I have made the point about the characterisation of the Budget. The right hon. Gentleman will have to take my word for it that some earlier Finance Bills contained all the measures that were in the Budget. Much of this Budget is split. It is not all in this Bill or the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. Some of it will be in delegated legislation. There will be plenty of opportunities to make the arguments he puts. Opposing at this point is not the only thing that we can do as an Opposition, and Members will just have to take my word for that.
Despite the gimmick of the tax lock on VAT and income tax, the Government’s other tax increases will have an impact on families over and above the impact from cuts in tax credits, as I said. The rate of insurance premium tax is increasing by more than 50%, which will be a hit to the cost of insurance for the family home, the family car and family holidays. A number of hon. Members referred to that. Insurance industry experts have raised concerns about the impact that this tax increase could have on the take-up of insurance. They have warned that it may mean policyholders buy less cover, in effect “taxing protection”. Half the poorest households do not have home contents insurance, and those households are more than three times as likely to be burgled as those with insurance. That leaves low-income households less financially able to replace goods lost through burglary, fire or flood. That point obviously was not understood by the hon. Member who mentioned it earlier.
We have welcomed the increase in the minimum wage set out in clauses 3 and 4. The Government are adopting a Labour policy to increase the value of the national minimum wage, a measure we introduced in 1998 in the face of fierce opposition—one could almost say ferocious opposition—from Conservatives. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green spoke effectively about implementing the real living wage and about the safety net that tax credits can provide as people move in and out of low-paid work. We had a number of useful interventions in which hon. Members clarified the status of the real national living wage versus the increased national minimum wage. Leaving aside that issue, it would help if the Chancellor got his facts right. In an article in The Guardian yesterday, he claimed that 2.7 million people would gain £5,000 each from the increase to the national minimum wage, but the Low Pay Commission tells us that there are, in fact, 1.4 million people in minimum wage jobs, including only 1.2 million people who are over 21. Perhaps the Minister can tell us why the Chancellor persists in using such incorrect figures.
There is real concern about the impact of minimum wage increases on social care provision, funded through local authority budgets, if the Government do not fund the increase in the minimum wage as it is a new burden on local authorities. The care sector is one of the lowest-paid sectors. The planned increases in the national minimum wage for care workers have been estimated by the Local Government Association to cost £330 million this year, rising to £1 billion a year by 2020. The Opposition believe that low-paid care workers should have a wage increase, but we obviously need to find ways to fund it that do not involve further cuts to care or other local authority services. I am sure that my hon. Friend, who was leader of her council, has battled through that, as have other local authority leaders.
Ministers are clearly in a mess over the funding of social care. Since the Budget, the Government have abandoned their manifesto pledge to cap care costs from next year, as we heard in Treasury questions this morning. Indeed, the vice-president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has said that the pressures of rising demand, punitively reduced budgets and the impending obligation to pay increased wages all
“put an intolerable strain on social care finance.”
Abandoning the care cap seems to be a short-term palliative to those funding issues, but it will come at a high cost to people living with dementia and other long-term conditions.
The Opposition therefore question the Government’s priorities. Bringing in the nil-rate band of inheritance tax for properties worth up to £1 million when the property passes to direct descendants will cost almost £1 billion by 2020 onwards, yet families of people who need social care for long periods can lose nearly all the value of their homes through paying for care. It seems, unless the Minister can enlighten us otherwise, that there is no ray of hope for them in this Parliament.
The IFS has described the removal of the climate change levy exemption on renewables as a measure that makes “no economic sense”. Friends of the Earth has said that the change shifts the climate change levy from a carbon tax to just a tax on all electricity consumed. A number of interventions and speeches touched on that.