New Clause 1 — Transfer of personal allowances between spouses
Oral Answers to Questions — Justice
7:45 pm

‘After section 37 of the Income Tax Act 2007, insert—

“37A Transfer of personal allowances between spouses

(1) This section applies to an individual who is entitled to a personal allowance under sections 35 to 37 for a tax year if—

(a) the individual is a person whose spouse who is living with the individual for the whole or any part of the tax year,

(b) the individual is, for the whole or any part of the tax year, usually resident with at least one child who is under the age of 5 years at the end of the tax year, or such other age as is specified by order; and

(c) the spouse meets the requirements of section 56 (residence, etc).

(2) If—

(a) the allowance exceeds the individual’s income;

(b) the individual makes an election; and

(c) the individual’s spouse makes a claim;

the individual’s spouse is entitled to an allowance for the tax year equal to the amount of the transferable allowance subject to a maximum amount, if any, specified by order.

(3) The individual’s transferable allowance is found by—

(a) taking any personal allowance to which the individual is entitled for the tax year, and

(b) subtracting the amount of the individual’s income.

(4) For the purposes of this section “spouse” includes civil partners.

(5) For the purposes of this section an “order” means order made by statutory instrument a draft of which has been laid before and approved by resolution of the House of Commons.

(6) This section shall have effect for the tax year 2014-15 and subsequent years.

37B Election for transfer of allowance under section 37A

‘(1) An election under section 37A—

(a) must be made not more than 4 years after the end of the tax year to which it relates;

(b) cannot be withdrawn; and

(c) cannot be made before 6 April 2015.

(2) If an individual makes an election for a tax year under section 37A the individual is treated as also giving notice under section 51(4) that section 51(1) (tax reductions for married couples: transfer of unused relief) is to apply for the tax year.”.’.—(Tim Loughton.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

8:00 pm
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Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham, Conservative)

I beg to move, that the clause be read a Second time.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to new clause 1, albeit very briefly. It is rather ironic that this issue has probably been one of the most over-reported aspects of this Finance Bill, when it was not even in the Bill and we have only a minuscule amount of time to discuss it. Many colleagues here would like to speak to the new clause, and many others have come up to me to express their support.

There has been a lot of misreporting about the new clause, which has commonly been referred to as some sort of “rebel” amendment. It is strange when a manifesto commitment, which was also in the coalition agreement, to a measure of which the Prime Minister himself is a huge fan becomes a rebel amendment. We are not rebels. There has been no campaign to orchestrate some sort of rebellion; in fact, there was never any intention to force the new clause to a vote, as anyone who had asked would have found out. New clause 1 is simply a helpful amendment, tabled solely in my name, to nudge the Chancellor to give a formal commitment in law to a Conservative party pledge—a popular one at that—and to name the day, and so dispel the concerns caused by vague references to the measure being introduced “in due course”.

The measure was good enough to be in the Conservative party manifesto. It was good enough to be argued out in the coalition agreement, with accommodation for the Liberal Democrats. It has been good enough for the Chancellor and Treasury Ministers and the Prime Minister quite rightly to reaffirm its importance, so surely it must be good enough to get on with now, to lay to rest any uncertainty about the commitment to its implementation and to end any delay in its becoming a reality. I am therefore delighted, even if I have little time to express my delight this evening, that the Prime Minister has indicated that the measure in the new clause will now be brought forward. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure me from the Dispatch Box this evening, or, if there is no time, by writing to me and other hon. Members, that the measure will be in the next autumn statement, with a view to putting it in the next Finance Bill, so that, hopefully, the money will be in people’s pockets by the time of the next election.

I have framed the new clause to give the Chancellor maximum flexibility to determine the exact details of its execution. Spouses, civil partners and indeed the beneficiaries of same-sex marriage, if that Bill goes through, will qualify. There is no prescription about whether the provision applies to basic rate or higher rate taxpayers, or whether the whole or part of an allowance should be

transferable. That can be specified by order to suit the Chancellor. It is suggested that the tax relief should focus on couples with at least one child under the age of five—that is, under school age—and therefore correspond to the child care allowances to be introduced from 2015, but that, too, can be changed by order. This is not a prescriptive amendment.

What is uncertain is the timing. I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm what the Prime Minister said in the briefing that he and officials gave on the other side of the world that the measure will be in the next Finance Bill.

Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of this debate has been the reaction of the left to the proposal. This is a popular proposal, and a modest one. It is popular among the public and among the majority of Labour voters. The Lib Dems are split on it, but one would expect that: it is party policy to oppose it, but only recently the Business Secretary attacked the prejudice against stay at home mothers. When we have an organisation, Don’t Judge My Family, apparently formed solely to oppose the measure, saying that it is a throwback to a 1950s fantasy family image, that is deeply insulting not only to the many millions of married couples who decide to make a lifelong commitment to each other in front of their families and friends that is recognised in law, but to the 90% of young people and the 75% of cohabiting under-35s who in recent opinion polls have said that they aspire to get married.

There are many different forms of family in the 21st century, and most do a fantastic job of keeping together and bringing up children, often in difficult circumstances, yet almost uniquely among large OECD countries, the UK does not recognise the commitment and stability of marriage in the tax system until one of the partners dies. Worse still, one-earner married couples on an average wage with two children face a tax burden 42% greater than the OECD average, and that gap has been getting worse.

So to introduce a recognition of marriage in the tax system, particularly in the modest form suggested, is not to disparage those single parents who find themselves single through no fault of their own, perhaps as a result of having had an abusive or deserting partner, nor is it to undermine two hard-working parents, all of whom get help and support from the state in other forms, and quite rightly. But uniquely, married couples, civil partners and same-sex married couples in future are discriminated against in the tax system.

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Jim Shannon (Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health); Strangford, DUP)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way and I am conscious of the time. Like him, I passionately believe in marriage, as do my constituents in Strangford. They are keen to see the benefits for their families and their children in Strangford, across the whole of Northern Ireland and in the United Kingdom. Does the hon. Gentleman have an assurance from the Government that the time scale will be met? In other words, will the marriage tax allowance be delivered before the next election?

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Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham, Conservative)

I very much hope so. That was the clear indication that the Prime Minister gave in his briefing in Pakistan. I very much hope that the Minister will be able to confirm, because the timing of the measure is important, that it is not something that will be done “in due course”, but in the next Finance Bill.

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Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham, Conservative)

I briefly give way to my hon. Friend, who has been a great champion of this measure for many years.

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Edward Leigh (Gainsborough, Conservative)

Not just the Prime Minister in a faraway place, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in my own home, not 300 yards away, in front of 40 MPs, gave a solemn pledge that this was going to be brought in before the general election. This will and must happen.

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Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham, Conservative)

So the mystery is why on earth it is not happening and the Prime Minister has not been able to say, “We back this amendment.” However, I trust what he has said. Those I do not trust are those who oppose the amendment, because those who oppose it as some sort of 1950s throwback are the ones who are being judgmental about how certain people choose to live their relationships. That view has been endorsed on many Labour party members’ blogs. Disgracefully, they seek, in effect, to pit working mums or dads against stay at home mums or dads, who are of course no less, and often more, hard-working.

But my support for a transferable married couples tax allowance has never been based on some moral stance on types of relationship. My concern, as might be expected, is based on what is best for children. That is why I have suggested that it is limited in the first instance to families with children under the age of five. Two statistics say why. For a 15-year-old living at home with both birth parents, there is a 97% chance that those parents are married. For a five-year-old with parents at home, there is a one in 10 chance of those parents splitting up if they are married, but a one in three chance if they are not married. The cost of family breakdown is 46 billion and rising. That is what we need to attack.

Marriage accounts for 54% of births but only 20% of break-ups among families with children under five. We must recognise that in the tax system and we do not. That is what this modest amendment seeks to put in statute as a starting point to appreciate that.

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Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire, Conservative)

My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Does he agree that we encourage many things in the tax system—for example, employees cycling to work? It is therefore no great surprise that we want to support marriage, given the number of families that split up each year.

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Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham, Conservative)

And marriage was invented before bicycles, so why do we not support that, recognise it and value it, as we all do?

There are those who have come up with arguments against the figures, saying it is all about causation and effect. The millennium cohort research revealed that the poorest 20% of married couples are more stable than all but the richest 20% of cohabiting couples, so it is insulting to say that marriage is the preserve of the middle classes or better educated or better-off people.

This amendment alone will not solve all the problems that I have laid out. I am not naive enough to suggest that 150 or whatever the end result may be when this amendment becomes law in some form, as we hope, represents the difference between staying married or

getting divorced, or getting married or cohabiting, but it does send a clear and strong message that we value families who take the decision to bring up their children within marriage. When I stood on our manifesto in 2010, and for many years before, my Front-Bench colleagues agreed with that. My amendment makes that a reality, beyond all doubt.

