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Inflation: Average Earnings

Volume 560: debated on Tuesday 12 March 2013

11. What recent estimate he has made of the extent to which the rate of increase of average earnings has kept in line with the rate of consumer price inflation. (147133)

The average gross weekly earnings of full-time employees rose by 2.8% between the last quarter of 2011 and the last quarter of 2012, while consumer prices rose by 2.7%. As a result of the increases in the personal tax allowance and rising employment, average household disposable income has increased by 2.8% more than inflation.

Clearly the Chancellor has no understanding of what it is like to get by on a low income when increases in prices such as VAT mean debt and hardship for many families. Equally, last week the Office for Budget Responsibility confirmed that the Prime Minister has no understanding of his economic policies either. Is that why the Chancellor is implementing a tax cut for millionaires—because he does not understand real life or economics?

If the hon. Lady had a grasp of economics, she would understand the need to take people out of taxation, which is what we have done through the increase in the personal allowance. In fact, that increase affects the lowest paid most of all and is equivalent to a pay increase of 4.5% since the general election. A higher personal allowance is a better policy than the shadow Chancellor’s plan to introduce the 10p rate, which the Financial Times described as “a pretty basic howler”.

The shadow Chancellor is a very gracious chap and, I am sure, would wish to commend the Government for taking 25 million people out of tax by the simple measure of increasing the personal allowance. Can my right hon. Friend share with the House what that means for an individual’s annual budget?

Yes. By next month it will be worth £600 a year for every basic rate taxpayer, which is an enormous increase. For someone on median earnings, it is equivalent to a pay rise of 4.5%. I would have thought that the shadow Chancellor, who professes to be interested in helping the low-paid, would endorse the policy.