Kemi Badenoch contributions to the Finance Act 2020


Thu 18th June 2020 Finance Bill (Tenth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 10th sitting: House of Commons
11 interactions (1,439 words)
Tue 16th June 2020 Finance Bill (Seventh sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 7th sitting: House of Commons
32 interactions (3,448 words)
Tue 16th June 2020 Finance Bill (Eighth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 8th sitting: House of Commons
24 interactions (3,382 words)
Thu 4th June 2020 Finance Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
7 interactions (693 words)

Finance Bill (Tenth sitting) Debate

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Department: HM Treasury
Legislation Page: Finance Act 2020

Finance Bill (Tenth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 10th sitting: House of Commons)
Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Thursday 18th June 2020

(3 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury

The reality is that we cannot afford to wait. We cannot afford to wait in the short term, because jobs rely on this, and we cannot afford to wait in the long term, because our climate cannot wait. We need to protect ourselves from climate change, but we need to protect many other countries and individuals across the world, so I say to the Government: why would you not support this new clause?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch) - Hansard
18 Jun 2020, 2:50 p.m.

New clauses 4, 19 and 20 would require the Chancellor to review the environmental impact of the Finance Bill and its impact on the UK’s meeting the UN sustainable development goals and UN Paris climate change commitments. The new clauses are not necessary and should not stand part of the Bill. Tackling climate change is a top priority for the Government, as demonstrated by the UK becoming the first major economy to pass legislation committing to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The Bill builds on the UK’s existing strong environmental record and commitments by delivering new policies to reduce carbon emissions and enhance the environment, and it provides significant incentives to support the continued decarbonisation of transport.

Clause 83 establishes tax support for zero-emissions vehicles, exempting them from the vehicle excise duty expensive car supplement. From April 2020, vehicle excise duty and company car tax will also be based on a new, improved laboratory test known as the worldwide harmonised light vehicle test procedure, or WLTP, which aims to help reduce the 40% gap between the previous lab tests and real-world carbon dioxide emissions.

The Bill will ensure that HMRC can make preparations for the introduction of the plastic packaging tax, which will incentivise businesses to use 30% recycled plastic instead of new material in plastic packaging from April 2022, stimulating increased recycling. The Government are also reopening and extending the climate change agreement scheme to support energy-intensive businesses to operate in a more environmentally friendly way.

Clause 93, which establishes a UK emissions trading system, and clause 92, which updates legislation relating to the carbon emissions tax, ensure that polluters will continue to pay a price for their emissions once our membership of the EU and the emissions trading system ends following the transition period.

New clause 4 would require an impact assessment of the Bill on the environment to be laid before Parliament within six months of Royal Assent. Where tax policies have a particular environmental impact, the Government will take that into account during the tax policy making process and, where appropriate, publish a summary of the impact in the relevant tax information and impact note, or TIIN, as it is otherwise known. The Bill’s clauses demonstrate our progress towards tackling climate change as well as towards international deals and agreements, without the need for an additional environmental impact review.

The hon. Member for Ilford North made several comments about our spending more money on coronavirus than on climate change and about our not being on track to meet our net zero targets. All I can say to him is that many of the actions that we need to take to deliver our climate targets also help the UK’s economy to recover from the impacts of covid-19. We do not look at those issues separately. He must remember that between 1990 and 2017 the UK reduced its emissions by 42% while growing the economy by more than two thirds. It is simply wrong to say that we are not doing enough on climate change.

Building on our ambitious announcements in the Budget, such as the £800 million fund for carbon capture and storage, we are developing ideas for how we can go further using clean, sustainable and resilient growth as a guiding principle for our strategy to recover from the impact of the virus.

New clauses 19 and 20 would require a review of the impact of the Bill on the UK’s meeting the UN sustainable development goals and Paris climate change agreements. The UK published a voluntary national review setting out in detail our progress towards the sustainable development goals and identifying areas of further work in June 2019. We remain committed to supporting implementation of the sustainable development goals, including to help us build back better from the covid-19 crisis. By working to achieve the sustainable development goals, we will also be better placed to withstand future crises.

Under the Paris agreement, the Government must maintain and report on their emissions reduction commitments in the form of a nationally determined contribution. The UK’s legally binding commitment to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 is among the most stringent in the world, and the system of governance implementing the commitment under the Climate Change Act 2008 is world leading.

The Committee on Climate Change, established under the CCA 2008, provides independent evidence-based advice to the UK Government on how to achieve the targets. It reports to Parliament annually on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and on preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change. The Government are committed to tackling climate change. The measures in the Bill already demonstrate that, as well as highlighting our progress towards achieving net zero emissions by 2050, which is one of the most ambitious climate change commitments in the world. In this context, a separate review of the environmental impact of the Bill and how it meets international agreement is unnecessary. I therefore ask the Committee to reject the amendments.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard

I am concerned by the complacency of the speech that we have just heard from the Exchequer Secretary. I do not think it is sufficient to say that the UK is doing enough to tackle climate change and to meet our net zero ambition when all of the evidence suggests that that is not the case. That reinforces even further the case to run a proper impact assessment on the Bill.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Break in Debate

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
19 Jun 2020, 12:03 a.m.

I rise to speak to new clause 17 and associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Ilford North, with which I broadly agree and support. We certainly support new clause 5, which chimes with our new clause. We live in a society where it is clear and evident that able-bodied older white men do better than almost everybody else, so what we want to see from the Finance Bill is who benefits from the measures within it and how we know that. We do not know that from how the Government have acted, as they have conducted a very light-touch equality impact assessment on the Budget.

The Women’s Budget Group has produced an excellent briefing, and it calls the Treasury out on failing to publish comprehensive equality impact assessments:

“The only impact assessment relating to protected characteristics in the Budget documents are the Tax Information and Impact Notes (TIINS) produced by HMRC. Only a few measures were recognised to have any equalities impact at all and even here the analysis is cursory, based on limited evidence and with a poor understanding of equality impact…In the absence of a meaningful cumulative equality impact assessment of the budget as a whole it is impossible to judge whether the Treasury has met its obligation under the Public Sector Equality Duty to have ‘due regard’ to equality.”

That is pretty damning on the equality impact assessments that Ministers say they have carried out.

Under the measures assessed as having an equalities impact in the equality impact assessment, the Women’s Budget Group notes that for the lifetime limit for capital gains tax entrepreneurs’ relief, the assessment recognises that

“claimants tend to be older, men, of above-average means, and include individuals who are selling their business or their company’s shares on retirement”,

and does not anticipate an impact on any other groups sharing a protected characteristic, but there is no working to show how the Government arrived at that. There is no further analysis as to why they think that no other groups will be affected. It is one thing to assert that, but the Government have to show their working, and they have not done that.

The Women’s Budget Group also notes that the equality impact assessment states that the measure on pensions tax income thresholds for calculating the tapered annual allowance will impact more on men than on women. The assessment states that it is

“not anticipated that there will be impacts on any other groups sharing protected characteristics”.

However, the Women’s Budget Group points out that the family resources survey could have been used to assess the impact by age, ethnicity, disability and various other characteristics, but that was not done. Again, it is not a full equality impact assessment; it is very light touch.

The WBG also mentions the changes to the disguised remuneration loan charge as referenced in the equality impact assessment. The analysis states that,

“broadly the measure is expected to affect more males than females”,

but that it is

“not anticipated that this measure will have a significant, or disproportionate, impact on groups with protected characteristics”.

However, there is no explanation for that. It might well be true, but we cannot tell because the Government have not shown their working.

The Women’s Budget Group analysis also discusses measures where no equalities impact is identified at all, when it really should have been. I do not want to go into all of these things, because they are multiple, and we would be here all afternoon, but I will touch on the changes to the van benefit charge and fuel benefit charges for cars and vans and the taxable benefits regime for measuring CO2 emissions, which primarily impact on

“individuals who use a company van or car which is available for their private use and/or who are provided with fuel for their private use by their employer”.

Those people are far more likely to be men. We might guess that, or we might anticipate that. The Government’s statistics on driving licences show that in 2018, 81% of men had a driving licence, compared with 70% of women. There are also issues of race, because 62% of people designated as Asian, 52% who are black, and 76% of people who are white have driving licences. That is a clear discrepancy and will have a clear differential effect as to who will or will not benefit from the measures. The Government already have those statistics but have not chosen to do an equalities impact assessment on them. There will be a differential impact because not everyone has a driving licence and those who do have one are predominantly white men.

The Government might want to look at the sectors that would benefit. There may be differences in the types of people who would do jobs with a company car or van. The Government might want to look at those sectors and say, “Actually, there is a disproportionate number of people of a particular background in there.” That has not been done. If we do not count those things we do not know what the impact is. We do not know who benefits and why, or what we can do to make sure that everyone benefits from the measures that the Government propose.

That, I suppose, is just a small example of why the impact assessment is needed. There are clear disparities across society and clear inequalities. If we do not count in the Finance Bill who benefits, why, and what can be done to redress the imbalances that we see in society in front of us, by taxation or other measures, we will never be able to address those inequalities and go to a more equal society.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
18 Jun 2020, 3:12 p.m.

New clause 5 would require the Chancellor to conduct and lay before the House an equality impact assessment of the Act within six months of Royal Assent. New clause 17 would require him to lay a similar report within 12 months. Those additional reporting requirements are not necessary. The Treasury considers carefully the equality impacts of the individual measures mentioned and announced at fiscal events on those sharing protected characteristics, including gender, race and disability, in line with its legal obligations and its strong commitment to equality issues.

