Eleanor Laing debates involving HM Treasury during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 8th May 2024
Finance (No. 2) Bill
Commons Chamber

Committee of the whole House
Wed 10th Jan 2024
Finance Bill
Commons Chamber

Committee of the whole House
Mon 26th Jun 2023
Tue 20th Jun 2023
Tue 13th Jun 2023

Finance (No. 2) Bill

Eleanor Laing Excerpts
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Eleanor Laing Portrait The Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clauses 2 to 4 stand part.

New clause 1—Review of impact of section 2—

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act being passed, publish a review of the expected impact of section 2 of this Act.

(2) The review must include analysis setting out the number of individual taxpayers facing a marginal tax rate in the tax year 2024-25 of—

(a) the basic rate of 20%, and

(b) the higher rate of 40%.

(3) For comparative purposes, the review must take account of—

(a) equivalent actual figures to those in subsection (2)(a) and (b) for the tax years 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24, and

(b) equivalent projected figures to those in subsection (2)(a) and (b) for the tax years 2025-26, 2026-27 and 2027-28.”

This new clause requires a review of how many people will be liable to pay income tax at 20% and 40%, and would compare figures for the current tax year with those for the three preceding and three subsequent tax years.

New clause 4—Review of impact of section 1 on pensioners—

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act being passed, publish a review of the expected impact of section 1 of this Act on those over State Pension age.

(2) The review must include analysis setting out, for the tax year 2024-25—

(a) the total number of people over the State Pension age paying tax under section 1, and

(b) the average tax liability per person of those in subsection (2)(a).

(3) For comparative purposes, the review must take account of equivalent projected figures to those in subsections (2)(a) and (2)(b) for the tax years 2025-26, 2026-27 and 2027-28.”

This new clause requires a review of how many pensioners will be liable to pay income tax this year and in each of the next three years, and what the average pensioner’s tax bill will be in each of those years.

New clause 5—Impact of income tax and corporation tax provisions on Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

“The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act being passed, publish an analysis of the impact of the measures in sections 1 to 4, 12 and 13 of this Act on—

(a) Wales,

(b) Scotland, and

(c) Northern Ireland.”

This new clause requires an analysis of the income tax and corporation tax measures in the Bill on Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

New clause 6—Report on impact of section 2—

“Within three months of this Act being passed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must lay before the House of Commons a report setting out—

(a) the number of taxpayers that will pay income tax at each rate during the tax year 2024-2025 under section 2;

(b) the number of those taxpayers that are pensioners or are of State Pension Age;

(c) comparative figures for each tax year since 2021; and

(d) comparative projected figures for each tax year to 2030.”

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I do not think we need the two new clauses kindly proposed by Labour, which probably already has quite a lot of the knowledge that the new clauses seek, as the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) implied. If we do not increase the thresholds, of course more people will end up paying tax. I do not want too many more people paying the higher rate of tax, but to get an upward shift in the thresholds in due course, we will need to go over the issues to see where we could free up some cash. The Government should look at the losses, the employment situation and productivity to find their crock of gold, and then we can all be happier.
Julie Elliott Portrait Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central) (Lab)
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I beg to move amendment 2, page 2, line 9, leave out from “(9B)” to end of line 11 and insert

“may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”

This amendment changes the procedure that applies to an SI containing regulations under new subsection (9B) of section 7 of the Building Societies Act 1986 (inserted by the Bill) so that it is subject to the affirmative procedure.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 1, page 2, line 10, leave out from “to” to end of line 11 and insert

“approval by both Houses of Parliament”.

Julie Elliott Portrait Julie Elliott
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Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. The variety of Bills is in the strange nature of this place. We are going from the warm and fluffy Bill that we have just discussed, which I am delighted has received its Third Reading, to what is rather a dry Bill —but an important one none the less.

Amendment 2, which stands in my name, changes the procedure that applies to statutory instruments relating to proposed new subsection (9B) to section 7 of the Building Societies Act 1986. They will be subject to the affirmative procedure, rather than to the negative procedure as the Bill currently states. I tabled the amendment after talking to colleagues on both sides of the House. On reflection, it provides for closer scrutiny of the potential changes that could be made via secondary legislation under the Bill. The amendment does not change the immensely positive effect that I believe the Bill will have on the building society sector by bringing it in line with current practices, nor does it change the Bill’s aims, which will, in my view, enormously improve opportunities for people to get on the housing ladder. The result of the Bill will be a better landscape for first-time buyers, and the amendment just improves scrutiny.

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Lisa Cameron Portrait Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (Con)
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I place on record my thanks to the hon. Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott) for bringing a pragmatic and important Bill to the House, and I give it my full support today. As always, she works assiduously in making lives better for people across the United Kingdom and in her constituency, and she works in an extremely positive manner across parties to achieve her aims, and I thank her for that, too.

As others have mentioned, building societies are extremely important to the fabric of the financial institutions in our constituencies. I make regular visits to the Nationwide Building Society branch in East Kilbride, as I did just a few months ago. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt), I was reassured to find out that my local branch had no plans to close and was thriving in the community. Many people were coming in to speak and to chat, as well as for socialisation and reassurance regarding finance and debt and how to engage with the new digital banking sector. The reach-out into the community is second to none.

I was impressed by that, particularly as I have had terrible news from East Kilbride just this week that the Royal Bank of Scotland is closing its branch there. That follows on from the bad news just last month that the Bank of Scotland is closing in Strathaven and Lesmahagow, leaving those communities without essential banking, particularly as those branches are the last banks in those local communities. It is distressing for the residents. I am pleased to be able to raise their concerns today and to praise Nationwide for the work it is doing and its assurance that it wants to be at the heart of our community for the foreseeable future.

I declare a personal interest, as my first mortgage was with that building society. I did not know an awful lot about finance or mortgages at the time, but Nationwide took the time to go through the different options with me, and I felt reassured by the manager. Having that face-to-face contact is so important. For first-time buyers who are not sure about the steps to take in getting their first mortgage—it is such a pivotal part of our life journey—these institutions play such an important role in our local communities.

I also place on record my thanks for the work that Nationwide is doing on mental health. I am part of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, chaired by Martin Lewis. We know that there is a huge link between mental health and finance. Debt, in particular, correlates with people’s mental health spiralling downwards, and we need to make sure we address those issues through all our banking institutions.

As has already been said, this is an important Bill, which places building societies on par with banks for corporate governance and solvency, and will keep them competitive and at the heart of our communities for the future.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I call the shadow Minister.

Second Reading
Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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The reasoned amendment in the name of the Scottish National party leader has been selected.

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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel (Witham) (Con)
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There is quite a lot to say after the contributions from both Front Benchers, which I will come to in a minute. I welcome the opportunity to speak in this important debate. I support the reduction in the rate of national insurance. I will use my time to discuss longer-term tax reforms that should be introduced.

Before I speak to the cuts and changes to national insurance that are the basis of this important Bill, I will, if I may, make some observations on the debate thus far having heard both Front Benchers. This is a very serious issue; we are speaking about fiscal matters that affect all our constituents across the United Kingdom, at a time when we should be really honest with the British people. We should level with them: taxes have gone up. I do not think that they want to hear trivial arguments from this House about who is outscoring whom. A degree of maturity is needed right now, because these have been difficult times, post-pandemic and off the back of Russia-Ukraine and everything that has followed. We need to look at what is being proposed in a constructive way. The irony of today’s debate—I will touch on wider public spending—is that tomorrow we will be here talking about estimates. Given the book and the numbers that I have gone through this morning, a lot more can be done to ensure that Government spending is much more efficient, but we will save discussion that for tomorrow.

This is an important Bill. It follows clearly the decisions that previous Conservative Chancellors have taken to reduce the taxes taken from national insurance. Members who review the details of successive Budgets since May 2010 will note that the Government have progressively reduced the national insurance tax burden in recent years—Members may recall that the employee threshold level was £5,725 back in 2010, so that has been the trend. Two years ago, the increase in the primary threshold jumped from £9,568 to align with the tax-free threshold—with which I like to think we in this House are all familiar—of £12,570 in 2022-23. That 2022 change alone has already put around £330 per person back into the pockets of hard-working families. The changes at the autumn statement—which, if I remember rightly, were well debated on the Conservative side of the House, while the Opposition were a little absent—meant that average earners would be around £900 better off.

Alongside that, I also welcome the reduction in NICs for those who are self-employed. As an Essex MP, the majority of my constituents are self-employed. Over 80% of my constituents work in self-employed small and medium-sized firms. Those who are self-employed and pay class 4 contributions, including many of my constituents, make a huge contribution to our economy. We should reflect on that. More always needs to be done—that is fact—to grow the economy, on supply-side reforms, and to stimulate employment, but the measure is huge for those people because it gives them security in employment, and that is a fundamental principle that we should all work to. It is a big difference and tax cut.

The impact of raising the income tax-free threshold from the £6,475 in 2010 to £12,570 today was significant because it was worth over £1,000, or 20% of the £6,095 increase. The £900 average from the cuts to national insurance in the last two fiscal events is significant. We should all recognise what that means not just for the economy but for the money in people’s pockets. Those measures will have helped taxpayers to keep around £2,400 more of the money they earn. Let me be frank: that is not just good; it is valued and welcome. As colleagues have already touched on, those are timeless Conservative values that fulfil our mission to deliver economic freedoms and lower taxes, notwithstanding the tax backdrop of recent years.

I listened to the Labour Front Bencher, the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray), and I always welcome his contributions and enjoy our debates. Our approach to national insurance and easing the burden contrasts with what we saw under the previous Labour Governments, when we saw increases. We need to work collectively to be on the side of hard-pressed families right now. That is absolutely crucial. I could go back to the Budgets of Gordon Brown and list some of the calamities that took place, but what is the point? We have to speak about the fiscal—[Interruption.] No, we have to speak about the fiscal footprint that we have now, about the Budget resolutions that we voted on last night, and about this Bill in particular. It is really important that we stand by our record, our commitment to lowering taxes on income, and our ambition to go further.

