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Income Tax (Charge)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:50 pm on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 12:50 pm, 12th March 2020

I fully concur with the right hon. Gentleman. The various international vehicles that we could mobilise are available to us, and we just need to do it now. It needs to be done at a senior level, in a way that sends out a message of determination across the globe to people and families, but also to the markets. We need to ensure that this medical crisis does not create the long-term recession that some are predicting as a result of its global implications. I will now move on from the coronavirus.

In addition to the coronavirus, we face other emergencies, and we must not lose sight of the two other crises that we face. One is the crisis in our public services—it is a social emergency—with the levels of poverty and inequality in our society. The other is of course the existential threat of climate change. I have to say that yesterday’s Budget failed to address the social emergency. We have discussed it on the Floor of this House before, but this social emergency sees 4.5 million of our children living in poverty, with 70% of those children living in households where an adult is in work. We have—I do not know how else to describe it—a crisis of in-work poverty that perhaps we have not seen for generations in this country.

I have to say that there was nothing in the Budget to relieve the hardships inflicted on our community by universal credit, the bedroom tax and, especially for disabled people, the brutality of the work capability assessments undertaken against them. In fact, the Government’s own table accompanying the Budget shows that the bottom 10% fare the worst as a result of tax decisions made in this Budget and the last spending round, which cannot be right. It cannot be right. It states that the bulk of the benefits are flowing to higher paid households. Yesterday some people were saying that this could have been a Labour Budget, but whoever said that was not looking hard enough at who wins and who loses in it. I believe that not one family will be lifted out of in-work poverty because of yesterday’s announcements. Yesterday we again heard the Government’s aspiration to get the national living wage to two thirds of median earnings, but that is not a real living wage; it is an aspiration for four or five years’ time. Some may also have seen the small print, which says, “if economic conditions allow”.

Worryingly, there is nothing of any substance in the Budget to tackle the long-term crises in our public services. Let us take the justice system, for example. In prisons there has been

“a sharp rise in deaths, violence, self-harm” and suicides, which can all be

“linked to cuts”.

That is not my statement; it comes from the Institute for Government. The House of Commons Justice Committee has pointed to a £1.2 billion gap in justice funding, so the small sums in this Budget, such as £175 million for prison maintenance, just will not cut it. Not one prison officer will be safer on the landings because of this Budget, yet in some of our prisons, those people put their lives at risk on a daily basis.

On domestic violence, according to Women’s Aid, 10 domestic abuse victims are turned away from women’s refuges every day because of a lack of space. This Budget needed to commit £173 million to ensure that no survivor is turned away. It has not done that, and without that funding, the measures in the Domestic Abuse Bill simply cannot be delivered. Not one women’s refuge can feel assured that it will get the funding it needs from this Budget.

The National Education Union said that class sizes are rising, subjects are being dropped, and inadequate pay is making the education staffing crisis worse, but there will be few teachers from whom the pressure will be lifted as a result of this Budget.

On housing, the sums earmarked for rough sleeping are totally inadequate, and we know that at least £1 billion is needed to reverse cuts in homelessness services. Yesterday, the Chancellor said that he would end homelessness, but we heard that from the Prime Minister who, when he was Mayor of London, said that rough sleeping would be ended in London by the 2012 Olympics. Rough sleeping doubled during the Prime Minister’s second term as Mayor.

It goes on: not one library will be reopened as a result of yesterday’s Budget. Not one youth centre will reopen; not one Sure Start centre.