Parliament starts its summer recess – but that doesn’t mean a holiday

Speaker's Corner
Speaker's Corner

Parliament breaks up for the summer recess this week. That does not mean – as you might read in some newspapers – that MPs begin a six week holiday.

Constituency work remains much the same with visits, surgeries and correspondence all continuing.

However, it is the case that recess means that there is a break from the parliamentary routine with regular late nights and the need to be based in Westminster for most of the week.

The pace of life does slow – with a bit more of chance for thinking time, and even family time.

The last few months have been particularly busy in terms of my ministerial duties in the Treasury.

My big responsibility over the summer is to take the Finance Bill through the House of Commons.

The Bill updates our tax law and there is one every year. Whether in government or opposition, I have been involved in all the Finance Bills since 2006.

The process drags on for months, starting with a debate in the House of Commons chamber in April on the broad principles of the Bill (‘Second Reading’) followed by detailed debate also in the House of Commons chamber in May (‘Committee of the Whole House’) and 20 sessions of debate in a committee room over May and June (‘the Committee Stage’).

Finally, the Bill returns to the main chamber for two days of debate (‘the Report Stage’).

This last part can become a bit of a stamina test, spending the best part of seven hours a day in the chamber and having to make six or seven speeches over that time. To be fair, it is not delivering the speeches that are the problem – it’s the listening to the endless speeches from everyone else that can prove so draining!

The other big Treasury matter has been the Spending Review in which government spending for 2015/16 was set. I was in the unusual position of being a Treasury minister but responsible for a spending department, HM Revenue & Customs.

Spending reviews aren’t simply about setting numbers, they are also a chance to set out some strategic thinking about how a part of government works.

With HMRC, we plan to bring our tax system into the 21st century, giving every taxpayer the option to have an online tax account, in much the same that millions have online bank accounts.

You will be able to access your tax code and National Insurance information with relevant guidance immediately available. You will also be able to update personal details and changes in circumstances quickly and easily.

For those in Self Assessment simply because you have an additional source of income, such as rental income, the online account will enable you to provide this information without needing to be in full Self Assessment.

We believe that nearly two million people could be taken out of Self Assessment as a consequence.

So if, in a couple of years’ time, you notice that tax really is becoming less taxing, remember – you read it here first!

David Gauke is the Conservative MP for South West Herts, 
as well as a treasury minister. You can contact his office on 
01923 771781 or via the website at