Capital Gains Tax (Rates)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:36 pm on 23rd June 2010.

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Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 12:36 pm, 23rd June 2010

It is largely because we have a very large financial sector that contributed about 25% of all our corporation tax receipts. When the banking crisis hit, those receipts fell. There is something in the argument that has been advanced on both sides of the House in recent years-although, perhaps in retrospect, sadly not as much as it might have been over the past 30 years -that our economy has become dependent on the financial services sector, particularly on tax receipts. I think we would all like to see that rebalanced. Of course, there is a big question about how we do that, and I cannot for the life of me see how cancelling the help to Sheffield Forgemasters, for example, will go anywhere towards helping that rebalancing. However, I shall come on to that in just a moment.

At the moment, our recovery is fragile. What makes matters worse is that the position in our main export market, Europe, is extremely worrying. I am far less optimistic than I was in March about what is likely to happen in the European Union economies over the next year. Growth in France has fallen back; in Germany, it is pretty flat-just positive; other countries have tipped into recession; and Spain has unemployment over 20% and other well-understood problems. On top of that, whereas the predominant view certainly until the beginning of this year was that we had to support our economies to ensure that we established growth, the Chancellor is right that he can pray in aid the change of view among some of his counterparts, such as in Germany, which is now pursuing policies to reduce the deficit that will impact on demand, not just in that country but within other parts of Europe as well. Germany is our major trading partner. If demand there is suppressed, and if taking large sums of money out of our economy here has the effect I suspect it will have, the result will be reduced demand, which will affect business confidence, its propensity to invest and, therefore, our ability to grow and generate the receipts we need to get our borrowing down. That is a real concern.

There is no doubt that, over the past few months, the balance in the approach has moved away from what one might characterise as the Keynesian towards the more orthodox. I, for one, think that that is a profound mistake.

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