Published date : 24 May, 2021
I rise to speak in favour of new clause 12, which was tabled in my name and those of my Scottish National party colleagues.
We have previously welcomed the planned future increase to the corporation tax rate and we also very much welcome, as have other speakers in the debate, the news reported today in the Financial Times that the G7 nations, or at least some of them, seem to be close to an agreement on minimum rates of corporate taxation. Like other speakers, I take this opportunity to praise and put on the record my admiration for the Biden Administration for having brought the situation about. It is imperative that the UK Government rise to the moment and seize the opportunity to embrace the emerging consensus on global taxation and ending the race to the bottom on corporate tax rates. For a global minimum tax rate for companies will reduce the opportunities for companies to minimise their tax liabilities by funnelling revenues through other jurisdictions. That will help to ensure that more tax gets paid in the jurisdictions where those revenues have been earned. In the process, that helps to uphold living standards and ensure that a fair contribution is paid to the common good by our corporate citizens for the public goods they consume.
New clause 12 follows our efforts at previous stages of the Bill’s progress in trying to oblige the Government to review the impact of the proposed corporation tax changes on all parts of the UK in respect of investment, employment, productivity, GDP growth and poverty, and to compare the difference between actual and forecast outcomes in the event of a deal with other OECD countries on a minimum level of corporation tax, such as I have mentioned, and in the event that such a deal cannot be reached. I also find much to support in new clause 22, as well as amendments 30 and 31.
Frankly, it should be taken as a given that any company qualifying for tax reliefs should be domiciled in the tax jurisdiction offering those reliefs. It should have an exemplary history when it comes to paying taxes that are due on its activities in that jurisdiction and an exemplary record of behaviour towards its employees, in terms of recognising the right to organise their labour and paying a living wage for that labour.
To conclude, in difficult times or in better times, there is nothing that sticks in the collective craw more than large corporate entities that seek to take almost as much from society as they give in return, and which pay much less than they are able and often end up paying proportionately far less than many of their smaller competitors. I am very happy to support these amendments.
I rise to support new clause 25. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Abena Oppong-Asare) and I would like to echo much of what she said.
We have had freeports before in the UK, as recently as 2012, and our EU partners still have them, with 72 free zones across the EU territory. Some contributors in these debates have taken an excessively, I think, dim view of freeports. I would like to take a more balanced view, but I still think we are absolutely right to proceed cautiously, and that is why I am happy to support new clause 25. Given the incentives on business rates that are on offer, the potential national insurance exemptions and the exemptions on customs duties, it is absolutely vital to make sure that the economic activity attracted to freeports is not simply being displaced from elsewhere, and that the activity is new, adding value and resulting in economic output that is greater than would otherwise have been the case.
Therefore, when we are measuring that impact, it is important to make sure that the Government do not get to mark their own exam paper by choosing their measures of success after the fact. That is why it is important to be able to report back on job creation, skills and productivity, the impact on tax revenues, the levels of financial criminal activity that have resulted around a development and the details of the resourcing needed to ensure compliance with the law, and also to understand the extent to which the mix of industries that will have grown up around a freeport development match those sought in the original bids.
The Scottish Government have sought to build on the freeport model with a green port version of it that embraces all the potential benefits of freeports, while ensuring that the principles of fair work are enshrined at their heart—the principles of fair work and fair pay through a real living wage—and putting environmental concerns to the fore, through placing carbon reduction at the heart of these developments. These proposals for green ports from the Scottish Government already have widespread buy-in from business, industry and investors in Scotland. The Scottish Government stand ready, armed with the fresh mandate they received from the Scottish people earlier this month, to press ahead as soon as the UK Government are willing to do so.
At the conclusion of the Committee stage, the Minister gave—I hope he will not mind me describing it in this way—a somewhat editorialised account of the development of freeports and green ports in Scotland. We could back and forth roundabout that, but I would much rather move forward, just as the Scottish Government would. I hope the Minister would like to do that, too, and will commit to working as quickly as possible with the Scottish Government to bring green ports to fruition in Scotland.
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