Summary of Autumn Budget 2017 Resolutions debate
The Autumn Budget 2017 was delivered by the Chancellor on November 22. This is our summary of the four ensuing debates in the House of Commons on The Autumn Budget 2017 Resolutions and wider economic situation.
Debate on the Budget – days one and two – House of Commons – 22-23 November 2017
Stamp duty and business tax in the spotlight
This is a summary of the first two debates on The Autumn Budget. Much of the debate was about housing, with few exchanges about tax measures announced in the Budget. Labour disagreed with much of the Budget considering it a continuation of a flawed austerity programme by the Government.
Labour frontbench speeches
Responding to the Chancellor’s statement, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that economic growth in the first three quarters of this year is the lowest since 2009 and the deficit that was due to be ‘eradicated’ by 2015 will now be most likely with us until 2025. The poorest 10th of households will lose 10 per cent of their income by 2022, while the richest will lose just one per cent, he claimed. Labour wants a pause to the roll out of universal credit. Corbyn said: “The Chancellor’s solution to a failing system causing more debt is to offer a loan, and a six-week wait, with 20% waiting even longer, simply becomes a five-week wait.” In a flurry of statistics, Corbyn said five and a half million workers earn less than the living wage - a million more than five years ago - and criticised the Conservative’s record on the Northern Powerhouse, stating that Government figures show that every region in the north of England has seen a fall in spending on services since 2012.
The Labour leader welcomed moving from RPI to CPI indexation on business rates and urged the Government to adopt Labour’s entire business rates pledge, including exempting plant and machinery, and an annual revaluation of business rates. He closed his speech by saying the Government have ‘opposed measure after measure in this House—their Tory colleagues have done the same in the European Parliament—to clamp down on the tax havens that facilitate this outrageous leaching from our public purse’.
On day two of the Budget debate Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said average annual pay is now projected to be £1,030 lower in 2022 than was forecast in the March 2017 Budget, productivity growth has collapsed because investment has fallen, 800,000 people are zero-hour contracts and’ we now have more than 2 million people in insecure work’. The Chancellor did nothing for self-employed people, second earners, lone parents or disabled people, all of whom have seen their living standards suffer particularly acutely under universal credit, he said. As a result of the Budget, those claiming universal credit will now have to take their first payment as a loan, so they will face 12 months of reduced payments. Fifty five per cent of civil servants’ pay is not covered by a pay review body and outside the pay rises above one per cent. The Government say they aim to reach the OECD average of 2.4 per cent of GDP spent on R and D by 2027, but ‘after years of languishing below that level, Britain should be aiming to be above the OECD average, rather than belatedly hitting it a decade from now’.
Opening debate on day 2 of the Budget debate Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid reminded the House that the Chancellor also promised £630 million for small sites to unlock the delivery of 40,000 homes; £400 million for estate regeneration; a £1.1 billion fund to unlock strategic sites, including new settlements and urban regeneration schemes; and £8 billion of new financial guarantees to support private house building and the purpose-built private rented sector. Business rate revaluations will switch from every five years to every three years, avoiding the cliff edge that currently confronts many businesses, particularly smaller ones. The Tories are changing the law so that businesses affected by the so-called staircase tax decision can have their original bills reinstated and backdated. “We speak the language of global business, the language of the world wide web—the world wide web that we invented.”
Winding up debate on day two, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Andrew Jones said the stamp duty cut will save the average first-time property buyer nearly £1,700. “That should be viewed not in isolation, but in the context of a balanced and broader package of supply and demand.
Nicky Morgan, Chair of the Treasury Committee, said the stamp duty cut will make home ownership a reality for more young people and was pleased that the Chancellor said that the tax system can help to protect the UK’s environment. She welcomed the change from RPI to CPI on business rates and the move on ‘the staircase tax’. On taxing digital businesses, she said that, ‘although the change is perhaps modest, an important principle has been established about the taxation of digital businesses that do business in this country.’ She was pleased that the Government will spend £155 million on HMRC’s revenue-collecting ability in order to collect an estimated £2.3 billion.
