Clause 1 - Increase of primary threshold for primary Class 1 contributions

National Insurance Contributions (Increase of Thresholds) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:51 pm on 24th March 2022.

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Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) 2:51 pm, 24th March 2022

I beg to move amendment 1, page 1, line 8, leave out “July” and insert “April”.

This amendment would bring forward the date of implementation of the increase in thresholds from 6th July 2022 to 6th April 2022.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

Clauses 2 to 6 stand part.

New clause 1—Impact of Act on low pay and poverty—

“(1) The provisions of this Act may come into force only if the Government has first laid before the House of Commons and published a report in accordance with this section.

(2) The report must assess the expected impact of the provisions of this Act on—

(a) low pay, and

(b) poverty.

(3) The report must also assess the merits of the provisions of the Act against other ways of reducing low pay and poverty.”

New clause 2—Report on effects on Universal Credit claimants—

“(1) The Treasury must prepare a report on the forecast effects of the provisions of this Act on—

(a) the net incomes of, and

(b) the Universal Credit payments made to in-work Universal Credit claimants who pay National Insurance.

(2) The report must forecast the estimated change in expenditure on Universal Credit as a result of the provisions of this Act.

(3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must lay the report before Parliament before the end of the period of 30 days beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.”

This new clause would require the Treasury to publish forecasts of the effects of changes to National Insurance thresholds on Universal Credit recipients and total Universal Credit expenditure.

New clause 3—Report on effects of provisions of Act—

“(1) The Treasury must within six months of Royal Assent lay a report before Parliament on the impact of the provisions of this Act on disposable incomes.

(2) The report made under subsection (1) must also include an assessment of the effect on disposable incomes of the provisions of the Act if combined with a reduction in National Insurance rates of 1.25%.”

This new clause would require the publication of a report within 6 months of the Act receiving Royal Assent assessing the effect on disposable incomes.

New clause 4—Report on effects of provisions of Act (No. 2)—

“(1) The Treasury must within six months of Royal Assent lay a report before Parliament considering the impact of the provisions of this Act on the levels of taxation of—

(a) earned and

(b) unearned income.

(2) The report made under subsection (1) must also include an assessment of the effect on the levels of taxation of—

(a) earned and

(b) unearned income of the provisions of the Act if combined with a reduction in the basic rate of income tax from 20% to 19%.”

This new clause would require the publication of a report within 6 months of the Act receiving Royal Assent assessing the effect on earned and unearned income.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities)

I rise to speak to amendment 1, tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend Wendy Chamberlain.

The increase in the national insurance thresholds for employees contained in the Bill will come into effect only in July this year, but the national insurance rise will commence in April—three months when employees will be facing the 1.25% increase in national insurance contribution payments without any protection through a higher tax-free allowance, and three months in which families will feel the full force of the Chancellor’s tax hike without any cushioning from the rising of the national insurance threshold.

Photo of Jacob Young Jacob Young Conservative, Redcar

Just to correct the hon. Lady slightly, I believe the threshold will still rise by £300 in April, as was the Government’s original plan. The further increase will come in July.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for those comments, but there is still a gap and the amendment seeks to close it.

The three-month delay will cost working families £2.1 billion and add to their distress right in the middle of the biggest cost of living crisis since the 1950s. Let us remember that the rise in national insurance contributions will hit all working families. A nurse or a midwife on an average salary will see their tax bill rise by £310 next year. A care home worker will pay around £140 more and ambulance staff will see a £420 increase.

Households are facing the biggest drop in living standards for 70 years through a combination of soaring energy costs and Conservative Government tax hikes. The typical family will see a hit of £1,100 next year, according to the Resolution Foundation. Absolute poverty is set to rise by 1.3 million people, including 500,000 children. Never before has Britain seen such a rise outside a recession. The cost of living crisis is biting right now and hitting families today. That is why the Chancellor should implement the changes in the Bill not from July, but from April, as that would save working families £2.1 billion in tax payments.

