Media and politics

Peers got the chance to debate the Chancellor’s Budget last week (18 March). The debate covered universal basic income, welfare benefits and the taxation of entrepreneurs, within the context of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Government was unmoved on most concerns about the Chancellor’s Budget, which itself has been overtaken by more recent announcements.

Questions of retrospection and unfairness exercised MPs in this debate about the Loan Charge, in the House of Commons this week (19). The context of the debate was Sir Amyas Morse’s review of the Loan Charge, published in December 2019.

 

The debates on the Budget this week were understandably held with the COVID-19 outbreak foremost in the minds of MPs. Conservatives generally praised the Budget and the goal of ‘levelling up’ the UK, while Labour said COVID-19 exposed the impact of the Conservatives’ 10 years of austerity. The Government announced a 12-month delay to the introduction of off-payroll working changes.

 

Following Wednesday’s statement by the Chancellor, MPs are holding four days of debate on the measures in the Budget. The first two of these were Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 March. (The latter two days – Monday 16 and Tuesday 17 March – will be the subject of a future report.)

Much has been written over the last few weeks about Entrepreneur’s Relief (“ER”), many of them bemoaning the amount that the relief is “costing” (£2.7 billion last year), that it does not encourage start-ups and the fact that is only claimed by the rich. Therefore, there is lots of speculation that Entrepreneur’s Relief will be scrapped in the Budget.

There was a debate on VAT on listed properties, in Westminster Hall, this week (4 March) led by the Conservative Craig Mackinlay, himself a Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA).

If the Welsh diverge upwards from English rates of income tax it might prompt some higher earners in Wales to relocate but the vast majority of people are unlikely to up sticks unless the income tax variations are very significant.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell opened this Opposition Day debate on tax avoidance and evasion, by saying Conservative governments have failed to address tax avoidance and evasion while making ‘savage’ cuts to public services and undermining the social security net.

The Budget will present new Chancellor Rishi Sunak with some tough choices. This week the IFS have pointed out that Sunak will have to raise taxes, break the Government’s fiscal rule or entrench austerity.

The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, an independent body set up to advise government on how to promote and increase the use of high-quality design for new build homes and neighbourhoods, published its final report recently with 45 policy recommendations.