Office of Tax Simplification

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:00 pm ar 7 Gorffennaf 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Rebecca Long-Bailey Rebecca Long-Bailey Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 4:00, 7 Gorffennaf 2016

We will not press our amendments to a vote, but I want the Minister to understand our rationale for tabling them. As he has already explained, these clauses and schedule 25 make provisions for the OTS’s governance, operation and functions. We support the measures, as we believe that the OTS made some valuable contributions during the previous Parliament to informing debate about taxation and challenging the Government, but we believe strongly that it should be clearly independent. As such, we have tabled amendments to try to beef up the Bill in that regard.

Amendment 140 would amend schedule 25 to specify that the chair of the OTS should be appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with the Treasury Committee’s consent, as is the case with the Office for Budget Responsibility. We think that that is a sensible approach to ensure the impartiality of the OTS. I am sure that the Minister is aware that Labour has placed on record its concerns about the OTS being used for political purposes. We therefore think that the consent of the Treasury Committee to the appointment of the OTS’s chair would be beneficial, and it would be helpful to hear the Minister’s thoughts about that idea in principle.

Amendment 141 would ensure that the Chancellor was not able to refuse to provide funding for OTS inquiries that he did not deem to be within its remit, as I understand could be the case as the Bill currently stands. The amendment would make it harder for the Chancellor to refuse to fund inquiries.

Amendment 142 would insert tax reliefs specifically into the OTS’s functions, allowing it to review the best way to simplify the ever-growing number of tax breaks and reliefs. The Opposition are concerned that there does not seem to be an effective process to review the efficacy of those tax breaks and reliefs in achieving their desired aims, and it would therefore be sensible to insert tax reliefs directly into the functions of the OTS.

Amendments 137 and 138 relate to the reports and reviews that the OTS will produce. Amendment 137 would clarify that the OTS could produce reports as it considered appropriate, not just at the request of the Chancellor, and amendment 138 would allow the OTS directly to lay reports before Parliament. As the Bill currently stands, the OTS will report to the Chancellor, who can then lay those reports before Parliament. The amendments would give the OTS greater independence and accountability to Parliament, not just to the Chancellor.

We will not press the amendments to a vote, but I hope that the Minister will take time to consider and address the Opposition’s concerns about the Bill as drafted and that the Government will be willing to move on those issues in due course.