Basic rate limit for 2017-18

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:45 am ar 30 Mehefin 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Roger Mullin Roger Mullin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury) 11:45, 30 Mehefin 2016

I beg to move amendment 3, in clause 2, page 2, line 4, at end add—

“(3) The Chancellor shall assess the effect on taxation revenue of increasing the basic rate limit in line with the Consumer Prices Index for 2017-18 and by no more than increases in that index until 2021-22

It is a great pleasure, Sir Roger, to be with you again in this Public Bill Committee. Last year I served on this very same Committee, and it led to one of the great interventions, which was of great assistance to me at the time. I hope that there is not the same occurrence this time. I can see that some hon. Members are rather confused; I will explain it to them later.

Some hon. Members will be aware that I raised a point of order in the House about whether, in the current circumstances—after the referendum—we should be proceeding as we are with the Bill. To my mind, more important things have occurred that need debating. None the less, we are here. I intend to adopt the rather rare, for me, practice of speaking in this Committee only when I have something to say. Our contributions may be slightly fewer than they were in the past, but they will be no less worthy—[Interruption.] How helpful I am.

This is a rather simple amendment, which we will not press to a Division, probing the Government on the proposed increase in the basic rate limit. Particularly at a time of austerity, when people are having to make such great sacrifices, the decision to give this boost to those with significantly above-average earnings strikes us as worthy of further explanation from the Government. The amendment is a sensible proposal that the Government report on and model what would happen if the rise in the basic rate limit was restricted to consumer prices index levels year after year. It is so self-explanatory that I need not detain the Committee any longer.

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

It is a great pleasure to respond to the hon. Gentleman. I note that he will speak only when he has something to say—an approach that he contrasted with that of the previous year. I feel that that is a little harsh on his contributions last year, which were always valuable and welcomed by the Committee. No flies on him; that is the recollection of one or two of us.

Before turning to the amendment, let me say a word about clause 2, which sets the income tax basic rate for 2017-18. The change takes a significant step towards meeting my party’s manifesto commitment to increase the threshold at which people pay the higher rate of tax. It will ensure that the Government continue to encourage those who want to progress, while lifting over half a million people out of the higher tax band altogether. This Government have already made significant progress on cutting taxes for working people and ensuring that those on the very lowest incomes pay no income tax at all.

In addition to supporting the low-paid, the Government are committed to supporting those on middle incomes who want to progress. The number of families who have to pay the higher rate of income tax has grown almost without fail over the past three decades. Upon its introduction in 1988, it was paid by around one in 18 taxpayers. Without the action taken at Budget 2016, it was projected to rise to one in six—that is more than 5 million individuals paying income tax at 40%. That is why we committed to increasing the point at which the higher rate of income tax is applied to £50,000 by the end of this Parliament. Summer Budget 2015 took the first steps to meeting that commitment, increasing the higher rate threshold from £42,385 in 2015-16 to £43,000 from April this year.

This Finance Bill goes further. Clause 2 will increase the basic rate limit from £32,000 in 2016-17 to £33,500 in 2017-18. That is the amount of income on which the 20% tax is due. The income tax higher rate threshold, which is the sum of the personal allowance and the basic rate limit, will therefore increase from £43,000 in 2016-17 to £45,000 in 2017-18. Above that level, 40% tax is due. That increase to the higher rate threshold will be the biggest above-inflation cash increase since it was introduced by Lord Lawson in 1988-89. By 2017-18, some 585,000 fewer individuals will be paying the higher rate of tax than did in 2015-16—a reduction of more than 10%. As a result, a higher number of taxpayers on modest incomes will benefit from a lower rate of tax, including our most highly qualified and experienced nurses and teachers.

The amendment requests that the Government report on the impact of increasing the basic rate limit in line with inflation, rather than increasing the basic rate limit as set out in clause 2. I can confirm that the cost to the Exchequer of increasing the basic rate limit to £33,500 was published in the 2016 Budget. As such, the relevant information is already freely available to the hon. Gentleman and to members of the public. I can also confirm, however, that not implementing the clause would mean increasing the income tax paid by some families by £220 in 2017-18, dragging more middle earners into paying the higher rate of tax and breaking an important manifesto commitment that the British people elected the Conservative party to deliver. I urge the Committee to reject the amendment.

The clause will allow the Government to make progress on our commitment to increasing the threshold at which people pay the higher rate of tax, while supporting those on middle incomes who want to progress. It will ensure that there are more than half a million fewer higher rate taxpayers in 2017-18, compared with 2015-16, and will cut the income tax bill of millions of taxpayers on modest incomes. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Mr Mullin, you now have the opportunity to respond. You must also indicate whether you wish to press your amendment to a vote or withdraw it.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I wanted to speak on stand part, not to the amendment.

They are being taken together. We are on a learning curve.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I did say at the beginning, Sir Roger, that there are always things to learn. I appreciate your understanding.

The Labour party welcomes clause 2 because there has been considerable fiscal drag under this Government. The Minister said that, without the clause correcting things, one in six taxpayers would pay the higher rate. When the previous Government, of which the Minister was a prominent part and in which he played a prominent role, took over, the proportion was around one in 12. Fiscal drag meant that the number of people paying higher rate tax doubled. Clause 2 will correct that, or at least move things in the right direction, so we support it.

Now let us go back one pace, which we should not do but will.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3