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David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate, Conservative)

Is it not also a matter of fairness and social justice, because the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that 70% of the benefit of a transferable tax allowance would go to those currently on the lower half of the income distribution scale?

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Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham, Conservative)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I think that that dispels many of the myths being put around against the measure.

I hope that the Minister will take the new clause absolutely in the way it was intended. I do not intend to force it to a vote. I think that the Prime Minister has acknowledged the imperative of getting on with it now. I hope that, at last, our constituents can expect to benefit from the proceeds before the next election, both financially and with regard to our clear commitment to marriage, and that we can benefit from delivering on a popular, practical and achievable pledge, rather than the promise of jam in due course. If we can do that, it will be box ticked, job done.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

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Dawn Primarolo (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means; Bristol South, Labour)

Order. Mr Leslie, please ensure that you leave time in the debate, which will end at 8.19 pm, for the Minister and perhaps some Back Benchers as well.

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Christopher Leslie (Nottingham East, Labour)

I will be very brief. I want first to pay tribute to Tim Loughton. I have to hand it to him: he has got the Government jumping around and on the run on this issue. However, I am afraid that the Opposition are not convinced that the millions of people who are separated, divorced, or indeed widowed, would benefit from this policy, let alone those married couples where both partners work. I am all in favour of marriage, and Mrs Leslie might at first glance like the idea of the 150 give-away, but because she works and earns above the personal allowance, it would not be of benefit in our circumstances.

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Christopher Leslie (Nottingham East, Labour)

I would rather hear from the Minister.

I think that Mr Clarke was right when he called this policy social engineering. He said that when he joined the Conservative party it was opposed to it. The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham seems to have got a commitment that something will be done in the autumn, and we will hear what that happens to be in a moment. In a nutshell, the Opposition’s view is that if there is to be a tax break, it should be for all families, not just a select few, and for all households on lower and middle incomes. That is where tax breaks ought to be focused. I want to hear what the Minister has to say.

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David Gauke (The Exchequer Secretary; South West Hertfordshire, Conservative)

My hon. Friends will be aware that at the last election the Conservative party set out a policy of allowing married couples and civil partners to transfer up to 750 of unused tax-free personal allowance where the recipient is a basic rate taxpayer. They will also be aware that two points in the coalition agreement are relevant to this debate: first, our commitment to increasing the personal allowance to 10,000, to be prioritised over other tax cuts; and secondly, the provision for Liberal Democrats to abstain on Budget resolutions introducing transferable tax allowances for married couples without prejudice to the coalition agreement.

I want to be very clear that the Government support the principle behind the new clause proposed by my hon. Friend Tim Loughton. We are committed to recognising marriage in the tax system. As we have made clear, and indeed as my hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh has pointed out, we are committed to legislating for that in this Parliament. The Prime Minister has made it clear that we will be announcing our plans shortly.

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham wants us to be specific on implementation. I can assure him that we want to implement this at the earliest opportunity. Of course, recognition of marriage involves a new attribute to our income tax system, requiring Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to link married couples in a way that does not currently happen. That is deliverable, but I am not going to set out a timetable today. Once we are able to make an announcement on timing, the Chancellor will do so, but I repeat that we want to do this as soon as possible.

There are some differences between the Conservative party’s position at the last election and new clause 1. The new clause is targeted at a subset of married couples—those with children under the age of 5—and does not limit the amount of the allowance that could be transferred, although it gives the Chancellor the ability to restrict that by order. However, it does not apply any income limits or restrictions on the rate of relief, which means that it could provide double the benefit to those paying tax at the higher rate. Obviously we want to make sure that this is well targeted.

There are some specific points about new clause 1 that would need to be addressed regarding the measure of income, the definition of “child”, and the date of election set out in new section 37B(1)(c). However, I assure my right hon. and hon. Friends that we are considering these points in great detail and that an announcement of further details on how we want to take this measure forward will be made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in the months ahead.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham is satisfied with those reassurances and that he feels able to withdraw new clause 1 now that I have put on record our commitment to and belief in legislating for this and our desire to implement it at the soonest opportunity.

