1 July 2020
Finance Bill, Report Stage: Impact of Finance Bill on Job Creation

Jesse Norman MP responds to a debate on the impact of the Finance Bill on the creation of jobs.

Jesse Norman

I take my hat off to the astonishing hon. Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins), who brought so much content into such a short presentation, and I thank her for that. We have an enormous body of material to get through quickly, so I shall deal initially with the question relating to new clause 26 on job creation and related measures. The new clause would require the Government to conduct an assessment of the effect of the Act on job creation. As the House will know, the Government have announced unprecedented support through the coronavirus job retention scheme, the self-employed scheme and the like. The Office for Budget Responsibility has said that those actions will directly help to support the incomes of individuals. The Treasury does not produce economic forecasts and the OBR does, publishing them twice a year. For that reason, I ask Members to reject the new clause.

New clause 12 relates to a matter previously considered in the Public Bill Committee, the impact on regions and nations. The new clause would require the Chancellor, within one month, to review the impact of the Act. As I emphasised in Committee, the provisions in this Bill have already been developed with careful consideration. Analysis of Government decisions on GDP is also carried out by the independent OBR. Again, we will continue to monitor the impact of the crisis, but I ask Members to reject the new clause. SNP new clause 18 would require a review of the impact of the Act on investment, productivity and employment. Again, it would require the Government to look at hypothetical scenarios, whereas the OBR is required by law to produce its forecasts based on stated Government policy, so I ask Members to reject the measure.

I come now to IR35 and the off-payroll working rules. I have been pressed vigorously on this issue by my hon. Friends the Members for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt), for Guildford (Angela Richardson), for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) and for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell). Amendments 16 and 17 seek to remove the reform of these rules from the Bill, which would be a serious mistake, costing the country many hundreds of millions of pounds. The level of non-compliance at the moment with the rules is scheduled to cost the country £1.3 billion in 2023-24 if not addressed. As I do not believe the SNP really wants that, I encourage Members to vote against it.

I come now to the cross-party amendments framed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), as it is important to engage with several of the things he said. He said that contractors ​could be pushed into a state of no benefits employment. It is important to note the contractors already receive a number of benefits funded by the Government when they are employees of their own personal service companies. Such benefits include statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, parental bereavement and shared parental pay, and they are provided by PSCs, which are then able to claim 100% of those payments plus 3% compensation from the Government. My right hon. Friend said that at least seven people have taken their own lives as a result of the loan charge. It is important to put on the public record that of course every single death of an individual is a tragedy. The circumstances surrounding those deaths have been considered by the coroner, the Independent Office for Police Conduct and HMRC’s own internal independent investigations. None of them has suggested, in these four reports, that HMRC is to blame for these deaths; no conduct issues have identified either by the independent office or internal investigations that would warrant disciplinary actions.

Ruth Cadbury

Will the Minister give way?

Jesse Norman

I am afraid that I just have to press on, because I have no time. My right hon. Friend raised the issue of a review on the loan charge. These are some of the most egregious and clearest forms of tax avoidance in the tax system. In reaction to my right hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), let me say that it is hard to see how simplification of the tax system would prevent the kind of abuse we have seen through the loan charge or indeed potentially through IR35. The all-party group on the loan charge published a report rubbishing the independence of the Morse review. I can do no better than refer its members to the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden, who described Sir Amyas Morse as

“independent…principled and highly respected”

That was true then and it is true now.

New clause 31 would drive a coach and horses through long-standing principles of taxation, because the tax system relies on people being responsible for their own tax and there being as little discretion as possible in the system. Both principles would be overturned, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) hinted. For that reason, I urge the House to reject the new clause, if it comes to a vote.