Business taxation was raised by a number of MPs. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown is delighted that the main R and D tax credit that enables UK firms to invest in even more infrastructure, will be maintained. Stephen Hammond said much of the good stuff is in the Red Book. On the patient capital review, he said funds to benefit from the Budget will be high growth and high risk. Cheryl Gillan welcomed the VAT number display provisions announced in the Red Book. It does not make great sense that businesses can avoid tax if they have a very large website, yet there is little that a small business based in a shopping centre in Torbay can do to avoid it, said Kevin Foster. Rachel Maclean said corporation tax receipts have increased by £20 billion since 2010, and there are 5.5 million more small businesses. On VAT and online sales, Sir Michael Fallon said the UK ‘one nation should mean one economy, for large and small businesses alike’. Helen Whately said the Budget was ‘comprehensive, balanced, good for business—especially small businesses—and for the lowest paid’.
On other tax issues Scott Mann said one of the biggest wins for Cornwall is the roll-over of the second homes stamp duty, which was set at three per cent last year. He welcomed the increase in duty on cheap, high-alcohol cider because it will ‘discourage consumption’. On more duty for white cider, Rebecca Pow pleaded for the Government to look at the position of traditional cider makers in her Taunton Deane constituency, ‘who may go out of business unless we can put a different definition in place for them’. Sir Michael Fallon said unemployment has fallen because of the cumulative reductions in taxation and regulation that have taken place over the last seven years. Fallon questioned the logic of continuing to raise the personal allowance but not the national insurance threshold.
More broadly John Redwood said the ‘next part of the journey’ is trying to get people into better paid work. The current levels of debt or deficit are not alarming, he said. Jeremy Lefroy urged the Chancellor to look at the introduction of a UK investment bank, when the UK leaves the European Investment Bank. On universal credit, he said fortnightly payments, at least for a period, should be considered in the near future.
Productivity and stamp duty were raised by a number of MPs. Rachel Reeves asked ‘Why on earth do we have to wait five years for a productivity investment fund (worth £7 billion)? ‘Something that could be kicked down the road for five years,’ she opined. On the stamp duty cut, she drew attention to the OBR which said that after the stamp duty changes, on the basis of its analysis, prices paid by first-time buyers will be higher with the relief than without it. The OBR went on to say the main gainers from the policy will be people who already own their properties, not first-time buyers. Helen Goodman said it is absurd to have a stamp duty limit for first-time buyers of £500,000, which implies they have an income of £150,000. She later cited the Institute for Public Policy Research which has found that productivity outside the south-east is 44 per cent lower than it is elsewhere, which means investing in the regions is crucial, she said. Chris Evans said the UK’s productivity crisis will mean larger budget deficits in future years.
Pay and employment rights – and related tax issues, were raised during the debate too. Angela Eagle said one in 10 of the workforce—3.2 million people—now faces insecurity at work, including: 800,000 on zero-hours contracts; 760,000 on non-standard forms of temporary working, including agency and casual work; and 1.7 million in low-paid self-employment, earning below the Government’s ‘modest so-called living wage’. It is little wonder, then, that tax receipts are falling as employers take advantage of tax structures that incentivise less secure forms of employment. Catherine West said that as the UK population continues to grow and people work in different ways, including in small business, we need to be ever mindful of supporting them in the tax system. Gareth Thomas said that according to a report published this month by the Centre for Economic Performance, the impact of inflation and a weaker pound since the referendum means that the average worker has experienced a real-terms cut of nearly £450 in annual pay. Ruth Cadbury said the Budget ‘does nothing for those on low wages or insecure zero-hours contracts, nothing for those who need substantial growth in council house building and nothing for our councils and other local services or for those who work in them’.
Other tax issues occasionally got a mention. Wes Streeting welcomed the exemption on the vehicle excise duty supplement for new zero-emission-capable taxis and urged the Chancellor to bring it forward earlier than April 2019 because many such vehicles will be on the road from next month. Catherine McKinnell said the House is still to receive from the current Chancellor a commitment on how he intends to mitigate the impact on English regional airports of devolving APD duty to the Scottish Government. John Healey pointed out that spending on R&D has simply flatlined; it has been well below the OECD average in the last seven years.
