All 1 Debates between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Vere of Norbiton

Autumn Statement 2023

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Wednesday 29th November 2023

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I will probably write to the noble Lord with clarity on that, because I would like to make a little progress.

A number of noble Lords tried to pull out one element of the Autumn Statement and made the point that it will benefit rich people more than poor. One cannot look at one measure in isolation. The Government have conducted extensive assessment of the policies announced both in this Autumn Statement and in previous years. It shows that, across all government decisions dating back to the 2019 spending round, the combined impact of tax, welfare and public services spending measures has benefited the lowest-income households the most.

I will touch briefly on welfare reforms. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Jackson for his support for these reforms. We want to see people who can work be able to work; we are absolutely willing to provide support for them.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester mentioned mental health. I agree with him that we must confront this issue in our country. It remains a priority for the Government. Alongside other recent mental health interventions, the back to work plan includes nearly £800 million over five years to expand talking therapies for those with mild or moderate conditions, as well as individual placements and support to be delivered within community mental health schemes for those with more serious conditions.

I will write to noble Lords on a couple of other things. I come back to growth because it is undeniable that growth in many developed nations has been difficult. Since 2010, when this Government first came to power, the UK has grown faster than many of its competitors, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan. Would I like to see us grow even faster than we currently are? Absolutely—indeed, the growth trajectory is on an upward trend after the first two years. The noble Lord, Lord Livermore, did not quite get to those numbers but they are higher, peaking at 2% a year. This Autumn Statement is focused on creating sustainable growth without adding to inflation or overall borrowing. It is sensible supply-side interventions that boost business investment.

This is in stark contrast to the plans set out by the party opposite, such as they are. It is not clear to me which parts of the Autumn Statement the Labour Party actively oppose or would do substantially differently, and the noble Lord, Lord Livermore, has not enlightened me. So not only do we have a cut-and-paste shadow Chancellor; it seems we have a cut-and-paste shadow Exchequer Secretary too. It is worth reflecting on the much-vaunted flagship Labour spending policy of £28 billion. For clarity, that is £28 billion per year. In the absence of significant tax rises or substantial cuts to public spending—and only the former is in the traditional Labour playbook—this £28 billion per year will just add to our national debt, piling pressure on future generations and busting through fiscal rules. As I said, this Conservative Autumn Statement is about sensible supply-side reforms to support British businesses and boost productivity.

The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, asked whether full expensing represents value for money. The Government have prioritised the business tax cut as a targeted way to support businesses which invest. It does this by reducing the cost of capital for UK companies. This policy will drive 0.1% GDP growth in the next five years, increasing to slightly below 0.2% in the long run. Whereas the benefits of the policy will grow over time, the costs will reduce. Full expensing brings forward relief that would otherwise be claimed over decades, meaning that the costs are highest in the policy’s introduction.

The noble Lord, Lord Londesborough, talked about a productivity council. The Government take a range of advice on matters of growth and productivity from all sorts of organisations, including public sector organisations such as the National Infrastructure Commission and the Competition and Markets Authority, but also from academics, think tanks and businesses. While I respect his idea, at the moment we will probably not take it forward.

There was some interesting comment around the pension reforms. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, welcomed the proposals. He asked for the timing of implementation of changes to retired benefit schemes. This will become clearer when the consultation period has completed. I will write on the second question about pensions, because I am conscious that I will imminently run out of time.

My noble friend Lord Northbrook and the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford, asked why the Government are not bringing back the VAT retail export scheme. The Government continue to accept representations from industry regarding the tourist tax and are considering all returns carefully. It is about providing very robust evidence on this. At the moment, we feel that it is a little lacking.

The noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone, talked about the creative industries. There is a large number of specific asks for a very specific sector, so I will certainly write.

It is also worth noting some of the more general discussions that noble Lords had today, and I hope will continue to have in the future. There were considerations around the size and shape of the state, the amount of contributions that should come from taxpayers, and, from the noble Lord, Lord O’Neill, public versus private sector investment. My noble friend Lord Willetts talked about the shape of the state. These are things to mull on, definitely. They will not change government policy today or in the near future but are really important issues that should be debated.

I second what my noble friend Lady Noakes said about regulation. We need to look at regulation as our economy develops. It is most helpful for the Government when noble Lords can go into specifics. I am always very happy to hear about specific regulations that we feel are not fit for purpose and which need to be improved.

Also, to my noble friend Lady Noakes, on the 100-plus measures, I say that the details can be found in the “Policy Decisions” chapter of the Autumn Statement document.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My request was quite simple. I did say that there were 200 paragraphs in Chapter 5 and a number of policy costings, but none of them actually shows what amounts to the 110, which was one of the leading statements made by my right honourable friend the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement. I am simply asking: which are the 110? Does my noble friend undertake to let me have that information if she cannot provide it now?