HC Deb 15 January 2001 vol 361 cc122-43

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business), That, at this day's sitting, the Motions in the name of Margaret Beckett relating to Tax Simplification (Joint Committee), Tax Simplification. Human Rights (Joint Committee) and Human Rights and proceedings on the Capital Allowances Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Robert Ainsworth.]

The House divided: Ayes 291, Noes 8.

Division No. 52 [10 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Cotter, Brian
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Cousins, Jim
Ainger, Nick Crausby, David
Allan, Richard Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Allen, Graham Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Cummings, John
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Ashton, Joe Dalyell, Tam
Atherton, Ms Candy Darvill, Keith
Atkins, Charlotte Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Bailey, Adrian Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Ballard, Jackie Dawson, Hilton
Banks, Tony Dean, Mrs Janet
Barnes, Harry Denham, John
Barron, Kevin Dismore, Andrew
Battle, John Dobbin, Jim
Bayley, Hugh Donohoe, Brian H
Beard, Nigel Doran, Frank
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Dowd, Jim
Begg, Miss Anne Drew, David
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Bennett, Andrew F Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Benton, Joe Efford, Clive
Berry, Roger Ellman, Mrs Louise
Best, Harold Etherington, Bill
Betts, Clive Fearn, Ronnie
Blackman, Liz Reid, Rt Hon Frank
Blears, Ms Hazel Fisher, Mark
Blizzard, Bob Flynn, Paul
Borrow, David Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Foster, Don (Bath)
Bradshaw, Ben Foulkes, George
Brinton, Mrs Helen Gapes, Mike
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Gardiner, Barry
Browne, Desmond Gerrard, Neil
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gibson, Dr Ian
Buck, Ms Karen Gidley, Sandra
Burden, Richard Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Burgon, Colin Godsiff, Roger
Burnett, John Goggins, Paul
Butler, Mrs Christine Golding, Mrs Lin
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hanson, David
Cann, Jamie Harvey, Nick
Casale, Roger Healey, John
Cawsey, Ian Hendrick, Mark
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hepburn, Stephen
Chaytor, David Hill, Keith
Clapham, Michael Hinchliffe, David
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Hodge, Ms Margaret
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hope, Phil
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hopkins, Kelvin
Clelland, David Howells, Dr Kim
Clwyd, Ann Hoyle, Lindsay
Coaker, Vernon Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Coffey, Ms Ann Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cohen, Harry Humble, Mrs Joan
Coleman, Iain Hurst, Alan
Colman, Tony Iddon, Dr Brian
Connarty, Michael Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Cooper, Yvette Jamieson, David
Corbett, Robin Jenkins, Brian
Corbyn, Jeremy Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Corston, Jean Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Joyce, Eric Purchase, Ken
Keeble, Ms Sally Quinn, Lawrie
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Rammell, Bill
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Rapson, Syd
Kemp, Fraser Raynsford, Nick
Khabra, Piara S Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Kilfoyle, Peter Rendel, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Roche, Mrs Barbara
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Laxton, Bob Rooney, Terry
Lepper, David Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Leslie, Christopher Roy, Frank
Levitt, Tom Ruddock, Joan
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen Ryan, Ms Joan
Linton, Martin Salter, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Sanders, Adrian
Lock, David Sarwar, Mohammad
Love, Andrew Savidge, Malcolm
McAvoy, Thomas Sedgemore, Brian
McCafferty, Ms Chris Shaw, Jonathan
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield) Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McDonagh, Siobhain Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Macdonald, Calum Singh, Marsha
McDonnell, John Skinner, Dennis
McFall, John Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
McGuire, Mrs Anne Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Mackinlay, Andrew Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McNamara, Kevin Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
McNulty, Tony Snape, Peter
Mactaggart, Fiona Soley, Clive
McWalter, Tony Southworth, Ms Helen
McWilliam, John Spellar, John
Mallaber, Judy Squire, Ms Rachel
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Steinberg, Gerry
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Stoate, Dr Howard
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Stringer, Graham
Merron, Gillian Stuart, Ms Gisela
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Stunell, Andrew
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Miller, Andrew Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Mitchell, Austin Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Moffatt, Laura Temple-Morris, Peter
Moonie, Dr Lewis Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Moran, Ms Margaret Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway) Timms, Stephen
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Mountford, Kali Tonge, Dr Jenny
Mudie, George Touhig, Don
Mullin, Chris Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Naysmith, Dr Doug Turner, Neil (Wigan)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Öpik, Lembit Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Organ, Mrs Diana Tyler, Paul
Osborne, Ms Sandra Tynan, Bill
Pearson, Ian Walley, Ms Joan
Pickthall, Colin Ward, Ms Claire
Pike, Peter L Wareing, Robert N
Pollard, Kerry Watts, David
Pond, Chris Webb, Steve
Pope, Greg White, Brian
Pound, Stephen Whitehead, Dr Alan
Powell, Sir Raymond Wicks, Malcolm
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Wills, Phil Wyatt, Derek
Winnick, David
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony Tellers for the Ayes:
Wray, James Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe and
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth) Mr. Robert Ainsworth.
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Redwood, Rt Hon John
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Ruffley, David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Tellers for the Noes:
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Mr. Eric Forth and
McIntosh, Miss Anne Mr. Christopher Chope.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

10.13 pm
Mr. Jack

Before the Division, I was referring to the complexity of the legislation. For the record, I want to make an observation on chapter 10, which deals with long-life assets. I am delighted that it retains the exceptions from long-life asset expenditure. They include railway assets, which reflect the proper assistance that the previous Administration gave in the capital allowance regime to encouraging investment in railways.

The privatisation of the railways is sometimes criticised, especially in current circumstances. Certainly in tax terms, the retention of those exceptions in the rewrite Bill is important. However, the fact that there are exceptions, even from something as straightforward as differentiating long-term from short-term life assets, again illustrates the complexity of tax legislation. [Interruption.]