New clause 3 is tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife. It would require the Government to produce a report to look at the impact of the 1.25% increase in national insurance contributions on disposable incomes. It would give a true picture of what working families are facing. The statement yesterday hid the true facts. The Resolution Foundation has stated:

“Considering all income tax changes to thresholds and rates announced…Of the 31 million people in work, around 27 million (seven in eight workers) will pay more in income tax and NI in 2024-25.”

Instead, the Government could have cut VAT by 2.75%. That is what the Liberal Democrats would do. Such a measure would help everyone and shield our constituents from the worst of the increased costs. It would put money back into their pockets and genuinely shield those on middle and lower incomes the most. With a floundering economy we need people to spend money on our high streets, which would boost our local economies. A cut to VAT would give an immediate boost to every household, and also help us in the long term.

Mr Deputy Speaker, new clause 4 would require the Government to produce a report on taxation on earned income versus unearned income. The income tax change that will come into effect in 2024 does not benefit people equally. Workers will not benefit from that cut, which instead will benefit those with unearned income from investments, such as landlords. If someone is wealthy enough to get their income from savings and properties they will pay less tax, while the least well-off continue to pay more and more. In response to yesterday’s Budget, the Institute for Fiscal Studies stated:

“What is the possible justification for cutting income tax rate while raising NI rate?...Drives further wedge between taxation of unearned income and earned income.”

It benefits

“those living off rents at the expense of workers.”

Let us look at what the Government have announced and at the inequalities that creates. I hope all Members of the House will support my amendments, to see off the worst from the Chancellor’s disappointing statement yesterday.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Before I call Sarah Atherton, while I am sitting here I am acting as Chair of the Committee, rather than as Deputy Speaker. It is only a technicality, but we should get it right.

Photo of Sarah Atherton Sarah Atherton Conservative, Wrexham

Thank you, Chair. I wish to speak against amendment 1, in the name of Wendy Chamberlain, and against new clause 1, in the name of John McDonnell. Amendment 1 is simply impractical. Employers, HMRC and payroll systems do not have time to bring these measures into effect by April. Our own pay body, IPSA, could not make these changes in time, let alone small and medium-sized enterprises and bigger companies. July is the earliest that can be done, and the Government should be commended on the pace with which the change will be universally introduced, bearing in mind that we will be midway through the financial year. The Government understand the needs of constituents. The cost of living challenge is hitting now, post-covid, and the Government are acting with haste.

My opposition to new clause 1 is similar: timing. We should not postpone this measure by undertaking impact reports that would cause unnecessary delays for families who need support with the cost of living as soon as possible. Wrexham has more than the Welsh and UK average of lower income households, and under the Welsh Labour Administration, for the past 22 years those numbers have been increasing, with more child poverty and more struggling households. We all accept that the situation has not been helped by the global pandemic, which none of us foresaw. Nor did we foresee the war on the fringes of Europe.

This is not strictly within the remit of the Bill, but I concur with my hon. Friend Richard Drax in his call to increase defence spending.

To go back to the Bill, the national insurance threshold increase will save those struggling families in my constituency of Wrexham hundreds of pounds a year, in addition to the help that the Government have already provided through the 6.6% increase in the national living wage. As my hon. Friend Paul Bristow mentioned on Second Reading, there is also the change in the universal credit taper rate.

I find it perplexing that Labour would challenge this Bill, which benefits my constituents and 2.2 million people across the country. In Wrexham, there are two areas that the Welsh Labour Government have declared to be among the most deprived in Wales. This Bill will directly help them. Why is Labour opposing it—does it not want people living in those areas to benefit financially?

The Chancellor has an excellent and responsible fiscal policy based on fairness and understanding of need; I should briefly mention the health and social care levy in this context. The importance of ringfencing that revenue must not be underestimated. The No.1 challenge facing my constituency is access to quality healthcare, which, as a former nurse and social worker, I understand acutely. There are issues with accessing a GP, years and years are spent on waiting lists, ambulance wait times are an issue and some people have no choice but to take out loans to pay for care privately in Labour-run Wales. That is unacceptable. People are having to move over the border to England, and that is also unacceptable. I urge the Opposition to understand the needs of their constituents and the fact that people want good public services and low taxation.

