Structures and buildings allowances: rate of relief

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 9 Mehefin 2020.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Stephen Flynn Stephen Flynn Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Financial Secretary) 2:15, 9 Mehefin 2020

I look forward to serving under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh. Before I start, I want to touch quickly on the remarks that the hon. Member for Ilford North made about why the new clause was tabled. This is the only opportunity available to us to highlight the issues that we seek to promote. Of course, that is not a criticism, and I would certainly welcome seeing a few more new clauses from Labour Members. Indeed, there is opportunity for all of us to discuss what we seek to discuss, but the key thing is that we need to move something first.

On the matter at hand, amending the tax system in order to incentivise capital investment is a good thing—it is something that we should all want—but when we take such actions we also need to ensure that good governance is put in place. We must also look at the effectiveness of those actions, particularly when we are dealing with the potential impact on business investment, employment, productivity and energy efficiency.

I want to focus on energy efficiency, because it is so important in combatting the climate crisis that we all face. Words mean only so much, so we need action too. We all want to understand how Government measures incentivise energy efficiency, and we want to see further detail behind that, but we also want to see how the Government could go further. For instance, I wrote to the Government—I am not sure whether I got a response—about VAT on building repairs. I appreciate that in the south-east of England, the need for energy efficiency in properties is perhaps not as urgent as it is in the Baltic north-east of Scotland, where I hail from, but that is not to say that it is not a hugely significant issue.

Although we would like VAT to be reduced to encourage home owners, property developers and the like to improve the energy efficiency of older properties, that is not something that the Scottish Parliament can legislate on; the Scottish Government’s hands are tied by the UK Government in that regard. I hope the Minister will take the opportunity to clarify why there has been no move on that issue. We want properties to be more energy-efficient, and reducing VAT on the essential repairs that they require would be a logical, practical and easy step. It is deeply frustrating that such matters are not within the Scottish Parliament’s competence, and that we need to rely on a UK Government we did not vote for and do not support. So much good is happening in Scotland at the moment and the Scottish Government are doing incredible work, but their hands are tied. For instance, in December 2019, the Scottish Government’s Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart, highlighted that, by the end of 2021, we will have allocated more than £1 billion since 2009 to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency to make homes warmer and cheaper to heat.

In my former life as an elected councillor in Aberdeen, I saw at first hand the good work that housing associations and local authorities have done to improve insulation, use newer windows to stop energy leakage and put better heating systems into homes. Moves are afoot to increase our energy efficiency, and they are all positive.

In Scotland, we are blessed that we will have legally binding standards for home energy efficiency from 2024 onwards, which will make things even better. However, we should not have to rely on the UK Government’s approval to put in further measures. I again ask the Minister to clarify why the Government have been unable or unwilling to reduce VAT to date.

As I say, so much good is being done in Scotland to improve energy efficiency. It is only right that the UK Government agree to the new clause, in order to then assess their own actions and determine what more can be done to improve the situation, not only for those in Scotland but for those across the United Kingdom.