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think I can anticipate what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is about to say. Hon. Members must be quiet in the Chamber.

Mr. Jack

I am most grateful, Mr. Speaker.

One of the most interesting observations in the debate was made in a commentary by an outside body. It is interesting to carry out on the Bill the, benchmark exercise occasioned by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in its publication on a better tax system, in which it identified 10 tenets of taxation. The tax system should, for example, be statutory, certain, simple and easy to collect and to calculate. Certainly, the Bill is statutory. Greater certainty is introduced by the improved language. However, the Bill begins to fail on the question of simplicity because, as I have already demonstrated, it contains complexities re-enacted in plainer language. Will the Bill make tax easier to collect and calculate? It will probably be easier for people to calculate their tax position, but the Bill does not deal with collection.

The fifth tenet is that tax law should be properly targeted. That goes beyond the terms of this debate.

Sixthly, it should be constant, and changes to the underlying rules should be kept to a minimum. In rewritten legislation, the changes are as defined by the Paymaster General. However, the greater transparency of the rewritten legislation shows that many changes and exceptions have been built into the law.

Another interesting tenet is that legislation should be subject to proper consultation. On that point, the rewritten legislation scores very highly. That raises an interesting point for the future of our tax system. Many have argued that there should be a separation of the mechanics of the tax system and the more contentious legislation on new tax policy introduced in the Budget. The exercise that accompanied the new Bill, which involved a great deal of consultation with practitioners, has shown how high-quality tax legislation can be produced as a result of the consultative process. The lesson for the Treasury is that, in tax management Acts, wherever possible, more consultation should be the order of the day.

The eighth tenet is that tax rules should be regularly reviewed. I shall say more about that, and about other lessons that have been learned from the rewrite exercise, in my concluding remarks.

The ninth tenet is that tax law should be fair and reasonable. I shall leave others to comment on whether the Bill meets those conditions.

The final tenet is that tax law should be competitive. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South touched on that earlier, and my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) asked whether there would be any saving to business as a result of the rewritten legislation. The greatest potential for progress in that respect is that the Bill teases out those parts of the tax code—in this context, those on capital allowances—which may be causing business problems. For example, on the 100 per cent. allowance on investment in films there is a question whether the investment is good. I trespass no further than that, except to say that the clarity with which the Bill is written will itself be the precursor for greater debate on issues such as competitiveness and the cost of administering the tax.

What of the future? What does the Bill offer?

Mr. Forth

Not a lot.

Mr. Jack

I ever so slightly disagree with my right hon. Friend because the Bill will have certain results.

The word "simplification" is used in the context of both the proposed procedures and the Bill, but constraints on rewrite legislation have made taking out some of the complexity difficult to achieve. Let us consider the overall debate on simple tax. My right hon. and hon. Friends will remember Nigel Forman, the former Member for Carshalton and Wallington, who did much work on the concept of flat tax—a simple, no-allowances based system, with a single rate of tax.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am listening to the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps unintentionally, he is going wider than the content of the Bill.

Mr. Jack

I entirely respect your guidance, Mr. Speaker. I simply wanted to illustrate that the holy grail of simplification is easily stated, as it has been by former Members, but much more difficult to achieve. The minutes of the steering committee, the work of the consultative committee, which gave rise to the Bill, and the Hardman lectures commenting on the matter, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South referred, take us to the heart of the matter of how we might achieve greater simplification.

My right hon. and noble Friend Lord Howe said that part of the problem, which is reflected in the Bill, is that the provisional collection of taxes legislation almost gives the Treasury carte blanche to introduce yet more change every year. Part of my right hon. and noble Friend's recipe to try to simplify matters was to desist from that practice.

If we are to learn something from the exercise, we should establish a committee—preferably a parliamentary committee, but involving outside advice—to re-examine every element of tax law, questioning, for example, whether we need the provisions in the rewritten Bill.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Once again I say to the right hon. Gentleman that he is going beyond the scope of the debate.

Mr. Jack

I understand your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker—Mr. Speaker. Forgive me for thinking of you as you were and not as you are. Old practices should not die hard in this place. I mentioned the point because the Paymaster General referred to the exercise in introducing the Bill. Some of the lessons that we should learn from that merit some mention—

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps I can help the right hon. Gentleman. Passing reference is one thing, but detail is another. He has made passing reference to the matter. Perhaps now he can move to something else.

Mr. Jack

I am grateful, Mr. Speaker. The last thing that I would want to do is fall foul of your advice. I conclude my en passant reference by saying that the Bill should be followed up by the Treasury forming a committee to consider in a wider context the fruits of such labour. That would benefit all those who have supported the exercise so fully, as both Front-Bench spokesmen said.

Without doubt, the Bill brings transparency and clarity to capital allowances. It should command the support of everyone in the House. I look forward to consideration of it in the Joint Committee. Adequate signposting in the explanatory notes of the changes should answer some of the points about the difference between major and minor changes. In its first line, the Bill states clearly that the measure deals with "minor changes". After textual analysis of some of its parts, I would say that it has achieved that. However, it is difficult directly to compare the old and the new, because the new is radically different. The exercise deserves our support as a signpost for the way in which tax law should in future be written. The Bill will have my support.

10.25 pm
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I welcome the fact that the first tax simplification Bill deals with the subject of capital allowances. For me—as, I suspect, for other hon. Members who entered the House at the same time as I did—it has a nostalgic feel about it.

In 1983, when I was first elected to Parliament, simplification of the tax system was in vogue, and capital allowances were the first in the proposed list of candidates for simplification. I remember when the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, now Lord Lawson of Blaby, summoned a meeting of Parliamentary Private Secretaries and other ambitious young men and women to take their views on what he should include in his forthcoming Budget, which was the first of a new Parliament. I think that the first person to speak was Tim Smith, who proposed that we should go for a tax-simplifying Budget, central to which would be the simplification of capital allowances. It is fascinating to recall that everyone at that private meeting agreed with him—all concurred that that was the way to reduce tax rates by spreading the burden of tax more widely.