Lastly, let us not forget that the Welsh Labour Government will benefit from this levy through the Barnett formula. The Government are fiscally responsible, and committed to spending where needed. For my constituents in Wrexham, this is the deed to match the words “levelling up”.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham 3:00 pm, 24th March 2022

I want to speak to new clause 2. Yesterday, I was shocked by the Chancellor’s response to people’s entreaties of him to do something more for those on low incomes. As I pointed out to him in an intervention, there is an anomaly—I hope it is one—that the Government will want to put right: when those on universal credit who pay national insurance have their threshold raised to £12,500, the £330 that they gain as a consequence will be subject to the 55% taper. That means that they will not get the full saving. Money is being clawed back by the Government from some of the poorest workers in the country. That cannot be right.

Last year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the reduction in the taper, which was very welcome. He announced a number of measures that increased the incomes of the poor, although we should remember that he took away the £20 a week uprating of universal credit. Those people are still going to be better off as a result of the changes yesterday, but the ones on universal credit who I have just referred to will be less well off than they were anticipating ahead of yesterday’s statement. How can that be? The poorest workers in the country number 2.3 million; I suspect that what the Government claw back from them will mean hundreds of millions going back to the Treasury. That cannot be fair and it cannot be right. By my calculation—I will stand corrected if I am wrong—such people will gain £330, of which they will lose £171, so the actual gain will be in the region of £159. That cannot be right.

My new clause 2 would require the Government to confirm in a report whether my fears and estimates are right that people on universal credit who pay national insurance will lose roughly half the money that they gain. Subsection (2) aims to find out how much the Government will gain from some of the poorest workers in the country because of the changes. If we highlight how much that is, I hope that they will attempt to do something about it and compensate such people for their loss. As we have heard all too often in this Chamber, people on low incomes in this country—families, in particular—have to make choices between feeding their children, clothing their children and switching on the heating, and about what food they buy. When people are living on the margins of, or in, extreme poverty, sums of money that may sound small are extremely significant. How did we manage to have a statement yesterday that clawed money back from such people?

Subsection (3) calls on the Chancellor to deliver that report to Parliament in 30 days. It cannot be right that such people are missing out in this way. It must be an oversight by the Government. It would be an extremely callous move if they actually knew that, as a consequence of the national insurance threshold being lifted, people would miss out in this way. I would be interested to hear from the Government, without delay, exactly who misses out, if they do at all, and how much the Government will benefit from it, if they do.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

I tabled new clause 1 because, from now on, I do not think that the House should discuss any legislation that has financial consequences without it understanding or at least having information about the effect on poverty and low pay. I would have liked that information for this Bill, although I can understand why we do not have it today. However, in future, the Government should lay a report before the House that explains the expected impact on low pay and poverty of any piece of legislation and assesses the effectiveness of its provisions.

The nature of this debate so far has demonstrated a lack of appreciation or understanding—and certainly a lack of agreement—about the objective realities of what is happening. Many have quoted the comments of the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Resolution Foundation, but some of this is about hard facts, so let me put on record again the situation that we face. At the moment, 4.3 million children and 2 million pensioners in the UK live in poverty. Overall, 14 million people live in poverty, and that was before the cost of living crisis hit us. A report from a UN rapporteur described people living not just in severe poverty, but in “destitution”. According to analysis today from the Resolution Foundation, 1.3 million more people will be living in poverty.

One reason I am asking for such a report is so that we can ask simple questions of the Treasury. What forecast have Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions, or the OBR, made of how many children, pensioners and people in the UK will be in poverty by the end of 2022-23?

Yesterday the shadow Chancellor asked the Chancellor how many pensioners and children would be pushed into poverty by the failure to uprate benefits and pensions in line with inflation, and the Chancellor failed to give any answer. It would be useful to have an answer today. Child poverty is already up by more than 500,000 since 2010, and it is interesting to note that most of those children—more than 60%—live in households in which one adult works. That, too, calls into question the levels of pay in this country.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that the uprating of just 3.1% will drag more than 400,000 more people into poverty, and as we have pointed out time and again during the debate, inflation is forecast to rise over the year to between 7% and 10%. Has the Treasury analysis come up with the same figure as the foundation, or a different one? If the figure is different, we would like to know why, and on what basis.