The outcome of all fiscal events is published, and is subject to much parliamentary and public scrutiny. The Treasury also takes care to pay due regard to the equality impact of its policy decisions relating to the covid-19 outbreak, in line with all legal requirements and the Government’s commitment to promoting equality. There are internal procedural requirements and support in place, to ensure that such considerations inform decisions taken by Ministers.

In the interest of transparency the Treasury and HMRC publish tax information and impact notes for individual tax measures that include in summary form assessments of their expected equalities impacts. The system of accompanying tax legislation with TIINs was introduced under this Government, and the notes include headline summaries of equality impacts, as well as other important information that reflects internal assessments carried out as an integral part of decision making.

In addition, the Treasury already publishes analyses of the impacts of the Government’s measures on households at different levels of income, in the “Impact on households” report, which is published separately alongside each Budget, along with trends in living standards and the labour market, by region and income level. That is the most comprehensive analysis of its type available, and it shows that as a result of decisions taking in Spending Round 2019 and Budget 2020 the poorest households have gained the most as a percentage of net income.

That brings me to the comments of the hon. Member for Ilford North and the hon. Member for Glasgow Central. They keep talking about the Government not doing enough on inequalities. Actually the Government have done quite a lot, but the hon. Members refuse to acknowledge it. When we have commissions and recommendations the hon. Member for Ilford North complains about a new commission. We have carried out recommendations, and the hon. Members pretend that nothing has happened. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the shadow Justice Secretary. Did he ask him about the progress that we have made on the Lammy report? We have carried out many of those recommendations, but hon. Members stand up in Parliament and pretend that nothing has happened. They continue to use incendiary and inflammatory rhetoric. Is it any wonder that there are people out there who feel that the Government are doing nothing, when so many MPs in this House stand up and say so? It is a shame, and as Equalities Minister I think it is a disgrace.

In a debate in the House on 4 June a Labour MP used at column 1008 the offensive phrase about being black that it is “a death sentence”. What do Labour MPs think that people outside this place are hearing? I am not going to stand here and allow Opposition Members to tell me, the Minister for Equalities, what the Government are doing; instead, I shall tell the Committee.

Break in Debate

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard

rose—

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
18 Jun 2020, 3:16 p.m.

No, I am not giving way; Opposition Members have had their time. I ask the hon. Lady, instead of trying to give me lectures, to take some time to learn a little more about what is going on. Even the phrase she talks about—“people with protected characteristics”—is wrong; we all have protected characteristics. The Equality Act is for everybody and not for specific groups of people.

On that note, neither of the new clauses would be useful in finding out more about the impact on equality, because the Government regularly publish in summary form the equality impact assessments for the legislation that we introduce. The reports required by the new clauses would not add any genuine value, so I ask the Committee to reject them.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
18 Jun 2020, 3:18 p.m.

That speech was really quite extraordinary and incendiary itself in response to what has been said. We are giving voice to the statistics and the data. Speaking for myself—I imagine this is also true for the SNP spokesperson—I am particularly giving voice to the concerns of my constituents. I represent one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse constituencies in the country. People who have written to me in recent weeks have not done so simply out of anger or emotion, and certainly not because they have read something that I have said in Hansard—that would be a novelty—but because of their own lived experiences. That is the frustration for me.

It would be one thing had the Government said this afternoon, “This is what we have done, but we recognise that there are big challenges, so this is what we still plan to do,” but their response to the protests of recent weeks has been tone deaf, for the most part, and actively irresponsible in other respects. It is regrettable that we do not seem to be seizing the moment, either in Government or as a Parliament, to reassure people throughout the country that we will leap on this moment. If we look throughout history, we see that sometimes events occur and there are big moments that can positively shift the dial in the most remarkable way. That is what we should be seeking to do here. I have actually seen a better response in that respect from the private sector than from our own Government. The private sector does not have a democratic accountability to the people—it has a commercial one and a profit motive; if companies are doing these things out of a sense of corporate social responsibility, that is good for them—but the Government have democratic accountability.

The Government’s efforts on equalities do not match the rhetoric we heard from the Minister. The Treasury has a particular leadership role to play, particularly on tackling economic inequalities that have an impact on people from a range of characteristics, for a range of reasons, and in different ways. With that in mind, I want to press new clause 5 to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Finance Bill (Seventh sitting) Debate

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Department: HM Treasury
Legislation Page: Finance Act 2020

Finance Bill (Seventh sitting)

(Committee Debate: 7th sitting: House of Commons)
Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Tuesday 16th June 2020

(3 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
HM Treasury
Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I shall begin by addressing the SNP’s amendment 10. It is important to look carefully at the relationship between alcohol taxation and public health. We have seen in other areas of taxation, notably the sugar tax, the huge impact that decisions taken by the Treasury can have on public health and public health outcomes. It is long past time for us to look seriously and sensibly at whether more can be done to reduce the impact of alcohol and alcoholism on people’s lives and communities.

Turning to clause 79, I have had the opportunity to do a much deeper dive into some of the issues, not least because of the determined efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins). Anyone who has ever been lobbied by him will know that when it comes to standing up for his constituents and for businesses in his constituency, there is no more determined, stubborn and irrefutable representation than that which he provides. He has raised serious concerns about the impact of the clause on businesses in his constituency. I shall outline some of those concerns, in the hope that Ministers will consider their bearing on Government policy.

We understand perfectly what the Government are trying to achieve with clause 79. The clause amends the Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979, to introduce sanctions for post duty point dilution of wine or made-wine, which, if carried out before the duty point, would have resulted in a higher amount of duty being payable. That change has, in effect, already come into force and we are legislating for it this morning. The change is perfectly understandable. It is designed to bring more revenue into the Treasury that would otherwise be, and is being, lost. I understand the Government’s position that post duty point dilution carries significant legal and revenue risk for the Exchequer.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association is against the legislation, claiming it would put hundreds of jobs at risk and place more pressure on the industry. Recently, thanks to the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield, I had the opportunity to speak to Global Brands, a business based in his constituency that makes VK and Hooch, among other products. We know that covid-19 is having a huge impact on the licensed trade industry and on alcohol sales in particular, affecting not only pubs but the producers of wines, spirits and other beverages. Global Brands is concerned that, because of the financial burden placed on its business by the clause, combined with the impact of covid-19, it expects to make 50% of its workforce redundant, putting 200 jobs at risk as a result of this change. If I can characterise our discussions in this way, it would be accurate to say that Global Brands accepts that this change is inevitable, and that the Treasury has a settled view on it, but it hopes that the Treasury might consider a 12-month delay in implementation—from April 2020 to April 2021—arguing that this would give it time to recover from the covid-19 shock, leaving it better able to absorb the change.

Global Brands makes other arguments that the Treasury may want to take into account. In particular, Global Brands sells what were commonly known as alcopops, a low alcohol by volume product—typically around 4% ABV. It is concerned that the impact of the change will be that, ironically, its low alcohol product would be taxed higher per unit of alcohol than much higher strength products, which flies in the face of the Government’s stated policy of discouraging high-strength alcohol and its impact on public health.

It is also worth highlighting that the Government have already announced their intention to conduct a wider review of alcohol taxation. I wonder whether it makes sense, from the point of view of business resilience and of giving companies such as Global Brands more time to cope with the covid-19 shock before absorbing this change, for the Treasury to consider this delay alongside the range of other issues that it will consider as part of its wider review of alcohol taxation. We might have been minded to table an amendment to probe the 12-month delay, but we were advised that such an amendment would not be in scope because the foundation resolution is clear about the date on which this change takes effect.

That is another reason why—I gently make this point again to Ministers—we feel strongly about the way in which the Treasury has restricted the scope of amendments and the debate by not introducing an amendment of the law resolution, as has been the case historically. As well as denying Opposition Members the opportunity to table broad, sweeping, political amendments to the Finance Bill, that also has practical implications. I impress on Ministers and the usual channels the need to reconsider that for future Finance Bills.

Finally, when my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield and I spoke to Global Brands just the other week, I was particularly impressed not just by the jobs and economic activity it provides in Chesterfield, but at the fact that its wider supply chain is virtually entirely British. Its ingredients, packaging and labelling are all derived from a British supply chain. I do wonder whether the Treasury has really thought through the timing of the change, the impact that it will have on businesses such as Global Brands, and where it might position such businesses in relation to their international competitors that are not providing jobs in this country and do not have a supply chain rooted here.

Given the unemployment statistics out today, we know that structural unemployment will become one of the biggest political issues and economic challenges in our country. Structural unemployment in Britain will become a feature of our life in a way that, frankly, it was not 10 years ago, in the wake of the financial crisis, and has not been for decades. The Government must do everything they can to protect jobs, which is why we have called today for them to come forward not just with fiscal measures in July, but a full-on, jobs-first Budget—because we are worried about the impact of covid-19 on unemployment.

The representations on clause 79 from Global Brands and from my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield remind us of the risk of the unintended consequences of Government policy. Given the impact on jobs and the supply chain and the fact that the Treasury is in any case preparing to undertake a review of alcohol taxation, I wonder whether the call for the Government to delay the measure by 12 months is not eminently reasonable—and whether they might come forward with their own change to the Bill on Report.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch) - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 12:09 a.m.

Clause 79 makes changes to alcohol duty legislation to introduce prohibitive sanctions for anyone who dilutes wine or made-wine once that product has passed a duty point. It will ensure fairness by providing equity of treatment across the drinks industry and will tackle future revenue risks for the Exchequer.