Broader economic issues got more attention though. Liz Kendall said Britain has one of the most geographically unbalanced economies in Europe, with 40 per cent of our economic output coming from London and the south-east. Indeed, those are the only two regions in the country that have seen their economies get back to pre-crisis levels. Chris Leslie said the budget deficit for 2021 was forecast in the spring to be £16 billion, but today’s Budget now predicts that it will be £30 billion. Barry Sheerman said this country has greater economic gaps between its regions than any other OECD countries, something the Budget does not address. Chris Williamson said the Chancellor was ‘fiddling around’ with housing association debt by taking it off the Government’s balance sheet. He was also disappointed that the announcements on universal credit do not come into effect before Christmas.
SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford made a sizeable speech. He welcomed the ‘overdue’ removal of VAT on the Scottish police and fire services but said this should have been done when the SNP first asked in 2015. On the extra £2 billion for Scotland promoted by the Chancellor, Blackford said the reality is a £250 million cut in real terms. “We also call on the Chancellor to scrap the two-child policy and the immoral rape clause. According to the IFS, the two-child cap on tax credits will mean about 600,000 three-child families losing £2,500 a year on average and about 300,000 families with four or more children losing a whopping £7,000 a year on average. Most of those families are in work. If we want to make work pay, let us remove the rape clause.” Either the Chancellor decides to act now to deliver fairness to 1950s women, or he will find that Parliament does it for him, he warned. The focus on monetary policy has driven up house prices and stocks and shares, but failed to drive investment in the real economy. He said that the Government should consider devolving the powers needed to tackle aggressive tax avoidance and tax evasion.
Treasury spokesperson Kirsty Blackman said the outlook for GDP growth is worse on all counts than even the OBR’s projections in spring. ”The Chancellor announced largesse for Scotland—£2 billion—but that is smoke and mirrors because £1.1 billion of that is financial transaction money. It cannot be used to pay for vital frontline public services, and it has to be paid back.” Between 2010-11 and 2019-20, Scotland’s budget has seen a cut of £2.6 billion in real terms, she said. Over the next two years, the Scottish block grant for day-to-day services has been reduced by £531 million. On the end of Scottish police and fire services paying VAT, she said the SNP raised the issue and called for the change to be made 140 times and ‘as far as I am aware, the Scottish Tories have raised it once in this House’. On the stamp duty cut, she said implementing the policy is costing £3.2 billion, but the OBR expects 3,500 houses to change hands as a result. “That means the Government are subsidising each house by £924,000 each. One tax expert I follow on Twitter said that virtually every tax expert thinks that this policy sucks.” She argued that the Scottish land and buildings transaction tax is way more progressive than the position put forward by the UK Government in the Budget.
Alison Thewliss said it seemed entirely unclear as to why the Scottish Conservatives believed that there was no justification to scrap the VAT then, even a few weeks ago, yet now advocate it and actively celebrate it.
Lib Dem Jamie Stone said it is high time that the Scottish Government followed suit and abolished stamp duty north of the border for first time buyers. Jo Swinson (also Lib Dem) said that overseas territories should require them to comply with UK standards on transparency, or companies registered there should be prevented from doing business in the UK. “There is merit in having a simpler system, but using the new system to make deep cuts fools no one and undermines the important principles that underlie universal credit.”
Jim Shannon, DUP, suggested that the £200 million a year expected from digital economy royalties relating to UK sales that are paid to a low-tax jurisdiction, is a ‘conservative estimate’. Shannon said it is entirely appropriate that our tax system now recognises marriage, but it is not right to tell a stay-at-home spouse looking after children that the unpaid work they do is not worthy of 90% of the personal allowance. Emma Little Pengelly (also DUP) was aggrieved that there is no Northern Ireland Executive in place to examine the Budget.
Charlie Elphicke, Independent, said: “We need to go further with these multinationals [on tax avoidance]. The problem is that too many of them think that they are not subject to this country’s rule of law.”
Green party leader Caroline Lucas said there is no new money available for renewables until 2025 and contrasted this negatively with the Chancellor giving away yet more tax breaks to oil and gas.
The full day one debate can be read here and day two debate here.
Debate on the Budget – days three and four - House of Commons – 27-28 November 2017
Tory MPs rally to promote Budget; Labour on the attack
Tax played only a minor part in the final two days of debate on the Budget. Below are some of the more relevant points made.
