Finance (No. 3) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 12th November 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp Conservative, Croydon South 7:00 pm, 12th November 2018

The hon. Gentleman says that it was a choice, but it was not. We simply cannot go on spending way more every year than we raise in tax revenue, because we would eventually lose the confidence of the bond market, as this country did in 1976. At best, we would end up saddling the next generation with a gigantic bill that they would have to pay off. There is nothing noble, ethical or moral about spending more than we can afford and sending the bill to the next generation.

If we look at the fiscal loosening in the Budget, we can see that the NHS is the principal beneficiary, to the tune of £20 billion a year by the end of the forecast period. More immediately, the Ministry of Defence gets an extra £1 billion and the universal credit system gets an extra £1.7 billion. The shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury specifically mentioned universal credit in his characteristically lively speech earlier. I remind him that the universal credit system massively strengthens work incentives. Before, we had a system in which effective marginal tax rates were often running at 90% and in which there were cliff edges at 16 and 32 hours, after which people would actually get less money for working more hours.

The Resolution Foundation has carried out research on this. I understand that its chief executive is the former economic adviser to Edward Miliband, and even he says that the total fiscal cost of the universal credit system, with these changes, will be higher than the cost of the old benefits system that it is replacing. So it is going to cost more public money than was being spent before. Universal credit’s track record of getting people off benefits and into work is better than the track record of the benefits system it is replacing. I think that universal credit has been properly funded. It might need a bit of fine tuning in some areas to do with the way in which some of the dates work, and I have spoken to Ministers about some technical changes that could be made. As a whole, however, I believe that the system is fully funded and that it will work.