Post duty point dilution is a practice that enables wine and made-wine producers to reduce the excise duty that they pay by diluting the product after duty has been paid. Because the dilution increases the volume of wine and made-wine for sale, with no additional duty being paid, less duty is paid than would otherwise be due. UK legislation does not expressly prevent post duty point dilution for wine and made-wine, although it is prohibited for all other alcohol products. The practice gives certain wine or made-wine producers a tax advantage over those who produce other categories of alcohol, of which dilution is not permitted, and over others in their own sector who cannot make use of the practice.

Clause 79 will introduce new prohibitive sanctions for anyone who dilutes wine or made-wine once that product has passed a duty point on or after 1 April 2020. Introducing new sanctions to prevent the practice will maintain the principle that excise duty is calculated only on a finished product when it is released from production premises or on import. It will ensure fairness by providing equity of treatment across the drinks industry and will tackle future revenue risks for the Exchequer.

A review of the practice was launched at autumn Budget 2017, during which HMRC engaged extensively with industry and gathered a large amount of evidence to inform a decision. At Budget 2018, the Government announced the findings of the review and their intention to stop the practice being used for wine and made-wine, as is already the case for other types of alcohol. However, the Government also announced that that would not take effect until April 2020. That has given those businesses affected almost three years to prepare for the change, allowing them time to reformulate or diversify into the production of new lines.

Amendment 10 would require the Chancellor to review the public health effects of the post duty point dilution sanctions. When making changes to the alcohol duty system, the Government take into account a wide range of factors, including economic inequalities and health impacts. The new sanctions follow an extensive review by HMRC in 2017. Draft legislation was published in July 2019, alongside which a tax information and impact note was published on the gov.uk website, detailing the various factors that the Government have considered. The amendment is therefore unnecessary, as the Government have already published our assessment of the effect on public health. For the convenience of the Committee, I will reiterate that assessment. The Government expect that

“wine or made-wine may become slightly more expensive…there may be a positive health impact with less wine being consumed. However, this benefit may be offset if any increase in price leads to consumers switching to higher strength products.”

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 10:29 a.m.

I am sure the Minister has seen the graph that sets pence per unit against alcohol by volume. To say that it looks as though it was drawn by a child with a crayon is being generous to children with crayons. Will she consider a wider review of the duty per unit of alcohol by product type, because at the moment it makes absolutely no sense?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. I am not quite sure which chart she is referring to, and I do not accept her comments. We must remember that the purpose of the clause is primarily to close a tax loophole.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 10:29 a.m.

I understand what the Minister says about closing a loophole and about the time that businesses have been given to prepare for the change, but does she not think that the impact of covid-19 has a bearing here? Given the representations that are being made about the impact of the double whammy, would she at least go away and consider the merits of a 12-month delay, and write to me and my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield to set out her thinking once she has had a chance to do that?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 10:31 a.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. That is something that I have considered. I have had representations from the hon. Member for Chesterfield, Global Brands and other Members of Parliament, and I will take into account the points made by the hon. Member for Ilford North made in his speech.

On job losses, the announcement was made with enough time for people to prepare. We may not have been aware of covid, but postponing implementation any further would mean that the companies that adapted to the announcement about prohibiting post duty point dilution would be disadvantaged compared with companies that have not prepared since the announcement. We do not believe that that is fair.

On the point about the low alcohol value and moving the measure to stronger products, that is something that we have factored in. We will have a wider alcohol duty review—the hon. Gentleman referenced that. The Treasury has considered all those things, and we still do not feel that they are appropriate.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 10:29 a.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for being generous in giving way again. She will be pleased to hear that I will not labour the previous point.

As part of the Treasury’s review, will the Minister take into account the case for minimum unit pricing for alcohol? We have already heard the positive case from Scotland, and there is an active campaign for it. It would be useful for all of us involved in policy making if the Treasury review looked at the merits and the arguments against so that Parliament can make informed decisions.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 10:33 a.m.

The Government are monitoring the emerging evidence from the introduction of minimum unit pricing in Scotland and, recently, Wales, and we have addressed public health concerns in the duty system. For example, in February 2019, duty rates on white ciders were increased to tackle consumption. We must remember that the UK operates a single excise regime, so it is not possible to devolve duty rates. It is worth noting that many of the problems that have been raised are actually caused by EU rules, according to officials. I can write to the hon. Gentleman and other Members who want further clarification on that point.

Felicity Buchan Portrait Felicity Buchan (Kensington) (Con) - Hansard

Does my hon. Friend agree that, although this is a very interesting debate, we are here to talk about taxation, not public health policy on alcohol?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard

I completely agree. I hope I have given enough answers to address the point raised by the amendment. We have already carried out an assessment on public health grounds, but this is tax legislation. I therefore ask that amendment 10 be withdrawn.

Clause 79 introduces a new sanction to prevent a practice that is currently available only in the wine and made-wine sectors and is used by only a small number of producers. Prevention of the practice by the use of prohibitive sanctions will address inequity of treatment across the alcohol industry and will create a level playing field so that alcohol products can compete more fairly in the marketplace. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Clause 79 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Break in Debate

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 12:05 a.m.

If the hon. Member for Kensington does not think that there should be a relationship between public health and taxation, I am afraid she is really going to hate what I have to say on clause 80 and the Scottish National party amendment. For the same reason as before, I think there is a real case for looking at these issues in a joined-up way, and ensuring that our public health objectives are reinforced by the Treasury.

In its January 2020 Budget submission, the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, in partnership with Action on Smoking and Health, recommended that the minimum excise tax should be updated annually to ensure that the minimum tax for tobacco products is the rate due for products sold at the weighted average price. In the light of those representations, I wonder whether the Government will consider the advice of public health experts, and what consideration they have given to committing to updating the MET on an annual basis from the date of the passing of this legislation.

As the all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health has noted, the covid-19 crisis means that reducing tobacco-related health inequalities should be a priority, now and in the longer term, to improve population health and resilience to any future disease outbreaks. Differences in smoking prevalence and smoking-related diseases are an important factor in the differences in morbidity and mortality from covid-19. If we are not going to think seriously about some of these public health challenges in the middle of a public health crisis, when will we, frankly?

There has also been a rise during lockdown in people’s exposure to second-hand smoke in the home. Households with children are twice as likely to report second-hand smoke in the home. We have already heard about the Scottish Government’s determination in that respect, but the Government’s prevention Green Paper set the target of the UK being smoke-free by 2030, which is defined as a prevalence of 5% or less. If we are going to do that, we really have to commit to doing it and make changes across the board to support that important goal, which we across the House share.

The argument that public health and taxation are not intertwined does not hold water. It is not fashionable to be nice about George Osborne in today’s Conservative party—it is even less fashionable in the Labour party, but I already have a cross to bear in my own party—and his sugar tax was hugely controversial when it was introduced. I do not mind saying that as I sat watching the announcement in the Budget I was a big cynic, not least because I am generally in favour, as a point of principle, of progressive taxation. I worry about any new charges or levies that have flat implications for people and households with different levels of income.

Taxation by its nature ought to be progressive wherever possible, but the sugar tax has been shown, over the fullness of time, to have had a really positive impact on sugar consumption in this country. The evidence shows that a public health epidemic, which I think is what obesity is, particularly affects those from the poorest backgrounds. The same is probably true of smoking and its health consequences not just for smokers, but for the people—particularly children—who breathe the smoke around them.

The all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health, ASH, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the Royal College of Physicians and many others are calling on the Government to adopt their road map to a smoke-free 2030. That would include the creation of a smoke-free 2030 fund, into which tobacco manufacturers would be legally required to give funds to finance the action needed to achieve the smoke-free 2030 goal.

What consideration have the Government given to the road map to a smoke-free 2030 and, in particular, the proposal that there should be some kind of levy on tobacco manufacturers? In the same way as the sugar tax was hypothecated to tackle obesity, what consideration have the Government given to introducing a hypothecated levy to take action to eliminate smoking?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 10:47 a.m.

Clause 80 increases the duty charge on all tobacco products by RPI inflation plus 2% in line with the tobacco duty escalator. In addition, the duty on hand-rolling tobacco will rise by an additional 4% to 6% above RPI inflation this year.

Smoking rates in the UK are falling, but they are still too high. Around 14% of adults are smokers. We have ambitious plans to reduce that still further, as set out by the Department of Health and Social Care in its tobacco control plan. That includes a commitment to continue the policy of maintaining high duty rates for tobacco products to improve public health. The UK has comprehensive tobacco control legislation, which is the envy of the world. However, smoking is still the single largest cause of preventable illness and premature death in the UK. It accounts for around 100,000 deaths per year and kills about half of all long-term users. According to Action on Smoking and Health, smoking costs society almost £14 billion per year, including £2 billion in costs to the NHS of treating disease caused by smoking.

At the Budget, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced that the Government were committed to maintaining the tobacco duty escalator until the end of the Parliament. The clause therefore specifies that the duty charged on all tobacco products will rise by 2% above RPI inflation. In addition, duty on hand-rolling tobacco will rise by an additional 4% to 6% above RPI inflation this year. The clause also specifies that for the minimum excise tax—the minimum amount of duty to be paid on a pack of cigarettes—the specific duty component will rise in line with cigarette duty.