I confess to being the only person who demurred: for what it was worth, I argued that changes so radical should be introduced to the tax system only if there were substantial benefits, and preferably when one was reducing the overall burden of tax, rather than merely shifting it from one set of taxpayers or from one activity to another, which was all that would have been achieved by the changes supported by Tim Smith and the others. I argued that those changes would merely reduce the burden on some taxpayers, who would never thank the Chancellor—no one is ever grateful in this life—and increase it on others, who would resent the Chancellor for making the changes.

The consequence of my arguments was that, shortly thereafter, I was made the Chancellor's Parliamentary Private Secretary. That might have been because he liked those who were sufficiently strong-minded to disagree with him, or because, he wanted to shut me up—I have never bothered to ask. However, it meant that I worked with him as his humble bag carrier and ears and eyes around the House. I sat alongside him on the Committee on the Finance Bill in which he carried through the reforms of the capital allowances system in his simplifying Budget, which I think was a couple of Budgets later.

The paradox facing the House today is that the first tax simplification Bill introduced under the new process is to simplify the very element of the tax system that was previously simplified back in 1968 under the radical reforms introduced by the then Chancellor. My question is, in what sense does the Bill further simplify our existing tax system? Several different senses of the word "simplification" can be applied. The first is to make the system shorter, terser and more succinct, but I have to say that the Bill does not qualify as a short, terse and succinct statement of the tax system as it applies to the single element of expenditure—capital expenditure—to which it is addressed. It is 334 pages long, not counting the accompanying notes, which are almost as long, or the annexe explaining how it relates to existing tax law. So it is not a shortened tax Bill.

The second sense of simplification is clarification and moving towards plain English, which is welcome. I have always been an advocate of legislation in plain English, wherever possible. That is applied to a much greater extent in the United States and some other Anglo-Saxon countries. Of course, that does not involve any change in the incidence of taxation and who pays tax. Although the Bill is not, as the Paymaster General said, exclusively about moving to plainer English, it is undoubtedly a clearer statement of the law than we have had in the past, and is therefore welcome. Opening it at random, the first clause I came to was clause 344, which states: A highway concession in respect of a road is to be treated as extended if—

  1. (a) the person entitled to the concession takes up a renewed concession in respect of the whole or a part of the road, or
  2. (b) that person or a person connected with him takes up a new concession in respect of—
  3. (i) the whole or a part of the road, or
  4. (ii) a road that includes the whole or a part of the road.
I do not query the fact that that is simpler than that which may have gone before. However, it is certainly difficult for a person of limited mental capacity such as myself to understand offhand. When I was a Minister, I had a rule that I would not read any submission from any official that contained a sentence with more than four lines. That clause is a single sentence of six lines. I am sorry that the Government do not go in for greater abbreviation of sentences in the procedure.

The third sense in which simplification is involved in the process concerns consolidation: bringing together provisions from a variety of different. Finance Acts so that it is easier for people to find their way round them. That had to be done, and it is a great and welcome advance. Of course, it means that we will need to go through the same process again when future changes are made, to consolidate those in the Bill. Simplification also makes the layout of the Bill more accessible, although, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), I regret that the Government have not adopted the simpler numbering system, which the experts thought would make it far easier to keep track of the law and future changes in it.

Mr. Chope

The Bill now contains 76 chapters, which are not numbered in numerical order. It is therefore not possible to refer to a particular chapter without specifying the part of the Bill to which it refers. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is confusing for people who read books and are used to chapters that start at number one and go to the end? Will he explain why the committee rejected that proposal?

Mr. Lilley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. Of course, I cannot answer on behalf of the Government. We shall have to wait for the winding-up speeches—which, I am sure, will be, fairly soon—for an explanation.

Will the Minister say whether it will be possible, under the procedures under which the Bill will be considered, for us to amend the Bill to include a different numbering system? Could we improve it as many experts outside the House want by introducing that numbering system and, if so, how would that be achieved? Although I suspect that it could well involve a complex set of amendments, that process would be worth while given that the Government have failed to undertake it. Obviously, the House would want to embark on it only if it were not persuaded by the Government that there were sensible reasons for not going down that route.

Mr. Jack

To pick up on the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) made, the committee did not reject three-part numbering. The system of producing our legislation did not enable it to be introduced. I refer my right hon. Friend to the final exposure draft of the new Bill, which is all laid out in three-part numbering.

Mr. Lilley

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that illumination of the genesis of the Bill. It is all the sadder, therefore, if the Bill was laid out in such a way that the experts outside, who will have to use it, found helpful, but subsequently remitted. I cannot understand why it is beyond the capacity of the House to insist that its legislation be numbered in a way that is convenient for the companies and tax experts outside this place endeavouring to comply with tax law.

The fourth sense of simplification is tidying up and sanding down rough edges. As I understood the Paymaster General, the measure has been introduced in that sense, which means that there can be slight changes in the incidence of taxation. Some people will pay more tax than previously and others less, but, as she said, the changes will be only minor and it is up to the House to decide what is minor and acceptable as minor in terms of the number of people affected and the change in the tax burden of any of those individuals or companies.

Finally, there is simplification in the sense of a change in the underlying tax structure to make that simpler. That, of course, will affect the incidence of taxation and it goes beyond what the Bill seeks to achieve and what the procedure under which it is being considered enables us to do. In deciding whether to give the Bill a Second Reading, we must decide whether the simplification that it incorporates, which involves the second, third and fourth senses of that word, is adequate or whether we should not bother to go down such a route because it would be more desirable to simplify either by making the Bill much briefer, terser and more succinct or, in the final sense, by changing the underlying tax structure so that it is easier for everybody to deal with.

