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Finance (No. 3) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham 6:12 pm, 12th November 2018

I have declared my business interests in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

In the third quarter of this year, the United Kingdom economy grew considerably faster than the euroland economy, which is very welcome. It is a timely reminder that since 2010, under first the coalition and then the Conservative Governments, we have seen conditions created in which there has been rapid jobs growth, a general expansion and improvement in profitability and investment, and some return to the better growth rates we saw before the crash at the end of the last decade.

We also see, however, that in the third quarter the United States economy grew considerably faster than the United Kingdom economy, and the reason is simple. The US has decided on a bold tax reform and reduction programme, which has injected a large amount of extra money into the economy, allowing families and individuals to spend more of their own money without having to give so much to the state, and allowing companies to keep more of their profits. As a result, more American corporations have repatriated their profits to the US, where they then pay the reduced tax rates and either invest that money, give wage rises or better remunerate their shareholders to encourage yet more investment. That model is clearly working. The tax reductions are the main reason the US has experienced much better growth this year than either the EU or the UK.

The Government should not be complacent. While we have so far had a long-lasting and moderate-paced recovery, which is welcome, and a very good jobs recovery, which is extremely welcome, although it gets little credit from the Opposition, policy now is too restrictive. We have an exceptionally tight monetary policy—the tightest of anywhere in the advanced world. We have had two interest rate rises; the ending of all new quantitative easing; the removal of all special facilities from the Bank of England to the clearing banks to lend more money for enterprise and good purposes; much stricter rules to commercial banks that have been very effective in leading to big reductions in new car loans and mortgages for the higher-priced properties; and of course the attack on the buy-to-let sector in the 2016 Budget. This is quite a big monetary tightening.

At the same time, there is still a tough fiscal tightening. What worries me—and clearly the Chancellor, too, given some of the actions in the Budget—is that the fiscal tightening was even tighter this year than was planned. Between the March figures and those in this Budget, an extra £12 billion was taken out of the economy and put into the public sector, mainly through extra tax revenues, but also a bit through the shortfall in the planned spending increases. That is quite a severe extra negative adjustment to impose on an economy that we are already trying to throttle with a very tight monetary policy. I fear that the relatively good growth figures of the third quarter will be slowed by these twin actions.

Now let me praise the Chancellor. He is absolutely right to say that the fiscal squeeze was getting too tight and to take action to try to relax the involuntary fiscal squeeze next year, but he is not doing anything much this year. I would like to see something over the winter as well, because the involuntary tightening is unreasonable. That said, the measures he has introduced to relax the fiscal position a bit are very welcome. With my colleagues on these Benches, I strongly welcome the early fulfilment of the promise on tax thresholds. It was a bold promise, and it is good to see it met, as it is a good way of allowing many more hard-working individuals and families to keep more of the money they earn.