Finance (No. 2) Bill — Special regard to trading patterns of the retail industry — 30 Jun 1998

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

New clause 5 is an attempt to correct one of the main deficiencies in the Government's corporation tax system, specifically the payment method provided for in the Bill. However, so that I might describe fully the intention behind new clause 5, I hope that it will be in order if I explain to the House some of the problems and--in all fairness--what the Government have tried to achieve in changing the method of taxing companies.

In the past year, we have moved away from the imputation system of corporation tax, which has, for some years, been a familiar part of the taxation landscape. The system was a good one, as it avoided double taxation of profits--in the hands both of companies and of shareholders. However, the Government decided--I can appreciate at least in part their motive for doing so--to switch from that system, abolishing dividend tax credits, to a system of periodic payment of corporation tax.

Our quarrel with the Government is that they have used the change to introduce very large increases in effective taxation. We witnessed an example of such an increase last year, when the abolition of tax credits dealt an enormous blow to the pensions industry by instituting a £5 billion annual raid on pension funds.

Last year was a particularly stupid time to tax savings, as the Government were themselves becoming alarmed at inflationary pressures in the economy. Taxing savings rather than consumption was therefore the most short-sighted action. It was also in conflict with everything that the Government were saying about the need to build up a savings culture in the United Kingdom, to encourage people to provide for their own retirement and generally to increase self-reliance.

I think that the Government understood that the only realistic alternative to welfare dependency was private savings. However, as usual with the Government, there

30 Jun 1998 : Column 181

was a huge gap between Ministers' rhetoric and their action. By withdrawing dividend tax credits, they sent a clear message to those who save and have private pensions: "Do not bother to save. If you do, the Government will come along and change all the rules, and tax the very savings and pension funds that you have built up."

Withdrawing dividend tax credits was another short-sighted action, as an acknowledged strength of the United Kingdom is the fact that we have an enormous and successful private pensions industry. It has been calculated that the total sum of pension assets under management in the United Kingdom exceeds the sum for the rest of the European Union combined. On the continent, perhaps only the Netherlands has a comparable private pensions industry. Governments in other countries, particularly some southern European ones, have colossal off-balance-sheet debt. When they promise pensions to their electorate, all they are doing is hoping that a future generation of taxpayers will meet those obligations.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 175, Noes 276.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con0 127 (+2 tell)079.6%
Lab276 (+2 tell) 0066.5%
LDem0 38082.6%
PC0 40100.0%
SNP0 4066.7%
UUP0 2020.0%
Total:276 175070.4%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

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no rebellions

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