This will be a debate—I have no doubt about that. I have stood in this Chamber before saying that we should go further on tax reforms, and I believe that. I have even suggested previously that we look at merging NI and income tax, and previous Conservative Governments have looked at that as well. As all Members know, including Opposition Front Benchers, it is not straightforward; it is complicated, and some of the points that have been raised today indicate why. However, I believe that we have to continue on this pathway. Without recapping the Budget debate that we have had in recent days, it contains important fiscal measures that mean that the public will be better off, including the fuel freeze, but the direction of travel is also important. Treasury Front Benchers hear a lot from me and other Members about this issue, and I know they would like to go further in reducing the tax burden. They know my personal views on public spending, which I believe is far too high right now and needs addressing, but we also need to think about long-term reform.

If I may, I will touch on the ambition expressed by the Chancellor to end the double taxation on jobs, and the suggestion that national insurance is either phased out or subject to reform. I have been a long-standing campaigner for lower and simplified taxes, and I am on the record as having even looked in the past at a merger. George Osborne looked at that during his chancellorship, as did the Office of Tax Simplification—that is well documented and on the record. Although those plans were not taken forward because of the complexities I have touched on, it is important that those debates continue, because we need to simplify our tax system in this country. As Conservatives, we must always look to do that; we must always stand up for not just lower taxes, but simplifying the tax system. I say that as the new tax year is due to begin, with people still getting letters from His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. For businesses in particular, the burdens that they face and the complexities involved in tax returns are mind-blowing.

Both national insurance and income tax are taxes on income, and the thresholds at which they are both paid are now aligned at £12,500 per year. That is something that we need to look at—I have made that point before. My hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) touched on the contributory principle of national insurance as set out in the National Insurance Act 1911 and further measures following the second world war. Those measures were brought in to support health and medical benefits and unemployment benefits, and the receipts raised are paid into the national insurance fund investment account. That distinction in the way that national insurance is raised and dealt with, compared with other taxes—which end up in the consolidated fund—has stood the test of time. I think all Treasury Ministers, those on the Front Bench today and others, recognise that. That distinction is ingrained in the fabric of our tax system and the thoughts of many of our constituents.

We are now starting the debate about lower taxes and how we can simplify the tax system, and I genuinely believe that this is an important Bill. It is a very important signal in terms of supporting the self-employed and hard-pressed families around the country, and the Government’s direction of travel is very welcome. Through this debate, we are starting to provide a clear, distinct Conservative way forward and Conservative approach. We have had debates over the past week about high-tax, high-spending policies; those debates and discussions are not going to go away. Public spending is over £1.2 trillion. We have to be mature in the debates we have in this House, and about how as a Government we prioritise public investment but spend taxpayers’ money wisely. I am pleased that this Bill has been brought forward, and I hope it will start a positive direction of travel when it comes to reducing the overall tax burden on hard-pressed families.

Financial Statement and Budget Report

Eleanor Laing Excerpts
Wednesday 6th March 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Before I call the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I remind hon. Members that copies of the Budget resolutions will be available to them from the Vote Office in Members’ Lobby and online at the end of the Chancellor’s statement. I also remind hon. Members that interventions are not taken during the Chancellor’s statement, or during the replies of the Leader of the Opposition and the spokesman for the Scottish National party. I hope that the hubbub on my right will die down, and some politeness will prevail before I call the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Jeremy Hunt)
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As we mourn the tragic loss of life in Israel and Gaza, the Prime Minister reminded us last week of the need to fight extremism and heal divisions, so I start today by remembering the Muslims who died in two world wars in the service of freedom and democracy. We need a memorial to honour them, so following representations from my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sir Sajid Javid) and others, I have decided to allocate £1 million towards the cost of building one. Whatever your faith, colour or class, this country will never forget the sacrifices made for our future.

In recent times, the UK—and the UK economy—has dealt with a financial crisis, a pandemic and an energy shock caused by war in Europe, yet despite the most challenging economic headwinds in modern history, under Conservative Governments since 2010 growth has been higher than in every large European economy, unemployment has halved, absolute poverty has gone down, and there are 800 more people in jobs for every single day that we have been in office. [Interruption.] Of course, interest rates remain high as we bring down inflation, but because of the progress we have made, because we are delivering the Prime Minister’s economic priorities, we can now help families not just with temporary cost of living support, but with permanent cuts in taxation. We do that to give much needed help in challenging times, and because Conservatives know that lower tax means higher growth, and higher growth means more opportunity, more prosperity and more funding for our precious public services. [Interruption.]

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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Order. The Chancellor has hardly said anything—[Interruption.] Order. You cannot get excited yet. Other people want to hear what the Chancellor has to say. It matters, so we will have a bit of good behaviour, please.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

If we want that growth to lead to higher wages and higher living standards for every family in every corner of the country, it cannot come from unlimited migration; it can only come by building a high-wage, high-skill economy—not just higher GDP, but higher GDP per head.

That is the difference. The Labour party’s plans would destroy jobs, reduce opportunities and risk family finances with spending that pushes up taxes. Instead of going back to square one, the policies I announce today mean more investment, more jobs, better public services and lower taxes in a Budget for long-term growth.

I start with the updated forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, for which I thank Richard Hughes and his team. First, inflation. When the Prime Minister and I came into office, it was 11%. The latest figures show—[Interruption.]

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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Order. This is not amusing any more. We need to hear what the Chancellor has to say. I can tell who is making the noise, and you simply will not get a chance to speak later. That is the end of it.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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When the Prime Minister and I came into office, inflation was 11%, but the latest figures show it is now 4%—more than meeting our pledge last year to halve it. Today’s forecasts from the OBR show it falling below the 2% target in just a few months’ time, nearly a whole year earlier than forecast in the autumn statement.

That did not happen by accident. Whatever the pressures, and whatever the politics, a Conservative Government, working with the Bank of England, will always put sound money first. We also understand that tackling inflation, while necessary, is painful. It means higher interest rates and a period of lower growth, so we have given the average household £3,400 in cost of living support over the past two years. Doing so makes economic as well as moral sense. The OBR predicted real household disposable income per person would fall by 2% in the past year; instead, after that support, it is on track to rise by 0.8%.

Today, I take further steps to help families with cost of living pressures, starting with measures to help the poorest families. We have already abolished higher charges for electricity paid by those on prepayment meters, increased the local housing allowance and raised benefits by double the expected inflation. Today, I focus on those falling into debt. Nearly 1 million households on universal credit take out budgeting advance loans to pay for more expensive emergencies such as boiler repairs or help getting a job. To help make such loans more affordable, I have decided to increase the repayment period for new loans from 12 months to 24 months.

For some people—[Interruption.] I thought Labour Members cared about people on the lowest incomes, but trust them not to want to hear about debt. For some people the best way to resolve debt is through a debt relief order, but getting one costs £90, which can deter the very people who need them most, so, having listened carefully to representations from Citizens Advice, I today relieve pressure on around 40,000 families every year by abolishing that £90 charge completely.

Next, the household support fund. It was set up on a temporary basis and due to conclude at the end of this month. Having listened carefully to representations from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Trussell Trust, the right hon. Member for East Ham (Sir Stephen Timms), my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) and my hon. Friends the Members for Colchester (Will Quince) and for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds) among others, I have decided that, with the battle against inflation still not over, now is not the time to stop the targeted help that it offers. We will therefore continue it at current levels for another six months.

Next, I turn to a measure that will help businesses and households more broadly. In the autumn statement I froze alcohol duty until August of this year. Without any action today, it would have been due to rise by 3%. However, I have listened carefully to my right hon. Friends for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady) and for Vale of Glamorgan (Alun Cairns), and to my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross), who is a formidable champion of the Scottish whisky industry. I also listened to Councillor John Tonks from Ash—a strong supporter of the wonderful Admiral pub—who pointed out the pressures facing the industry. Today, I have decided to extend the alcohol duty freeze until February 2025. That will benefit 38,000 pubs across the UK, on top of the £13,000 saving that a typical pub will get from the 75% business rates discount that I announced in the autumn. We value our hospitality industry. We are backing the great British pub.

Another cost that families and businesses worry about is fuel. The shadow Chancellor complained about the freeze on fuel duty. Labour has opposed it at every opportunity. The Labour Mayor of London wants to punish motorists even more with his ultra low emission zone plans. However, lots of families and sole traders depend on their car. If I did nothing, fuel duty would increase by 13% this month, so instead I have listened to my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel), my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) and for Dudley North (Marco Longhi) and others, as well as to The Sun newspaper’s “Keep it Down” campaign. I have as a result decided to maintain the 5p cut and freeze fuel duty for another 12 months. That will save the average car driver £50 next year and bring total savings since the 5p cut was introduced to around £250. Taken together with the alcohol duty freeze, that decision also reduces headline inflation by 0.2 percentage points in 2024-25, allowing us to make faster progress towards the Bank of England’s 2% target.

There can be no solid growth without solid finances. An economy based on sound money does not pass its bills to the next generation. When it comes to borrowing, some believe that there is a trade-off between compassion and fiscal responsibility. They are wrong. It is only because we responsibly reduced the deficit by 80% between 2010 and 2019 that we could provide £370 billion to help businesses and families in the pandemic. Labour opposed our plans to reduce the deficit every single step of the way, but, to be fair, they were consistent. In coalition, the Lib Dems supported controlling spending, but now they say that they would prop up a party that will turn on the spending taps. It is the difference between no plan and no principles—and I am delighted that, for once, the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Ed Davey) is here to hear that.

Today, we say something different: there is nothing compassionate about running out of money. With the pandemic behind us, we must once again be responsible and build up our resilience to future shocks. That means bringing down borrowing so we can start to reduce our debt, and today’s figures confirm that is happening. Ahead of my first autumn statement in 2022, the OBR forecast that headline debt would rise to above 100% of GDP. Today, it says that it will fall in every year, to just 94% by 2028-29. According to the OBR, underlying debt—which excludes Bank of England debt—will be 91.7% in 2024-25, then 92.8%, 93.2% and 93.2%, before falling to 92.9% in 2028-29, with final year headroom against debt falling of £8.9 billion. Our underlying debt is therefore on track to fall as a share of GDP, meeting our fiscal rule, and we continue to have the second lowest level of Government debt in the G7, lower than that of Japan, France or the United States.

