293 Lindsay Hoyle debates involving HM Treasury

Oral Answers to Questions

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Tuesday 7th May 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Laura Trott Portrait Laura Trott
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My hon. Friend is completely correct. The household support fund has done so much to help people struggling with the cost of living. I commend the way that Buckinghamshire Council has handed out the money, and, indeed, will continue to do so throughout the year.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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Of course we recognise the challenges for those on the lowest incomes, which is precisely why we have adopted a whole bunch of other measures, including on housing allowance. If the hon. Gentleman is so opposed to the national insurance cuts that we introduced, why did the Leader of the Opposition support them?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Congratulations, Mr Chishti, on your engagement at the weekend. You are not crossing the Floor, I understand.

Rehman Chishti Portrait Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con)
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Most definitely not!

It has just been said that there is a real cost of living challenge, and that is absolutely correct. A key part of that relates to the war in Ukraine, which poses real challenges for energy supplies to the United Kingdom. As a former Minister who applied sanctions to Russia and looked at the oil price cap, I know that we need to ensure that what happens in Ukraine is offset by actions that hold Russia to account and address the cost of living. The US has seized Russian assets to pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine; the UK should do the same. That would help ease the burden on the UK economy and the taxpayer.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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It is always a pleasure to see my hon. Friend in his place. He raises a variety of really important issues that show precisely why we work across Government—there are multiple Departments involved—on matters relating to sanctions. The invasion of Ukraine has had an incredible impact around the world, not just in the UK. Everybody in this House should welcome the fact that, because of action taken by this Government and the Bank of England, and other measures, inflation is now falling and will soon hit target.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Opposition spokesman.

James Murray Portrait James Murray (Ealing North) (Lab/Co-op)
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The Conservatives’ decisions in this Parliament mean that the average family will face a tax bill that is £870 a year higher, and pensioner taxpayers will pay £960 a year more. The director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said:

“This remains a Parliament of record tax rises.”

Higher taxes, squeezed living standards and weaker public services—that is the Conservatives’ legacy. Does the Minister understand why the country has lost confidence in them?

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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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What it shows is that we took very difficult decisions in the pandemic to speed up access to PPE for frontline workers, who were literally dying at the time—but there should be no hiding place whatsoever for anyone who commits fraud on taxpayers, which is why there have been over 100 arrests.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Darren Jones Portrait Darren Jones (Bristol North West) (Lab)
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The only productivity improvement we have seen from this Government is the awarding of wasteful contracts. On top of all the PPE waste that my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) referred to, there are still £1 billion-worth of unresolved PPE contracts that this Government awarded, but that have not been delivered on. Only one company, PPE Medpro, is facing legal action. Why are the Government not taking legal action against the other companies that have not delivered on their contract with members of the public?

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Gareth Davies Portrait Gareth Davies
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We are doing a lot. We are increasing the VAT threshold, and we have a rates relief package. The recent spring Budget was one of the biggest packages supporting our cultural industries that this country has ever seen, and I encourage the hon. Lady to look at it.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Tulip Siddiq Portrait Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab)
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Since 2022, almost 400 communities have lost their local bank branch, which has had a devastating impact on local and small businesses. Despite witnessing the decline of the British high street, the Government have been dragging their feet on rolling out banking hubs, which would help local and small businesses. Will the Minister finally back the Labour party’s plans to provide a banking hub in every community that needs one?

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Chancellor.

Rachel Reeves Portrait Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) (Lab)
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At the Budget, the Chancellor set out his intention to abolish national insurance—a £46 billion annual commitment with no clear plan as to how it would be paid for. One way to do it would be to merge income tax and national insurance. Does the Chancellor agree with analysis from the House of Commons Library that shows that merging those two would increase income tax by 8p in the pound?

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Is it related to Treasury questions?

Tulip Siddiq Portrait Tulip Siddiq
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Yes. In his response to me, the Exchequer Secretary said, “Any area that loses bank branches is entitled to get a banking hub”, but I have numerous examples of towns that lost bank branches, applied for a banking hub and then had their application rejected. Please could you advise me, Mr Speaker, on how I can get some clarity on this matter and what the Minister said about “any area that loses bank branches”?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Obviously, we cannot continue the debate. The hon. Lady has certainly put her point on the record. I do not think this will be the end of it; she knows how to carry it on through the usual channels, which I expect she will use, no doubt starting with the Table Office.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Chancellor, in answer to my question, said that economic inequalities actually increased under the previous Labour Administration. A House of Commons Library publication released last month shows that that is categorically not the case. Would he like to take this opportunity to correct the record?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I believe the Chancellor would.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. The hon. Lady may have misunderstood me. What I said was that economic inequality had fallen since the last Labour Government.

HMRC Self-Assessment Helpline

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Wednesday 20th March 2024

(4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

James Murray Portrait James Murray (Ealing North) (Lab/Co-op)
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(Urgent Question): To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a statement on the Government’s decision to close the HMRC self-assessment helpline every year between April and September.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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You have good news, Minister.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Nigel Huddleston)
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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I thank the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray), and others, for raising the important issue of HMRC’s customer services and its plans to provide better services for taxpayers.

As Members probably know, His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has announced that it is halting planned changes to its helplines, but aims to encourage more taxpayers to self-serve online. It has listened to the feedback and recognises that more needs to be done to ensure that all taxpayer needs are met, while also encouraging those who can to make the transition to online services. Making the best use of online services allows HMRC to help more taxpayers, and to get the most out of every pound of taxpayers’ money by boosting productivity. HMRC helpline and webchat advisers will always be there for taxpayers who need support because they are vulnerable or digitally excluded, or have complex affairs. I recognise that such reassurances were not communicated clearly enough yesterday.

Of course, the pace of this change needs to match the public’s appetite for managing their tax affairs online. The changes in the self-assessment VAT and PAYE helplines announced by HMRC will therefore be halted while it engages with stakeholders, which means that the phone lines will remain open as usual. HMRC will now work with stakeholders—including me—while continuing to encourage customers to self-serve and gain access to the information that they need more quickly and easily by going online or to the HMRC app, which is available 24/7.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I am sure the hon. Member is aware that HMRC is a non-ministerial Department. Ministers set strategy and work closely with the Department on operations and communications. It is important to recognise that 67,000 people work for HMRC. They go to work every day and try to do the right thing, and it is important to recognise that many people there work very hard.

The overall strategy is absolutely right and I completely support it, and I will give the hon. Member an example of why we need to encourage and support the move to online services. In 2022-23, HMRC received more than 3 million calls on just three things that can easily be done digitally: resetting online passwords, getting one’s tax code and getting one’s national insurance number. That involves almost 500 people working full time to answer just those calls, and such resources could be redeployed. The hon. Member can be reassured that those who are not digitally savvy and those with difficulties will always be able to access services, including telephone services.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Treasury Committee.

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)
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May I thank the Financial Secretary and the Chancellor for listening to the howl of pain that came from ordinary taxpayers when they saw the announcement yesterday? Those who contact the HMRC hotline are the most law-abiding, tax paying people across this land.

This morning, the Treasury Committee has published more data showing that it is increasingly difficult to contact HMRC by telephone. While I fully endorse what the Minister has just said about the long-term strategy to move people online, it cannot be done by randomly shutting down HMRC’s telephone lines.

The Minister had an excellent digital track record in the private sector before he came into Parliament. May I urge him to use that experience to make this much more of a gradual transition for those law-abiding citizens of ours?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank my hon. Friend and the Select Committee for their work in this area. I know that HMRC customer service has been an area of focus for her and others for some time, and we appreciate the input. I recognise that she acknowledges the potential opportunities and the upside to encouraging more people to go online, but the point she makes is really important. HMRC has taken the feedback with good grace, because it is important that we move at the speed at which the public are willing to move. Of course, some people are not willing or able to move to purely online services.

I am sorry for not responding earlier to the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) on whether the telephone lines will stay open. Yes, of course they will.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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This is absolute chaos. The proposal to permanently close the self-assessment helpline for half the year was truly half-baked and irresponsible, as were the planned restrictions to the VAT helpline. The reversal is welcome, but the fact that the announcement was made at all highlights the disconnect at the heart of HMRC’s customer operations. As the Federation of Small Businesses has pointed out,

“customer service levels are at an all-time low”—

a view backed up by the Public Accounts Committee. At a time when the Chancellor’s policies are fiscally dragging more people into PAYE, the proposal was typically tone deaf to people’s needs.

Fran Heathcote of the PCS union has said that

“the combination of low-pay and micro-management”

is “rife across the whole” of HMRC’s customer service department. The Minister said that HMRC is a non-ministerial Department, but we know that it has been told what to do by the Chancellor overnight. When did the Government get notice of the announcement? Was it a reaction to the Chancellor’s decision to cut HMRC’s budget by £1.6 billion next year? Will he now ensure that the cut is reversed and order HMRC to recruit more customer service staff, and will he now instruct HMRC to make the reversal permanent?

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Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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It is important that HMRC commands respect—to a broad degree, it does—across the House and among our constituents, because that is how we can ensure that we comply with tax requirements. Where there is confusion, uncertainty or a valid question, it is important that people can get help, advice and support. For some people, it is appropriate to go online to get that, but that is not the case for everybody. As I said, the comments made today are very much appreciated. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that, as I have said many times, it is important that all of us encourage and support the digitisation of these services, and the adoption of the app by our constituents, because that will help ensure that the time available is focused on those who most need help and support.

Royal Assent

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that His Majesty has signified his Royal Assent to the following Acts:

Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Act 2024

National Insurance Contributions (Reduction in Rates) Act 2024

Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Act 2024

Bishop’s Stortford Cemetery Act 2024.