8:15 pm
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Frank Field (Birkenhead, Labour)

Had we voted on the new clause tonight, I would have voted for it. I encourage the Government to be much more ambitious in the review that they are undertaking. The new clause

is about how we maintain greater tax equity between households with two earners and those with one earner, whichever sex those earners may be.

When the Government abolished child benefit for higher rate taxpayers, they did an injustice to the tax system. May I briefly recall why? The background to this, which you will remember, Madam Deputy Speaker, is that we used to have family allowances and child tax allowances. The tax allowance and the benefit were merged into the single payment of child benefit. Child benefit then had two functions: it was a cash payment to mothers but it also maintained tax equity between people further up the income scale who have children and those further up the tax scale who do not have children. By abolishing child benefit for higher-rate taxpayers, the Government forewent the one instrument at their disposal to maintain tax equity for higher-rate taxpayers between those who have no children and those who do have children.

Might I make a plea to the Minister? When the Government undertake the review about the workings of this measure, will they extend it and rectify the injustice whereby in abolishing child benefit for higher-rate taxpayers they abolished the tax-free income for higher-rate taxpayers if they had children and therefore put them on the same level as people who do not have children? We never had that in the tax system before; we have had it in the past couple of years.

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Stewart Jackson (Peterborough, Conservative)

The House will know that I led a debate on this issue in Westminster Hall on 28 November last year. I, too, pay tribute to my hon. Friend Tim Loughton and others who have been so stalwart in this campaign.

Perhaps Mr Field will have a word with his Front Benchers, because this is about social justice and redistribution. It is about a transferable allowance for married couples disproportionately benefiting those in the lower half of the income distribution much more than under the current policy of encouraging the personal income tax threshold. That is a fact.

The “make work pay” argument is very important too. Transferable amounts would help to make work more rewarding for many of the poorest in society. Moreover, we are out of line, on international comparisons, in not supporting the family.

Those are important issues and this is a big subject. I am sorry that the Minister’s speech was so short, but delighted that those on the Treasury Bench have seen fit to give us these assurances. We will hold them to their word.

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Jim Shannon (Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health); Strangford, DUP)

Transferable allowances work by families claiming against them for the previous year. Thus this year’s Finance Bill makes provision for transferable allowances for the financial year 2014-15. People will not be able to claim against them until the financial year 2015-16. I will be seeking from the Government an assurance that that will be addressed this year so that it can happen.

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Edward Leigh (Gainsborough, Conservative)

This is simply a matter of justice. There are 2 million families where one partner is working and the other is not. They are uniquely disadvantaged in the benefits system, and it is a matter of justice—let’s do it.

Six hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on consideration, the debate was interrupted (Programme Order, 1 July).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the clause be read a Second time.

Question negatived.

Third Reading

8:20 pm
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David Gauke (The Exchequer Secretary; South West Hertfordshire, Conservative)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The Finance Bill 2013 delivers the Government’s commitment to creating a tax system that is fair, that promotes growth and competitiveness and that rewards work. This Bill supports enterprise, helps families and ensures that everyone pays their fair share of tax.

We should pause for a moment to remember the background to the Bill. The Government inherited the largest peacetime deficit since the second world war, a deficit we have already reduced by a third over the three years since 2009-10. During this time, more than 1 million new jobs have been created by British business. We have had to make some tough choices, but the results show that we are making the right choices. The Government are leading the road to recovery—to putting the economy back on course—and this Bill continues that agenda.

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Russell Brown (Shadow Minister (Defence); Dumfries and Galloway, Labour)

Does the Minister recognise that the 1 million jobs that have been created are allocated disproportionately across the UK? My local authority area has lost 2,000 private sector jobs and the average wage has now fallen 24% below the national average. Some areas are hurting.

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David Gauke (The Exchequer Secretary; South West Hertfordshire, Conservative)

It was not that long ago that we were told that the reductions in public sector employment would not be met by new jobs in the private sector, but they have been met many times over. The reality is that we have an astoundingly good record on job creation over the past three years, despite the fact that the economy has faced significant challenges.

This Government have established a corporate tax system that attracts international investment to the country and that encourages UK businesses to grow. Corporation tax will be eight percentage points lower in 2015 than the levels we inherited in 2010. This Bill cuts the main rate to 21% next year and 20% the year after, which will give us the joint lowest rate in the G20, the lowest of any major economy in the world and the lowest rate this country has ever known.

