National Insurance Contributions Bill (First sitting) DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Liz TwistMain Page: Liz Twist (Labour - Blaydon)
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions. He repeated the question from Second Reading of why the measure is for one year, contrasting it with the freeports measures, which are for three years. The Exchequer Secretary was absolutely right, but it is important for me to add more colour.
The freeports measure is set at a lower upper secondary threshold, but for a longer period, because the goal is to bring people into an environment that has already been greatly supported by taxpayers, but to create circumstances in which they can have long-term secure employment, in particular with all the employment rights that come with more durable employment. The NICs relief for veterans is at a higher level for a shorter period, because the goal is to support a very specific process of transition, which veterans have as they come out of the armed forces.
Many people in the room have constituencies in which there are veterans or serving armed forces personnel, so they will appreciate the importance of the measure. Veterans are extremely skilled individuals who have extraordinary life experience, but there is often that process of transition. Therefore, the more effective approach is to provide more support for a shorter period to assist that transition in as flexible a way as possible.
I fully understand the concern of the hon. Lady, and precisely because the Government have been concerned about transition, we have introduced the relief. If it were the case that veterans still had a serious problem of finding secure and stable employment, of course that would be a matter that the Government would wish to reflect on and consider. I thank her for raising it.
To go to the second point raised by the hon. Member for Ealing North, he asked about the timing and the issues of real-time payments that the Bill contemplates. I understand the concern, in particular at this moment of pandemic when the Government are seeking to protect and support the cash flow of businesses and have done so across a vast number of them, across the whole of the United Kingdom, in many different forms. The Committee is aware of that.
The hon. Gentleman asked if we would look at that. Of course, I am happy to consider the matter further and to ask HMRC to consider it, but as he will recall, the matter has been given extensive consultation and internal discussion, and the IT and other problems that I described are not ones that can be wished away.