Given that many individuals outside the House took part in the thorough consultation—the Minister paid tribute to the time and effort that outsiders have devoted to trying to complete the process of simplification—and draftsmen and people of great skill were involved in drawing up the Bill, we have to ask ourselves why, after all that effort, we have been left with such a hugely complex measure of 334 pages. The reason is twofold. The real world is complex. A lot of people assume that all the complexities in taxation result from the imagination of the House or our frequent returns to a particular subject, but, even if one wants matters to be simple, the real world is complex.

When I was Financial Secretary or slightly before—none the less, at some stage in my long and varied career at the Treasury—I said to officials, "Why can't we have a simple tax system of one tax rate, apply that to people's incomes less their expenditure and that's it? We need just a few clauses." The officials looked at me as they had obviously looked at countless generations of Financial Secretaries and Economic Secretaries who had made the same naive points and said, "Minister, how do you define income?" Of course that raises the question whether income includes gambling income, lottery income, benefit income, gifts or rebates and refunds. What moneys should be included? That simple question leads to immense complexity of definition.

I see you looking at me, Madam Deputy Speaker, as if I am about to elaborate. Of course, I am not. I merely point out that, whatever part of the tax system we try to define, contact with the real world is likely to lead to complexities. We in the House cannot avoid that, but we can add layers to the complexity of the real world by imposing further necessary or unnecessary complexities. Above all, if policy pursues several objectives, it will find itself making several distinctions. Every time we make a distinction, we come up against the complexities in the real world and add a few dozen clauses to our Bill.

Much of that accounts for the complexity of legislation in this area, which the draftsmen have done their best to smooth down, but they cannot eliminate it if they retain the underlying conflicting and varied objectives that are incorporated in legislation on capital allowances.

It is only worth going through the process that is before us and putting the Bill on the statute book, in what may be a mildly amended form after its consideration in Committee, if there is no hope of a more radical simplification of the capital allowance structure.

Even minor simplifications as are incorporated in the Bill have costs. Practitioners will find the new system easier to use in the long run, but they will have to become familiar with it first. They will begin by being familiar with the present unnecessarily complicated legislation. Costs will be incurred in going through new legislation, repulping advisory books and bringing handbooks up to date, for example, to ensure that they deal with the proposed legislation.

It is worth doing that for the comparatively minor gains in terms of the simplicity of tax law that the Bill incorporates only if it is not possible to move more radically into a simplification of the entire structure of capital allowances.

The present system, which is incorporated in the Bill, is in large measure the system as simplified by Lord Lawson of Blaby when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He sought through a series of reforms to introduce lower tax rates by extending the tax base by simplifying and eliminating where possible, or reducing the value of, allowances of all sorts. In his first endeavour to deal with capital allowances—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Sylvia Heal)

Order. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Bill's purpose is to restate the law relating to capital allowances with minor changes. It is not a vehicle to debate policy on capital allowances, except the extent to which the Bill fulfils the purpose set out in its title.

Mr. Lilley

I entirely take your point, Madam Deputy Speaker.

My argument is whether it is worth voting yes or no on that issue. We should vote yes only if there is not a better alternative. We must ascertain whether the structure of the present tax system allows for an alternative. Many would say that there is no possibility of a better alternative and we should vote for the Bill as it stands, but I would argue that there is scope. This is one of the few areas of the tax system where a proposal could sensibly be put forward for radical simplification, which would render the Bill unnecessary.

When the then Chancellor of the Exchequer created the present system in the 1980s, he put the tax treatment of capital allowances in line with what company accounting systems do for capital expenditures—or at least more in line than they had been initially. When he did so, it was difficult for anyone to argue against taking that course. If companies calculate their profits, which they declare in their annual reports, by subtracting depreciation, whatever it is, and an eighth of their capital expenditure on a particular asset each year from their revenues, surely it is reasonable for the tax man to calculate the profits liable to tax on the same basis. That was the argument then, and it is, in effect, the argument incorporated in the Bill.

Companies had no argument against that. They were left speechless when the Chancellor came up with the proposal, even though many of them that had previously enjoyed 100 per cent. capital allowances did not like it. Opposition was rather muted at that time to the changes which we are, in effect, enshrining again in this legislation.

However, there was an alternative answer to that rhetorical question. When companies report in their accounts to their shareholders, they try to provide a measure against which their performance in managing their assets can be judged. They spread their expenditures on their assets over the life of those assets, so that they can be judged on how well they are extracting profit from them, and so that there are no ups and downs in the reported profits, according to the years in which assets were purchased.

Taxes, however, should reflect a company's ability to pay tax. That depends how much money it has coming in, as opposed to how much money it has going out. Taxes should reflect the tax flow of the company, rather than how it reports for the purposes of assessing how efficiently it is managing its assets. When a company invests in assets, it temporarily has less money. Subsequently, when the assets generate revenues, the company has more money to pay tax, and it is reasonable to tax it accordingly.

If we were to return to a cashflow basis of assessing the taxation of companies, that would remove the need for many of the distinctions that are incorporated in, and account for, page upon page of the Bill. Yet that is how all other items of expenditure are assessed and treated for tax purposes. We do not think that there is anything anomalous about a 100 per cent. allowance—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The House has decided that the Bill should be proceeded with as a tax simplification Bill. The House is bound by that procedure, the consequence of which is that the House must consider the Bill, the limited purpose of which the House is well aware. The wider considerations of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks relate to matters beyond the limited purpose of the Bill. I advise him now to return to that limited purpose.

Mr. Lilley

I entirely accept your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker. I would not suggest that we could or should distort the procedures under which we are operating to bring at out greater changes which I may think desirable and the House may think desirable, but which we cannot incorporate in the Bill.

Before we decide to give our assent to the Bill under those procedures, we should be aware that all the complexities that exist in it—

Mr. Mike Hall (Weaver Vale)

That has been ruled out of order.

Mr. Lilley

I am speaking rather differently from the way in which I was speaking previously.