Oral Answers to Questions

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Tuesday 19th March 2024

(4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. This is fantastic, and I think it is a recurring pattern, Mr Speaker. We have positivity, optimism, and confidence in the future of the UK economy from Conservative Members, but absolute negativity from Opposition Members, because they have no plan, they have no clue and they have no hope. We have a plan and it is working.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Darren Jones Portrait Darren Jones (Bristol North West) (Lab)
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Why does the Treasury Minister think people feel worse off after 14 years of Conservative Government?

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Laura Trott Portrait Laura Trott
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The Scottish Government are well funded to deliver their devolved responsibilities, and receive 25% more funding on average per person than the equivalent UK Government spending in other parts. That translates to £8.5 billion more a year on average.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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Bim Afolami Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Bim Afolami)
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I thank my hon. Friend for her question. First, it is important to note her consistent championing of this issue for her constituents, for which she deserves huge commendation. To her precise question, it is important that industry, not the Government, makes decisions about bank branches or banking hubs, but she has made her case very ably. I urge her to work with Cash Access UK and LINK to ensure that she has the best chance of securing one of those new 225 banking hubs, as outlined by the industry, in her constituency.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We come to the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Rachel Reeves Portrait Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) (Lab)
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After the Budget, the Chancellor wrote to Conservative party members telling them that the Government planned to abolish national insurance. The Economic Secretary said that “national insurance will vanish”, and the Prime Minister said it was his “ambition” to abolish it. Will the Chancellor confirm whether he asked the Office for Budget Responsibility to cost the Government’s unfunded plan to abolish national insurance contributions?

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Bim Afolami Portrait Bim Afolami
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I am happy to meet the hon. Member to discuss the precise circumstances of his constituent’s case. In general terms, it is a priority for us to ensure that people get access to that money if it is due to them.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Treasury Committee.

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)
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Did the Chancellor see an article yesterday in which the independent director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies confirmed that the average earner in the UK now has the lowest effective personal tax rate since 1975—lower than in America, France, Germany or any G7 country? Someone on £35,000—the average earnings for those working full time—faces an income tax and national insurance bill of nearly £2,000 less than they would have done on the same real earnings back in 2010. Does the Chancellor agree that now he has changed the rules on residence and domicile, the Opposition’s unfunded spending plans could lead to higher taxes—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. These are topical questions, and I want to get to the Members who have not yet been called.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for her excellent question. She is right that it is not just the lowest effective tax rate for someone on average earnings since 1975, but the lowest headline tax rate and the lowest tax rate in the G7. That is the fundamental divide in British politics: taxes have gone up, and on the Government Benches we do not think that we have to accept the status quo; on the Opposition Benches they do. Why is that? Because lower taxes mean higher growth.

UK Economy

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Monday 19th February 2024

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Bim Afolami Portrait Bim Afolami
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The whole House knows that my right hon. Friend is somewhat of an expert on matters relating to the economy. To answer his point specifically, the national insurance tax cut was scored at the last fiscal event—the autumn statement—as significantly increasing the number of people in work. Although I will not speculate on fiscal events, that point has been very much noted by me and the whole Treasury.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

Stewart Hosie Portrait Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP)
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The Minister spoke about resilience, but the fourth quarter contraction in the economy was the biggest quarterly fall since early 2021 at the height of the covid pandemic, so I am not sure he is quite right about resilience. He also spoke about growth, but the Government told us in November that growth is not forecast to exceed 2% in any year in the forecast period. How modest the Minister’s ambitions are.

National debt is still approaching 100% of GDP—£3 trillion. The consequences of Brexit are suppressing growth, and that poses a challenge to the UK Government’s fiscal targets. Although it is welcome that inflation has fallen, prices remain high. Prices are not falling; they are simply going up slightly less steeply than they were a month or two ago. It is obvious that what the economy needs is growth, and the investment to generate that growth, but given that business investment, according to the Government, is forecast down this year by 5.6%, private dwelling investment is forecast down this year by 6%, and flat at 0% next year, and general Government investment is forecast down in ’25, ’26, ’27 and ’28, where will the investment for growth come from?

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Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean (Redditch) (Con)
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I thank the Minister for updating the House. Does he agree that people in Redditch and elsewhere are concerned about negative economic news—although it almost always turns out to be wrong? Most of all, does he agree that the greatest risk to my constituents in Redditch and those across the country is a Labour Government? Labour has said it can somehow magically get £28 billion of green growth benefits without paying for them. We all know that my constituents will be paying for that through extra borrowing and higher taxes.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. The Minister has no responsibility for the Labour party. Let us move on.

Oral Answers to Questions

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Tuesday 6th February 2024

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. Of course, we never know from day to day exactly what Labour’s policy is, and I understand there are even differences among its Front Benchers at the moment, but we heard a firm commitment, without any promises at all about where the money would come from. We therefore know where it would come from: it would come out of taxpayers’ pockets or further borrowing, which is deferred taxation. Everybody will pay for it.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Darren Jones Portrait Darren Jones (Bristol North West) (Lab)
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The Labour party has set out clear proposals to close tax loopholes on non-doms, private schools and private equity to give a much-needed boost to our public services. Will the Treasury Minister confirm whether the Government have assessed, or plan to assess, the merits of such a policy?

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Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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My hon. Friend puts it well. Of course, we have seen the considerable protections and support given in retail, hospitality and leisure business rates relief in England. That has not been extended to the same extent in Wales, and Scotland failed to extend it as well. She makes an important point.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We go back to Scotland: I call the SNP spokesperson.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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Contrary to what the Minister said, OECD forecasts show that the UK will have the lowest growth in the G20 and the highest inflation in the G7. Ministers like to pretend that there is no real cost of living crisis, but there is one, and it is biting hard. How long will Ministers—and their Labour counterparts—continue to peddle the fantasy that Brexit is somehow good for the Scottish people?

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Bim Afolami Portrait Bim Afolami
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This Government have introduced one of Europe’s largest support packages, worth more than £100 billion during 2022 to 2025. That is an average of £3,700 per household. The point about mortgage rates is that they went up everywhere across the world, to a higher level than ours in many jurisdictions such as the United States. I have already mentioned the work that we have done on the mortgage charter, helping hundreds of thousands of people to manage their mortgages, but the critical thing that we need to do is bring inflation down. She needs to talk to her shadow Chancellor and the shadow Treasury team about their plans, which would make inflation higher.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I am not sure that “she” is a good word to use to other Members.

Paul Girvan Portrait Paul Girvan (South Antrim) (DUP)
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11. Whether he has had recent discussions with Cabinet colleagues on funding for a UK-wide infected blood compensation scheme.

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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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As my right hon. Friend knows, as Health Secretary I campaigned for extra money for the NHS to make sure that we could pay NHS staff fairly, but I do believe that junior doctors have had a very fair offer—one that is higher than was recommended by the independent pay review body and is about double the rate of this year’s predicted inflation. I know that the Health Secretary is willing to talk about anything else that could help make their working conditions better.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Chancellor.

Rachel Reeves Portrait Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) (Lab)
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Last week, at Prime Minister’s questions, when asked about the Tory mortgage penalty, the Prime Minister boasted that someone coming off a fixed-rate mortgage

“will be able to save hundreds of pounds.”—[Official Report, 31 January 2024; Vol. 744, c. 857.]

But the small print was that they had to add many years to their mortgage. Three million people have been coming off fixed-rate mortgage deals this year and last, so does the Chancellor agree with the Prime Minister that British homeowners have never had it so good?

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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I am sure the hon. Lady understands that I cannot talk about what will be in the Budget ahead of the Budget because no decisions have been made. I celebrate with her that the UK recently became the first major economy in the world to decarbonise by more than 50%, ahead of France, Germany, Japan and the United States.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Treasury Committee.

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)
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If the Chancellor had an ambition to spend an additional £28 billion a year on something, will he explain to the House what level of tax that would impose on ordinary households?

Finance Bill

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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I am sure that the people suffering through the rampant cost of living crisis across the nations of the UK hoped that if the Government tabled a new clause today, it would address their struggles in paying their rent, their ever-increasing mortgages, their higher food bills, thanks to Brexit, and their even higher energy bills after the cap was adjusted in January. The Government tabled only new clause 5 and, as I said on the Ways and Means motion, we have no opportunity to amend it.

The electricity generator levy disproportionately impacts Scotland’s renewable sector. The SNP welcomes the fact that new clause 5 will exempt new renewable projects from the EGL, but as noted by the chief executive of Scottish Renewables, though the autumn statement introduced new measures such as the EGL exemption, they are

“not enough on their own. We urgently need consistent policies to provide an environment which will enable businesses to invest at the scale needed right now.”

A pledge to invest £28 billion a year in the green energy transition might be a good thing, but it seems to be off the table not only for the UK Government but—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I wish to make a short statement.

I know the whole House will wish to join me in expressing our sympathy with His Majesty the King following this evening’s announcement. Our thoughts are, of course, with His Majesty and his family, and we all send him our very best wishes for his successful treatment and speedy recovery.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. Obviously, it is entirely appropriate to have paused for that statement. I was unaware of the news brought to the Chamber, but it is clearly significant. Our thoughts are with the royal family at this time.

As I was saying, we need consistent policies to help the renewables sector, and we are not seeing that either from the Tory Government, who have run out of ideas, or from the Labour party, which makes promises and then ducks responsibility for what is required.

We would have liked new clause 5 to flesh out the Chancellor’s promise, made in the autumn statement, to take up to £1,000 a year for up to 10 years off the electricity bills of people living near new generation equipment. We have not heard that today, so we do not know what schemes are coming up.