On Monday Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the Budget will take forward the UK’s national success by helping Britain to compete in the industries of the future, for example robotics, artificial intelligence and self-driving cars. Speaking in favour of looking at a plastic tax, he said that plastic bags are ‘potentially lethal material’, ‘which is carried by the currents, is choking seabirds and imperilling whales’. Economic Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay highlighted that four million people have been taken out of tax entirely by this Government through the increase in the personal allowance. Barclay said the Budget ensures the Government remains on track to meet its fiscal targets, while continuing to invest in core public services.
On Tuesday Business Secretary Greg Clark said the Budget outlined the biggest increase in public research and development investment for 40 years. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Elizabeth Truss wound up the four days of debate, saying: “This is a Budget that recognises where the true value of our economy is created by making sure that our enterprises have the skills, talent and space that they need to grow and to ensure that all of our citizens benefit from our powerhouse future.”
Labour frontbench speeches
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry asked the Government to reassure the House of Commons that the OBR will be asked to assess the likely economic and fiscal impact of Brexit and to publish a paper as soon as possible. She pointed out that a table on page 82 of the Red Book shows that only one of the 32 taxes listed, the bank levy, will take in less money year on year over the next six years. She added that the national debt has more than doubled under this Government.
Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said Labour analysis has shown that we have to go back to 1820 before we can find a time when productivity increased by less than now over a 10-year period. The policy to raise total R and D investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027 is an ‘unambitious target’, she said. “The UK has been below the OECD average of 2.4 per cent of GDP for years, and we are way behind global leaders such as South Korea, Japan, Finland and Sweden, which all spend at least three per cent of GDP on R and D.” Labour’s industrial strategy, on the other hand, is committed to achieving three per cent of GDP spent on R and D by 2030 and reviewing government channels for disbursing public R and D funding, with a view to encouraging greater regional equality. Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Peter Dowd said the ‘UK’s economic growth wholly depends on our ability to raise productivity rates’, and ‘there was nothing of any substance whatsoever in the Budget to help that’.
Conservative MPs welcomed the stamp duty cut. Mims Davies said work done by this Government has saved nearly £2,000 on stamp duty for first-time buyers in her constituency of Eastleigh. Tim Loughton welcomed the stamp duty exemption for first-time young buyers but added that the UK needs to build more homes, as well as more new towns. But there are some unintended omissions, he lamented. People will not qualify if buying a property jointly with somebody who has previously owned one or even somebody who has made a loss on previous properties. He suggested that stamp duty should be based on size rather than price, depending on what part of the country people live in, to make it fair. The Government should also incentivise downsizing by older people to free up family homes because at the moment they have to pay stamp duty.
Scottish Conservative MPs are making a concentrated effort to praise the Government’s support for key Scottish industries. Transferable tax history for the oil and gas industry could be a game-changer, added Colin Clark. Ross Thomson said it could help to unlock upwards of £40 billion of new investment by allowing the transfer of tax history from the seller to the buyer when North Sea assets are sold on. It can bring new inward investment by enabling more deals to be done on late-life assets. It can prolong the life of mature fields by many year, he added. Paul Masterton said if it were not for the Scottish Conservatives, the price of a bottle of whisky would be going up. “This is a major pre-Brexit boost for one of our most important industries, with exports of more than £4 billion a year.”
Skills, productivity and Infrastructure featured heavily in debate. Kenneth Clarke said it is the quality of the skills training and the relevance of the skills training to the local employment market that we still have to get right. Damian Collins complained that we simply cannot deliver on massively important new technologies such as 5G for the whole nation without that infrastructure to support it. Oliver Dowden said our ‘productivity challenge’ has been disguised in recent years by membership of the EU, in that we have had large-scale migration of highly skilled migrants from Eastern Europe, and we have principally had to compete only with European markets. Surely equality demands that older generation’s benefits should be increased only with increases in working-age benefits, he added. Gillian Keegan said the Government’s ambition is clear, with a further £2.3 billion being invested in science and innovation—the highest level in 30 years. Ben Bradley said that although many of the announcements are not earth-shattering in isolation, they show that the Government have a ‘vision’. PwC estimates that global GDP could be up to 14 per cent higher in 2030 as a result of artificial intelligence, and it is therefore welcome to see artificial intelligence being backed in the Budget, said Antoinette Sandbach.
