Economy: Budget Statement - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:07 pm on 13th November 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development 8:07 pm, 13th November 2018

Can I write to the noble Lord on that, just to make sure that I get it absolutely right? I will certainly undertake to write to him and place a copy in the Library.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked about Help to Buy and questioned its effect on house prices. He also questioned why the scheme had been extended. Housing developers need notice of any changes, and ending the scheme abruptly in 2021 could disrupt housing supply. Instead, we will have a two-year transition period.

My noble friend Lady Altmann asked about pensions. Some people who earn between £10,000 and the personal allowance are missing out on tax relief on their pension. To date it has not been possible to identify any straightforward or proportionate means to align the effects of the net pay and relief at source mechanisms more closely for the population. The Government are already committed to ensuring that we can deliver a modern digital tax system to make it more effective, more efficient and easier for customers to comply and to reduce the amount of tax lost through avoidable error. This may present opportunities to look afresh at the two systems, and I welcome my noble friend’s continued engagement in this important area.

My noble friend Lady Byford asked about digital infrastructure top lines. The Government are committed to 15 million premises being connected to full-fibre broadband by 2025, with nationwide coverage by 2023.

My noble friend Lord Northbrook struck a chord with a number of noble Lords, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, when he talked about the delay in the introduction of the measure on fixed-odds betting terminals. I know that it is a contentious measure. Fixed-odds betting terminals have been in operation since 2001. We undertook the review. It has now been decided that the maximum stake will be cut from £100 to £2, which is extremely welcome. There was been a well-argued debate in the other place on the timing of that. The Chancellor has set out his proposal for it to be in the autumn of next year. To counter that, there has been a proposal that it should be earlier. However, whether it is in the spring or in the autumn, the reality is that, after many years, that welcome change will be brought in to help alleviate the deleterious effects of that side of the gambling industry.

My noble friend Lord Horam talked about the importance of growth in raising all boats and solving all problems. We agree with that and we need to do more to address that issue.

I was with my noble friend Lord Northbrook almost all the way through his excellent speech until he trespassed on the holy ground of the international aid budget, at which point I broke away a little, because that 0.7% is a badge of hope to the world—I see it day in, day out around the world. We live in a world where 29,000 children under the age of five die every day from completely preventable diseases, which makes us realise that, whatever the demands we face in this country, there are some immense needs around the world, and we have rightly been recognised for introducing that and standing by it.

My noble friend Lady Altmann asked what we are doing for skills. We have funded a £20 million skills pilot to help workers develop digital skills. The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, asked about measures for local authorities in the short term. The spending review will set budgets from 2020-21 onwards, but the Chancellor used the Budget to announce additional funding to support services. This includes an additional £240 million in the current year.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Macpherson, asked about the effect of ongoing spending on unprotected areas. The Government have been clear that the NHS is their number one spending priority, with an £84 billion increase over the next five years. The noble Baroness also mentioned policing. Police funding was protected in real terms in the 2015 spending review. The 2018-19 settlement gave an additional £450 million to police forces.

The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, asked which taxes had helped to recover the more than £185 billion in tax. Since 2010, the Government have secured and protected more than £185 billion of tax that otherwise would have gone unpaid. The noble Lord, Lord Gadhia, asked about PFI and an infrastructure bank. We already have a range of financing support options to deliver infrastructure, including the UK Guarantees Scheme and the British Business Bank.

My noble friend Lady McGregor-Smith talked about the importance of corporate tax revenues and rates for encouraging start-ups, as did my noble friend Lord Wakeham. It is great that we have seen the corporation tax rate fall from 28% to 19% today, and have legislated for it to fall further to 17%.

My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe asked what we are doing to increase productivity. The national productivity investment fund has been increased from £31 billion to £37 billion, driving key investments to boost productivity and innovation. I have been given a highly technical note on the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Gadhia and Lord Macpherson, on quantitative easing. In the interest of time, I may write to them on that and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

I have to mention my noble friend Lady Noakes, simply because I noticed from social media that she asked whether I would be listening to her, so I have to show that I did—it is easier for me than replying on social media. My noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, talked about the disguised remuneration loan scheme. There are a number of points here—I think that my noble friend, for whom I have great respect, covered most of them—but HMRC actively encourages anybody who is worried about being able to pay what they owe to get in touch as soon as possible. I will undertake to take her concerns back to the Treasury and respond to them.

I want to end on a note of optimism. I share with the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, that desire for optimism: my blood group is B positive and I like to think that I do not disappoint, so I just say to the noble Baroness that employment is at record levels and wages are growing at their fastest rate for 10 years. Income inequality is at its lowest level since the 1980s. The number of people living in workless households is at a record low. Unemployment is at its lowest level since 1975. Some 1.74 million people have been taken out of tax. We have the highest sustained level of public investment of all time. We have doubled the amount of free childcare. Debt is falling as a percentage of GDP. The deficit is down by four-fifths. The income of the lowest-paid 20% is growing faster than that of the highest-paid 20%. We have seen the largest peacetime increase in spending on the NHS in its 70 years and in the public record. Forbes has declared that the UK is the number one place to do business in the current year, despite all. Exports are at record levels— £620 billion and rising. Some 2,265 overseas investments have been made in the UK. Britain’s hard work is paying off and our economy is fit for the future. I commend the Statement to the House.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 8.31pm.