HC Deb 11 June 1986 vol 99 cc380-4

That provision may be made for charging stamp duty reserve tax where securities arc transferred or issued after 18th March 1986 in pursuance of an arrangement (whenever made) relating to the provision of clearance services.

7.14 pm
Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)

I think that it would be a good idea if the Financial Secretary to the Treasury were to explain to the House why the Procedure and the Ways and Means motions are necessary. Indeed. I think that the Minister has an obligation to do so, having presented the House with a record number of extra motions.

We realise that all Governments, Labour and Conservative, have found it necessary to introduce extra Ways and Means motions during the proceedings in Committee on the Finance Bill so that the Committee can deal with matters that it would not otherwise be able to consider. I accept that there is often a need for some extra motions to be put before the House. We have, however, been presented with an exceptional number of extra motions. I have looked back over the past 12 years, and I think that on this occasion the Government have tabled a record number. It is a record that can be added to the Government's other records on unemployment, real interest rates and the imbalance in our trade in manufactured goods. We now have a record number of motions so that the Government can get out of the jam that threatens them in Committee on the Finance Bill.

As I have already said, I accept that there is often a need for some motions of this sort to be tabled, but we are being confronted with an exceptional number in this instance. There are no fewer than 10 Procedure and Ways and Means motions on the Order Paper.

We are bound to draw the conclusion that the Government are an Administration of indecision and dither, if not incompetence. Some of the matters that we are being asked to refer to the Standing Committee were included in the Budget statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I should have thought that it would have been possible to include such matters in the Finance Bill. If that was not possible, they could at least have been included in Ways and Means motions at an earlier stage. I think that the Financial Secretary owes us some explanation of why it was not possible to include the matters now before us in the original motions, and why it is necessary to come to the House with these motions at such a late stage in the proceedings of the Committee that is considering the Finance Bill.

Mr. Lamont

The Procedure motions are permissive instructions to the Finance Bill Committee. They will enable it to include items in the Bill which it would not otherwise have been able to do. The Procedure motions cover two matters, one relating to a future year and provision for the taxation of entertainers, and the other covering borrowing through the Public Works Loan Commissioners. The money resolution is necessary because it is a charge to the Exchequer. Again, it relates to the Public Works Loan Commissioners.

One of the Ways and Means motions refers to double taxation relief and another is directed to golden handshakes. The majority of the Ways and Means motions that are causing concern to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) relate to stamp duty. It has been necessary to make a number of changes in the Government's intentions on stamp duty, which is an extremely complicated tax and extremely difficult to amend. Therefore, it has been necessary in many instances to table new clauses. A new clause on stamp duty was tabled on 3 June and a Ways and Means motion was tabled on 5 June. My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury wrote to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald) in anticipation of these changes and explained what the Government intended. I hope that that was some advance warning and explanation.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the new clauses that have been tabled today will not be discussed in Committee until next Tuesday. I hope he will consider that that gives him some time to consider my explanations as well as the explanations that have been given by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary. The hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that there have been a substantial number of Government new clauses this year. There have been 17. I am not sure—

Mr. Terry Davis

The hon. Gentleman has missed the point. I am not complaining about the number of new clauses that have been tabled. I have not mentioned the new clauses. I am complaining about the Procedure and Ways and Means motions, of which there are no fewer than 10. I believe that there are more than we have ever had in the House before. I accept the need for new clauses, but why are we having to deal with so many matters which apparently were not envisaged when the Bill was published?

Mr. Lamont

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Ways and Means motions relate to new clauses, and specifically to changes in stamp duty. I do not think that they represent an unprecedented number of new clauses. As stamp duty is a tax that is so difficult to amend, some of the new clauses might be considered more in the nature of amendments. I do not want to weary the House, but there are precedents for taking new clauses and amendments together. The number of changes that the Government have made is not unprecedented. The changes are necessary for the reasons outlined by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury in his letter to the hon. Member for Thurrock.

7.19 pm
Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

As a member of the Finance Bill Committee and one who the Minister would agree has created some trouble over the question of stamp duty, it appears to me that these motions show that the Government, in their proposals of 19 March, had not thought through the problems about stamp duty. Indeed, a Minister admitted in the Committee that the one thing that he had done wrong as a member of the Committee was that as new Ministers had come to the Committee he had not shifted the responsibility for stamp duty to someone else. I suggested to him that perhaps he should simply resign.

