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By Matthew Barrett
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Traditionally, after a Budget speech, high-profile MPs speak in the debate that follows, to give their verdict on the Budget. Compiled below are some of the most significant contributions.
Firstly, Andrew Tyrie, the Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, raised his concerns about the Government's proposed scheme for banks to lend to small businesses:
"Yesterday’s announcement on the loan guarantee scheme responded to many constituents’ complaints that they simply cannot get the money they need to run or start up small businesses. We all have constituents in that position, and the scheme will offer some welcome relief. How much relief? I think it will offer only a little, and there is a risk of the banks pocketing most of the money. The Treasury Committee, the Public Accounts Committee— I do not know whether its Chair is in her place—and the National Audit Office all need to play a role in ensuring that the banks do not run off with the money, and that value for money is secured."
Tyrie nevertheless commended the scheme:
"I still think the scheme may turn out to be valuable, for several reasons. First, by announcing it the Chancellor has raised the salience of an important issue and put pressure on the banks not to dismiss requests for loans without examining them properly. Furthermore, it seems to me that the Treasury’s own pessimistic briefing yesterday that the money will go only to existing borrowers is almost certainly mistaken. There is very likely to be some more lending, because banks will benefit from the stronger financial position of firms to which they have lent. Those loans, in turn, will be less risky for the banks, so they should have some more headroom for new lending without altering their risk profile."
John Redwood said the raising of the personal allowance for lower earners will provide "a stimulus to demand and growth":
"I fully support the Government’s aim. We need to earn our way out of the fiscal crisis, the massive over-borrowing and the large deficits. I also fully support their aim to get more money from taxing the rich, and we need a tax break for everybody else. We need a stimulus to demand and growth in this country and it is welcome that, given the difficult figures before the Chancellor today and the situation he inherited, he has managed to find a way of cutting tax for most people. That will be welcome relief from the relentless pressures on private budgets that hon. Members and their constituents have been experiencing as we try to climb out of the crisis."
Redwood also criticised Ed Miliband's claim that lowering the top rate of tax to 45% represented some sort of benefit for the rich:
"Surely even Labour would accept that if we raise rates too high, the very rich go away—they find ways around paying the tax or do not pay. Labour in opposition does not take that seriously enough, but the former Chancellor and Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), took it very seriously when he was in office. As Chancellor, he had the option of putting the 40% rate up to 45% or 50%, or the 83% that Labour had when previously in office, but he never chose to do it. I wish he were here today. If he were, I would ask him, “Why not?” I think his answer to Labour groups around the country is, reportedly, that had he raised it above 40%, he would have raised less money in taxation rather than more. Naturally he wanted to get more out of the rich—on that I agree with him entirely—but the way to do that was to keep the rate at a sensible level."
Jesse Norman called the raising of the personal allowance an "important moment in British history":
"This is an extraordinarily important moment in British history, in which we begin to roll back the ever-pervasive state created under the previous Government, and in which people are given freedom and control over their economic affairs. I greatly welcome that. The Budget continues a path of renewal that was begun two years ago. We must never forget that this country lost ground during the so-called boom years of the late 1990s and 2000s. When we adjust the gross domestic product per capita numbers, we see that, in fact, they overstate the country’s success, which relied on immigration, a boom in house prices and a boom in personal indebtedness. When those booms collapsed, so too did our economy."
Chris Heaton-Harris spoke enthusiastically about the prospect of reduced paperwork for small businessmen:
"Before going into the European Parliament, I ran my own business wholesaling fruit and veg in New Covent Garden market, working nights for 11 years. My second language at the time was Cockney, and the sort of people I used to work with were keen on trying not to pay any tax. These were cash businesses and people tried to keep it that way. They wanted to generate wealth and then to choose how they spent it. There is a delicate balance to be struck in government between encouraging as many people as possible to create wealth and ensuring the bit that is taken in tax is spent well, so that people feel they are getting value for their money. I would like to think that everyone in this House welcomed elements of this Budget, and certainly those dealing with small businesses. I know that the threshold is set at only £77,000 of cash passing through someone’s small business, but some of the paperwork associated with their return to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs goes overboard—it is way too much."
Edward Leigh called the Budget "courageous" and compared it to those of Lord Lawson and Sir John Major:
"I see my neighbour, the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Austin Mitchell), on the Opposition Benches. We have been in the House together for a long time, and we have heard many Budgets. I said to my wife this morning, “We have heard so many Budgets. Will this be just another Budget that takes with one hand and gives with the other?” but I think it is a very courageous Budget that is rather different from many that I have heard. I have sat through so many—from Nigel Lawson, John Major and the previous leader of the Labour party."
The full debate can be read in Hansard.
David Mowat (Warrington South) raised an interesting point during the debate:
"I sent a freedom of information request to the BBC, asking it how many of its employees did not have tax deducted at source. The answer was that 320 non-talent based employees—in other words, administration employees—earning more than £50,000 a year were not having tax and national insurance deducted at source through pay-as-you-earn. The review that is being conducted across Government to ensure that that is not happening explicitly excludes the BBC. I ask Ministers to reconsider that. I will repeat the statistic: 320 non-talent based BBC employees earning more than £50,000 a year do not have tax or national insurance deducted at source through PAYE. That is not acceptable."