Pre-Budget Report

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th November 2000.

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Photo of Nick Palmer Nick Palmer Labour, Broxtowe 12:00 am, 9th November 2000

What representations he has so far received on his pre-Budget report.[135959]

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The pre-Budget consultation will take place in every region of the country. Ministers will visit every region and listen to the representations that are made, including those that come early from my hon. Friend.

Photo of Nick Palmer Nick Palmer Labour, Broxtowe

I am grateful to the Chancellor for that answer. As he is aware, I have conducted a survey among my constituents, and the great majority of the respondents called for a reduction in vehicle excise duty, and for assistance for disabled drivers. They will be very pleased with the response, but will my right hon. Friend review whether disabled drivers can be given additional assistance in next year's Budget, because vehicle excise duty is already zero rated for them?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because not everyone is rushing to respond, as he is. We will look at the measure that he suggests for disabled drivers as part of our pre-Budget consultation. I agree with the point that his constituents made to me through the survey that he sent me: the reduction in vehicle excise duty for cars was an advantage that people welcomed, and given that we have extended a £55 reduction to 8 million cars, I believe that he will receive even greater support from his constituents both now and at the next election.

Photo of Matthew Taylor Matthew Taylor Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury)

The Chancellor has received representations from the Liberal Democrats making clear our proposals to increase pensions substantially beyond the amount that he announced yesterday, and the Conservative Front-Bench spokesmen have made their policy clear—they wish to abolish the Christmas bonus, the winter fuel allowance, and even the age addition and free television licences. Can the Chancellor confirm that, as of yesterday, the Government's policy is to have interim real-terms increases in the pension for the two years in which the general election may fall, but thereafter to return to the mean-minded policy of limiting any increase to the inflation rate, which delivered a 75p increase this year?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

At the general election, the Liberal Democrats stood on the following policy: first, pensions should be raised in line with inflation, not earnings; secondly, tax and benefits should be reformed to get more money to the people who needed it most. However, when it became convenient for their spokesman on Treasury matters to do so, he decided that he would reverse that policy and urge that pensions be raised for ever in line with earnings.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Ah, the hon. Gentleman's policy is not to raise pensions in line with earnings. The Liberal Democrats stood at the election on a policy to raise pensions in line with inflation. They stood yesterday on a policy to raise them in line with earnings. Tomorrow they will go back to raising them in line with inflation. I suggest that he goes back to the drawing board.

Photo of Dr Alan Williams Dr Alan Williams Labour, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

I congratulate the Chancellor on his fuel duty package yesterday, which addresses the problems of hauliers, farmers and the general motorist, but does he accept that a rural dimension has still not been addressed? I understand that the Treasury considered reducing the duty to £45 for rural postcodes, but that that was dropped. There may be other options, such as using the community council precept, or using post offices to administer a rural transport rebate based on the electoral register, because of the lack of public transport in rural areas. Will the Chancellor stay in listening mode on the particular problems of rural areas?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I know that my hon. Friend speaks up for his constituents, many of whom live in rural areas. Next week the Deputy Prime Minister will publish our rural White Paper, and my hon. Friend knows that the rural transport fund has been increased twice under the Government to help with transport in rural areas. He will also agree that the proposal to extend the licence fee concession to cars of 1,500 cc, providing a licence fee that is £55 lower, will give people in rural areas greater choice—they can take up that lower licence fee and therefore receive £55 back. The £55 reduction for cars between 1,200 cc and 1,500 cc starts today. It will be paid in July, but it will be retrospective.