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Budget Resolutions - Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:16 pm on 13th March 2017.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun 10:16 pm, 13th March 2017

This was supposed to be a new start with a new Chancellor, yet we have ended up with the same shambles and the same post-Budget fallouts.

Yet again, Scotland did not really feature in the Budget. It was mentioned twice: once in terms of increased productivity, and once with regard to Barnett consequentials. The way this Budget process works is that at no time do the UK Government ever ask the Scottish Government what they need. All that happens is that there are some panicked health and education allocations in the Budget, Scotland gets some Barnett spin-offs and we are meant to be eternally grateful. That is not mature Budget setting.

As my hon. Friend Brendan O’Hara said, the tax system is outdated, especially in the way it treats whisky. Why should whisky be taxed at 79%? Why do we not tax real luxury goods that only the wealthiest can afford and increase taxes that way? If the concern is about alcohol harm, why do the Government not look at minimum unit pricing, instead of crippling the Scottish whisky industry?

The Chancellor mentioned clamping down on tax avoidance, yet there are only two new additional income streams in the Budget. They are predicted to bring in only an extra £200 million over five years, which is a paltry amount compared with the Budget. Meanwhile, tax credit debt collection is predicted to bring in half a billion pounds in just over four years. We must ask ourselves whether the Government are clamping down on tax avoidance, or on hard-working families that have gone into tax credit debt due to failings in the tax credit system. It is another Concentrix waiting to happen.

The Chancellor told us he wants to leave some gas in the tank, yet he has left us all the tax giveaways: he has not revisited them or slowed down on them. We have £23.5 billion in giveaways with corporation tax, £2.8 billion with inheritance tax relief and £3.7 billion in lifetime ISA tax relief, which is £30 billion of tax giveaways in just a few lines. Yet the very same Chancellor sees fit to take £2 billion in national insurance contributions off the self-employed. The self-employed are struggling and do not get holidays, and many of them were forced to go self-employed because of Tory austerity measures in the first place. These people have been hailed as the new entrepreneurs who are going to take the country out of recession, yet they are getting hammered by national insurance contributions.

Meanwhile, for other hard-working people £1 billion is being recouped from salary sacrifice schemes, £1 billion from the realignment of primary and secondary national insurance contributions, £1.7 billion from changes to termination payments—more people are having to take voluntary redundancy than ever before—and £4 billion from insurance tax premiums. That is £10 billion from those who are just about managing, or are struggling to get by in work. Then there is the £6 billion to come from the two-child tax credit policy. Not mentioned in the Budget were the 2016 measures that have already kicked in—£30 billion from the benefits freeze and the welfare cap. We have already heard tonight about the WASPI women. There was nothing in the Budget for them, even though the SNP has a costed proposal for £8 billion, which is easily affordable compared with the tax giveaways. It is clear that the tax giveaways come on the backs of the most vulnerable in society.

On energy, there was nothing for the oil and gas industry; nothing on carbon capture and storage; nothing on renewables where investment will fall by 95% by 2020 and one in six jobs is at risk; nothing on decarbonisation and transport; nothing on Brexit; and nothing for farmers in Scotland. This is a poor Budget and it is only hidden by the Brexit shambles.