Charge and Basic Rate of Income Tax for I988–89

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance (No. 2) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 3rd May 1988.

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Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor , Esher 6:30 pm, 3rd May 1988

Of course I recall that event. Opposition Members, when they are under pressure, immediately try to call the oil crisis to 'their aid, but that is no longer a possible excuse. There is a clear decline in the economy's dependence on oil, and at the same time the rate of growth in the economy as a whole is increasing. This year, it is the oil sector that is holding back the economy, because the non-oil sector is growing faster than the oil sector.

Tax revenues do not respond to higher tax rates. I am surprised at what has been said, because a spokesman for the Labour party conceded this fact. He has not had the courage to go as far as we have, but I read clearly the other day that, when asked what he would do about top rates of tax, he said that they would probably have to go down to about 50 per cent. That is interesting. I will willingly give way to any Opposition Member who thinks that my information is wrong, or that the Labour party does not actually believe that rates should be reduced. But Labour Members are disguising the fact that, on the one hand, most of them do not know what they mean, and, on the other hand, they are effectively saying that the concept of reducing top rates of tax is becoming attractive. It is becoming attractive regardless of the academic evidence that they purport to put forward, because there is a consistent trend in the 1980s for tax revenues to the Exchequer to increase when tax incentives are given by reducing marginal rates.

I ask Opposition Members this question—perhaps the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) will consider it. If, as we posit and believe, tax revenues to the Exchequer increase as a result of the reduction in the top tax rates, has not what we are doing this year become politically irreversible? In the unlikely event that the Labour party were ever in power again, he would find that he was not able to increase top marginal rates of tax, because by that very act he would be reducing revenues to the Exchequer and thereby would be unable to spend more money on the social services.