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Consideration being completed, I will now suspend the House briefly in order to make a decision about certification. The Division bells will be rung for two minutes before the House resumes.
I can now inform the House that I have completed certification of the Bill, as required by the Standing Order. I have confirmed the view expressed in the Speaker’s provisional certificate issued on
Does a Minister intend to move the consent motion?
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (
That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses of, and schedules to, the Finance (No. 2) Bill:
Clauses and Schedules certified under
Question agreed to.
The occupant of the Chair left the Chair to report the decision of the Committee (
The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair; decision reported.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The Bill makes a number of vital changes to our tax system, helping people to buy their first homes, working towards improving productivity in our country, and making our tax system fairer and more sustainable. This Government believe in
“a nation-wide property-owning democracy.”
That conviction is as strong now as it was when Anthony Eden first said those words in 1946, but it is obvious to all of us in the House that the ideal has been eroded, and that the next generation of potential homeowners are being shut out. In London, prices are nearly 13 times the average wage, and in the rest of England they are eight times the average wage. Home ownership has decreased by 20 percentage points among young people in just the last 15 years. This Government know that the most sustainable way to improve affordability is by increasing supply. That is why at the autumn Budget we took steps to address this. We announced the Letwin review to look at why planning permissions are not turning into homes, and we increased Government funding for new housing to £44 billion over the next five years.
But there are also things we can do in the short term to help young people in particular to get a foot on to the ladder, so this Bill provides for a stamp duty cut for first-time buyers. First-time buyers tend to be more cash-constrained than others, with stamp duty representing a key financial obstacle, on top of a deposit and conveyancing fees for purchases over £125,000. This Bill will help more people to negotiate these challenges and exempts first-time buyers from stamp duty for houses worth up to £300,000, and it provides discounts for houses worth up to £500,000. This will save homebuyers up to £5,000 and will mean 80% of first-time buyers will not pay any stamp duty.
This Government have presided over 20 successive quarters of economic growth, record levels of employment and a significant decrease in the Budget deficit, as well as among the lowest levels of unemployment in over 40 years. This has been achieved only because of fair and sustainable fiscal and economic policy, but Britain’s productivity growth is subdued and has been since 2008, and I hardly need to tell the House why this should concern us, for productivity is intimately linked to real incomes and to living standards. That is why in this Bill we are increasing the research and development expenditure credit from 11% to 12%, thereby increasing incentives to businesses to invest in R&D. We also need to encourage our entrepreneurs and help their bright ideas to become productive business, but, as Sir Damon Buffini pointed out in the “Patient Capital Review”, it is often those companies at the forefront of technological and knowledge-based development with the most productive potential that struggle for necessary capital. In this Bill we are therefore increasing the lifetime investment limit for knowledge-intensive companies through our venture capital schemes from £5 million to £10 million, and we are doubling the yearly amount an investor can put into these schemes to £2 million, provided that everything over £1 million is invested in knowledge-intensive businesses. Building an economy fit for the future relies on our harnessing technology, new ideas, and the expertise we already have; these changes will help to make that happen.
The Government will continue to work relentlessly to make our tax system fairer and more sustainable, and this Bill continues the Government’s work on tax avoidance and evasion, making sure that people pay their fair share. Since 2010 the Government have introduced over 100 avoidance and evasion measures, which have helped to secure and protect over £175 billion of additional tax revenues to go towards our vital public services. But the work is not done, and this Bill furthers that agenda, cracking down on online VAT evasion, making online marketplaces joint and severally liable for the unpaid VAT of their sellers, and preventing companies from claiming unfair tax relief on their intellectual property. Taken together, the measures in the Bill to tackle avoidance and evasion raise further vital funds for our public services.
I thank Members for the quality of the debate during the passage of this Bill, and I thank in particular the Bill Committee and those on the Opposition Front Benches, both Labour and Scottish National parties, for their professional scrutiny and the fair and effective way in which they conducted themselves.
This Bill is one of which this Government can be proud. It gives first-time buyers renewed hope of a place on the housing ladder, puts measures in place to boost productivity, and takes another step along the path towards an equitable and sustainable tax system. I commend the Bill to the House.
The only thing I agree with the Minister about is that I too thank everyone who has taken part in the proceedings. The Bill is not up to the challenge. It contains nothing of substance on public services, on the productive investment that we need, on housing, on tax avoidance or on the scandal of private finance investments. It is an insubstantial Bill from an insubstantial Government, with more tax cuts for the richest. I shall sum up by saying that the Tory party is financially bankrupt in Northamptonshire and morally bankrupt in Westminster. That sums up this Bill, and we will vote against it.
Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The House divided:
Ayes 301, Noes 218.