Before I call the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is convenient to remind hon. Members that copies of the Budget resolutions will be available in the Vote Office at the end of the Chancellor’s speech. It may also be appropriate to remind hon. Members that it is not the norm to intervene on the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Leader of the Opposition.
I can report today that the economy is continuing to recover, and recovering faster than forecast. We set out our plan, and together with the British people we held our nerve. After the mess we were left, we are putting Britain right, but the job is far from done. Our country still borrows too much; we still do not invest enough, export enough or save enough, so today we do more to put that right.
This is a Budget for building a resilient economy. If you are a maker, a doer or a saver, this Budget is for you. It is all part of a long-term economic plan—a plan that is delivering security for the people of this country. I have never shied away from telling the British people about the difficult decisions we face, and just because things are getting better, I do not intend to do so today. Yes, the deficit is down by a third, and now in the coming year it will be down by a half, but it is still one of the highest in Europe, so today we take further action to bring it down.
Yes, investment and exports are up, but Britain has 20 years of catching up to do, so today we back businesses who invest and export. Yes, manufacturing is growing again, as my hon. Friend Andrew Stephenson just reminded us, and jobs are being created across the country, but manufacturing halved under the last Government, with all bets on the City of London. So today, we support manufacturers and back all regions of our country. While as a nation we are getting on top of our debts, for many decades Britain has borrowed too much and saved too little, so in this Budget we make sure hard-working people keep more of what they earn and more of what they save.
Yesterday we set out our support for parents with tax-free child care. Today support for savers is at the centre of this Budget, as we take another step towards our central mission: economic security for the people of Britain.
Let me turn to today’s forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility. I am grateful to Robert Chote, Steve Nickell and their team, and thank Graham Parker for agreeing to serve with them for another term. It is a credit to the OBR that we now take it for granted that the figures presented at this Dispatch Box are not fiddled but fair and independent. A year ago at the Budget, the OBR forecast the economy to grow by just 0.6% in 2013. it now confirms that it grew by three times as much. At the autumn statement, it significantly revised up its expectations for future growth. Today I can tell the House it is revising up its forecast again. A year ago, it predicted that growth in 2014 would be 1.8%; at the autumn statement, 2.4%; today, the OBR forecasts growth in 2014 of 2.7%. That is the biggest upward revision to growth between Budgets for at least 30 years. Growth next year is also revised up, to 2.3%; then, it is 2.6% in 2016 and 2017; and with the output gap closed around a year earlier than previously predicted, growth returns to around its long-term trend, at 2.5%, in 2018. Taken together, these growth figures mean our economy will be £16 billion larger than was forecast just four months ago.
There is another prediction the OBR makes today that the House will want to know about. Six years ago, Britain suffered a great recession. We had the biggest bank bail-out in the world. We had the biggest deficit since the war. We suffered the deepest recession in modern times—or as the shadow Chancellor put it, some mistakes were made. But later this year the OBR expects Britain to reach the point when our economy is finally larger than before it collapsed six years ago. That is because we are now growing faster than Germany, faster than Japan, faster than the United States—in fact, there is no major advanced economy in the world growing faster than Britain today.
But we should be alert to the risks. The euro area is slowly recovering, but as the OBR cautions today,
“further damaging instability remains possible”.
There is volatility in emerging markets, and while for now the OBR does not expect the situation in Ukraine to have a “large impact” on us, it does warn that an escalation risks higher commodity prices, higher inflation and lower growth. It is a reminder of why we need to build our economy’s resilience.
At home, the biggest risk is clear: abandoning the economic plan that is working. And nowhere is the success of that plan more evident than in job creation. Today again we are reminded that the most important consequence of our plan is more people in work, with each job meaning a family more secure. Some in this House predicted that our plan meant a million jobs would be lost. They were spectacularly wrong. The pace of net job creation under this Government has been three times faster than in any other recovery on record: 1.3 million more people in work. The latest figures today show a staggering 24% fall in the claimant count in just one year, and the fastest fall in the youth claimant count since 1997. The OBR now forecasts one and a half million more jobs over the next five years, unemployment down from the 8% we inherited to just over 5%., and the OBR predicts earnings will grow faster than inflation this year and in every year of the forecast. That is why the country can afford a real-terms increase in the national minimum wage. This is a Government whose plan is delivering jobs. We now have a record number in work; a record number of women in work; and for the first time in 35 years, a higher employment rate than the United States of America. That is what we mean when we say we are getting Britain working.