We have had stamp duty since before the 1850s, and it is a well-known form of taxation. However, it requires careful and considered thought if amendments are to be made to it. It is not good enough that my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald) should receive a letter on 3 June saying that further amendments and new clauses are to be tabled for debate next Tuesday. When will the Government think through their philosophy on this matter?

The truth is that every time the Government make a suggestion a pressure group somewhere puts a little more pressure on them and they change their mind. The result is that there are now 17 new clauses. I do not know how many more there will be before we reach the Report stage, but I suspect that newer and newer clauses will be tabled in the same way as we have newer and newer Ministers on the Committee who do not understand what the old Ministers were doing. I suppose that that is the price that we have to pay on that Committee.

I should like to take this opportunity, on behalf of those who have to pay stamp duty, to put a plug back into the matter now as I did in Committee. I hope that the Government will reconsider stamp duty, especially in relation to good will and the reconstruction and amalgamation of companies, as was proposed in the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985. I hope that we shall have some sanity in the matter.

Treasury Ministers collectively ought to buy a book about stamp duty, sit down, read it and learn what the law is about. They should ask their hon. Friends who sit around them, and who have knowledge of these matters, for some decent professional advice and return to the Committee with a little sanity, instead of the awful gobbledegook from which the Committee is suffering.

7.22 pm
Mr. Terry Davis

I should like to refer briefly to the comments made by the Financial Secretary. I shall not make a great fuss about the need for new clauses about stamp duty. I can understand the need for that. I appreciate that I have been told about the effect that some unfortunate illnesses have had in that respect. I am not making a fuss about that or about the lack of consultation. I appreciate the difficulties, which I believe are due to personnel problems in the Government.

That does not excuse all the motions. The Financial Secretary glided over the first two motions.

I draw the Minister's attention to motion No. 7, which deals with the future taxation of entertainers and sportsmen who are not resident in the United Kingdom. This provision was included in the Chancellor's Budget statement. Why, therefore, was a clause not included in the Bill? Why was there not a Ways and Means motion to cover that point when the other Ways and Means motions were tabled and considered by the House and agreed formally at the time?

I also draw the Financial Secretary's attention to motion No. 8. This is a Procedure motion to allow us to discuss in Committee a new clause affecting the amount of money that can be borrowed from the Public Works Loan Commissioners. I understand the need for such a clause. However, this must have been known before the Chancellor's Budget statement and before the Bill was published. It must have been known that it was necessary to increase the limit on the amount of money that can be lent by the Public Works Loan Commissioners. This must have been known before the Bill was published and before the new clause was tabled a short time ago.

I am not criticising the period for consultation. We will deal with that point in Committee if necessary. It shows a certain incompetence and lack of grip on legislation that these matters were not covered in the Bill in the first place.

7.24 pm
Mr. Norman Lamont

I am pleased that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) agrees that there has been ample time for consultation.

Mr. Terry Davis

I did not say that. I said that I was not complaining about that. We will deal with these matters in Committee. The Financial Secretary should not put words into my mouth. I said I was complaining about the fact that these matters were not covered in the Bill as originally drafted. I did not want to take up the time of the House on that issue.

I must tell the Financial Secretary that I am not surprised that the Leader of the House is present, because the threat to the Government's legislative programme by this kind of behaviour is very serious. If the Opposition so wished, we could mount the kind of exercise that was mounted by Conservative Back Benchers last Thursday.

Mr. Lamont

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's statement that he is not complaining about the period of consultation.

The motion relating to entertainers is necessary because it relates to a future year. A conscious decision was also made that a motion was needed to cover the Public Works Loan Board. We decided that the Finance Bill was a convenient vehicle to advance the motion.

The hon. Member for Hodge Hill referred to innumerable changes, but he and his hon. Friends will know that this happens every year with the Finance Bill. In fact, in 1976, when the Labour party was in office, there were no fewer than 161 Government amendments to the Finance Bill—many more than there are now. As I have said, some of the proposals must be put forward in the form of new clauses because stamp duty is not a tax that can easily be amended. I think that at least one of the Ways and Means motions on stamp duty — that relating to loans—is more like an amendment. Today's procedure is no different from what has happened in the past when Governments have made amendments.

Mr. Terry Davis

The Financial Secretary has missed the point. He is obviously incapable of replying to my arguments. We will discuss this matter again in Committee and I do not want to delay the House by attempting to teach the Financial Secretary so that he can understand what I am saying.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to matters which may be included in Finance Bills, any Finance Bill of the present Session may contain provisions taking effect in a future year with respect to activities of entertainers not resident in the United Kingdom and sportsmen not resident in the United Kingdom.