The other issue raised in the new clause is low pay. A total of 4.8 million workers earn less than the UK real living wage of £9.90 an hour, or £11.05 in London. The rise in the minimum wage this year—a 6% rise to £9.50 —still falls short of the Living Wage Foundation’s real living wage, and, given that forecast of an inflation rate between 7% and 10%, it is a real-terms pay cut. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility:

“Real incomes have been stagnant since the start of 2019 and this is now expected to continue over the next few years”.

The OBR went on to say that we were about to see the largest fall in incomes on record:

“With inflation outpacing growth in nominal earnings and net taxes due to rise in April, real livings standards are set to fall by 2.2 per cent in 2022-23—their largest financial year fall on record”.

A presentation of analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies took place this morning. According to the IFS, public sector pay has fallen by 3% in real terms in the last year, and is 2% lower in real terms than it was 12 years ago. The Department for Education’s average pay offer to teachers is 4%, and the fact that inflation is so much higher has obviously hit their wage levels. There is a group among the workforce who are being hit particularly hard by the Government’s changed arrangements relating to loans for tuition fees that they incurred while they were studying, and who will again be impacted severely by what is almost, in effect, an additional income tax.

Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies expressed incredulity—as have many of us—that the Government had done nothing for those on benefits or for pensioners. He pointed out that, according to the OBR, we are seeing the biggest fall in incomes since 1956, and that the inflation rate experienced by poorer households is even higher than the average. He said that it was “hard to understand” the Government’s “lack of action” on benefits. That lack of understanding of the Government’s approach is the reason for my new clause. I think that in future when we are debating issues such as this—Government measures involving public finances, benefits and wage levels—we will at least need to have a detailed report before us which explains the consequences of measures relating to low pay and poverty.

In the new clause, I have also asked the Government to assess alternative measures that they could take, and to provide an analysis of why those measures were not taken or why they might be brought to bear in the future if not immediately. All I am pleading for is a rational debate based on the widest possible information being provided to this House when we consider measures like this, so that we know whether the decisions we are taking will improve or undermine the standing of our constituents when it comes to low pay and poverty.

My anxiety at the moment is that the lack of that information is leading us to take decisions that will not resolve the issues of poverty and low pay and will in fact ensure a deterioration in the living conditions of many of our constituents. This is a simple measure, and I think it should now be standard Government practice to bring forward this sort of report, especially when we are in a cost of living crisis and so many of our constituents are already suffering and in many instances facing intolerable hardships.

Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Pensions) 3:15 pm, 24th March 2022

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate this afternoon. I would also like to thank my right hon. Friend John McDonnell and my hon. Friend Clive Efford for their new clauses, which I will speak to. I want to take this opportunity to talk about two groups of people, both of which are under real pressure due to the cost of living crisis. Those two groups are families in work, many of whom are on universal credit, and pensioners, many of whom have partners on universal credit.

First, I would like to give a bit of context. It is clear that we now face an unprecedented cost of living crisis due to soaring food and energy prices. Working families and pensioners are about to be confronted with the frightening prospect of the kind of cut to their standard of living not seen since the 1970s. Recent events in Ukraine have been shocking. However, the cost of living crisis predates Putin’s awful war and his vicious attack on the Ukrainian people. It was clear in the autumn that food and fuel prices were starting to rise steeply, but the Government have actually made matters worse despite those warning signs.

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor have made a series of choices that have made things worse. They decided to increase national insurance. They also decided to break the triple lock and failed to increase the state pension in line with inflation. To make matters even worse, they decided not to introduce a windfall tax, even when it was clear that such an approach would have provided cash to ease bills for families and pensioners. However, they did not have to take this damaging approach. They made a choice. They took the decision to act in this way, knowing full well the impact their policies would have. I contrast this with the approach set out by the shadow Chancellor, my hon. Friend Rachel Reeves, whose windfall tax proposals would have helped those struggling to get by with a payment of up to £600 per household. Sadly, people across the country will now pay the price for the choices made by the Government.