We also meet our second fiscal rule—for public sector borrowing to be below 3% of GDP—three years early. Borrowing falls from 4.2% of GDP in 2023-24 to 3.1%, then 2.7%, 2.3%, 1.6%, and 1.2% in 2028-29. By the end of the forecast, borrowing is at its lowest level of GDP since 2001. None of that, of course, would be possible if Labour implemented its pledge to decarbonise the grid five years early, by 2030; by its own calculations, that costs £28 billion a year to do. Last month, after flip-flopping for months, Labour said that it is not going to spend the £28 billion after all, but will somehow meet its pledge. “Somehow” can only mean one thing: tax rises on working families. Same old Labour!

Today, in contrast, a Conservative Government bring down taxes with borrowing broadly unchanged—in fact, borrowing is slightly lower than in the autumn statement. The fact that we are bringing borrowing down is of particular importance to one very special person: Sir Robert Stheeman is the outgoing chief executive of the Government’s Debt Management Office, and after 20 years of exceptional public service, he is in the Gallery. Thank you, Sir Robert.

I now turn to growth. Just after I became Chancellor, the OBR expected GDP to fall by 1.4% in the following year; in fact it grew, albeit slowly. Now the OBR expects the economy to grow by 0.8% this year and 1.9% next year, which is 0.5% higher than its autumn forecast. After that, growth rises to 2.2%, 1.8%, and 1.7% in 2028. [Interruption.] Opposition Members do not want to hear this, but these are the facts. Since 2010, we have grown faster than Germany, France or Italy—the three largest European economies—and according to the International Monetary Fund, we will continue to grow faster than all three of them in the five years ahead. Surveys by Lloyds and Deloitte show that business confidence is returning. In other words, because we have turned the corner on inflation, we will soon turn the corner on growth.

Today’s OBR forecasts also show that we have made good progress on the Prime Minister’s three economic priorities. Compared to when the three pledges were made, inflation has halved, debt is falling in line with our fiscal rules, and growth is fully 1.5 percentage points higher than predicted. [Interruption.] Labour Members do not have a growth plan, so they might as well listen to ours. As growth returns, our plan is for economic growth, not growth sustained through migration, but growth that raises wages and living standards for families—not just higher GDP, but higher GDP per head. That means sticking to our plan, with a Budget for long-term growth: more investment, more jobs, better public services and lower taxes.

I start with investment. Economists say that stimulating investment is the most effective way to raise productivity, and therefore wages and living standards. Since 2010, we have been doing just that. Business—[Interruption.] Labour Members might want to listen to what I am about to say, because business investment has risen from an average of 9.3% of GDP under Labour to 9.9% under the Conservatives. This year, it will be 10.6% of GDP. That is £30 billion more business investment than if it had continued at Labour levels, and it is still going up.

In the short period since the autumn statement, Nissan has announced that it will build two new electric car models in the UK. Microsoft and Google have announced data centres worth over £3 billion. Thanks to my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary, the global investment summit unlocked £30 billion of investment. In fact, since 2010, greenfield foreign direct investment has been higher here than anywhere else in Europe, and for the last three years the UK has had the third highest levels in the world after the United States and China—and we are not stopping there.

In the autumn statement, I announced that we would introduce permanent full expensing, a £10 billion tax cut for businesses that gives the UK the most attractive investment tax regime of any large European or G7 country. It was welcomed by over 200 business leaders, with the CBI saying it was a game changer and the single most transformational thing we could do to fire up the British economy. Today, I take further steps to boost investment. Having listened to calls from the CBI, Make UK and the British Chambers of Commerce, we will shortly publish draft legislation for full expensing to apply to leased assets, a change I intend to bring in as soon as it is affordable.

We will also help small businesses, which is something close to my heart. As well as the business rates support, and the work on prompt payments that I announced in the autumn, I will provide £200 million of funding to extend the recovery loan scheme as it transitions to the growth guarantee scheme, helping 11,000 small and medium-sized enterprises access the finance they need. Following representations from the Federation of Small Businesses, as well as my hon. Friends the Members for Loughborough (Jane Hunt), for Southend West (Anna Firth), and for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford), I will reduce the administrative and financial impact of VAT by increasing the VAT registration threshold from £85,000 to £90,000 from 1 April—the first increase in seven years. That will bring tens of thousands of businesses out of paying VAT altogether, and encourage many more to invest and grow.

I now move to measures to address historical under-investment in our nations and regions. Since we started levelling up in 2019, two thirds of all new salaried jobs created have been outside London and the south-east. We have announced 13 investment zones and 12 freeports, which continue to attract investment—including recently, thanks to the efforts of Mayor Ben Houchen, from the Pneuma Group, which is investing £15 million into the Tees Valley investment zone.

Today, working with the Levelling-Up Secretary, I devolve further power to local leaders, who are best placed to promote growth in their areas. I can announce the north-east trailblazer devolution deal, which provides a package of support for the region potentially worth over £100 million. I will devolve powers to Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire and the most beautiful county in England, Surrey. I see the Leader of the Opposition smiling because, like me, he is a Surrey boy. I know he has been taking advice from Lord Mandelson, who yesterday rather uncharitably said he needed to “shed a few pounds”. Ordinary families will shed more than a few pounds if that lot get in. If he wants to join me on my marathon training, he is most welcome.

Today, we continue to spread opportunity throughout the country by allocating £100 million of levelling-up funding to areas including High Peak, Dundee, Conwy, Erewash, Redditch and Coventry to support cultural projects in these communities. That is alongside support for capital projects across the country, including in Bingley. We are expanding the long-term plan for towns to 20 new places, including Darlington—home of the Treasury’s fantastic Darlington economic campus—Coleraine, Peterhead, Runcorn, Harlow, Eastbourne, Arbroath and Rhyl, providing each with £20 million of funding to invest in community regeneration over the next decade. We will provide £15 million in new funding to the West Midlands Combined Authority to support culture, heritage and investment projects, on the recommendation of our go-getting Mayor, Andy Street, and we will allocate £5 million to renovate hundreds of local village halls across England, so that they can remain at the heart of their communities.

Because this is a Conservative and Unionist Government, we will also set aside funding to support the SaxaVord spaceport in Shetland and an agrifood launchpad in mid-Wales, and funding to support Northern Ireland’s businesses in expanding their global trade and investment opportunities. As a result of the decisions we take today, the Scottish Government will receive nearly £300 million in Barnett consequentials; there will be nearly £170 million for the Welsh Government and £100 million for the Northern Ireland Executive. [Interruption.] I do appreciate that a tax-cutting Budget is very uncomfortable for the biggest tax-raisers in the United Kingdom. We also want to level up opportunity across the generations, including by building more houses for young people, and we are on track to deliver over 1 million homes in this Parliament.

Last week, the Levelling-Up Secretary allocated £188 million to supporting projects in Sheffield, Blackpool and Liverpool. Today I go further, allocating £242 million of investment to Barking Riverside and Canary Wharf, which together will build nearly 8,000 houses; Canary Wharf will also be transformed into a new hub for life science companies. We are launching a new £20 million community-led housing scheme that will support local communities in delivering the developments that they want and need. I am pleased to announce the next steps for Cambridge to reach its potential as the world’s leading scientific powerhouse. I confirm that there will be a long-term funding settlement for the future development corporation in Cambridge at the next spending review; there will be over £10 million invested in the coming year to unlock delivery of crucial local transport and health infrastructure.

The final levelling-up measures I announce today support north Wales, of which I have many happy childhood memories. In Mold, following representations from my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Dr Davies), we will help fund the renovation of Theatr Clywd. I can announce that this week, the Government have reached agreement on a £160 million deal with Hitachi to purchase the Wylfa site in Ynys Môn and the Oldbury site in south Gloucestershire. Ynys Môn has a vital role in delivering our nuclear ambitions, and no one should take more credit for today’s announcement than my tireless, tenacious and turbocharged hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie). More investment by large businesses, more support for small businesses, promoting investment in our nations and regions—all part of a Budget for long-term growth that sticks to our plan to deliver more jobs, better public services and lower taxes.

I turn to one of the most powerful ways to attract investment: supporting our most innovative industries. Outside the US, we have the most respected universities, the biggest financial services sector and the largest tech ecosystem in Europe. We have double the artificial intelligence start-ups of anywhere else in Europe, double the venture capital investment, and a tech economy now double the size of Germany’s and three times the size of France’s. We are on track to become the world’s next silicon valley.

In today’s Budget for long-term growth, I take further steps to attract investment to our technology-related industries. I want our brilliant tech entrepreneurs to not just start here, but stay here, including when the time comes for a stock market listing, so we will build on the Edinburgh and Mansion House reforms to unlock more pension fund capital. We will give new powers to the Pensions Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority to ensure better value from defined contribution schemes by judging performance on overall returns, not cost.

We will make sure that there are vehicles to make it easier for pension funds to invest in UK growth opportunities, so I am today publishing the names of the winners of the LIFTS—long-term investment for technology and science—competition. But I remain concerned that other markets, such as Australia, generate better returns for pension savers, with more effective investment strategies and more investment in high-quality domestic growth stocks. So I will introduce new requirements for defined-contribution and local government pension funds to disclose publicly their level of international and UK equity investments. I will then consider what further action should be taken if we are not on a positive trajectory towards international best practice.

I also want to create opportunities for a new generation of retail investors to engage with public markets, so we will proceed with a retail sale for part of the Government’s remaining NatWest shares this summer, at the earliest opportunity, subject to supportive market conditions and value for money. We will continue to explore how savers could be allowed to take their pension pots with them when they change job. We will make it easier for people to save for the long term with a new British savings bond, delivered through National Savings and Investments, offering savers a guaranteed rate, fixed for three years.

