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Family credit has been an important and effective way of encouraging lone parents and couples with children to take employment. By providing top-up benefit for those in work it makes it worth while to give up unemployment and benefit dependency. At the moment it helps half a million people. Last year, I improved family credit by announcing the new child care allowance which was introduced in October.
I now intend to give low-paid and unemployed people with families an incentive to take full-time work. The existing structure of family credit strongly favours part-time rather than full-time working. But the majority of the people who have been unemployed long term are people who need to find full-time work.
I therefore intend to introduce a £10 a week premium for full-time workers on family credit to give a new incentive to take full-time work rather than stay on benefit. This will also give a substantial boost to the incomes of 345,000 low-paid families with children.
Column 1093But childless couples and single people account for two thirds of the long-term unemployed. These people, of course, cannot, at present, claim family credit. I would like to examine whether introducing a new in-work benefit for childless people would be effective. This is obviously a very big step and I have agreed with my right honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security that we should try it out on an experimental basis. We intend to test run a new benefit through a pilot scheme covering 20,000 people. If the pilot shows that the benefit helps to get childless couples and single people back into work we will then consider introducing a national scheme.
I have also been impressed by an imaginative scheme pioneered by the training and enterprise council in Lincolnshire. This helps people build up full-time work by parcelling together a number of part-time jobs. The scheme is known in Lincolnshire as Jobmatch. I propose to extend it to help up to 3,000 people a year.
Overall, these measures constitute an extremely important and carefully thought-out package of support for unemployed people. It is no longer credible for some people to campaign for reductions in long-term unemployment and to reduce benefit dependency without having effective policies to deal with it. [Hon. Members:-- "When?] It comes into effect steadily from this Budget. The details will be announced by my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Employment and for Social Security. There will be a social security statement, in the usual way.
The days of priming the pump to cut unemployment are long since past. The Government are building reforms on reforms to remove at last the distortions and anomalies from the benefit system which discourage so many unemployed people from taking jobs.
This package aims to lift people from dependency into work and to smooth the transition from out-of-work benefits to modest in-work benefits. The measures will work because they are carefully put together and they are affordable and because they are being introduced at a time of strong economic recovery based on our sound economic policies so that more jobs are becoming available. They are a set of effective policies to tackle the big problem of structural unemployment which faces the whole western world, and I believe that we are ahead of other countries in tackling it. I am sure that they will eventually gain widespread support--even from those who have no practicable ideas of their own. [Interruption.] Opposition Members--I hear from their interruptions--still do not understand. If we look to the minimum wage, if we look to the social chapter, if we load costs on those employers who might otherwise create low-paid jobs, we will make matters worse. We are giving incentives to create jobs and making the transition from unemployment to work easier. We started work before the Borrie commission. We have come up with better recommendations and the Borrie commission and the Labour party have a long way to go before they even understand how the system works.
Let me turn now to my proposals for taxation. Happily, in this year's Budget, I have no need to raise revenue overall in order to secure the public finances. The action in last year's Budget, combined with a firm approach to public spending, will see to that. Nor--as I have already made clear publicly--are significant tax cuts justified this year. But I do have a number of proposals to ensure that we raise the necessary revenue in ways which do least damage to the economy while helping vulnerable groups.
I am delighted that there now appears to be a wide political consensus in the House on the need to close loopholes and to prevent the artificial avoidance of taxation. There is, I have to say, in some quarters a tendency to exaggerate the extent of tax avoidance by including proposals, as the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) always does, that would actually impose extra taxes on legitimate business under the guise of a crackdown on so-called loopholes.
I have said before and demonstrated before that we are no friends to the tax avoidance industry. Last year, I announced a number of measures to close genuine loopholes, raising £2 billion over three years.
This year, I intend to go further by tackling the artificial avoidance of VAT on property transactions and share issues, by stopping the purchase of companies simply to make use of their surplus management expenses and by preventing tax avoidance through operations with discounted securities.
In total, the anti-avoidance measures in this Budget will yield an additional £1.5 billion in the next three years. We will continue to close down genuine loopholes wherever we may find them.
