National Insurance Contributions (Rate Ceilings) Bill

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Business, Innovation and Skills – in the House of Commons at 3:11 pm on 15th September 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North 3:11 pm, 15th September 2015

I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker, for having to leave the debate for a short while, but I managed to catch the major part of the speech by my hon. Friend Helen Goodman. It was an excellent speech and I agree with every word of it, but I did not know that she was half Danish. I want to say something about Denmark, a very sensible country with a more appropriate taxation system than we have. As Mr MacNeil said, would Members prefer to live in Denmark or Mexico? I know which I would choose; Denmark is clearly a more sensible country.

I have been to Denmark on a couple of occasions and it does two very sensible things. First, the Danes have retained their own currency, which is sensible, but they also seek to manage its value, which we do not, and that is also sensible. One result of the Danes’ sensible taxation system is that they can sustain students without fees but with grants until the age of 25. A few years ago, I understand, the average class size in schools in Denmark was 15. No wonder they have advantages that we do not; they are prepared to pay for them—[Interruption.] I shall talk about national insurance, but I wanted to mention the sensible country of Denmark, which I so admire, before I started.

The lock on the taxation system is a gimmick, as my hon. Friend Barbara Keeley has said from the Front Bench. Surely a promise from the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be appreciated, understood and believed by the business sector. A Conservative Chancellor making a promise is enough. This Bill is like saying, “I promise not to rob the bank any more, but do put the handcuffs on me.” He is clearly not a bank robber, but does he need to have those handcuffs on him just to do what he believes to be the right thing? He has given away flexibility in any case, and I certainly would not do that, because we cannot foresee what will happen.

There is a real possibility, for example, of another financial crisis coming down the road. I mentioned in my speech on the Budget forecasts that there will be another serious economic crisis in the not too distant future. Precisely when that will happen, we do not know, but we ought to retain flexibility with all the economic levers at our disposal to ensure that Britain is protected if that happens.

In the previous crisis, the British Government, led by Gordon Brown, persuaded the world to recapitalise the banks. If we had not done that, the whole financial system might have collapsed and we would have been in a much worse situation. I am not saying that I agree with everything that my former right hon. Friend did, as I was often a critic of our policies. Nevertheless, that had to be done, even though in a sense it rewarded the gamblers who had gambled away our future and made our lives so much more difficult. Those difficulties continue today, but it was the bankers gambling on the free financial markets who caused the problem. It was nothing to do with the Labour Government, and, indeed, all sorts of economists say that Labour did the right thing when the crisis happened.