The Bill does that alongside separate action to incentivise activity across the economy. It introduces a new above-the-line credit for large company research and development investment, provides reliefs that are among the most generous in the world for the animation and high-end television industries, and gives long-term fiscal certainty to the oil and gas industry on decommissioning tax relief.

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Stewart Jackson (Peterborough, Conservative)

There was no time to debate new clause 3 on air passenger duty so I will not speak to it, but will the Treasury continue to review the effects of APD on the travel industry and the wider economy?

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David Gauke (The Exchequer Secretary; South West Hertfordshire, Conservative)

We keep all taxes under review. My hon. Friend is a prominent voice on this particular matter and I am sure he will continue eloquently to make the case on APD to Treasury Ministers.

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Lady Hermon (North Down, Independent)

I am grateful to the Minister for taking a second intervention so soon after the first. Does he realise that APD is particularly damaging to the ambition of rebalancing the economy in Northern Ireland, especially when there is such a low level of APD just over the border in the Republic of Ireland? Will he undertake to look seriously at the issue with regard to Northern Ireland?

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David Gauke (The Exchequer Secretary; South West Hertfordshire, Conservative)

The hon. Lady will be aware that we have made a number of concessions in that area with regard to Northern Ireland and I say again that we will keep those matters under review.

The Bill will support a wide variety of sectors, encourage innovation and send the clearest possible signal that business is welcome in the UK.

The Government’s strategy is underpinned by our commitment to fairness. The Bill will reward hard work and help families with the cost of living. It will lift an additional 1.1 million individuals out of income tax with the largest ever cash increase to the personal allowance. The allowance will be set at 9,440, making assured progress towards the longer-term objective of making the first 10,000 of income free from income tax. That objective will allow people to keep more of the money that they earn.

I should not have to remind hon. Members that the Bill keeps fuel duty frozen, nor that it removes a penny from beer duty. Those measures will make a real difference and support individuals on low incomes who want to get on.

We are taking steps to ensure that those with the most contribute the most. We have introduced a charge on owners of high-value properties placed in a corporate envelope, along with an extension of capital gains tax on the non-natural persons disposing of those properties. We are targeting reliefs appropriately. The cap on the previously unlimited income tax relief and the reduction of the pensions tax relief lifetime and annual allowances are significant in ensuring that everyone pays their fair share.

We have taken significant action to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion. The Bill legislates for the UK’s first general anti-abuse rule, which provides a significant deterrent to abusive tax avoidance schemes. Where they persist, it will give HMRC the tools to tackle them. Just because something is not covered by the GAAR does not mean that it will not be addressed in other ways. We have closed 15 loopholes that have been used to avoid tax, and strengthened the successful disclosure of tax avoidance schemes regime. Since its introduction in 2004, more than 2,000 tax avoidance schemes have been disclosed to HMRC. The changes made in the Bill will improve the information that promoters have to provide to make it even more effective.

Our position is clear: non-compliance and contrived tax arrangements will not be tolerated. The Bill will help to reduce the tax gap, make the law robust against avoidance and optimise our operational response.

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Jonathan Edwards (Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury); Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Plaid Cymru)

The Minister will be aware that the Silk commission on Wales stated that the Finance Bill would be the appropriate legislative vehicle to implement its findings. Those findings have not been implemented in the Bill, so what legislative vehicle will the Government use to implement the Silk report when they respond?

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David Gauke (The Exchequer Secretary; South West Hertfordshire, Conservative)

As the hon. Gentleman says, the Government will respond to the report in due course. Further details will be provided at that point.

On simplification, we continue to shape the tax landscape. A tax system should be easy to administer and to understand. To that end, the Government set up the independent Office of Tax Simplification in 2010. I pay tribute to the invaluable work that it has done. The Bill takes forward the recommendations from its review of small business tax. It introduces two optional simpler income tax schemes for small incorporated businesses and a new time-limited disincorporation relief for small businesses that feel that a corporate form is burdensome. Small businesses make a vital contribution to the UK economy and public finances, and these measures recognise that contribution. We have acted to provide certainty and clarity in other areas. The statutory residence test and the reforms to ordinary residence are a significant and welcome simplification of the tax code, if not a shortening of it.

Many of the measures in the Bill have been subject to extensive consultation and scrutiny—processes that are entrenched in the Government’s approach to making tax policy. The statutory residence test was consulted on three times between summer 2011 and February 2013. The Chartered Institute of Taxation said that that was a

“good example of how to make good tax law”

and we would agree.