I have some major proposals on vehicle excise duty this year. Few things annoy honest motorists more than knowing that many people still drive without a tax disc and waste the time of police and the authorities in trying to track them down.
Earlier this year my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Transport announced that the Government intended to move to continuous licensing. That means licensing on possession rather than use of a vehicle. We will be issuing a consultation paper setting out how we intend to do this. The move is designed to combat evasion and help fight crime by enabling the police accurately to check the ownership of vehicles.
I can, however, reassure the House that we will not seek to disadvantage those motorists, including classic car owners, who do not pay vehicle excise duty now because their cars are genuinely off the road.
I also intend to bring up to date the system of concessions and exemptions from vehicle excise duty. The existing highly complex arrangements go back, in some cases, to before the second world war and have little relevance to the modern world.
The number of different concessionary classes will be reduced from 132 to nine, a simplified and sensible handful. This will come into effect from 1 July 1995 and will yield about £30 million a year.
Column 1095But the House will be pleased to hear that special treatment will still apply to cars for disabled drivers and emergency vehicles. Moreover, I have also decided that accessories for the disabled fitted in company cars will no longer be taxed as a benefit-in- kind from next April.
I propose to increase the rate of vehicle excise duty for cars--the tax disc--by £5, to £135. But to avoid adding to industry's costs, lorry duty rates will again remain unchanged.
I propose to introduce a significant change to one part of VAT relating to cars. Since 1992 taxi and car hire firms, unlike most businesses, have been able to recover the VAT on their cars. In response to industry's concerns about market distortion, I propose to extend this to cars bought by any business wholly for business use. This will mainly affect leased cars, with consequential changes to their VAT treatment when sold or leased on. The change should be revenue neutral in the long run, but will cost £140 million in the first year.
In my last Budget, I announced that road fuel duties would increase on average by at least 5 per cent. in real terms in future Budgets. This year, I intend to stick to that commitment. It is an essential part of the plans that I set out last year to deliver healthy public finances as quickly as possible and it forms an important part of the Government's strategy to return carbon dioxide emissions to their 1990 level in the year 2000. From 6 pm tonight petrol taxes will therefore go up by 2 p a litre for both leaded and unleaded petrol, taking into account the effect of VAT.
In recent years there has been a small differential between the duty on diesel and the duty on unleaded petrol. The differential is becoming difficult to justify in economic, health or environmental terms. I therefore propose to tax diesel at the same rate as unleaded petrol. This means an increase of about 3p a litre on diesel. I also propose to increase the duty on gas oil and fuel oil by p a litre, which will raise £70 million a year. I propose, however, to freeze the duty on road fuel gases.
I turn next to duties on tobacco. The Government are committed to reducing smoking. I continue to believe that higher tax is the most effective and fair means of doing so.
Last year I said that I intended to increase tobacco duties by at least 3 per cent. in real terms on average a year. I intend to stick to that commitment today.
Tax on cigarettes will therefore increase by 10p on a packet of 20 from 6 o'clock tonight. Duty on other tobacco products will go up by a similar proportion.
The single European market has brought real benefits to British industry, through an expanded market for business, increased competition, reduced bureaucracy at frontiers and cheaper transport costs. These have all greatly benefited our consumers. But one of the most widely publicised other effects of the single market has been the increase in legitimate cross-border shopping in alcohol and tobacco, and in smuggling.
Column 1096Both of these have inevitably meant some loss of duty to the Exchequer, pressures on the British drinks industry and some damage to British business. No Chancellor can remain unmoved in the face of this, but nor can any Chancellor simply adopt popular measures to cut taxes on alcohol which would threaten the Revenue and require taxes on other goods to be raised.
In the longer term, the solution is for the Government to work with our European partners to bring duties more in line. The forthcoming review of Europe-wide minimum excise duties gives us the opportunity to make a start on that. This year, pending that, I have once again listened to the concerns of the industries. I propose no increase in the duties on beer, table wine and spirits. This will mean that the proportion of the cost of an alcoholic drink represented by tax in this country will continue to fall. Ten years ago 37 per cent. of the price of a pint of beer was tax. Today it is only 30 per cent.