The new tobacco duty rates will be treated as taking effect from 6 pm on the day they were announced: 11 March 2020. Recognising the potential interactions between tobacco duty rates and the illicit market, the Government announced at the Budget that they would publish a consultation on proposals for strengthened penalties for tobacco tax evasion as part of the track and trace system, including a £10,000 fixed penalty and a sliding scale for repeat offenders. In addition, the Government will strengthen the resources of trading standards and HMRC to help to combat the illicit tobacco trade, including the creation of a UK-wide HMRC intelligence-sharing hub. I hope the hon. Member for Ilford North will support that. I believe I have addressed quite a number of the points that he has raised.

I turn to amendment 11, which is designed to place a statutory requirement on my right hon. Friend the Chancellor to review the public health effects of changes to tobacco duty. The Chancellor assesses the impact of all potential changes in his Budget considerations every year. The tax information and impact note published alongside the Budget announcement sets out the Government’s assessment of the expected impacts. The Government are committed to improving public health by reducing smoking prevalence, and we co-ordinate these efforts through the tobacco control delivery plan 2017 to 2022, which also provides the framework for robust and ongoing policy evaluation. Accordingly, we review our duty rates at each fiscal event to ensure that they continue to meet our two objectives of protecting public health and raising revenue for vital public services.

I hope that reassures the Committee, and I ask Members to reject the amendment. The clause will continue our tried and tested policy of using high duty rates on tobacco products to make tobacco less affordable and continue the reduction in smoking prevalence, thus reducing the burden that smoking places on our public services.

On the point about a tobacco levy, I believe the Government laid out their position on introducing a levy in 2015. We do not believe a levy is an effective way to raise revenue or protect public health.

Amendment 11 negatived.

Clause 80 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 81

Rates for light passenger or light goods vehicles, motorcycles etc

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard

Clause 81 makes changes to uprate the RPI vehicle excise duty rates for cars, vans and motorcycles with effect from 1 April 2020. VED is paid on vehicle ownership, and rates depend on the vehicle type and first registration date. The Government have uprated vehicle excise duty for cars, vans and motorcycles with inflation every year since 2010, which means rates have remained unchanged in real terms during this time. As announced in the 2018 Budget, all vehicle excise duty revenues will be used specifically for the national roads fund from this year, to provide certainty for road investment.

The changes made by clause 81 will uprate vehicle excise duty for cars, vans and motorcycles by RPI for the 10th successive year. As a result, the rates are unchanged in real terms since 2010, and that comes on top of the Government’s decision to freeze fuel duty rates for the ninth successive year. By April 2021, this will have saved the average car driver £1,200 in comparison with the pre-2010 escalator.

From April 2017, a reformed VED system was introduced that strengthened the environmental incentive when cars are first purchased, with all cars paying a standard rate in subsequent years. The standard rate will increase by only £5, the flat rate for vans will increase by £5 and the rate for motorcyclists will increase by no more than £2. These changes will ensure that the Government continue to support motorists with the cost of living, and that the vehicle excise duty system continues to incentivise the purchase of lower emission vehicles.

Felicity Buchan Portrait Felicity Buchan - Hansard

Does my hon. Friend agree that as the economy comes out of the dislocation of coronavirus, we need to build a greener and cleaner economy? Incentivising the use of low-carbon cars is part of that, and clearly we cannot do so just through the tax system; we also need a structure of electric charging points. I am glad to say that my borough is one of the top boroughs in the country in that regard. As we look to build a greener economy, I commend this clause and the related clauses.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard

I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention, and I agree with her.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard

Following a previous theme, we support this approach to incentivising the use of greener and more environmentally friendly vehicles. It shows how decisions taken at the Treasury can support the public policy aims of other Departments and promote positive consumer change. Clearly, we have to do a lot more to ensure that people are using environmentally friendly vehicles, which produce fewer emissions and have a less detrimental impact on air quality and the wider environment than other vehicles do. I, in common with many stakeholders, welcome the reduced rate applied to alternatively fuelled light passenger vehicles, including hybrids and those powered by bioethanol and liquid petroleum gas.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard

I think that is a point we can all agree on. The Government are doing a lot to encourage the uptake of low emission and zero emission vehicles. As I mentioned earlier, the reformed VED system was introduced in 2017 for new cars. To elaborate, on first registration the owners of zero emission models pay nothing, while those of the most polluting pay more than £2,000. In subsequent years, most cars move to a standard rate, which is currently set at £145. The exceptions are electric cars, which attract a zero rate, and hybrids, which receive a £10 discount.

In the Budget, the Government announced a number of further steps to reduce zero emission vehicle costs, including exempting zero emission cars from the vehicle excise duty expensive car supplement; extending low company car tax rates for 2024-25, as we discussed earlier; and extending the plug-in grant scheme for zero emission cars and ultra-low emission vans, taxis and motorcycles until 2022-22.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 81 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 82

Applicable CO2 emissions figure determined using WLTP values

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard

Clause 82 makes changes that ensure that CO2 emissions figures for vehicle excise duty will be based on the world harmonized light-duty vehicles test procedure—WLTP—for all new cars registered from 1 April 2020. Until 1 April 2020, the owners of new cars were liable to pay VED based on CO2 emissions figures provided under the new European driving cycle test procedure, which is otherwise known as the NEDC. That test underestimates real-world driving emissions by up to 40%. In the 2018 Budget, it was announced that from April 2020, VED would be based on WLTP, which closely reflects real-world driving emissions. Consequently, vehicle excise duty liabilities for new cars purchased from April 2020 may change.

In the 2018 Budget, the Government announced a review of the impacts of WLTP on vehicle taxes. In July 2019, the Government announced that as mitigation to help the industry manage the transition to WLTP, company car tax rates would be temporarily reduced, and that the Government would publish a call for evidence on vehicle excise duty. Draft legislation for the Finance Bill was published on L day 2019 to switch on WLTP from April 2020 and to implement the new CCT rates.

Clause 82 confirms that CO2 emissions figures for vehicle excise duty will be based on WLTP for all new cars registered from 1 April 2020, and that all cars registered before 1 April 2020 will continue to use existing NEDC CO2 values for VED purposes. As WLTP is more representative of real-world driving conditions, this measure ensures that VED is based on a more robust regime for measuring CO2 emissions. It will also allow motorists to make more informed purchasing decisions when considering the CO2 impact of their new car.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard

I do not think that we need to dwell too long on this, but it is worth exploring a few points that were made during the Government’s consultation and to test some stakeholders’ arguments. Assertions are sometimes made, but it is important to revisit the arguments and see whether they stand up to the scrutiny of evidence. It will be interesting to hear the Treasury’s view on that.

There was a concern that the WLTP charging rates could lead to distortion ahead of April 2020, because consumers might bring forward purchasing decisions to avoid potential tax increases on new cars. Given that April 2020 has passed, it would be interesting to know whether such distortion has actually occurred. What assessment has the Treasury made of that?

On the environmental impact, some respondents stressed that company cars were more environmentally friendly than private cars. The argument goes that it is important to keep people in that market by adjusting company car taxation to reflect the lower impact. What analysis has the Treasury done of that claim? Does the Treasury think that that is a valid argument, or simply an assertion?

Finally, some concern was raised that under WLTP values, there could be an above-average increase in the reported CO2 emissions of cars with smaller engines, whereas cars with higher CO2 emissions would not be affected by the change to the same extent. How much does that argument hold water with the Minister?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 10:58 a.m.

On the question of why we are treating cars registered before 6 April 2020 differently and whether that would create a distortion, the WLTP testing standards were introduced in 2017 and EU legislation required manufacturers to record the CO2 emissions for both regimes. We have not sought to change the tax treatment of existing cars; we aim to encourage people who purchase new cars to choose low-CO2-emitting models.

On the analysis that the hon. Gentleman asks for, it is probably too soon to tell. The impact is linear, and we published some findings in July 2019 when we set rates. I can have that information provided to him, and I can write to him on that point. I do not have the full answers for the analyses that he is asking for.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 82 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 83

Electric vehicles: extension of exemption

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 11:01 a.m.

Clause 83 makes changes to exempt all zero-emission cars from the vehicle excise duty supplement that applies to cars with a list price exceeding £40,000 from 1 April 2020. The background is that the Government use vehicle taxes, including vehicle excise duty, to encourage the take-up of cars with low carbon dioxide emissions to help to meet our legally binding climate change targets. Vehicle excise duty incentives help to reduce the cost of zero-emission cars, which is one of the most significant barriers to uptake. From April 2017, on first registration, zero-emission cars paid no vehicle excise duty, while the most polluting cars paid more than £2,000. In subsequent years, while most cars move to a standard rate—£150 in 2020-21—electric vehicles attract a zero rate. Previously, however, all vehicles with a list price exceeding £40,000, including electric vehicles, paid a vehicle excise duty supplement of £325 in 2020-21 from years two to six following registration.

Under the changes made by clause 83, from 1 April 2020, all zero-emission light passenger vehicles registered from 1 April 2017 until 31 March 2025 will be exempt from the vehicle excise duty expensive car supplement. That will reduce vehicle excise duty liability for almost a third of zero-emission cars by an estimated £1,625. This demonstrates that the Government will continue to incentivise the uptake of zero-emission cars through the 2020s. The measure will incentivise uptake by reducing tax liabilities and aid the Government in achieving net zero. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 11:02 a.m.

Clause 83 is obviously a welcome measure; we have heard from industry representatives that removing the VED surcharge for electric vehicles will encourage uptake. The RAC’s head of policy, Nicholas Lyes, states:

“Our research suggests that cost is one of the biggest barriers for drivers who want to switch to an electric vehicle and the steps taken”

by the Government

“will provide clarity and certainty for both consumers and manufacturers.”

