and effects of tax have been arrived at, I hope that we shall have the benefit of full and cogent explanations from the now veteran performer, the Paymaster General. As she rightly said, she has undertaken many Finance Bills. If there were medals of honour going, I think she would be first in line to receive a long service medal for such Bills.

If the going gets tough, I note with interest that the hon. Member for Basildon is one of the Government

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Whips. I have had the pleasure of competing with her, but from another dimension—the front wheel of a saloon racing car. In spite of the rigours of the Lords v. Commons race at Donnington, she proved capable of conducting herself with aplomb under pressure. If there are any pressures during the Bill, we will look to her to guide our proceedings.

Question put and agreed to.


    That, during proceedings on the Finance Bill (except Clauses 4, 19, 23, 26 to 29, 87 to 92, 131 and 134 and Schedules 1, 5 and 38), the Committee do meet on Tuesdays at half-past Ten o'clock and half-past Four o'clock and on Thursdays at half-past Nine o'clock and half-past Two o'clock.—[Dawn Primarolo.]

The Chairman: I am grateful to all right hon. and hon. Members for their kind remarks. Looking around, I am absolutely certain that the Committee will proceed with the customary courtesy and good humour.

I have several announcements before we proceed. Copies of the Ways and Means and money resolutions agreed to by the House, on which the Bill is founded, are available on the Dais behind me. In view of the resolutions of the House relating to the declaration of interests, right hon. and hon. Members are required to declare relevant interests when they table amendments as well as when they speak to them. Copies of those rules are available from the Clerk. As usual, because of the quantity of paperwork on the Bill, boxes are available to store papers between sittings. Members making use of that facility should note that the filing cabinet that contains the boxes will be locked when the Committee is not sitting.

I draw attention to the fact that adequate notice of amendments must be given. As a rule, neither Mr. Benton nor I shall call starred amendments, including any that may be reached during an afternoon sitting. I have already mentioned, but will remind right hon. and hon. Members again, that they should turn off mobile phones and other noisy electronic equipment prior to taking their seats.

Finally, to avoid any further confusion and embarrassment, the Bar of the Committee Room is the Rope in front of me. The area beyond that is for the use of the general public and the area on this side of the Rope is the Committee Room. Members will notice that there are only two Officers of the House and that there are three Doors. It would be helpful if Members could use the central Door, with the broadcasting light over it, and avoid clambering round the Rope to speak to assistants or research staff beyond. If Members wish to make contact with their assistants, will they please be kind enough to use the central Door and have their discussions outside the Room? That will enable the Officers of the House to maintain proper order and security at both ends of the Room.

Dawn Primarolo: I beg to move,

    That the Order in which proceedings in Standing Committee on the Finance Bill are to be taken shall be Clauses 1 to 3, Clause 5, Schedule 2, Clause 6, Schedule 3, Clauses 7 to 12, Schedule 4, Clauses 13 to 18, Clauses 20 to 22, Clauses 24 and 25, Clauses 30 to 33, Clause 36, Clauses 34 and 35, Clause 37, Schedule 6, Clause 39, Clause 38, Clauses 40 to 42, Schedule 7, Clause 43, Schedule 8,

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    Clause 44, Schedule 9, Clauses 45 and 46, Schedule 10, Clauses 47 to 50, Schedule 11, Clause 51, Clause 117, Clause 52, Schedule 12, Clause 53, Schedules 13 and 14, Clauses 54 and 55, Schedule 15, Clause 56, Schedules 16 and 17, Clause 57, Schedule 18, Clause 58, Schedule 19, Clauses 59 and 60, Schedule 20, Clauses 61 and 62, Schedule 21, Clause 63, Schedule 22, Clauses 64 to 66, Clause 101, Clauses 67 to 78, Schedule 23, Clause 79, Schedule 24, Clauses 80 and 81, Schedule 25, Clause 82, Schedules 26 to 28, Clauses 102 and 103, Clause 105, Clause 83, Schedules 29 and 30, Clause 104, Clause 84, Schedule 31, Clause 85, Schedule 32, Clause 86, Clauses 93 to 100, Clauses 106 and 107, Schedule 33, Clauses 108 and 109, Schedule 34, Clauses 110 and 111, Schedule 35, Clauses 112 to 114, Schedule 36, Clauses 115 and 116, Clauses 118 to 129, Schedule 37, Clause 130, Clauses 132 and 133, Clauses 135 to 140, New Clauses, New Schedules, Schedule 39.

I shall explain the pasting together of some clauses for the convenience of the Committee. As the Bill is currently laid out, if we proceeded through it from clause 1, we would find that some clauses dealing with the same issues are in different places. To facilitate discussion and to debate the same issues in one go, the order of consideration makes the following suggestions, which I hope the Committee will accept.

Clause 36 will follow clause 33, so consequential and minor benefits will be in the same debate as the employer-subsidised bus service. Clause 39 will follow clause 37. Those clauses are on minor amendments to the Schedule E charge and to the employee share ownership plans, prior to the tax law rewrite projects work on Schedule E.

Clause 117 will follow clause 51, which covers the same issues about variations of dispositions taking effect on death, with regard to capital gains tax and inheritance tax. Debate on clause 101 follows debate on clauses 63 to 66. Those refer to accounting practice, periods of account and tax accounting change. It makes sense to deal with those debates in one go. Clauses 102, 103 and 105 will follow clauses 68 to 82. Those relate to discounted securities, financial trading stock, banks in compulsory liquidation and forex and loan relationships. That will also enable us to deal with the debates in one go. Clause 104 follows clause 83. Those cover valuation trading stock on transfer with trade and intangibles.

That process will help Committee members to focus specifically on those debates at the most convenient time and ensure that our consideration runs as smoothly as possible.

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