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Schedule 23 — Air passenger duty

Part of “Group 12 — Caravans – in the House of Commons at 10:35 pm on 3rd July 2012.

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Photo of Stephen Williams Stephen Williams Liberal Democrat, Bristol West 10:35 pm, 3rd July 2012

If the hon. Lady was so interested, she could have studied the Hansard record of the debate. The purpose of my amendment at that stage of the Bill was to probe the intentions of the Government and to get on the record statements from my hon. Friend the Minister that the Treasury and the Department for International Development were going to work more closely together. The hon. Lady’s party made it clear that it would not support my amendment in order not to hold up that controlled foreign companies change going through. I suggest that she has a word with her Front-Bench team.

I move on to new clause 6, which I tabled. Because of the length of time spent once again discussing the bank bonus levy and Labour’s five-point plan, we did not get to it this evening. Perhaps the hon. Lady might like to think about why that was the case. New clause 6 called for joined-up working between the Treasury and the Department for International Development. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, I and many other hon. Members and Members of the House of Lords were in Committee Room 14 this morning to listen to President Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Irish President Mary Robinson, three of the Elders, who were talking about human rights and in particular developing nations. They specifically praised the record of this Government as the first major Government in the world to reach the 0.7% target for overseas aid. I urge upon my colleagues in Government again that we build upon that achievement by making sure that our aid is well spent and raises the capacity of overseas Governments to develop their own tax collection capability so that they are not so dependent on us in the future.

As others wish to speak, I turn to the wider measures in the Bill. For those of us who have been on the entire journey, it has been a long trip from the Budget to Second Reading, to Committee of the whole House, to 18 sittings of the Committee, and to the past two days. Some of the things that were there at the start did not make it all the way through to the end. Maybe somewhere in Cornwall there is someone sitting in a caravan, eating a pasty washed down by sports drinks, filling in a gift aid form, perhaps to a church restoration fund. Such a person ought to be happy that this Government listen.

Some things, to be fair, were consistent all the way through that process. We heard them again this evening from Rachel Reeves—Labour’s five-point plan. As a boy, I was brought up to go to Sunday school, so I cannot help but be reminded of the parable of the feeding of the 5,000; they start off with such a small amount and expect it to achieve so many things, but without the benefit of miraculous intervention.

When all these measures are long forgotten, having simply been about tens of millions or hundreds of millions of pounds, it is the really significant measures in the Budget, which involve billions of pounds, that will be remembered in the sweep of history. The most significant of those is the progress towards raising the income tax threshold towards £10,000. My party, the Liberal Democrats, can take particular pleasure in the fact that the Budget and the Finance Act, as the Bill is soon to become, set us off towards another milestone on the route to achieving the £10,000 tax-free threshold. It will already lift 800,000 people out of income tax, and it will do so for 1.1 million people over the coming year and 2 million next year, allowing more people to retain the benefits of their work. We also saw in the Budget the introduction of effective wealth taxes, new rates of stamp duty, a new clampdown on stamp duty avoidance, something the previous Government shirked on many occasions, and new restrictions on reliefs against tax.

When the history of this Government and this Budget is written, it is the rise in the threshold to £10,000 that will be long remembered when all the ephemera we have been dealing with, and which Opposition Members have been so keen to raise over the past 12 weeks, are long forgotten. The raising of the threshold, which will lift people out of taxation, is the big issue that will be remembered for many years to come.