I suggest to those on the Treasury Bench that it is worth looking at what is being said about the spring statement in the media and by commentators. For example, the chief executive of the Resolution Foundation said that it was hard to make sense of the spring statement. With just a hint of irony, he said:

“This package only makes sense if your only test for policy choices was can you prove you’re a tax cutter and you’ve already announced a rise in national insurance”.

The FT was somewhat less diplomatic. It described the spring statement with these words:

“Chancellor builds war chest for 2024 but offers minimal help for families reeling from increasing household bills”.

These choices will all have a huge impact on local communities up and down the country. I have been thinking about many of my own residents in Reading and Woodley, such as people running small businesses, teaching assistants, nurses, IT consultants, residents who work in retail and manufacturing, and parents who are under real pressure to pay for the weekly shop. The Government’s policies will also hit those who are a little bit older, such as pensioners who are struggling with the high cost of heating in an area with many terraced houses that are difficult to insulate.

Even at this late stage, I ask the Chancellor and those on the Treasury Bench to reconsider their approach. There is no doubt that this country faces a real cost of living crisis. That has been clear since the autumn. The Chancellor and the Prime Minister had the opportunity to look at a number of policies, including a windfall tax on the energy companies, which would have offered up to £600 of much-needed help. Sadly, they chose to impose extra costs on families and pensioners at the worst possible time.

Photo of Richard Thomson Richard Thomson Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Financial Secretary), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

The SNP is generally supportive of all the amendments that have been tabled, and I echo the comments of John McDonnell, who made a number of points about the importance of understanding the intended purpose and impact of legislation before it takes effect. I made that point ad nauseam during the passage of two Finance Bills, but I keep returning to it because it is important that we understand what we are doing and that we avoid, as far as possible, the law of unintended consequences.

Quite apart from the evidence base they would provide for legislative scrutiny, the amendments might provide a corrective to the poor policy choices that Ministers have made in recent times.

Photo of James Murray James Murray Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

As I said on Second Reading, we will support the Bill, but I thank my right hon. Friend John McDonnell and my hon. Friends the Members for Reading East (Matt Rodda) and for Eltham (Clive Efford) for their important points about the impact the Bill will have. We recognise that raising the thresholds for national insurance contributions has benefits, and we welcome any help for people facing the Chancellor’s national insurance hike in April.

The explanatory notes explain that the increase to the primary thresholds for class 1 national insurance contributions and the lower profits limit for class 4 contributions will require changes to the systems of employers and HMRC, including those designed to facilitate pay-as-you-earn. The explanatory notes also explain that the Bill is being fast-tracked to give employers and HMRC as much time as possible to implement the changes, helping to make sure people are not overtaxed, and they confirm that the speed with which the Bill is going through Parliament means, unsurprisingly, there has been no consultation.

Although it is, of course, right to give employers and HMRC as much time as possible, the explanatory notes underline that the changes are being made very late in the day. Indeed, as we will come to later, the decision to implement this change from 6 July rather than 6 April reflects the last-minute nature of the Chancellor’s proposals. This approach to legislation does not inspire confidence that he is in control and has a well thought-through package to help people who are struggling to make ends meet. Indeed, it gives the impression of a Chancellor who has made the wrong choices and is now scrabbling at the eleventh hour to limit the damage.

Of course, according to the Chancellor, he only started work yesterday. He seemed proud to claim ahead of the spring statement that “the work starts today,” but the truth is that his choices have been hitting working people for far longer, and the Conservatives’ choices have been hitting our country for 12 years.

Clause 1 amends the Social Security (Contributions) Regulations 2001 to align the primary threshold for class 1 national insurance contributions with the income tax personal allowance. As I said, we support this measure as we recognise that raising the thresholds for national insurance contributions has benefits, and we welcome any help for people facing the Chancellor’s national insurance hike in April. However, this clause draws attention to the fact that the change to the primary threshold will not come into force until 6 July 2022. Indeed, subsection (4) explicitly states that the changes made to the primary threshold

“do not affect any liability to primary Class 1 contributions for any tax week commencing before that date”.

