HC Deb 13 March 1997 vol 292 cc485-6
6. Mr. Salmond

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had with industry representatives about clause 37 of the Finance Bill; and if he will make a statement. [18525]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mrs. Angela Knight)

My hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary met industry representatives on 22 January. The amendments to clause 37 passed on Report now address the concerns expressed by the property industry.

Mr. Salmond

Why did the Government back down on clause 37? Were they concerned about the legal position if they pursued the matter as they originally intended? If so, is the Minister worried about payment and prepayment traders in other related aspects of the Finance Bill? Is there not a ticking time bomb of legal action in the Finance Bill because of discriminatory treatment as between similar traders in different industries? Is the Minister worried about that, or does she think she and her colleagues will not be at the Dispatch Box, so it will be someone else's problem?

Mrs. Knight

The hon. Gentleman is incorrect. The amendments to the clause targeted avoidance more tightly, and we are convinced that that will work. We shall keep a close eye on the matter. The important point is to ensure that correct transactions can go ahead, but that avoidance is stopped. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would support those measures.

Mr. Brooke

Will my hon. Friend pass on to the Exchequer Secretary and to Customs and Excise the thanks of my constituents for the hard and constructive work that went into resolving the original problems posed by clause 37? Will she, at the same time, congratulate our hon. Friend on having become this very day the owner of Westminster's top dog?

Mrs. Knight

I assure my right hon. Friend that my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary has heard his thanks. It is clear that, when my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend get together, they can resolve matters in an honourable and friendly way. I understand that my right hon. Friend came second in the top dog awards. In fact, the first three top dogs were Tory top dogs. That is a good omen.