As I intimated earlier, I would have liked to table an amendment on this point: if new clause 5 is applicable to people living next to new generation equipment, what about those who already live among generation equipment in, for example, the highlands and islands? We have the coldest climate in the UK. Most people are off the gas grid, so we have higher average bills than the rest of the UK. We pay the highest standing charge for electricity, 40% more than here in London, and because of UK Government policies, we have the highest level of fuel poverty in the UK, yet we export six times more electricity than we use in the highlands. It would have been entirely appropriate for the Minister to agree to introduce a highland energy rebate, to put some of that contribution back into the pockets of people across the highlands and islands who are struggling because of those conditions.

Oral Answers to Questions

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Tuesday 19th December 2023

(7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I am happy to join my hon. Friend in thanking all those involved in promoting the Anglesey freeport, which we think may create 5,500 jobs. We are working closely with the Welsh Government to agree on how the 10-year window to claim reliefs can be extended across freeports in Wales. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who has done more than anyone to put Ynys Môn on the map.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call Jim Shannon—oh, sorry, Andrew Bridgen.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Reclaim)
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Thank you very much for doing the funnies, Mr Speaker.

Freeports can certainly be a catalyst of economic growth and prosperity in north Wales and the east midlands, but they must be in the right place. Putting a freeport in North West Leicestershire, which already enjoys some of the highest economic growth in the country, has low unemployment, and is capable of filling its industrial sites without incentives, makes little sense. Will the Chancellor agree to meet me to discuss better alternatives for the east midlands than the Diseworth freeport site?

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Laura Trott Portrait Laura Trott
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The right hon. Member raises an excellent question. The SNP Government are yet to clarify when this ringfenced money will be returned. I hope they will do so this afternoon at the Budget.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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May I echo your comments, Mr Speaker, with Christmas wishes for all the House staff, your staff and Members? The UK Government’s attempt to overhaul the EU subsidy scheme has left English farmers 50% worse off in cash terms than in 2020. While the Scottish Government have sought to protect our farmers’ payments, can the Minister guarantee that the UK Government will not try to undermine their payments and devolution by back-door use of the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020?

Laura Trott Portrait Laura Trott
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I note that the hon. Member did not answer my question, nor that of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) about when the ringfenced money will be returned.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Questions are normally to the Minister, not the other way around.

Laura Trott Portrait Laura Trott
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Very good point, but I still maintain that the hon. Member needs to clarify that matter. It is up to the Scottish Government if they would like at any point to top up the amount that goes to Scottish farming. I encourage them to do so this afternoon at the Budget.

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Bim Afolami Portrait Bim Afolami
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I am not sure that I quite accept my hon. Friend’s characterisation of the banking industry, but I am happy to meet him and discuss the problems he outlined in relation to specific businesses and access to bank accounts.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Tulip Siddiq Portrait Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab)
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Before I ask my question, I want to convey the apologies of the shadow Chancellor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves). She is delivering the eulogy at Alistair Darling’s funeral today.

I want to say a few words about Alistair Darling—I am sure you will agree, Mr Speaker—a dedicated public servant, who was respected across both Houses. He led the country’s economic response to the global financial crisis with integrity, honesty and sound judgment, and we will all miss him. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”]

As my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith) just said, nearly 6,000 bank branches have closed since 2015, and only 30 banking hubs are up and fully running. That has left countless people financially excluded and affected lots of small businesses. I ask the Minister once again: will he accelerate the roll-out of banking hubs properly? Why are his Government not doing anything to reverse the decline of the great British high street?

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Laura Trott Portrait Laura Trott
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During the pandemic our priority was absolutely clear: to get PPE to the frontline as quickly as possible. There was an unprecedented global increase in demand for PPE during the emergency response to the pandemic and items were procured at pace. The Department of Health and Social Care continues to seek to recover fraud losses to ensure that public funds are protected.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

James Murray Portrait James Murray (Ealing North) (Lab/Co-op)
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Throughout the pandemic, people across the country made extraordinary and heart-wrenching sacrifices, yet as they did so, a small minority were instead making millions of pounds by ripping off the taxpayer. With conflicts of interest, defective goods and exorbitant profit margins, it has been greedy and grubby and this Conservative Government have enabled it all. As taxpayers, we want our money back, so Labour will create a covid corruption commissioner to chase down every pound we can. Does the Minister have any idea just how angry people are that our country has been taken for a ride?

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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for asking that question, because the UK, and London in particular, has become the global crypto hub. To make sure that the market can really take off in the way that was intended—in a responsible way—we need to regulate it, which is why we have introduced regulations on stablecoins and on the promotion of crypto services. My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury would be more than happy to meet her.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Darren Jones Portrait Darren Jones (Bristol North West) (Lab)
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Merry Christmas to you and to the House, Mr Speaker. Let me start by thanking the Chancellor for his kind words about the late Lord Darling, which I think show the gratitude of Members from across the House for his lifetime of public service.

The public have a right to know why so many billions of pounds of their taxes have been wasted by this Government. Baroness Mone has claimed today that Conservative Ministers knew about her personal connections to the company PPE Medpro from the very beginning. So why did the Government not correct the record when a misleading picture was being painted in the media about Baroness Mone’s personal connection to PPE Medpro in the first place?

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Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
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Since the Prime Minister’s speech on net zero in September, Nissan has announced a £2 billion investment in Sunderland, which comes hot on the heels of Tata’s £4 billion investment in batteries. EDF Masdar has announced an £11 billion investment in offshore wind in Dogger Bank. In his autumn statement, the Chancellor announced a tripling of tidal energy contracts for difference. We had 11 hydrogen projects announced last week. There are six companies bidding for small modular reactors. [Interruption.] Is it not the case that, hot on the heels of yesterday’s announcement of a £6 billion allocation of energy efficiency funding and the carbon border adjustment mechanism—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. We had this last time with you. I’m sorry, but I am trying to be generous because it is Christmas. Do not take advantage of other Members; I still have others to get in. It is just not fair, and it is very selfish to carry on when I have asked you not to. I do not find it acceptable. I look forward to the apology shortly. Would someone like to answer that question, briefly?

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his question and for his campaigning on these issues. I just note that on electric vehicle manufacturing alone, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders says that in the past year we have had more investment pledged for UK electric vehicles than in the previous seven years combined.

Autumn Statement

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd November 2023

(8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Before I call the Chancellor, it may help the House if I set out how proceedings on the autumn statement will unfold. Once the Chancellor has delivered his statement, copies of the resolutions relating to the statement will be made available in the Vote Office and online. I will then call the shadow Chancellor and other hon. Members to ask questions. This will follow the usual pattern for a ministerial statement. At the end of questions on the statement, the Chancellor will be called to move a motion under section 5 of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968. The question on that motion must be put without debate.

We will then proceed to a debate on the autumn statement resolutions. A Minister will move the first of the resolutions and open the debate. The debate will take place over three days, concluding on Monday. At the end of the debate on Monday, the question on the first of the resolutions will be disposed of. The questions on the remaining resolutions will then be taken formally without further debate.

Jeremy Hunt Portrait The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Jeremy Hunt)
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I come today with good news: it is my wife’s birthday and, unlike me, she is looking younger every year.

I turn to the statement. After a global pandemic and energy crisis, we have taken difficult decisions to put our economy back on track. We have supported families with rising bills, cut borrowing and halved inflation. Rather than a recession, the economy has grown. Rather than falling as predicted, real incomes have risen. Our plan for the British economy is working, but the work is not done. Others proposed a more short-term approach, but we have not made unaffordable pay offers to the unions, we have not stopped new oil and gas exploration, and we have not increased borrowing by £28 billion a year. That would have pushed inflation up just when we need to bring it down. Instead, under this Prime Minister, we take decisions for the long term.

In today’s autumn statement for growth our choice is not big government, high spending and high tax, because we know that that leads to less growth, not more. Instead, we reduce debt, cut taxes and reward work. We deliver world-class education, we build domestic sustainable energy, and we back British business with 110 growth measures. Do not worry; I am not going to go through them all—[Interruption.] Well, I will if you like! In summary, they remove planning red tape, speed up access to the national grid, support entrepreneurs raising capital, get behind our fastest-growing industries, unlock foreign direct investment, boost productivity, reform welfare, level up opportunity to every corner of the country, and cut business taxes.

The Office for Budget Responsibility says that the combined impact of these measures will raise business investment, get more people into work, reduce inflation next year and increase GDP, but Conservatives also know that a dynamic economy depends on the energy and enterprise of people more than any diktats or decisions by Ministers, so today’s measures do not just remove barriers to investment; they reward effort and work. I will go through the measures in three parts. In the first, I will use updated OBR forecasts to show the progress that we are making against the Prime Minister’s economic priorities. The second part will set out growth measures to back British business. Finally, I will conclude with measures to make work pay.

Before I start with the forecasts, I want to express my horror at the murderous attack on Israeli citizens on 7 October and the subsequent loss of life on both sides. I will remember for the rest of my life, as I know many other hon. Members will, being taken to Auschwitz by the Rabbi Barry Marcus and the remarkable Holocaust Educational Trust. I am deeply concerned about the rise of antisemitism in our country, so I am announcing up to £7 million over the next three years for organisations such as the Holocaust Educational Trust to tackle antisemitism in schools and universities. I will also repeat the £3 million uplift to the Community Security Trust. When it comes to antisemitism and all forms of racism, we must never allow the clock to be turned back.

I now move on to the OBR’s economic and fiscal forecasts, and I thank Richard Hughes and his team for their sterling work in preparing them. Three of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s five pledges at the start of the year were economic: to halve inflation, grow the economy and reduce debt. Today I can report to the House that we are delivering on all three.

Let’s start with inflation. The shadow Chancellor did not mention it in her conference speech. My conference speech was before hers, so all she had to do was a bit of copying and pasting, which I have heard she is good at. But it speaks volumes that during the worst global inflation shock for a generation, it did not even get a mention. Well, if controlling inflation isn’t a priority for Labour, it is for us.

