All 2 John Spellar contributions to the Finance Act 2021

Mon 19th Apr 2021
European Football Proposal
Commons Chamber

Finance (No. 2) Bill: (Freeports (Stamp Duty Land Tax)) (Ways and Means) & Ways and Means resolution
Mon 24th May 2021
Finance Bill
Commons Chamber

Report stage & 3rd reading

European Football Proposal

John Spellar Excerpts
Finance (No. 2) Bill: (Freeports (Stamp Duty Land Tax)) (Ways and Means) & Ways and Means resolution
Monday 19th April 2021

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Finance Act 2021 - Government Bill Page Read Hansard Text
John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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Interestingly, only one of these six clubs has always been in the top division in English football, and now they want permanent status. The Secretary of State’s announcement of a review is welcome, if slightly overdue, but, frankly, has been met by contemptuously indifference by these arrogant oligarchs. The only thing they understand is power, and the Government should be using the power of the state with full force and co-ordinating with other countries. Will he rapidly refer them to the competition authorities, cut them off from any further public funds and look at the tax status of image rights—just for a start—and, quite frankly, drive these sharks out of British football?

Oliver Dowden Portrait Oliver Dowden
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Somewhat unusually—although not that unusually, to be fair to the right hon. Gentleman—I agree with pretty much everything he said, and I can assure him that we will be looking at all of those options. To reassure the House, we will take robust action when it is required. We will not wait for the outcome of the fan- led review, and all the things he is talking about are the sort of things we are discussing internally in Government.

Finance Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: HM Treasury

Finance Bill

John Spellar Excerpts
Report stage & 3rd reading
Monday 24th May 2021

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Finance Act 2021 - Government Bill Page Read Hansard Text
David Davis Portrait Mr Davis
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I have a lot of sympathy with what the hon. Lady says. There are many ways to attack the issue; I will mention one or two, including my proposals to build in some changes to that effect. There are many ways to make sure that these scams cannot happen, but we need to undertake some of them. To pick an example that I was not going to cite, we understand that something like 40,000 Filipino employees have been taken on as cheap frontmen for these companies as directors. Those sorts of things do not serve our economy or the contractors well.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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Is there not also a responsibility on the Government as a client to insert in the contracts with their main contractors a clause stating that if such practices are found within their supply chain, they will not be considered for future contracts? The Government could do that quite rapidly, quite apart from HMRC catching up with what is going on.

David Davis Portrait Mr Davis
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The right hon. Gentleman is right. The first phase of IR35 was about contractors for Government, so the whole wild west that I have described was actually created for public services.

To come back to my point about illegitimate contractors forcing the legitimate ones out of business, it is quite understandable that ordinary contractors will be attracted to a scheme that seems to offer them the best terms, yet they will be unaware that in doing so they risk unwittingly entering unintentional tax avoidance schemes. That is one of the problems that troubles me most.

These contractors, remember, are not fat cats, big bankers or city slickers. They are hard-working, decent people such as locum nurses and supply teachers—contractors whose work is vital. To take up the right hon. Gentleman’s point, the FT reported that NHS locum workers returning during the height of the pandemic were targeted by firms mis-selling these schemes. Ordinary and comparatively low-paid workers do not have the advantage of expensive tax advisers. They cannot be expected to navigate the minefield of extremely complex tax law if we allow these predators to play unfettered within it.

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Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Sir Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con)
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I rise to support the amendments standing in the names of my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), myself and my colleagues.

Let me start by making it very clear, as my right hon. Friend—wherever he is—did so well earlier, that we have a problem here, and I am surprised that the Government do not really want to recognise it and are avoiding it. The unacceptable practices of umbrella companies have now become very clear. Contractors are being forced into schemes and are being forced by recruitment agencies to use umbrella companies, which they may not wish to do and may be concerned about. Opting out of the conduct of employment regulations is often mandatory, which removes the rights contractors had as agency workers. We are seeing kickbacks, problems over holiday pay and the skimming of the assignment rate. We are also seeing mini umbrella companies, which some contractors sign up to, believing them to be compliant, only to then discover that they are employed by a company with a different name and owned by a director in, say, the Philippines—my right hon. Friend mentioned “File on 4”, which has raised this issue.

