This is a Budget that puts security first. It is a Budget that recognises the hard work and the sacrifice of the British people over the past five years and says that we will not put that at risk; we have a job to do and we are here to get on with it. This will be a Budget for working people—a Budget that sets out a plan for Britain for the next five years to keep moving us from a low wage, high tax, high welfare economy to the higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare country we intend to create.
This is the new settlement. From a one nation Government, this is a one nation Budget that takes the necessary steps and follows a sensible path for the benefit of the whole of the United Kingdom. This is a Conservative Budget that can be delivered only because the British people trusted us to finish the job, because they know that the only way to have a strong NHS, strong schools and a strong defence is to build a strong economy. That is how we were elected, and that is exactly what we are now going to do.
The British economy that I report on today is fundamentally stronger than it was five years ago. We are growing faster than any other major advanced economy. Our businesses have created 2 million more jobs. Living standards are rising strongly. Our long-term economic plan is working. But the greatest mistake this country could make would be to think all our problems are solved. We have only to look at the crisis unfolding in Greece as I speak to realise that, if a country is not in control of its borrowing, the borrowing takes control of the country. Britain still spends too much; it borrows too much, and our weak productivity shows that we do not train enough, build enough or invest enough. This we are determined to change. We will be bold in transforming education, bold in reforming welfare, bold in delivering infrastructure and bold in building the northern powerhouse. We will be bold in backing the aspirations of working people. This is a big Budget for a country with big ambitions. It is a Budget that sets the way to secure Britain’s future.
Let me turn to the latest forecasts from our independent Office for Budget Responsibility. We thank Robert Chote and his colleagues for their hard work. We now have Budgets that fit the economic forecasts, instead of economic forecasts that were fixed to fit the Budget. At the March Budget, it was thought that the British economy had grown by 2.6% last year. We now know that it grew by 3%. But the global economic risks are rising. The US economy has slowed, so too has China, and even before the Greek crisis intensified this week, the forecasts for global growth had been revised down this year to 3.2%. It is all the more reason to get our own house in order.
For 2015, the OBR forecasts growth at 2.4%. That is faster than America, faster than Germany and twice as fast as France. For the second year in a row, Britain is expected to have the strongest economic growth of any major advanced economy in the world. In 2016, the OBR has growth unchanged at 2.3%, and then it is revised up to 2.4% in the following year—a level of strong, steady growth that it predicts for the rest of the decade. This growth is driven by stronger private consumption, and by stronger private investment, too. Indeed, business investment is now 31.9% higher than it was in 2010, and is revised up again this year. Now we need to see investment at home matched by exports abroad. Our decision to become a founder member of the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is driven by our determination to connect Britain to the fastest-growing parts of the world, and our decision to seek reform to the EU is driven by our determination that this part of the world shall not price itself out of a prosperous future.
Higher investment leads to more jobs, which brings me to the OBR forecasts for employment. Over 2 million more people have the security of work as a result of this Government’s long-term economic plan. The OBR forecasts that under the current economic conditions, almost 1 million more jobs will be created over the next five years. Our ambition is to go further, and create 2 million more jobs on the road to full employment. To help achieve that progressive goal, we set out today how we will make work pay.
Jobs are not created by accident. They are created when businesses have confidence—the confidence to invest, to grow and to hire; confidence that comes because Britain is getting its house in order. So we seek to create a country that can truly pay its way. The budget deficit is now less than half the 10% we inherited, and economic security is returning, but all that progress is at risk if we do not finish the job. That means more than just eliminating the deficit; it means running a surplus to get our dangerously high levels of debt down.
That brings me to the first of the key judgments in this Budget—how fast do we cut the deficit? My answer is this: we should cut the deficit at the same pace as we did in the last Parliament. We should not go faster; we should not go slower. At this pace, the national debt is lower as a share of our national income in every future year than when I presented the Budget in March, and it is achieved without a rollercoaster ride in public spending.