There will therefore be three months during which the Chancellor’s hike in national insurance will be in place, and hitting people’s pockets, and the changes to the primary threshold will not yet have taken effect. As I said a few moments ago, people looking at this will conclude that we have a Chancellor who knows he has made the wrong choices and is now scrambling around at the eleventh hour to limit the damage. So I wish to press the Minister on a few points about how and when the decision was taken to implement the threshold increase from July.

First, I have a simple question: when was a decision taken by the Chancellor to raise the threshold? Did he wake up on 23 March, the day he says was his first day of work, and make the decision then? Or had a policy decision been taken by the Treasury earlier, meaning that it could have been implemented earlier too? I realise the Minister may respond by trying to claim that announcements about changes to tax levels are made only at fiscal events, but that is not the case; the national insurance increase coming in April was announced by way of an unscheduled statement by the Prime Minister in September last year, and the arising legislation was pushed through Parliament in a day one week later.

If the Chancellor had decided to raise thresholds earlier this month, or even earlier this year, could his decision not have been announced and legislated for sooner? If that had been the case, these new thresholds could be in place from April, or at some point sooner than July, providing at least some extra help for people in the critical three months ahead when NI is being hiked and energy bills are set to soar. There are only two explanations possible for what has happened: either the Chancellor made the decision about thresholds only on the morning of 23 March, or he made it earlier, yet sat on it, when he could have acted to help people sooner. I would like the Minister to tell me which account is true. Given that the Bill introduces the threshold increase from 6 July, I would also be grateful if the Minister explained what consideration was given to backdating the increase to April. Is that an option that the Chancellor considered? If so, why was it discounted, and if it was not considered, why not?

Clause 2 raises the lower profits limit for class 4 contributions and ultimately aligns it with the income tax personal allowance. As before, we support this measure as we recognise that raising the thresholds for national insurance contributions has benefits, and we welcome any help for people facing the Chancellor’s NI tax hike in April. I note that the changes to the threshold for self-employed people’s class 4 contributions take effect in two stages. First, the lower profits limit is raised from £9,880 to £11,908 from April 2022, and then it is raised again to £12,570 in April 2023. The figure of £11,908 represents, as far as I can tell, a blended average for 2022-23 of the lower profits limit continuing at the level previously intended until July, and then being raised to £12,570 for the remaining months of the year. As with class 1 contributions, we will therefore have three months during which the Chancellor’s NI hike will be in place and hitting people’s pockets, yet the changes to the threshold will not yet have taken effect. I therefore ask the Minister again: are people missing out because the Chancellor made the decision about thresholds only on the morning of 23 March, or did he make that decision earlier, yet sat on it, when he could have acted to help people sooner?

Clause 3 gives the Treasury the power to make regulations to align the threshold for paying class 2 NICs with the lower profits limit. This clause also enables the Treasury to make sure that self-employed people with profits between the small profit threshold and the lower profits limit will continue to be able to build up NI credits but will not pay any class 2 national insurance contributions. As with the other changes in this Bill, we support this measure as we recognise the benefits of raising the thresholds. I would like, however, to press the Minister on two technical points that arise from clause 3. First, why are the changes to class 2 contributions to be made by way of regulations, rather than being implemented through this Bill? I note that clause 5(3) seems to make it clear that regulations arising from clause 3 will, as they would amend Acts of Parliament, have to be laid before and approved by a resolution of each House. Will the Minister explain why the detail on clause 3 will therefore be decided a later stage, and not with the class 1 and class 4 changes today? Secondly, clause 3(2)(b) makes it clear that the changes to class 2 contributions may be made to have retrospective provision from 6 April 2022. So why is it possible to backdate changes to class 2 contributions to April 2022, yet changes to class 1 and class 4 contributions can take effect only from July?

The remaining clauses include clause 4, which makes transitional and consequential provisions that are reasonable in the context of the Bill; clause 5, on which I have touched, relating to the making of regulations; and clause 6, on the short title. Before I close my speech, I should point out that nothing in those clauses addresses the secondary threshold for employers. We have warned since the national insurance hike was introduced that it would be a tax on working people and their jobs, yet none of the Bill’s clauses address the level at which employers will have to pay the raised rate of national insurance. We know from the Office of Budget Responsibility that this is not just an issue for employers who want to create jobs; the rise in employers’ national insurance contributions will also hit workers through a double whammy, as the increase is passed on by way of lower wages and higher prices.