There can be no economic security if there is no control of the public finances. Before I presented my first Budget to this House, the Government were borrowing £1 in every £4 they spent, and we were faced with the threat of a sovereign debt crisis. We have taken difficult decisions, each and every one of which was opposed. But thanks to those decisions, the IMF now say that we are achieving the largest reduction in both the headline and the structural deficits of any major advanced economy in the world. There were those who said repeatedly that the deficit was going to go up. Instead, I can tell the House that the OBR has revised down the underlying deficit in every year of its forecast. Before we came to office the deficit was 11%. This year it says it will be 6.6%—lower than forecast and down a third; next year, 5.5%—down a half; then it will fall to 4.2%, 2.4% and reach 0.8% in 2017-18. In 2018-19, it is forecasting no deficit at all; instead, at plus 0.2%, a small surplus. But only if we work through the plan.
The Government’s fiscal mandate is met, and continues to be met a year early, yet while the underlying structural deficit falls, it falls no faster than was previously forecast, despite higher growth. This goes to the heart of the argument this Government have made: faster growth alone will not balance the books. Securing Britain’s economic future means there will have to be more hard decisions—more cuts. The question for the British people is: who has the credibility to deliver them?
Let me turn to the underlying cash borrowing numbers. Britain was borrowing £157 billion a year before we came to office. This year we expect to borrow £108 billion. That is £12 billion less than forecast a year ago. Indeed, even since the autumn statement the OBR has revised down borrowing in every single year. In 2014-15 it says it will fall to £95 billion. Then it falls again to £75 billion in 2015-16, then £44 billion, and then down to £17 billion. In 2018-19 we will not be borrowing at all—we will have a small surplus of £5 billion.
Taken together, these new figures mean Britain will be borrowing £24 billion less than was forecast. That is more than we spend in an entire year on the police and criminal justice system. Lower borrowing and a smaller deficit mean less debt. While we meet the debt target one year late as before, the OBR has revised down national debt in every single year of the forecast. It expects it to be 74.5% of GDP this year, 77.3% next year, peaking at 78.7% in 2015-16—lower than the 80% previously forecast—before falling to 78.3% in 2016-17, then falling to 76.5% and then 74.2% in 2018-19.
So, growth is up, the deficit is set to halve, debt is lower. and the biggest single saving of all is a £42 billion reduction in the interest payments we will have to make on that debt, saving every family in the nation the equivalent of almost £2,000, money that was going to creditors around the world, now going to pay for the NHS and other public services.
It is because we have a credible fiscal plan that the Bank of England can provide the support needed to businesses and families. Yesterday I confirmed the appointments of Anthony Habgood to chair the Court and Ben Broadbent and Minouche Shafik to be the new deputy governors for monetary policy and for markets and banking respectively. All three make a strong team at the Bank stronger still.
I today reconfirm my remit for the Monetary Policy Committee, including the target of 2% CPI inflation, which the OBR expects will be met this year, next year and in the years ahead. I also set out the remit for the Financial Policy Committee, the body created by us to avoid the mistakes of the past. Although the OBR forecast that house prices will remain below their real-terms peak until at least 2018, I have asked the committee to be particularly vigilant against the emergence of potential risks in the housing market. To enhance our resilience and protect us from economic shocks, we will also continue rebuilding our foreign exchange reserves. Those reserves are now 50% higher than when we came to office.
Of course, the prerequisite of sound money is a sound currency, and the £1 coin has become increasingly vulnerable to forgery. It is now among the oldest coins in circulation, and one in 30 £1 coins is counterfeit. That costs businesses and the taxpayer millions each year, so I can tell the House that we will move to a new, highly secure £1 coin. It will take three years. We will consult with industry. Our new £1 coin will blend the security features of the future with inspiration from our past. In honour of our Queen, the coin will take the shape of one of the first coins she appeared on: the threepenny bit. A more resilient pound for a more resilient economy.
Sound money depends, too, on sound public finances. We are entering a critical phase and we must learn from the past. Every time a post-war Government have embarked on public spending cuts, real spending has risen back to its previous heights within three years. Sure enough, there are those today who say: “Ease up, spend more, borrow more.” That would mean debt rising towards 100% of GDP, undermining growth. It would be a huge mistake, and we are not going to let that happen.