This is why: first, our tax receipts are stronger than forecast, showing that the recovery is firmly entrenched; secondly, as a strong majority Government, we have been able to get on with making extra savings in this financial year; and thirdly, we can make faster progress in returning our banks, including RBS, to where they belong—the private sector. Indeed, the sale of Government assets this year will deliver the largest privatisation proceeds of all time, higher than the previous record in 1987. With stronger tax receipts, more asset sales and a strong Government who are getting on with the job, we can achieve a smoother path to the same destination, with a surplus a year later in 2019-20, but the national debt lower and that same surplus higher. For this is a Budget that puts economic security first.
Many difficult but necessary decisions are required to save money, and this will be done with moderation but determination. This is a one nation Government who do the best thing for the economy and the right thing for the country. This plan is reflected in the forecasts for debt and deficit produced today by the Office for Budget Responsibility. The deficit was 10.2% of national income in 2010. This year, it is forecast to fall to 3.7%—one third of the deficit we inherited. It then falls again to 2.2% in 2016-17, down to 1.2% the year after, and then to just 0.3% in 2018-19. The following year, 2019-20, we move into a budget surplus at 0.4%, which is then maintained the year after at 0.5% of GDP. In structural terms, the OBR judges that this will be the largest surplus in at least 40 years—Britain back in the black, and in its strongest position for almost half a century.
This is, of course, all reflected in the amount of cash Britain has to borrow each year. In 2010, Britain was borrowing a staggering and unsustainable £153 billion a year. In March, the OBR forecast that we would borrow less than half of that, or £75.3 billion, this year. In this Budget, it has revised borrowing down this year to £69.5 billion. Borrowing then falls to £43.1 billion next year, £24.3 billion in 2017-18, and down to just £6.4 billion the year after. In 2019-20, we move into a surplus higher than previously forecast of £10 billion, which rises to £11.6 billion the year after—Britain finally doing the responsible thing and raising more money than it spends.
Five years ago, we inherited a situation in which our national debt as a share of our national income was soaring. This year, that national debt share is falling, bringing to an end the longest continued rise in our national debt since the 17th century. It is falling now, and it continues to fall in every year of the forecast, down from 80.3% this year to 79.1% next year, then down again to 77.2% in 2017-18, 74.7% the year after, and 71.5% the year after that, before falling again to 68.5% in 2020-21. Britain has turned a corner and left the age of irresponsibility behind.
Having come this far, there can be no turning back. We should aim for a new settlement across the political spectrum where it is accepted that, without sound public finances, there is no economic security for working people; those who suffer when Governments run unsustainable deficits are not the richest, but the poorest; and therefore in normal economic times Governments should run an overall budget surplus, so that our country is better prepared for whatever storms lie ahead. In short, we should always fix the roof while the sun is shining.
Today, I publish the new fiscal charter that commits our country to that path of budget responsibility. While we move from deficit to surplus, this charter commits us to keeping debt falling as a share of GDP each and every year and to achieving that budget surplus by 2019-20. Thereafter, Governments will be required to maintain that surplus in normal times—in other words, when there is not a recession or a marked slowdown.
Only when the OBR judges that we have real GDP growth of less than 1% a year, as measured on a rolling four-quarter basis, will that surplus no longer be required. The Chancellor of the day will have to set out their plan with clear targets to restore the nation’s finances to health and the House of Commons will test the credibility of that plan and vote on those targets. This is sensible, pragmatic and keeps Britain secure. We will put the new fiscal charter to a vote in this House this autumn, and I invite broad cross-party support for it.
To meet the new charter, further difficult decisions need to be taken to live within our means. We will take these decisions in a balanced and fair way. I can confirm that the analysis produced today shows that the richest are paying a greater share of tax than they were at the start of the last Parliament. And more than that, we are continuing to devote a greater share of state support to the most vulnerable. As I said they would, those with the broadest shoulders are bearing the greatest burden, for we are all in this together. And in the last fortnight we have seen independent statistics showing that since 2010 child poverty is down, and so is inequality. That comes on top of a record number of women in work, and the gender pay gap at an all-time low—all good news that should be welcomed on both sides of the House.
