Budget Resolutions - Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 14th March 2017.

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Photo of Richard Drax Richard Drax Conservative, South Dorset 4:15 pm, 14th March 2017

I entirely concur with my hon. Friend. As always, his intervention was absolutely spot on.

Another point I have noticed during the six or seven years I have been in the House is that everything is ring-fenced—every Department is ring-fenced. The Chancellor says, as we have heard previous Chancellors say, that there is so little room for manoeuvre. May I suggest that we take away the ring fence, think radically about areas such as the national health service—my hon. Friend mentioned it—and try to look at things far more in the round for the future of our country? I would have liked to have heard a lot more about Brexit, and the future—where we are going—in the vision from the Chancellor, as I do not believe that we heard about that.

I want to touch on one or two other issues, the first of which is the national insurance hike. I must say that I am concerned about that because many people who will be affected work and live in my constituency of South Dorset. The money raised will be relatively pitiful, but 2.5 million people are facing an average rise of £240. We have heard about a manifesto pledge being broken, and I believe it has been broken. I am not saying that manifesto pledges cannot be broken, because circumstances may change, meaning that they have to be broken.

I have consistently argued that if we are to look for more money, the overseas aid budget is the area that we should consider. Many of my constituents certainly believe that we should help the less well-off—of course we should. However, setting an arbitrary figure for such aid of 0.7% of GDP—interestingly, the average figure for the EU is 0.4%—is a pledge too far. It is also a pledge that this country clearly cannot afford, because many areas of our national life are now calling for more money.

Self-employed people take risks that the employed do not, as we all know. They risks their homes, livelihoods and families. That is one reason why they have, or did have, such a tax advantage. I know that there has been equality as far as pensions are concerned, but I still believe that the risk takers, the entrepreneurs and the aspirational —the people we need to create wealth, prosperity and jobs for our future, especially as we move to leaving the EU—should not be penalised.

I am not happy about quarterly reporting. The self-employed and small businesses will be required to fill in four income tax returns a year instead of one. They will need to do so digitally, but if hon. Members speak to farmers about applying for grants digitally, they will find that that is not always easy. Such people will require an accountant and there will be extra costs. Income tax will have to be paid at the end of each quarter, rather than in one or two instalments each year, and that will inevitably affect cash flow. It is important—in the good times or the bad times that we know businesses experience—to have an annual look at a business, rather than for it to be affected during a poor period by a cash payment that has an impact on its cash flow.

Another area that I am concerned about is probate fees. At the moment, probate costs are capped at £215. It is worth noting that the costs on estates of over £50,000 could now range from £300 to £20,000. The press have dubbed this a “death tax”, and I think that that is a fair comment.

On death taxes, I want to mention inheritance tax—I declare an interest. I think that inheritance tax is completely immoral. We pay a lot of tax all our lives, and when we die, as we cannot avoid doing, 40% is charged by the state. In my view, that is completely immoral. Let me quote the previous Prime Minister, David Cameron, who said at the last election:

“We will take the family home out of inheritance tax. That home that you have worked and saved for belongs to you and your family—you should be able to pass it onto your children”.

I entirely concur.

In my remaining minute, let me say that I want the abolition of inheritance tax, a review of capital gains tax and the simplification of the whole tax system. I also want much more investment in technology colleges— I entirely agree with George Kerevan—where I think the future lies for all the jobs that we will need to fill. If money is needed, I want the overseas aid budget to be targeted, rather than any other ring-fenced area.

The situation regarding business rates concerns me. In the view of Tim Martin, the very able founding chairman of Wetherspoons, who came to address my apprenticeship fair last week, supermarkets will get away with it and his pubs will get hammered. Finally, may I gently ask Ministers that we stop using the terms “tax avoidance” and “tax evasion” in the same sentence? Tax evasion is illegal; tax avoidance is something we all do for our families’ sake. I would be grateful if we could stop using the two terms together.