The Government also intend to modernise and deregulate betting and gaming. This process is, in my opinion, welcome and much overdue. The coverage of taxation must also keep up to date with the modern world. I therefore propose to widen the coverage of gaming machine licence duty to cover amusement machines such as arcade video games. It is anomalous that we should tax amusement machines with prizes, but not those without. I am sure that this measure will be welcomed by many parents, although perhaps not by all children.
Gaming machine licence duty has been increased only once since 1987. I propose to restore its real value to the 1987 level, but at the same time to allow payment by instalments. Those measures will raise about £60 million in a full year.
In 1991, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Thames announced a reduction in pools betting duty of 2 per cent. Since then, this has helped to fund the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage and I have now reviewed the reduction. We have agreed that it should continue for a further five years, provided that the pools companies also continue to fund sport and the arts at their present level. [Hon. Members:-- "Hear, hear."] Many of my hon. Friends appreciate, as I do, that the foundation continues to support a number of worthwhile projects to encourage participation in sport and the arts. I am delighted that the pools companies have generously reaffirmed their commitment.
A strong and thriving business community is the only way to ensure a strong and thriving economy. The Government have a record of achievement in developing the tax system in ways which improve competitiveness, sharpen incentives, simplify administration and encourage the small and medium- sized businesses which are so important to the future development of the economy.
I should like to announce a package of measures today which will add further to the strength of British industry. Decisions on many of the measures that I shall be announcing today have been informed by the
Column 1097industrial finance initiative undertaken last year by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Treasury and my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary and his predecessor.
First, I should like to say a few words about corporation tax and capital allowances. We have one of the lowest corporation tax rates in the industrialised world. Low tax rates are good for incentives. They mean that businesses can keep more of their profits to use as they, the businesses, want. Since 1984 we have cut the main corporation tax rate from 52 per cent. to 33 per cent., while scaling back capital allowances to a level broadly matching commercial depreciation.
I have considered again all the calls for increased allowances to encourage investment. They have a simplistic appeal. But I remain firmly of the opinion that increasing capital allowances would distort investment decisions and would not encourage the high-quality investment needed to improve economic performance. A narrower tax base would jeopardise our ability to maintain the low tax rates which have helped to transform British industry over the last decade. The change from high capital allowances to low rates of corporation tax has been very successful. I propose to maintain that emphasis on low rates for the successful rather than high allowances for all in our system of business taxes. I also have no changes to announce on the rate of advance corporation tax or the value of the tax credit on dividends.
I would now like to deal with business rates. We are about to implement the first five-yearly review of valuations of properties for rating purposes. Without those five-yearly reviews the rate base would become hopelessly out of date. The property market has changed a lot over the past five years with wide regional variations. [Hon. Members:-- "It has gone down."]
As a result of the review, many properties in the south of England will begin to see reductions in their rates bills. Some businesses in the midlands, the north, Scotland and Wales will benefit as well, but others will discover that up-to-date valuations will raise their liability.
I am glad to say that I will be able to continue to find resources to help businesses through this new transition period in the same way as we have been helping business through the transition from the last revaluation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales will announce details of the scheme later today.
But I can tell the House now that increases in bills will be limited to 10 per cent. in any one year for large properties, once adjusted for inflation. Small business properties account for three quarters of those receiving protection.
We have decided to limit real increases for such properties to 7 per cent. This protection will in part be financed by limiting real reductions in rates bills for large properties to 5 per cent. and for small properties to 10 per cent.
Column 1098But the revenue from limiting gains is not enough to help those businesses which find themselves worse off as a result of more up-to-date valuations. I have therefore decided to provide assistance of £605 million next year to finance the transitional relief. That is similar to the amount that we are spending on the former transitional relief scheme this year.
I laid stress at the beginning of my speech on our improved export performance. We need to build on this and not become complacent. Strong export growth will be essential if healthy recovery is to be sustained.
My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and I have taken a closer look at the services provided by the Export Credits Guarantee Department. We have agreed that a reduction in premiums of around 10 per cent. on average is possible while still protecting taxpayers' interests. This will improve our competitiveness, building on the premium reductions in the past two years.
