Mark made the following contributions to today’s debate on the Finance Bill:
Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): While I support the robust way in which the Minister is protecting the public purse, he will also recognise, not least from the correspondence he must have received, that many colleagues and constituents feel that this fairness deal does not apply both ways. At times when individuals have owed the Exchequer rather more money, they have had interest charged at very high levels. Will my hon. Friend try to ensure that what is good for the geese is also good for the gander in respect of these matters? I entirely understand that he wants an equitable arrangement, but there is a sense from many taxpayers and indeed their financial advisers that all too often the Revenue does not see it in quite the same light when they are on the other side of the equation.
Mr Gauke: I can tell my right hon. Friend, who is a tireless defender of the interests of the taxpayer, that the measure is targeted at very specific circumstances in which compound interest may have to be paid in relation to claims which, as I have said, potentially date back to 1973. I hope I can reassure him that we do not believe the same approach should be applied in every case.
Mark Field: Will the Minister give us an indication of the amount of consultation that has taken place on these changes, which, obviously, have been introduced since the publication of the Finance (No. 2) Act 2015? While I entirely appreciate that he rightly wants to ensure that the Exchequer receives the correct amount of money, and while I also appreciate that there is clearly a potential for carried interest payments to be at least—shall we say—uncertain, is he entirely satisfied that there has been sufficient consultation to ensure that those who will be affected by the changes have had an opportunity to put their case?
Mr Gauke: It certainly is the case that there has been no shortage of representations received by the Treasury on the changes we have undertaken in this area. As always, it is necessary to strike a balance between ensuring we move swiftly to address any risk to the Exchequer and ensuring the legislation is adequate and achieves what the Government seek. I am satisfied that in these circumstances we have struck that balance successfully, and that there has been the opportunity to understand the implications of this legislation while at the same time ensuring we have been able to protect the Exchequer.
Mark Field: I congratulate the hon. Lady on her debut at the Dispatch Box, and I hope she will be looking across in precisely the same direction for many years to come. Will she give at least some thought to what was said by the Minister, in that there is a delicate balance to be struck here? We are trying not only to encourage people to have low-emission vehicles—this is not just about carbon dioxide, because nitrogen dioxide is increasingly seen as being a problem, although none of this legislation properly addresses that—but to ensure that relatively less well-off people who perhaps have to hang on to a car for many years should not be artificially penalised. Does she not recognise that the balance the Government have tried to put in place is at least a sensible one?
Rebecca Long Bailey: I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s comments. He is certainly a silver-tongued fox, and I look forward to staring at him from these Benches in the months to come. He raises some important issues. Hopefully, I will address them during my speech.
Mark Field: Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that the concept of carried interest is integral to the way that private equity and venture capital industries operate? The Government have been pretty robust at trying to draw the distinction to which he refers, between capital and income, and any abusive schemes will be closed down. Carried interest is not a con. It is the very nature of the way in which venture capital funds operate in investing the funds they have for future projects.
Roger Mullin: I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think I accused anyone of being engaged in a con. It is not a con; it is perfectly legal, as George Osborne himself recognised in 2012. The issue is that, despite the technicalities, the ordinary member of the public will look at this and say, “Is this fair, particularly at this time in the development of our economy?” I am primarily driven by what is fair to the wider public in our society.
Mark Field: I do not want to get involved in a philosophical debate about fairness or otherwise in relation to the tax system. The hon. Gentleman is making a perfectly logical argument and one that I have some sympathy with—that in the longer term we should try to move towards a system whereby capital gains and income gains are considered at similar rates. The fact that there is such a big disparity between those rates causes the imbalance.
Roger Mullin: I agree with much of what the right hon. Gentleman says, but I would go wider. Our whole tax system is incredibly and unnecessarily complicated. Why do we not begin to think about moving towards an alignment, say, of income tax and national insurance in the longer term? There are many areas where the over-complication serves nobody’s interests well. It does not serve the Exchequer or the wider public, so I have some sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman’s argument. I return to the point I was trying to make before his two excellent interventions.
Mark Field: I appreciate that the current regime for vehicle excise duty reflects carbon emissions, but I mentioned in an earlier intervention that one of the biggest concerns in relation to clean air, particularly in London, is about NOx—nitrogen dioxide—emissions. That is a particular problem in emissions from diesel vehicles. Will some consideration be given to making that part and parcel of the consultation on adapting this duty in the years to come?
Mr Gauke: The view we have taken about NOx is that it is best addressed through regulation, rather than through vehicle excise duty. It is necessary for the Government to use all the tools in the toolbox in these circumstances. We think that that is the right way to address that concern. Indeed, new regulatory standards are being put in place for NOx.