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Part of Finance (No. 3) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 19th November 2018.

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Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester 5:30 pm, 19th November 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Peter Dowd, although there were moments during his speech when I found myself wondering whether history was being rewritten in a remarkably creative way.

The changes that the Government have proposed come against a background of remarkable achievement in cutting the deficit by four fifths, reducing the unemployment rate to its lowest since the 1970s, giving 32 million people tax cuts and taking 1.7 million out of income tax altogether. Some of those things were denied by the hon. Gentleman, who claimed at one point that the rich were only getting richer. I think it therefore falls to me to offer a few statistics to put his comments into context.

The first comes from the Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis of what went on under the previous Labour Government. The hon. Gentleman, who is chuntering with his colleague the shadow Chancellor, should focus on that IFS analysis. The independent analysis from the IFS shows very clearly that on most measures income inequality during the 13 years of the previous Labour Government went up. Part of the reason for that was explained, helpfully, by Clive Lewis in an interesting interview with The Guardian the other day. He pointed out that the attitude of the previous Labour Government was, to quote the former deputy Prime Minister, Lord Mandelson, “intensely relaxed” about the filthy rich. The hon. Member for Norwich South rightly went on to say that during the 13 years of the Labour Government:

“The huge fortunes of those at the very top…were left almost untouched.”

That is why the work done by this Government, which for example includes scrapping child benefit in 2013 for those earning over £50,000, has led to the lowest tax gap for a very long time. The percentage of income tax paid by the top 1% has doubled under the Conservative Government. The hon. Member for Bootle therefore needs to think hard about that IFS analysis. Income inequality went up under the 13 years of the Labour Government and it has gone down in eight years under the Conservatives.

There are other points worth highlighting. For example, people on lower and middle incomes actually have more money in their pockets now than at the start of the financial crisis under the previous Labour Government. The gap, as I pointed out, between those on the lowest and highest incomes is lower than it was when the Labour Government left power in 2010. In fact, income inequality is now close to its lowest point since 1986. That is a remarkable achievement. Over the past 30 years, which include 13 of a Labour Government, income inequality narrowed sharply under this Conservative Government.

Labour Members have made a lot of points about employment, so it is worth highlighting that the growth in employment benefits most the poorest 20% of households. The employment rate is now up by more than seven percentage points on where it was before the financial crisis under Labour in 2007. Thanks to the national living wage, the income of the lowest earners has actually grown by almost 5% since 2015, higher than at any other point across the earnings distribution. The actual situation today in our economy for those working is therefore very different to that painted by those on the Opposition Benches and by the hon. Gentleman.

A crucial and major difference between the Labour party and the Government is on taxing business. The uncomfortable truth for Opposition Members who would like to tax business more is that since the Government cut corporation tax in 2010 receipts have gone up by 50%, generating an extra £20 billion in 2016 over what was generated in 2010. The extra £20 billion we found for the NHS above inflation for this five-year period does not come from nowhere; it comes from increased receipts and growth in the economy. That extra £20 billion raised from corporation tax, as a result of cutting corporation tax, is one of the critical economic differences between those on the Government side of the House and those on the Opposition side. The Opposition still believe that if they tax businesses more they will get more tax. The truth, however, is that if we tax businesses less we incentivise business and entrepreneurs, generating more tax receipts to put into our vital public services.