I am sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker; I am responding to a sedentary intervention from the usually speechless Whip, who thought that I was reverting to proposals to introduce a cashflow system of treatment of capital allowances. I have moved on from that point.

Mr. Jack

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am listening carefully to my right hon. Friend. Is it in order that he should continually be interrupted by sedentary interventions, which are diverting him from his clarity and train of thought?

Madam Deputy Speaker

I have already called the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mr. Hall) to order, and suggested to the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) that he limit his remarks to the purpose of the debate.

Mr. Lilley

We must recognise that chapter after chapter of the Bill—admirable though it is for the clarity of its language and the consolidation of the previous legislation, which was scattered among various Finance Bills—exist to make distinctions between buildings and plant and machinery, between software and hardware, between cars and other vehicles, between short and long-life assets, between hired, leased and bought assets, and between ships and offshore facilities. Those distinctions, which require complex legislation, are the result of policy decisions to discriminate between different classes of assets. If we go ahead with this measure, we shall enshrine those distinctions and discriminations, albeit in a clearer and more lucid form. Alternatively, we could abolish them and save ourselves the trouble of an unnecessary Bill. That would save the tax profession from having to adapt to a Bill that will subsequently be overtaken by further Bills that will render it unnecessary.

We must recognise that all attempts to simplify legislation, of which this measure is a laudable example, are constrained or affected by one of the Lawson's laws of taxation. The more onerous the burden of tax, the more complexities have to be incorporated in the legislation. The more onerous the burden, the more necessary it is to have loopholes and easements where the shoe pinches too tightly, and the greater the political pressures to incorporate special concessions for the more powerful interest groups that are affected by the burden of tax.

If our aim is genuine simplification, we should not only rewrite legislation, but get the burden of tax down. If we reduce the burden of tax and the rates of tax—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Yet again I must remind the right hon. Gentleman of the limits to the debate. It is not about taxation policy.

Mr. Lilley

I am particularly grateful for that ruling, Madam Deputy Speaker, because it enables me to bring my remarks to a speedy conclusion, as I do not want to prolong the debate unnecessarily.

Mr. Forth

There are plenty more of us still to come.

Mr. Lilley

I want to hear what other Members have to say.

The measure is good as far as it goes, but it will impose costs on people who will have to adapt to it. It is a missed opportunity for the Government to move towards simpler taxation. They will get simpler taxation only if they reduce the tax burden. Sadly, we shall not get that from the Labour party. We shall have to wait for a general election, a change of Government and a change of philosophy. We shall then get simpler taxation.

Mr. McWalter

The right hon. Gentleman must understand that many of his assertions are deeply contestable. We could have a tax rate of 90p in the pound, which would involve just one side of A4 paper.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that he, too, should confine his remarks to the subject of the debate.

Mr. Lilley

I shall make my response to the hon. Gentleman doubly brief. I am delighted to contest a point with him—when he stood against me he lost. We could have a 90 per cent. rate, but the only time we did so was for the petroleum revenue tax. We only have to consider how complex that was to realise the validity of the point that I was making in my closing remarks.

I now happily hand over the baton to other hon. Members to elucidate the importance of the Bill.

10.54 pm
Mr. David Ruffley (Bury St. Edmunds)

I thought that I would welcome large chunks of the Bill, but I have had the great benefit—nay privilege—of listening to important and powerful contributions from my right hon. Friends the Members for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) and for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). They said that we were being invited to believe that there could be a rewrite project that would merely simplify existing primary legislation, such that no substantive change to that existing law would take place in the process of the rewrite. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham said, combining simplification with not changing substantive tax law might be a trick that could not be achieved. The more we meditate on that conundrum, the more we recognise the potential inadequacies of the Bill.

I have some experience of the thought processes of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), who was Chancellor of the Exchequer when it was decided to proceed with the rewrite—and, indeed, of the thought processes of my right hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), then Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I had the honour of being a special adviser to the Treasury in 1995–96. We also benefited from the wisdom and sage advice of the tax specialist adviser, Mr. Edward Troup, now renowned in his new incarnation as a tax commentator and practitioner of great distinction with Messrs Simmons and Simmons in the City of London.

When the decision was made formally in December 1996 by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe, following the Inland Revenue's report "The Path to Tax Simplification", published in December 1995, the feeling was that we wanted shorter, nimbler drafting. We wanted to deregulate the tax regime in so far as it related to all types to taxation, but particularly as it related to capital allowance taxation.

The decision to proceed with the rewrite was, I think, a great tribute to the deregulatory instincts of the then Chancellor, his Ministers and, indeed, every other member of the Government. I well remember the objectives of the rewrite that has resulted in this Bill. The aim was to achieve a more logical structure in rewritten tax legislation, involving shorter sentences, briefer, more lucid definitions—indeed, better definitions—and more modern language.

Mr. Redwood

Ah! Modernisation.

Mr. Ruffley

I fancy that hints of new Labour lay behind that sedentary intervention, but there is nothing wrong with modernisation in its proper context. I trust that, when my right hon. and learned Friend decided to modernise language via the tax rewrite project, he used the term "modernisation" in the best, Conservative sense, and not in the degraded sense in which Labour Members choose to use it.

Mr. Redwood

My hon. Friend brings considerable interest and expertise to the debate, knowing the attitude of our right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) when he initiated the process. Was our right hon. and learned Friend saying at that stage that he hoped that 903 pages of legislation, annexes and explanatory notes would result, just for the purpose of capital allowances? Does my hon. Friend think that that is the kind of simplification and condensation that he had in mind, or would he have been a little disappointed that we have 903 pages before us now?

