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Finance (No. 3) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:10 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip 9:10 pm, 12th November 2018

The hon. Gentleman’s intervention comes before 10 o’clock, which is quite unusual. In all seriousness, he is absolutely spot on. We all know the considerable influence of the DUP when it comes to marching through the Lobby with the Government. What he has said tonight should be heard on the Treasury Bench. The Government cannot count on the support of the DUP when it comes to delaying the reduction in the maximum stake from £100 to £2, which should send a very strong message.

I believe that in the coming days and weeks we will see a groundswell of support not just among Opposition Members but among Conservative Members, too, because this is not, and should not be, a party political issue. This is an issue of public health, and hopefully the Government will see sense in the coming weeks and not try to have a fight on the Floor of the House, but do the right thing by our communities.

On the so-called national living wage, the under-25s were, yet again, mugged by this Government. They are still excluded from the national living wage, which in itself is simply a con trick. The national living wage is not a real living wage, and it falls far short of the true living wage set by the independent Living Wage Foundation.

Over the course of the debate so far, and I suspect over the course of the evening to come, we have heard Scottish Tories say how wonderful this Budget is, but I challenge those Members: whether it is in Banff and Buchan, Bannockburn or Prestwick, can they seriously go to their local high school and say to the children who will be going on to do an apprenticeship that they think they are worth only £3.90 an hour? The reality is that, by marching through the Lobby to support this Finance Bill, they are saying that is right. The fact that none of them has sprung to their feet to say that they think £3.90 an hour is an adequate rate of pay for a fair day’s work sends a message.

In clause 5, somewhat predictably, the Government seek to give a handout to high earners. The Chancellor’s Budget gave basic rate taxpayers an extra £21 a year, compared with £156 a year for those on the higher rate. In contrast, the SNP Government have introduced progressive taxation in Scotland, where we have the powers to do so. Seven in 10 taxpayers in Scotland will pay less tax this year than they paid in 2017-18 on a given income, but it is right that those on higher incomes—that includes us as Members of Parliament—should pay a modest amount more in tax. I am perfectly comfortable with that as a concept because I know that investment in housing and in decent public services cannot be done on the cheap. It is right that those of us who earn higher salaries should pay a little more to support better public services for the good of everyone in society and our communities. But what is before us today gives tax cuts to high earners and that is just not right.

In essence, this Bill was about choices for the British Government. They have chosen to give tax cuts to high earners and to do nothing for the WASPI women; they have chosen not to give under-25s equality and a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work; they have chosen to plough ahead with universal credit, despite it being fundamentally flawed and leading to reductions in household incomes; and they have chosen to perpetuate austerity right across these islands. But the Chancellor is not the only person with choices to make because, with each passing day, the people of Scotland are realising that they, too, will soon have a choice to make. They can choose to stay in an inherently unequal, unfair United Kingdom which is riddled with austerity and heading over the cliff edge of a hard Brexit, or they can choose an independent Scotland free from the obsession with austerity economics that so epitomises this Finance Bill. It is for that reason that I cannot support the Bill this evening.