HL Deb 04 April 2000 vol 611 cc1199-201

2.59 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their estimate of the number of people who entered employment during the last two financial years and have become payers of income tax.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the number of people in jobs is already at a record level—up by 800,000 since the election. The Government's longterm ambition is that by the end of the decade there will be a higher percentage of people in employment than ever before. Overall, in the year following spring 1998, 3.7 million people are estimated to have entered employment, compared with 3.5 million in the previous year. Whether they were income tax payers would have depended on their individual circumstances.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. But does he agree that there is continuing and sharp criticism about the levels and yield of national taxation and complete disdain for the point which his Answer demonstrates—that very large numbers of people who were entirely dependent on public resource are now contributing to it by way of income taxation and are therefore contributing to the prudent and wise improvement in services which we all need? Is it not time that the criticism I referred to ended and that there was greater applause for the taxation policies currently pursued?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I hope we would all agree that more people in work is a good thing and more people getting pay is a good thing. If, as a result of that, despite lower rates of taxation and lower rates of marginal taxation, more people are paying tax, is that a bad thing?

Baroness Hogg

My Lords, as the Minister has the numbers at his fingertips, can he tell us by how much the total amount paid to the Inland Revenue by income tax payers has gone up over that period?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

No, my Lords, I have no further information other than that which was published in the pre-Budget report, which is available to the noble Baroness and to all Members of the House.

Lord Taverne

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that far more people would have been exempted from tax if the Government had concentrated on increasing personal allowances instead of introducing the 10p band? Does he not agree with the Institute of Fiscal Studies that that would also have been much more progressive in its effects?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

No, my Lords, I completely disagree with that. The 10p rate halves the marginal rate of tax for 2.3 million people, of whom 1.9 million are low paid. If instead of that we had increased allowances, we would have been saving more money for those better off. In social justice terms, the 10p rate is more efficient.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, how many of those 800,000 jobs were created in manufacturing industry?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I do not have the answer to that question but I can write to my noble friend. Clearly, jobs are being created and are disappearing both in manufacturing and in service industries. The balance between them can only be seen in aggregate rather than trying to convert from these 800,000 jobs alone.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

My Lords, is the Minister aware that in spite of the prosperity of the South East there is a very high incidence of joblessness in inner London boroughs? Is he further aware that 19 out of 21 New Deal areas in London have the worst employment outcomes of anywhere in Britain? Nineteen per cent of these young people are not only not paying any income tax but they are not even claiming benefit because they are not eligible for benefit. Does the Minister agree that there is currently a real shortage of jobs in London and that the New Deal is not working in London as it should be but is actually adding to the incidence of social exclusion and pushing young people off the employment register?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I certainly agree that a number of London boroughs are particularly badly off in employment terms. I live in one of them. But I do not draw the conclusion that the noble Baroness does about the effect of the New Deal. Youth unemployment is down by 40 per cent since the election. That applies in all parts of the country. The package of measures that we have introduced, which includes the working families' tax credit, the reforms to national insurance contributions, the 10p marginal rate of taxation and the national minimum wage, contributes to benefits which are felt in London boroughs—even hard-pressed London boroughs—as well as in other parts of the country.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, can the Minister say how many of the 3.7 million people who entered employment in 1999 were men and how many were women?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I could if I had at my fingertips the full tables from the Labour Force Survey, but I do not. Certainly, it is the case that in recent years a considerable part of the increase in employment has been the increased employment rate among women. But I shall gladly give the noble Lord the figure from the Labour Force Survey.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the Government are to be congratulated on the 800,000 jobs that have been created in this country since the election? Does he further agree that not a single new job has been created in the European Union? Will he finally agree that, if the Government had been constrained by not being able to manage the interest rate and otherwise generally by the conditions of economic and monetary union, their performance might not have been quite so brilliant?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I have learnt to listen to the end of the noble Lord's questions. He always starts off in friendly vein and always finds some way of bringing it round to Europe and to an attack not on this Government but on Europe. We and the many countries of the European Union have been on a different economic cycle over the period that we have been talking about. There were indeed job losses in Europe in earlier days. I am glad to say that those job losses have been cut and even eliminated and that employment is rising at the moment in many European countries.

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