Skip to main content

Tax System: Fairness

Volume 732: debated on Tuesday 9 May 2023

It is right that everyone contributes to sustainable public finances, and the Government are ensuring that those with the broadest shoulders pay their fair share. The spring Budget took steps to tackle avoidance and to improve the ability of His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to collect tax debts. That is alongside taking millions out of tax altogether by consistently raising personal tax allowances. An average of more than £3,300 of assistance per household in the UK has been provided for help with the cost of living over this year and last.

Last week, energy companies announced record profits—some £60 million a day from North sea oil and gas. Today, the Daily Mirror reports that last month 2 million people were unable to pay a bill, so why on earth do the Government not close those huge, huge holes in the levy on North sea oil and gas profits, and get that money to the people who need it?

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is being quite fair, as he neglects to tell the House the rate of levy for those companies. He will understand why we have said to businesses that want to invest to improve energy security in the United Kingdom that we will support such investment. That is in our interests, as we have heard today concerns raised by Members of Parliament on behalf of their constituents about the cost of living and the impact particularly of energy prices.

The Government recently announced a huge tax giveaway to the very wealthiest, allowing them to stash vast sums in their pensions tax-free. The £1 billion annual cost of that handout would cover the cost of free school meals. Food banks gave out a million food parcels for children last year, so why do the Government think that this tax cut for the super-rich is a priority?

I gently remind the hon. Gentleman of the conversation that happened at the Budget—I hope he recalls it—about the need to get doctors, consultants and those in the public sector back into the NHS. We heard from doctors themselves—the British Medical Association and others—that there were barriers in the pension tax rules which stopped them continuing to serve. I am delighted if those rules help more doctors to serve our NHS and help our constituents who are patients—helping doctors to continue to serve in that vital public service. The difference between Conservatives in government and Opposition Members is that we listen to people, and we deliver what we need to keep the economy going and help our NHS.

One of the best ways to ensure fairness in the tax system is to let people keep more of their hard-earned money. Last summer, the Prime Minister outlined a plan that would cut the basic rate of income tax to 15p in the pound by the end of the decade. Can the Minister let me know when that plan will be outlined in more detail?

I hope my hon. Friend has been listening to what the Chancellor said at spring Budget and in speeches since then about the need for fiscal responsibility. We have to be fiscally responsible; we have acknowledged that. We have had to make some very difficult decisions along the way, but we are clear that halving inflation, tackling our debt and growing the economy will enable us to make the sorts of tax cuts that he and I both want to see so much.

Tens of thousands of people have been affected by the loan charge, with some having faced well-documented distress and harm as a result of HMRC’s approach. At the same time, HMRC has been issuing fewer than two fines a year against the architects and enablers of failed tax avoidance schemes. It is absolutely right that disguised remuneration schemes are tackled fairly and effectively, so how on earth can the Conservative Government justify such a light-touch approach for the promoters of such schemes, while many of those caught up in them face such a nightmare?

I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the strengthening of HMRC’s powers to tackle promoters of tax avoidance in the Finance Acts of 2021 and 2022, with a further tough new package of measures to ensure that promoters face stronger sanctions much more quickly. These measures will raise £130 million over the next five years and are already being used. We have already published the details of promoters and tax avoidance schemes in order to help consumers, and we have also published HMRC stop notices, because we want to help taxpayers who want to do the right thing to understand which promoters should be avoided.