The fiscal plan set out in the Budget requires around £37 billion of further consolidation over the Parliament. Today, I set out how we will find just under half of that—£17 billion. We have found annual savings of £12 billion from welfare and £5 billion from tackling tax evasion, avoidance and planning and imbalances in the tax system. The other half will largely come from Government Departments through savings and cuts and will be set out at the spending review that the Chief Secretary and I will conduct this autumn. However, no year will see cuts as deep as those required in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Of course, I am conscious that a huge amount has already been done to increase efficiency across Whitehall, with administrative budgets down by more than 40% in real terms, but there is still much more we can do. There is also a simple trade-off between pay and jobs in many public services. I know that there has already been a period of pay restraint, but we said last autumn that we would need to find commensurate savings in this Parliament, so to ensure that we have public services we can afford, and to protect more jobs, we will continue recent public sector pay awards with a rise of 1% per year for the next four years.
Public spending should reflect public priorities and we have to make choices. Our priority is the national health service. We will fund fully the plan the NHS has itself produced for its future, the Stevens plan. That plan requires very challenging efficiency savings across the health service, which must be found, but it also requires additional Government funding. Our balanced approach means that I can today confirm that the NHS will receive, in addition to the £2 billion we have already provided this year, a further £8 billion. That is £10 billion more a year in real terms by 2020. It is proof that you can only have a strong seven-day NHS if you have a strong economy, and it is proof that the NHS is only truly safe in Conservative hands.
I have set out the difficult choices we are going to face on Government spending and the priority we will accord to our national health service. I turn now to combating tax evasion, avoidance and aggressive tax planning. In Budget after Budget, we have done more to combat that than any Government before us. We inherited a system where bankers boasted of paying lower tax rates than their cleaners and some multinationals shifted all their profits offshore. We have stopped these blatant abuses that were allowed to flourish, and many others, but we promised the British people we would do more and find a further £5 billion a year, and I can confirm we have done so.
We are boosting HMRC’s capacity, with three quarters of a billion pounds of investment to go after tax fraud, offshore trusts and the businesses of the hidden economy, tripling the number of wealthy evaders it pursues for prosecution and raising £7.2 billion in extra tax.
We are going to change the law to stop the use of losses that abuse our controlled foreign companies regime, and make sure investment fund managers pay the full capital gains tax rate on their carried interest.
We will stop corporates artificially increasing the value of stock for tax purposes, and to focus the employment allowance on employment we are restricting it so that companies where the director is the sole employee will no longer be able to claim.
We are consulting today on how to deal with the increasing abuse of the rules around disguised employment when working through a personal service company, and we are going to add tough new penalties to our general anti-abuse rule and name and shame serial users of failed avoidance schemes. These people should have nowhere to hide.
The non-domicile tax status is a long-standing feature of the UK tax system—in place since 1914—that plays an important role in allowing those from abroad to contribute to our economy before returning to their permanent home, and many countries have some version of this tax status.
Simply abolishing it altogether would, as Ed Balls correctly noted, probably cost the country money. Many of these people make a considerable contribution to our public life and to tax revenues, but there are some fundamental unfairnesses in the non-dom regime that I am putting a stop to today.
It is not fair that people who are born in the UK to parents who are domiciled here can later in life claim to be non-doms and live here. It is not fair that non-doms with residential property here in the UK can put it in an offshore company and avoid inheritance tax. From now on they will pay the same tax as everyone else. Most fundamentally, it is not fair that people live in this country for very long periods of their lives benefit from our public services and yet operate under different tax rules from everyone else.
Non-dom status was meant to be temporary, but it became permanent for some people. Not any longer. I am today abolishing permanent non-dom tax status. Anyone resident in the UK for more than 15 of the past 20 years will now pay full British taxes on all worldwide income and gains. We will consult to get the detail right. All these non-dom measures will come into effect in April 2017 and they will raise £1.5 billion in extra tax for the Exchequer over this Parliament. British people should pay British taxes in Britain, and now they will.