When the Prime Minister and I took office, inflation was at 11.1%; last week, it fell to 4.6%. We promised to halve inflation and we have halved it. Core inflation is now lower than in nearly half of the economies in the EU, and the OBR says that headline inflation will fall to 2.8% by the end of 2024, before falling to the 2% target in 2025. I will not take risks with inflation, and the OBR confirms that the measures I take today make inflation lower next year than it would otherwise have been. I thank the independent Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee for its crucial role in bringing inflation down, and we will continue to back it to do whatever it takes until the job is done. But as we do, we will continue to support families in difficulty, and today I add four further measures to help with the cost of living.

First, for those on the lowest incomes, I understand the concerns some have about the effect on work incentives of matching benefit increases to inflation, and I know there has been some speculation that we would increase benefits next year by the lower October figure for inflation. But cost of living pressures remain at their most acute for the poorest families, so instead the Government have decided to increase universal credit and other benefits from next April by 6.7%, in line with September’s inflation figure, an average increase of £470 for 5.5 million households next year—vital support to those on the very lowest incomes from a compassionate Conservative Government.

Secondly, because rent can constitute more than half the living costs of private renters on the lowest incomes, I have listened closely to many colleagues as well as the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Resolution Foundation, Citizens Advice UK and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who said that unfreezing the local housing allowance was an “urgent priority”. I will therefore increase the local housing allowance rate to the 30th percentile of local market rents. This will give 1.6 million households an average of £800 of support next year.

Thirdly, although I am going to increase duty on hand-rolling tobacco by an additional 10% above the tobacco duty escalator, I know that for many people going to the pub has become more expensive. I have listened closely to the persuasive arguments on alcohol duties from my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (David Mundell), fierce champions of the Scotch whisky industry. I have also listened to defenders of the great British pint such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Alun Cairns) and my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Greg Smith), to Councillor Jane Austin who is a big supporter of the Jolly Farmer pub in Bramley in my constituency, and indeed to The Sun newspaper. So as well as confirming our Brexit pubs guarantee, which means the duty on a pint is always lower than in the shops, I have decided to freeze all alcohol duty until 1 August next year; that means no increase in duty on beer, cider, wine or spirits.

Finally, pensioners. The triple lock has helped to lift 250,000 older people out of poverty since it was instituted by a Conservative Government in 2011 and has been a lifeline for many during a period of high inflation. There have been reports that we would uprate it by a lower amount, to smooth out the effect of high public sector bonuses in July, but that would have been particularly difficult for 1 million pensioners whose only income is from the state.

So instead, today we honour our commitment to the triple lock in full. From April 2024, we will increase the full new state pension by 8.5% to £221.20 a week, worth up to £900 more a year. That is one of the largest ever cash increases to the state pension, showing that a Conservative Government will always back our pensioners.

Including today’s measures, our total commitment to easing cost of living pressures has risen to £104 billion. That includes paying around half the cost of the average energy bill since last October and amounts now to an average of £3,700 per household. We are able to do that only because we reduced the deficit by 80% ahead of the pandemic, which the Labour party might reflect on, having opposed us every step of the way.

Next, I turn to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s pledge to reduce debt. Before I took difficult decisions at last year’s autumn statement, debt was predicted to rise to almost 100% of GDP by the end of the forecast. Since then, the economy has outperformed expectations and I have taken difficult decisions to reduce borrowing. As a result, headline debt is now predicted to be 94% of GDP by the end of the forecast.

The OBR today forecasts that underlying debt will be 91.6% of GDP next year, 92.7% in 2024-25 and 93.2% in 2026-27, before declining in the final two years of the forecast to 92.8% in 2028-29. That is lower in every year compared with forecasts in the spring. We therefore meet our fiscal rule to have underlying debt falling as a percentage of GDP in the final year of the forecast, with double the headroom compared with the OBR’s March forecast. We will continue to have the second lowest Government debt in the G7—lower than the United States, Canada, France, Italy or Japan.

I turn to borrowing. The right hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) said that when it comes to borrowing, she “will take it up” by £28 billion a year. Indeed, she has opposed every decision we have made to reduce our borrowing. The Government will bring borrowing down, because, as the late Lord Lawson said, borrowing is just a deferred tax on future generations.

I see the Leader of the Opposition shaking his head. In fact, we have something in common: both he and I wanted to make a Jeremy Prime Minister. In fairness, his party and mine are probably equally relieved that we failed but, whereas this Jeremy is growing the economy, his Jeremy would have crashed it.

The numbers show the contrast. According to the OBR, borrowing is lower this year and next, and on average across the forecast by £0.7 billion every year compared with the spring Budget forecasts. It falls from 4.5% of GDP in 2023-24 to 3.0%, 2.7%, 2.3%, 1.6% and 1.1% in 2028-29. That means we also meet our second fiscal rule that public sector borrowing must be below 3% of GDP, not just by the final year, but in almost every year of the forecast.

Some of that improvement is from higher tax receipts from a stronger economy, but we also maintain a disciplined approach to public spending. As I set out in the spring Budget, resource spending will increase by 1% a year from 2025-26 in real terms, and we are sustaining the record 2020 increase in capital spending in cash terms until the end of the forecast. Within this, we will meet our NATO commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence—critical at a time of global threats to the international order, most notably from Putin’s evil war in Ukraine.

We also support a group of people to whom we owe our freedom: our brave veterans. I will extend national insurance relief for employers of eligible veterans for a further year, and provide £10 million to support the Veterans’ Places, Pathways and People programme. I thank our excellent Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer), for his championing of their cause.

We have shown that we are prepared to increase funding for vital public services, with record numbers of police officers, doctors, nurses and teachers. We are nearly doubling the numbers of doctors and nurses we train, having given the NHS its first ever long-term workforce plan, as I promised a year ago. We are also tackling the biggest single preventable cause of mortality that the NHS has to deal with by bringing forward plans for a smokefree generation.

However, alongside extra funding and support, we need to see reform. We need a more productive state, not a bigger one. That is why I want the public sector to increase productivity growth by at least half a percent. a year—the level at which the size of our state starts to reduce as a proportion of GDP. I have already announced plans to cap and reduce the size of the civil service to pre-pandemic levels. I pay tribute to the excellent former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen), who started our brilliant public sector productivity programme. That will now be pursued by his formidable successor, my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Laura Trott), who has already been with me to meet police, fire and ambulance personnel to understand why bureaucracy is holding them back.

Through that vital work, we will ensure that, over time, the growth in public spending is lower than the growth in the economy, while always protecting the services that the public value. I will also provide His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs with the resources it needs to ensure that everyone pays the tax they owe, raising an additional £5 billion across the forecast period.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister also promised to grow the economy. Since 2010, despite inheriting what was then the worst recession since the second world war, Conservative Administrations have presided over faster growth than many of our major competitors, including Spain, Italy, France—[Interruption.] Well, the Opposition do not like to hear this, but let me tell them the list: Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Germany and Japan. We have grown faster than all of them since 2010.

However, all those countries have faced a pandemic and an energy shock. As a result, last autumn the OBR forecast a recession in which the economy would shrink by 1.4% this year. Instead, it grew—in fact, it has grown faster than the euro area. Revised numbers from the Office for National Statistics now say that the economy is 1.8% larger than it was pre-pandemic. Looking ahead, the OBR expects the economy to grow by 0.6% this year and 0.7% next year. After that, growth rises to 1.4% in 2025, then 1.9%, 2%, and 1.7% in 2028.

If we want those numbers to be higher, we need higher productivity. The private sector is more productive in countries such as the United States, Germany and France because it invests more—on average 2 percentage points more of GDP every year. The 110 measures that I take today help to close that gap by boosting business investment by £20 billion a year. They do not involve borrowing more and ramping up debt, as some advocate. Instead, they unlock investment, with supply-side reforms that back British business in the following areas.

First: skills. No economy can prosper without investing in the potential of its people. Despite strong opposition, we took the difficult decisions to reform our schools. England’s nine to 10-year-olds are now the fourth best readers in the world, and since 2015, our 15 to 16-year-olds have risen seven places in the OECD rankings for maths— not least thanks to the efforts of my brilliant right hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Nick Gibb). However, 9 million adults in England still have low basic literacy or numeracy skills, so last month the Prime Minister set out the new advanced British standard to ensure that all school leavers reach minimum standards in maths and English.

While the Labour party wants to reduce the number of apprentices, we want to increase it. Following engagement with Make UK and others, I am announcing a further £50 million of funding over the next two years to pilot ways to increase the number of apprentices in engineering and other key growth sectors where there are shortages. [Hon. Members: “Is that it?”] There are 110 of these measures, so be patient, folks.

I will move on to planning. It takes too long to approve infrastructure projects and business planning applications. Many businesses say that they would be willing to pay more if they knew their application would be approved faster. Therefore, from next year, working with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, I will reform the system to allow local authorities to recover the full costs of major business planning applications in return for being required to meet guaranteed faster timelines. If they fail, fees will be refunded automatically, with the application being processed free of charge—a prompt service or your money back, just as would be the case in the private sector.

Many planning applications are for house building. The Leader of the Opposition told us that he wanted to be a builder, not a blocker. That did not last long: just a few months later, Labour blocked reforms to the rules on nutrient neutrality, shamelessly preventing 100,000 houses from being built. Conservatives, on the other hand, are the builders, with more homes being completed in 2021-22 than in any single year of the last Labour Government.