Mr. Ruffley

I have always hesitated to speak for my right hon. and learned Friend before consulting him first, but I venture to suggest that my right hon. Friend is right in surmising that he would be gravely disappointed at the outcome of the rewrite project that he set in train in December 1996, which has resulted in the considerable weight and density of documentation with which we are dealing now.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe would be surprised that the proposition to which we are invited to assent is that the tax rewrite project could indeed result in changes, albeit minor, to the substantive effect of pre-existing tax legislation. We have already had an extensive debate about the meaning of a minor change, but, so far as I am aware, what was not in the contemplation of Ministers in 1996 was that the tax rewrite project could make substantive changes to pre-existing tax law. Therefore, I am greatly surprised—I put it no higher than that—that the Bill purports to permit exactly that: substantive changes to pre-existing primary tax legislation.

The Bill relates merely to capital allowances, but we have various treats in store. We have already been advised that the tax rewrite project will begin with the Bill, but it is but part of a suite, if you will, of tax rewrite Bills. We are led to believe that there will be a first income tax Bill, which I am told will come on stream at the end of 2002, relating to employment income and possibly social security income and pension income; and a second income tax Bill, which will come on stream at the end of 2003, relating to trading income, property income, savings and investment income. They will all be subject to the same terms of the rewrite. Those terms will be arbitrated over and scrutinised by the Joint Committee on Tax Simplification Bills, where—I am sorry to have to report it again—the scrutiny will be to see whether each tax simplification Bill preserves the effect of the existing law, with the killer words subject to any minor changes which may be desirable. There we have it. There we have the concern, brilliantly and powerfully exposed by my right hon. Friends the Members for Wokingham and for Bromley and Chislehurst. I do not believe that, in this debate, we have had an adequate reply to the concern expressed in relation to that point.

I return to the original purpose of the tax rewrite project, which was initiated in December 1996. The ambition of the project was brilliantly and amusingly summed up by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe in his Budget speech. He referred to it as a project that was as ambitious as translating the whole of "War and Peace" into lucid Swahili. In fact, it is more ambitious … "War and Peace" is only 1,500 pages long. Inland Revenue tax law is 6,000 pages long and was not written by a Tolstoy. —[Official Report, 26 November 1996; Vol. 286, c. 170.] That was an elegant and lucid description of the scale and magnitude of the ambition behind the tax rewrite project—an ambition that has been sadly degraded by the Bill.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I have allowed the hon. Gentleman some latitude during his introductory remarks, but he should confine his remarks to the Bill and, as I have stated on more than one occasion, to its very narrow purpose.

Mr. Ruffley

I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for that typically helpful guidance.

The need for a tax rewrite in capital allowances was first flagged up in a very important article in the 11 August 1986 edition of the Financial Times. That report drew attention to the provisions of the Finance Act 1986 on capital allowances—which are the subject of the Bill—and to what was regarded as vitriolic comment from accountants and solicitors, who were irritated by the 1986 Act's length and some of its capital allowances provisions.

The newspaper quoted one paragraph of schedule 13 of the 1986 Act—on capital allowances for mineral extraction, which is dealt with in the Bill—as a classic example of incomprehensible and unacceptable drafting.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I regret once more to have to remind the hon. Gentleman about the very narrow scope of this debate.

Mr. Ruffley

I am most grateful for your further guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker. I had hoped that the references to schedule 13 of the 1986 Act—which I believe is being consolidated in the Bill—would make my previous remarks, and the ones that I was about to make, in order. If that is not so, I am sure that you will correct me once again.

Mr. McWalter

Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman by asking simply whether he thinks that the Bill will simplify or further complicate the law on mineral extraction capital allowances—yes or no?

Mr. Ruffley

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. However, we do not know whether this consolidation measure will change the substantive law on mineral extraction and on capital allowances in relation to mineral extraction. That is very much an open question which has not been answered to my satisfaction.

Mr. McWalter

We have had complaints about the Capital Allowances Bill annex, which is more than 200 pages and clearly specifies the Bill's very minor changes to mineral extraction capital allowances.

Mr. Ruffley

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing the House's attention to that point. What we cannot know, however, is whether very clever silks and lawyers, in litigation and all manner of tortuous processes, will eventually take a different view on the issues from that of the annex's drafters. I am the first to admit that, on the face of it, if we are to believe the documents with which we have been provided, the changes to the capital allowances regime for mineral extraction as outlined in the 1986 Act and consolidated in the Bill may well be minor.

Litigation, however, is a marvellous thing. It is the glory of the English legal system and enables common law to be created in a living way. It also allows clever solicitors and barristers and their clients to test the law whenever and wherever they can. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to examine as closely as we can whether the changes are in fact minor.

On the hon. Gentleman's reasonable point about whether the Bill simplifies the law, the measure may achieve the objective of simplifying the capital allowances regime for mineral extraction. However, to explore whether that is correct, I shall read out the non-consolidated version of the relevant provision by parliamentary draftsmen in the Finance Act 1986. That may give the House a flavour of the sheer, unacceptable complexity of the system, which the Bill tries to rectify.

Schedule 13(12)(4) of the 1986 Act states: If, in a case where sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 10 above applies, neither sub-paragraph (1) nor sub-paragraph (2) above has effect in relation to the expenditure referred to in sub-paragraph (1)(a) of that paragraph, then for the chargeable period related to the disposal or cessation referred to in sub-paragraph (1)(b) of that paragraph, any allowance in respect of that expenditure shall be a balancing allowance. That is an example not of the gobbledegook that hon. Members speak, but of that that was inflicted on the House during the passage of the 1986 Act. One marvels at the way in which some of that convoluted drafting got through in the first place. The Bill tries, and may even succeed, in simplifying the capital allowances regime for mineral rights. Its provisions may therefore receive a qualified welcome.

However, I wondered whether there was a case for believing that the tax rewrite and simplification that we are considering would be more welcome as a result of self-assessment. Hon. Members may wonder about the connection between those subjects. The answer is not difficult to find. Self-assessment was announced in the March 1993 Budget by my noble Friend Lord Lamont. It was to apply in 1996–97. Self-assessment is important for tax simplification for the reasons that he gave at the time. When he was Chancellor, he argued that self-assessment should provide a reduction in bureaucracy but that, more important, it should emphasise the link between public spending and the burden—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Again, I remind the hon. Gentleman that he is straying into the realms of tax policy. We are dealing with a motion on the Capital Allowances Bill.

