VoteClimate: Finance Bill - 2nd July 2020

Finance Bill - 2nd July 2020

Here are the climate-related sections of speeches by MPs during the Commons debate Finance Bill.

Full text: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-07-02/debates/C1F59852-6C39-4BAB-94E0-5D6688121BC5/FinanceBill

12:53 Bridget Phillipson (Labour)

(b) assessing how the Enterprise Investment Scheme is furthering efforts to mitigate climate change, and any differences in the benefit of this funding in respect of—

This amendment would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to analyse the impact of the existing EIS and the changes proposed in Clause 36 in terms of impact on the economy and geographical reach; to assess the EIS’s support for efforts to mitigate climate change; and to evaluate the Scheme’s lessons for the encouragement of UK Government-backed venture capital funds in the devolved nations.

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13:00 Kevin Hollinrake (Conservative)

In respect of structures and buildings, it is clear that the Government are making an attempt to amend the system to incentivise capital investment, but they can and should go further. At the risk of repeating myself once again, the easiest step they could take is to scrap VAT on building repairs. In my constituency of Aberdeen South, I have been struck by just how many homeowners, who often live in some of the most beautiful granite buildings, are unable to undertake the repairs and improvements that they either want or need due to the high costs involved. As we seek to improve energy efficiency in our homes, particularly in often old and cold buildings, surely the Government should be assessing every measure to incentivise progress, not just to help rid us of fuel poverty, but to protect both the environment and the future of our planet. Cumulative action to combat climate change is needed, and I would welcome a firm commitment from the Minister in this regard.

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13:45 Matt Rodda (Labour)

I wish to speak to new clause 29, which has been tabled in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds), the shadow Chancellor, and other hon. and right hon. colleagues. Yesterday afternoon, I addressed the Government’s poverty of ambition on climate change. This afternoon, I want to address their poverty of ambition on tackling poverty itself.

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14:45 Claudia Webbe (Other)

I know that the Financial Secretary does not share this affliction, but some falsely believe that air passenger duty is an environmental measure. That is manifestly not the case. It is levied on passenger numbers, so that an inefficient empty plane pays less than an efficient full one. It bears no relation to how modern an aircraft is or to the fuel efficiency with which it is being flown. Also, it does not take into account the fact that, to the extent that it disincentivises flight, the alternative for many passengers may be a long and polluting car journey. This is particularly true of domestic aviation. In any case, aviation accounts for barely 2% of human-induced global emissions, and in February this year, UK aviation committed to being net carbon zero by 2050. That is the first national net zero aviation commitment anywhere in the world.

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15:00 Matt Western (Labour)

The second area that I call on the Government to prioritise as we plan our future beyond this pandemic is the environment. I was really disappointed not to hear a greater emphasis on the progress towards our net-zero carbon targets in the Prime Minister’s speech. This is a fantastic opportunity to implement carbon-free and low-carbon standards into our construction of new homes and into our transport systems. We can also take this opportunity to specify new standards for biodiversity, water quality and air quality and to redouble our efforts to increase the proportion of our energy that comes from renewable sources. I particularly encourage the Government to think not just about new buildings, but about bringing existing buildings up to 21st-century standards. Committing to a programme of retrofitting insulation to our ageing homes, especially those belonging to low-income families, can provide skilled employment opportunities and help us to make substantial progress towards our net-zero carbon goals.

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15:39 Jesse Norman (Conservative)

As has been pointed out, covid-19 is not the only crisis that we face. The Government have committed to reducing the United Kingdom’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. The Bill is another step towards that target. Not only does it pave the way for the forthcoming plastic packaging tax, but it removes the vehicle excise duty expensive car supplement for zero-emissions vehicles and ensures that, now we have left the European Union, a carbon price will remain in place. Those measures will help to ensure that our post-covid-19 economy is greener than before.

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15:46 Bridget Phillipson (Labour)

The Finance Bill is a series of tweaks and corrections. Rather than raising revenue, it extends and expands tax reliefs and tinkers with, rather than ends, the entrepreneurs’ relief. Netflix, Amazon Prime and other high-grossing streaming services will be unaffected by the digital services tax, for all we welcome its introduction in its limited scope. As it stands, the digital services tax will create up to £440 million in annual revenue, when the UK in fact loses £1.3 billion in corporation tax to five of the biggest UK tech firms each year. That is £1.3 billion that could go towards helping schools to enable children to return safely in September, towards more nurses and more doctors, towards creating new jobs, towards decarbonising our economy and towards funding more public health research, which this pandemic has shown we desperately need.

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16:02 Anthony Browne (Conservative)

There are some much-debated measures in the Bill, but I think that in the end it gets the balance right between tackling tax avoidance and encouraging entrepreneurialism. It is right that everyone pays their fair share. I am at heart an economic liberal who believes that if a Government are going to take a person’s hard-earned money, the burden of proof lies on the Government to justify doing so. In general, I get more joy from cutting or scrapping a tax than introducing a new one, but it is notable that the Bill introduces new taxes. The possible carbon tax is needed to tackle climate change by ensuring that companies pay what economists call the externality of emitting greenhouse gases. The plastics tax is a great nudge tax, pushing industry into recycling more plastic by imposing costs on not recycling. As economists say, we should tax bads, not goods.

Then there is the new digital tax, discussed broadly in this House, which ensures that global technology companies pay their fair share. These technology companies bring us all so many benefits, which is why many of them have grown rapidly into some of the most valuable firms in the world, but their global business model and the joys of internal transfer pricing, basically mean that they can decide how much corporation tax they pay in each different country where they operate. The ultimate solution to this is a global agreement on the taxation of technology companies, but these agreements can take forever to reach, not least if those countries that benefit from the lack of an international agreement drag their heels. So it is absolutely right that countries such as the UK take the lead in introducing interim national measures. With declared national profits at the discretion of finance directors, the only option for the digital tax is to be that unprecedented thing—a tax on turnover. So the carbon tax, the plastic tax and the digital services tax are three taxes that can all clearly be justified. I welcome them.

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16:08 Felicity Buchan (Conservative)

I also commend to the House the measures in this Bill that incentivise the greening of the economy. Over the last 10 years, we have shown that we can have economic growth while lowering emissions. The environment is critical to my residents in Kensington and, in particular, air quality, since we are in central London. I am glad that my area, Kensington and Chelsea, has seen the largest three-yearly decline in emissions in the whole of London, but we all know that there is an awful lot still to be done, so I welcome many of the measures in this Bill, such as the support for zero-emission vehicles, the changes to the vehicle excise duty regime and the preparations for the introduction of the plastic packaging tax. These will all be warmly welcomed in Kensington.

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