Today, following calls from over 200 representatives of the City and our high-growth sectors, I will reform the ISA system to encourage more people to invest in UK assets. After a consultation on its implementation, I will introduce a brand-new British ISA, which will allow an additional £5,000 annual investment for investments in UK equity, with all the tax advantages of other ISAs. That will be on top of existing ISA allowances and will ensure that British savers can benefit from the growth of the most promising UK businesses, as well as supporting those businesses with the capital to expand.

I now turn to our other growth industries, starting with clean energy. We want nuclear to provide up to a quarter of our electricity by 2050. As part of that, I want the UK to lead the global race in developing cutting-edge nuclear technologies. I can therefore announce that Great British Nuclear will begin the next phase of the small modular reactor selection process, with companies now having until June to submit their initial tender responses. Our brilliant Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero will also allocate up to £120 million more to the green industries growth accelerator, to build supply chains for new technology, ranging from offshore wind to carbon capture and storage. By January next year, as promised in the autumn statement, we will have a new, faster connections process to the grid up and running. In advanced manufacturing we have announced a further £270 million of investment into innovative new automotive and aerospace research and development projects, building the UK’s capabilities in zero-emission vehicle and clean aviation technologies.

I now turn to our creative industries. We have become Europe’s largest film and TV production centre, with Idris Elba, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom all filming their latest productions here. Studio space in the UK has doubled over the last three years and, at the current rate of expansion, next year we will be second only to Hollywood globally. In the autumn statement I committed to providing more tax relief for visual effects in film and high-end TV. I can today confirm that we will increase the rate of tax credit by 5%, and remove the 80% cap for visual effects costs in the audio-visual expenditure credit. Having worked closely with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and listened carefully to representations from companies such as Pinewood, Warner Bros. and Sky Studios, we will provide eligible film studios in England with a 40% relief on their gross business rates until 2034. Having heard representations from the British film industry, Pact, and indeed the Prime Minister, we will introduce a new tax credit for UK independent films with a budget of less than £15 million. For our creative industries more broadly, we will provide £26 million of funding to our pre-eminent theatre, the National Theatre, to upgrade its stages.

I particularly want to recognise the contribution of our creative industries and the tourism that comes from orchestras, museums, galleries and theatres. In the pandemic, we introduced higher 45% and 50% levels of tax relief, which were due to end in March 2025. They have been a lifeline for performing arts across the country. Today, in recognition of their vital importance to our national life, I can announce that I am making those tax reliefs permanent at 45% for touring and orchestral productions, and 40% for non-touring productions. Lord Lloyd Webber says that this will be a once-in-a-generation transformational change that will ensure Britain remains the global capital of creativity.

I suspect that the new theatre reliefs may be of particular interest to the shadow Chancellor, who seems to fancy her thespian skills when it comes to acting like a Tory. The trouble is that we all know how her show ends: higher taxes, like every Labour Government in history—[Interruption.] I am delighted that Labour Members are cheering the fact that Labour Governments always put up taxes. They are right!

I want to mention our life sciences sector, where we will support research by medical charities into diseases such as cancer, dementia and epilepsy with an additional £45 million, including £3 million for Cancer Research UK. But I have long believed that we should be manufacturing medicines as well as developing them, so I can today also announce a brand-new investment by one of our greatest life science companies, AstraZeneca, led by mon ami the irrepressible Sir Pascal Soriot. AstraZeneca made its covid vaccine available to developing countries at cost, as a result saving over 6 million lives. Today, because of the Government’s support for the life sciences sector, it has announced plans to invest £650 million in the UK to expand its footprint on the Cambridge biomedical campus, and fund the building of a vaccine manufacturing hub in Speke in Liverpool. That is more investment and better jobs in every corner of the country in a long-term Budget for growth from a Conservative Government.

One of the biggest barriers to investment is businesses not being able to hire the staff they need. The economy today has around 900,000 vacancies. It would be easy to fill them with higher migration, but with over 10 million adults of working age who are not in work, that would be economically and morally wrong. Those who can work should work, and I have tackled that issue in every Budget and autumn statement I have delivered. A year ago, I abolished the pensions lifetime allowance, which had pushed doctors and others to take early retirement. Ask any doctor what they think about Labour’s plans to bring it back and they will say, “Don’t go back to square one.” In the autumn, with the help of our superb Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, we announced the back to work plan, which will support 1 million adults with medical conditions and reduce the number of people assessed as not needing to work by two thirds.

A year ago, I also announced the biggest ever expansion of childcare—[Interruption.] Just listen. Extending the 30-hour free childcare offer to all children of working parents from nine months. [Interruption.] We have not had a childcare plan from Labour, so Opposition Members might want to listen to ours. Our plan will mean an extra 60,000 parents enter the workforce in the next four years—a tremendous achievement for the Education Secretary, who I think is doing an effing good job. Today, following representations from many people, including the CBI, I announce measures to support the childcare sector to make the new investments it now needs to make. I am guaranteeing the rates that will be paid to childcare providers to deliver our landmark offer for children over nine months old for the next two years. That is more people in work and more jobs, sticking to our plan in a long-term Budget for growth.

I now turn to public services. [Interruption.] I thought they were supposed to be interested in public services—[Interruption.] I can wait.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. A little bit of murmuring is normal, but I should not be able to hear what Members are saying over there. That is clearly out of order. Let us have some courtesy.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Good public services need a strong economy to pay for them, but a strong economy also needs good public services. In 2010, schools in the UK were behind Germany, France and Sweden in the OECD’s PISA—programme for international student assessment—education rankings for reading and maths. Now, after Conservative reforms, we are ahead of them. Burglaries and violent crime have halved in the last 14 years after we invested in 20,000 more police officers. Our armed forces remain the most professional and best-funded in Europe, with defence spending already more than 2% of GDP. We are providing more military support to Ukraine than nearly any other country, and our spending will rise to 2.5% as soon as economic conditions allow. The NHS is still recovering from the pandemic but has 42,000 more doctors and 71,000 more nurses than it did under Labour—that is 250 more doctors and 400 more nurses for every single month that we have been in office.

Resources matter, of course, which is why, despite all the economic shocks we have faced, overall spending on public services has gone up since 2010—in the case of the NHS, by more than a third in real terms. Although spending has continued to rise every year, public sector productivity still remains below pre-pandemic levels by nearly 6%. This demonstrates that the way to improve public services is not always more money or more people; we also need to run them more efficiently. We need a more productive state, not a bigger state.

In autumn 2022, I set day-to-day spending to increase by 1% a year in real terms over the next Parliament. Some say that is not enough and we should raise spending by more, and others say it is too much and we should cut it to improve efficiency—neither are right. It is not fair to ask taxpayers to pay for more when public service productivity has fallen; nor would it be wise to reduce that funding, given the pressures that public services face. So I am keeping the planned growth in day-to-day spending at 1% in real terms, but we are going to spend it better. [Interruption.] The Opposition do not have a plan for public services, as with everything else, so why not listen to ours?

Today I am announcing a landmark public sector productivity plan that restarts public service reform and changes the Treasury’s traditional approach to public spending. I start with our biggest and most important public service: the NHS. One of my greatest privileges was to be Health Secretary. Thanks to the NHS, I have three gorgeous children, the oldest of whom has been patiently listening in the Gallery. The NHS is, rightly, the biggest reason most of us are proud to be British, but the systems that support its staff are often antiquated. Doctors, nurses and ward staff spend hours every day filling out forms when they could be looking after patients. [Interruption.]

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. I do not like to interrupt the Chancellor, but Mr Streeting, you are too close to me to be shouting that loudly. If you want to shout that loudly, you should go away and sit up there. I apologise for interrupting the Chancellor.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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When patients do not show up or one member of a team is ill, operating theatres are left empty despite long waiting lists. When we published the NHS long-term workforce plan, I asked the NHS to put together a plan to transform its efficiency and productivity. I wanted better care for patients, more job satisfaction for staff and better value for taxpayers. Making changes on the scale we need is not cheap. The investment needed to modernise NHS IT systems so they are as good as the best in the world costs £3.4 billion, but it helps unlock £35 billion of savings—ten times that amount—so in today’s Budget for long-term growth, I have decided to fund the NHS productivity plan in full.

With that new investment, we will slash the 13 million hours lost by doctors and nurses every year to outdated IT systems. We will cut down and potentially halve form filling by doctors by using artificial intelligence. We will digitise operating theatre processes, allowing the same number of consultants to do an extra 200,000 operations a year. We will fund improvements to help doctors read MRI and CT scans more accurately and quickly, speeding up results for 130,000 patients every year and saving thousands of lives, something that I know would have delighted my brother Charlie, who I recently lost to cancer.

We will improve the NHS app so that it can be used to confirm and modify all appointments, reducing up to half a million missed appointments annually and improving patient choice. We will set up a new NHS staff app to make it easier to roster electronically and end the use of expensive off-framework agencies. As a result of this funding, all hospitals will use electronic patient records, making the NHS the largest digitally integrated healthcare system in the world. Today’s announcement doubles the amount the NHS is investing on digital transformation over three years.

On top of this longer-term transformation, we will also help the NHS meet pressures in the coming year with an additional £2.5 billion. That will allow the NHS to continue its focus on reducing waiting times and brings the total increase in NHS funding since the start of the Parliament to 13% in real terms. The NHS was there for us in the pandemic, and today with nearly £6 billion of additional funding, a Conservative Government are there for the NHS.

The head of the NHS, Amanda Pritchard today said that this investment shows that

“the government continues to back the NHS”.

She said that, as a result of the investment, the NHS can commit to delivering 1.9% annual productivity growth over the next Parliament, more than double the average productivity growth in public services between 2010 and 2019.

But today is not just about the NHS. I want this groundbreaking agreement with the NHS to be a model for all our public services. Across education, the police, the courts and local government, I want to see more efficient, better-value and higher-quality public services, so today I can announce that in the next spending review, the Treasury will do things differently. We will prioritise proposals that deliver annual savings within five years equivalent to the total cost of the investment required, and today we make a start with some excellent proposals.

