Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:07 pm on 25th March 2013.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Commission 7:07 pm, 25th March 2013

Absolutely. That shows the sort of difficulties in the Labour party’s arguments. If it is to form a Government, it must come up with a viable alternative.

I do not support cutting for the sake of cutting. If Tesco has a problem in its bread department, it sells bread more efficiently; it does not cut the number of loaves it sells. I agree about that, but the Labour party cannot give simplistic solutions based on more wasteful spending, nor can it constantly say that our problems would be solved if we restored the 50% tax band, when every study proves that it reduced revenues to the Treasury. As we know, the top 1% of earners pay 24% of all tax revenues. Labour has to come up with something more intellectual and rational if it is to convince the British people that it is ready for government.

The situation is dire. The incomes of 2007 will not be seen again until 2019. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, we will need a further £9 billion of cuts to public services after the next election. In 2015, there will be £70 billion more borrowing than was predicted in 2010. Any Budget giveaways—I accept that this Budget is politically astute—will be soaked up by inflation rising faster than wages. That point has already been made about the 1p cut in beer duty. One would have to drink five pints every night for seven nights to save 35p a week. I am not sure that will impress anybody. The cut in corporation tax is welcome, but that is only a small part of the total cost to business. Business rates have increased by 13% in three years and are the prime motivator against growth in the small business economy.

The problems that we face are difficult, complex and international. I am still firmly convinced that we need a strategy based on levelling taxation as much as is possible. The attempt to bring corporation tax more in line with small business tax is a first step. We should try to flatten all capital taxes and business taxes. We should then move on to income taxes and get rid of the plethora of allowances, which fuels an industry based on evasion and avoidance.

At first sight, the excellent scheme that the Chancellor is trying to bring together to help with home loans is very good if it does not lead to a property bubble. However, it is a bit like somebody climbing a ladder with loads of our money, throwing it over the edge and saying, “May the fittest come and get it.” It is a bit like the person rushing towards the pool of Bethesda.

It would be much better to have a flatter, simpler form of taxation so that people make their own decisions and do not rely on Government handouts, and so that we do not have a huge industry based on evasion and avoidance.

We are creating a special child care allowance for people who want to put their children into child care. That is great, but why have we not fulfilled our pledge to introduce a married person’s tax allowance?