My Lords, the Minister is right about one thing. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Newby, for his support for the amendments. What he said put a lie to the practical issues that the Minister raised about how difficult it would be to bring forward legislation on a short-term basis. We do not see that as a huge issue. The PBR is not tied to the Queen's Speech. It often comes early, as it did last year. There is plenty of time for a Bill to get through. The Minister said that the Bill had to be programmed, but who programmes Bills? The Government do, and it is easy for them to do so. The Minister said that historically there would have been a requirement for several Bills. Having indexation on the face of the Bill may provide an incentive for Government not to go through the performance of trying to mess around with the levels each and every year. When the Chancellor wants to realign income tax and national insurance, a special Bill would have to be brought forward. If that alignment were reasonable, I am sure that both Houses would co-operate with Government in seeing that through.
My noble friend Lord Forsyth, whom I thank for his support, pointed out that the real problem with this Bill is the irresistible temptation that it provides the Government to do away with or to increase significantly the upper earnings limit and thereby raise large amounts of what is in fact taxation, but which we have to call income tax. He is quite right to say that it is a form of fraud. This latest increase raises, as I said, £1.5 billion. It will go into the National Insurance Fund, which is already in surplus because national insurance contributions have been raised by an amount greater than needed for the purposes of the fund.
We do not see the affirmative procedure as providing anything like the protection of primary legislation for those who pay national insurance. The amendments are entirely reasonable because they give no limit to what the Government can do next year. The Government can realign as they want next year. I have been entirely reasonable in giving the Government headway to do the alignment and then to let indexation kick in and protect national insurance payers after that.
The Minister anticipated that I would not be convinced by his arguments. I wish to test the opinion of the House.