New Clause 1 — Tax Credits for Individual Savings Accounts and Personal Equity Plans
Mr John Healey (Economic Secretary, HM Treasury; Wentworth, Labour)
We have heard a full and useful exploration of the issues behind and surrounding new clause 1. Mr. O'Brien is right to say that the ISA is the Government's primary vehicle for savings. My hon. Friend Mr. Cousins pointed out that ISAs have been a great success. In fact, there are 14 million, not 12 million, investors in ISAs in this country—6 million more than the number of investors in TESSAs and PEPs at their peak—and ISAs are starting to reach those groups that were under-represented in terms of saving through PEPs and TESSAs. About 7.5 million investors have accounts with stocks and shares and thus attract the current tax credit.
The hon. Member for Eddisbury hugely overstates the likely impact of the proposed measure, which his new clause is designed to prevent. Referring to a point he made based on the PIMA analysis, it is true that there has been a switch into corporate bonds in recent times. However, that principally reflects the state of the markets. Bonds may be seen to be a safer investment. However, as Mr. Baron pointed out, bonds do not have the same potential for long-term growth that equities have. Investors will return to equities when they feel more confident about doing so, and the hon. Gentleman emphasised that he wanted that to happen.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central explained his concern about recent investors in equity ISAs. I shall examine the considered points that he made in his short contribution, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will do so as well when she returns to take up the reins of this portfolio.