Turning to corporate tax rules, we will also broaden the base for corporation tax by removing, for future transactions only, the annual deduction for acquired reputational value. For big companies with profits over £20 million a year, we will bring forward corporation tax payment dates so that tax is paid closer to the point at which profits are earned. That is fair and more in line with what we are doing in personal tax, and it is what almost all other G7 nations do.
Banks make a key contribution to our economy, but they also need to make a fair contribution. It is important that they help pay down the debts built up during the banking crisis, but equally important that they go on creating jobs, not just in London but in Edinburgh, Leeds, Birmingham, Bournemouth and across the country. The new remit I am issuing today for the Financial Policy Committee highlights the importance of productive investment, innovation and competition in finance.
Our bank levy was introduced to raise revenue and increase the stability of balance sheets, and it has worked, but now it risks doing harm unless we change it. So I will, over the next six years, gradually reduce the bank levy rate, and after that make sure it no longer applies to worldwide balance sheets. But to maintain a fair contribution from the banks, I will introduce a new 8% surcharge on bank profits from
We have also taken action to make sure that consumers get a better deal from another important industry: insurance. The costs of premiums are down for families, and today we are announcing a major review of the regulation of claims management companies and we will cap the charges they can apply to their customers.
Britain’s insurance premium tax is well below tax rates in many other countries. I am therefore today raising insurance premium tax, which applies to only one fifth of all premiums, to 9.5%, effective from this November. With these measures I am putting in place an approach for taxing banks and insurers over this Parliament which is sustainable, stable and fair.
In each year, we have been able to use money from the banking fines paid by those who represent the worst of values to support those in uniform who demonstrate the best of British values. Today we announce funding for the Defence Medical Welfare Service and the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League. We are supporting the incredibly courageous members of our special forces who are injured, and, in the 75th anniversary of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association, quadrupling the annual annuity we pay to those who demonstrated the highest valour and whom I had the honour of meeting yesterday.
In the week of the poignant anniversary of the 7/7 attacks, we should recognise, too, that our victims of terrorism overseas have no permanent memorial. We will now fund one, as well as a specific memorial to those murdered in Tunisia. We are committing £50 million to expand the number of cadet units in our state schools to 500, prioritising schools in less affluent areas, and we are going to support the Children’s Air Ambulance by funding an extra helicopter.
In every Budget, I also find an opportunity to fund the commemoration of famous events from our history and the buildings that symbolise them. This Budget is no exception. The RAF’s group fighter command centre in west London was the place where the battle of Britain was directed from and it badly needs repair. I want to thank the new Member my hon. Friend Boris Johnson for bringing to my attention the dilapidated state of his campaign bunker. Let its renovation stand as a monument to the heroes of the battle of Britain and the days when aeroplanes flew freely over the skies of west London.
I turn now to the great economic challenge we face on productivity, for this is the key to delivering the financial security that families see when living standards rise. And it will ensure that Britain becomes what we want it to be—the most prosperous major economy in the world by the 2030s. That is within the grasp of our generation, provided we take the big decisions. On Friday we will set out our plan for productivity, to help realise this ambition. I want to thank my new Treasury colleague Jim O’Neill for his work as a world-leading economist in putting it together. Major British businesses, led by Sir Charlie Mayfield, have told me that they want to be part of the solution to this great challenge and we very much welcome that.
Let me today set out the key parts of that plan. First, on transport, four fifths of all journeys in this country are by road, yet we rank behind Puerto Rico and Namibia in the quality of our network. In the past 25 years, France has built more than 2,500 miles of motorway and we have built just 300. In the last Parliament I increased road spending, even in difficult times, and set out a plan for £15 billion of new roads for the rest of this decade, but we need a long-term solution if we are going to fix Britain’s poor roads.
Vehicle excise duty was used to fund our roads, but not any more. And because so many new cars now fall into the low carbon emission bands, by 2017 over three quarters of new cars will pay no VED at all in the first year. That is not sustainable and it is not fair. If someone can afford a brand new car, including some of the most expensive models available, they can pay no VED. If they can afford only an older, second-hand car, they have to pay more tax. Only a Labour Government could have designed something so regressive.