Many Chancellors faced with a recovering economy and improved borrowing forecasts before an election would be tempted to squander the gains. I will not do that today. These gains were hard won by the British people, and we are not going to jeopardise their economic security. Britain is not going back to square one, so in this Budget all decisions are paid for. Taxes are lower but so, too, is spending, for we must bring our national debt substantially down. Analysis published today shows that just running a balanced current budget does not secure that. Instead, Britain needs to run an absolute surplus in good years. We will fix the roof when the sun is shining, to protect Britain from future storms.
So I can confirm that, in addition to the cuts this year and next, there will be cuts in the next Parliament too. To lock in our country’s commitment to this path of deficit reduction, we will seek the support of Parliament in a vote, and I will bring forward a new charter for budget responsibility this autumn. We are taking further difficult decisions now so we can reduce the deficit and protect our NHS and schools and meet our obligations to the world’s poorest by contributing 0.7% of our national income to help them. I am proud that we are doing that.
On public service pensions, we implemented the reforms proposed by John Hutton. Once again the House will want to thank him for his work. We will ensure that schemes are properly valued, saving the taxpayer over £1 billion a year. We are continuing with pay restraint in the public sector—an essential part of maintaining sound finances and economic stability. We will also insist on the prudent management of departmental finances. Thanks to the efforts of my colleagues in Cabinet, these now regularly come in under budget. In order to lock in these underspends, I said in December that we would reduce spending by £1 billion in 2015-16. Today, I am making that overall billion-pound reduction permanent.
I look forward to the work my excellent colleague the Chief Secretary is now doing, with the Cabinet Office, to find further efficiencies. Difficult decisions on public service pay and pensions, further savings in departments, a cap on welfare bills—none of these decisions is easy, but they are the right thing to ensure that Britain lives within her means.
We set out today the details of that welfare cap, and we will seek the support of Parliament for it in a vote next week. From housing benefit to tax credits, the full list of benefits included in the cap is published in the Budget document today. Only the state pension and the cyclical unemployment benefits are excluded. I am setting it at £119 billion in 2015-16. It will rise, but only in line with forecast inflation, to £127 billion in 2018-19.
Britain should always be proud of having a welfare system that helps those most in need, but never again should we allow its costs to spiral out of control and its incentives to become so distorted that it pays not to work. In future, any Government who want to spend more on benefits will have to be honest with the public about the costs, will need the approval of Parliament, and will be held to account by this permanent cap on welfare.
The distributional analysis published today shows that the Budget decisions, and the decisions across this Parliament, mean that the rich are making the biggest contribution to the reduction of the deficit, because we are all in this together. [Interruption.]
Order. The right hon. Gentleman needs to get to the end of the speech without anybody having to intervene.
The independent statistics show that under this Government income inequality is at its lowest level for 28 years, lower than at any single moment under Labour. Thanks to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s leadership we have driven the international efforts to develop tough new global tax rules that stop rich individuals hiding their tax and companies shifting their profits offshore. Here at home we are collecting twice as much as before through compliance—collecting the taxes that are due—and the number of registered tax avoidance schemes has fallen by half.
While the vast majority of wealthy people pay their taxes, there is still a small minority who do not. We will now require that those who have signed up to disclosed tax avoidance schemes pay their taxes, like everyone else, up front. This will apply in future to schemes covered by our general anti-abuse rule too. If people feel they have been wronged, they can of course go to court. If they win, they get their money back with interest. We have already consulted on this idea; now we will implement it. The OBR confirms that this will bring forward £4 billion of tax receipts and it will fundamentally reduce the incentive to engage in tax avoidance in the future.
Public tolerance for those who do not pay their fair share evaporated long ago, but we had to wait for this Government before there was proper action. Today we go further still. I am increasing the budget of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to tackle non-compliance. We will block transfers of profits between companies within groups to avoid tax. We will increase tax credit debt recovery rates for those with sufficient earnings.
We will give HMRC modern powers to collect debts from bank accounts of people who can afford to pay but have repeatedly refused to do so, like most other western countries. We will increase compliance checks to catch migrants who claim benefits that they are not entitled to, saving the taxpayer almost £100 million. We will take action to curb potential misuse of the enterprise investment and venture capital trust schemes, and we are expanding the new tax that we introduced to stop people avoiding stamp duty by owning homes through a company.
