2 July 2020
Finance Bill: Third Reading

Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, moves the Third Reading of the Finance Bill.

Jesse Norman

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This Finance Bill stands in the shadow of a pandemic unprecedented in its scale and reach. We are keenly aware of the immense challenges and pressures that that has placed on us. These conditions—this situation—cannot and will not be ignored. The Government are working flat out to alleviate the impact of covid-19 on the economy, on the public finances, and, most importantly, on the health and wellbeing of every person and family in the United Kingdom.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has announced numerous measures over the past few months in response to the virus, including the job retention scheme, the business interruption loan scheme, and the self-employment income scheme. Together, this represents, contrary to many of the comments made in the previous debate, an economic intervention by Government on a scale hitherto unseen in peacetime, and necessarily so. At such a difficult time for millions of people around the United Kingdom, the Government have worked to protect businesses and are specifically focused on the wellbeing of the most vulnerable in society.

Of course we recognise, and the House must recognise, that this is a still a work in progress and there is a way to go. The crisis is not over. The pandemic continues. People around this country are still suffering and may do so for many months yet. The Government will continue to work to lessen the impact, but it remains the responsibility, the duty and the important role of businesses, families and individuals to play their part, too, in this colossal collective national effort. Together, we must work to bring ourselves through and out of this crisis.

The Bill supports the emergency services as they go about their vital duties and exempts from vehicle excise duty vehicles that have been purpose-built to transport NHS products. The Government have introduced new clauses that were considered today to ensure that workers who have returned to public sector jobs to help fight the effects of the pandemic will face no adverse pensions consequences from doing so. The Bill reforms the tapered annual allowance so that doctors can spend more time treating patients without facing precipitous tax bills. This pandemic has brought out, in many ways, the best in our society, and I am certain that the Britain that emerges from it will be stronger and fairer.

The Bill provides tax exemptions specifically for those who receive payments under the Windrush compensation scheme, the troubles permanent disablement ​payment scheme and the Kindertransport fund, as well as for care leavers who are starting apprenticeships, and rightly so.

The necessary focus on the here and now must not come at the expense of tomorrow. In the words of the Prime Minister, our great national hibernation is coming to an end, and we must and will now at last look to the future. Now is the time to start to rebuild the economy and to restore our public finances. Our police, our teachers, our armed forces and many other public sector workers have all played their part in combating this pandemic alongside the NHS. I would also single out, as I have said, our public servants in the civil service, particularly in my own area of HM Treasury and within HMRC.

This public sector support cannot be provided for if the public finances are not supported, in turn, with a fair and sustainable tax system. That is a key fact. We do that while seeking to remain competitive internationally, and maintaining the corporation tax rate at 19% is therefore the right approach. Even at that level, it is still the lowest headline rate in the G20, and it reminds the world of UK strength as a location for inward investment.

But we have also been clear about fairness. Everyone must pay their fair share of tax. That is one reason we have introduced the digital services tax, for which this Bill also legislates. A tax set at a rate of 2% on revenues from digital services will ensure that digital businesses pay a fairer share of UK tax that more accurately reflects the significant value that they derive from their UK users. As we look to recovery, we want business to receive the support that it needs. That is why we have delayed the extension of the off-payroll working reforms in the private sector to April 2021.

Businesses need time to prepare for the reforms, and it would have been burdensome to ask them to do so during the pandemic.

We focus on innovation in the Finance Bill. We wish to go further to support enterprise in this country, which will be desperately needed in the coming months. This country has a proud history of innovation, and increasing the research and development expenditure credit rate to 13% will allow that to continue. The structures and buildings allowance rate increase will also aid investment in new shops, factories and agricultural buildings, which will help to stimulate capital investment across the nation. As ever, we are committed to levelling up across the United Kingdom.

As has been pointed out, covid-19 is not the only crisis that we face. The Government have committed to reducing the United Kingdom’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. The Bill is another step towards that target. Not only does it pave the way for the forthcoming plastic packaging tax, but it removes the vehicle excise duty expensive car supplement for zero-emissions vehicles and ensures that, now we have left the European Union, a carbon price will remain in place. Those measures will help to ensure that our post-covid-19 economy is greener than before.

At the end of 10 hours of debate in the last two days, for which I thank all my colleagues and the Opposition Front-Bench team, we understand that the world during the passage of the Bill has changed. Its impact on this House, our daily lives and our economic outlook has radically altered. To some extent, we have made changes ​on the fly to shore up and support our public services and our response to the pandemic. As a result, the Bill is a firm foundation—indeed, firmer than it was originally framed—on which we can rebuild our economy and protect our public finances as we recover from this devastating virus. The Bill supports businesses, the vulnerable and our key workers, and I commend it to the House.