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Mr. Brown: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I look forward to discussing those issues with the Treasury Committee on Thursday. On unclaimed assets, we are publishing more information today, and the debate about the way in which those assets can be used in other areasnot just the banks and building societieswill continue. I look forward to dealing with all the other issues raised by my right hon. Friend at the Select Committee on Thursday.
Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): Does the Chancellor feel any sense of anguish that his tax policies have wrecked the retirement expectations of millions of our occupational pensioners?
Mr. Brown: If the hon. Gentleman looked at the issue, he would see that pensioners in Britain today, with the measures that we have introduced, are better off than they would have been if a Conservative Government had been in power. Not only has the basic state pension risen faster
Mr. Brown: Let me deal with the question in my own way. The basic state pension has risen faster than inflation. We have introduced pension credit, as well as the winter fuel allowance and free TV licences, which the Conservative party opposed at one stage. As for occupational pensions, the savings regime and the pension tax reliefs in this country are designed to help people save more for their retirement. We will have a debate now[Interruption.] The savings ratio in this country is higher than in America, the fastest growing country in the industrialised world. The British savings rate is higher and has been[Interruption.]
Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): Employees at Glaxo in my constituency will undoubtedly welcome what the Chancellor said about the pharmaceutical industry, and the employers at Farmway will undoubtedly welcome what he said about the capital allowances for biofuels. Can he confirm that, in addition to those measures, he will continue to support the science base, unlike the Opposition parties?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has a great knowledge of these issues, having worked on many of them as an official at the Treasury. She takes a special interest in science and the environmental issues
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that led us to introduce the proposals on biofuels. Let us be honest: the science base of this countryone of the most inventive countries in the worldhas been neglected over the years. The fact that we now have a 10-year plan for science and are doubling investment in science is essential for our global economic future. The medical investments that are now under way as a result of the partnership between the NHS, universities and pharmaceutical companies will lead to £500,000 of new investment in the next few years, with the potential for £1 billion-worth of new investment just in medicine and medical science. That is one step towards Britain leading the way in a range of medical and other sciences, which means that we will be well placed to be one of the great success stories of the global era.
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): We must assume that the real estate investment trusts that the Chancellor announced are based on the American modelthey will be straightforward, simple and offer real incentives to investorsand are not based on the Treasury's original thinking that they should be revenue neutral. Does he not realise that previous land development taxes have failed, partly because of their complexity, but also because developers speculated against political change? Given the profits to be had, people will hold back development in the expectation of a change of policy, such as tax abolition. That means that there will be less land available for development, house prices will go up and home ownership will become a distant dream for a new generation of Britons under this Government.
Mr. Brown: The hon. Gentleman had better look in detail at the consultation document published today. The fact of the matter is that in an honest debate about what planning gain involved in the past, the amount of planning gain resources that have been given to local authorities for the building of infrastructureschools, hospitals, but particularly transport and especially roadshas been small in relation to the needs of those local authorities. He would agree that if we are expanding the number of houses and if a development gain is being made it is a fair question as to how it is shared between the different beneficiaries and the different groups in a local area. That is what the debate about the planning gain supplement is about. It is a local planning gain supplement, because the money will principally go to local authorities and local areas where housing development is under way. As I understand it, planning gain provides about £1 billion of extra funds for local authorities during the year, but the fact is that local authorities are spending far more to develop the infrastructure, particularly the transport that is necessary for these services. The consultation document is there for people to see, and the Conservative party would be wise to consider the issues before it makes a wrong decision once again.
Mr. George Mudie (Leeds, East) (Lab):
As we are facing one of the worst winters for many years, I congratulate the Chancellor on providing £300 million for central heating for pensioners on pension credit. I also congratulate him on the new initiative to provide an additional £300 million subsidy for private sector pensioners to install central heating. Will he assure the
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House that he will keep those figures under review and ensure that that excellent initiative continues in future years and future programmes?
Mr. Brown: My hon. Friend takes a big interest in the needs of both pensioners and people without high resources in the communities of this country. I hope that the insulation and central heating scheme receives all-party support. It is a scandal that as we face the winter months, large numbers of pensioners are unable to afford either insulation to cut their heating bills or central heating, which is why the measure is open to all pensioner householders and is not restricted to one group of pensioners. Where pensioner households do not have central heating, it is possible to obtain a £300 grant to install central heating, starting immediately. Equally, where pensioner households do not have insulation, the energy companiesI am really grateful to them for what they have proposed todaywill offer between £125 and £175 towards the cost of insulation. As I have said, I hope that the measure receives all-party support. We face cold winter months, so the sooner that pensioners can access the scheme, the better.
Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): International competitiveness is one of the things that the Chancellor glossed over in his statement. In its latest annual report, the Treasury has produced a helpful table based on the World Economic Forum international competitiveness league. During the right hon. Gentleman's time as Chancellor, Britain has slipped from fourth to 13th in that leaguewhy?
Mr. Brown: If the hon. Gentleman examines the different leagues for competitiveness, productivity, stability, efficiency and regulation, we are doing very well. [Interruption.] If Conservative Members look at the figures, they will see that we are ahead of Germany and Japan in productivity, and we are catching up with France. Yes, we are behind America, but the measures that we are proposing are designed to enable us to catch up. In 1997, when we came into power, we had the lowest GDP per head in the G7, but now it is the third highest. It is important to look at all the different comparisons, and Conservative Members will be particularly interested in one of them: the Heritage Foundation, which is one of the more right-wing institutes in the United States, has stated that in terms of economic liberalism, deregulation and flexibility of the economy, we are better placed in the rankings than when the Conservative party was in power.
Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op):
I welcome the Chancellor's announcement of the shared-equity scheme. Does he agree that areas such as my black country constituency, which historically contains low incomes and a lot of brownfield sites, could
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particularly benefit from the scheme? Will he also ensure that local authorities are involved in the dialogue between banks, building societies, developers and the Government? Young people who are searching for accommodation often make the local authority their first port of call, and local authorities have an important part to play in assessing the need and potential for the scheme in areas such as mine.
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