Mr. Ruffley

I am grateful for your unfailing assiduity in ensuring that I keep in order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was merely attempting to show a clear link between a self-assessment regime, which requires greater transparency and simplicity to operate effectively, and the measure that we are considering. Many of my constituents are small and medium business men and women. They have occasion to calculate their tax liability because of self-assessment.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I do not believe that there is any relation between that and the motion. I ask the hon. Gentleman to concentrate on the motion.

Mr. Lilley

Am I correct in suggesting that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley), who knows much more about self-assessment—and probably the tax system—than me, believes that individuals making their self-assessment will need to refer to the Bill to make the proper assessment? If so, wonderfully lucid though the measure is in comparison with existing law, it remains a terrifying thought that people will have to master the Bill to get their taxes right.

Mr. Ruffley

My right hon. Friend has it. That was the point I was trying to make—inelegantly, as it turned out, because I attracted the strictures of Madam Deputy Speaker, which I did not wish to do. Those who have to pay and who must make calculations about the capital allowance regime and its availability to their businesses do, under self-assessment, have a bigger vested interest in simplified legislation on capital allowances than before. That is why the Bill is so terribly important in the context of self-assessment to so many business men and women who have to calculate their capital allowances. The Bill will not assist them.

Dawn Primarolo

Why did the previous Government decide—I refer to the report on the legislative procedure for tax simplification Bills—that the direct tax law simplification project was to rewrite direct tax legislation … and to make minor changes of substance where that is required to facilitate simplification? The previous Government also introduced self-assessment. What point is the hon. Gentleman trying to make?

Mr. Ruffley

The Paymaster General is being uncharacteristically obtuse. The second point is perfectly obvious; self-assessment puts greater burdens on individual taxpayers, whether corporate or not. The Bill proposes to make life easier for them by having a simpler capital allowance regime. As to the first point, I was not a member of the last Conservative Government and I would not even venture to suggest what was going through the minds of those who were.

Mr. Keith Bradley (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 264, Noes 14.

Division No. 53] [11.17 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Coaker, Vernon
Ainger, Nick Coffey, Ms Ann
Allen, Graham Cohen, Harry
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Coleman, Iain
Atherton, Ms Candy Colman, Tony
Atkins, Charlotte Corbyn, Jeremy
Bailey, Adrian Corston, Jean
Ballard, Jackie Cotter, Brian
Banks, Tony Cousins, Jim
Barnes, Harry Crausby, David
Barron, Kevin Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Battle, John Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Bayley, Hugh Cummings, John
Beard, Nigel Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Begg, Miss Anne Dalyell, Tam
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Darvill, Keith
Bennett, Andrew F Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Benton, Joe Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Berry, Roger Dawson, Hilton
Best, Harold Dean, Mrs Janet
Betts, Clive Denham, John
Blackman, Liz Dobbin, Jim
Blears, Ms Hazel Donohoe, Brian H
Blizzard, Bob Doran, Frank
Borrow, David Dowd, Jim
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Drew, David
Bradshaw, Ben Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Brinton, Mrs Helen Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Efford, Clive
Browne, Desmond Ellman, Mrs Louise
Buck, Ms Karen Etherington, Bill
Burden, Richard Fearn, Ronnie
Burgon, Colin Field, Rt Hon Frank
Burnett, John Fisher, Mark
Butler, Mrs Christine Flynn, Paul
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Foulkes, George
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Campbell-Savours, Dale George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Cann, Jamie Gerrard, Neil
Casale, Roger Gibson, Dr Ian
Cawsey, Ian Gidley, Sandra
Chapman, Ben (Wirnal S) Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Chaytor, David Godsrff, Roger
Clapham, Michael Goggins, Paul
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Golding, Mrs Llin
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hanson, David
Clelland, David Harvey, Nick
Clwyd, Ann Healey, John
Hendrick, Mark Naysmith, Dr Doug
Hepburn, Stephen O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Heppell, John Öpik, Lembit
Hinchliffe, David Organ, Mrs Diana
Hodge, Ms Margaret Osborne, Ms Sandra
Home Robertson, John Pearson, Ian
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Pickthall, Colin
Hope, Phil Pike, Peter L
Hopkins, Kelvin Pollard, Kerry
Howells, Dr Kim Pond, Chris
Hoyle, Lindsay Pope, Greg
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Pound, Stephen
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Humble, Mrs Joan Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hurst, Alan Primarolo, Dawn
Iddon, Dr Brian Purchase, Ken
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Quinn, Lawrie
Jamieson, David Rammell, Bill
Jenkins, Brian Rapson, Syd
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) Raynsford, Nick
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Joyce, Eric Rendel, David
Keeble, Ms Sally Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Kemp, Fraser Rooney, Terry
Khabra, Piara S Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Kilfoyle, Peter Roy, Frank
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Ruddock, Joan
Kumar, Dr Ashok Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Ryan, Ms Joan
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Salter, Martin
Laxton, Bob Sanders, Adrian
Lepper, David Sarwar, Mohammad
Leslie, Christopher Savidge, Malcolm
Levitt, Tom Sedgemore, Brian
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Sheerman, Barry
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Linton, Martin Singh, Marsha
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Skinner, Dennis
Lock, David Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Love, Andrew Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCafferty, Ms Chris Smith, John (Glamorgan)
McDonagh, Siobhain Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Macdonald, Calum Soley, Clive
McDonnell, John Spellar, John
McFall, John Squire, Ms Rachel
McGuire, Mrs Anne Steinberg, Gerry
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Mackinlay, Andrew Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
McNamara, Kevin Stoate, Dr Howard
McNulty, Tony Stringer, Graham
Mactaggart, Fiona Stuart, Ms Gisela
McWalter, Tony Stunell, Andrew
McWilliam, John Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Backpool S) Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Temple-Morris, Peter
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Merron, Gillian Timms, Stephen
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Tipping, Paddy
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Todd, Mark
Miller, Andrew Touhig, Don
Mitchell, Austin Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Moffatt, Laura Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Moran, Ms Margaret Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway) Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Morley, Elliot Tyler, Paul
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Tynan, Bill
Walley, Ms Joan
Mountford, Kali Ward, Ms Claire
Mullin, Chris Wareing, Robert N
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Watts, David
Webb, Steve Worthington, Tony
White, Brian Wray, James
Whitehead, Dr Alan Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen) Tellers for the Ayes:
Winnick, David Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe and
Woolas, Phil Mr. Robert Ainsworth.
Cran, James McIntosh, Miss Anne
Day, Stephen Ottaway, Richard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Redwood, Rt Hon John
Gray, James Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Grieve, Dominic Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hayes, John Tellers for the Noes:
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Mr. Christopher Chope and
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Mr. David Ruffley.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 274, Noes 0.

