Absolutely. The Chancellor said very little about Brexit, the exchange rate or inflation. Those are the major changes in the economy over the past six months.
The Chancellor could have unfrozen those benefits that go to the low-paid working poor had he not been committed to going ahead with cuts to inheritance tax, capital gains tax and corporation tax. To cut corporation tax to 19% may be good for competitiveness, but to cut it to 17% is surely unnecessary at this moment.
I want to throw a lifeline of support to the Treasury team who seem somewhat embattled on the issue of national insurance. I do not know whether they want a lifeline from me, but I will offer it to them anyway. It is reasonable, on equity grounds, to even up the tax that is paid by people in employment and by those in self-employment. We need to look at that whole matter more closely.
I am pleased also that the Chancellor has eschewed the gimmicks of his predecessor. The commitment not to raise income tax and national insurance whatever the circumstance was exactly one such gimmick. However, if we are to look at national insurance, let us look at the fact that it kicks in at £8,000, below the personal allowance.
The one thing on which we all agree across the House is the importance of tackling tax avoidance. What the Chancellor did not say was that the largest amount of money that he is taking in—this is in the final section of the chapter—is an extra £500 million from tax credits, which amounts to another cut in tax credits. The Red Book says that it is a pre-announced cut, but it cannot be pre-announced because the extra savings of £500 million are new.
One of the problems with the Government’s productivity plan is that it is not sufficiently inclusive in respect of workers and people at the top, and of the regions. The Government should really start thinking about making this country more equal, both as an economic efficiency measure and as a social justice measure. The fact is that people with predictable and secure incomes can take on more commitments, and that in turn will boost the economy in the medium term.