I wonder whether the Government are looking at what more they can do to reduce the cost burden for people switching to electric vehicles. People make choices all the time about the purchase of new vehicles, and price sensitivity is one of the biggest aspects of that. If someone uses their car every day for regular journeys—to commute to and from work, for example—and has access to charging points at home, at work or in the vicinity, switching to an electric vehicle will make a real difference. It can be cost-effective as well as an environmentally friendly choice, particularly in the light of the clause.

However, for lots of people who do not commute regularly but have a family car for use at weekends and perhaps over the summer holidays, the financial choice is not always as straightforward. Although the environmental factors may be compelling and people might want to switch to an electric vehicle, the financial barrier is still too high. I wonder what more the Government can do, through industry support or other means, to further incentivise the switch to electric vehicles, as it would make a real difference.

On infrastructure, it is important that more is done to ensure that electric vehicle charging points are readily available for use—that is really an issue for the Department for Transport and local authorities, but at some point they will come knocking at the Treasury’s door. The Minister is smiling; I am sure that she is very familiar with that experience. I wonder how favourably she is looking on those arguments, because although progress is being made to expand electric charging points—the Mayor of London cares strongly about the issue, and I discussed it recently with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham—much more progress can still be made in all parts of the country, so Treasury support would be very welcome.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 11:06 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman makes a point that we hear again and again about the cost of low emission vehicles. These changes are part of a wider package of tax and spend incentives—I have mentioned company car tax rates and the plug-in car grant.

On the question of what more we can do, the best mechanism is the call for evidence that the Government published at the Budget, which includes how vehicle excise duty can further incentivise the uptake of zero-emission cars. That is probably the best way for the industry and Parliament to suggest what more we can do to make low emission vehicles more affordable.

The hon. Gentleman is right that we get asked a lot about infrastructure and what more we can do to provide charge points. We understand that access to high-quality, convenient charging infrastructure is critical if drivers are to make the switch to electric vehicles confidently. That was why, at the Budget, we announced £500 million over the next five years to support the roll-out of a fast charging network for electric vehicles, ensuring that drivers will never be more than 30 miles from a rapid charging station.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 83 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 84

Motor caravans

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 11:08 a.m.

Clause 84 reduces vehicle excise duty liability for new motorhomes to support British motorhome manufacturers and UK holidaymakers. From 12 March 2020, most new motorhomes pay a flat rate of VED at £270 annually. To ensure that, in the future, motorhome vehicle excise duty liabilities reflect environmental impact and to incentivise the development and uptake of lower emission motorhomes, from 1 April 2021, motorhome VED liabilities will be aligned with graduated van vehicle excise duty.

From September 2019, EU regulatory changes have required motorhomes to record carbon dioxide emissions on the vehicle type approval document. Previously, the majority of motorhomes attracted a flat rate of £265, but from September 2019, due to their high emissions, new motorhomes saw a significant increase in their first-year vehicle excise duty liabilities. Motorhome dealerships and the main industry body, the National Caravan Council, expressed concern about the changes. The sector argued that, as motorhomes are generally derived from vans, their VED liability should be aligned with vans, rather than passenger vehicles.

The changes made by clause 84 mean that, from 12 March 2020, new motorhomes are more closely aligned with vans for VED purposes. Manufacturers are no longer required to provide a CO2 emissions figure when they register the vehicle with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. As a result, all new motorhomes will move to a flat rate of vehicle excise duty. Most new motorhome vehicles will be included in the private light goods vehicle tax class, with the minority that weigh more than 3,500 kg included in the private heavy goods class. As a result, new motorhomes’ first-year VED liabilities will be reduced by up to £1,905. The change will affect owners of motorhomes first registered from 12 March 2020. There are typically about 15,000 motorhomes registered in the UK annually.

The change will reduce new motorhome vehicle excise duty liabilities, and better align them with vans, rather than passenger vehicles. It will support British motorhome manufacturers and holidaymakers using motorhomes throughout the UK. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 11:08 a.m.

This debate is particularly timely, given last night’s Adjournment debate, which was led by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), who told the House that Hull is the capital of caravan manufacturing. Along with my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson) and for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner), she has been a doughty champion of the industry. That industry has been particularly hard hit by covid-19 because it relies so much on the leisure and tourism industry, which is still effectively shut down. Industry bodies and users were looking for this change, so I am happy to indicate that we support the clause.

Break in Debate

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 12, in clause 85, page 72, line 33, after “supplies” insert “, including human breastmilk”.

This amendment would ensure that vehicles carrying human breastmilk would benefit from the exemption from Vehicle Excise Duty.

I am delighted to continue my personal journey to ensure that breastfeeding is mentioned in every possible place in this House. I am chair of the all-party group on infant feeding and inequalities, so I declare that interest up front.

The measure I seek to add to the Bill would cost the Government very little, if anything at all, but would send a very strong signal that the Government support and recognise breast milk banks across the UK. Sub-paragraph 2(b) of proposed new paragraph 6A to schedule 2 to the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 refers to

“medicines and other medical supplies”.

I am not quite sure whether that would capture breast milk. I seek clarification from the Minister on that, because I do not think it is clear enough, which was why I tabled the amendment.

Human breast milk banks exist across the UK. Some do not exist quite to the size and scale that we would like, so the amendment would help to encourage them that there is Government support for what they are doing. I mention the Human Milk Foundation, the Northwest Human Milk Bank, Hearts Milk Bank and Milk Bank Scotland, which is based in Glasgow and the one that I know best. Having spoken to Debbie Barnett, its donor milk bank co-ordinator, I know that Milk Bank Scotland does not have its own vehicles at the moment, but relies on the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity volunteers, who transport the milk, after picking it up from donors, and take it out to those who need it. Having its own vehicles would be something for a future point, but the amendment would certainly support the milk bank, and others across the UK, in doing that.

Like blood, breast milk has to be properly processed, and there are procedures in place for doing so. Like blood, it needs special carriage to take it from donors to the milk banks for processing, and back out again. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guideline 93 on donor breast milk banks says that, when transporting milk to the milk bank, critical conditions for transport include

“temperature and time limit, to ensure that donor milk remains frozen during transport.”

The guideline also states that donor milk should be transported

“in secure, tamper-evident containers and packaging”

and that a range of procedures are in place for achieving that.

In chapter 33 of its guide to the quality and safety of tissues and cells for human application, on the distribution of and transport conditions for human milk, the European directorate for the quality of medicines states:

“During transport, milk should remain frozen and dry ice may be used for this purpose.

The use of validated, easily cleaned, insulated transport containers is recommended.

The transport procedure should be validated, and the temperature of the transport container monitored during transportation.”

All those measures are relatively similar to how blood and other blood products are transported around the UK, and would fit quite well with the medical courier vehicles exemption set out in the Bill. Many of these organisations are charities, and they would very much appreciate support in moving milk around the country.

I appeal to the Government to accept the amendment, which is uncontentious—and indisputable, really. Doing so would send a good signal that the UK Government support milk banks, the people across the UK who wish to use them, and the science behind them. They are particularly important in supporting premature babies in their earliest days. The World Health Organisation recently indicated the significance of breast milk during coronavirus, and that women should be supported whenever possible to feed their babies with human breast milk. Covid-19 is not present in breast milk, and the milk is therefore of huge benefit in supporting babies in their earliest days. I encourage Ministers to take on the amendment, if they can take on anything at all, and to show support for milk banks across the UK.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard

Amendment 12 would extend the exemption so that it applied to people carrying human breast milk. I do not think that any of us would disagree with that, but clause 85 already covers the transportation of human breast milk. The purpose-built vehicles used by medical courier charities, which are exempted from VED by the measure, transport not just blood, but a wide range of medical products, including X-rays, MRI scans, plasma and human breast milk.

The inclusion of the amendment in the Bill would make things more difficult. Its wording is quite vague, it does not clearly define the vehicles that it is trying to capture, and it would create the risk of abuse. We believe that the matter is already covered by clause 85. Although the Government fully support the sentiment of the amendment, as breast milk is already captured under the clause, I ask the Committee to reject the it.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard

I would like to press the amendment to a vote, to add to the clarity of the clause.

Amendment 12 negatived.

Clause 85 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(David Rutley.)

Finance Bill (Eighth sitting) Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: HM Treasury
Legislation Page: Finance Act 2020

Finance Bill (Eighth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 8th sitting: House of Commons)
Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Tuesday 16th June 2020

(3 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:07 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions. We fully appreciate the degree of concern that has been shown by the industry. As he will be aware, we are under an obligation to abide by EU judgments while we remain under the withdrawal agreement. The proposal underlines how seriously we take legal obligations that have been incurred in the EU withdrawal agreement, and that includes implementing the result of the European Court of Justice judgment.

It should be made clear that, during the transition period, if the Commission were not convinced that necessary steps had been taken to implement the judgement, it could, in principle, refer the case back to the European Court and ask it to levy fines for non-compliance. Those fines can be pretty substantial—up to €792,000 a day plus a potential one-off fine of at least €10 million—so we are very focused on communicating the seriousness of our intent in passing this enabling legislation. We do not believe that paying fines to the EU, especially as we have now left the EU, would be an effective or good use of taxpayers’ money, not least when we are making broader changes to reduce the entitlement to use red diesel more widely.

