“destroy or otherwise dispose of”

unauthorised property found in the possession of a prisoner. As such items can be obtained while the prisoner is in transit between prisons, or between prisons and courts, we also welcome the application of the power to prisoner escort vehicles as well as for property confiscated within a prison. My hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon raised a point about custody areas in courts, and I am sure we can return to that matter in Committee.

All hon. Members who have spoken will agree that the current situation is unacceptable, and the Bill is a good way of supplementing the Offender Management Act 2007 and the Crime and Security Act 2010, which introduced measures to reduce the smuggling of mobile phones into prisons, and made it a criminal offence to posses a phone in prison. There will be safeguards, and I am conscious of the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset about the right of property and how that should not be infringed without good reason and due process. We will consider that issue, and put measures in place to ensure that prisoners have the right to make representations about their property, and to appeal decisions.

As hon. Members have said, we are discussing property that should not be in prison in the first place and that is used for a variety of nefarious purposes. We should do anything we can to prevent that and the Bill makes a significant contribution to that task. I commend the Bill to the House and wish it a safe passage through this House and the other place.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committ ed.

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General Anti Tax-Avoidance Principle Bill

Second Reading

2.19 pm

Mr Michael Meacher (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab): After extensive debate on two consensual Bills, I have 11 minutes left in which to introduce this Bill, so I will make the case as briefly as I can. In a sense, I suppose this is round two after yesterday’s debate on tax avoidance, which was tabled by the Backbench Business Committee.

Yesterday’s debate centred essentially on the divide between the Government’s proposal for the general anti-abuse rule and my alternative proposal for the General Anti Tax-Avoidance Principle Bill. It might seem that there is not a significant difference between the two, but there is. Several hon. Members made it clear yesterday that the GAAR is unacceptably narrow and over-restrictive in range, and therefore very unlikely to cover any more than the most egregious and extreme cases of tax abuse. Indeed, that is indirectly confirmed by the Government’s economic impact assessment in their consultation document, which states—extraordinarily —that the GAAR will have almost no measurable impact.

By contrast, the Bill will have an impact, which might explain why I have only 11 minutes to move it. It will tackle the problem of tax avoidance, which might be costing the UK—the figure is much-disputed—up to £25 billion a year.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Meacher: No, I am not giving way because there is no time.

This is the first time that the GAntiP principle has been set out systematically in a Bill. As I said yesterday, it was drafted by Richard Murphy, a founder of the Tax Justice Network, and a well respected tax accountant—he is one of our foremost tax accountants. The first point of difference between the Government’s proposal and my Bill is that the latter includes national insurance, VAT and other mainstream taxes within the scope of tax avoidance. Inexplicably, the Government have seen fit to leave VAT and national insurance, which are a substantial part of the tax system, out of their proposal, leaving them open to continuing abuse.

Secondly, my Bill explicitly addresses the complex nature of tax avoidance. The Government’s proposal appears to relate only to abuse within a particular tax. Under my Bill, however, shifting a source of income, profit or gain from one category of tax to another is included in the definition of tax avoidance. That would allow Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to challenge a transaction in which income is reported as capital, which is a frequent form of seeking a tax advantage. Under my Bill, transactions that should be liable to income tax that are declared as subject to corporation tax, income from employment declared as income from an investment source, or income due for declaration in the UK declared elsewhere, could be considered as being within the range of tax avoidance and so be subject to challenge by HMRC.

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That goal is achieved by putting an economic test at the core of the Bill. It is principles-based, and asserts that the GAntiP principle can be invoked, if it appears, having taken into account all the relevant circumstances relating to the economic substance of a transaction, that tax is not being paid by the right person, or in the right amount, or at the right place or time, or that it is not being paid at all. The Bill would, therefore, for the first time in UK parliamentary history, overthrow the rule in the so-called Duke of Westminster case. In that famous 1936 ruling, Lord Tomlin said:

“Every man is entitled, if he can, to order his affairs so that the tax attaching under the appropriate Acts is less than it otherwise would be”.

My Bill would change that principle, which has underpinned the tax avoidance activities of the accounting, legal and banking professions for three quarters of a century, and the pre-war culture of abuse that has been swept away in so many other areas of society would finally disappear from tax.

That said, there is no disadvantage in the Bill for the vast majority of UK taxpayers. The great majority of taxpayers do not avoid tax. For others who use certain tax arrangements, the Bill encourages HMRC to publish guidelines for how such arrangements will be interpreted. As a result, the Bill would immediately increase tax certainty—an important principle mentioned yesterday by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker).

For those over whom doubt remains, the Bill would provide for a clearance mechanism whereby HMRC could be asked to provide prior indication of whether an arrangement would fall within the scope of tax avoidance. That process is intended to be helpful, quick and binding. Not unreasonably, in exchange the taxpayer would be expected to make a modest payment for the important provision of tax certainty, with a maximum charge of £1,000 plus VAT, or 5% of the potential tax involved in the arrangement. The fee would likely be much lower than that for any accountant’s or lawyer’s advice, yet would deliver a certain outcome for the taxpayer, who would then be willing to live within the ruling. In addition, HMRC would also be encouraged under the Bill to publish anonymised rulings, so knowledge of what might be considered tax avoidance would rapidly become known.