Today, we take further decisions to unlock the building of more homes. We will invest £110 million over this year and next to deliver high-quality nutrient mitigation schemes, unlocking 40,000 homes. We will invest £32 million to bust the planning backlog and develop fantastic new housing quarters in Cambridge, London and Leeds, which will lead to many thousands of additional dwellings. We will allocate £450 million to the local authority housing fund to deliver 2,400 new homes, and we will consult on a new permitted development right to allow any house to be converted into two flats provided the exterior remains unaffected.

It is also taking too long for clean energy businesses to access the electricity grid, so after talking to businesses such as National Grid, Octopus Energy and SSE, we today publish our full response to the Winser review and the connections action plan. These measures will cut grid access delays by 90% and offer up to £10,000 off electricity bills over 10 years for those living closest to new transmission infrastructure. Taken together, those planning and grid reforms are estimated to accelerate around £90 billion of additional business investment over the next 10 years.

Next, on foreign direct investment, I am extremely grateful to Lord Harrington for his excellent report on how to increase foreign direct investment. We accept all his headline recommendations. In particular, we will put in place a concierge service for large international investors modelled on the best such services offered by our competitors, and we will increase funding for the Office for Investment to deliver it.

I now turn to reforms to pension funds that will increase the flow of capital going to our most promising growth companies in a way that also improves outcomes for savers. I will take forward my Mansion House reforms starting with measures to consolidate the industry. By 2030, the majority of workplace defined contribution savers will have their pension pots managed in schemes of over £30 billion, and by 2040 all local government pension funds will be invested in pools of £200 billion or more. I will support the establishment of investment vehicles for pension funds to use, including through the LIFTS competition—the long-term investment for technology and science competition, a new growth fund run by the British Business Bank—and by opening the Pension Protection Fund as an investment vehicle for smaller defined benefit pension schemes.

I will also consult on giving savers a legal right to require a new employer to pay pension contributions into their existing pension pot if they choose to do so, meaning that people can move to having one pension pot for life. These reforms could unlock an extra £75 billion of financing for high-growth companies by 2030 and provide an extra £1,000 a year in retirement for an average earner saving from 18. Alongside this, I am proposing further capital market reforms to boost the attractiveness of our markets and make sure the UK remains one of the most attractive places to start, grow and list a company. As part of this, I will explore options for a NatWest retail share offer in the next 12 months, subject to market conditions and achieving value for money. It’s time to get Sid investing again.

I now turn to measures to support our most innovative industries. In the last decade under the Conservatives, we have grown to become the third largest technology sector in the world—double the size of Germany and three times the size of France. We have the biggest life sciences industry in Europe, and we are Europe’s third largest generator of renewable electricity after Germany and Norway, and the eighth largest manufacturer in the world. When it comes to tech, we know that artificial intelligence will be at the heart of any future growth, and I want to make sure that our universities, scientists and start-ups can access the compute power they need. As such, building on the success of the supercomputing centres in Edinburgh and Bristol, I will invest a further £500 million over the next two years to fund further innovation centres to help make us an AI powerhouse.

Our creative industries already support Europe’s largest film and TV sector. This year’s all-Californian blockbuster “Barbie” was filmed in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Dean Russell)—where, of course, the sun always shines. Even more could be invested in visual effects if we increased the generosity of the film and high-end TV tax credits, so I will today launch a call for evidence on how to make that happen.

British-discovered vaccines and treatments saved more lives across the world during the pandemic than those from any other country, and I am incredibly proud of our life sciences industry. To further support research and development, I am creating a new, simplified R&D tax relief that combines the existing R&D expenditure credit and small and medium-sized enterprise schemes. I will also reduce the rate at which loss-making companies are taxed within the merged scheme from 25% to 19%, and lower the threshold for the additional support for R&D-intensive loss-making SMEs that I announced in the spring to 30%, which will benefit a further 5,000 SMEs. And because 2028 marks the centenary of the invention of penicillin by Alexander Fleming, I am giving £5 million to Imperial College and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to set up a Fleming centre to inspire the next generation of world-changing innovations.

International investors say that the biggest thing we could do for our advanced manufacturing and green energy sectors is announce a longer-term strategy for their industries, so with the Secretaries of State for Business and Trade and for Energy Security and Net Zero, I am today publishing those plans. I confirm that we will make available £4.5 billion of support over the five years to 2030 to attract investment into strategic manufacturing sectors. That includes: £2 billion of support for zero-emission investments in the automotive sector, which has been warmly welcomed by Nissan and Toyota; £975 million for aerospace, building on decades of success from firms such as Airbus and Rolls-Royce; and £520 million for life sciences, building on the strength of world-class British pharma companies such as AstraZeneca and GSK. We will also provide £960 million for the new green industries growth accelerator, focused on offshore wind; electricity networks; nuclear; carbon capture, utilisation and storage; and hydrogen. Those targeted investments will ensure that the UK remains competitive in sectors where we are already leaders, and innovative in sectors where we are not. Taken together, that support will attract an estimated £2 billion of additional investment across our fastest-growing innovation sectors every year over the next decade.

One reason why we support our manufacturing and clean energy sectors is that they help to level up growth across the United Kingdom, so I now turn to further levelling-up measures. In the spring, I announced that we would deliver 12 new investment zones—12 mini Canary Wharfs—where Government, industry and research institutes will collaborate across the UK. Since then, the Exchequer Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Gareth Davies), has done outstanding work across Government to bring that vision to fruition. Following tenacious representations from my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie)—no Chancellor’s speech would be complete without a mention of my hon. Friend—and from the unstoppable Mayor of Tees Valley, I have today decided to extend the financial incentives for investment zones and the tax reliefs for freeports from five years to 10 years. I will also set up a £150 million investment opportunity fund to catalyse investment into that programme.

On Monday, I confirmed that there will be a new investment zone in West Yorkshire. Today, having listened to representations from the west midlands salesman-in-chief Andy Street, as well as my hon. Friends the Members for Mansfield (Ben Bradley) and for Bury North (James Daly), I am announcing three further investment zones focused on advanced manufacturing in the west midlands, east midlands and Greater Manchester. Together, local partners expect that those investment zones will help catalyse over £3 billion of private investment and 65,000 new jobs. Having listened to my hon. Friends the Members for Wrexham (Sarah Atherton) and for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes), I can announce a second investment zone in Wales in the fantastic region of Wrexham and Flintshire, which I will visit tomorrow.

We are publishing new devolution deals with four areas, including Hull and East Yorkshire, and offering devolved powers to even more county areas. One of those areas will be the leafiest and most charming county in the country, namely Surrey, where of course the Leader of the Opposition grew up—we do not get everything right. On Monday, we saw the announcement of £1 billion of funding through round 3 of the levelling-up fund, supporting projects following the campaigning efforts of Members from Keighley, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Scunthorpe—and of course, Mr Speaker, Chorley. I can also confirm that we will proceed with over £50 million of funding for high-quality regeneration projects in communities such as Bolsover, Monmouthshire, Warrington and Eden Valley, all of which have particularly effective local MPs as their champions. Because we are proudly the Conservative and Unionist party, I am announcing £80 million for the new levelling-up partnerships in Scotland, £500,000 to support the Hay festival in Wales, and £3 million of additional funding to support the successful tackling paramilitarism programme in Northern Ireland.

I turn next to small businesses—I ran my own for 14 years, and have always known that every big business was a small business once. The Federation of Small Businesses says that the biggest thing I could do to help its members is end the scourge of late payments. We passed the Procurement Act 2023, which means that the 30-day payment terms that are already set for public sector contracts will automatically apply throughout the subcontractor supply chain, but from April 2024 I will also introduce a condition that any company bidding for large Government contracts should demonstrate that it pays its own invoices within an average of 55 days. That number will reduce progressively to 30 days.

Any small business will also say that the biggest frustration it faces is the tax it pays before making a penny of profit, not least business rates. The Government have already taken a third of properties completely out of rates through small business rates relief. We have frozen the tax rate for the last three years, at a cost of £14.5 billion; we have removed downwards caps from transitional relief; and for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, we have introduced a one-year 75% discount on business rates up to £110,000. Those measures have saved the average independent shop over £20,000. It is not possible to continue with temporary support measures forever, but while the standard multiplier—which applies to high-value properties—will rise in line with inflation, I have today decided that we will freeze the small business multiplier for a further year.

Following extensive discussions with the FSB and many colleagues in this House, I have also decided to extend the 75% business rates discount for retail, hospitality and leisure for another year. This will save the average independent pub over £12,800 next year and, at a cost of £4.3 billion, is a large tax cut that recognises the role of pubs and high street shops in our communities. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Stockton South (Matt Vickers), for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell) and for East Devon (Simon Jupp) for their tenacious campaigning on this issue.

Finally, I turn to the smallest of all businesses—those run by the self-employed. These are the people who literally kept our country running during the pandemic: the plumbers who fixed our boilers in lockdowns, the delivery drivers who brought us our shopping and the farmers who kept food on our plates. As part of our plans to grow the economy, I want to reform and simplify taxes paid by the self-employed, so today I am announcing a major reform of one of those taxes. It is one most people have not heard of, but it is a big deal for those who have to pay it.

Class 2 national insurance is a flat-rate compulsory charge, currently £3.45 a week, paid by self-employed people earning more than £12,570, which gives state pension entitlement. Today, after careful consideration and in recognition of the contribution made by self-employed people to our country, I can announce that we are abolishing class 2 national insurance all together, saving the average self-employed person £192 a year. Access to entitlements and credits will be maintained in full and those who choose to pay voluntarily will still be able to do so, but this change simplifies and cuts tax for nearly 2 million self-employed people, while protecting the interests of those on the lowest pay.

Because we value their work, I am also taking one further step for the self-employed. They also pay class 4 national insurance at 9% on all earnings between £12,570 and £50,270. Today, I have decided to cut that tax by one percentage point to 8% from April. Taken together with the abolition of the compulsory class 2 charge, these reforms will save around 2 million self-employed people an average of £350 a year from April.

