Main rates of income tax for tax year 2018-19

Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:45 am ar 9 Ionawr 2018.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause 4 stand part.

New clause 10—Analysis of effect of income tax rates on incentives into employment—

‘(1) The Office for Budget Responsibility must review the impact of the rates of income tax specified in sections 3 and 4 in accordance with this section within six months of the passing of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider the impact of the rates of income tax specified in sections 3 and 4 on the incentives for individuals to seek employment, including—

(a) whether those rates create, or detract from, an incentive for those not employed to enter into employment,

(b) whether those rates create, or detract from, an incentive for those currently in employment entering into new employment at a different level of income, and

(c) to what degree those rates create, or detract from, any such incentive.

(3) A review under this section must also consider those rates in the context of—

(a) National Insurance contributions,

(b) tax credits, and

(c) social security benefits.

(4) A review under this section must give separate analyses in relation to the impact of the rates of income tax specified in sections 3 and 4 in different parts of the United Kingdom.

(5) In this section—

“parts of the United Kingdom” means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland.

(6) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must lay before the House of Commons the report of the review under this section as soon as practicable after its completion.”

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

Clauses 3 and 4 set the main, default and savings rates of income tax for 2018-19. The clauses keep the basic, higher and additional rates of income tax at the same level as last year. We are also supporting lower and middle earners by increasing the tax-free personal allowance and the point at which people pay the higher rate of tax in line with inflation next year, locking in previous rises and helping hard-working people with the cost of living.

By keeping rates the same while increasing the personal allowance and higher rate threshold, we are delivering on our manifesto commitment to cut taxes for working people. We are protecting our fair and progressive tax system, in which those who can contribute the most shoulder the greatest burden. The latest figures show that the top 1% of taxpayers contribute nearly 28% of all income tax. We have already cut taxes for 31 million people since 2015 and taken more than 1 million of the lowest-paid out of income tax altogether. We have promised to go even further to increase the personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate threshold to £50,000 by 2020.

New clause 10 would require the OBR to analyse the effect of the income tax rates set out in clauses 3 and 4 on incentives into employment. An important part of the OBR’s role is to subject the Government’s policy costings to detailed challenge and scrutiny at each fiscal event. As the Committee would expect, the impact of tax policy changes on employment is an important judgment that the OBR makes when certifying a costing. The OBR sets out its judgments clearly in its publication “Economic and fiscal outlook”. Detailed distributional analysis of the kind requested is not in line with the OBR’s remit to examine and report on the sustainability of the public finances. Extending its remit to include undertaking distributional analysis would risk diverting the OBR from an already challenging task. I therefore urge the Committee to resist new clause 10.

Photo of Ruth George Ruth George Llafur, High Peak

In speaking to new clause 10, I will address the points that the Minister has just made. Employment incentives and employment rates are a key part of our economic outlook and of securing the prosperity of working people throughout the UK. We accept that the headline rate of income tax in the Bill will stay at 20%, and that the personal tax allowance has risen over the last seven years by more than inflation. However, underlying that, and underlying the tax cuts for 31 million people, there have been huge increases in the marginal tax rates that effectively apply to working people. Under the tax credits system, the clawback rate was 39% of gross income, but it has been raised to 41%. The clawback of 63% of net income under universal credit particularly affects people whose income falls below the personal tax allowance rate.

Those are the groups of people whom it is important to encourage into work, such as single parents and second earners in families with children. The Child Poverty Action Group predicts that as a result of the roll-out of universal credit, a further 1 million children will fall into poverty. That increase will mean that 37% of all children in the UK are in poverty. Surely, the best way out of poverty for those children is to ensure that their parents can move into work. That is the best route out of poverty for all those households, in both the short term and the long term.

At present, a second earner who works in, say, a supermarket could do extra shifts in the run-up to Christmas on at least the minimum wage of £7.50 an hour, and they could keep all that additional income. Under tax credits, there is an exemption for the first £2,500 of additional income, which does not affect tax credits in the current year. Under universal credit, however, there is no such exemption. An employee who does extra shifts and earns £100 extra in the run-up to Christmas may think that they have been able to afford a decent Christmas for their family, but they will be hit hard in their next universal credit payment, which will fall by £63. They will immediately see the impact of that marginal tax rate.

