Clause 218 - Agreement between UK and Switzerland

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:15 pm ar 20 Mehefin 2013.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Shadow Minister (Treasury) 12:15, 20 Mehefin 2013

I cannot confirm either way the hon. Lady’s question about “Swissness”.

The interventions somewhat undermine the seriousness of the issue, which is how important it is that the agreement should have the intended effect. Hon. Members who served on last year’s Committee will remember the concerns expressed—that the agreement covers only accounts held by individuals, and that the UK is permitted to request the details of only 500 individual Swiss accounts a year, half the number that was agreed with Germany. We also expressed concerns about the limited involvement of HMRC in identifying accounts and the significant lead-in time between the agreement being announced—October 2011—and its coming into force in January 2013, which gave many account holders the opportunity to switch the location of their funds.

In light of those concerns, and the debate we had last year, I am keen for the Minister to update us on how the agreement is operating and what its impact has been. In January 2013, the Chancellor announced that a down payment of £340 million, or 500 million Swiss francs, had been paid to the UK as part of a one-off levy contained in the agreement. Will the Minister inform the Committee when the next instalment of money is due to be received from the Swiss and how much he anticipates?

The Minister has previously stated that, overall, the agreement will deliver around £5 billion of previously unpaid tax to the UK. Has there been any change to that anticipated figure? From how many individual Swiss bank accounts has the UK requested details since January? We have a limit of 500 per year; does he believe that that limit will need to be increased, and, if so, is there any mechanism for doing so? Are the Government aware of any evidence of people moving their accounts from Switzerland to other secretive jurisdictions between the time the announcement was made and the time the agreement came into force? What is the UK doing to encourage international action in respect of countries to which funds previously held in Swiss bank accounts may have been moved? Updates on those matters will be useful to the Committee.