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Tax Policies: Impact on Living Standards

Volume 747: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2024

6. What recent assessment he has made of the potential impact of his tax policies on living standards. (902060)

12. What recent assessment he has made of the potential impact of his tax policies on living standards. (902068)

Thanks to the combined impact of national insurance cuts and above-inflation increases to thresholds since 2010, an average worker on £35,400 in 2024-25 will pay over £1,500 less in personal taxes than they otherwise would have done. These national insurance contribution cuts were possible due to the significant progress we have made in combating inflation.

I heard what the Minister has to say but does he not recognise the OBR’s assessment of the interplay between the Government’s threshold changes and NICs? The OBR concludes that for every 5p gain per year there is a 10p loss, particularly for those on lower wages. Does he accept the OBR assessment?

I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman looks carefully, he will see that the Government have demonstrated their commitment to supporting the most vulnerable in society. He will also have heard my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) explain the circumstances as to why we have higher taxes than we would desire. If the hon. Gentleman is telling me that Labour party policy is to change the thresholds, perhaps he can have that conversation with the shadow Chancellor, who can explain how she would pay for that.

The OBR has said that this will be the worst Parliament on record for living standards and the only one in which they have fallen: people are poorer after 14 years of this Government. We do not need fiscal tweaks; this economy needs renewal. It needs to bring in investment on a major scale, and a new age of education, training and employment in the real economy. My constituents cannot afford to wait while the Tory party looks for its polling fortunes to change. Have we not now reached the point where the best thing for the economy is a general election?

I completely disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s explanation. Not only will I repeat that our constituents completely understand the difficult global circumstances, with the pandemic and the cost of living challenges following the invasion of Ukraine, but I can say that we have grown faster since 2010 than many other major economies, and the IMF forecasts that we will grow faster than Germany, France, Italy and Japan. In the year to the third quarter of 2023, real household disposable income per person was around £1,100 higher than the Office for Budget Responsibility expected in its spring Budget 2023 forecast. We have turned a corner, and the best thing to do is to stick with the Conservatives.

The Minister says that the economy has turned a corner, but households will be £870 worse off on average under the Conservatives tax plan, and they will also be seeing their costs up by £110 a week compared with before the last election. Is the Minister proud of his record?

We are immensely proud of our record since 2010: living standards have increased, and growth is now better than that of many other major economies. Our absolute commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in society was shown recently when we provided an average of £3,400 in cost of living support for each household. We have turned a corner, and the economy is improving. I am just disappointed that the Opposition constantly talk down the UK economy and their constituents.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, following the 4p cut in national insurance that the Chancellor has introduced, the tax take on workers will be the lowest it has been for 50 years? In St Austell and Newquay, two people in a household on average incomes will be paying £1,800 less this coming year than they did last year.

Yes, absolutely, my hon. Friend has pointed out an important point on how we have had a laser focus on reducing the personal tax rates. Furthermore, the measures announced in the autumn statement and in the spring Budget will significantly add to economic activity, contributing about 200,000 full-time equivalent jobs to the economy, and I am sure that the whole House will welcome that.

Pensioners can often struggle because they have a fixed income, so I was pleased that the Chancellor stuck with the triple lock last year, guaranteeing an increase of 10.1%. Will the Minister explain how the 8.5% rise that people will be getting in a couple of weeks’ time will make a difference to their living standards?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is the case that not only have the measures in the autumn statement and the spring Budget helped workers, but we have also focused on helping pensioners. Those on the new state pension will benefit to the tune of about £900 a year, which is significant, and the national insurance cuts will benefit the average worker —27 million employees—by £900 a year. Therefore, we have implemented a fair and balanced Budget and fair and balanced measures.

Families in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke have been supported by this national insurance cut, which means that the average family will be £1,800 a year better off. The freezing of the fuel duty means that motorists will be able to get around without being unfairly charged at the pump. Money from this Government has enabled Stoke-on-Trent to cut bus fares by a third, so that people can travel around. We have had £56 million from the levelling-up fund and £17.6 million for the Kidsgrove town deal, which means that the sports centre will be refurbished and reopened, improving people’s health chances. The Labour party closed it because it could not be bothered to pay a single pound to save it back in 2017. Is it not the reality that we have a clear plan that will help the families of our great constituencies, particularly in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, while Labour will borrow more, tax us higher and lead us back into recession, just as it did in 2008-09?

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.

As I said, we are turning a corner and have therefore made measures to put money back into people’s pockets. I do not think it would come as a surprise to the hon. Gentleman’s constituents, or to those of any Labour Member looking at the Labour Opposition’s recent record, that Labour claimed on the one hand that it was supportive of tax cuts, but last week failed to support those tax cuts when it came to it in Parliament.

The Minister did not answer the question about why the public feel worse off. We on the Labour side of the House know why. He mentions tax cuts, but he does not talk about the freezing of tax thresholds, or indeed about the council tax that is about to be levied on people, not just this year but each year for the next five years. Why cannot he admit that, for every 10p extra in the pound taken from people since 2010, the Government are only now giving back just 5p?

If I am hearing correctly, the Labour Front Benchers are announcing fundamental changes to policy that they have not yet costed. They did not object, as far as I am aware, to any of the measures required to support households and businesses during the pandemic, which necessitated increases in taxation. We are now reducing the level of taxation because we have turned a corner. They did not support that. It is interesting that they say one thing but then do not take action. I think they need to explain to their constituents why they failed to support the tax cuts last week.