That is why it is extremely important that the OBR does not just look, as it does now, at the headline tax rates that affect people who are not on tax credits, universal credit or any other form of social security. It must also bear in mind that 10 million people are currently on tax credits, and that around 8 million households—not just individuals—will be moved on to universal credit. That will affect between a quarter and a third of the working population. Such rates of impact on employment incentives are an incredibly important part of the economic and fiscal outlook, for so many people.

It is important that individuals can calculate how they will be better off as a result of moving into work, doing extra shifts and undertaking the many forms of work that our flexible employment market now offers. It is also important that we, as Members of this House, have clear information before us to allow us to make decisions not just on tax rates and national insurance, but on social security clawback rates and the full impact of policies on individuals. It is important that we do not silo tax into the Finance Bill and the Treasury and social security into the Department for Work and Pensions. As Parliament, we must consider the full impact of all our policies on working people—all the more so on those who are in danger of falling into poverty—and make decisions based on full evidence.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury 10:00, 9 Ionawr 2018

I welcome the opportunity that my hon. Friend’s new clause presents to discuss the rate of income tax set by the Government, and its effect on the wider economy and on families.

At the general election, we clearly outlined our position: as a Government, we would not ask ordinary households to pay more. We would guarantee that there would be no rises in income tax for those earning less than £80,000 a year and no increase in personal national insurance contributions or the rate of VAT. Under our plans, 95% of taxpayers would be guaranteed to face no increase in their income tax contributions and everyone would be protected from any increase in personal national insurance contributions. Only the top 5% of earners would be asked to contribute more in tax to help fund our public services. That is in contrast to the Government, who have spent the last seven years offering tax breaks to the wealthy and large multinational corporations, and who continue to do so. That goes to the heart of the difference between the two parties.

In 2012, the former Chancellor declared—I have to say, with a certain amount of alacrity—that he was cutting the 50p rate by 5p. He claimed at the time that it would not cost the Exchequer a penny. In fact, analysis carried out by Unison shows that between 2013-14 and 2017-18, income tax cuts for those earning more than £1 million have saved the nation’s super-wealthy on average £554,000 each. Those tax cuts have cost the British taxpayer £8.6 billion over the last five years, in stark contrast to the concerns raised by my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak. The Government have not tackled that.

The money that has been lost could have paid for an extra 20,000 nurses—topical in the current climate, and crucial given the stresses and strains on the NHS; the lack of those 20,000 nurses is a proxy for the state of the NHS—as well as 10,000 extra police community support officers, 10,000 extra police officers and 20,000 newly qualified teachers for each of those five years. That money could have paid for 60,000 bursaries for nurses, midwives, other health professionals and so on. Instead, it was used to give a tax cut to the richest 15,000 taxpayers in the country—those who are least in need. In 2013, the cut to the top rate of income tax was the largest tax cut in the world, and as a result the level of income tax in the UK dropped from the fifth highest in the world to the 13th.

As if that cut was not enough, it was paired with cuts to corporation tax, the bank levy, inheritance tax and capital gains tax. Together, they amount to about £70 billion by 2022. In the meantime, public services are beginning to decay and atrophy. As I alluded to earlier, the NHS is in a bit of a state, and the police are in chaos and crisis. That is the context for our debate. Instead of the swashbuckling we see in the Chamber, we must deal with very precise issues.

It is fair to say that since 2010, the Government have made a political choice to pursue austerity at all costs. The hon. Member for Cheltenham may shake his head, but that is the reality. Let us go back to the phrase, “We’re all in it together”. It is demonstrably clear, and history will show, that we have not all been in it together. It does not matter how much hon. Members shake their heads or roll their eyes; that is the reality, and it is coming home to roost—not on me, but on our public services. We have a social contract with our people across the country to the effect that we will take care of everybody, not just those who have the most.