What would be the benefits of the Bill? First, it would outlaw tax avoidance, which is currently being exploited on an industrial scale and which is now widely perceived as a mounting public scandal. This GAntiP Bill would address that situation; the Government’s severely limited GAAR will certainly not. Secondly, because tax avoidance would be cut back significantly, considerably more tax revenue would be collected, meaning that many services now under threat from Government cuts could be saved. Alternatively, without any increase in public borrowing—always a concern of the Chancellor—extra funding would be made available to give a significant boost to job creation, economic recovery and a turnaround towards economic growth, which is the Government’s central objective.

Thirdly, as I have already noted, the UK tax system would be considerably more certain. Fourthly, the pressure on accountants, lawyers and bankers to sell tax avoidance would be curtailed, because they and their clients would know that most of these schemes would fail. That would release significant resources for more productive

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use in the economy. Fifthly, my Bill would change the rules of engagement for British companies away from competing over who can get the best advantage from the abuse of tax law, and towards competing over who can provide the best price and quality of goods and services for their customers. That could only provide a valuable boost to Britain’s economic effort.

Sixthly, and perhaps most importantly, the Bill would drastically change the culture in British society for the better. Instead of one tiny section of society—the 1% at the top, the big corporations and banks—being widely seen as continually ripping off the honest remainder of the population, a new benchmark would be set declaring that cheating on taxes is unacceptable and wrong, and that honesty and fair play are the basis of a strong modern economy fit for the 21st century. The significance of that in restoring faith in a Britain that we can all be proud of should not be underestimated. For all those reasons, I commend my Bill to the House.

2.29 pm

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): I congratulate the right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher) on his success in the private Members’ ballot, in which I believe he came 18th.

Mr Meacher: Fourteenth.

Mr Nuttall: Excellent; the right hon. Gentleman has done well. Indeed, he has been particularly fortuitous in another way, in that, as I think he mentioned yesterday, speaking opportunities in the Chamber are rather like the No. 77 bus. We do not get many for a very long time and then all of a sudden two or three come along at once. The right hon. Gentleman—

2.30 pm

The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 11(2)).

Ordered, That the debate be resumed on Friday 19 October.

Business without Debate

Bank of England (Appointment of Governor) Bill

Resumption of adjourned debate on Question (6 July), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Debate to be resumed on Friday 19 October.

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NHS Cancer Services

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

2.30 pm

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): May I start this important debate by congratulating the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), on her appointment to what many of us consider to be an important position in Government? May I also pay a warm tribute to her predecessor, the right hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow), who did an excellent job in understanding the issues and pushing the case for cancer care? We wish him well for the future. The all-party group on cancer, of which I am chair, looks forward to enjoying the same constructive relationship with the Minister. However, I secured today’s debate because we believe that after making excellent progress on cancer care the Government now risk making a gross error, which could be very costly indeed, when it comes to cancer treatment.

As the Minister is new in her post, I will, if I may, briefly provide some background information. Cancer survival rates have steadily improved over the past 40 years, but they still lag considerably behind those in Europe and in other countries. Comparisons are never easy, but although we compare with, say, France when it comes to the four or five cancer centres of excellence, it is generally accepted that we lag behind the rest of Europe. The Government have recognised and accepted that point. In January last year, they set themselves the target of saving an additional 5,000 lives by 2014-15, but that would bring us up only to the European average, not even the best.

Why do we in this country trail behind the rest of Europe when it comes to cancer survival rates? In 2009, the all-party group undertook a major inquiry into cancer inequalities that looked at that very issue. What we found was most revealing. We discovered that patients in this country who make it to the one-year survival point stand as much chance as anybody on the continent of making it to five years. Where we fall down badly is in getting patients to the one-year survival point. That led to the conclusion, which is backed up by lots of evidence from those working in the NHS, that the NHS is as good as any other health care system at treating cancer once it is detected, but very poor at detecting it in the first place. It is a national disgrace that nearly one quarter of all cancers in this country are detected only at A and E. That is far too late and it obviously affects survival rates.

The Minister will be fully aware that very rarely in life is there a golden key—an Act or policy through which one can find unbounded riches. However, when it comes to cancer, I would suggest to her that there is a golden key—earlier diagnosis. The earlier a cancer is detected, the greater the chance of survival and the better the survival rate.

Our key recommendation from the 2009 report was the introduction of a one-year survival outcome measure, in order to get the local NHS to raise its game. There is no point in the Department of Health trying to micro-manage primary care trusts; it is better to put up in lights the one-year and five-year outcome measures and

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to get the local NHS to introduce the various measures and initiatives needed to encourage earlier diagnosis. Those measures could involve greater awareness, earlier or better screening, better use of diagnostics or a combination of those. We should leave it to the local PCTs, while encouraging them to put up in lights the one-year and five-year outcome measures. Such initiatives at ground level would encourage earlier diagnosis, which would result in better one-year and five-year survival rates.

