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Gritter on a quad bike

July 24, 2013

If you follow me on twitter (@wendybradley) you’ll know that, as well as linking to things that I find interesting about tax and regulation, I also enjoy the random stuff you find there: the occasional tweet-along of a television programme, for example (like shouting at the television, only the television shouts back) and I can usually be found on twitter on Sunday mornings for the regular tweetalong to the Archers omnibus.

So when I read the response document to the consultation on the use of rebated fuel for gritting in rural areas my eye was arrested by the statement on page seven that

Respondents pointed out that some rural roads are too narrow, not only for purpose-built gritters, but also for tractors to grit and therefore smaller vehicles like quad bikes would be more suitable.

So now all I can see is this wild vision of Josh and Pip Archer on the quad bikes nicked from Bridge Farm doing a ton down the Felpersham bypass with a gritter hitched to the back of each…

Ahem.

Anyway, you may remember that I responded last year to a consultation on The Use of Rebated Fuel for Gritting In Rural Areas.  I thought it was a good consultation – clear and well written, with a good impact assessment that actually made sense – but my main response was to question whether there was any need for actual legislation to achieve the worthy aim of not hassling people who use red diesel when they lay grit in snow conditions in areas not covered by council services.

The response document lists the 105 respondents, aside from the five members of the “general public”.  (I’m assuming mine was categorised as a “general public” response.)  But, frustratingly, the response document is entirely silent on the question I raised, of whether legislation is actually necessary in this instance.

Leaving that aside, we have a further consultation closing on 28th July on the wording of the relevant legislation.  Irritatingly, the consultation is now called “Amendments to Schedule 1 to the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979” but it’s clearly the same measure.

Well, after they did so well on the consultation itself, it’s a shame to see them fall down at the final hurdle.  Because the legislation out for consultation is a draft statutory instrument.

Now, a statutory instrument is a bit of legislation that gets through on the nod – there are two kinds, the ones where Parliament has actually to say yes for it to go through, and the ones where it just goes through unless someone actually says no. Since Parliament doesn’t amend them but just accept or reject them, they’re supposed to go before Parliament with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed – which includes having an explanatory memorandum which tells you things like what the legislation is trying to achieve, how much it will cost, and what kind of consultation happened to get to this point.

And the gritter on a quad bike legislation?  Well, it has a note that says

A Tax Information and Impact Note covering this instrument will be published on the HMRC website at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/thelibrary/tiins.htm.

Which might be enough to get it through a whipped House, but is neither use nor ornament for the rest of us.  Poor show.

Here (under the cut) is what I sent:

This is an individual’s response and is also being published, with commentary, at my blog http://tiintax.com.

I responded to the consultation on the use of rebated fuel for gritting in rural areas and wondered why it was necessary for this change to be legislated: could it not be covered by HMRC’s “care and management” duties.  I am disappointed that you were not able to answer this question in the response document.
Nevertheless, having read the proposed statutory instrument, I would comment that the legislation as currently available on Legislation.gov (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1979/5) is virtually unreadable, and in particular that the sub paragraph (2)(b) of paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 which you are amending isn’t actually there, and that following the link from legislation.gov took me to a “page not found”.  So I’m afraid I can’t help you with checking that the revised text will make sense, but I hope that you are going to check that it will, at least, be accessible to the people ultimately affected by it.
I was also disappointed to note that your draft contains the note that “A Tax Information and Impact Note covering this instrument will be published on the HMRC website at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/thelibrary/tiins.htm” rather than actually appending the TIIN.  I would point out that, in the WMS which introduced the TIA and TIIN process in March 2011 the Minister said
“This new tailored tax impact assessment process will be used throughout the development of tax and NICs policy…” so I assume you already know what the impact of your change is likely to be, and “the Government will publish a tax information and impact note for tax policy changes at the point at which the policy design is final or near final.  This could be alongside the Budget, publication of draft legislation or final legislation, as appropriate.”  I cannot, therefore, see why you aren’t publishing an impact assessment (a TIIN) alongside the draft legislation, since clearly at this point the policy design must be final or near final?
Kind regards
Wendy Bradley

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