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Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I do not expect the noble Lord to answer this question now--I hope that he can but I do not expect him to answer it now. Can he set out in a little more detail the basis on which those figures are arrived at?
The noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, raised a specific point. He criticised the climate change levy. That will be broadly revenue neutral across services and manufacturing. We recognise that there are difficulties for some heavy energy users which is why there are available discounts of up to 80 per cent for those who achieve energy-efficiency targets. That is a difficult area, but we have--as he knows--international obligations. The noble Lord asked about petrol prices. It is a fact that the recent increase in the price of petrol was not an increase in tax but an increase in the price of petrol itself. Given that the international price of petrol has gone down recently from 30 dollars a barrel to 27 dollars a barrel, let us hope that the petrol companies will do their duty and reduce prices at the pump. That seems to be a reasonable expectation.
The noble Lord, Lord Newby, was concerned about smuggling. In general terms, it is true that the higher the differential, the more temptation there is for smuggling. However, that is not always the case. Italy and Spain have very low duty rates on cigarettes and yet they still suffer from significant smuggling. So it is not as simple as that.
The noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, asked about double taxation relief. He asked specifically about some companies with subsidiaries in New York and Japan, and whether they would be worse off under the mixer company changes. I do not think that he has fully taken in the significance of the changes which we announced on 15th July. If a UK company has subsidiaries in New York and/or Japan directly from the United Kingdom, the current position is that relief for foreign tax cannot exceed 30 per cent, which is the UK tax payable on a dividend. It will be possible in future for companies to have relief for this foreign tax of up to 45 per cent. Again, it is a complicated issue. Rather than pursue it now, I should like to write to the noble Lord about it.
I am passing over the matters I wanted to talk about to refer to the points I have to talk about because noble Lords raised them. The noble Lord, Lord Jacobs, referred to the tax burden for those on the national minimum wage. He has ignored the fact that the combination of the working families' tax credit and the reform of national insurance contributions--in other words the imputed national insurance contributions up to £9,000 per year--together with the minimum income guarantee of £214 per week for a family with at least one person in full-time work answers very precisely the points he raised in the debate.
The noble Lord, Lord Newby, claimed that the corporate tax burden was higher in the UK than among its competitors. That is the reverse of the truth. Corporation tax rates are at their lowest level ever. The Chancellor has made a clear commitment to keep those rates at the current level. They are, taken as a whole, the lowest in industrialised countries.
I have specific points to make to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. He asked where we are in the economic cycle. We say where we are in the economic and fiscal strategy report. We did so at the end of last year; we shall do so at the end of this year. I do not think that it is appropriate for me to provide a running commentary.
We have looked very carefully at the question of a general anti-avoidance rule. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has recently considered this matter very carefully. In the light of concerns expressed by business, he has come to the conclusion that it would place greater uncertainty and greater burdens on business. That does not mean that he is not determined to combat avoidance.
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, in saying that the committee was considering it, does it not reinforce the desirability of keeping that going? Merely to say that the Chancellor thinks that it should be wound up is unsatisfactory.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not think that it matters very much whether it is a committee which considers it. The point is that the Chancellor has considered the matter. He has taken account of representations by business which say that it would be a burden to them because they would have to assess what it might mean with the Revenue, in effect, concealing its hand. That is the difficulty about a general anti-avoidance rule.
The noble and learned Lord asked about the North/South divide. Noble Lords have asked also about the Barnett formula. The improvement shown in the economy has been across all regions of England, Scotland and Wales. If there are any differentials, those differentials are reducing rather than increasing. As to local income tax, that is a matter which the Liberal Democrat Party will continue to pursue, as the noble Lord, Lord Newby, has confirmed--and good luck to it!
Behind all that lies a view of our public finances and the state of our economy. I am grateful to all noble Lords--particularly the noble Lords, Lord Tomlinson, Lord Newby, and Lord Marlesford--who have congratulated the Chancellor on his wise management of the economy over the past three years. Of course, there are still problems. There are problems for the manufacturing industry. There is the high level of sterling in relation to the euro, and higher short-term interest rates, although of course long-term interest rates are much more convergent. All those problems need to be resolved as we come to consider the economic arguments of whether we would be recommending to the country entry into the euro. Everything said today has confirmed my view that the combination of the Budget which was announced in March this year, the Finance Bill which completed its progress through the House of Commons in the past few days, and the spending review which follows from our public expenditure and revenue commitments is the right solution for the country and will continue to take us into the new century in a spirit of confidence and growth.
The Lord Bishop of Manchester rose to move, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.
The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I realise that this is the last item of business to be dealt with before the Summer Recess, so I do not intend to keep noble Lords too long from their comforts and cruises and their buckets and spades.
The miscellaneous provisions Measures of the General Synod deal with uncontroversial items and relatively minor matters which would not ordinarily merit free-standing legislation. This particular Measure contains a number of important clauses dealing with the devolution to dioceses of functions of the Church Commissioners, following the passing of the National Institutions Measure. These provisions have been discussed and agreed with the dioceses. The provisions in question are dealt with in Clauses 1 to 11 and Schedules 1 to 6.
In financial terms, the Measure, at Clause 4 and Schedule 2, provides for the transfer of the diocesan stipends accounts and the associated income accounts to diocesan boards of finance. Clause 10 and Schedule 6 provide for the transfer of diocesan pastoral accounts to dioceses to formalise the devolved administrative arrangements already in place in respect of these accounts.
Similar proposals are suggested for glebe matters, where the commissioners' main role would be confined to considering transactions which do not meet agreed criteria and to carrying out the appellate function set out in paragraph 9 of Schedule 5. Again, cost savings for the commissioners are expected to amount to about £50,000 per annum, and none of these costs would fall on dioceses instead.
As to other miscellaneous matters, perhaps I should highlight Clause 12, which makes a useful provision for situations where the office of rural dean is vacant or where the rural dean is unable to carry out his or her functions. Subsection (4) gives power to the bishop to change the title of a rural dean's office to that of area dean. That makes more sense in a mainly urban diocese such as the one in which I currently serve.
Clause 15 brings the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure into line with other categories of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council by providing that an appeal may only be made with leave to appeal. The Privy Council Office has signified its agreement to the amendment.
In Clause 17, we have another uncontroversial but useful amendment. The clause amends the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986 to make it possible for the transfer of a right of patronage to be registered even when presentation to the benefice has been suspended under the Pastoral Measure 1983.
The Measure was found expedient by the Ecclesiastical Committee, which is composed of 15 Members of this House nominated by the Lord Chancellor and 15 Members of another place nominated by the Speaker. I hope and trust that it will streamline some of the procedures of the Church and, of course, save some money. I trust that the House will agree to the Motion.
Moved, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.--(The Lord Bishop of Manchester.)