Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
The hon. Lady spoke at length about an indiscriminate way of taking low-paid workers out of tax. But she should know that the upper rate of tax is being adjusted to make sure that this does not benefit upper rate taxpayers. She talked at length also about how people on both middle and low incomes are suffering considerable pressure on their living standards. I completely agree, as does everyone on the Government Benches. But this is exactly why this measure is so important. It helps people on both low and middle incomes but does not give a free gift to those on high incomes. We satisfy precisely those complaints that she makes. Were she to take a greater interest in the detail of the clause itself rather than making spurious points about things that are not in the clause she might understand why this is a fundamentally good thing for low-paid people, something which I suspect her own Front Bench would support.
Just on the two amendments, I have had to stand in the kitchens and front rooms of many constituents who are profoundly concerned about the changes to the income tax relief for old age pensions. People are worried about this and it is having an impact on them. It means that I have to have a direct conversation with them about the fact that we are almost bankrupt. We are in this position now—I will not get into an argument of blame—where the Government need to make savings. The hon. Lady made a series of statements that were frankly contradictory. On the one hand she talked about a depression in living standards and the problems for those on low incomes. We understand that and agree with it. That is precisely the reason for the introduction of this measure. But on the other hand she talked about the deficit and the fact that we still have the highest deficit in the western world, something that was brought down by a quarter and nearly to a third by this coalition Government but still not reduced to zero.
At some time the Opposition have to have that honest discussion with the electorate in the same way that I have had and other Government Members have had with their constituents where we say, “I’m sorry. I would like to give you a tax break. That is why I am a Conservative. I want to see people not paying tax. That is one of the core principles of my political being. But at the moment we cannot afford it.” That robust conversation has to be had. The Opposition may wonder why people are not voting any more. They may wonder why Tony Blair was returned in 2005 with fewer votes than John Major lost by in 1997. They might reflect on the fact that the reason people are not voting is because the Labour party has failed to have robust conversations with the electorate for 13 years. Now at last we are and now at last we are putting right some of the financial damage done by the last Government. That is why I support wholeheartedly the radical reform in clause 2 and reject the spurious amendments 7 and 8.