We are backing small businesses by freezing their business rates, extending retail, hospitality and leisure relief, abolishing compulsory class 2 national insurance payments and reducing class 4 national insurance by one percentage point in today’s autumn statement for growth. Small businesses work so hard for us, and a Conservative Government today are working hard for them.

I turn now to my final measure to back British business. As I have said, since 2010 we have seen the second highest growth in investment of any G7 country. However, if we are to raise productivity, we need to increase business investment further. In 2021, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister introduced the super-deduction for large businesses to further stimulate business investment, and this spring I introduced full expensing for three years. This means that for every £1 million a company invests, it gets £250,000 off its tax bill in the very same year.

The CBI, Make UK, the British Chambers of Commerce, Energy UK and 200 other business leaders from companies including BT Openreach, Siemens and Bosch, have said that making this measure permanent would be the “single most transformational” thing I could do for business investment and growth. The Centre for Policy Studies says it would

“maximise business investment, boost productivity and deliver…higher levels of GDP”.

But because it costs £11 billion a year, I made it clear that I would only do so when it was affordable. Well, with inflation halved, borrowing down and debt falling, today I deliver on that promise: I will today make full expensing permanent. That is the largest business tax cut in modern British history. It means we have not just the lowest headline corporation tax rate in the G7, but its most generous capital allowances.

The OBR says this will increase annual investment by around £3 billion a year and a total of £14 billion over the forecast period. We on this side of the House know that the way to back British business is not to borrow more or subsidise more, but to increase the incentives to invest. We do that today by introducing one of the most generous tax reliefs anywhere in the world, with a huge boost to British competitiveness in an autumn statement for growth—skills, planning and infrastructure reform, pension fund reform, support for innovation industries, levelling up, backing small business and full expensing.

Under Labour, business investment was 9.3% of GDP in real terms. Since 2010, it has been 9.8% of GDP. But today we go further because, taken together, the overall impact of today’s growth measures will be to increase business investment in the UK economy by around £20 billion a year within the decade—nearly 1% of GDP at today’s level. This is the biggest ever boost for business investment in modern times, a decisive step towards closing the productivity gap with other major economies, and the most effective way we can raise wages and living standards for every family in the country.

As well as backing business, Conservatives know that you need to back the people without whose effort no businesses can succeed: the entrepreneur taking risks, the builder working weekends, the nurse working nights, and the jobseeker leaving benefits behind. I will therefore conclude with three further supply-side reforms designed to improve the incentives to work in a modern, dynamic economy.

I begin with welfare, and I want to start by thanking the outstanding Work and Pensions Secretary for his help in developing these reforms. He builds on the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith), who introduced universal credit. Those reforms helped reduce unemployment, which has fallen by over 1 million, but Opposition Members, to their shame, voted against them 30 times. They think compassion is about giving money; we think it is about giving opportunity.

However, post pandemic, we still have over 7 million adults of working age, excluding students, who are not working, despite there being 1 million vacancies in the economy. Many can and want to work, but our system makes that too hard. In the spring Budget, I announced 30 hours of free childcare for working parents of one and two-year-olds. That plan, still opposed by the party opposite, starts rolling out in April. It will help tens of thousands of parents return to work without having to worry about damaging their career prospects.

Today, we focus on helping those with sickness or disability and the long-term unemployed. Every year, we sign off over 100,000 people on to benefits with no requirement to look for work because of sickness or disability. That waste of potential is wrong economically and wrong morally. So with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, last week I announced our back to work plan. We will reform the fit note process so that treatment rather than time off work becomes the default, we will reform the work capability assessment to reflect greater flexibility and availability of home working after the pandemic, and we will spend £1.3 billion over the next five years to help nearly 700,000 people with health conditions find jobs. Over 180,000 more people will be helped through the universal support programme, and nearly 500,000 more people will be offered treatment for mental health conditions and employment support.

Over the forecast period, the OBR judges that these measures will more than halve the flow of people who are signed off work with no work search requirements. At the same time, we will provide a further £1.3 billion of funding to offer extra help to the 300,000 people who have been unemployed for over a year without any sickness or disability. But we will ask for something in return. If, after 18 months of intensive support, jobseekers have not found a job, we will roll out a programme requiring them to take part in mandatory work placement to increase their skills and improve their employability. If they choose not to engage with the work search process for six months, we will close their case and stop their benefits.

Taken together with the labour supply measures I announced in the spring, the OBR says we will increase the number of people in work by around 200,000 by the end of the forecast period, permanently increasing the size of the economy. I know that some on the Opposition Benches would prefer to fill those vacancies in a different way; they hanker after a more liberal immigration regime or even dream of bringing back free movement. But Conservatives say that we should unlock the potential we have right here at home. We do that with the biggest set of welfare reforms in a decade in today’s autumn statement for growth.

If we are to incentivise work, we must also tackle low pay. People who get up early, put in the hours and work hard for their families deserve to be paid fairly. Since 2010, those on the minimum wage—now the national living wage—have seen their hourly wage go up from £5.80 an hour to £10.42 an hour. That is a real-terms increase of more than 20%. Because we have also doubled the threshold at which they pay tax or national insurance, their after-tax income has gone up not by 20%, but by 25%—more than for any other income group.

Today, I confirm that we will go further and accept the Low Pay Commission’s recommendation to increase the national living wage by 9.8% to £11.44 an hour. That is the largest-ever cash increase in the national living wage, worth up to £1,800 for a full-time worker. Since the national living wage has been introduced, the proportion of people on low pay—defined as earning less than two thirds of national median hourly income—has halved, but at the new rate of £11.44 an hour it delivers our manifesto commitment to eliminate low pay altogether. That means that by next year someone working full time on the national living wage will see their real take-home, after-tax pay go up not by 25%, but by 30% compared with 2010.

And that is the difference: the Labour party tried to reduce poverty by tinkering with benefits and tax credits—they wanted to move people from just below the poverty line to just above it—but Conservatives know that the best way to tackle poverty is through work. By reforming the welfare system, reducing the number of workless households and tackling low pay, we have helped lift 1.7 million people out of absolute poverty since 2010, because a central part of our plan for growth is to make work pay.

I move to the final supply-side measure in today’s autumn statement for growth. Because of the difficult decisions that we have taken in the last year, today’s OBR forecast shows that borrowing will be lower than forecast in the spring, debt as a proportion of GDP will be lower than forecast in the spring, inflation will continue to fall and our fiscal headroom has doubled. I said I would cut taxes when we could, but only responsibly and only in a way that did not fuel inflation. The OBR today confirms that I can deliver a package that does that.

For businesses, I have today delivered the biggest business tax cut in modern British history, with the most competitive investment allowances of any large economy. For the self-employed, I have simplified and reformed their taxes by abolishing the compulsory class 2 charge and cutting class 4 national insurance. But high employment taxes on 27 million people working in the public and private sectors also disincentivise the hard work that we should be encouraging. On top of income tax at 20%, they pay 12% national insurance on earnings between £12,570 and £50,270. That is a 32% marginal tax rate. If we want people to get up early in the morning, if we want them to work nights, and if we want an economy where people go the extra mile and work hard, we need to recognise that their hard work benefits us all.

So today I am going to cut the main 12% rate of employee national insurance. If I cut it by one percentage point to 11%, that would be an extra £225 in the pockets of the average worker every year. But instead I am going to go further and cut the main rate of employee national insurance by two percentage points, from 12% to 10%. That change will help 27 million people. It means that someone on the average salary of £35,000 will save over £450. For the average nurse, it is a saving of £520. For the typical police officer, it is a saving of £630 every single year. I would normally bring in such a measure for the start of the new tax year in April, but instead I will tomorrow introduce urgent legislation to bring it in from 6 January, so that people can see the benefit in their payslips at the start of the new year.

The OBR says that reducing a tax on work means more people in work, and it says that today’s measures on national insurance alone will lead to the equivalent of 94,000 full-time employees in our economy, because lower tax means higher growth. That is the difference between those of us on this side of the House and those on that side. In 13 years, Labour raised taxes in every single Budget, but Conservatives cut taxes when we responsibly can, and today we do just that. We cut taxes to help bigger businesses invest. We cut taxes to help smaller businesses grow. We cut taxes for the self-employed who keep our country running, and from January we cut taxes for 27 million working people whose hard work drives our economy forward.

The best universities, the cleverest scientists and the smartest entrepreneurs have given us Europe’s most innovative economy, but we can be the most prosperous too. In the face of global challenges, we have halved inflation, reduced our debt and grown our economy. As a country, we are sticking to a plan that is working. This autumn statement for growth will attract £20 billion of additional business investment a year in the next decade, bring tens of thousands of people into work and support our fastest growing industries, in a package that leaves borrowing lower, leaves debt lower and keeps inflation falling. We are delivering the biggest business tax cut in modern British history, the largest ever cut to employee and self-employed national insurance, and the biggest package of tax cuts to be implemented since the 1980s. It is an autumn statement for a country that has turned a corner; an autumn statement for growth. I commend it to the House.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Rachel Reeves Portrait Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) (Lab)
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Today the Chancellor has lifted the lid on 13 years of economic failure. We were told that this was to be an autumn statement for growth, but the economy is now forecast to be £40 billion smaller by 2027 than the Chancellor said back in March. Growth has been revised down next year, the year after, and the year after that too. The Chancellor claims that the economy has turned a corner, yet the truth is that, under the Conservatives, growth has hit a dead end.

