All 1 Kemi Badenoch contributions to the Taxation (Post-transition Period) Act 2020

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Wed 9th Dec 2020
Taxation (Post-transition Period) Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & 2nd reading

Taxation (Post-transition Period) Bill Debate

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Department: HM Treasury

Taxation (Post-transition Period) Bill

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons
Wednesday 9th December 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Taxation (Post-transition Period) Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Committee of the Whole House Amendments as at 9 December 2020 - (9 Dec 2020)
Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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It is a privilege to close this debate on behalf of the Government, and I thank Members from all parts of the House for their thoughtful and varied contributions.

At the end of this month, the transition period will end. As my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary pointed out at the beginning of today’s debate, we have a great responsibility to be ready for this event. The measures contained in the Taxation (Post-transition Period) Bill will play an important part in the preparations.

Let me take this opportunity to thank Opposition Members for their constructive and collegiate approach throughout the passage of this Bill, despite their evident reservations, and in that same spirit I will address some of the points raised in today’s debate.

The Bill is an essential part of our preparations for the end of the transition period. It takes forward important changes to our tax system to support the smooth continuation of business across the UK. It contains six measures. Three relate to the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol and three implement wider changes to the tax system, which are needed before 1 January. Most importantly, it will ensure that we meet our commitments to Northern Ireland, including on unfettered access and those commitments as set out in the Northern Ireland protocol. Taken together, the measures form an important part of our preparations as we resume our place as a fully sovereign trading nation.

Now that we have further clarity on the outcome of the Joint Committee negotiations, it is vital that the provisions are in place before the end of the transition period to provide that certainty. The Bill’s passage is necessarily rapid, but it will allow for these important changes to be implemented on time. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) asked if we believed it can be done, and my answer is yes, of course. The UK Government will take forward a pragmatic approach that draws upon available flexibilities to implement the protocol without causing undue disruption to lives and livelihoods.

The Government are committed to supporting business. At the centre of the package is the free-to-use trader support service, which will support business when moving goods into Northern Ireland, educating traders on what the protocol means for them and completing customs safety and security declarations on their behalf. That is working. Since the launch of the registration portal in September, more than 18,000 businesses have signed up for support from the trader support service.

Turning to Members’ comments, the hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry) requested confirmation that the UK meets its obligations. The powers in the Bill allow us to implement the Northern Ireland protocol in a way that is consistent with our obligations, and I appreciate his broader supportive statements. My hon. Friends the Members for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher) and for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones), among others, rightly referred to our closing of the VAT loophole in clause 7 and schedule 3. Low-value consignment relief is subject to widespread abuse and contributes to trade distortion. It disadvantages UK high street businesses that are required to charge VAT where overseas businesses are not, either for legitimate reasons or through abuse, and removing the relief will bring overseas sellers on to an equal footing with UK businesses.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) asked why the clause applied just to low-value goods and whether there was an opportunity for it to apply to high-value goods as well. The reason is that the £135 threshold aligns with the threshold for customs duty liability. Imports of goods greater than £135 in value are subject to enhanced customs requirements, which would negate the benefit of moving VAT away from the border. Therefore, imports of goods greater than that amount will remain subject to the current model for goods arriving from non-EU countries, where VAT is collected at the point of importation.

My hon. Friend also asked what revenue we expected from this change. The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast that these changes will raise over £300 million a year over the next five years, and £1.6 billion over the scorecard period. Approximately two thirds of that will come from improving collection and tackling non-compliance through the new VAT treatment of cross-border goods, and the final third of the revenue will come from the removal of low-value consignment relief, which will end widespread abuse of this relief.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) asked whether the ECJ would be the ultimate arbiter for VAT and excise. The ECJ will continue to have a role where EU directives apply in Northern Ireland—for example, where there are disputes on how the EU rules should be interpreted. However, the rules will continue to be policed by HMRC, which will continue to be the tax authority for the whole of the UK. He also mentioned Northern Ireland being subject to two regulatory systems. Northern Ireland is and will remain part of the UK and its VAT system. It is correct that the Northern Ireland protocol means that NI will continue to align with the EU VAT rules in respect of goods, but not services. That is to ensure that trade is not disrupted on the island of Ireland, and to allow us to meet our commitments under the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. But, as I said, HMRC will continue to be the tax authority for the whole of the UK. Businesses will continue to have a single UK VAT number, issued by HMRC, and they will submit only one UK VAT return to account for VAT on all supplies of goods and services.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) asked about the current negotiations. Just to remind him and reiterate to the House, the UK Government set out on 17 September that Parliament would be asked to support the use of provisions such as clause 45 of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill and any similar subsequent provisions in a Finance Bill. These clauses were introduced as reasonable steps to create a safety net, so that the Government would always be able to deliver on their commitments to the people of Northern Ireland in the event that a negotiated outcome could not be reached in the Joint Committee. However, as we all now know, following intensive and constructive work over the past weeks by the UK and EU, we now have an agreement in principle on all issues in relation to the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. As we have mutually agreed solutions, the UK can now withdraw clauses 44, 45 and 47 of the UKIM Bill and not introduce any similar provisions in this taxation Bill.

Pat McFadden Portrait Mr McFadden
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On that point about the “notwithstanding” clauses, can the Minister guarantee, given that neither the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill nor this Bill has finished its passage in the House, that the Government will not reintroduce them at any further stage?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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As I have just said, I am not in a position to be talking about what is happening in the future. We have been negotiating in good faith and we have an agreement in principle. I do not believe that those clauses will be coming back, but as the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, the negotiations are still ongoing and we need to wait and see what the outcomes of those negotiations are. It would be quite wrong for me or him to pre-empt anything else that will be taking place, and we must not bind the hands of our negotiators. It is absolutely right that we all speak with one voice in this House.

The hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) mentioned GB and NI parcels and asked how consumers would know whether there was a customs charge. The movement of parcels into Northern Ireland is another important part of how the protocol will work in practice for people in Northern Ireland. That is why the UK Government will take forward a pragmatic approach, just as we have elsewhere, that draws on available flexibilities to implement the protocol without causing undue disruption. In terms of schedule 3, she gave the example of the earrings from Slovenia that she had ordered. It is worth stressing that schedule 3 deals with imports to the UK and not exports. It will ensure that UK customers see the amount of VAT that needs to be paid at the point of sale on goods below £135. For goods between Northern Ireland and GB, VAT is already charged on supplies sold by a GB business to an NI customer. When the Northern Ireland protocol comes into effect, Northern Ireland businesses or consumers purchasing goods from VAT-registered businesses will see no significant difference in costs from a VAT perspective.


Let me conclude by saying that tonight, this House has the opportunity to give businesses in Northern Ireland and throughout the rest of the UK certainty about the arrangements that will apply from 1 January next year, to strengthen the precious bonds of union that tie this country together, and to prepare this country for an even brighter future as an independent sovereign trading nation. For all those reasons, I urge all Members to support the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Committee of the whole House (Order, this day).

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I will now suspend the sitting for a brief period in order for both Dispatch Boxes to be sanitised.