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Tax Credits

Part of Opposition Day — [7th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 3:37 pm on 20th October 2015.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Conservative, Rushcliffe 3:37 pm, 20th October 2015

No, now is the time to get on.

I will conclude by turning to the rather big question of the £4 billion that will be lost by this motion. We are having a cheery knockabout argument and £4 billion is going out the window, and neither the Labour party nor the Scottish National Party can agree on any credible explanation of what they will do about that. They will borrow the money; that is what they did and that is what they will do.

I think that Frank Field is trying to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker. He tried to produce some alleviation; at least he is halfway there. I think his changes save only £2 billion, so another £2 billion must be found from somewhere else. Perhaps he will address that when he speaks.

More importantly, there is talk of Labour and Liberal peers in the House of Lords voting down the measure. That is really quite a startling constitutional innovation. They use technical arguments, saying that it is a statutory instrument, and that it was not in the manifesto. Well, Budget measures are not in manifestos, so that is not a relevant argument. If the Upper House decides that it will not accept the supremacy of this House when the Government set tax and spending matters, I advise all Members in this House of all political parties to take that extremely seriously. It is irresponsible and it should not be done. We do not want a repeat of what happened in 1911. Personally, I will become a fervent advocate of reform of the House of Lords, as I always have been, all over again if they start doing that.

Pay should be set by employers once we get back to a healthy and normal world. We cannot have a system where we all have a party political argument about how much subsidy the Government will give to employers for selective members of the population. We do need welfare reform, and tax credits are one of the best candidates for such a reform. The Treasury should never have been paying out on welfare. We cannot get rid of it, but it is time to make some great progress. If this matter gets lost, the path of steady recovery that we have been on, as we lead the way in the western world towards a much more balanced, sustainable and modern economy, will be seriously damaged. I support my hon. Friend, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, and I hope that we will reject the motion.

Several hon. Members rose