Clarke slams Finance Bill size and complexity

He complained in the Commons that it was ‘quite enormous’ and that ‘the only thing that is clear from the front page is that it complies with the European Convention on Human Rights – unless accountants have any claim through being required to pick up heavy loads’.

He said: ‘The thing is utterly incomprehensible and impenetrable to ordinary members of the public and does not shed much light on what the Government will do.’

Chief Treasury secretary Andrew Smith earlier denied a claim from shadow chief secretary accountant-MP David Heathcoat-Amory, that ‘it is the longest Bill that the House has had to consider’.

Smith said it is 54 clauses shorter than the Conservative Finance Bill in 1996.

But otherwise ministers made little attempt to justify its size and scope.

Heathcoat-Amory said counting the clauses was ‘bogus’ because of the number of schedules. He said the English ICA had complained it was ‘out of all proportion to anything we have seen before’ and complained it was creating ‘a national overhead of avoidable costs that all businesses and taxpayers have to bear.’

Liberal Democrat spokesman Edward Davey complained: ‘Rather that prudence with purpose we have prudence with pages – 558 of them.’

He accused Clarke of doing even worse – because his 1996 Bill ran to 618 pages – contrasting the size of current Bills with that of 1955 – which had 24 pages – and that of 1965 with 270.

He said: ‘Such growth is unwelcome not only because it increases complexity but because it increases compliance costs for business.’

800 page Finance Bill pushes ahead with changes to double tax relief.

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