Clause 225 - Data-gathering from merchant acquirers etc

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 20 Mehefin 2013.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury) 3:15, 20 Mehefin 2013

I am conscious of time, so I will be brief. Members will be familiar with the concept of merchant acquirers. They are organisations that process credit and debit card payments for merchants and retailers. The Treasury has deemed that there is a problem with ensuring modernised data-gathering powers for HMRC to obtain third-party data from a specified range of data holders subject to appeal, with penalties for non-compliance.

There are some sensible proposals in the clause, and I have no particular difficulty with tightening up HMRC’s powers, but I want the Minister to dwell for a moment on an issue that we tried to raise through an amendment—amendment 52—that you, Mr Amess, deemed in your wisdom not to be in order.

The amendment relates to some of the difficulties faced with merchant acquirers, and it relates in particular to the data issue, because it is to do with the regulation of merchant acquirers generally. Some individuals are finding that the merchant acquirers—the companies that provide businesses with debit and credit card payments, two of which are RBS and Lloyds—are now assessing those businesses they perceive to be more risky and taking the extreme action of removing their payment facilities. Many small firms have voiced anxieties. The action is causing them concern, especially those that do not have the ability to accept card payments and are therefore at risk of going under.

The removal of the merchant acquirer facilities has been of concern for some time now, to travel agency businesses in particular. Is the Minister able to find time to say that he is aware of some of the issues that have arisen from the merchant acquirers’ heavy-handed approach to withdrawing facilities—often from sole traders that have been deemed, en bloc, not to be trustworthy or capable? That action can really affect small firms, particularly as so many transactions are now electronic and relate to debit and credit card payments. I know that the Minister will want to spend a moment hearing the small enterprise sector’s complaints about that matter.