The Government have shown their commitment to greater transparency and broadening the range of impacts that they consider. For the Finance Bill 2013 we published more than 400 pages of draft legislation, and we are grateful for the 400 or so responses we received. Through such engagement we have considered the views of interested groups and taxpayers, and we considered them further in Public Bill Committee with more than 49 hours of scrutiny—to some of us, it may have felt longer.

I thank all those involved in the Bill, whether officials, interested parties, parliamentary counsel, my hon. Friends the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Opposition Members, and Back Benchers, who all contributed to the scrutiny of the Bill. This Finance Bill delivers real reform, supports business and growth, upholds principles of fairness, rewards work, and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to creating a tax system that reduces the deficit and builds a prosperous economy. I commend the Bill to the House.

8:30 pm
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Christopher Leslie (Nottingham East, Labour)

I agree with the Minister about one thing—it was certainly a long and well-scrutinised Bill. To elaborate on that brief moment of cross-party agreement, I, too, pay tribute to all Members who served on the Committee, the Clerks, and the officials who helped pull together a substantial legislative moment in the parliamentary calendar—albeit that the Bill does

not do much to help the economy or do much good for the country at large. I am afraid the Bill offers just more of the same: carrying on regardless of the urgent need for action to stimulate our economy.

We know that the Chancellor, scarred as he was from the omnishambles Budget in 2012, decided to go in the opposite direction this year and produce a Budget that contained so little of any import or substance that the Government’s Office for Budget Responsibility said on page 42 of its Budget report, that the Bill would have

“no impact on the level of GDP at the end of the forecast horizon…these measures reduce GDP growth”

in 2013. It is a Finance Bill that sees the economy moving backwards.

This is in the context of a great deal of humiliation for the Chancellor, including the downgrading by not just one but two credit rating agencies. The cherished prize that was supposed to be at the heart of the Government’s strategy—retaining and defending that benchmark triple A status—is gone. Then, of course, as we saw in the most recent figures, there was the humiliation of a rising deficit, not a fall in levels of borrowing.

This Finance Bill has its priorities all wrong. The lowlights include there being little on growth, but yet persisting with the cut to the top rate of income tax. It means that the fortunate 13,000 people who earn more than 1 million a year will get a lovely, juicy tax cut of 100,000, while typical families will be 891 worse off this year on average because of the changes to tax and benefits introduced since 2010. There are failures in a number of different ways, but it has been particularly piquant this evening to focus on the Government’s largesse and the City tax cut to the stamp duty reserve tax that gives 150 million to the investment manager community.

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Christopher Leslie (Nottingham East, Labour)

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is a former investment manager, but I wonder what his view is of that change.

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Richard Fuller (Bedford, Conservative)

I am grateful for the shadow Minister’s indulgence in allowing me to intervene, and to answer his question, no I am not. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the cut to the top rate of tax and the house tax that Labour wants to introduce. Yesterday, I sat through the debate on Report, and the Opposition Front-Bench speaker was unable to say whether, if Labour get into government in 2015, it would increase the rate of tax and introduce a house tax. For the record, will the hon. Gentleman say whether that is the intention of the Labour party, or is it again just fine words but no real meat?

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Christopher Leslie (Nottingham East, Labour)

Fortunately for the hon. Gentleman, but unfortunately for the rest of us, there are still two years of this Parliament to go. He has probably two years of employment left in his parliamentary career and although we think there should be a Labour Member in his seat, we will miss him.

In two years’ time, we will set out the detail in our manifesto. When the Conservatives are in Opposition after the general election, we hope to implement a radical manifesto that actually does something to benefit our economy. Today, we would implement a mansion

tax that would raise a significant sum that we would give away as a tax cut for lower and middle-income households with a new 10p band of income tax. Government Members struggle with this, but we will judge what needs to be in the manifesto in two years’ time when we can judge the needs of the economy.

Government Members think they already know what their fate will be in 2015, hence the Chancellor coming forward with his cuts programme for 2015 when any responsible Chancellor would be rolling his sleeves up this summer and getting on with bringing forward capital infrastructure investment and doing something to stimulate the economy now. There is nothing in the Budget, nothing in the spending review and, more to the point, nothing in the Finance Bill to help growth. Indeed, the most interesting measures are conspicuous by their absence. There is no mansion tax, although there is provision for an annual tax on enveloped dwellings, which usefully illustrates that it is feasible to move in that direction.