I will give the Government credit for the fact that they have pursued their policies persistently and doggedly. These policies and choices are the Government’s, not mine. The Government have persisted with them, and I think they have to fess up to that. The national debt has ballooned. The cost of household essentials is spiralling, with inflation at 3.1%; I think it is now 4.6% on food. Services across the country are being slashed and the OBR predicts a 17-year period of wage stagnation. That is the high cost of austerity, which is a political choice made without any economic basis.

My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak seeks to highlight the fact that the Government could have made different political choices, and I agree with her on that one. It is a fact that increases to the lower threshold of income tax are no longer targeted towards the poorest in our society, whose earnings have long since been below that threshold. That is the reality. Had the Government changed tack sooner, there would have been little need for the self-defeating cuts to the work allowances of universal credit—those allowances are by far the best way of improving work incentives for the poorest in our society and driving positive employment outcomes, as the new clause alludes to. That is why Labour set aside £10 billion to improve the Government’s failing universal credit system at the last election. We have also repeatedly called for change from all four Secretaries of State who have occupied the office in the past two years—there have been four so far and there might be another one; I think that includes the one yesterday, but it might not, as I do not keep up with the machinations that go on in Downing Street. Mr Duncan Smith resigned over the variation, and he was the architect of the plan.

It is clear that, while the Government talk the talk on tackling inequality, they are not capable of matching those words with action. Time and again, the Chancellor has failed to improve work incentives under the programme by investing in the work allowances, and I have no doubt that our demands will continue to go unheard. All that is an opportunity for the Government to change tack, and they will not.

Photo of Dan Carden Dan Carden Llafur, Liverpool, Walton

My hon. Friend is my constituency neighbour in Bootle. He will know that while the tax threshold may have been raised under this Government, an alternative economy has been created in which people have insecure employment, precarious work—sometimes two, three or four jobs on the lowest pay—and no guarantee of a weekly or monthly income to pay the bills or raise a family. While we talk about figures, facts and economic outcomes in this place, the reality of people’s lives in north Liverpool, which I represent, and in Bootle, which he represents, is very different. Those words and numbers mean little to them.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The whole point of a social security system in tandem with a tax system is to ensure that those who can afford to pay do so, and those who cannot afford to pay do not. We are now in a topsy-turvy world, where things are being twisted around and the people who can least afford it pay and the people who can most afford it do not pay. That is the direction of travel, and it is affecting people day in, day out. I agree with my hon. Friend.

Photo of Karen Lee Karen Lee Llafur, Lincoln

We hear a lot about the NHS; my hon. Friend has referred to it. I am a nurse, and I did a shift in my local hospital on Saturday. Last Wednesday, I went out for most of the day with the local ambulance service. The NHS is indeed in crisis, and until people pay a proper rate of tax and it is properly funded, that will remain the same. As a new Member, I am a little taken aback at the number of people who are simply not listening to this debate. They are on their iPads and phones. It would be good if people paid attention—

Order. Peter Dowd, please stick to the new clause.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln makes an important point. Her passion and concern, which many of us share, sometimes stray beyond the remit of our debates, but the point is well made. The bottom line is that my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak makes an important point in her new clause, and no doubt that is something we will come back to in due course.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

I thank the hon. Member for High Peak for speaking so thoroughly to her new clause. While I recognise many of the challenges she has rightly raised, which families up and down the country are facing— nobody belittles those—I do not recognise the picture she paints of eternal gloom and night of what this Government have achieved with our economy and for hard-working families. We have done a great deal to help those who are less well off. The hon. Lady herself raised the issue of the increase in the personal allowance, which has rocketed since 2010 to over £11,000 today. Indeed, that has taken 3 million low-paid workers out of tax altogether. They pay no income tax at all. Those are 3 million low-paid workers who paid income tax under the last Labour Government and are no longer paying that tax under this Government.

