Taxation: Living Standards

Treasury – in the House of Commons at on 7 May 2024.

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Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

What recent assessment he has made of the potential impact of his tax policies on living standards.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

What recent assessment he has made of the potential impact of his tax policies on living standards.

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Thanks to a combination of national insurance cuts and above-inflation increases to thresholds since 2010, the average worker on £35,400 will pay more than £1,500 less in personal taxes this year. In addition, maintaining fuel duty rates at their current levels represents a further £13 billion benefit to households over the three years since the introduction of the freeze.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

The Minister will know that people are still really struggling with the cost of living crisis. One way that the Government could help is by seeking a bespoke veterinary agreement with the EU. That would not only cut costs for businesses but stop food prices rising even more. A future Labour Government would do that, so why will the Government not commit to it?

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

The hon. Lady’s first comment was correct: everyone in this House recognises the extreme cost of living challenges over the past few years, and that is precisely why the Government have adopted the strategy of a laser focus on inflation, combined with tax cuts and, recently, national insurance cuts. We have a very constructive and positive relationship with the EU, and are always engaging with it on a variety of matters.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

In the run-up to last week’s elections, the Prime Minister never stopped talking about national insurance cuts, and the Minister talked about them again today, but the Government have been giving with one hand and taking away with the other. Does the Minister recognise that according to the Resolution Foundation, the combined impact of all the Government’s tax changes leaves workers who earn less than £26,000 a year worse off? Will he apologise to workers in South Yorkshire, whose average earnings are close to that level, for misrepresenting the position?

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Of course we recognise the challenges for those on the lowest incomes, which is precisely why we have adopted a whole bunch of other measures, including on housing allowance. If the hon. Gentleman is so opposed to the national insurance cuts that we introduced, why did the Leader of the Opposition support them?

Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

Most definitely not!

It has just been said that there is a real cost of living challenge, and that is absolutely correct. A key part of that relates to the war in Ukraine, which poses real challenges for energy supplies to the United Kingdom. As a former Minister who applied sanctions to Russia and looked at the oil price cap, I know that we need to ensure that what happens in Ukraine is offset by actions that hold Russia to account and address the cost of living. The US has seized Russian assets to pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine; the UK should do the same. That would help ease the burden on the UK economy and the taxpayer.

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

It is always a pleasure to see my hon. Friend in his place. He raises a variety of really important issues that show precisely why we work across Government—there are multiple Departments involved—on matters relating to sanctions. The invasion of Ukraine has had an incredible impact around the world, not just in the UK. Everybody in this House should welcome the fact that, because of action taken by this Government and the Bank of England, and other measures, inflation is now falling and will soon hit target.

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

The Conservatives’ decisions in this Parliament mean that the average family will face a tax bill that is £870 a year higher, and pensioner taxpayers will pay £960 a year more. The director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said:

“This remains a Parliament of record tax rises.”

Higher taxes, squeezed living standards and weaker public services—that is the Conservatives’ legacy. Does the Minister understand why the country has lost confidence in them?

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Many people in this country remember the abysmal economic performance of the last Labour Government. The tax-free allowance was £6,475; it is now £12,570. More than 1.5 million people have been taken out of paying income tax altogether. The Government have a focus: now that the economy is turning, we want to put more money into people’s pockets. That is exactly what we are doing with the national insurance cuts and other measures, and I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not welcome that.