As I have made clear, we will support the measures in the Bill because we recognise that the raising of the thresholds has benefits and we welcome any help for people who face the Chancellor’s national insurance tax hike in April. However, I have set out important points of detail—particularly in respect of the timing of the changes we are asked to agree today—that will have a real impact on people’s pockets. I would be grateful if the Minister addressed them directly in her reply.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 3:30 pm, 24th March 2022

I wish first to address amendment 1, which was tabled by Wera Hobhouse and would bring forward to 6 April the increase to the primary threshold that is introduced in clause 1. Of course the Government want to help people with the cost of living as quickly as possible, which is why the Chancellor introduced a number of measures immediately, including the cutting of fuel duty, which came into force at 6 pm last night. However, it was not possible to deliver the increase to the primary threshold from 6 April, which is in less than two weeks’ time.

The Government are implementing the change as early as possible, from 6 July. It is not possible for the majority of software and payroll providers to deliver the measure for April. Its delivery to an April timeline would see millions of individuals paying the incorrect amount of NICs at the start of the tax year, in just two weeks’ time. There would then be an additional administrative burden on employers, who would have to manually re-run the payroll once the software was ready. As my hon. Friend Sarah Atherton said, the earliest that we can deliver the policy and it can be implemented by all software developers is July. That will avoid millions of taxpayers having to make manual claims for refunds.

Overall, the delivery timetable strikes the important balance between ensuring that individuals see the benefits of the increase as early as possible and allowing employers and payroll-software providers sufficient time to update and test their systems so that the change is delivered smoothly and individuals can enjoy the benefits at the same time. I hope the hon. Member for Bath will withdraw her amendment for the reasons I have outlined.

Let me turn to the new clauses in combination, because they address similar matters. On the points that Members made about poverty, if we look back at the past 10 years, we see that around 1.3 million fewer people are living in poverty, half a million fewer children are growing up in workless households and hundreds of thousands fewer children are living in poverty.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

I do not want the Minister to miss the point of new clause 1. I understand why she is setting out the statistics as she understands them, but they are contested. Nevertheless, the point I was trying to make with my new clause is that the Government should always publish a full report on their assessment of the implications of their legislation for both low pay and poverty, and that that report should include their assessment of the other options available to them that they could have taken. It is a simple measure that I hope would apply to all Governments of whatever political colour.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I was going to come to the distributional analysis of the spring statement. The analysis in the document “Impact on households: distributional analysis to accompany Spring Statement 2022” shows that

“government policy continues to be highly redistributive;
in 2024-25, on average, households in the lowest income decile will receive over £4 in public spending for every £1 they pay in tax”.

It also shows that

“in 2024-25, the poorest 60% of households will receive more in public spending than they contribute in tax” and that

“on average, the combined impact of personal tax and welfare decisions made since SR19 is progressive, placing the largest burden on higher-income households as a proportion of income.”

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

I do not want to labour the point. I have read the analysis of the impact on households; it is always very helpful, but it does not address the issue of low pay and poverty, or other policy options that could be considered. I make the point for the future. I know it is impossible to address now, but I think such a report should be published automatically. If the Government do not publish it, maybe a report should be published by the OBR or some other body that we establish to enable that to happen.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I recognise the point made by the right hon. Member and I will of course consider it for the future. Considering a variety of hypothetical scenarios is time-consuming, which is why that is not traditionally done, but I will take his point away and consider it further.

I reiterate some of the points we discussed on Second Reading only a moment ago about the impact of the measures on those in lower pay and on universal credit. As hon. Members know, there was an autumn Budget not very long ago, followed now by this spring statement. In the autumn Budget, the Chancellor started the journey of helping to support those on lower pay through the tax system. He announced the first tax cut on his journey to cut taxation—the cutting of the taper rate, which will put £1,000 into the pockets of those on universal credit.