We have just had a Budget in which we took a number of specific measures to help those who are less well off. We froze fuel duty for the eighth year in a row. We increased the personal allowance for the seventh year, as the hon. Member for High Peak pointed out, taking even more people out of tax. We will increase the national living wage, a measure that this Government have brought in, by over 4% in the coming April.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cities), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

Does the Minister accept that the national living wage is not a real living wage, as set by the Living Wage Foundation, and it is not available to those under the age of 25? How will they be helped?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

I would say to the hon. Lady that it was not available to anybody under the last Government. That is the point—it is available now. One of the consequences of these measures and others the Government have introduced in our stewardship of the economy is near-record levels of employment. That is a staggering statistic: we have the lowest level of unemployment since around 1975, or for over 40 years. We have more women in the workforce than at any time in our history. While the hon. Member for Bootle would say that we do not believe we are all in it together, we do. There is clear evidence for that, as under this Government, the wealthiest 1% pay almost 28% of all income tax. Under the last Labour Government, that figure was lower and that is a demonstrable fact: it was around 23%. There has been a huge proportional increase in the burden carried by the wealthiest in this country.

Photo of Dan Carden Dan Carden Llafur, Liverpool, Walton 10:15, 9 Ionawr 2018

What we see under this Government is the rich getting richer, so the fact that they pay more tax is not a great indication of what this Government are doing.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

The level of income inequality is at its lowest in more than 30 years.

Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Not after a housing adjustment, it isn’t.

Order. If Members wish to intervene on the Minister, they should do so in the proper manner.

Photo of Karen Lee Karen Lee Llafur, Lincoln

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

I will not, and the reason I will not is that we have a great deal of business to cover, as well as the fact that we might be straying slightly broader than the clause. I have given my reasons why I believe we should reject new clause 10—[Interruption.]

Will you take an intervention?

Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Thank you, Chair. I apologise for intervening at the very end of the Minister’s speech. I know he is a thoughtful person, and in response to the specific point made by my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak, he maintained that the OBR could not do an analysis of the marginal tax rate on low-income or low-hours working people because it was not the appropriate body. Can he tell us which body would be the appropriate one? I noticed that he did not contest what my hon. Friend said about the marginal tax rate for very low-income people. Which body would be available to do that analysis?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

There are many bodies out there that could take on that kind of analysis, including the Institute for Fiscal Studies. There are many, even the House of Commons Library—

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

If I could just finish: a number of bodies might look at those particular issues.

When we look at the marginal rates, under the last Labour Government, if someone worked beyond 16 hours per week they were in a situation where the marginal rate of tax they were facing when going into employment was far greater than under this Government.

Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Shadow Minister (Treasury)

My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak has explained that under the tax credits system, people were able to take home much more of their income. She has also provided a concrete example whereby people could be working for a short period of time and take home very little of that amount under the universal credit system. I was hoping we could get some commitment for a Government body to look at this issue, which has already caused enormous problems and, potentially, poverty for some low-income people. It would be wonderful if the Minister could give us a commitment that he will look into this issue.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

We will always look at the kind of issues the hon. Lady has highlighted. We will do that as a matter of good Government policy and to produce the policies we look at going forward. However, this is not the forum to begin looking for commitments on new reports, new investigations and new analysis. As the hon. Lady will know, there are many bodies out there that conduct that kind of analysis.

Photo of Ruth George Ruth George Llafur, High Peak

I thank the Minister for his response. I am surprised he does not think it is the role of Government or this Committee to ask for reviews on matters as important as a marginal tax rate. Given the limitations on amendments we can make to the Bill, reviews are practically the only thing we can ask for. I am sure the Minister would prefer that no amendments at all could be made to the Bill, because that would make his life an awful lot easier. As that is one of the few things that, under the constitution, we are allowed to do, I hope that the Minister will agree that looking at marginal tax rates for people on low pay is one of the most important things that the Government should be doing to alleviate poverty.

In spite of the numbers that have been taken out of income tax, we have actually seen rising numbers of working people in poverty. The fact that three million people are no longer paying income tax does not offer a lot of comfort to those who cannot afford to pay for food and heating because eight million working people are now in poverty. That has the knock-on effect on children, on households and on long-term poverty.

All we are asking for is some transparency. The Minister says that this Government have brought in a fair and progressive tax system. We simply want the Government and the OBR to be able to show how fair and progressive the system is by producing the figures on the marginal tax rates which affect almost a third of all working people.

For clarification, there will not be any votes on new clauses until we reach the end of Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5