HC Deb 30 March 1971 vol 814 cc1341-2
16. Mr. Meacher

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he makes of the total redistribution of income and capital from the poorest quartile of the population to the richest quartile which has already been brought about by Government action or to which the Government are publicly committed.

Mr. Higgins

Information on which to base satisfactory estimates is not available.

Mr. Meacher

Does the Minister nevertheless not accept that the sixpence off income tax, the 2½ per cent. cut in corporation tax already announced and the reintroduction of the non-aggregate rule for surtax, to which the Government are already committed, will collectively be giving over £500 million a year to the most highly paid and investing class, and that this is being paid for almost entirely by the poor and the lowest-paid workers?

Mr. Higgins

I would not accept that. It is important to consider all the measures which the Government have taken, and not merely to make selection from them.

Mr. William Clark

Would my hon. Friend not agree that it ill becomes the Opposition to criticise reductions in taxes when every Budget which they introduced increased taxation?

Mr. Higgins

I have always been very struck by the peculiar way in which hon. Gentlemen opposite react on the lines which my hon. Friend has suggested.

Mr. Spearing

The hon. Gentleman wishes to refute the allegation of my hon. Friend. If he cannot give the figures, on what does he base his refutation?

Mr. Higgins

I did not say that. I said that it was not a reasonable approach to select one or two particular measures and to draw out the conclusion from them.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

Since the hon. Gentleman himself falls within the upper quartile of the population, and since it lies wholly within his personal power to do so, has he advised my hon. Friend what personal steps he has taken to avoid what he regards as the more regressive aspects of the Government's policy?

Mr. Higgins

That lies outside my sphere of responsibility.

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