The all-party group campaigned hard on this issue. We raised it in Parliament and at our annual Britain Against Cancer conference—which is the largest of its kind and which is often addressed by Secretaries of State—and elsewhere. We had some success. We were pleased to see the inclusion of one-year and five-year cancer survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancer as indicators in the national outcomes framework, which, as the Minister knows, holds the NHS Commissioning Board to account.

Of the two big ideas in the Government’s NHS reforms—the focus on outcomes and the restructuring of the commissioning arrangements—we always thought that the focus on outcomes was by far the most important. We believed that the heat, rather than light, generated by the debate on commissioning structures was unfortunate, to say the least.

In many respects, the national picture has been taken care of. We have the one-year and five-year figures in the NHS outcomes framework, which holds the NHS Commissioning Board to account. Locally, however, it is the clinical commissioning groups—the CCGs—that will play a key role in delivering better cancer care. They are held to account by a different outcomes framework: the commissioning outcomes framework, known as the COF.

The COF will do much to set cancer priorities locally, and it is therefore vital that we get this right. Up until last month, we were led to believe that the five-year survival indicator was to be included in the COF, and the all-party group was lobbying hard to get the one-year indicator included as well. After all, both derive from the same data set. We fully participated in the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence consultation in February this year. We learned last month, however, that the NICE COF advisory committee had decided not to recommend the inclusion of either the one-year or the five-year survival rates in the first iteration of the COF. Instead, only the under-75 mortality rates were recommended for inclusion.

I suggest to the Minister that that is a major error. Given all the evidence on how the measure of the one-year and five-year survival rates encourages earlier diagnosis, the Government should not allow this major step backwards in cancer care. The NHS Commissioning Board is, at this very moment, deciding on the make-up of the COF, and the all-party group is calling on it and the Government to include the one-year and five-year cancer measures in this important outcomes framework.

NICE offered two reasons for the exclusion, but they simply do not stack up. First, it said that survival rates were dependent on the socio-economic status of an area. However, the all-party group has heard from a broad range of experts working in the NHS that the most effective way to incentivise early diagnosis is to measure the NHS against cancer survival rates, specifically

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at one year. The inclusion of cancer survival indicators in the COF is the best way of guaranteeing that CCGs prioritise early diagnosis.

NICE’s second objection related to the application of survival data at local level. However, my understanding, from conversations with the National Cancer Intelligence Network and others, is that cancer survival figures for CCGs can be produced—sliced up, if you like—once the boundaries are known. At the very least, CCGs could then be measured against one-year and five-year survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancer, and so be included in the 2013-14 COF, thereby bringing it in line with the NHS outcomes framework.

In our opinion, it is vital that survival indicators are included in the COF, but the all-party-group has also called for proxy measures such as staging and cancer-diagnosed A and E admissions to be included in the COF to complement the one and five-year figures. We have been calling for this because of the smaller population sizes of CCGs compared to what they are replacing—the PCTs. Proxy measures would help to provide a more complete picture of what is happening on the ground, and would help commissioners to identify the bottlenecks to early diagnosis. Will the Minister update us on the progress made on these proxy measures?

Before I conclude and while I have the Minister’s ear, let me quickly raise two further points. Although perhaps a little less urgently than in respect of our main concerns about the COF, the all-party group would like to see both the outcomes framework and the COF to include all cancers. In our view, if all cancer patients are to benefit from the Government’s correct focus on outcomes, it is vital that the rarer cancers be included, thereby narrowing the unacceptable survival gap between the rarer and more common cancers. After all, breast, lung and colorectal cancers account for only 40% of all new cancers. I add that we are somewhat concerned about Government talk about a composite cancer benchmark or indicator because we fear that such a composite would hide failings perhaps in respect of rarer cancers by focusing on improvements made in the more common cancers. We need to narrow that unacceptable survival gap between rarer and the more common cancers.

Naomi Long (Belfast East) (Alliance): I join the hon. Gentleman in welcoming the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) to her new role.

One way of treating more difficult cancers can be the use of very specialist radiotherapy techniques. I have spoken before about stereotactic body radiation therapy and other treatments, which have the potential to improve outcomes but because they are novel treatments they are advised for use only in clinical trials. Many health trusts are afraid to refer patients because there is no clinical evidence that they are successful for particular cancers. There is a vicious circle here, which needs to be broken so that rarer and harder-to-treat cancers can be treated, at least at that test phase.

Mr Baron: The hon. Lady raises a very good point. I believe that cancer networks have a particularly important role when it comes to treatments that span CCGs such as radiotherapy. I know that local cancer networks would help to look into those treatments order to address the concerns the hon. Lady has rightly raised.