HC Deb 02 March 1995 vol 255 c1177
10. Mr. Barnes

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what inquiries his Department is conducting into the distribution of income and wealth in the United Kingdom.

Sir George Young

We keep a range of information under review, including that in the Department of Social Security's households below average income analysis and the Central Statistical Office's analysis of income distribution and the effects of taxes and benefits.

Mr. Barnes

Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that we should know the facts before we make decisions. Should we not know the full facts about income and wealth distribution, and about the range of poverty? Between 1974 and 1979, the Labour Government had a standing Royal Commission on income and wealth distribution, but the first act of the new Conservative Government was to disband it. Should we not have an investigation covering more subjects than those that the Minister mentioned?

Sir George Young

Of course it is important to have the facts, but if we examine the expenditure of the poorest 10 per cent. in this country—the poorest three quarters of a million people—we find that roughly half of them spend more than the average. I ask the hon. Gentleman to look at the facts with care before he comes to any conclusion.

Mr. Yeo

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the country would be better served if his Department spent its time considering the creation of income and wealth rather than its distribution?

Sir George Young

My hon. Friend is right. He will know that we have adopted many supply-side measures precisely to increase the capacity of this country to promote wealth. There are also measures in the current Finance Bill that take those policies further.

Ms Armstrong

Is the Minister not a little complacent, given that the deputy chairman of the Conservatives has reminded the party that the British people are fed up with the rich getting richer on the backs of the poor? Is it not time that the Government took action on the matter? They have an opportunity in the Finance Bill to agree to taxing excess share options. Why do they not take it?

Sir George Young

The Opposition will have absolutely no credibility on the subject of poverty until they come up with clear and costed proposals to deal with the problem and have identified exactly how they will pay for them.

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