Violence reduction units and hotspot policing have prevented an estimated 136,000 knife crimes and other violent offences, as well as over 3,000 hospital admissions. Every crime costs money, so we will provide £75 million to roll that model out in England and Wales. Police officers waste around eight hours a week on unnecessary admin. With higher productivity, we could free the equivalent of 20,000 police officers over a year. We will spend £230 million rolling out time-saving and money-saving technology that speeds up police response times by allowing people to report crimes by video call and, where appropriate, use drones as first responders.

Too many legal cases, particularly in family law, should never go to court, and it would cost us less if they did not, so we will spend £170 million to fund non-court resolution, reduce reoffending and digitise the court process. Too many children in care end up being looked after by unregistered providers that are much more expensive, so we will invest £165 million over the next four years to reduce that cost by increasing the capacity of the children’s homes estate.

Special educational need provision can be excellent when outsourced to independent sector schools, but also expensive, so we will invest £105 million over the next four years to build 15 new special free schools to create additional high-quality places and increase choice for parents. We will also put in place a plan to realise the tens of billions of savings recommended in an excellent speech by the head of the National Audit Office.

The OBR says that a 5% increase in public sector productivity would be the equivalent of about £20 billion in extra funding. With these plans, we can deliver that and more. If we ensure that they are cash-releasing savings, as we are committed to doing, it will be possible to live with more constrained spending growth without cutting services valued by the public. So with the energy and drive of my talented Chief Secretary to the Treasury, we launch our public sector productivity plan in today’s Budget for long-term growth: more investment, more jobs, better public services and—one more thing—lower taxes.

Keeping taxes down matters to Conservatives in a way that it never can for Labour. We believe that in a free society the money people earn does not belong to the Government; it belongs to them, and if we want to encourage hard work, we should let people keep as much of their own money as possible. Conservatives look around the world at economies in North America and Asia and notice that countries with lower taxes generally have higher growth. Economists argue about cause and correlation, but we know that lower-taxed economies have more energy, more dynamism and more innovation. We know that is Britain’s future, too.

Before I explain how we will bring down taxes, I will start with some measures to make our system simpler and fairer. To discourage non-smokers from taking up vaping, we are today confirming the introduction of an excise duty on vaping products from October 2026 and publishing a consultation on its design. Because vapes can also play a positive role in helping people quit smoking, we will introduce a one-off increase in tobacco duty at the same time to maintain the financial incentive to choose vaping over smoking. I will make a one-off adjustment to rates of air passenger duty on non-economy flights only to account for high inflation in recent years, and I will provide HMRC with the resources it needs to ensure that everyone pays the tax they owe, leading to an increase in revenue collected of over £4.5 billion across the forecast period.

Next, I turn to property taxation. In recent months, following tenacious representation from my hon. Friends the Members for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), for North Devon (Selaine Saxby), for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken), for Torbay (Kevin Foster) and for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory), I have been looking closely at our furnished holiday lettings tax regime. I am concerned that that regime is creating a distortion meaning that not enough properties are available for long-term rental by local people. So to make the tax system work better for local communities, I am going to abolish the furnished holiday lettings regime.

I have also been looking at the stamp duty relief for people who purchase more than one dwelling in a single transaction, known as multiple dwellings relief. I see the deputy leader of the Labour party, the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), paying close attention, given her multiple dwellings—[Interruption.] She—[Interruption.]

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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Order. Too much excitement. We have not actually heard—because we cannot hear—what the Chancellor is trying to say. [Interruption.] Okay, I can hear who is shouting, and they will not get to speak later.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. Member, but multiple dwellings relief was not actually designed for her; it was intended—[Interruption.]. It was intended to support investment in the private rented sector, but an external evaluation found no strong evidence that it had done so, and that it was being regularly abused, so I am going to abolish it.

Finally, as part of our look at property taxation in this Budget, both the Treasury and the OBR have looked at the costs associated with our current levels of capital gains tax on property and concluded that if we reduced the higher 28% rate that exists for residential property, we would in fact increase revenues because there would be more transactions. For the first time in history, both the Treasury and the OBR have discovered their inner Laffer curve. So today I will reduce the higher rate of property capital gains tax from 28% to 24%—that really is for you, Angela. [Laughter.] I now—[Interruption.]

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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Order. I have had enough from Opposition Members and I am definitely not having it from Government Members.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I now turn to oil and gas. Unlike the Labour party, we want to encourage investment in the North sea, so we will retain generous investment allowances for the sector. Following representations from my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid), we will also legislate in the Finance Bill to abolish the energy profits levy should market prices fall to their historical norm for a sustained period of time. But because the increase in energy prices caused by the Ukraine war is expected to last longer, so too will the sector’s windfall profits, so I will extend the sunset on the energy profits levy for an additional year to 2029, raising £1.5 billion.

Next, I turn to the taxes paid by those who are resident in the UK but not domiciled here for tax purposes. [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] This is a category of people known as non-doms. Nigel Lawson wanted to end the non-dom regime in his great tax reforming Budget of 1988, which is where I suspect the Labour party got the idea from. I, too, have always believed that provided we protect the UK’s attractiveness to international investors, those with the broadest shoulders should pay their fair share. After looking at the issue over many months, I have concluded that we can indeed introduce a system that both is fairer and remains competitive with other countries, so the Government will abolish the current tax system for non-doms, get rid of the outdated concept of domicile—[Interruption.] I aim to please all parts of the House in all my Budgets. We will replace—[Interruption.]

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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Order. This is impossible. [Interruption.] Order. Could you please shout more quietly? [Laughter.]

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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We will replace the non-dom regime with a modern, simpler and fairer residency-based system. From April 2025, new arrivals to the UK will not be required to pay any tax on foreign income and gains for their first four years of UK residency: a more generous regime than at present, and one of the most attractive offers in Europe. But, after four years, those who continue to live in the UK will pay the same tax as other UK residents. Recognising the contribution of many of these individuals to our economy, we will put in place transitional arrangements for those benefiting from the current regime. That will include a two-year period in which individuals will be encouraged to bring wealth earned overseas to the UK, so it can be spent and invested here—a measure that will attract onshore an additional £15 billion of foreign income and generate more than £1 billion of extra tax.

Overall, abolishing non-dom status will raise £2.7 billion a year by the end of the forecast period. The Opposition planned to use that money for spending increases, but today a Conservative Government make a different choice. We use that revenue to help cut taxes on working families. Many of those families depend on child benefit, but the way that we treat child benefit in the tax system is confusing and unfair. It is a lifeline for many parents because it helps with the additional costs associated with having children. When it works, it is good for children, good for parents, and good for the economy because it helps people into work.

We currently withdraw child benefit when one parent earns over £50,000 a year. That means that two parents earning £49,000 a year receive the benefit in full, but a household earning a lot less than that does not if just one parent earns over £50,000. Today I set out plans to end that unfairness. Doing so requires significant reform to the tax system, including allowing HMRC to collect household-level information. We will therefore consult on moving the high-income child benefit charge to a household-based system, to be introduced by April 2026. But because that is not a quick fix, I make two changes today to make the current system fairer.

Following representations from my hon. Friends the Members for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates), for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn), for Bassetlaw (Brendan Clarke-Smith) and for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin), along with many others, I confirm that from this April, the high-income child benefit charge threshold will be raised from £50,000 to £60,000. We will raise the top of the taper at which it is withdrawn to £80,000. That means that no one earning under £60,000 will pay the charge, taking 170,000 families out of paying it altogether. Because of the higher taper and threshold, nearly half a million families with children will save an average of £1,300 next year. According to the OBR, this change will see an increase in hours among those already working to the equivalent of 10,000 more people entering the workforce. More investment, more jobs, better public services and lower tax.

There is one further set of changes that I want to make today. The way we tax people’s income is particularly unfair. Those who get their income from having a job pay two types of tax: national insurance contributions and income tax. Those who get it from other sources pay only one. This double taxation of work is unfair. The result is a complicated system that penalises work instead of encouraging it. If we are to build a high-wage, high-skill economy not dependent on migration and to encourage people not in work to come back to work, we need a simpler, fairer tax system that makes work pay. That is why I cut national insurance contributions in the autumn. By reducing the penalty on work, the OBR said that that tax cut would lead to the equivalent of 94,000 more people in work. In other words, it would fill more than one in 10 vacancies throughout the economy. Lower taxes, more jobs and higher growth.

Today, because of the progress that we have made in bringing down inflation, because of the additional investment flowing into the economy, because we have a plan for better and more efficient public services, and because we have asked those with the broadest shoulders to pay a bit more—[Interruption.]

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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Order. Mr Perkins—[Interruption.] I can manage, thank you very much. I have heard you five times. I have let you get away with it, but that is enough. One more strike and you’re out.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I know how hard it is for the Opposition to listen to arguments for lower taxes. That is the difference.

Because we have asked those with the broadest shoulders to pay a bit more, today I go further. From 6 April, employee national insurance will be cut by another 2p, from 10% to 8%, and self-employed national insurance will be cut from 8% to 6%. That means an additional £450 a year for the average employee, or £350 for someone who is self-employed. When combined with the autumn reductions, it means 27 million employees will get an average tax cut of £900 a year, and 2 million of the self-employed will get a tax cut averaging £650. Those changes will make our system simpler and fairer, and will grow our economy by rewarding work. The OBR says that, when combined with the autumn reduction, our national insurance cuts will mean the equivalent of 200,000 more people in work—filling one in five vacancies, and adding 0.4% to GDP and 0.4% to GDP per head.

