Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Sir Iain Duncan Smith
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I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I will not risk repeating what he has said, but it is the reality. I was one of those who gave evidence to the review of the loan charge set-up because it was quite clear that it was causing huge problems for many decent people in my constituency. I am sure it was the same for Members on all sides of the House; I do not for one moment pretend that it was a problem for my constituents alone.

I recommend to my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary some of the amendments and new clauses that we have been speaking about. I will not go through all of them, but I do want to make this point. Amendment 33, which allows an umbrella not to be an intermediary and still operate, provides strict conditions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden laid out those five conditions, which are critical. I recommend those to the Financial Secretary; I am not going to repeat them, because we would just go on doing that all night.

I want to deal with amendment 34 in a bit more detail. The important thing about amendment 34 is that, in reality, all inside-IR35 workers could easily be paid via a recruitment agency payroll—that is the key bit here—and umbrella companies are of benefit to recruiters, not to workers. Under the original drafting of the off-payroll rules, an umbrella company could classify as a payment intermediary, so payment would have to be made to the umbrella net of tax, reducing an incentive to exist. The behavioural effect will mean agencies will put workers on payroll if they are not outside IR35. The key thing is that this would give the sector a year to re-gear and provide its service as agencies in a payroll payment bureau-type manner, instead of the Government taking other decisive action, including banning certain practices and statutory regulation.

I am trying to be reasonable about this to the Government. I do think that this is really important. I am going to conclude on this. Overall, if we look at the purpose of the amendments and new clauses in this area, I think they set out what the problem is. The people who will get hurt by all of this in the end, when the Treasury finally decides to do something about it, will be the people who were the victims of this, not those who set these schemes up.

There are five points here that are critical: the whole purpose is to stop overnight aggressive tax avoidance schemes introduced and encouraged by some unscrupulous agencies; stop overnight the exploitation of contractors, forced into schemes that adopt malpractice to skim moneys from contractors; stop overnight the kickbacks being used that encourage malpractice; provide sunset clauses to ensure that the sector has until 6 April 2022 to prepare for the changes; and make agencies and clients liable for any malpractice, thereby removing the incentives to encourage it.

These are very simple, basic points. We are not asking for a revolution; we are asking for sense. I know exactly where this is going because in 29 years I have seen this time and again—do not move; later on, blame somebody else; and back comes the Treasury to say, “We’ll now get that money back”. I think the loan charge—I come back to this—is the biggest example of where, when things goes wrong, it is those who have suffered who end up paying the penalty, not those who skimmed off the top and are now living somewhere outside the reach of Her Majesty’s Treasury. I simply say to the Financial Secretary, with all due deference: please, please give consideration to this and at least have a proper review so that we may engage with this in due course and settle it.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op)
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First, I draw Members’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I rise to support my colleagues on the Front Bench and new clause 24 about the surcharge on overseas buyers: the extra stamp duty that is charged. Although we are seeing a 2% uplift, it is not what was originally promised, and even that, I would say, is still not enough to prevent people from speculating, particularly in my constituency and elsewhere in London, on the expensive London housing market and overheating that housing market.

I came across this level of investment in my early days in this place—I have now been here for 16 years—when I discovered that whole blocks of new developments were being bought up overnight. I could not work out who was doing it. I then managed to inveigle my way on to the distribution lists of some of the estate agents, which were advertising the properties in Hong Kong and Dubai, and they sold over a weekend.

These were not homes for local people. They were often bought up by finance companies overseas and sold on. The original reason for the extra stamp duty surcharge was to try to curtail that to some extent, but I do not think it is enough. Foreign investors are buying homes, which are becoming commodities; they are advertised with yield—it is simply about increasing the rent. As the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Abena Oppong-Asare), highlighted, at least £53 million and counting in revenue has been lost from the Exchequer at a time when we need it more than ever. The excuse is often that developers need the money because they cannot operate without that cash-flow model. I think they would adapt pretty quickly. In my constituency, there are blocks that local people have kept their eye on, wanting to try to buy, only to find they have already been sold en masse overseas. A stamp duty increase would help a little bit.

The stamp duty holiday has been helpful to many people, but all that contributes to fuelling demand for housing while the Government are not increasing supply. Those rising house prices put homeownership out of reach of so many of my constituents and people up and down the country. It is having a major dampening impact on people’s lives and livelihoods and on the economy in the long term. It does nothing for private renters and nothing for those in desperate need of affordable housing.

We are now able to go out and do our normal roving surgeries on doorsteps, and I will give some examples of people I have met in the last week alone. Faisal works in the NHS. He has three children in a two-bedroom council flat, and he has been bidding to move to a bigger property for 10 years, but such is the demand in my constituency that someone in housing need does not get to move. If they are homeless, they now get stuck in a hostel room for years, whereas only five or so years ago it was for about six months. Jane—not her real name—and her husband live with two large teenage boys in a two-bedroom flat. I have known her for some years, having seen her at surgeries. I happened to be on her doorstep the other day, and she made sure that I saw how big her boys have become. She has been coming to see me since they were toddlers, yet she still cannot get rehoused. This is no criticism of Hackney Council, which is doing a fantastic job of trying to build, and is building, affordable social housing, but it cannot keep pace with the demand. In the last week alone, two women I knocked on the doors of were sharing beds with their 12 and 13-year-old sons respectively.

One of the saddest cases is an NHS porter I met less than 10 days ago who shares a room in a private rented home with his 16-year-old daughter. He works. He could not qualify for affordable housing even if he wanted to, because he has no recourse to public funds, despite propping up our NHS in one of the most challenging years in its history. He is doing all the right things—working, trying to be a good father—but he cannot afford private rents. That is not surprising: it is at least £1,500 a month to rent a two-bedroom flat in my constituency; £750,000 to buy a two-bedroom flat; and rent for a three-bedroom house is not much shy of £3,500 a month.

We need to increase stamp duty immediately, while monitoring its effect, and we should increase it further for overseas purchasers. We should not have a housing market that has led to homes being owned by finance vehicles or absentee landlords who have no interest in it being a home but simply see it as an investment. Homes should be homes. Investment is all very well, but this is really damaging the future prospects of children in my constituency, some of whom will never have not only their own bedroom but maybe even their own bed between now and when they hopefully earn enough money to leave home, although frankly we are a long way off their earning enough money to buy a £750,000 flat. The Government really need to step up. They talk about levelling up, but that is certainly not happening for many people in my constituency.

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Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier
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I have to challenge the Minister on IR35. He is speaking as though it is somehow all fine. It has decimated sections of the tech and IT industry in my constituency, where groups of people came together to deliver short contracts and were actually paying as much tax as the Exchequer was getting from them. I can provide figures if he would like to take this up further, but let us not pretend that it is all fine.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
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There is no suggestion on my part that it is all fine. One cannot make meaningful change to a market that is not performing as one would like and expect everything to be perfectly fine within weeks of the implementation of the measure. The point that I am making is that there are important players in the industry that recognise that—in the quote that I have given—“thousands of businesses” are

“now aware… that IR35 reform is manageable”,

and so it is.

As the hon. Lady will well know, under the previous arrangements there were people who were performing like employees—often working side by side with them—but not paying that tax, and it was important that they did so. If she doubts that, she might want to reflect on the question of what the tax revenue raised from those organisations is used for. The answer is that it is used to support the NHS, our public services and all the other things that the Government are trying to do to get this country through a difficult moment in our history.