What has been laid bare today is the full scale of the damage that this Government have done to our economy over 13 years, and nothing that has been announced today will remotely compensate. We see mortgages rising, taxes eating into wages, inflation high, with prices still going up in the shops, public services on their knees, and too many families struggling to make ends meet. As the sun begins to set on this divided, out-of-touch, weak Government, the only conclusion that the British people will reach is this: after 13 years of the Conservatives, the economy is simply not working and, despite all the promises today, working people are still worse off.

The centrepiece of today’s autumn statement is a cut in the headline rate of national insurance. I am old enough to remember when the Prime Minister wanted to put up national insurance. As recently as January last year he said:

“We must go ahead with the”

increase in the—

“health and care levy. It is progressive, in…that the burden falls most on those who can most afford it.”

Utter nonsense. It was a tax on working people, and we opposed it for that very reason. Yet again, the Prime Minister is left arguing against himself.

In response to last year’s autumn statement, I warned that the Government were pickpocketing working people through stealth taxes. I have long argued that taxes on working people are too high. Indeed, I said in my conference speech that I want them to be lower. From the Conservatives’ failure to uprate income tax or national insurance bands to their forcing councils to raise council tax, they have pushed the costs of their failure on to others. The British people will not be taken for fools—they know that what has been announced today owes more to the cynicism of a party desperate to cling on to power than to the real priorities of this high tax, low growth Conservative Government—so we can forgive taxpayers for not celebrating when they see the truth behind today’s announcements.

Going into the statement, the Government had already put in place tax increases worth the equivalent of a 10p increase in national insurance, so today’s 2p cut will not remotely compensate for the tax increases put in place by this Conservative Government. The fact is that taxes will be higher at the next election than they were at the last. This is the legacy of the Conservatives, and that is their record.

The Chancellor and the Prime Minister have spent the last two weeks marching their MPs up a hill only to march them down again on inheritance tax. Let us not forget that when they realised that they had money to spend—[Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Mr Cairns, I have heard you chirping all the way through. Either go and get yourself that cup of tea or be quiet.

Rachel Reeves Portrait Rachel Reeves
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When the Government realised that they had money to spend, their first instinct was a tax cut for millionaires. In the end, even they realised that they could not get away with it in the middle of a cost of living crisis. Will the Chancellor tell the House whether cutting inheritance tax is a decision delayed or a decision abandoned?

This autumn statement for growth is now the 11th Conservative economic growth plan from the fifth prime minister, the seventh Chancellor and the ninth Business Secretary. What do those numbers add up to? According to the most recent GDP data, a big fat zero. That is zero growth in the most recent data for the third quarter of this year. The Chancellor mentioned some countries that we are outperforming in growth, but I could not help but notice that he failed to mention any of the many advanced economies that have grown faster than the UK. Over the last 13 years of this low-growth Conservative Government, the UK languishes in the bottom third of OECD countries when it comes to growth. There are 27 OECD economies that have grown faster than us in the 13 years since 2010: the US, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Slovenia and 22 others. In fact, over the next two years, no fewer than 177 economies are forecast by the IMF to grow faster. [Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order.

Rachel Reeves Portrait Rachel Reeves
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They don’t bother me, Mr Speaker.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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It bothers me. I am not being funny. I expect courtesy to be shown to the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. Those who do not wish to give that courtesy, please go and find something else to do. My constituents are interested, even if yours are not.

Rachel Reeves Portrait Rachel Reeves
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Next year, we are forecast to be the slowest growing economy in the whole of the G7. When it comes to economic growth, under the Tories, we are more world-following than world-beating.

Let us look at how the Conservatives’ record on growth compares to Labour’s record on growth. Under the Conservatives, GDP growth has averaged 1.5% a year. With Labour, it grew by an average of 2% a year in the 13 years that we were last in office. Had the economy continued to grow at the rate it did under Labour, it would now be £150 billion bigger. What is the Government’s economic record? Lower growth and higher borrowing, with debt more than doubling—it is now at almost 100% of GDP. That is a product of their failures over 13 years. A Tory Government who have failed on growth, failed on debt, failed on levelling-up and failed on the cost of living, too. Now they expect the British people to believe them when they say they will turn it all around, when they are the problem, not the solution.

If we are going to grow the economy, we must get more people into work. Let me be clear: people who can work, should work. That is why we have long argued that the work capability assessment needs replacing, because right now it is discouraging people from seeking work. But there is a wider problem that yet again the Government are failing to face up to. Britain is the only country in the G7 where the employment rate still has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, with the increase in the number of people out of the workforce due to long-term health issues costing the taxpayer a staggering £15.7 billion a year. NHS waiting lists have swelled to 7.8 million—an additional half a million since the Prime Minister said he was going to cut them—and 2.6 million people are out of work due to long-term sickness.

A healthy nation is critical to a healthy economy. That is why Labour has pledged to cut hospital waiting lists, investing an additional £1.1 billion a year to deliver 2 million more appointments, scans and operations. It will be funded by abolishing the non-dom tax status and replacing it with a modern scheme for people genuinely living in the UK for short periods. But, once again, we see that that policy has been vetoed by the Prime Minister. The best way to get people back to work is to get our NHS working, but the reality is you can never trust the Tories with our NHS.

The Chancellor has made great fanfare about public sector efficiency and value for money. That is from a Government who have blown £140 million on a discredited Rwanda scheme and yet are not able to send a single asylum seeker there, £7.2 billion of money lost on fraud during the pandemic—all those cheques were signed by the former Chancellor, the current Prime Minister—and £8.7 billion on personal protective equipment that has been written off. High Speed 2 is costing £57 billion, with not a single piece of track going north of Birmingham. No one can trust the Tories with taxpayers' money.

It says it all that after 13 years of Tory Government, there are still nearly 12,000 NHS computers running on outdated software that is vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Ten years ago, when he was Health Secretary, the now Chancellor promised a paperless NHS by 2018, yet today, in 2023, 26 NHS trusts are still using fax machines. Why on earth should people who experience deteriorating public services under this Conservative Government trust them to fix that, when his six years as Health Secretary make him one of the biggest architects of failure? Mr Speaker,

“if you put your hands into people’s pockets and take money out of them, and they do not see visible improvements in the services they receive, they get very angry indeed.”—[Official Report, 14 September 2021; Vol. 700, c. 851.]

Those are not my words but the Chancellor’s words two years ago. I agree with him. The Tories have had 13 years to improve public services and they have failed. This is too little and too late.

I do welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of additional funding to tackle antisemitism and Islamophobia to keep our communities safe, as well as the additional money for the Holocaust Educational Trust. There is no place for hate in our society, and I know that across the House we will work together to eliminate it.

The Chancellor calls this an autumn statement for growth, but it is Labour that has led the agenda on growth. Today, we see that the Conservatives have released their own poor cover version of what we have already announced. The Chancellor is talking about unlocking capital by reforming pensions, but Labour would go further, encouraging investment in British start-up and scale-up firms and introducing measures to ensure the consolidation of pension funds, so that our pensions system gets better returns for savers and for the UK economy.

On planning, the Conservatives are following Labour’s lead on taking money off bills for communities that host grid infrastructure and on speeding up planning decisions. What has taken them so long? Labour will get Britain building again, with a once-in-a-generation set of reforms to accelerate the building of our country’s national infrastructure and to build housing, too. We will fast-track battery factories, our life sciences and 5G technology, to grow our economy and provide good jobs in every part of our country.

We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement that he will make full expensing permanent—another thing that we have been calling for. But that does not make up for the years of uncertainty that businesses have faced, with taxes going up and down like a yo-yo. Small and medium businesses, which play a pivotal role in growing our economy, are left exposed to the Tories’ economic volatility. Labour’s partnership with business will get our economy firing on all cylinders. That is why this week we established a new British infrastructure council, with key investors in the UK economy focused on unlocking private investment by addressing the delivery challenges that businesses face when investing in Britain. Through Labour’s new national wealth fund, we will work alongside the private sector to back the growth of British industries, so that we can make the crucial transition to a zero-carbon economy. For every pound of public investment, we will leverage in three times as much private investment, while also getting a return for taxpayers. Labour’s plan will boost our economy, get debt falling and make working people better off.

If we listened to Members on the Government Benches, we would believe that the cost of living crisis was behind us. But inflation is still double the Bank of England’s target rate. I know the importance of low and stable inflation from my time as an economist at the Bank of England. It is welcome that the Chancellor has accepted this year’s recommendations from the Low Pay Commission—which we set up—on the minimum wage, but the reality of the Conservatives’ record is that average wages for working people have been held back. Under this Government, real average weekly wages have increased by just 3% in 13 years, compared with a 27% increase under the last Labour Government—worth an additional £120 every week for someone going out to work every day. Today is Equal Pay Day, so it is important to recognise that the living standards of working women have also been held back by a gender pay gap that I am determined to close.

The Chancellor and the Prime Minister say that the cost of living crisis has been dealt with. Everything might look a little better 10,000 feet up in a helicopter, but down here on planet Earth, people are approaching Christmas and the year ahead with worry and trepidation. The cost of living crisis has hit us harder because Tory mismanagement has left us so exposed. Some 11 million UK households do not have enough savings to cover three weeks of living expenses if they need it. Working families have been skating on thin ice for too long. As their resilience has been eroded, so has our national economy’s. Let us not forget that this Government oversaw the closure of our critical gas storage facilities, which left our country more exposed to huge fluctuations in international energy markets. The former Prime Minister—that is, four Prime Ministers ago—cut energy efficiency programmes, leading to higher bills for homeowners.