This is the second fiscal event in which we have reduced employee and self-employed national insurance. We have cut it by one third in six months without increasing borrowing and without cutting spending on public services. That means that the average earner in the UK now has the lowest effective personal tax rate since 1975. Their effective taxes are now lower than in America, France, Germany or any G7 country. Because Conservatives believe that making work pay is of the most fundamental importance, and because we believe that the double taxation of work is unfair, our long-term ambition is to end this unfairness. When it is responsible, when it can be achieved without increasing borrowing and when it can be delivered without compromising high-quality public services, we will continue to cut national insurance as we have done today, so that we truly make work pay.

We stick to our plan with a Budget for long-term growth. It delivers more investment, more jobs, better public services and lower taxes. However, dynamism in an economy does not come from Ministers in Whitehall but from the grit and determination of people who take risks, work hard and innovate—not Government policies but people power. It is to unleash people power that today we put this country back on a path to lower taxes: a plan to grow the economy versus no plan; a plan for better public services versus no plan; a plan to make work pay versus no plan. Growth up, jobs up and taxes down. I commend this statement to the House.

Provisional Collection of Taxes

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 51(2)),

That, pursuant to section 5 of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968, provisional statutory effect shall be given to the following motions:—

(a) Stamp duty land tax (first-time buyers’ relief: new leases acquired on bare trust) (motion no. 8);

(b) Stamp duty land tax (registered providers of social housing) (motion no. 9);

(c) Stamp duty land tax (purchases by public bodies) (motion no. 10);

(d) Value added tax (late payment interest and repayment interest) (motion no. 22).—(Jeremy Hunt.)

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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As many as are of that opinion say Aye—[Hon. Members: “Aye!”] Of the contrary, No—[Hon. Members: “No!”] [Interruption.] Order. Let me explain, for the clarification of the House, that the Question on the provisional collection of taxes is asked at this stage. All Members will have the opportunity, having heard the debate in detail, to vote on each of the motions on Tuesday 12 March, at the end of the Budget debate. I would hesitate to call a Division at this point, when the House and the world is awaiting the response from the Leader of the Opposition. [Interruption.]

I will put the Question again, and if it is very clear to me that there are more Ayes than Noes, I will take the decision on the voices. The Question is—

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con)
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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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No, I do not need a point of order, thank you. We are in the middle of putting the Question. As many as are of that opinion say Aye—[Hon. Members: “Aye!”] Of the contrary, No—[Hon. Members: “No!”]

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13:41

Division 87

Ayes: 288


Conservative: 286
Independent: 1

Noes: 38


Scottish National Party: 33
Plaid Cymru: 2
Independent: 1
Workers Party of Britain: 1
Alba Party: 1

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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We now come to the motion entitled Income Tax (Charge). It is on this motion that the debate will take place today and on succeeding days. The Questions on this motion and the remaining motions will be put at the end of the Budget debate on Tuesday 12 March.

Finance Bill

Eleanor Laing Excerpts
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Eleanor Laing Portrait The Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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With this it will be convenient to consider the following:

Clause 2 stand part.

Schedule 1.

New clause 1—Review of reliefs for research and development

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act being passed, publish a review of the implementation costs of the measures in section 2 incurred by—

(a) HMRC, and

(b) businesses.

(2) The review under subsection (1) must include details of the implementation costs of all measures related to credit or relief for research and development that have been introduced since December 2019.”

This new clause would require the Chancellor to publish a review setting out the total implementation costs of all changes to research and development reliefs in the current Parliament.

New clause 3—Assessment of impact of Act on business investment and economic growth

“Within six months of the passage of this Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must carry out an assessment of the impact of section 2 and Schedule 1 of this Act on business investment and economic growth, and lay a report of that assessment before both Houses of Parliament.”

This new clause would require the government to produce an assessment of the impact of the Bill’s new regime for research and development carried out by companies. This assessment would need to examine the impact on business investment and economic growth.

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I have no doubt that the measures announced in the Bill will be the ignition that accelerates the UK’s economy and leads us to a brighter future. I will support the Bill throughout today.
Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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I am only going to make some brief remarks on the two clauses. The UK Government are clearly scrambling to fix an economic mess of their own making, and the Bill is full of such measures.

On clause 1, during the autumn statement I welcomed this move, but it does little to deal with the damage to business that has been caused by the big grey elephant in the room that none of the parties wishes to mention, which is Brexit. Far from the ideal of removing red tape and decreasing bureaucracy, as we have heard thrown about in this Chamber, it has actually led to more red tape and more difficulties for business. This is just one of the measures the Government should be taking, among many others they must consider in future. I hope to come to those later in the debate.

The “years of uncertainty” that the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) mentioned have indeed been years of uncertainty caused by this Government, but they have definitely been impacted by the Brexit that Labour now supports, along with the Liberal Democrats. People are struggling with a cost of living crisis, and it is affecting domestic sales too, so they need other fixes. Again, I will have some questions about that later.

Clause 2 and schedule 1—I hope this will be helpful for the Minister—are like trying to make a jigsaw puzzle with no box, no picture and just some random bits and pieces to try to plug together to make something out of. Productivity does not work without the skills required in research and development. We do not get the advance or the boost we need without that and, once again, the spectre of Brexit means that we have a skills shortage across the nations of the UK. That is particularly affecting Scotland, which needs its own immigration rules. It is something we would ask to have powers over, short of our call—it would of course be the absolute best result—for Scotland to have independence so it can make these decisions itself.

Autumn Statement

Eleanor Laing Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd November 2023

(5 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. Before I call the Chairman of the Treasury Committee to ask a question, I want to make it clear to the House, because there is some confusion, that this is not the procedure we use for a Budget. This is the autumn statement; it is, therefore, a statement. Right now, we are taking questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Once that has concluded, we will go on to the debate. I have a list of people who want to make speeches—there will be some overlap and I am paying attention to that.

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)
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What a difference a year makes. We have seen a reduction in the rate of inflation from 11.1% this time last year down to 4.6% this month, and we heard yesterday from the Governor of the Bank of England that he expects inflation to return to its target over the course of the next year or so. I was interested to hear that there are 110 measures in the announcement today which will drive growth in the UK economy. I welcome the fact that the Office for Budget Responsibility is now forecasting that this year we will see growth in the UK economy, in contrast to its forecast this time last year of a recession. The Committee looks forward to examining the 110 growth measures in detail next week, when we hear from both the OBR and the Chancellor himself. Can the Chancellor tell the House overall how much his measures will improve growth and how much they will help to drive down inflation over the course of next year?

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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend, who speaks very wisely about the economy as Chair of the Treasury Committee. The OBR is very specific about that. It says that the measures I take today will permanently increase GDP by 0.3% and that the measures I took in the spring Budget will permanently increase GDP by 0.2%. Taken together, those measures will increase GDP by 0.5%.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesman.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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I thank the Chancellor for advance sight of his redactions.

Madam Deputy Speaker, the Chancellor wants you to think he has pulled a rabbit out of the hat, but all he has done is pull the wool over many people’s eyes. Things are still getting worse for people. Inflation is still more than double the target, which means prices and costs for people in their homes are still going up day by day. The cost of living crisis goes on and people need help now. The economy, far from the cry of the Chancellor, is stagnating. On his watch, it is growing by nothing more than a sliver of a percentage. The Chancellor tries to take credit for things that he should be doing anyway and that the Government promised, or things they have already done and that they are now taking backwards steps on. I will come on to that in more detail.

The energy price cap goes up tomorrow and it is scheduled to go up again in January. Costs will continue to increase for people. I welcome some small measures—support for veterans, the national insurance class 2 abolition and the significant measure for business to make full expensing permanent—but the rest do not bear the scrutiny that I hope they will get from proper analysts over the next few days.

The burden is still high for people. The tax burden in the UK is still the highest it has been for seven years. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies has pointed out, even after the Chancellor’s measures, tax is higher than it was three years ago. In reality, the measures go nowhere near covering the cost of living crisis faced by people across the nations of the UK who are struggling with mortgages and rents, food bills and energy bills. We asked for mortgage interest tax relief to help those seeing their monthly bills go up and for measures to help renters. Why has the Chancellor ignored those people who are struggling? On food bills, we asked for action to help people at the checkout and reduce their costs, as France, Canada and Greece have done. Why has he chosen not to intervene on food and help people? We asked for a range of measures this winter to help people who will be facing even higher bills than they had last year, such as a £400 energy bill rebate, a lower price cap and a social tariff. Why has he chosen not to help those who will not be able to afford to heat their homes this winter? Will he at least rule out the planned increase in the cap in January?

We asked the Chancellor to commit to increasing working-age benefits in line with inflation next year. Will he commit to doing that? Once again he has chosen to punish the most vulnerable with his welfare changes. The nasty party is back in business for good. Not supporting people is a choice and we all know what that choice is for this Government. This Government are on the record as working to the principle, “Let people die”. We wanted to hear about VAT cuts for tourism and hospitality, and how to get skilled workers to fill our vacancies, but he has chosen to ignore those stresses on our sectors. We asked him to lay off the Scotch whisky industry, and it is good that he has frozen the duty, but—enormous pause—he has frozen it at the rate he already increased it to, so the Scotch whisky industry is still paying 75% in tax under this Tory UK Government. Isn’t it funny how Scotland is always told it is too poor until the Government need to raise money from our exports and natural resources? Then, miraculously, riches are found!

We asked the Chancellor to invest in net zero. He made some announcements, but when we work down all his green investment plans and what he calls “green energy” we will find most of the money going into nuclear, the white elephant of the energy sector. [Interruption.] As my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) says, it is an absolute shambles. We asked the Chancellor to match the £500 million energy transition fund for the north-east of Scotland, but he has chosen to ignore those opportunities, highlighting again why we need the full powers of independence in Scotland.

We asked the Chancellor to deliver, across the UK, additional funding for public services to allow us to help councils, the NHS and more, and he has chosen to ignore that call. As I have said, he has chosen not to help people who are struggling with the cost of living crisis. He could have helped mortgage and rent payers, he could have helped those who are struggling to pay for food, and he could have helped people with their energy bills.

