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Finance (No. 3) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:48 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury 5:48 pm, 12th November 2018

I beg to move an amendment,

That this House
declines to give the Finance (No. 3) Bill a Second Reading because it derives from the 2018 Budget which confirmed the continuation of austerity and tax cuts for the wealthiest, failed to introduce a fair taxation system which protects middle and low earners but requires a greater contribution from the top 5 per cent of highest income earners, implied real terms per capita cuts for unprotected departments between 2019-20 and 2023-24, failed to halt roll-out of Universal Credit with planned social security cuts still to come, failed to raise the funding needed for mental health services, failed to provide the long-term funding needed for long-term adult social care, failed to provide adequate school funding, failed to address the funding gap that local councils face, failed to end the funding crisis facing public services, with police, teachers, nurses and doctors having no reassurances that the public sector pay squeeze will end in 2019, failed to tackle child poverty and growing inequality across our country, failed to tackle the fact that 87 per cent of the impact of the Government’s tax and benefit changes since 2010 has fallen on the shoulders of women, failed adequately to address climate change and delayed the much-needed reduction in the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals until October 2019, and because the Bill is not based on an amendment of the law resolution, thus restricting the House’s ability to properly scrutinise and improve the Bill.

I have to give credit to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury: he managed to keep his face straight throughout his delivery. We had lots of flowery words from him, and I am surprised that we did not have phrases in his cliché-ridden speech such as “sunny uplands”, “green shoots of recovery” and “the end of the rainbow”. Why were those clichés not in his speech as well?

We have been asked to scrutinise a Finance Bill under the most difficult circumstances the Government could create, short of barring the Opposition from actually attending the House. The timetable set for the Bill meant we were expected to table amendments on Second Reading before the Bill had even been published—an abuse of power. To add insult to injury, printed copies of the explanatory notes to the Bill only arrived in the Vote Office earlier today. How busy Members are expected to provide proper scrutiny under these conditions is beyond me. It is an abuse of power. Worse still, the Government’s refusal to table an amendment to the law for the third Finance Bill in a row means that we will be unable to meaningfully amend this proposed legislation following Second Reading. As I said in my speech on the Budget resolutions, that is unprecedented. It is another abuse of power.

Last week, the President of the United States fired his Attorney General to undermine an investigation against him. Mr Trump also barred a journalist asking legitimate questions from the White House. Perhaps he gave the Prime Minister the odd tip on how to side-step conventions and constitutional process. Stitching up Committees with a false majority, obstructing scrutiny of the Finance Bill and giving a £1 billion bung to a minority party to keep the Prime Minister’s Government alive are further abuses of power. In any other country, we would use a word for this behaviour: malfeasance, plain and simple.

This is a desperate state of affairs, especially given how much the Bill is in need of change. The Government’s policies announced in the Budget fail to tackle a single one of the great challenges now facing this country after eight years of austerity. Most notably, this Bill of broken promises fails to end austerity, as the Prime Minister said it would during her conference speech—once she had finished gyrating. As our reasoned amendment points out, this promise has been broken: £4 billion of Tory social security cuts are still on their way. Only half the money cut from universal credit work allowances was returned to the programme. There was nothing on the social security freeze or the two-child limit.