Furthermore, we have agreed to increase the amount of ECGD cover available to many important developing markets by £300 million for 1997-98. Those measures will provide an added incentive for British exporters to play an even greater role in the most successful and rapidly growing economies in the world.
As I said earlier, one of my main objectives for the tax system is that it should raise revenue in ways which do the least possible damage to the economy. In some cases, taxes do some good, by helping markets work better and by discouraging harmful or wasteful activities.
Taxes can play an important role in protecting the environment. One major problem is the disposal of waste. I would like to make an announcement today to help tackle the problem.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and I will issue shortly a consultation paper setting out details of a new tax to be collected by Customs and Excise on waste disposed in landfill. We propose that a new landfill tax should come into effect in 1996. It should raise several hundred million pounds a year. But I am determined not to impose additional costs on business overall. I shall therefore be looking at ways to offset the impact of the new tax by making further compensatory reductions in the level of employer national insurance contributions when the new tax is introduced. In brief, I want to raise tax on polluters to make further cuts in the tax on jobs.
I have more measures to help small businesses in particular. The need to focus on smaller firms with growth potential has been an extremely important theme of the industrial finance initiative. It is absolutely essential that we have a healthy and vigorous small firms sector for the future economic well-being of the country and to achieve higher levels of employment.
One important way in which we can help small businesses is by encouraging the venture capital industry. A flourishing venture capital industry plays a key role in promoting job creation, innovation and
Column 1099growth. The British venture capital industry has been growing in recent years and I am determined that that growth should continue. In my Budget last year, I announced the introduction of the enterprise investment scheme and I announced consultation on a possible new venture capital trust scheme and an extension of capital gains tax reinvestment relief. All three measures were aimed at encouraging equity investment in small companies. I want to build on them today.
The new enterprise investment scheme is now in place, offering tax relief for investment in unquoted trading companies. Over 40 per cent. of the schemes set up so far involve so-called business angels, who want to invest their expertise, as well as their money, in a small, growing business.
That is a good start, but the scheme has some complex rules and I have decided to simplify them. I am also extending capital gains tax reinvestment relief to the enterprise investment scheme, which should increase greatly its attractiveness.
I have consulted widely on venture capital trusts and the response has been very positive. I have accepted suggestions for change on some details and I propose to implement the scheme in full. I want to go further by making investment in risk capital even more attractive than I originally contemplated when I announced the consultation period. Investment up to £100,000 a year in new shares in a venture capital trust will offer 20 per cent. up-front income tax relief and capital gains tax reinvestment relief, in addition to tax-free dividends and capital gains. I believe that venture capital trusts will make a successful contribution to filling a gap in our enterprise economy by encouraging more people to become venture capitalists.
The cost of the new scheme is expected to be £150 million next year, rising to £290 million in 1996-97. Of course, those costs have to be based on an estimate of the take-up, but we expect considerable take-up. It could mean that funds of £2 billion might be raised over the next three years, providing much more investment where it is most needed in our small, growing, technologically advanced and innovative companies.
My proposals go significantly beyond what I first set out 12 months ago. They now put in place an effective and imaginative set of measures aimed at generating equity investment in dynamic, innovative growing businesses. They should be widely welcomed by everyone who understands how a modern free market economy works and how new jobs are created in the modern world. Unlike some hon Members, I do not describe tax reliefs of this kind to stimulate investment in business and enterprise as tax loopholes, which they are usually identified as by the Opposition.
During the recent recession businesses, particularly small businesses, were too often being closed down by their creditors and jobs lost before rescue options had been properly explored. Following consultation, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade
Column 1100will shortly issue a paper setting out the Government's main conclusions on company rescue procedures in future.
To give management more time to reorder their affairs, we will introduce a 28-day moratorium binding upon all parties. This will give companies a breathing space to assess rescue prospects and come to an arrangement with creditors. We are also consulting further on a mechanism to help substitute equity for debt of firms in administration or receivership. I hope that those measures will contribute further to the creation of a rescue culture, discouraging the needless and wasteful liquidation of businesses that could become sound.