Just last year, we saw the true cost of the Conservatives when their kamikaze Budget crashed the economy, leading to market turmoil, pensions in peril and a spike in interest rates. Some 1.6 million families will see their mortgage deals end this year. Those re-mortgaging since July have seen their payments rocket by an average of £220 every month. Next year, 1.5 million families will face a similar fate. The Conservatives’ economic recklessness inflicted a Tory mortgage penalty on families across the country. In Wellingborough, families with a mortgage will be expected to find an additional £190 every single month. In Richmond, north Yorkshire, homeowners face £200 more a month on their mortgage. In the Chancellor’s own constituency—though maybe not for long—families with a mortgage will see an average increase of £420 a month because of this Conservative Government’s economic failure. Given increased costs for landlords—the Chancellor knows something about that—renters are paying a high price, too.

The truth is that working people just do not have that sort of money lying around. This is what we have come to after 13 years of Conservative Government. This is the record upon which people will judge the Conservatives at the next election. Tory economic recklessness is not a thing of the past. The British people are still paying the price. We say, never again. Last week, Labour tabled an amendment to the King’s Speech to put our fiscal lock into law. It would prevent a repeat of last year’s economic horror show, yet the Tories voted against it. It is clear that today, Labour is the party of economic and fiscal responsibility. What have the Conservatives learned? Absolutely nothing.

The country is crying out for change. A decaying Government can change their personnel but they have failed to change the direction of our country. In 13 years, we have had seven Chancellors. He would not run a business like this; he cannot run a country like it, either. The Prime Minister cannot even promise that this Chancellor will be in place at the next election. We have all heard the reports: when they first came together, it was a fairytale marriage, but one year on, the relationship has hit the rocks. The pair have grown apart, with rumours running rife that the Prime Minister already has his eyes on someone else.

Whoever this Prime Minister picks as Chancellor, the truth is that Britain is and will be worse off under the Conservatives. They have held back growth, crashed our economy, increased debt, trashed our public services, left businesses out in the cold and made life harder for working people. Our country cannot afford five more years of the Conservatives. The ravens are leaving the tower when even Saatchi & Saatchi says that the Tories are not working. The questions that people will ask at the next election, and after today’s autumn statement, are simple: do me and my family feel better off after 13 years of Conservative Government? Do our schools, hospitals and police work better after 13 years of Conservative Government? In fact, does anything in Britain work better today than when the Conservatives came into office 13 years ago? We all know that working people are worse off under the Conservatives, with growth down, mortgages up, prices up, taxes up and debt up. Their time is up. It is time for change—a changed Labour party to lead Britain and to make working people better off.

Economic Growth

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Tuesday 14th November 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)
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It has been said that we enjoyed a holiday from history between the fall of the Berlin wall and 11 September 2001, but unfortunately history has now etched two more horrendous dates into our memories: 24 February 2022 for Russia’s evil invasion of Ukraine, and 7 October 2023 for Hamas’s evil terrorist attack on innocent Israelis. It is against this tumultuous backdrop that we discuss His Majesty’s historic first Gracious Speech—the first King’s Speech for 70 years, and a speech that represents a profound moment in the stability and continuity of our unwritten constitution. That we were able to change our sovereign and change our Prime Minister twice last year and arrive at the Gracious Speech with entirely peaceful transitions of power is something that we should all find profoundly moving.

Our world seems increasingly dangerous, and around the perimeters of NATO we see terrible conflict and lots of mischief being played to stir up conflict. As a proud member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I know how important it is that NATO countries continue to show unity and that our door is open to new members such as Sweden and Finland, as well as, of course, Ukraine, Moldova and, I hope, Georgia; I draw attention to my interest in that country. It is time that Putin realised that annexing his neighbours gives him more NATO on his borders, not less.

In His Majesty’s Gracious Speech, there was not a lot to distract the Treasury Committee; that will come in next week’s autumn statement—and let me add, in case colleagues are interested, that in addition to our Committee’s scrutiny of that statement, the Bank of England and the financial regulators, we currently have open inquiries into access to finance for small and medium-sized businesses, quantitative tightening, sexism in the City and central bank digital currencies.

I am glad that His Majesty, and also the Chancellor today, have emphasised the focus on increasing economic growth. I am glad that everyone now agrees that we should continue to take action to bring down inflation, ease the cost of living for families, and help businesses to fund new jobs and investment. I am also glad that Ministers will help the Bank of England to return inflation to target. It is the Bank of England that has raised mortgage rates, and the Governor of the Bank of England has acknowledged that the only increases that mortgage payers are now seeing are thanks to its efforts to control inflation and are nothing to do with the decisions of our now responsible Treasury.

These decisions will help household finances, reduce public sector debt and safeguard the financial security of our country, about which my constituents care deeply. Tomorrow we should see a milestone in the quest to reduce inflation: the market expects the consumer prices index to decline to 4.7%, and, combined with wage growth of more than 7%, that means that real wage growth has returned to our economy. We have also seen low pay fall dramatically: fewer than 10% of the many millions more people who are now in work are low paid, thanks to the national living wage.

There was one omission from the Gracious Speech, in respect of what I regard as constitutional sexism in our country. No steps were announced to end the indefensible system of “men only” seats in the other place. The 92 hereditary peerages are almost exclusively for men, and the Hereditary Titles (Female Succession) Bill, which I tried to get enacted in the last parliamentary Session in order to change that, sadly did not make it on to the statute book. I shall try again to get a good slot in the ballot for private Members’ Bills, and if I do so, I will reintroduce that Bill. If I do not get a good slot, I will invite my colleagues to take up the baton.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to a maiden speech.

Oral Answers to Questions

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Tuesday 14th November 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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My hon. Friend is right to say that our food industry is very important to food security. We need to keep the priorities constantly under review. Nature is a very important part of that, but so too is food production.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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It is good to be addressing an elected Minister this morning. The consumer organisation Which? has described Tesco and Sainsbury’s as committing “dodgy” practices over food prices and loyalty schemes, and Marks & Spencer has just posted record profits on food sales, yet people up and down the nations of the UK are struggling to pay their food bills. Will the Chancellor tell us which supermarkets he has held to account over rising food prices?

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Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I am afraid that what we are probably seeing is “same old Labour”—we have heard this all before. What they are proposing did not work in the ’70s and it will not work now. We are very proud of our tax record, particularly taking the lowest paid out of income tax.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab)
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I welcome the Minister to his place. The Government have the opportunity next week to right an historical wrong by abolishing non-dom tax status. The Chancellor could use that money to get our NHS back on its feet and to provide free breakfast clubs for all primary-age children, just as Labour has called for. Is the abolition of non-dom tax status under consideration, or has the Prime Minister ruled it out again, for personal reasons?

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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I thank my hon. Friend and, indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Holly Mumby-Croft) for their extensive lobbying on this very important issue. I have had meetings with him and her, and with many others, to discuss it. I reassure him that we are absolutely committed to steel production in the United Kingdom, and to making sure that any changes that are necessary support the local communities that depend on steel production.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Darren Jones Portrait Darren Jones (Bristol North West) (Lab)
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I welcome the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Laura Trott) to her place. I look forward to holding her to account.

Last month, the Chancellor’s National Infrastructure Commission said that in order to unlock the billions of pounds of private investment that is available to get our economy growing, we need a Government who can “make good decisions, fast.” Why does the Chancellor think his Government have been making bad decisions slowly for quite so long?

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Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con)
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13. What steps his Department is taking to encourage pension schemes to invest in the UK.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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While we are basking in those questions, would somebody like to answer them?

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Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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Can I ask the Minister why he said he wants particularly to support investment and growth in Sussex? [Interruption.] Is that the Tories reverting to type in terms of the blue wall?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I think it was Essex, not Sussex.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
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They are all the same to me.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Have you got a question? I do not think an answer is needed.

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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising the support we give to small businesses. As he will know, supporting small businesses, particularly by rolling over the retail, hospitality and leisure business rates discount of 75%, was a major feature of the autumn statement. We will continue to keep under review anything that we can do to help our small businesses.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Chancellor.

Rachel Reeves Portrait Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) (Lab)
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I welcome all the new Ministers to their roles and wish them well in them. The covid inquiry is uncovering unsavoury examples of Government mismanagement. We already know that Ministers ignored warnings that their business loan schemes were vulnerable to organised crime, yet the Prime Minister left the vaults open to fraudsters. Will the Chancellor update the House on the latest estimates of taxpayers’ money lost to fraud from the covid support schemes?

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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I am answering a lot of the topical questions today because I have a new team. I want to reassure the hon. Lady that we are very aware of the financial pressures that local authorities are under. I am having extensive discussions with the Communities Secretary.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Treasury Committee.

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)
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On the Conservative Benches we all agree that the way to sustainable economic growth without inflation is through business investment. It is early days, but I wonder whether we have indications of how well full expensing is working for encouraging business investment in this country. Is the Chancellor considering making that full expensing permanent next week at the autumn statement?

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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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Because we attract wealth creators from all over the world—and this may be uncomfortable for those on the Opposition Benches—we generate huge amounts of tax revenue. Financial services pay for half the cost of running the NHS. I am in favour of getting everyone to pay their fair share of tax, but I will not make reforms that mean less tax revenue for the NHS.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call David Linden to ask the final question.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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The Westminster-made cost of living crisis is having a devastating impact on household incomes, particularly in Broomhouse, where many young homeowners are seeing mortgage prices soaring. Will the Chancellor use the autumn statement to introduce mortgage interest tax relief to help people across Glasgow to deal with the cost of living crisis?

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have taken enormous steps over the past year to help families throughout Scotland to deal with cost of living pressures. If he really thinks that people in Scotland believe that this was a “made in Westminster” problem, when we have experienced an invasion of Ukraine and a global pandemic, I simply say to him in return that after 16 years of SNP rule, GDP per head in Scotland is lower, productivity is falling, employment is lower, and inactivity is higher—[Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Members need to give me a good reason not to bring them in at the end again: be careful! Let us come to the statement—[Interruption.] Angus, you’ll find the door, I think, in a minute.