The tax burden is estimated to have moved from 27½ to 28½ per cent. for a man on three quarters of average earnings and from 32 to 33½ per cent. for average earnings. That compares with increases of 32·2 and 35·5 per cent.—about 3 per cent. higher—if Labour's 1978 regime had been indexed. During the same period, real take-home pay for a man on three quarters of average earnings has risen by £45 per week and at average earnings by no less than £60 per week. [Interruption.]
I will paraphrase. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the case for the reduced rate band was never at all clear. Why have the Government suddenly found a clear case for it? Is it not because they hope to use it to bribe the electorate?
It is extraordinarily offensive to people who work hard for their income for the Labour party to talk about that income as though it belonged to the Government and not to those people. It is their money, for which they have worked hard, and the Government believe in leaving more of it—and especially more of the money that the lower paid earn—with them. It is extraordinary that, although this is explicit Labour party policy, the Labour party has decided to vote against the proposal and to increase tax by 5p in the pound for some of the lowest paid in our country.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and all the very best.
Is it not the case that the overall tax burden has increased? I remind the Financial Secretary that in Scotland, gross domestic product stands at 93·2 per cent.
of the United Kingdom average, when as recently as 1984 it was 97·4 per cent. Is it not the case, therefore, that, despite the fantastical riches given to the Government by the revenues from offshore oil and gas, for the people of Scotland things have got worse and worse? It is no wonder that the Government are slipping down the political plughole in Scotland: they are down to 18 per cent. in the opinion polls, and they have further to go.
If the tax burden has gone up by so much, and if that is such a bad thing, why does the hon. Gentleman want to increase it further? Does he really want to increase the tax burden on the lowest paid in our society by voting against the Government's measure to reduce the tax for the lowest paid by 5p in the pound?
Does the Minister agree that families in the lower income brackets will benefit from the Government's success in maintaining the zero rate for food? Does he further agree that those families and pensioners in particular spend an above average amount of their incomes on zero-rated food?
That is so, and people right across the income spectrum have seen their real take-home pay increase dramatically while we have been in power. As I said, the real take-home pay today of average earners is no less than £60 per week higher than it was in 1979.
Is it not a fact that the average family man can rely on us for continuity when it comes to income tax? [Interruption.] We have brought income tax down from 33p to 25p and it is now going down to 20p. Does my hon. Friend agree that whereas we shall continue to reduce income tax, Labour would insist on increasing it?
It is a constant feature of history that Conservative Governments like to bring tax down—[Interruption.] so as to leave more of people's hard-earned money with them, whereas every Labour Government, apart from the first Ramsay MacDonald Government, increased the basic rate of tax. [Interruption.] All history is against the Labour party. I look forward to seeing my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Hicks) back here in April.
In relation to family income, what comfort does the Budget bring to the working woman, or the woman who wants to work? It contains nothing on child care or child benefit. Is it not clear that this cynical and incompetent Government put women and children last?
Not only is child benefit going up already, as the hon. Gentleman would know if he had done his research, but the lower rate 20p income tax band will particularly help working women. The hon. Gentleman would also know, if he had done his research, that a great many of the groups concerned with children urged us not to go ahead with a move on tax relief for child care.