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

Clause 2 - Personal allowance for 2013-14 for those born after 5 April 1948

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 23rd April 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East 12:00 pm, 23rd April 2013

The Finance Bill has to be one of the most important pieces of legislation for the Government in any parliamentary year, which makes it all the more extraordinary that, on Second Reading and in Committee of the whole House last week, Government Back Benchers seemed uninterested in the Bill. That is not the case now we are in the Committee Room, as we have seen from the lively interventions that have been made.

The point I was making before the Committee adjourned this morning was that one thing that Governments need to do constantly, and are urged to do by bodies such as the Resolution Foundation, is to look at the overall impact of what is happening and to ask themselves whether a certain way of proceeding is the best or indeed the only way of helping the people they want to help. We hear from both sides of the House—at least, officially—the profession that we want to help those  who are least well off, and that that is the goal of Government policy. The conclusion that the Resolution Foundation reached when comparing and contrasting the raising of the tax allowance with altering the earnings disregard in relation to universal credit—although the same argument would prevail if universal credit does not get rolled out fully this year—was that, simply in terms of helping working families on low and middle incomes, raising the universal credit disregard was 15 times as effective as raising the tax allowance.

If, therefore, we are genuine when we say that our primary focus is on the least well-off—as has been argued in relation to the raising of tax allowances in particular—that sort of comparison is what we need, and what the review proposed by amendment 8 would seek from the Government. They should look seriously at the impact of their measures, not just to review what has been done but, crucially, to look forward to policy in future Finance Bills, and to work out where we are going on the issue of the tax allowance.

One particular argument has been made repeatedly during post-Budget debates, although less so last week, mainly because Government Back Benchers did not speak very much. The Government have been very keen to point to some—not all—parts of the impact assessment carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. In particular, they constantly ask us to look at the fact that the biggest impact of their benefit and tax measures since 2010 has been on the top 10%; therefore, it is argued, the measures must be fair. I have a few problems with that. First—and I have not noticed this point being discussed by anyone else, so I hope the Minister will be able to answer it—when the IFS makes that statement, the calculations used take into account everything that has happened since the pre-election Budget of 2010, including the additional 50p tax rate and the subsequent reduction of that rate to 45p. But we are told constantly by Ministers that the 50p tax rate did not actually raise any money. If it did not raise any money, it could not have had an impact on the income of people at the top of the income scale. Either it did raise money and so had an impact, or it did not raise money and so did not have an impact.