Budget Resolutions - Income Tax (Charge)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:08 pm on 1st November 2018.

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Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 1:08 pm, 1st November 2018

I am just about to wind up.

Business investment has continued to slow since 2016. The Office for National Statistics said it was down 0.5% in quarter 1 of this year and down 0.7% in quarter 2. What does the ONS reckon is a factor in that? Business investment is being held back because of Brexit. Of course, business investment is doing rather better in Scotland, with FSB Scotland’s quarter 1 2018 report quoting increases in business investment of 1.1% quarter on quarter. Perhaps that is the reason that the Chancellor has held back nearly £16 billion in fiscal headroom and refused to end austerity in this Budget. As the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe said, the Chancellor knows that the fiscal position he has found himself in is neither intentional nor necessarily one to aspire to, because it is at least partially down to weak business investment. More austerity is not the answer. Austerity has failed and continues to fail, and as we know the Chancellor has little intention of ever creating that mythical Budget surplus.

As ever, this Budget is about choices; to govern is to choose after all. The Chancellor chose not to end austerity. Most departmental budgets are set to get hammered in the spending review. The Chancellor chose not to properly fix universal credit. Billions of pounds of cuts to low-income families will continue. The Chancellor chose not to use nearly £16 billion that he had spare; he has presumably squirreled that away as a further Brexit down payment. However, the Chancellor chose to bring forward a multi-billion pound tax cut which will disproportionately benefit those on higher incomes the most.

Now people in Scotland have their chance to choose. Can we really afford to keep ourselves aligned to this austerity-driven Brexit Britain, which is driving up poverty through this Government’s paucity of ambition for our people and isolating us from the rest of the world, or will we choose to regain the powers of independence and the power to choose the future for ourselves?