We will expand the tax on residential properties worth over £2 million to those worth more than £500,000, and from midnight tonight anyone purchasing residential property worth more than £500,000 through a corporate envelope will be required to pay 15% stamp duty. None of this applies to homes that are rented out. Many of these are empty properties held in corporate envelopes to avoid stamp duty. This abuse will end.
Another abuse has been the manipulation of the LIBOR rate. Our regulators are broadening their investigation to the foreign exchange markets and I will keep the House informed. Financial services are a hugely important industry to this country which I want to promote around the world. But I also want the fines paid by those who have demonstrated the worst values to support those who demonstrate the best of British values. I am talking about the men and women in our armed forces who risk their lives to keep us free. So I will continue to direct the use of the LIBOR fines to our military charities and our emergency service charities too. Because the sums continue to grow through the fines, I can today extend that support to our search and rescue and lifeboat services, and provide £10 million of support to our scouts, guides, cadets and St John Ambulance. I am today waiving inheritance tax for those in our emergency services who give their lives protecting us.
I will also relieve VAT on fuel for our air ambulances and inshore rescue boat services across Britain, and provide a new air ambulance for London, all in response to huge and heartfelt public demand and the campaigns of my hon. Friends the Members for Hexham (Guy Opperman), for Brentford and Isleworth (Mary Macleod) and for Argyll and Bute (Mr Reid).
Tomorrow is the 21st anniversary of the IRA bomb that killed young Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball. Survivors for Peace was set up by Tim’s parents, Colin and Wendy, and it no longer receives lottery funding. My hon. Friend David Mowat and Dame Tessa Jowell have both raised this issue, and I know myself what incredible work they do. To honour the memory of all victims of terrorism, we will provide the funding that this programme needs. Last month with the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my right hon. Friend David Mundell, I visited Lockerbie to pay my respects on the 25th anniversary of that tragedy. We will support the scholarships created for local people there to study in the United States.
Further, this summer, many services of remembrance will be held in our cathedrals to mark the great war, so we are providing £20 million to support the repairs that these historic buildings need. We will also support the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta next year. King John’s humbling defeat centuries ago seems unimaginably distant—a weak leader who had risen to the top after betraying his brother, compelled by a gang of unruly barons to sign on the dotted line. I will provide a grant to the Magna Carta Trust to ensure that today’s generation learns the lessons of the past.
We will not have a secure economic future if Britain does not earn its way in the world. We need our businesses to export more, build more, invest more and manufacture more. Our exports have grown each year and the OBR today forecasts rising export growth in the future. Our combined goods exports to Brazil, India and China have risen faster than those of our competitors, but we are starting from a low base and we have many lost years to catch up. Britain has to up its game on exports, and today we do. With Stephen Green, and now Ian Livingston, we are expanding the reach and support that UK Trade & Investment offers British businesses. For many firms the truth is that they can win the contract only if they are backed by competitive export finance. For decades the British Government have been the last port of call, when we should be backing British businesses wanting to sell abroad. Today, we fundamentally change that, and we are going to start with the finance we provide our exporters. We will double the amount of lending available to £3 billion, and I can announce that from today the interest rates we charge on that lending will be cut by a third. Instead of having the least competitive export finance in Europe, we will have the most competitive.
We will also reform air passenger duty to end the crazy system where you pay less tax travelling to Hawaii than you do travelling to China or India. It hits exports, puts off tourists and creates a great sense of injustice among our Caribbean and south Asian communities here in Britain. From next year, all long-haul flights will carry the same, lower, band B tax rate that you now pay to fly to the United States. Private jets were not taxed at all under the previous Government. Today they are, and I am increasing the charge so they pay more. And because we want all parts of our country to see better links with the markets of the future, we are going to provide start-up support for new routes from regional airports, such as Liverpool, Leeds or, indeed, Inverness. More support for businesses; competitive finance; cheaper global flights—I want the message to go out that we are backing our exporters, so that wherever you are around the world you cannot fail to see “Made in Britain”.
One key British export is the North sea’s oil and gas. We will take forward all recommendations of the Wood report, and we will review the whole tax regime to make sure it is fit for the purpose of extracting every drop of oil we can. We will introduce now a new allowance for ultra-high pressure, high temperature fields to support billions of pounds of investment, thousands of jobs and a significant proportion of our country’s energy needs. Even with these measures, the North sea is a mature basin, and the OBR has today revised down the forecast tax receipts by a further £3 billion over the period. The Scottish economy is doing well and jobs are being created, but this is a reminder of how precarious the budget of an independent Scotland would be. These further downgrades in the tax receipts would leave independent Scots with a shortfall of £1,000 per person—Britain is better together.