It is worth pointing out one other thing: we have not set an implementation date. The reason is that we recognise that it is important for Government to continue to work with users of private pleasure craft and with fuel suppliers to understand how they can implement the changes, precisely to make sure that those changes are as little onerous and as easy to enact as they can be. It is only once we have seen that consultation, gone through that process, reflected further on it and had a chance to consider how the legislation could be framed that we will be able to return to this issue.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 86 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 10 agreed to.

Clause 87

Rates of air passenger duty from 1 April 2021

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch) - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:09 p.m.

Clause 87 makes changes to ensure that the long-haul rates of air passenger duty for the tax year 2021-22 increase in line with the retail price index. The change will make sure that the aviation sector continues to play its part in contributing towards funding our vital public services.

Aviation plays a crucial role in keeping Britain open for business, and the UK Government are keen to support its long-term success. Indeed, the UK has one of the highest direct connectivity scores in Europe, according to the latest Airports Council International Europe report. The Government appreciate the difficulties that the airline industry currently faces as a result of coronavirus. That is why the Chancellor provided a comprehensive package for all businesses affected by the virus on 20 March. However, as air passenger duty is paid on a per passenger basis, the recent decline in passenger demand will have resulted in a reduction in air passenger duty liabilities for airlines. As the industry returns to health, it is right that the revenue raised from air passenger duty should continue to remain in line.

The clause increases the long-haul reduced rate for economy class nominally by only £2 and the standard rate for all classes above economy by £4—a real-terms freeze. The rounding of air passenger duty raised to the nearest £1 means that short-haul rates will remain frozen in nominal terms for the eighth year in a row, which benefits about 80% of all airline passengers. More broadly, the Government will consult on aviation tax reform. As part of the consultation, we will consider the case for changing the air passenger duty treatment of domestic flights, such as reintroducing the return leg exemption, and for increasing the number of international distance bands.

The changes made by the clause will increase the long-haul APD rates for the tax year 2021-22 by the RPI. Air passenger duty is a fair and efficient tax, where the amount paid corresponds to the distance and class of travel of the passenger and is due only when airlines are flying passengers. The changes ensure that the aviation sector will continue to play its part in contributing towards funding our vital public services. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:13 p.m.

The industry has stated that the proposed changes do not support it and its net zero plans. The news that the airline industry does not like air passenger duty will come as a surprise to no one. As we are debating air passenger duty under clause 87, and as Treasury Ministers declined to come to the House in response to an urgent question from the Chair of the Transport Committee, this is an opportunity for me to raise concerns directly with Treasury Ministers about support for the airline industry in the light of the challenges it faces because of covid-19.

The Minister said that the airline industry has benefited from Government support. In so far as any industry and employer has benefited from the general schemes made available—the job retention scheme, the self-employment income support scheme, the various business grants and loans that are available—that is true. However, back in March, the Chancellor referred to specific support for the aviation industry. It is now June and that support has not yet materialised. In fact, we do not even have any outline of what that support could entail or whether it will materialise at all.

Let us bear in mind that the industry contributes £22 billion a year to the British economy. It supports 230,000 jobs in aviation and throughout the manufacturing supply chain. If we take into account the broader sweep of jobs based around the supply chain, airports and travel, we are probably looking at something closer to 500,000 jobs.

Ministers, whether in the Treasury or the Department for Transport, ought to be embarrassed by the fact that, only a matter of weeks ago, a leading figure in the airline industry told the Transport Committee that the Government have been “asleep at the wheel”. That is not the way that the Treasury should approach a major industry. Of course, the airline industry has a lot to change in order to meet our country’s net zero ambitions, but I am sure we would all agree that we would prefer it if the aviation industry got to that point through research, innovation, sensible application of technology, change of consumer behaviour and a just transition to support the workforce as the industry changes, rather than because airlines go bust and people lose their jobs.

Break in Debate

I would just say to the hon. Gentleman that the decision on what is spoken about and what is not is mine. My general attitude is to encourage participation and comment. I will show the same latitude to both Government and Opposition Members. I call the Minister.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:19 p.m.

On the issue of a specific support package for the industry, the hon. Member for Ilford North has mentioned the range of measures that we have put in place, and we know that the DFT, the Transport Secretary and the aviation Minister are in close contact with the aviation sector. What the hon. Gentleman does not know is that Treasury Ministers, including myself, have also received lots of representations from the industry—it is not an issue that we are ignoring—but we need to be careful about how we make interventions.

The aviation sector is important to the UK economy. When those companies, as with any other companies that make a material contribution to the economy, find themselves in trouble as a result of coronavirus and have exhausted the measures already available to them, the Transport Secretary and Chancellor are listening to understand the issues, but any intervention needs to represent value for money for the taxpayer.

As we saw in the urgent question earlier today, there are so many people we need to help. We need to be careful about how we spend taxpayers’ money and where it should be directed. At this time, the Chancellor has not made that decision, but we will continue to work closely with the sector, and we are willing to consider the situation of individual firms, rather than working a sector-wide basis, once all the other Government schemes and commercial options have been explored and exhausted. That includes—I am sure this is something Opposition Members agree with—raising capital from existing investors and approaching other investors first.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 87 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 88

Amounts of gross gaming yield charged to gaming duty

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:19 p.m.

Clause 88 increases the thresholds for the gross gaming yield bands for gaming duty in line with inflation. This is a very small change, which is assumed by public finances.

Gaming duty is a banded tax paid by casinos in the UK, with marginal tax rates varying between 15% and 50%. Public finances assume that the bands are uprated with inflation each year to prevent fiscal drag. Without an annual uprating, over time, casinos would pay gaming duty at higher rates, so the change made by clause 88 uprates the bands of gaming duty in line with inflation. That is expected by the industry and assumed in public finances. Rates of gaming duty will remain unchanged. The change will take effect for accounting periods starting on or after 1 April 2020. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:20 p.m.

We have heard representations from the chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, Michael Dugher, who will be known to many hon. Members across the House. The council is calling for reform of business rates and casino taxation. In the light of its representation, which, unsurprisingly, makes the industry case, and reflecting on some of our earlier conversations about alcohol duties, tobacco and smoking, what plans does the Treasury have, if any, to look at reform of gambling taxation generally and at the specific reforms Mr Dugher is calling for of business rates and casino taxation?

We have also heard strong representations from hon. Members across the House, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) and the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith), about their work to highlight the impact that gambling has on people’s lives. Irresponsible gambling blights people’s lives. In the light of our conversation this morning about the positive role that Treasury decisions can play in promoting good public health outcomes, is the Treasury minded to look at those issues in the round as part of a wider review of the gaming duty and gambling taxation more generally?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:22 p.m.

The answer is to look at what the duty is designed to do. It is a change to gambling taxation; it is not related to the regulation of gambling activity, which, as we know, is the remit of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The Government continue to monitor the effectiveness of existing gambling controls. As the December 2019 election manifesto set out, we intend to review the Gambling Act 2005. We will always consider the potential impact of tax changes at the same time.

We should remember that freezing the duty bands would have a small impact on public finances, while pushing smaller, generally regional, casinos into higher duty bands. The casino industry paid about £220 million in duty in the last financial year. The Government believe that the sector already makes a fair contribution to the public finances. I do not believe it is the small regional casinos that we would be looking to affect in terms of problem gambling.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 88 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 89

Rates of climate change levy until 1 April 2021

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss clause 90 stand part.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:24 p.m.

Clauses 89 and 90 ensure that the climate change levy main and reduced rates are updated for the years 2020-21 and 2021-22 to reflect the rates announced at Budget 2018. The climate change levy came into effect in April 2001. It is a UK-wide tax on the non-domestic use of energy from gas, electricity, liquefied petroleum gas and solid fuels. It promotes the efficient use of energy to help to meet the UK’s international and domestic targets for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. Energy-intensive businesses that participate in the climate change agreements scheme run by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy qualify for reduced rates in return for meeting energy efficiency or carbon reduction targets.

Budget 2016 announced that electricity and gas rates would be equalised by 2025, because electricity is becoming a much cleaner source of energy than gas as we reduce our reliance on coal and use more renewable resources instead. These changes give effect to rate changes announced in 2018 and reaffirm the commitment to equalise the main rates for gas and electricity. The reduced rates will be subject to increases in line with inflation, as in previous years. In order to ensure better consistency in the tax treatment of portable fuels and the off-gas grid market, it was announced in the 2017 Budget that the climate change levy rate for liquefied petroleum gas would be frozen at the 2019-20 level in the years 2020-21 and 2021-22. For that reason, the reduced rate for liquefied petroleum gas that applies to CCA participants will remain set at 23% for the years 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Clauses 89 and 90 will update the climate change levy’s main and reduced rates for 2020-21 and 2021-22, as announced in the 2018 Budget, to reflect that electricity is now a cleaner energy source than gas. The electricity main rate will be lowered, whereas the gas main rate will increase so that it reaches 60% of the electricity rate in 2021-22. The rates were announced over two years ago, to give businesses plenty of notice to prepare for the rate changes. To limit the impact on the CCA scheme, participants will see their climate change levy liability increase by retail price index inflation only. That protects the competitiveness of over 9,000 facilities in energy-intensive industries across 50 sectors. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:26 p.m.

The Chancellor suggested that pollution taxes would increase as a result of his Budget, but Jayne Harrold, PwC’s UK environmental tax leader, said that under the 2020 Budget:

“There was not really an increase in pollution taxes as the Chancellor suggested with the climate change levy (CCL) changes announced. In fact, freezing CCL rates on electricity to level up the gas rate faster based on carbon emissions will reduce the amount of pollution tax applied. Extending climate change agreements for two years is equally minor good news for energy intensive businesses who get significant CCL reliefs.”