The impact of the 1993 changes to the loan guarantee scheme has been encouraging, but its rules are still quite rightly being criticised as too complex. Together with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, I intend to review those rules with a view to making the scheme simpler and more attractive.
The tax system not only imposes a financial burden on business that pay tax, but a regulatory burden and an overhead cost as well. I want to reduce those burdens on businesses. Simply running PAYE and national insurance contributions is difficult for many small businesses. From next April, I propose to increase by more than 30 per cent. the threshold for businesses to make quarterly rather than monthly payments to the Inland Revenue.
That will benefit around 100,000 employers at a one-off one-year cost of £75 million. That means that nearly two thirds of all employers in the country will now be able to make quarterly payments on their PAYE. I also propose to consult on a move towards annual VAT payments for small traders and to further simplification of VAT accounting.
Furthermore, I intend to improve the administration of the tax system by encouraging closer working between the two revenue departments, the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise, as well as closer co-operation between the Inland Revenue and the Contributions Agency. This will all be directed at improving the service offered to businesses seeking to comply with their tax obligations.
I would also like to make some progress towards closer alignment of tax and national insurance. From next April, clearances given by the Inland Revenue concerning non-taxable expenses will also count for national insurance purposes. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security will give details of this and other measures in his statement tomorrow.
I also intend to raise the registration threshold for VAT to £46, 000 tomorrow in line with inflation. This will help a number of the smallest businesses.
Finally, I turn to self-assessment. I am publishing today for consultation some details of the remaining legislation for self-assessment. The Inland Revenue has been consulting widely on the changes. The response has been positive and it is a worthwhile reform for which to aim. My right hon. Friend the Financial
Column 1101Secretary and I intend to go ahead with our proposals and aim to keep any burden placed on employers as low as possible.
Taken together, this latest extensive package of tax reliefs and deregulatory measures provide a substantial package of support for the business community. They aim to strengthen British businesses not by intervention, but by easing cashflow problems, cutting back red tape and providing targeted help for small businesses. That is how we maintain our improved business performance, help to sustain the recovery and help to create more jobs.
Higher savings also have an important role to play in helping sustain growth, by providing additional resources for investment.-- [Interruption.] I must tell the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) that the Budget contains extremely serious proposals to help small businesses, to cut unemployment and to produce all the real improvements in the economy that the people of this country want. I have already announced measures to encourage savings into unquoted companies. There are two further measures I would like to announce today.
Personal equity plans have been very successful since their introduction in 1986. Over £15 billion has been invested in over 4 million plans to date. They have widened share ownership and played an important role in providing finance to industry. I want to take that success further and in particular to widen the type of finance available to industry through PEPs.
I propose that, from next year, people will be able to invest through PEPs in a range of corporate bonds, convertibles and preference shares, and not simply equities. This change is expected to cost £10 million in 1995- 96 rising to £40 million in 1997-98.
When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister introduced tax exempt special savings accounts--or TESSAs, as they came to be called--it was understood that tax-free interest would be allowed to build up over a five-year period. For some of those accounts, the five-year period will soon be coming to an end.
I have had to consider whether this tax exemption for savings should be extended. TESSAs have been very popular, allowing many people to catch the savings habit and build a nest egg for their future. Over 4 million people have invested over £20 billion since they were first introduced.
Given their success and popularity, I have decided that all or part of the capital accumulated in a TESSA at maturity can be reinvested straight away in a new TESSA. Anyone who wants to continue to save tax-free will therefore be able to do so up to an overall limit of £9,000. This measure will cost £150 million in 1996-97.
Finally, I turn from taxation to income tax.
The lower, basic and higher rates of income tax will remain unchanged in 1995-96. However, we can at last begin to benefit from our steady return to healthy public finances. This means that I can fully index the personal allowance, the threshold for higher rate tax, and the income limit for the age-related allowance.
I have been able to provide some additional help in two important areas. First, I want to do a little bit more for pensioners. I propose to increase the age-related personal allowance by more than indexation. The allowances for everyone aged 65 and over will be increased by £430. Nearly 3 million pensioners will gain from this, at a cost of £200 million in a full year.
Secondly, I also propose to widen the 20p lower band to £3,200. That increase is twice the amount necessary for indexation for inflation. One in five of all taxpayers will now only pay tax at the lowest rate of 20p.
The tax measures that I am announcing in this Budget--all the tax measures that I have described--reduce revenue by £1 billion in 1995-96, but that is because I have had to provide £605 million, as I have said, for the transitional relief for business rate payers. I have said many times that I would like to go further and that I will in due course go further. Conservative Members are tax cutters by instinct. But I have also made it clear over and over again that tax cuts can come only when we can afford them and when it is in the interests of our industrial economy that we should make them. That means two things. We have to continue to improve further our long-term economic performance. That is why in my Budget today I have introduced numerous measures--boring the hon. Member for Bolsover-- to strengthen the economy and make sure that recovery is sustained and that we become a powerful manufacturing and industrial economy. The second requirement is firm control of public spending.
All my efforts to help businesses and help the unemployed will be to no avail if I did not keep a firm grip on public spending. I have already dealt with spending by each Department. But I have not yet described what will happen to public spending overall as a result of our decisions. Last year's spending round delivered substantial cuts in overall public spending. This year's has not been easy because of that.
Public spending control is not only about controlling costs. It is about choice of priorities. That is the language of politics. Within this year's settlement, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary and I have succeeded in producing real increases in resources for priority programmes such as the national health service and the police service. We have also managed to protect the delivery of public services generally by focusing our search for savings on administrative costs.
Column 1103We have avoided our tight settlement last year being turned into a wasteful one by ensuring that success in lowering inflation does not simply increase the volume of spending on programmes.
I am glad to tell the House that that approach has allowed us to make overall savings which are even greater than those achieved last year.
Last year, we managed to reduce the control total by £8 billion over the three years. This year we have done a bit better--not 10, not 15, not 20, but another £24 billion off the control total over the next three years on top of last year's reductions.
Last year we reduced public spending plans so as to reduce general Government expenditure by £15 billion over a three-year period. This year, on top of last year's reductions, we will reduce general Government expenditure by £28 billion. That is a total reduction in Government expenditure over the four years covered by my two Budgets of £43 billion.
Those savings have allowed me to reduce my projection for the public sector borrowing requirement. Taking into account the tax and public spending measures, I now expect to be able to reduce borrowing from £30 billion to £21 billion in 1995-96, from the previously forecast £21 billion to £13 billion in 1996-97, and from £12 billion to £5 billion the year after that. This reduced borrowing should provide an added stimulus to business confidence, strengthen the recovery further and give us the healthy public finances that we need to put our economy and our economic policy on course.
This Budget keeps Britain firmly on track for real economic growth that can last. This Budget concentrates on strengthening British businesses. This Budget will help to create more jobs. And it will lay the foundations for sustained rises in prosperity. I commend it to the House.
Motion made, and Question ,
That, pursuant to section 5 of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968, provisional statutory effect shall be given to the following motions: --
(a) Tobacco products (rates) (motion No. 6);
(b) Hydrocarbon oil (rates) (motion No. 7);
(c) Vehicle excise duty (rates) (motion No. 12)--[ Mr. Kenneth Clarke .]
put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 50 (Ways and Means Motions), and agreed to .
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I now call on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to move the motion entitled "Amendment of the law". It is on that motion that the unified Budget debate will take place today and on succeeding days. The remaining motions will not be put until the end of the Budget debate next week, and they will then be decided without debate. After the Finance Bill has been brought in, the House will be invited to dispose of proceedings on a motion dealing with public expenditure, which will have been debated along with the Budget resolutions.
Motion made, and Question proposed ,
That is it expedient to amend the law with respect to the national Debt and public revenue and to make further provision in connection with finance; but this Resolution does not extend to the making of any amendment with respect to value added tax so as to provide--
(a) for zero-rating or exempting any supply, acquisition or importation;
(b) for refunding any amount of tax;
(c) for varying any rate at which that tax is at any time chargeable; or
(d) for relief other than relief applying to goods of whatever description of services of whatever description.--[ Mr. Kenneth Clarke.]