HC Deb 02 February 1995 vol 253 cc1202-3
3. Mr. Barnes

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consider the introduction of tax relief to small businesses for the purposes of providing access for disabled people.

Sir George Young

Capital expenditure incurred by businesses for providing access for disabled people may be eligible for tax relief under normal capital allowance rules. There are specific Government programmes to assist disabled people such as the access to work programme, which was introduced in June 1994. This provides a wide range of practical help to overcome barriers to employment faced by disabled people. For example, the programme can provide alterations to premises or a work environment and communicators for people who are deaf. By December 1994, more than 5,000 people had been assisted.

Mr. Barnes

The Minister should realise that civil rights for disabled people are good for business: they increase sales and the tax take and they reduce the need for benefits. Therefore, can further measures be taken to encourage some entrepreneurial zip among small businesses so that more disabled people can be taken on by them?

Sir George Young

The whole House has much sympathy with the objectives suggested by the hon. Gentleman. The Disability Discrimination Bill, which is now before the House, requires an employer to make a reasonable adjustment to the working conditions or premises where that could overcome a practical barrier to a disabled potential employee.

Sir Donald Thompson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, to achieve that entrepreneurial zip, capital will need to be expended? If the Government are going to say exactly how that capital should be spent, they should carefully consider tax benefits for those who are willing to spend it.

Sir George Young

Depending on the nature of the expenditure, if it is revenue expenditure, it can all be set against tax. Depending on the nature of the capital expenditure, there may be allowances for that also. In addition, grants are available under the access to work scheme, through the disabled person, to pay for some of the adaptations.

Ms Armstrong

Are not the tax issues with which the Minister is dealing currently dealt with by Inland Revenue tax inspectors? It is estimated that more than £2 billion of tax is not being collected, so how does the Minister justify sacking 6,000 tax inspectors? Would it not be better to have tax collectors collecting tax and not the dole?

Sir George Young

No one is suggesting that 6,000 tax inspectors are going to be sacked. We have made it quite clear that we hope to achieve our proposed reductions without compulsory redundancies. In the past three years, the number of Inland Revenue staff has reduced by 10,000, with only 80 redundancies. That is the progress that we want to make.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the entrepreneurial zip would be taken out of small businesses if local councils were again given the right to charge the business rate, as proposed by the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown)?

Sir George Young

My hon. Friend is quite right. The uniform business rate, set by Government with guarantees that it will not rise by more than the rate of inflation, is a real benefit to small businesses, particularly to those that were previously confronted with large rate increases by Labour-controlled local authorities.