The problem is that the worse the level of malpractice, the greater the rewards and kickbacks for the agencies, reducing the revenue for the Treasury. I have huge respect for my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, who is on the Treasury Bench and who will respond to all of this, and I am sure he and his colleagues in the Treasury are alert to this issue and understand that it is a major problem, but I cannot quite understand why we are not using this Finance Bill to start putting some of this right.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
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Has it not been a systemic problem with the Inland Revenue that these schemes have been cropping up for decades, and that it takes years to deal with them? They are spreading like wildfire, and they are spreading even faster now with social media—it used to be through the pubs and clubs. Ministers need to be on the Inland Revenue’s back saying, “Why are you not dealing with these problems?” There is a timing issue in this.

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Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
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I am grateful to all of those who have spoken in this debate. As the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) has just said, this has been something of a wash-up debate. It is fair to say that it is a bit of an omnibus group of measures pulled together, with many different clauses and issues on which colleagues have wanted to speak. That has made it wide-ranging, but if I may, I am going to focus on some of the key themes from across the various discussions we have had.

Let me start with the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Abena Oppong-Asare) and the question of the non-resident surcharge, which was also highlighted by the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier). They may or may not be aware that in 2019 the Government carried out a public consultation on whether there should be a 1% non-resident surcharge, and decided on the basis of that consultation that the surcharge should be levied at 2%. That is twice as high as was originally contemplated in the consultation. That also should be seen in the context of the additional tax that people pay on second and third properties, many of which will fall into the scope of this measure. That is an important factor to bear in mind.

The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) revisited some of her key themes as regards the climate and environmental policy. I think that there is a misunderstanding at some very deep level of what the Government are doing, which includes: the Environment Bill; the 10-point plan that the Prime Minister has laid out; the net zero work that the hon. Lady highlighted, which was commissioned within and by the Treasury from a very eminent independent economist; and our work through the new UK Infrastructure Bank, which focuses on green policies and levelling up and for which I was pleased to visit new potential office sites in Leeds only on Thursday. It all amounts to a tremendous emphasis, particularly in the net zero review, on the long-term future of creating a sustainable and productive green economy in this country. It is very important to focus on that.

The hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) talked about health inequalities. I remind her that the Government have made an enormous investment in the NHS, over and above the extraordinary interventions supporting the fabric of our society over the past 12 months. We will also have in place a new office for health promotion, designed to support better health and wellbeing across the country.

The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Ben Lake) called for greater transparency in relation to reliefs. I have a great deal of personal sympathy with his position; he is absolutely right about the importance of focusing on reliefs. To take a particular example that I know is of great interest to him, he will be aware that we have under way a review of R&D tax reliefs, an important part of policy.

The hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) highlighted the situation in Belarus, which is not directly a matter for the Treasury or the Bill, but is obviously a topic of great importance and interest for all Members of this House, as today’s urgent question highlighted.

All those points are important to put on the record. I also want to pick up on the important speeches made by my right hon. Friends the Members for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith).

My right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden focused on the prevalence of umbrella companies. It is important to say that there are legitimate reasons why an agency or an individual might wish to use an umbrella company. To contemplate a series of measures that might include a ban on umbrella companies would be a tremendous burden on the legitimate umbrella companies; my right hon. Friend mentioned that that was not his preferred option. It is important to point out that such companies can perform useful payroll functions for agencies, provide choice for individuals and have multiple engagements. Notably, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group pointed out recently:

“For freelance contractors who cannot work for their clients on a sole trader or limited company basis…the option to be able to work through an umbrella can be very valuable.”

There is value to umbrella companies, but that is not to say that there is not also abuse. The Government are very focused on that: my right hon. Friend mentioned some of the measures that HMRC is taking to combat umbrella companies that are disobeying the rules or trading fraudulently, and we are committed to extending the remit of the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate to support best practice in the area.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
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I think the Financial Secretary ought to face up to the reality, which is that many of the people under these companies are not what we would describe in any normal parlance as contractors: they are people working on Test and Trace in their thousands, for example, who should be employed directly either by Serco or by the agency that they work for. There are also great numbers of people in the health service under these companies; they should be employed either by an agency or by the health service. That is where the scandal is, and that is what he really ought to be dealing with—and very promptly.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
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It is a very dynamic marketplace, as the right hon. Gentleman will be aware. There are many different aspects to it with which the Government are seeking to engage. One thing that is quite important that I do not think he or others have noticed is that the changes to IR35 that the Government have made have in some quarters been widely welcomed. Let me give an example—it may not be the widest possible welcome, but it is quite noticeable—from the off-payroll advisory firm Qdos, which said:

“In recent months the tide has turned, with thousands of businesses now aware of the fact that IR35 reform is manageable”,

as it was manageable in the public sector some years before. It is important to recognise that that is also the case.