HC Deb 14 April 1994 vol 241 cc413-4
11. Mr. John Evans

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many representations he has received concerning the impact that Government tax policies will have from the beginning of April on the economic well-being of the average family, with two children and one spouse on average male earnings.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I have received a number of representations.

Mr. Evans

Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that millions of weekly-paid workers on average earnings will today receive their first wage packet containing the delayed Budget tax increases, and that all of them will be able to see the sheer magnitude of the lies and deception that were fed to them by the Tory leadership at the last election? Does the Chancellor agree that no one with any intelligence will believe the word of a Treasury Minister on taxation, or anything else, in future?

Mr. Clarke

At the last election we committed ourselves to sound economic policies producing growth, prosperity and more jobs, and we will deliver that. We committed ourselves to reducing taxes when it was "prudent" to do so, in the words of our manifesto. We have a tax-cutting record over our period of office compared with our predecessors and we have a tax-cutting destiny before us as the recovery strengthens, as and when it is sensible to resume our agenda. People know that we tax less than the Labour party because they know that the Labour party spends more than the Conservative party. Any objective consideration of the course of the present Government is wholly consistent with the successful delivery of our policies ever since 1979.

Mr. Tracey

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that far more households will be heavily burdened by the excessive council tax bills from Labour and Liberal councils than they are from anything that the Government and the Treasury will deliver through income tax bills?

Mr. Clarke

Certainly, and when it comes to the credibility of the political parties, it is bizarre for the Opposition parties to go on as though they have suddenly discovered that they are tax-cutting parties after all, when they are about to defend the record of councils that, throughout the country, consistently produce greater expenditure and greater council tax bills for the equivalent properties in the councils that they control.

Mr. Gordon Brown

Will the Chancellor now answer the question that my colleagues have asked about the extension of VAT beyond fuel? Will he confirm that he has personally voted for VAT on children's clothes? Will he confirm also that he has said that it is anomalous not to have VAT on food, on books and newspapers, on rail and bus fares? In the light of those statements, will he now give the House an unconditional assurance— [Interruption.] Given the contradiction in Government statements on VAT, will he now give the House an unconditional assurance that he will not extend VAT to other basic essentials?

Mr. Clarke

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is so stuck for damaging quotations against me that he goes back to my voting record 21 or 22 years ago to cite a vote against me when I was on the losing side of the House and we sought to impose VAT on children's shoes and children's clothing. Returning to more up-to-date material, I shall continue to say that I will give no advance hint one way or the other about my tax intentions at the Budget.

If the hon. Gentleman already, in April, has to rely for a summer's campaigning on scares about VAT next November, he is in a desperate state. Why does not he say something about his tax and spending and borrowing plans—perhaps even something in defence of those high-spending local authorities putting everyone's council taxes up—rather than trying to raise those ridiculous scares?

Mrs. Gorman

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the average family these days has two, not one, wage earners because of the growth in the economy under Conservative management over the past decade, so that most families are miles better off than they were? Should not any increase in taxes be seen against the general growth in prosperity as a result of our policies?

Mr. Clarke

My hon. Friend is right. She has seen through the talk of the typical family, which Labour Members portray as a working man with a non-working wife and two children, with other circumstances that happen to suit the purpose of the questioner. That describes a tiny section of the population. A higher proportion of the population is in work than in any other major European economy. Average incomes are, in real terms, £83 more than they were when we came to power. My hon. Friend is right to put the present situation and future prospects in their right perspective.