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The Government did look at the possibility of raising capital gains tax further. They did serious analysis and the conclusion was that it would not raise any more revenue. That was the problem. It certainly would not have raised anything remotely like £10 billion. That is why we cannot evade this issue.
Let me turn to the central concern about value added tax, which is expressed on both sides of the House: the worry about regressiveness. I checked back on what independent analysts were saying about value added tax and its income distribution effects. It is worth looking at the work of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which has conducted a distributional analysis based on expenditure. It came to the conclusion-this is its word, not mine-that value added tax was fairly "progressive" because of the exemptions that are given for zero rating, as food, children's clothing and other essentials are key items in the expenditure patterns of poorer people. [Interruption.] The top 10% of the population pay three times as much in value added tax as the bottom 10%. [Interruption.]
Opposition Members are expressing righteous indignation about what they regard as regressive measures. Let me tell them which is the most regressive tax: it is council tax. Do they remember what happened to council tax under the Labour Government? On average, it went up 70%. Taking into account rebates, for the poorest 10% of the population it rose by 93%. It is the most regressive tax of all, yet they lecture us in this sanctimonious way about regressive taxation. They have no basis for doing that.
Finally, let me turn to the crucial issue of growth, which the shadow Chancellor raised. He is right that growth does not happen automatically; of course it does not. How do we proceed from the austerity that has to happen-from cuts in public spending-to growth in business investment and net exports, which we want to see? That is a genuinely important question, to which there are no simple answers. The perfectly fair point has been made that there are risks involved here, just as there are risks, which we judge to be bigger, in doing nothing, so let me try to answer this question seriously. If we are going to get growth, it will come partly through demand and partly through supply. How do we sustain demand? Essentially, we do so through monetary policy. That is what happened under the last Government. The reason why the economy kept on going through the recession was not Government fiscal stimulus. That was trivial, and it has now been withdrawn anyway. It was not for that reason; it was because we had very low interest rates, the expansion of money through quantitative easing and, of course, a big devaluation.
Those factors drove the economy in terms of demand and they will continue to do so. There is a reason for believing that that is what will happen: the Governor of the Bank of England called for this Budget and has now got it, and he has every reason to understand the need for monetary policy to support recovery.
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