Our country needs to export more and it also needs to build more. House building is up 23%, but that is not enough. That is why we are making further reforms to our planning system and offering half a billion pounds of finance to small house building firms; it is why we are signing city deals across the country to get more built, with a new funding deal this week for Cambridge; it is why we are giving people a new right to build their own homes and providing £150 million of finance today to support that; it is why we are funding regeneration of some of the worst conditions in urban housing estates that we have in this country, and we are extending the current support for mortgage interest scheme to 2016; and it is why we have got Help to Buy.
We are extending the Help to Buy equity loan scheme for the rest of the decade, so that we get 120,000 new homes built. In the south-east, where the pressure is greatest, we are going to build new homes in Barking Riverside, regenerate Brent Cross and build the first new garden city in almost 100 years at Ebbsfleet. The Opposition have said they already announced the homes in Ebbsfleet a decade ago, and they did make the announcement. Do you know how many homes have been built since then? It is less than 300; it was more “ebb” than “fleet”. Instead, we are going to build 15,000 homes there, put in the infrastructure, set up the development corporation and make it happen. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) and for Gravesham (Mr Holloway) for their tremendous support. And we will be publishing a prospectus on the future of garden cities. Taken all together, the housing policies I announce today will support over 200,000 new homes for families—we are getting Britain building.
We are also going to get Britain investing. Britain has under-invested for decades. We are the first Government to have committed to long-term and rising capital budgets, and this autumn I will set out the detailed plans for the projects that will be supported for the rest of the decade. We have been reminded again this week of the benefits of high-speed rail and what that will bring to the north of our country, and I am determined that it goes further north faster. Today, I have approved a £270 million guarantee for the Mersey gateway bridge, thanks to the hard work of my hon. Friend Graham Evans. And, tomorrow we introduce legislation to give new tax and borrowing powers to the Welsh Government to fund their infrastructure needs, and they can start now on work to improve the M4 in south Wales.
Because of the exceptionally poor weather this winter, I am making an additional £140 million available, on top of what has already been provided, for immediate repairs and maintenance to damaged flood defences across Britain. Our roads have taken a battering, too. My hon. Friend Michael Ellis has been a very persistent campaigner for resources to repair the potholes in his constituency and across the country. His persistence has paid off and I am making £200 million available, which local authorities can bid for—I trust Northampton will be making an application.
Modern infrastructure is part of a successful economy. So, too, is a modern industrial strategy. If Britain is not leading the world in science and technology and engineering, we are condemning our country to fall behind. So we will establish new centres for doctoral training, for cell therapy and for graphene—a great British discovery that we should break the habit of a lifetime with and commercially develop in Britain. To make sure we give young people the skills they need to get good jobs in this modern world, we have doubled the number of apprenticeships, and I will extend the grants for smaller businesses to support over 100,000 more apprentices. And we will now develop new degree-level apprenticeships, too.
In my maiden speech here in this House I spoke of Alan Turing, the code breaker who lived in my constituency, who did more than anyone else—almost—to win the war and who was persecuted for his sexuality by the country he helped to save. I am delighted that he has finally received a posthumous royal pardon. Now, in his honour, we will found the Alan Turing Institute to ensure that Britain leads the way again in the use of big data and algorithm research. I am determined that our country is going to out-compete, out-smart and out-do the rest of the world.
Government investment is part of the story, but we need business investment, too. When we came to office, Britain had one of the least competitive business tax regimes in Europe—now we have the most competitive. Thanks to the Office of Tax Simplification, we have already cut burdens on administration, and I am grateful to Michael Jack, John Whiting and their team for their hard work. Today, we accept their recommendation to move the collection of class 2 national insurance contributions into self-assessment, abolishing for 5 million people this wholly unnecessary bureaucracy. And we have cut business tax rates, too. Corporation tax was 28% when we came to office. In just two weeks, corporation tax will be down to 21%, high street stores will get £1,000 off their rates and every business in the country will get the employment allowance—a £2,000 cash-back on jobs. Next year, corporation tax will reach 20% and we take under-21s out of the jobs tax altogether.
