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Volume 173: debated on Thursday 7 June 1990

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To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many taxes have been abolished since 1979.

Five: the investment income surcharge, the national insurance surcharge, development land tax, tax on lifetime gifts and capital duty. Moreover, in his 1990 Budget, my right hon. Friend announced the abolition of stamp duty on share transactions from late 1991–92 and the abolition of composite rate tax.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that that fine achievement is still incomplete? Will he undertake to abolish in the next Parliament as many as possible of the taxes remaining in this Parliament? I suggest for early inclusion stamp duty on house purchase and inheritance tax.

It remains the Government's objective to find taxes that can be abolished and certainly to simplify the tax system. My hon. Friend might also have noticed that, whereas we have abolished five taxes, in its policy document the Labour party proposes the addition of five brand new taxes.

Is not there one tax that the Government have brought in which should be abolished—the poll tax? Is not it a fact that, for every tax that he has abolished, the Chancellor has abolished many benefits, many jobs and all the other things that go with public expenditure that Labour supported?

The hon. Gentleman should recognise that we have dramatically cut the burden of income tax and that that has gone alongside a considerable improvement in living standards, which have increased dramatically during the past decade.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his excellent record, but is he aware of the disappointment among my hon. Friends that he has not been able to abolish inheritance tax, especially for small businesses? In view of the tremendous contribution that small businesses make to the economy in general, and to employment in particular, if my right hon. Friend cannot abolish inheritance tax, will he at least ease its quite unjustified burden?

I note what my hon. Friend says, but I am sure that he will acknowledge that we have dramatically reformed the punitive rates of taxation on businesses in capital transfer tax and that we have greatly increased the reliefs for businesses, which make it much easier for small businesses to be transferred from one generation to another. That has been recognised by the small business lobby, but I note what my hon. Friend has said.

In pursuit of the objective of honest taxation, which was identified by the Chancellor a few moments ago, will the Chief Secretary now give us the other side of the balance sheet and list the taxes that have been increased under this Government, starting with VAT and national insurance contributions, and finishing with the poll tax?

As I have already pointed out in reply to the main question, although indirect taxes have been increased, they are taken into account when measuring real standards of living—and real standards of living have dramatically increased on a per annum basis far more than ever happened when the Labour party was in power.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the greatest benefits to the regional economies has been abolition of the taxation and bureaucratic burdens that lay upon them? Will he speculate on the damaging effects of a payroll tax and a regional assembly with taxation powers of its own, as proposed by the Labour party?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Labour party is proposing new tax-raising powers for an elected Scottish Assembly. It has also advanced the idea of a training levy, which would be yet another new tax on jobs. We know that when it was in power the Labour party imposed taxes on jobs and destroyed jobs through the tax system.