Treasury answers IR35-concerned MPs with cut-and-paste response

Two parliamentary questions by MPs probing IR35’s changes have received largely identical responses from the Treasury, despite each question being on different aspects of the reform.

The Conservatives’ Luke Evans will be the more disappointed of the two MPs, as his query on PSCs being banned was not even addressed under the April 2020 rules he asked about.

“Following the implementation of the off-payroll reform in the public sector in 2017,” began Treasury minister Jesse Norman, “research…showed that the reform had not resulted in significant disruption to the sector, or to its use of contingent labour.”

'Smooth and succesful implementation'

Mr Norman then told his Conservative colleague about the government’s IR35 reform review; its brief (“to ensure the smooth and successful implementation”) and its timings.

But the almost 80-word statement was cut and paste by Mr Norman and used again when, a day after Mr Evans’ question, a Labour MP asked about how many people the reform affects.

In fact, Jessica Morden was given the exact same statement for the second part of her answer as Mr Evans was given for the second part of his answer, even though their queries differ.

Or almost ‘exact.’ Perhaps wanting to avoid accusations of total duplication, a comparison of the statements shows Mr Norman changed the word “announced” to the word “launched.”

'Whether additional support is needed'

More positively, the statements contain a vow that the review is going to look at how to help bonafide contractors even though, confusingly, the minister claimed that they are unaffected.

Specifically, “The review will also consider whether any additional support for businesses is needed to ensure that the self-employed, who are not in scope of the rules, are not affected.”

Last week, Tory MP Alexander Stafford tried again. He asked Mims Davies whether she agrees that firms’ “blanket approach” to IR35 reform will have “unintended consequences”.

Yet the work and pensions minister would only say a “consultation” is underway which in spite of experts’ caution about its highly complex contents, she told “all” MPs to take part in.

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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