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Lady Hermon (North Down, Independent)

In an earlier intervention on the Minister I asked about air passenger duty. In the context of Northern Ireland, would the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues agree to reduce air passenger duty? Rebalancing the economy in Northern Ireland will be difficult to do if this matter is not addressed. Where do the Opposition stand on reducing air passenger duty more generally?

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Christopher Leslie (Nottingham East, Labour)

I am sorry that we did not have the opportunity to consider this matter on Report. I think it was given some consideration in Committee. I think we are still waiting for the Government’s review to come to fruition—I am happy to give way to the Minister if he wants to confirm that—and we need to see the evidence. If we feel that any changes in tax and in spending are necessary, we want to spell out clearly where we would get the resources to pay for them. The fact that the Government have ignored not just our advice—[Interruption.]

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Dawn Primarolo (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means; Bristol South, Labour)

Order. Can we stop the chuntering from Front Bench to Front Bench while someone is trying to speak? Minister, you were listened to in silence and with proper courtesy, so it would be good if you showed that same courtesy to the shadow Minister. Perhaps Ministers and shadow Ministers could pay attention rather than shout at each other.

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Christopher Leslie (Nottingham East, Labour)

Madam Deputy Speaker, I am grateful for your protection from the sedentary chuntering of Government Members. They ignore anything they hear, not just from the Opposition but from the International Monetary Fund, which has pointed out that this has been the slowest recovery for a century. There has been barely 1% growth since the 2010 spending review, and the Chancellor predicted there would be 6% growth by now. Living standards have fallen and many families are finding it difficult to make ends meet. Life is much harder.

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Mel Stride (Central Devon, Conservative)

The hon. Gentleman mentions the important pursuit of growth. Will he enlighten the House on what happened to his party’s five-point plan for growth, including his commitment to a reduction in VAT?

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Christopher Leslie (Nottingham East, Labour)

We are desperately keen for the Government to bring forward any measures—whether measures on VAT or bringing forward capital infrastructure—that would stimulate growth. Any Chancellor worth his or her salt would have used last week’s statement in the House to make at least a passing reference to the importance of growth in the economy, but there was absolutely nothing, and the same goes for this Bill.

The problem is not just the neglect of growth and living standards; it is the Government’s failures on borrowing and the deficit, which should be to their shame. They have been totally unable to deliver the promises they made on deficit reduction. [Interruption.] The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office can tell his constituents that the deficit was 118.5 billion in 2011-12 and 118.7 billion in 2012-13. Even he, with all his skill and acumen, can tell that that is an increase in the level of borrowing from that year to this. No wonder the Government find it an uncomfortable fact that they have failed on their promise and are not on course to balance the books in 2015 as they said they would. That was their solemn promise to the electorate. It is a busted flush.

This Bill is a reflection of the fact that the Government have no answers. They do not know where to go on this issue. It is time we had a Finance Bill to boost the economy, instead of the Government neglecting their duties to achieve strong and sustained economic growth. This is Bill is bereft of the bold measures we need to kick-start Britain’s economy. The country deserves better. We oppose a Third Reading for this Bill.

8:41 pm
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Jim Shannon (Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health); Strangford, DUP)

I want to say a few quick words. I thank the Minister and his team for the hard work they have done during the passage of this Bill. They have made a valuable contribution. I also thank the Opposition for their contribution.

The Government have made a number of welcome legislative changes—they are in the Bill, so they will happen—on child care and family provisions. Like other speakers, I listened with great interest to what the Prime Minister said at the weekend. The subsequent confirmation from Downing street that transferable allowances would be introduced in the 2014 Finance Bill came not a moment too soon. However, I would have liked more positivity from the Government about the time scale for the married tax allowance in new clause 1 to be introduced. It would have been better to have had that opportunity, although we might get it yet.

Reference has also been made to the air passenger duty in Northern Ireland. We know how important it is to the economy—a point that Lady Hermon has made clear. There have also been contributions and input from the Minister for Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland, my hon. Friend Sammy Wilson. That has enabled some of the work done in the Bill to suit the Northern Ireland Assembly and the people of Northern Ireland.

In conclusion, let me say on behalf of my party that I would have been happier with a positive commitment to the married tax allowance, although we might get it yet.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The House divided:

Ayes 279, Noes 217.

Division number 43

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Aye

No

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time and passed.