So businesses are keeping more of their money to create jobs and invest in the future—today, I want to go further. Many of the enterprise zones we created are now flourishing, so the business rates discounts and enhanced capital allowances will be extended for another three years. And I can confirm that, with the Northern Ireland Executive, we will establish the first enterprise zone there near Coleraine. I am raising the rate of the research and development tax credit for loss-making small businesses from 11% to 14.5%. Two years ago, I launched the seed enterprise investment scheme to help finance start-ups. It has been a great success and I am making it permanent. We are backing investment into social enterprises with a social investment tax relief at a rate of 30%. And we are supporting our creative industries, too. The European Commission has today approved the extension of our film tax credit, and I will apply the same successful approach to theatre, especially regional theatre. From this September, there will be a 20% tax relief for qualifying productions—and 25% for regional touring. And we are expanding by a third the size of the cultural gift scheme.
But I want to do something today that helps all businesses to invest. In 2012, I increased the annual investment allowance tenfold to £250,000. This generous allowance was due to expire at the end of this year, but all the business groups urged me to extend it. So we will, but we will do more. We will double the investment allowance to £500,000, extend it to the end of 2015 and start it next month—99.8% of businesses will get a 100% investment allowance. Almost every business across Britain will pay no up-front tax when they invest in the future. It costs £2 billion in the short term, so when we say that we are going to get Britain investing and to back growth around the country, we mean it.
A resilient economy is a more balanced economy, with more exports, more building, more investment and more manufacturing too. We have got to support our manufacturers if we want to see more growth in our regions. To those who say that manufacturing is finished in the west, I say look at America, which will see up to 5 million new manufacturing jobs by the end of this decade, and I will tell you why. US industrial energy prices are half those in Britain. We need to cut our energy costs. We are going to do this by investing in new sources of energy, new nuclear power, renewables, and a shale gas revolution. We are going to do this by promoting energy efficiency. Today, we are tilting the playing field—extending the 2% increase in company car tax in 2017-18 and 2018-19 while increasing the discount for ultra low emission vehicles, and reducing the rate of fuel duty on methanol. But above all, we are going to have a £7 billion package to cut energy bills for British manufacturers, with benefits for families and other businesses too.
First, I am capping the carbon price support rate at £18 per tonne of carbon dioxide from 2016-17 for the rest of the decade. This will save a mid-sized manufacturer almost £50,000 on its annual energy bill, and it will save families £15 a year on their bills too, over and above the £50 we have already taken off.
Secondly, I am extending the existing compensation scheme for energy-intensive industries for a further four years to 2019-20. Our steelmakers, chemical plants, paper mills and other heavy energy users make up 35% of our manufacturing exports and employ half a million people. This scheme helps the companies most at risk of leaving to remain in the UK.
Thirdly, I am introducing new compensation worth almost £1 billion to protect these energy-intensive manufacturers from the rising costs of the renewables obligation and the feed-in tariffs, otherwise green levies and taxes will make up over a third of their energy bills by the end of the decade.
Fourthly, I am exempting from the carbon price floor the electricity from combined heat and power plants, which hundreds of manufacturers use. This entire package will be delivered without any reduction in the investment in renewable energy.
Today, I have cut the cost of manufacturing in Britain. Half of the firms that will benefit most are in the north of England, and a third are in Scotland and Wales. Thousands of good jobs are protected. We have a more resilient economy, a Government on the side of manufacturers and a Britain that makes things again.
We are backing exports, backing manufacturing and backing a Britain that builds. We also want to help hard-working people keep more of what they earn and of what they save. That is what we have done by freezing council tax, freezing fuel duty and raising the personal allowance to £10,000. From next year, there will be tax-free child care—20% off for up to £10,000 of child care costs for parents, and an early years pupil premium to help the most disadvantaged.
Today we can do more to help. Let me start with duties. I can confirm that the fuel duty rise planned for September will not take place. Petrol will be 20p lower per litre than it would have been under the plans of the previous Government.
Turning to gambling duties, fixed odds betting terminals have proliferated since gambling laws were liberalised a decade ago. These machines are highly lucrative, and therefore it is right that we now raise the duty on them to 25%. We will also extend the horserace betting levy to bookmakers who are based offshore, and we will look at wider levy reform and at introducing a “racing right” to support the sport.