Can the Minister give us a sense of what more the Treasury will do to ensure that taxes from polluting behaviour increase?

I also want to probe on the green gas levy. The 2020 Budget promised the introduction of a green gas levy to help fund the use of greener fuels, to work in conjunction with the rise in the climate change levy. When and how do the Government plan to introduce the levy?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard

I missed the hon. Member’s last question, but I can write to him on this issue, if he is happy with that. I go back to the question whether we are doing enough to achieve net zero. The answer is that we are going as far as we can, but we must also ensure that we protect the competitiveness of businesses throughout the UK. As announced in 2016, the changes to the climate change levy rates will see electricity and gas main rates equalised. That is being done incrementally—not because we do not want to go far enough, but in order to protect the tax liability of businesses. The Treasury review on the cost of transitioning to net zero will consider the role of tax in the transition. Does that answer the question?

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard

My question was specifically about the changes that the Government plan to make in relation to the green gas levy, which had been announced in the Budget. When and how do the Government plan to introduce the green gas levy?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard

I cannot give the hon. Member an answer to that, but I will definitely write to him. I think officials will be able to brief him on the green gas levy. I cannot talk about it in the context of the climate change levy, which is what we are discussing, but I take his point. It is a good question. It is a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy competency, which is why I do not have an answer from a Treasury perspective, but I can speak to my counterparts in that Department and get back to him.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:29 p.m.

Thank you.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 89 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 90 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 91

Rates of landfill tax

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:32 p.m.

The clause increases both the standard and lower rates of landfill tax in line with inflation from 1 April 2020, as announced at Budget 2018.

Landfill tax has been immensely successful in reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. Landfill tax provides a disincentive to use landfill and has made it the most expensive waste treatment method in terms of average gate fees. The success of the tax has contributed to a 70% decrease in waste sent to landfill since 2000. Household recycling has increased to 45%, from 18%, over the same period. The benefits of this reduction are twofold: first, there are economic benefits as valuable resources are used better, rather than being simply tipped into a hole in the ground, and secondly, there are environmental benefits, not only from the increased efficiency in the use of our precious resources, but through a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from decomposing waste.

When waste is diverted from landfill we promote more sustainable waste treatment practice, such as recycling. The Government want to move towards a more circular economy and we are working together with business, industry, civil society and the public to achieve that aim. Landfill tax is one of the Government’s primary levers in achieving this.

When disposed at a landfill site, each tonne of standard-rated material is currently taxed at £91.35 and lower-rate material draws a tax of £2.90 per tonne. These changes will see rates per tonne increase to £94.15 and £3 respectively from 1 April 2020. By increasing rates in line with RPI we maintain the crucial incentive for the industry to use alternative waste treatment methods and continue the move towards a more circular economy. The increase in landfill tax will affect businesses and local authorities that send waste to landfill, but by continuing the positive trend of managing waste more sustainably businesses and local authorities will be able to reduce their landfill tax liabilities.

In conclusion, clause 91 increases the two rates of landfill tax in line with inflation from 1 April 2020, as announced in the autumn Budget in 2018. The clause maintains the incentives in the landfill tax for businesses and local authorities to divert waste treatment away from landfill and to continue to invest in sustainable methods of waste disposal, helping the Government meet their environmental objectives. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard

Aside from paying tribute to my own local authority, the London Borough of Redbridge, and other local authorities for the efforts they have made to reduce the amount of waste going into landfill, there is only so much that can be said about an inflationary increase in landfill tax. I am happy for us to support the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 91 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 92

Carbon emissions tax

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss, That schedule 11 be the Eleventh schedule to the Bill.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:36 p.m.

At Budget 2020 the Government announced that they would make the necessary legislative changes to the carbon emissions tax in Finance Bill 2020 to ensure that this policy remained a viable option to maintain carbon pricing in the UK after the transition period, in the event that a trading system proves undesirable. If the Government decide to use the tax as their carbon pricing policy after the transition period, the tax would be commenced, by secondary legislation laid in late 2020, from 1 January 2021.

The clause and schedule strengthen the effectiveness of the carbon emissions tax by ensuring that penalties can be issued for non-compliance and late payment and the legislation is updated to reflect developments since the tax was established in the Finance Act 2019. In line with the withdrawal agreement, the UK will remain in the EU emissions trading system, known as the EU ETS, until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. The UK will continue to have legally binding carbon reduction targets after leaving the EU.

As set out in the UK’s approach to the negotiation, the UK would be open to considering a link between any future UK emissions trading system and the EU ETS, if it suited both the UK’s and the EU’s interests. If a linked trading system between the UK and the EU is not agreed, the UK would introduce an alternative carbon pricing policy. The Government are therefore preparing both a UK standalone emissions trading system and a carbon emissions tax.

Budget 2020 announced that legislation would be included in this Finance Bill to provide a charging power to establish a UK ETS linked to the EU ETS or a standalone UK ETS, and update the existing legislation relating to carbon emissions tax. This schedule amends the Finance Act 2019 to ensure that the tax will be ready to be operational from the end of the transition period, if needed. The clause and schedule deal with the latter.

Clause 92 introduces schedule 11, which makes amendments to part 3 of the Finance Act 2019, which established the carbon emissions tax. Schedule 11 will amend the Finance Act 2019 so that the carbon emissions tax is ready to commence from 1 January 2021 if needed.

I will briefly highlight the most significant changes in what is a fairly technical schedule. Paragraphs 9 and 10 add provisions to the tax for a penalty for failure to make payments of tax to HMRC on time. That would be achieved by adopting the existing provisions on late payment penalties in schedule 56 to the Finance Act 2009. The penalty would be commenced by appointed day regulations if the tax were introduced.

Similarly, paragraph 4 allows for provisions to be made for the imposition of civil penalties for failure to comply with a requirement of the regulations; the review of, and a right of appeal against, a specified decision relating to the tax; and the modification of domestic and EU regulations relating to the monitoring and regulation of emissions.

Paragraph 8 amends the commencement and transitional provisions to ensure that the regulations needed to operate the tax may be made before the tax has commenced. It also removes provisions that were needed when we were planning to commence the tax partway through an emissions reporting period. Those are no longer needed, as we would now start the tax on 1 January, the first day of an emissions reporting period.

Paragraph 3 allows the Treasury, by regulations, to exclude regulated installations of a specified description from the charge to tax. That enables the Government, for example, to exclude Northern Ireland power generators from the tax, were they to continue to participate in the EU ETS as provided for in the Northern Ireland protocol. Paragraph 6 ensures that regulators will be able to recover costs incurred in doing work connected with carbon emissions tax, even if that work is done before regulations are made.

In conclusion, the clause and schedule ensure that the carbon emissions tax is ready to commence from 1 January 2021 if needed. It would provide a stable carbon price and help the UK to meet its carbon reduction commitments. I therefore commend the clause and schedule to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:37 p.m.

The clause and schedule that we are discussing make perfect sense in light of the impact of our exiting the European Union. I just have a few questions for the Minister.

This clause gives the Government the power to introduce a UK emissions trading scheme or carbon tax via a statutory instrument. As we have already heard from the Minister, and as we have heard from public statements on both sides of the channel this week, we will leave the EU emissions trading scheme on December 31 2020, when we leave the transition period.

I think the Minister alluded to the fact that so many of the questions that stakeholders have remain unanswered. I accept that this is just an enabling clause in anticipation of the further detail, and I appreciate that some of these questions may relate to responsibilities in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, so I will accept it if she sends me in that direction, but does she know when the Government plan to respond to chapters 1 to 3 of the consultation on the future of UK carbon pricing? Can she give assurances that there will be time to scrutinise Government proposals and implement a new scheme by the end of the year, bearing in mind that the proposals will have an impact on a wide range of organisations?

Touching on a theme I raised this morning about support for businesses as they undertake a transition to new frameworks, how do the Government intend to support UK companies during the transition, bearing in mind that, just as we are feeling the impact on Government business of disruption caused by the pandemic, many businesses are feeling exactly the same disruption? Is it realistic or desirable for companies across the country to be adapting to a new scheme that is not yet known and that may need to take force by the end of this year?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:39 p.m.

We published a consultation response on 1 June, and the carbon emissions tax consultation is due to be published shortly. I will say to the hon. Gentleman, “Watch this space.”

In terms of the impact on businesses, the carbon emissions tax would have an impact on around 1,000 installations that currently participate in the EU emissions trading system, most of which are operated by large businesses. Businesses whose emissions exceeded their allowance would need to familiarise themselves with the tax and pay a bill once a year, in lieu of surrendering trading allowances under the EU emissions trading system. It must be said, however, that the administrative burdens of complying with this tax are not expected to be more than what they would have been under the EU emissions trading system.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 92 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 11 agreed to.

Clause 93

Charge for allocating allowances under emissions reduction trading scheme

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 2:41 p.m.

The clause provides the power to auction carbon emissions allowances, to establish a UK emissions trading system, which could be linked to the EU’s or operate independently. Alongside clause 92, to update the carbon emissions tax, this clause ensures that a strong carbon price remains in all scenarios, while supporting the ongoing negotiations.

The UK’s membership of the EU emissions trading system will end following the transition period. As mentioned in the previous clause, the EU ETS covers around a third of UK emissions, including the power sector, heavy industry and aviation. It has been an important tool, alongside other taxes and regulations, in helping to reduce emissions.

