Clearing the decksMarch 15, 2016
It’s the day before the Budget. You would think that HMRC and the Treasury would have cleared the decks ready for the raft of new measures presumably coming towards us after the speech.
So I was rather surprised when a quick check of the “open consultations” tab on the gov.uk website brought up one outstanding HMRC consultation and four for the treasury.
The HMRC one is mildly interesting: “a consultation on the control of tobacco manufacturing equipment and possible licensing of those involved in the supply chain for tobacco products.” Woah, you might think: we’re going to have licensed tobacconists??? Turns out from reading the consultation document that there are already arrangements in place for tobacconists in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be registered: the issue for most of us will, I imagine, be how to get an equivalent process in place for England without on the one hand opening up a market in cross border arbitrage and on the other slapping an enormous administrative burden on some relatively marginal small businesses.
The four Treasury ones? The first two: Reforms to the investment bank special administration regime and Insurance linked securities are Letwin consultations. By Letwin consultations I am of course referring to Oliver Letwin’s explanation that the point of consultation isn’t to get “views” but to look for unintended consequences. No-one at the Treasury cares what you or I think about the investment bank special administration regime or about index linked securities. What they want from the consultation is for investment banks, accountancy bodies and major law firms to do some work for them on whether their proposals – whatever they are – work at all, work as intended, and will pass through parliament without annoying lobbying from the industries affected.
I sort of feel that, as this started as a blog looking at consultations, I really ought to read both consultation documents and attempt to form a view whether they are good proposals. I feel, however, that a Letwin consultation is designed to induce somnolence in the general reader, and I just don’t care enough today to even try, sorry.
I will reserve my indignation for the other two Treasury consultations. If you have the time and the inclination, I recommend looking at this one: the proposal to create a National Infrastructure Commission, or at least to put the “shadow” one that has already been set up onto a statutory footing.
This consultation closes on Thursday night (11.45pm 17th March) and asks, in effect, if we think it’s OK that the Treasury sets up a quango – sorry, that’s not politically correct these days, is it? Now we call them “non-departmental public bodies”. The Treasury will set up an NDPB which will produce a National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) and do we agree that a GDP envelope would provide the most effective fiscal remit for the commission…
Can we imagine the post-war Attlee government setting up the National Health Service like this? The National Health Infrastructure Board would still be holding meetings to decide whether the GDP funding envelope would allow them to start building a hospital at some point in the not too distant future, if the existing providers didn’t mind too much and the government accepted their latest Health Infrastructure Advisory Report…
And the final Treasury consultation? They want to make public sector exit payments “fairer, more modern and more consistent”. In other words, they want to get rid of huge swathes of the civil service and they don’t want to pay the going rate for doing so. What? You thought any of those weasel words meant that they were suggesting consistent or modern fairness to their workers?