So this is what we will do. From 2017, for brand-new cars only, we will introduce new VED bands. The duty in the first year will be set according to emissions, like today, but updated for new technology. Thereafter there will be three duty bands: zero emission, standard and premium. For standard cars—that covers 95% of all cars sold in the UK—the charge will be £140 a year. That is less than the average £166 that motorists pay today. There will be no change to VED for existing cars: no one will pay more in tax than they do today for the car they already own. In total, we will only raise the same amount of revenue from VED in the future as we do today, but that revenue will be secure for the long term.
And I will return this tax to the use for which it was originally intended. I am creating a new roads fund. From the end of this decade, every single penny raised in vehicle excise duty in England will go into that fund to pay for the sustained investment our roads so badly need. We will engage with the devolved Administrations on how the money is allocated there. Tax paid on people’s cars will be used to improve the roads that they drive on. It is a major reform to improve the infrastructure and productivity of our economy, and deliver a fairer tax system for the motorist.
We will also consult on extending the deadline for new cars and motorbikes to have their first MOT test from three years to four years, which would save motorists over £100 million a year. I can also confirm that there will be no changes to the plans for fuel duty I set out in March: fuel duty will remain frozen this year.
Productivity means building more roads. It also means giving people the skills they need to secure a better job. It is to our national shame that we are almost the only advanced country in the world where the skills of our 16 to 24-year-olds are no better than those of our 55 to 64-year-olds. The education reforms we started in the last Parliament have begun to address this problem, and we are going further in this Parliament by tackling the coasting schools that simply are not good enough.
We have already doubled the number of apprenticeships to 2 million; now we are committed to 3 million more. To fund these apprenticeships and make sure they are of high quality we have to confront this truth: while many firms do a brilliant job training their workforces, too many large companies leave the training to others and take a free ride on the system, so we are going to take a radical and, frankly, long overdue approach.
We are going to introduce an apprenticeship levy on all large firms. Firms that offer apprenticeships can get more back than they put in. Britain’s great businesses will train up the next generation—3 million more apprenticeships with the security that will bring. The money will be directly controlled by employers, and we will work with business on how to do this. It is exactly the sort of bold step we need to take if Britain is going to raise its game.
Next, we have got to secure the success of our university sector, which is one of the jewels in the crown of the British economy. When we reformed student funding in the last Parliament, we were told by those who so opportunistically opposed us that it would put people from low-income backgrounds off going to university. Instead, we now see a record number of these students applying and succeeding. It is a triumph of progressive reform.
Now we are removing the artificial cap on student numbers, so we do not have to turn away from our universities people who want to go and who have the right grades. But we cannot afford to do this unless we tackle the cost of student maintenance grants, which is set to almost double to £3 billion over this decade. There is also a basic unfairness in asking taxpayers to fund the grants of people who are likely to earn a lot more than them.
The previous Labour Government actually abolished these grants, before reintroducing them. These grants have now become unaffordable. If we do not tackle this problem, our universities will become underfunded and our students will not get places. I am not prepared to let that happen, so from the 2016-17 academic year we will replace maintenance grants with loans for new students. The loans only have to be paid back once they earn over £21,000 a year. To ensure university is affordable to all students from all backgrounds, we will increase the maintenance loan available to £8,200, the highest amount of support ever provided.
To ensure our university system is sustainable, we will consult on freezing the loan repayment threshold for five years, and we will link the student fee cap to inflation for those institutions that can show they offer high-quality teaching. We will open the whole sector to new entrants who can deliver the highest standards. It is a major set of reforms to make sure Britain continues to have the best universities in the world. It is fair to students, fair to taxpayers and vital to secure our long-term economic future.
Britain’s weak productivity is also driven by the fact that too much of our economic strength is concentrated in this capital city. This is unhealthy and unproductive, and we must achieve a better settlement for the future, but not by pulling London down. One of the first pieces of advice I received in the Treasury was to cancel the plan for the Crick Institute, the Tate Modern extension and Crossrail, but I rejected that advice, because I have always believed it is to our nation’s great advantage that we have one of the world’s great capitals. Now we are working with the Mayor on what this city will need in the future, with projects such as Crossrail 2 and the exciting development of the Olympic village.
What really drives this Government is building up other parts of the United Kingdom as a balance to London’s strength. For Scotland, we are now delivering, as promised, major devolution of tax and welfare powers. Instead of complaining endlessly about process in Westminster, the SNP Scottish Government will soon have to answer the question, “You’ve got the powers, when are you going to use them?” In Wales, we are honouring our commitments to a funding floor and to more devolution there, and investing in important new infrastructure such as the M4 and the Great Western line. In Northern Ireland, we are working with all parties to deliver the Stormont House agreement and sustainable public finances there.
Devolution to the nations of the United Kingdom is well established. In my view, devolution within England has only just begun. Today, we go further in building the northern powerhouse. I can today announce that I have reached agreement with the leaders of the 10 councils of Greater Manchester to devolve further powers to that city. These include putting fire services under the control of the new Mayor, establishing a land commission in the city and further collaboration on children’s services and employment programmes.
The historic devolution that we have agreed with Greater Manchester in return for a directly elected Mayor is available to other cities that want to go down a similar path. I can also tell the House that we are now working towards deals with the Sheffield and Liverpool city regions and with Leeds, West Yorkshire and partner authorities on far-reaching devolution of power in return for the creation of directly elected Mayors. We have created Transport for the North, and I am now putting it on a statutory footing. I can announce £30 million of funding to this new body as it connects northern England together, with seamless Oyster-style ticketing across the region.
Next, with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, my right hon. Friend Sajid Javid, we are pushing for more powers and responsibility to be devolved to the midlands—that engine of growth. The massive £7.2 billion investment in transport in the south-west is under way, and in the first of our new county deals, we are making progress on a major plan to give Cornwall a greater say over local decisions.
Across England, we are launching a new round of enterprise zones for smaller towns. To celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, a new set of prestigious regius professorships will be created in universities right across the country. To give more power to counties and to our new Mayors, we are going to give them the power to set the Sunday trading hours in their areas. Let us invest across our country, let people decide and let us put the power into the northern powerhouse.
Another key to raising the productivity of our country is building more homes and creating a fairer property market. This is a Government that are unwavering in their support for home ownership. That is why we are introducing the new Help to Buy ISA this autumn, that is why we are giving housing association tenants the right to buy and that is why we will set out further planning reforms on Friday.
Today, I will set out three important changes that will address unfairnesses in our taxation of property and put the security of home ownership first. First, we will create a more level playing field between those buying a home to let and those buying a home to live in. Buy-to-let landlords have a huge advantage in the market as they can offset their mortgage interest payments against their income whereas homebuyers cannot, and the better off the landlord, the more tax relief they get. For the wealthiest, for every pound of mortgage interest costs they incur, they get 45p back from the taxpayer. All this has contributed to the rapid growth in buy-to-let properties, which now account for over 15% of new mortgages, something the Bank of England warned us last week could pose a risk to our financial stability.
So we will act, but we will act in a proportionate and gradual way, because I know that many hard-working people who have saved and invested in property depend on the rental income they get. We will retain mortgage interest relief on residential property, but we will now restrict it to the basic rate of income tax. To help people to adjust, we will phase in the withdrawal of the higher rate reliefs over a four-year period, and only start withdrawal in April 2017.
Secondly, the rent-a-room relief is designed to help homeowners who rent out a room in their home. It is a good scheme, particularly in a world where more and more people are renting out rooms online, but the relief has been frozen at £4,250 for 18 years. Next year, we will raise it to £7,500.
The third change fulfils a long-standing promise that I made, and one that I was unable to fulfil in coalition. The left will never understand this, but we on the Conservative Benches know that the wish to pass something on to your children is about the most basic, human and natural aspiration there is. Inheritance tax was designed to be paid by the very rich, yet today more families are pulled into the inheritance tax net than ever before, and the number is set to double over the next five years. It is not fair and we will act.
From 2017, we will phase in a new £175,000 allowance for someone’s home when they leave it to their children or grandchildren. That sits on top of the existing £325,000 threshold, which will be fixed until the end of 2020-21. Both allowances can be transferred to a spouse or partner. From today, we will make sure that those who choose to downsize do not lose any of the allowance from the property that they used to own, but we will taper the relief away for estates worth more than £2 million.
The result for families is this: they can pass up to £1 million on to their children free of inheritance tax. No more inheritance tax on family homes: aspiration supported, the tax paid only by the rich, the security of home ownership restored—promise made; promise delivered.
The cut in inheritance tax will be more than paid for by changes which we have set out to the pensions tax relief that we give to the highest earners. From next year, their annual allowance will be tapered away to a minimum of £10,000.
Our pension reforms have given huge freedom to people who have worked hard and saved hard all their lives. Many thousands of people are, with the free guidance service we offer, making use of those freedoms to access their savings instead of buying annuities. Now it is time that we looked at the other end of the age scale—at those who are starting to save for a pension. For the truth is that Britain is not saving enough, and that is something we need to fix in our economy too.
While we have taken important steps with our new single-tier pension and generous new ISA, I am open to further radical change. Pensions could be treated like ISAs: people pay in from taxed income, it is tax free when they take it out and in between it receives a top-up from the Government. That idea, and others like it, need careful and public consideration before we take any steps, so I am today publishing a Green Paper that asks questions, invites views and takes care not to prejudge the answer. Our goal is clear: we want to move from an economy built on debt to an economy built on the more secure and productive foundations of saving and long-term investment.
If Britain wants to produce more, it needs to invest more. Many small and medium-sized businesses have benefited from our enhanced annual investment allowance. The allowance was set at £100,000 when we came to office. It is higher now, but without action it will fall to just £25,000 at the end of the year. That would especially hit middle-sized companies in areas such as manufacturing and agriculture, which we want to do more to build up in Britain, so I can confirm that the annual investment allowance will not fall to £25,000, but will be set at £200,000 this year and in every single year. That is a major, permanent boost to the incentives for long-term investment by small and medium-sized firms in Britain.
The large reductions in tax on North sea oil and gas that I announced in March are going ahead, and today we broaden the types of investment that qualify for allowances. Now that we have a long-term framework for investment in renewable energy in place, we will remove the outdated climate change levy exemption for renewable electricity that has seen taxpayer money benefiting electricity generation abroad.
We cut corporation tax from 28% to 20% over the last Parliament—one of the biggest boosts British business has ever seen. We cannot take it lower than that while such strong incentives are created for people to self-incorporate and pay the lower rates of tax due on dividends. The dividend tax system was designed partly to offset double taxation on profits, but the system has not changed despite sharp reductions in corporation tax. Lower rates are rapidly creating opportunities for tax planning. Irreparable damage was done when a previous Chancellor abolished the payable credit and deprived pension funds of billions of pounds.
We have inherited a complex and archaic system, so I am today undertaking a major and long-overdue reform to simplify the taxation of dividends. The dividend tax credit will be replaced with a new tax-free allowance of £5,000 of dividend income for all taxpayers. The rates of dividend tax will be set at 7.5%, 32.5% and 38.1%—an increase of 7.5% where dividend income exceeds £5,000. Dividends paid within pensions and ISAs will remain tax free and unaffected by these changes. Those who either pay themselves in dividends or have large shareholdings worth typically over £140,000 will pay more tax; 85% of those who receive dividends will see no change or will be better off; and over a million people will see their tax cut.
That is an important reform. It comes into operation next year, and with our personal allowance and our new personal savings allowance, it means that from April, on top of the new ISA, people will be able to receive up to £17,000 of income a year tax free. The reforms that I have announced to dividend taxation also allow us to do something more, and go further in creating a Britain that is one of the most competitive economies in the world.
There are those in this House who said we were wrong to cut corporation tax in the last Parliament, but it created millions more jobs, brought businesses back to Britain and increased much-needed investment, so I profoundly disagree with them. Now at 20% for large and small businesses alike, we have the joint lowest rate of corporation tax in the G20, so there are those who say we do not need to do more. I profoundly disagree with them too. This country cannot afford to stand still while others rush ahead. I am not prepared to see that happen.
