The Economy and Work

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 2:14 pm on 26th May 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 2:14 pm, 26th May 2016

Absolutely. My hon. Friend has made some important contributions to our debates in the past year and I welcome what she says. I know that she has taken an interest in tax credits, and I believe that we have to make more progress in cutting welfare in order to cut the deficit, but it is probably a mistake to cut the welfare benefits or tax credits of people who are already on small incomes and depending on their tax credits. We have to give plenty of warning if we are going to do that. That is surely the lesson that we should learn from the debate on the raising of the pension age for women. We should have given proper notice of that. We did give 20 years’ notice, but we did not write to every woman saying, “Dear Mrs Jones, your pension age will be increased in 20 years’ time.” That is what we should have done, and we should learn from that.

On the point made by Stewart Hosie, I am an enthusiast for lower regulation and lower taxes, but we have the longest tax code in the world, and there is still much progress to be made in that regard. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor knows, because I have said this to him again and again, that I hope he will try to simplify the tax and benefit system with every Budget he introduces. I hope that he will strip away allowances and converge taxes so that we no longer have armies of accountants advising people how to avoid tax. We have made all too little progress on simplifying and converging our tax system. I know that it is difficult. I know that we cannot do it all in one step. I know that we cannot have an absolutely flat tax system because the top 1% of earners pay 25% of all taxes. I know all that, but we should make more progress every year in simplifying and merging the tax system.

Before I sit down, the Chancellor talked about announcements that have been made today, but there was an important announcement on immigration figures. The fact is that we still have net migration of 300,000 people into this country every year. It is absolutely unsustainable. We welcome people from eastern Europe coming to work here. I more than any other welcome Polish people and their culture of hard work. However, net migration of 300,000 people a year, fuelled by the imposition of the living wage on businesses and by an unreformed tax credit system, is simply unsustainable, particularly for London and the south-east. There is a vision of Britain leading the world towards free trade, controlling its own borders and proclaiming the supremacy of Parliament, and that is why, on 23 June, I for one shall be voting to leave the European Union.