Division No. 54] [11.30 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Ainger, Nick
Allen, Graham Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Atherton, Ms Candy Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Atkins, Charlotte Clelland, David
Bailey, Adrian Clwyd, Ann
Ballard, Jackie Coaker, Vernon
Banks, Tony Coffey, Ms Ann
Barnes, Harry Cohen, Harry
Barron, Kevin Coleman, Iain
Battle, John Colman, Tony
Bayley, Hugh Corbyn, Jeremy
Beard, Nigel Corston, Jean
Begg, Miss Anne Cotter, Brian
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Cousins, Jim
Bennett, Andrew F Crausby, David
Benton, Joe Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Berry, Roger Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Best, Harold Cummings, John
Betts, Clive Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Blackman, Liz Dalyell, Tam
Blears, Ms Hazel Darvill, Keith
Blizzard, Bob Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Borrow, David Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Dawson, Hilton
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Day, Stephen
Bradshaw, Ben Dean, Mrs Janet
Brinton, Mrs Helen Denham, John
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Dobbin, Jim
Browne, Desmond Donohoe, Brian H
Buck, Ms Karen Doran, Frank
Burden, Richard Dowd, Jim
Burgon, Colin Drew, David
Burnett, John Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Butler, Mrs Christine Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Efford, Clive
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Campbell-Savours, Dale Fearn, Ronnie
Cann, Jamie Field, Rt Hon Frank
Casale, Roger Fisher, Mark
Cawsey, Ian Flynn, Paul
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Chaytor, David Foulkes, George
Clapham, Michael Gapes, Mike
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Gardiner, Barry
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S) Mactaggart, Fiona
Gerrard, Neil McWalter, Tony
Gibson, Dr Ian Mallaber, Judy
Gidley, Sandra Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Godsiff, Roger Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Goggins, Paul Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Golding, Mrs Llin Merron, Gillian
Gray, James Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Grieve, Dominic Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Miller, Andrew
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Mitchell, Austin
Gummer, Rt Hon John Moffatt, Laura
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Moran, Ms Margaret
Hanson, David Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Harvey, Nick Morley, Elliot
Hayes, John Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Healey, John
Hendrick, Mark Mountford, Kali
Hepburn, Stephen Mullin, Chris
Heppell, John Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Hinchliffe, David Naysmith, Dr Doug
Hodge, Ms Margaret O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Home Robertson, John Öpik, Lembit
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Organ, Mrs Diana
Hope, Phil Osborne, Ms Sandra
Hopkins, Kelvin Ottaway, Richard
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Pearson, Ian
Howells, Dr Kim Pickthall, Colin
Hoyle, Lindsay Pike, Peter L
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Pollard, Kerry
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Pond, Chris
Humble, Mrs Joan Pope, Greg
Hurst, Alan Pound, Stephen
Iddon, Dr Brian Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jamieson, David Primarolo, Dawn
Jenkins, Brian Purchase, Ken
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) Quinn, Lawrie
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Rammell, Bill
Joyce, Eric Rapson, Syd
Keeble, Ms Sally Raynsford, Nick
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Rendel, David
Kemp, Fraser Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Khabra, Piara S
Kilfoyle, Peter Roche, Mrs Barbara
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Rooney, Terry
Kumar, Dr Ashok Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Roy, Frank
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Ruddock, Joan
Laxton, Bob Ruffley, David
Lepper, David Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Leslie, Christopher Ryan, Ms Joan
Levitt, Tom Sanders, Adrian
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Sarwar, Mohammad
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Savidge, Malcolm
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen Sedgemore, Brian
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Sheerman, Barry
Linton, Martin Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Singh, Marsha
Lock, David Skinner, Dennis
Love, Andrew Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
McAvoy, Thomas Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Macdonald, Calum Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McDonnell, John Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
McFall, John Soley, Clive
McGuire, Mrs Anne Spellar, John
McIntosh, Miss Anne Squire, Ms Rachel
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Steinberg, Gerry
Mackinlay, Andrew Stewart, David (Inverness E)
McNamara, Kevin Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
McNulty, Tony Stoate, Dr Howard
Stringer, Graham Tyler, Paul
Stuart, Ms Gisela Tynan, Bill
Stunell, Andrew Walley, Ms Joan
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S) Watts, David
Taylor, David (NW Leics) Webb, Steve
Temple-Morris, Peter White, Brian
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion) Wicks, Malcolm
Timms, Stephen Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Tipping, Paddy Winnick, David
Todd, Mark Woolas, Phil
Touhig, Don Worthington, Tony
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE) Wray, James
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Turner, Neil (Wigan) Tellers for the Ayes:
Twigg, Derek (Halton) Mr. Robert Ainsworth and
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield) Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe.
Tellers for the Noes:
Mr. Eric Forth and
Mr. Christopher Chope.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills).