Finance Bill

Part of Bill Presented — Constitutional Convention (No. 2) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:37 pm on 21st July 2015.

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Photo of Roger Mullin Roger Mullin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury) 2:37 pm, 21st July 2015

It is quite a complicated matter, I am told, and I would be willing to come back to it. I am sure that in one of our many discussions we could discuss precisely why that is, but I was not aware of the precise figure of £126 million that the hon. Gentleman mentions. The contraction in lending, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee East, suggests a loss of almost £5 billion over the next five years in public sector investment. Potentially, that adds up to a cumulative drop of £15 billion in private and public sector investment, and that can only be a major barrier to any chance of improvements in productivity.

Other factors with a direct impact on productivity are worthy of comment too. The ability to innovate is directly related to research and development. I therefore scoured the Finance Bill to see what was planned to boost the investment in company R&D. What did I find? Less than nothing. For example, the only change to R&D expenditure credits is the removal of universities’ ability to claim them. That in itself would not be such an issue if more would be done in other ways to significantly boost R&D expenditure, but that is not the case. Indeed, the Budget speech, and the accompanying Red Book, seemed keener to demonstrate adroitness with smoke and mirrors, rather than clarity and commitment to boosting research and development.

I turn now to the impact of the Finance Bill on Scotland in particular. The Chancellor may be many things, but he is far from stupid. In putting in place an income tax lock, which I admit to thinking is a very clever political trick, he has wisely not included in the lock the setting of bands. He recognises the importance of being able to adjust bands to suit economic conditions. He might find it odd that I wholeheartedly agree with him on that. I am sure he therefore appreciates why the SNP has called for the devolution of all aspects of income tax to the Scottish Parliament.