In the Scottish National party, our values lead us to want to alleviate poverty and strive to get rid of it altogether. We seek measures—now and in the future—to help people, and we are acting now, freezing council tax, investing in childcare and saying no to tuition fees. We are using limited powers to mitigate this nasty Tory Government’s cruel policies, such as the rape clause and the bedroom tax. We are keeping our water, our rail services and our NHS in public hands. We are not, like the Tories and Labour, holding the door open for private companies to rush in. We have previously stepped in where Westminster has failed to boost broadband coverage, to increase our renewables, and to champion the just transition.

We choose to put our people first. Those are our values—values that build a fairer, more prosperous Scotland. The Scottish Government have taken the steps that they can take to help to alleviate the worst impacts of poverty, offering people a degree of stability through the council tax freeze and a cap on rent increases. We would do more, but the fiscal powers that are needed are currently in the Chancellor’s hands. We would choose to help. Today the Chancellor had the power to help people, to lift a finger to right some of the wrongs of this Government that he has inflicted on them, but people are not this Government’s priority. We know who goes through their priority lanes.

Why are this UK Government fixated on tents when they should be worried about rents? They have little to offer Scotland. Our route out of the chaos that Westminster has created, and the perma-austerity of the cost of living nightmare that people are having to endure, is through independence and rejoining the EU. We must have that choice.

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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I think the hon. Gentleman prepared his comments for the autumn statement that he wanted me to deliver, rather than the one that I actually delivered. For example, he complained about the tax burden being the highest for seven years, but what he did not say was that in Westminster we have taken difficult decisions and cut taxes, whereas in Scotland the SNP ran out of money and had to raise them. He talked about punishing the most vulnerable, but just look at the measures that we have taken. He talked about renters, but did not mention the fact that we have increased the local housing allowance, which will mean £800 of help for 1.6 million of our poorest people. He did not mention the fact that we have increased benefits by 6.7%, which is double next year’s expected inflation, and have increased the state pension through the triple lock by 8.5%, nearly three times next year’s predicted inflation.

Here is the most uncomfortable truth for the SNP. They have been in power in Edinburgh for longer than the Conservatives have been in power in Westminster, but Scottish GDP is still lower, Scottish employment is still lower, and Scottish inactivity is still higher. The reason is for that is very simple. They focus on separation, while we focus on growth. I know what is better for families in Scotland, who will today see us getting growth going, cutting taxes, and backing Scottish business.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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The Citizens Advice office covering my constituency will be grateful for that fact that the local housing allowance has been changed. The people who supply drink, and drinkers, will be pleased that alcohol duty is being frozen, at least for the time being. That will help drinkers, and will also not increase inflation.

I am glad that the Chancellor pointed out to the shadow Chancellor that the only time the Labour Government did really well was when they obeyed the Conservative rules between 1998 and 1999, before they let go of the valves and drove the economy to the point at which, when we took over, they were spending £4 for every £3 of Government revenue.

May I now ask the Chancellor to respond, not today but in time, to an injustice done to 500,000 pensioners overseas? Anne Puckridge, who was born five years before the Chancellor’s father, served in intelligence in the Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force during the war, and retired to Calgary on a pension of £72 a week. It is still £72, instead of £156. That is an injustice which needs attention, and I hope Anne Puckridge will get it and we will have proposals that will enable us to change this bad situation.

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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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If the hon. Lady has any examples of people not paying the national living wage who are legally obliged to do so, she should tell the authorities and we will sort it out. I just say to her that we have just overtaken France to become the eighth largest manufacturer in the world. We are making progress in the right direction, and the measures announced today will mean that we go even further.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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The prize for perseverance goes to Deidre Brock.

Autumn Statement Resolutions

Eleanor Laing Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd November 2023

(5 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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We now come to motion No. 1 on the resolutions paper. It is on this motion that the debate will take place today and on succeeding days. The questions on this motion and on the remaining motions will be put at the end of the debate on the autumn statement on Monday 27 November.

Rates of tobacco products duty

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Laura Trott Portrait Laura Trott
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I will say it lots of times, believe me.

This Conservative Government are the party of business. This Conservative Government are the party of workers. This Conservative Government are the party of working people. The Government have a plan to keep delivering, and it is presented to this country and to this House in today’s autumn statement. It is a plan that permanently increases the size of the economy, that backs Britain and Britain’s businesses, that rewards work and improves pay and that will deliver growth in every part of this United Kingdom.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I call the Opposition spokesman.

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Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)
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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it appropriate for the Opposition spokesman to be talking about measures that were actually not announced today?

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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That is a perfectly reasonable point of order and I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising it. I was listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman’s speech and had begun to think to myself, “That’s strange. The hon. Gentleman is addressing a point that was not in the Chancellor’s statement.” However, I have not stopped him, because—[Interruption.] I do not need any help, thank you very much. I have not stopped the hon. Gentleman because this is a very wide-ranging debate, and I have made the assumption that he was using an example of something that the Government decided not to do. Possibly he was about to state his agreement with the Government, or something along those lines. I was waiting to hear what he had to say.

James Murray Portrait James Murray
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Thank you very much for your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker. In fact, I was about to say that we welcome the fact that the Government appear to have finally realised that it would have been the wrong tax cut at the wrong time. I am sorry that it makes the hon. Lady so uncomfortable to talk about this, because, frankly, it speaks volumes about this Government’s instincts that they entertained that plan for so long.

My central point is that Government should not be wasting time daydreaming about an inheritance tax cut. With inflation still double the Bank of England’s target, they should be resolutely focused on what they can do now to tackle the cost of living crisis. The truth is that anything they offer now is far too little, far too late. The Conservatives simply cannot tackle the cost of living crisis that their fingerprints are all over.

Ten years ago, the Conservatives slashed energy efficiency programmes, after which insulation rates plummeted by 92%. As a result, millions of households across the country have had to pay energy bills £500 a year greater than they should be.

Last year, the Conservatives’ utterly reckless approach to the economy set off market chaos and interest rate rises. The Bank of England has said that those re-mortgaging will see their monthly payments rise by £220, and 1.5 million families will be hit by this Tory mortgage penalty next year.

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Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin
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The right hon. Gentleman might think the UK should join the euro, but I shall fight strongly against him on that campaign.

I want to return to the theme of what a difference a year has made in terms of the public finances. It is remarkable to see how the priorities in the autumn statement are being delivered. First, that is seen in reducing debt, something all on this side of the House are keen on otherwise we are just passing on the costs to our children and grandchildren. Last year’s forecast was 94.6%, which still feels uncomfortably high to me, and that is why I welcome that in today’s autumn statement debt is falling to 92.7% in the same year. I encourage the Chancellor to keep on moving in that direction.

The challenge now is to support growth, and non-inflationary growth above all. The Chancellor announced 110 measures. I have gone through the small print of the documentation, and I do not think I have got to the bottom of all 110 of them yet, but I hope we shall do so when we take evidence from him, the OBR and independent economists next week. I welcome that the OBR is revising growth up this year, however, and that the measures announced in the statement were taken through the lens of making sure inflation continues to decline.

Cutting tax is also an important priority because it rewards hard work, and it is good that earnings are again growing faster than inflation, which means households up and down the country are seeing disposable incomes rise once again.

We all know that work is the best route out of poverty. I cannot stress how important the announcement on the national living wage is, because it means that those working full time on the national living wage now have an income of over £22,000, taking them over the poverty line. With so many vacancies in our economy, that will give more people the opportunity to work their way out of poverty. So I thank the Chancellor for that reform, and for the fact that now the income of the lowest paid comes predominantly from work, whereas in 2010 the income of those on the lowest pay was primarily from welfare. We can be proud of that real shift.

I was pleased to hear measures about the grid in the autumn statement. Building sustainable domestic energy will require improving our grid, and building more renewables and new nuclear and domestic oil and gas.

I was very pleased to see the measures backing British businesses as well, because ultimately it is British businesses that will help our country grow and tackle the important productivity challenge and deliver more jobs and prosperity for the British people.

I look forward to encouraging the Chancellor to think about simplifying even more. There were some simplifications that I welcome in today’s autumn statement, particularly in terms of national insurance for the self-employed. I look forward to seeing the detail of the measures that will help our constituents invest their savings and get better rewarded for their pensions by being able to access advice more easily. Measures the Chancellor can take in terms of the advice guidance boundary will help enormously.

I welcome, too, the funding for a world class education. Schools in my constituency will welcome that record level of per pupil funding in real terms.

In conclusion, I am delighted to see many of these measures and look forward to scrutinising more of them in detail, and I am particularly pleased that the Chancellor did not heed the Opposition’s advice to borrow £28 billion more every year.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I call Scottish National party spokesman Drew Hendry.

Financial Services and Markets Bill

Eleanor Laing Excerpts
Consideration of Lords amendments.
Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I must draw the House’s attention to the fact that financial privilege is engaged by Lords amendment 35. If Lords amendment 35 is agreed to, I will cause the customary entry waiving Commons financial privilege to be entered in the Journal.

Clause 25

Regulatory principles: Net Zero emissions target

Andrew Griffith Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Andrew Griffith)
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I beg to move, That this House disagrees with Lords amendment 7.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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With this it will be convenient to discuss:

Government amendments (a) to (c) in lieu of Lords amendment 7.

Lords amendment 10, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendment 36, Government motion to disagree, and Government amendment (a) in lieu of Lords amendment 36.

Lords amendments 1 to 6, 8, 9, 11 to 35 and 37 to 86.

Andrew Griffith Portrait Andrew Griffith
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am delighted to speak again to the Bill, following its passage through the other place. I thank my colleagues, Baroness Penn and Lord Harlech, for their expert stewardship of the Bill, as well as the Opposition spokespeople for their generally constructive tone.

Hon. and right hon. Members will be aware that the Bill is a crucial next step in delivering the Government’s vision of an open, sustainable and technologically advanced financial services sector. Members will also recall that this sector is one of the crown jewels of our economy, generating 12% of the UK’s economic activity and employing 2.5 million people in financial and related professional services. Few constituencies will be untouched by those jobs and economic benefits. For example, Scotland benefits from £13.9 billion of gross value added and an estimated 136,000 jobs.