While the number of betting machines have grown, the number of bingo halls has plummeted by three quarters over the last 30 years, yet bingo duty has been set at the high rate of 20%. Now that fuel duty is frozen, my hon. Friend Robert Halfon has turned his energy and talent into a vigorous campaign to cut bingo duty, ably assisted by my hon. Friend Peter Aldous. They want the rate cut to 15%. I can go further. Bingo duty will be halved to 10% to protect jobs and to protect communities.
Let me turn now to tobacco and alcohol duties. Tobacco duty has been rising by 2% above inflation and will do so again today, as previously confirmed. This escalator was due to end next year, but there are no sound health reasons to end it, so it will be extended for the rest of the next Parliament.
We have introduced new laws to prevent alcohol from being sold below minimum tax rates, and this helps to prevent supermarkets from undercutting pubs and it helps to stop problem drinking. It is a far more targeted approach than the alcohol duty escalator, which was introduced by the previous Government and hated by so many responsible drinkers. Today, I am scrapping that escalator for all alcohol duties. They will rise with inflation, with these exceptions: Scottish whisky is a huge British success story. [Hon. Members: “Scotch whisky.”] To support that industry, instead of raising duties on Scotch whisky and other spirits, I am today going to freeze them, and with some cider makers in the west country, who have been hit hard by the recent weather, I am going to help them by freezing the duty on ordinary cider too.
Then there is beer. I know the industry, led so ably by my hon. Friend Andrew Griffiths, has been campaigning for a freeze, but beer duty next week will not be frozen; it will be cut again by 1p—pubs saved, jobs created and a penny off a pint for the second year running.
It is a central part of our long-term economic plan that people keep more of the money they have earned. When we came to office, the personal tax allowance was just £6,500. In less than three weeks time, it will reach £10,000. That is an income tax cut for 25 million people. Today, because we are working through our plan, we can afford to go further. Next year, there will be no income tax at all on the first £10,500 of your salary—£10,500 tax free and £800 less in tax every year for the typical taxpayer. Our increases in the personal allowance will have lifted over 3 million of the lowest paid out of income tax altogether, and I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved.
I can also confirm today that the higher rate threshold will rise for the first time this Parliament, from £41,450 to £41,865 next month, and then by a further 1% to £42,285 next year. Because I am passing the full benefit of today’s personal allowance increase on to higher rate taxpayers, people earning £42,000, £43,000, £50,000, £60,000—all the way up to £100,000—will be paying less income tax because of this Budget. We have tax cuts for those on low incomes, and those on middle incomes too—help for hard-working people as part of a long-term economic plan delivered by a coalition Government and a Conservative Chancellor. I am linking the rate of the transferable tax allowance for married couples to the personal allowance, so it will also rise to £1,050—help for 4 million families that they will take away and that we are proud to provide.
Our tax changes will help people in work, but there is a large group who have had a particularly hard time in recent years, and that is savers. This matters not just because they are people who have made sacrifices to provide for their own economic security in retirement. It matters too because one of the biggest weaknesses of the British economy is that it borrows too much and saves too little. This has been a problem for decades and we cannot fix it overnight. It is no surprise that the OBR forecasts the savings ratio falling, so today we put in place policies for savers that stand alongside deficit reduction as a centrepiece of our long-term economic plan.
The reforms I am about to announce are only possible because, thanks to this Government, we have a triple lock on the state pension; more people are saving through auto-enrolment; and we are introducing a single-tier pension that will lift most people above the means test. That secure basic income for pensioners means that we can make far-reaching changes to the tax regime to reward those who save. Here is how. First, I want to help savers by dramatically increasing the simplicity, flexibility and generosity of individual savings accounts. Twenty-four million people in this country have an ISA, and yet millions of them would like to save more than the annual limits of around £5,500 on cash ISAs, and £11,500 on stocks and shares ISAs. Three quarters of those who hit the cash ISA limit are basic rate taxpayers. So we will make ISAs simpler by merging the cash and stocks ISAs to create a single new ISA. We will make them more flexible by allowing savers to transfer all of the ISAs they already have from stocks and shares into cash, or the other way round, and we are going to make the new ISA more generous by increasing the annual limit to £15,000—that is £15,000 of savings a year tax free, available from
But the £15,000 new ISA is just the first thing we are doing for savers today. Secondly, many pensioners have seen their incomes fall as a consequence of the low interest rates that Britain has deliberately pursued to support the economy. It is time Britain helped them out in return, so we will launch the new pensioner bond, paying market leading rates. It will be issued by National
Savings & Investments, open to everyone aged 65 and over, and available from January next year. The exact rates will be set in the autumn, to ensure the best possible offer, but our assumption is 2.8% for a one-year bond and 4% on a three-year bond. That is much better than anything equivalent in the market today. Up to £10 billion of these bonds will be issued. A maximum of £10,000 can be saved in each bond. That is at least a million pensioner bonds. Because 21 million people also invest in premium bonds, I am lifting the cap for the first time in a decade from £30,000 to £40,000 this June, and to £50,000 next year, and I will double the number of million-pound winners.