A couple of Conservatives spoke on VAT. Luke Graham, an accountant, said the Chancellor’s measures to extend HMRC’s powers to make online marketplaces jointly and severally liable for the unpaid VAT of overseas traders on their platforms, will bring about greater equity for British traders and increase the tax take. Kevin Hollinrake urged the Chancellor to ‘tackle’ VAT, stating that anecdotal evidence suggests that this is a barrier to productivity and expansion, and that has been supported by a report from the OTS, which says that there is a bunching effect around the VAT threshold. Hollinrake also said that increasing productivity was about unlocking £20 billion of patient capital, doubling the enterprise investment scheme allowance and providing more support for challenger banks.
EIS was also highlighted by Bim Afolami, who explained that EIS funnels private capital that might otherwise be sitting in housing assets or on a bank balance sheet into our most early-stage, innovative and risky creative businesses. “That is the magic of the EIS. Such tax reliefs and allowances are beneficial to the country because they effectively mitigate the risk for private investors in risky, early-stage businesses.”
Other taxes and duties also got a look in. Kemi Badenoch represents a large rural constituency, and feels the fuel freeze will help them keep down the cost of living. The APD freeze will help to ensure that Britain’s skies remain open post-Brexit and will promote the global Britain programme, she added. Tim Loughton asked why there need to be a higher rate of duty on sparkling wine than still wine, when it is of a lower alcoholic strength. It is important to investigate how charges and the tax system can reduce plastic waste, said Mark Pawsey.
A number of MPs used the debate to promote the Government’s economic record. Nigel Huddleston counted that this Budget contains ‘something like 300 measures’, many of which focus clearly on the future and on the nation’s potential and creativity. Michelle Donelan said the UK has now seen 19 consecutive quarters of continuous economic growth and the number of VAT-registered businesses has risen by more than two per cent in the past tax year alone. Rishi Sunak backed the Chancellor’s ‘disciplined’ Budget and added that on average, economies with debt exceeding 90 per cent of GDP grow one percentage point slower than those where it is between 30 per cent and 90 per cent, and two percentage points slower than those where it is below 30 per cent. Andrew Bridgen said the continued cuts in corporation tax will ensure that businesses continue to create the jobs and the wealth we need in the future.
Meanwhile Nigel Huddleston declared that we are “putting the age of austerity behind us, and I hope that in the next few years we will see further increases in spending on health, education, social care, the police and our armed forces.” He claimed a greater willingness to accept increased taxation among the public is down to confidence in a Conservative government. He went on and said we are spreading the tax burden fairly. The tax gap is at an all-time low, corporation tax is increasing, and the top one per cent of income tax payers pay 28 per cent of all income tax.
A number of Labour MPs attacked the Government’s decision to make tax cuts rather than increase public spending in particular areas. Ed Miliband said it seems that the Chancellor can afford to ‘spend those billions on reducing the corporation tax rate, but he cannot afford to keep benefits at the same level, and has to cut them. That is the political choice of this Budget’. Alex Cunningham told the Government to end the public sector pay cap, bring forward investment in infrastructure, reverse the planned ‘tax giveaways for the super-rich’ and reject a deregulated, no-deal, race-to-the bottom Brexit. Recent research from the Institute for Public Policy Research has shown that if public sector pay was raised by inflation, 43 per cent of the cost would be reclaimed by the Treasury through taxation, said Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi.
On the Budget announcement to close the tax loophole on commercial property sales for foreign companies, Stella Creasy said the Government think that they will raise only half a billion pounds a year, when they should be raising £6 billion a year. Paul Sweeney said raising research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027 will only bring the UK in line with the OECD average, after years of lagging behind’. “There is the key question of ensuring that UK firms are leading this effort and that it is balanced across all UK regions. In Scotland, for example, 70 per cent of R and D activity is undertaken by overseas-owned companies, but there is nothing in the industrial strategy to address that.”
Environmental issues got an airing during the debate. David Drew said renewables are ‘flatlining’ and if the UK is to go towards a carbon-free economy, it has to boost renewables, ‘yet aside from a brief mention there is nothing about them in this Budget’. Margaret Greenwood said the Budget did precious little to address the very serious threat of climate change. Kerry McCarthy welcomed the proposed tax on single use plastic packaging, not least because there is little pressure on producers to reduce resource use and to make their packaging recyclable. On the plastic tax, Alex Cunningham said we need to boost the way in which we deal with food recycling, recognising that there is an alternative to incineration.
