National Insurance Contributions (Reduction in Rates) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 3:59 pm ar 12 Rhagfyr 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Vere of Norbiton Baroness Vere of Norbiton The Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury 3:59, 12 Rhagfyr 2023

My Lords, the past few years have been a somewhat unhappy lesson in living through history, be that the impact of a once-in-a-generation pandemic or the shock waves of the largest conflict in Europe since World War II. Covid and Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine have forced this Government to take tough decisions to protect the public purse. Thankfully, the choices we have made are paying off: inflation is falling, this year’s growth is more resilient than expected and debt is forecast to reduce. This makes it possible to pay back working people while ensuring that public money remains sound.

Thanks to this Government’s long-term plan, this Bill will slash taxes for 29 million working people. It has three measures: the reduction of the national insurance contributions—or NICs—class 1 primary main rate; the reduction of the NICs class 4 main rate; and the removal of the requirement to pay class 2 NICs. The measures all fundamentally deliver on a core priority for this Government: allowing working people to hold on to their hard-earned cash. I shall explain each of the measures in more detail.

First, the Government’s changes to the employee class 1 NICs main rate will reduce it by two percentage points to 10% on earnings between £12,570 and £50,270, from 6 January 2024. This is a change that puts working people first. For example, the average worker on £35,400 will see and feel an annual improvement of £450 to their payslip at the start of the new year. An average full-time nurse will see an annual gain of over £520. Families with two earners on the average income will be £900 better off, because this Government believe that hard work should be rewarded.

Our remaining two measures focus on NICs for the self-employed. The Chancellor highlighted the importance of the self-employed in his Autumn Statement speech, commenting that:

“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”.—[Official Report, Commons, 22/11/23; col. 333.]

This fantastic workforce also deserves to be recognised. Of course, to be self-employed you need to be organised, efficient and responsible, and the Government should not get in the way of that. The self-employed want to stand on their own two feet, and the Chancellor stands ready to support this with two tailored interventions. The first is a cut in the class 4 rate by one percentage point, from 9% to 8%. The second removes the requirement for the self-employed with annual profits above the income tax personal allowance to pay class 2 NICs. Those who wish to pay voluntarily will still be able to do so. Both measures will be in force from 6 April 2024.

These changes simplify the system for self-employed taxpayers, bringing it closer to the system for employees. These measures mean that a typical self-employed plumber will gain £410 a year. The Government intend to fully abolish class 2 NICs, reducing needless complexity and freeing up valuable time. Further detail about this reform will be set out next year. As a result of changes in the Bill, a self-employed person who is currently required to pay class 2 NICs every week will save at least £192 per year. Taken together with the cut to class 4 NICs, this will benefit around 2 million people. Importantly, those with profits under the small profits threshold of £6,725, and others who pay class 2 voluntarily to get access to contributory benefits, including the state pension, will continue to be able to do so. No low-income, self-employed people who pay voluntary NICs will be asked to pay more.

The Government are committed to tax cuts that reward and incentivise work, and which grow the economy in a sustainable way. The tax cuts in this Bill will be worth over £9 billion a year—the largest ever cut to employee and self-employed national insurance. These measures will give 29 million working people an average yearly saving of over £450. That is fair and that is right. Nor will these measures benefit only those already in work. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, these reductions in tax will lead to an additional 28,000 people entering work, because ensuring that work pays will encourage more people to seek employment. Be in no doubt that we are doing the right thing by standing with the hard-working people of this country and ensuring that their contributions are recognised and fairly rewarded.