Hon. Members will already know about the increase in the national living wage. They will have seen the £1 billion household support fund, which is helping people in all our constituencies, building on other measures that were announced at the autumn Budget. More recently, we have provided £9 billion in energy support. There is the increasing generosity of the local housing allowance for housing benefit and the holiday activities and food programme. The Chancellor’s plan for jobs—the Conservative plan—whether through the kickstart scheme, the restart scheme, work coaches or boot camps, is to ensure that, where people can get into work, they get into work, and they are upskilled so that they earn more for themselves.

On new clause 4, the increase to the primary threshold and the lower profits limit is a tax cut on earned income that will benefit almost 30 million working people.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I will just finish this point; I will come back to the hon. Gentleman. We are introducing a tax cut for a typical employee that is worth more than £330 in the year from July 2022. The impact of the provisions in the Bill have already been published in a tax impact information note published on gov.uk, and the impact of the income tax basic rate cut will be published ahead of implementation in 2024.

The hon. Member for Bath raised a question about landlords. We have taken steps over several years to ensure that landlords pay a fair tax contribution.

In April 2016, we introduced a higher rate of stamp duty land tax for those purchasing additional properties, recognising that, although the private sector plays an important role in our housing market and people should be free to invest in buy-to-let properties, the purchase of additional properties can affect the ability of other people to get on to the property ladder. We also restricted finance cost relief so landlords no longer get relief at their marginal rate if they are a higher or additional rate taxpayer. Finally, we maintained the 8% higher rate of capital gains tax for landlords compared with the rate for other taxable gains.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I am going to give way to Clive Efford first. He is probably going to ask about the previous point.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I am wondering whether the Minister missed new clause 2, because she did not address the problem. Yes, increases were introduced in the autumn Budget last year, but this year, people are getting less than they were anticipating due to the increase in the threshold of national insurance. People were being told yesterday that they should get an extra £330, but they will actually get less than half of that. What is the Government going to do about that? The Treasury is clawing back several hundred million pounds from some of the poorest workers in the country.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I do not know whether the hon. Member was in the Chamber when Stephen Timms raised this point and I addressed it. He is right to point out that an individual may be affected by the taper, but overall they will be better off as a result of this change. If those people are earning below the work allowance, they will get the full benefit. I reiterate that the changes that we have already made mean that those who are on universal credit will benefit by £1,000 from the cut to the taper rate.[This section has been corrected on 19 April 2022, column 2MC — read correction]

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities)

I accept that the Government might have done all sorts of other things to put restrictions on landlords, but would it not be interesting to know the difference between earned and unearned income in relation to the measure introduced by the Chancellor yesterday?

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

As the hon. Member knows, the threshold increase will largely affect those who are working, because it is a tax that relates to working people, and the income tax cut that we have announced will, obviously, affect those who pay income tax.

James Murray made a number of points. He asked when the Chancellor decided that he would implement this change to the threshold. In considering a tax policy, it is not decided that something will be implemented on a particular day. A whole process needs to be followed, including ensuring that the relevant documents are put before the House. The hon. Member will be aware that that involves a Bill, an explanatory memorandum and a TIIN. He will know, because he will have heard the Chancellor and other Treasury Front Benchers say so on many occasions in the House, that the Chancellor has been considering for some time how he can help those who might be impacted by the cost of living issues that we currently face. It is appropriate, where measures are taken in relation to tax, that they are broadly taken at fiscal events.

The hon. Member also made a slightly contradictory point. He asked why we had not introduced the measure sooner, in March perhaps, and then suggested that it was being introduced too late because we were delaying it until July. He seemed to be criticising us both for not bringing it in earlier and for not giving him sufficient time to consider it, but I have mentioned all the things we need to do before introducing it in July.

The reason that the measures will be brought in through regulations is that we need to consult, including those who will be doing the payroll. The need to consult was one of the points made by the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group.

We have come to the end of what has been a useful Committee sitting that examined the detailed provisions of the Bill. The Bill seeks to align the threshold at which employees and the self-employed start paying NICs with the personal allowance for income tax. As well as simplifying the tax and NICs system, the measure ensures that hard-working families keep more of what they earn.

I thank hon. Members for their constructive contributions. I will, of course, look carefully at the record of the Committee debate and take forward any outstanding points.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 2 to 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Bill read the Third time and passed.