Following the UK’s exit from the EU, we have choices about how best to put a price on carbon, tailoring our approach to the UK economy. Carbon pricing will continue to play an important role to help meet the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets and net zero. The Government are preparing an independent UK emissions trading scheme, which could be linked to the EU ETS. As set out in the UK’s approach to negotiations, we are open to considering a link if it suited both sides’ interests.

Clause 93 is essential to the establishment of a UK ETS, as it provides the power for Government to auction emissions allowances and intervene in the market to deal with any price volatility. As I mentioned earlier, the Government are also preparing a carbon emissions tax and a possible alternative in clause 92. Introducing legislation to support potential negotiated options, as well as legislating for alternative approaches to carbon pricing after the transition period, will provide certainty that we maintain an effective carbon price in all scenarios, continuing to drive reductions in emissions on our journey to net zero.

The changes made by clause 93 introduce a charging power. This means that through regulations, emissions allowances can be auctioned by the Government in any future UK ETS, ensuring that participants pay a price for their pollution. The clause will also enable regulations to be made for additional market stability mechanisms, to operate in an independent UK emissions trading scheme. That will ensure a smooth transition for businesses. First, a price rule, known as the auction reserve price, will maintain a carbon signal when allowance prices are low. Secondly, a cost containment mechanism will respond to in-year price fights, protecting the competitiveness of UK business when allowance prices are high. Further detail on these measures has been set out in the Government’s recent response to our consultation on the future of UK carbon pricing.

This clause is a prudent and sensible one to legislate for. It will pave the way for an emissions trading scheme, which could be linked to the EU ETS, if that is in our interests. It also ensures that a stand-alone emissions trading scheme could be implemented as an alternative policy, should a link not be agreed. Alongside that, legislation will be updated related to the carbon emissions tax, so we are keeping all options on the table for maintaining a carbon price signal from 1 January 2021.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard

The Minister asked us to watch this space. We will certainly do that and wait to see how discussions progress. We look forward to seeing the details of future arrangements in the not-too-distant future.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 93 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 94

International trade disputes

Finance Bill (First sitting) Debate

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Department: HM Treasury
Legislation Page: Finance Act 2020

Finance Bill (First sitting)

(Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Thursday 4th June 2020

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 8 and 9 stand part.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch) - Hansard
4 Jun 2020, 12:23 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh. Clauses 7 to 9 make changes to set company car tax—CCT—appropriate percentages that favour zero and ultra-low emission cars until April 2023. As confirmed at Budget, these rates will be extended until April 2025. The clause also confirms that that the CO2 emissions figure for the purposes of the CCT will be based on the worldwide harmonised light vehicle test procedure—WLTP—for all new cars first registered on or after 6 April 2020.

CCT is a benefit in kind for employer-provided cars that are available for private use. Although part of the income system, the appropriate percentages that determine the rate of tax paid by individuals are based on CO2 emissions. There are currently around 900,000 company car drivers in the UK, and the benefit raises approximately £2.3 billion per annum. In July 2019, the Government announced that, for CCT, new cars first registered on or after 6 April 2020 will report CO2 emissions using the WLTP, which is an improved emissions testing regime that aims to reduce the 40% gap that exists between current emissions reporting and real world driving. The Government announced that to smooth the transition to the WLTP, for cars first registered on or after 6 April 2020, CCT rates will be reduced by 2 percentage points in 2020-21 before returning to planned rates over the following two years.

To support decarbonisation, the Government also announced that all zero-emission company cars would attract a reduced CCT rate of 0% in 2020-21 and 1% in 2021-22, before returning to the planned 2% rate in 2022-23. To give certainty to company car drivers, leasing companies and manufacturers, the recent Budget announced the extension of 2022-23 rates for an additional two years until April 2025.

The changes made by clauses 7 to 9 will confirm that all new cars provided to employees and available for private use that are first registered on or after 6 April 2020 will be taxed according to the CO2 emissions figure measured under the WLTP. It is also clarified that cars first registered before 6 April 2020 will continue to be taxed on the basis of the CO2 emissions figure measured under the new European driving cycle—NEDC—procedure.

The clauses also introduce reductions in the appropriate percentages for 2020-21 and 2021-22 for zero-emission cars and all cars registered on or after 6 April 2020. In addition, they make a number of minor technical amendments—for example, by clarifying that where the electric range figure is converted from kilometres to miles, the value should be rounded up to the nearest whole mile.

I urge that the clauses stand part of the Bill. The changes they introduce will aid decarbonisation by confirming the introduction of the WLTP and beneficial CCT rates for ultra-low and zero-emission cars. They will also provide welcome certainty to company car drivers, leasing companies and manufacturers on the future taxation of company cars until April 2025.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
4 Jun 2020, 12:26 p.m.

As this is our first exchange across a chamber, may I say how much I look forward to working with the Exchequer Secretary—and occasionally giving her the runaround—during our time together in these roles?

Let me begin with an overall observation, which is that this Parliament has declared a climate emergency. The country understands the extent to which irreversible, catastrophic climate breakdown is an existential threat to life on Earth and means serious disruption to our way of life. Actually, given the disruption that the pandemic is inflicting on all of us at the moment, lots of people are reflecting on the serious longer term disruption were we to allow such a catastrophic climate breakdown to take place. But here we are with this Finance Bill, dealing with one of the few areas in which the Bill tries to make any progress at all towards tackling the climate emergency by talking about car tax percentages. This is entirely reasonable and entirely straightforward, but it falls way short of meeting the challenge facing our country.

When Greta Thunberg addressed parliamentarians here in our own Parliament, she said:

“Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.”

I am pretty sure that when Greta Thunberg talked about foundational measures, she did not have car tax at the forefront of her mind. Yet here we are with a Bill that, as we have already heard from the hon. Member for Glasgow Central, falls way short of meeting the challenge.

It is disappointing because the Treasury has a crucial role to play in promoting efforts to tackle destructive climate change. This ought to be a national mission for our country. As one of the largest financial centres in the world economy, the UK has a clear responsibility to provide international leadership through the greening of our financial system. But we also know that the tentacles of the Treasury reach into every Department and can compel all sorts of behavioural change, can incentivise and disincentivise all sorts of policy change, right across the breadth of Government. I would like to see Her Majesty’s Treasury showing far stronger leadership in that regard.

It is also the case that through taxation, either tax incentives or disincentives, created through punitive tax measures, we can effect behavioural change across the country. I therefore hope that the scope and ambit and the ambition of future Finance Bills live up to the challenge.

If Ministers are not persuaded by the exhortations of Greta Thunberg, perhaps they will tune in to the interview given by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales just this morning. As someone who has been committed for decades to tackling climate change and to supporting biodiversity and the natural environment, he too makes a compelling case. I hope Ministers will take that on board.

Break in Debate

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
4 Jun 2020, 12:03 a.m.

There is indeed not terribly much to oppose here, but this is about the ambition of the Government to make a change, to make something different out of this Bill and to do something different. I draw the attention of Government Members to what Norway has done to increase the use of electric vehicles, so that 42% of its cars are now electric vehicles. The Norwegians did that with incentives such as no annual road tax for electric vehicles, company car tax reduction to 40% on electric vehicles, changes to purchase and import taxes, and an exemption from 25% VAT on purchase. They had an ambitious programme, and they needed the infrastructure, but they took those actions and they saw a dramatic change in the number of electric vehicles as a result.

I encourage the Government to look at what can be done. If cars are to be around for some time to come, how can we make them better? In many parts of Scotland, for example, people need a car to get around In large parts of rural Scotland it would be impossible to do anything other than have a car, but if we can make those cars electric vehicles, providing the plug-in infrastructure for them and the tax incentives to reduce their cost, we could make that change achievable. I ask the Government to be more ambitious.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch - Hansard
4 Jun 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I thank both hon. Members for the points that they have made and the good questions they asked. I reiterate that tackling climate change and improving the environment are top priorities of the Government. The UK is a world leader on climate change. The reason why we are doing this is to address several things at once.

Let us remind ourselves what the WLTP is. It is designed to ensure that we are reflecting real world driving conditions more accurately by including a longer test time. The aim is to reduce the 40% gap between lab tests and real world driving. We have put many other levers in place to address the broader issue of climate change.

I accept the point about complexity—I recognise the need to ensure that this does not have an overall impact on the consumer. One of the reasons why we are phasing it in this way is to better protect the automotive sector. I thank both Members for the points they made.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 7 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 8 and 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 10

Apprenticeship bursaries paid to persons leaving local authority care

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman - Hansard
4 Jun 2020, 12:01 a.m.

Clause 10 exempts care leavers’ apprenticeship bursary payments from income tax. This Bill contains areas on which there will be disagreements across the Committee, and areas that the Opposition Front-Bench team has noted that it wants to prioritise in scrutinising the Government, but there are other clauses that are essentially technical in nature on which I doubt there is any serious disagreement about their importance or intent. This, I suggest, is one of those clauses.

Young people who are in care or have left care who choose to start an apprenticeship receive a £1,000 bursary to help them to make the transition to the workplace for their practical studies. The extra financial support is for those aged 16 to 24 and living in England. Payments such as the care leavers’ apprenticeship bursary would normally be subject to income tax, as such payments relate to employment. Changes made by clause 10 mean that bursary payments made to care leavers who start an apprenticeship are exempt from income tax.

The changes affirm the Government’s commitment to support care leavers and ensure that those in receipt of the bursary can benefit by the full amount. The clause ensures that care leavers starting an apprenticeship will benefit from 100% of the bursary value. It is the right thing to do and I commend the clause to the Committee.