The Bill seizes the opportunities of Brexit, tailoring financial services regulation to UK markets to bolster the competitiveness of the UK as a global financial centre and deliver better outcomes for consumers and businesses.

The Bill repeals hundreds of pieces of retained EU law relating to financial services and gives the regulators significant new rule-making responsibilities. These increased responsibilities must be balanced with clear accountability, appropriate democratic input, and transparent oversight. There has been much debate in this House and in the other place about how to get that balance right. As a result of the considered scrutiny, the Government introduced a number of amendments in the Lords that improved the Bill in this regard.

Lords amendments 32 to 34 require the regulators to set out how they have considered representations from Parliament when publishing their final rules. Lords amendments introduced by the Government require the regulators to report annually on their recruitment to the statutory panels, including the new cost-benefit analysis panels created by the Bill. The amendments also require the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority to appoint at least two members of authorised firms to their CBA panels. This will ensure that their work is informed by practical experience of how regulatory requirements impact on firms. My hon. Friends the Members for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller), for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey) and for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) may recognise that amendment and I thank them for their efforts to ensure that the Bill delivers proper accountability.

Amendments from the Government also provide a power from the Treasury to require statutory panels to produce annual reports. The Treasury intends to use this power in the first instance to direct the publication of annual reports by the CBA panels and the FCA consumer panel. I hope the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith) will welcome this as he tabled a similar amendment on Report.

Lords amendment 37 will enhance the role of the Financial Regulators Complaints Commission, which is an important mechanism for raising concerns about how the FCA, the PRA and the Bank of England carry out their functions. The amendment requires the Treasury, rather than the regulators themselves, to appoint the complaints commissioner, significantly strengthening the independence of the role.

In response to a debate in this House, the Government amended the Bill to introduce a power in clause 37 for the Treasury to direct the regulators to report on various performance metrics. On 9 May, I published a call for proposals, seeking views on what additional metrics the regulators should publish to support scrutiny of their work, focused on embedding their new secondary growth and competitiveness objectives. We have already had a number of helpful responses and we will come forward with proposals at pace following the expiry of the deadline next week. To further support that, Lords amendment 6 requires the FCA and the PRA to publish two reports on how they have embedded those new objectives within 12 and 24 months of the objectives coming into force. Taken together, these are a significant package of improvements to hold the regulators to account.

I know that access to cash is an issue of huge importance to many Members on both sides of the House. Representing the rural constituency of Arundel and South Downs, where the constituents are older than the UK average, this has always been at the forefront of my mind during the passage of the Bill. I also pay tribute to the campaigning work done by the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph on behalf of their readers as well as by groups such as Age UK and the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

Let me be clear: the Government’s position is that cash is here to stay for the long term. It provides a reliable back-up to digital payments, can be more convenient in some circumstances, and many, particularly the vulnerable, rely on cash as a means to manage their finances. The Bill already takes significant steps forward in protecting the ability of people and businesses across the UK to access cash deposit and withdrawal facilities for the first time in UK law. I am pleased to report that we have gone even further and introduced Lords amendments 72 to 77, which will protect people’s ability to withdraw and deposit cash for free. The amendments will require the FCA to seek to ensure reasonable provision of free cash access services for current accounts of personal customers. This will be informed by regard to a Government policy statement, which I expect to publish no later than the end of September.

Many Members are concerned about the separate issue of face-to-face banking. The FCA already has guidance to firms around the closure of bank branches and I hope that they and the industry will listen to the concerns of Members on behalf of their constituents on that issue.

Many Members across the House will have experienced the disproportionate application of rules requiring enhanced due diligence for politically exposed persons— PEPs. They and their families should not face some of the challenges and behaviours by banks that I have heard about. The Government are taking action to ensure that PEPs are treated in a proportionate manner. Lords amendment 38 requires the Treasury to amend the money laundering regulations to explicitly distinguish between domestic and foreign PEPs in law.

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Finally, I want to raise the issue of politically exposed persons, which I am glad the Bill is addressing. There are enough drawbacks to taking on a life of public service without them being added to by finding that our adult children—as is the case with my kids—struggle to open a bank account on the grounds of having a mother who is in politics. That really is not fair. The Government need to do everything possible to ensure that the very real need to protect politically exposed persons does not extend to their offspring, who have got absolutely nothing to do with it. Overall, I think this is an excellent Bill, and I look forward to supporting the Government.
Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant
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As has been said throughout the passage of the Bill, our chief concern has always been that too many provisions in it do not go far enough. I am pleased to say that the other place has tightened up some aspects of the Bill. It is disappointing that this evening the Government seem determined to oppose some amendments that could have addressed more of our concerns and, in at least one case, seem determined to make an amendment that makes things even worse.

In the interests of brevity, I will not go through all the Lords amendments that the Government are happy to accept; I ask Members to take those as read. The first Government proposal that I have some concern about is their motion to disagree with Lords amendment 7. I appreciate that they have tabled alternative amendments, which they might think say pretty much the same thing or better, but Lords amendment 7 explicitly refers to targets set by any of the UK’s national Parliaments. They are not mentioned anywhere in the Government’s amendment (a) in lieu. I hope the Minister can explain why the Government are opposed to giving targets set by the devolved nations of this Union of equals the same status as those set in this place, because some of those targets and activities will relate to responsibilities that are explicitly devolved to one or more of the other nations of the United Kingdom. It does not seem very equal that some Parliaments can have their targets effectively regulated and others cannot.

I do not have any issue with Government amendments (b) and (c) in lieu of Lords amendment 7, although it seems strange that they have been tabled as alternatives, because they are entirely compatible with it. In fact, the Government could quite easily have tabled them in the Lords at the time.

As was said by the Opposition spokesperson, the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq), Lords amendment 10 is a good amendment. I do not understand why the Government want to take it out. Are they against financial inclusion? If they think that financial inclusion is a good idea but that this amendment is not best way to pursue it, I would remind them that they have had months to come up with a better amendment. “Take it back, don’t agree it just now, and we promise to bring something back in the near future.” However, we have been promised effective measures on financial inclusion since before I was a Member of this place, but it has not happened yet, and the problem is getting worse all the time.

To answer the right hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Dame Andrea Leadsom), it is all very well for the Government to find ways to make post offices the last bank in town, but they are being shut left, right and centre as well, so there is no long-term protection for access to cash, especially in our poorest and most deprived communities, of which I represent more than my fair share. It is no comfort to them to be told, “The bank has closed, but you can use the post office,” if, as I have seen happen literally at the same time, the Post Office is saying, “We’re going shut the post office, but you can still use the bank.” That does not give any protection or comfort whatsoever.

Lords Amendment 36, on illegal deforestation and so on, is also a good amendment that we would have supported. We are willing to accept the Government alternative as an improvement in some regards. The biggest concern we have—it is one on which we would very much want the opportunity to give the House the chance to express its will this evening—is about one of the crazy ways in which this place deals with things, especially once legislation has been back and forth between here and the Lords. If this House wanted to disagree with Lords amendment 38, as I think quite a few of us will, we will not be allowed to do that unless the debate finishes within three hours. The ability of the democratically elected House of Commons to scrutinise and perhaps overturn a decision taken by the undemocratic, unelected House of Lords along the corridor therefore depends on how many people want to speak, how long they want to speak for, and how fast they want to talk.

Lords amendment 38 is about politically exposed persons and the way they are risk-assessed in relation to money laundering. It makes a very broad assumption about the amount of due diligence that needs to be exercised to prevent money laundering in the case of a politically exposed person from the UK—someone who, in the words of the amendment, is

“entrusted with prominent public functions by the United Kingdom”.

The assumption is that they are always less of a potential money laundering risk, as are their family and “close associates”, whatever that means. That is far too broad and sweeping an assumption.

I do not have an issue with any regulation being worded in a way that is proportionate to the risk, and I can understand the attraction of being able to designate some individuals as less of a risk than others, but this exemption is far too sweeping. What do we mean by “entrusted with prominent public functions”? As we all know, we have had very recent examples of people who were entrusted with the most prominent public function of all—the office of Prime Minister—turning out to be totally untrustworthy. How do we define a “close associate”? Would, for example, Evgeny Lebedev have been regarded as low risk simply because he could accurately have been described as a close associate of the then Prime Minister, who himself has turned out, as the House now agrees, to have been untrustworthy? When is a close associate not a close associate?

The House proceeded to a Division.
Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I am aware that the card readers are not working in either Lobby. I can assure the House that steps are being taken to count this Division manually, in the old-fashioned way. We will have the result quite soon.

--- Later in debate ---
Stewart Hosie Portrait Stewart Hosie
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Loth as I am to disagree with the Minister, there was little by way of substantial growth in the Budget and there is almost nothing by way of immediate cost of living support in this Bill. We can only hope—although it is hope over expectation—that the Bill at least delivers some of the growth and some of the investment that the Government’s rhetoric would suggest they expect to see. I hope that happens, even though I doubt it will, and that the forecasts we see at the next fiscal event will be rather better than the ones we have seen over the past three or four years.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I am pausing in case there is a speech about to erupt, but there is not. Therefore, I will put the Question.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Mortgage Market

Eleanor Laing Excerpts
Tuesday 13th June 2023

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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None Portrait Hon. Members
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He is!

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. [Interruption.] No; do not argue with me.

Liz Kendall Portrait Liz Kendall
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I am responding to—

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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No, you are not. That question is finished. There is a danger that the House might not be able to hear the question from the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon).

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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There is no danger of that when you are in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I thank the Minister for his answers to some very difficult questions. It has been said that 1.5 million households, including some of my Strangford constituents, are set to come off fixed mortgage deals this year and face a sharp rise in their monthly repayments—up to 1.56 percentage points from Tuesday. Has the Minister made an assessment of the impact on those who are considering buying their first house in the next year or so, and will he assure the House that discussions are taking place with local banks on what we can do to support people through the process of buying their first homes amid shocking price increases?