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Division Details - Commons Main Chamber

19:57, 12 September 2017, Division 16: Finance Bill

View the debate for this division

Preamble

Debate resumed.

Pre Vote

The debate has been wide-ranging, covering virtually every aspect of the Bill. That is right and proper for a Bill of such importance. We have heard a number of impressive contributions, including two maiden speeches.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden) made a powerful and assured maiden speech in which he rightly talked about the cultural richness of Liverpool. His reference to his 85.7% share of the vote at the election is a good example of the improved performance and productivity to which all MPs can aspire. There are not too many Members who can say to the hon. Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd) that his election result was on the low side at 84%.

My hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) gave an excellent maiden speech. He spoke of the successful business growth in his constituency and his ambition for the area, particularly for its local growth deal. I am sure that colleagues in Government will work closely with him on that. I am even surer that the Father of the House will very much look forward to sharing a dram of the whisky to which my hon. Friend referred.

I will respond to the detailed points raised by Members shortly, but I first want to be clear about the purpose of the Bill, which is underpinned by principles that I hope we all share: that tax should be competitive and fair, and that it should be paid where it is due. In the weeks ahead, we will have the opportunity to scrutinise the detailed provisions in Committee. The majority of the Bill has already been subject to significant scrutiny following announcements made last year or even earlier. Consultation has been widespread. Together with the pre-election Finance Bill, the measures have had almost nine hours of debate before today.

The Opposition suggest that our strategy to keep tax competitive in some way undermines our absolute commitment to world-class public services and that lower taxes somehow mean less investment in hospitals, schools and our emergency services. But the Government know that it is only through a strong, growing and dynamic economy that we can afford the vital public services our country needs. When we help business to do well, to invest and to create jobs, we are building our tax base to secure that funding for the long term. Competitive taxes protect revenues. Look at what happened when we reduced our level of corporation tax. The private sector created 3.4 million new jobs with an additional £18 billion in corporation tax. In contrast, raising taxes—as the Opposition threaten—to what the Institute for Fiscal Studies describes as their “highest ever peacetime level”, would put the brakes on our economy, drive investment elsewhere, reduce employment and, ultimately, diminish our ability to raise the funds our public services need.

Let me deal with some of the specific points raised during the debate. The hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) once again raised the issue of termination payments. These reforms are about providing clarity in the legislation and ensuring that there are no loopholes that people can use to avoid tax. They will not affect statutory termination payments or payments arising as a result of employment tribunals. They will not reduce the £30,000 tax-free allowance that exists to protect the less well-off when they are made redundant. We have no plans to change the £30,000 allowance. In any case, that would require an affirmative statutory instrument under this Bill.

The hon. Lady raised with the Financial Secretary the issue of whether a statutory instrument on tax relief for museums and galleries had been tabled, and I am happy to reassure her that it has, as he thought, been tabled today, so it is before the House.

The hon. Member for High Peak (Ruth George) raised the issue of non-doms. Let me be clear: this Bill abolishes permanent non-domiciled status. When people live in the UK permanently, it is right that they should pay UK tax. Non-doms already contribute over £9 billion a year to the Exchequer, and we expect the Bill to raise a further £1.6 billion over the next five years. So this Finance Bill will deliver fairness and protect revenue. This is a balanced approach, and one that has been subject to extensive consultation.

During the debate, Opposition Members criticised the provisions for offshore trusts. Let be clear again: if funds are taken out of trusts, they will become liable for tax. As the Financial Secretary set out in the debate last week, our international agreements on the exchange of information will provide a critical boost to enforcement.

A number of Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Newark (Robert Jenrick) and for Harborough (Neil O'Brien), raised the issue of avoidance and evasion. The Bill implements a large number of measures to tackle tax avoidance and evasion. It prevents businesses from claiming excessive tax deductions, by updating the rules around how companies claim deductions for interest expenses. It continues our crackdown on artificial disguised remuneration schemes, and it introduces a new penalty for those who enable tax avoidance.

It is this Government who are tackling tax avoidance and evasion head-on. It is this Government who have announced more than 75 measures to tackle tax evasion and avoidance since 2010. We have seen HMRC more than double the annual number of prosecutions for avoidance and evasion in that time. That is how we have secured almost £160 billion in extra tax revenue. We secured over £8 billion in extra tax from the largest and most complex UK businesses in 2016 alone. In 2015-16, we secured £900 million in tax from the wealthiest, which would otherwise have gone unpaid—more than doubling the amount secured in 2011-12.

We now have over 100 countries around the world that are exchanging financial account information so that we can track down offshore money. We have published one of the first public registers of beneficial ownership in the world.

In 2016-17, HMRC brought in £574.9 billion in tax revenue—the seventh record year in a row. We have seen the tax gap drop to a level unprecedented under the Labour Government—a level that is among the lowest in the world. There is only one party in this House that can point to a record like that on tax avoidance and evasion, and it is not the Labour party.

Members raised a wide range of points in the debate. In a powerful speech, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) highlighted the importance of the mobility of high net worth individuals. He also recognised the £9 billion tax contribution of non-doms and the fact that our tax take has gone up under the corporation tax changes—a hugely important point to note.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) brought the attention of the House to the importance of productivity if we are to deliver the sustainability we want to see in higher wages. My hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly), who is a doughty champion of small and medium-sized businesses, correctly highlighted the importance of the sector, including microbusiness.

The hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) welcomed the provisions in clauses 3 and 4, as well as the extension of a number of reliefs. He raised concerns about retrospection, but the Bill will simply ensure that measures come into effect from their originally intended commencement date.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) spoke about her concerns at the level of debt, which is really why she should support the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont) highlighted the significant fall in unemployment in his constituency and the importance of growth in driving those jobs. My hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Colin Clark) spoke about the importance of investment and about the distinction between investment and spending.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay) welcomed the Bill and brought his professional insight to the debate as an accountant. He flagged a number of issues that colleagues in the Treasury will be keen to discuss with him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani) spoke of the progress that the Government have made in tackling areas of abuse. My hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge), who is always a strong defender of capitalism, spoke about its importance. My hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) welcomed the constructive way that the Government had listened to his campaign on making tax digital. In his role on the Treasury Committee, there will be scope for further discussions with him on other areas where he brings his expertise, and we very much welcome that. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Alex Burghart) highlighted the record of job creation under this Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean) spoke of her pride in the Government tackling abuses. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami) talked about the difference between the tax rate and the tax take.

This Bill will deliver through supporting families, supporting the less well-off, supporting our public services, and ensuring a stable and dynamic economy. It will deliver by raising new finances to finance new infrastructure and technical education, putting productivity first. It will deliver by raising new revenues from those who would otherwise avoid or evade tax altogether. This Bill lies at the heart of a plan to go on building a prosperous nation.

The Opposition profess to be tough on tax avoidance and evasion, to want to tighten up the rules for non-doms, and to want to clamp down on the tax gap. The Bill before the House does exactly that. So let the question tonight be not simply whether this Bill should proceed but whether Labour Members really do wish to deliver on these principles rather than succumb to the easy place of opposition for opposition’s sake—whether they wish to stand up to the avoiders and the evaders, or themselves to avoid and evade their responsibility. I commend this Bill to the House.

Question put, that the Bill be now read a Second time.

Ayes - 320

Tellers

Noes - 299

Tellers