Today, I announce that I am cutting it again. Britain’s corporation tax rate will fall to 19% in 2017 and 18% in 2020. We are giving businesses lower taxes that they can count on, so that they can grow with confidence, invest with confidence and create jobs with confidence. A new 18% rate of corporation tax—sending out loud and clear the message around the world that Britain is open for business.
If we are to build a more productive economy, and our country is to live within its means, we have to make this fundamental change: we have to move Britain from a low-wage, high-tax, high-welfare society to a higher-wage, lower-tax, lower-welfare economy. For Britain is home to 1% of the world’s population, generates 4% of the world’s income, and yet pays out 7% of the world’s welfare spending. It is not fair to the taxpayers who are paying for it, and it needs to change.
Welfare spending is not sustainable and it crowds out spending on things such as education and infrastructure that are vital to securing the real welfare of the people. We legislated for savings of over £21 billion in the last Parliament, capped benefits for out-of-work families and started to introduce universal credit. Universal credit will transform the lives of those trapped in welfare dependency and deliver real social justice. It is the result of the Herculean efforts of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
However, to live within our means as a country and better protect spending on public services, we need to find at least a further £12 billion of welfare savings. Let me set out the principles that we will follow and how they will be applied. First, the welfare system should always support the elderly, the vulnerable and disabled people. We will honour the commitments that we made to uprate the state pension by the triple lock and protect the other pensioner benefits. The BBC has agreed to take on responsibility for funding free TV licences for the over-75s. In return, we are able to give our valued public broadcaster a sustainable income for the long term.
In the last Parliament, we increased payments to the most disabled people, and we will not tax or means-test disability benefits. We will increase funding for domestic abuse victims and women’s refuge centres. We are also going to use the remaining funds available in our Equitable Life payment scheme, as it closes, to double the support that we give to those policyholders on pension credit who need this extra help most.
The second principle we will apply is that those who can work will be expected to look for work and take it when it is offered. The best route out of poverty is work. Our economic plan has created a record number of jobs, and now a third of a million fewer children are being brought up in workless families.
It is not acceptable that in an economy moving towards full employment, some young people leave school and go straight on to a life on benefits, so for those aged 18 to 21 we are introducing a new youth obligation that says that they must either earn or learn. We are also abolishing the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds. Exceptions will be made for vulnerable people and other hard cases, but young people in the benefits system should face the same choices as other young people who go out to work and cannot yet afford to leave home.
To make sure that work pays for parents, I confirm that from September 2017 all working parents of three and four year-olds will receive free childcare of up to 30 hours a week. Once again: a promise made; a promise delivered. As a result, we now expect parents—including lone parents—with a youngest child aged three to look for work if they want to claim universal credit. That is all part of our progressive goal of securing full employment in Britain.
We also want to increase employment among those who have health challenges but are capable of taking steps back to work. The employment and support allowance, introduced by the last Labour Government, was supposed to end some of the perverse incentives in the old incapacity benefit, but instead it has introduced new ones. One of those is that those who are placed in the work-related activity group receive more money a week than those on jobseeker’s allowance, but get nothing like the help to find suitable employment. The number of JSA claimants has fallen by 700,000 since 2010, while the number of incapacity benefits claimants has fallen by just 90,000. That is despite 61% of claimants on the ESA WRAG benefit saying that they want to work. Therefore, for future claimants only, we will align the ESA WRAG rate with the rate of jobseeker’s allowance. No current claimants will be affected by that change, and we will provide new funding for additional support to help claimants return to work.
The third principle that we apply to welfare is this: the whole working-age benefit system has to be put on a more sustainable footing. In 1980, working-age welfare accounted for 8% of all public spending. Today it is 13%. The original tax credit system, introduced by the last Labour Government, cost £1.1 billion in its first year. This year, that cost has reached £30 billion. We in Britain spend more on family benefits than Germany, France or Sweden—