I still want to do more to support saving, so, thirdly, we will completely change the tax treatment of defined contribution pensions to bring it into line with the modern world. There will be consequential implications for defined benefit pensions upon which we will consult and proceed cautiously, so the changes we announce today will not apply to them. But 13 million people have defined contribution schemes, and the number continues to grow. We have introduced flexibilities, but most people still have little option but to take out an annuity, even though annuity rates have fallen by half over the last 15 years. The tax rules around these pensions are a manifestation of a patronising view that pensioners cannot be trusted with their own pension pots. I reject that. People who have worked hard and saved hard all their lives, and done the right thing, should be trusted with their own finances, and that is precisely what we will now do: trust the people. Some changes will take effect from next week. We will cut the income requirement for flexible draw-down from £20,000 to £12,000; raise the capped draw-down limit from 120% to 150%; increase the size of the lump sum small pot fivefold to £10,000; and almost double the total pension savings someone can take as a lump sum to £30,000. All of these changes will come into effect on
These measures alone would amount to a radical change, but they are only a step in the fundamental reform of the taxation of defined contribution pensions I want to see.
I am announcing today that we will legislate to remove all remaining tax restrictions on how pensioners have access to their pension pots. Pensioners will have complete freedom to draw down as much or as little of their pension pot as they want, anytime they want: no caps; no draw-down limits. Let me be clear: no one will have to buy an annuity.
We are going to introduce a new guarantee, enforced by law, that everyone who retires on these defined contribution schemes will be offered free, impartial, face-to-face advice on how to get the most from the choices they will now have. Those who still want the certainty of an annuity, as many will, will be able to shop around for the best deal. I am providing £20 million over the next two years to work with consumer groups and industry to develop this new right to advice. When it comes to tax charges, it will be possible to take a quarter of your pension pot tax-free on retirement, as today, but instead of the punitive 55% tax that exists now if you try to take the rest, anything else you take out of your pension will simply be taxed at normal marginal tax rates, as with any other income—so not a 55% tax, but a 20% tax for most pensioners.
The OBR confirms that in the next 15 years, as some people use these new freedoms to draw down their pensions, this tax cut will lead to an increase in tax receipts. Government Members understand that when you cut a tax rate that is punitively high, that can increase revenues. These major changes to the tax regime require a separate Act of Parliament, and we will have them in place for April next year. What I am proposing is the most far-reaching reform to the taxation of pensions since the regime was introduced in 1921.
There is one final reform to support savings that I would like to make. There is a 10p starting rate for income from savings. It is complex to levy and it penalises low- income savers. Today, I am abolishing the 10p rate for savers altogether. When I abolish a 10p rate, I do not sneakily turn it into a 20% rate like the last lot: I am turning it into a 0% rate: no tax on these savings whatsoever. We will almost double this zero-pence band to cover £5,000 of saving income. One and a half million low-income savers of all ages will benefit. Two thirds of a million pensioners will be helped.
The £15,000 new ISA; the pensioner bond; people given access to their own pension pots; a right to impartial advice; the 10p rate for savers abolished to zero—the message from this Budget is this: you have earned it; you have saved it; and this Government are on your side. Whether you are on a low or middle income, whether you are saving for your home, for your family or for your retirement, we are backing a Britain that saves. The central mission of this Government is to deliver economic security. We are not promising quick fixes. Instead we are taking the next steps in our long-term plan. The forecasts I have presented show growth up; jobs up; and the deficit down. Now we are securing Britain’s economic future with: manufacturing promoted; working rewarded; saving supported. With the help of the British people, we are turning our country around. We are building a resilient economy. This is a Budget for the makers, the doers, and the savers, and I commend it to the House.