Brexit continues to lurk over every parliamentary debate. Hilary Benn spoke about the Governments wish to not have a border between the two Irelands, yet they also say that they want to leave the customs union and the single market. “No matter how radical the technology is or how much the Government spend, it is hard, if not impossible, to see how this problem can be reconciled if we are to avoid a return to a hard border.” EU funds worth £680 million come into Wales each year, but David Hanson was upset to hear nothing from the Foreign Secretary about what will replace those funds.
A number of Labour MPs raised issues around help for the less well off. Jim Cunningham reminded the house that the national living wage has been revised down, so it will not reach £9 by 2020, as previously promised, and the Government is ‘persisting with the horrendous roll-out of universal credit, instead of pausing the roll-out to allow the system to be improved’. Lucy Powell lamented that there was absolutely nothing about social mobility in the Budget. There were no proposals in the Budget to reduce the disability employment gap, or to increase the employability of disabled people, lamented Marsha De Cordova. Gerard Killen said the move from an initial six-week wait to a five-week wait for universal credit payment will be ‘cold comfort’ to the people who contact his office in desperate need of help.
Government borrowing was highlighted by some Labour MPs. Toby Perkins said he is willing to bet his house that, by 2025, this country will still have a deficit. “The Tories have no credibility when talking about the deficit.” Universal credit does not work for the self-employed and it is positively cruel for the disabled, he added. Steve McCabe pointed out that the Chancellor is now on target to borrow £30 billion more by 2020 than was predicted just a year ago. Alison McGovern said Labour kept debt at 40 per cent of GDP, and now it is 80 per cent of GDP.
Angus MacNeil (SNP) asked about the Government’s approach to getting some revenue from the way in which robots are doing many of the jobs that people used to do. Business Secretary Greg Clark did not give a detailed answer, only stating that ‘if jobs change, we need to ensure that people have the ability to train and develop the skills they will need for the jobs that are being created’. Stewart Hosie (also SNP) said a leaked Treasury document of a couple of years ago, ‘says that the worst-case scenario—if there are tariffs, other regulatory barriers and an immediate reversion to World Trade Organisation rules—is a 10 per cent hit on GDP, full stop, before we start’. The SNP supports the increase in R and D tax credits rate to 12 per cent, as well as the £725 million industrial strategy challenge fund, he added. Another SNP MP, Peter Grant, said the most important part of the foreign policy of any developed and wealthy nation is to ensure that its wealth is distributed so that terrorist attacks and starvation become things of the past. “If I have to pay a wee bit more income tax, or any other tax, to make that happen, I for one am more than happy to dip into my pocket.”
Sir Edward Davey, Lib Dem, said: “What does the Budget mean for Brexit politics? People who voted leave [the EU] thought they were voting for better wages because there would be less competition from immigrants. Their wages are going to be lower.”
At the end of the four days of debate MPs voted on the 44 Budget Resolutions. All were approved. Only one (number 28, on the bank levy) was pressed to the vote and it was passed 316-293. The resolutions are listed here.
The full day three debate can be read here and the full day four debate here.
Footnote: Amendment to the law resolution
At Business Questions yesterday, Valerie Vaz, Shadow Leader of the House, raised the failure of the Government to table a general ‘amendment to the law’ resolution for the Finance Bill. “There have been only five occasions when that has not happened at such a time. In 1929, it happened immediately before a general election. On the other occasions, in 1974, 1997, 2010 and July 2017, it happened immediately after a general election. “Erskine May” points out that: “On occasions, and in particular when it has been necessary to proceed rapidly with a Finance Bill in anticipation of a dissolution of Parliament, the ‘Amendment of the law’ resolution has been omitted.” Will the Leader of the House update us on the Government’s thinking on why there is not a chance for the Opposition parties to put forward our alternative case?” Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons, replied: “The hon. Lady made a point about the Opposition’s ability to put forward an alternative case on the Finance Bill. I will write to her on that point, if I may, because I am actually looking into the matter at the moment.”