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Voters will be turned away to Labour by the Government’s plans to raise taxes, a Conservative former minister has warned.
Sir Edward Leigh compared the Government’s tax plans and Covid regulation policies to those of the wartime coalition government and called on Treasury minister Simon Clarke to “say no” to other ministers pleading for more cash.
Speaking during the Commons Budget debate, Sir Edward (Gainsborough) said Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s “hymn of praise to a low tax economy” had “brought a tear to the eye of a weary Thatcherite”.
He added: “I know that we are facing one of the greatest challenges in our history with the pandemic, but the truth is we are now taxing people higher than at any level since the Attlee government. As we pursue levelling up, are we going to bring in ration cards like the Attlee government on eggs and meat?”
He went on: “Bear in mind what happened in 1945: we presided in the coalition government during the war over the highest-taxing government in history, the most regulating government in history – and we have regulated people’s private lives more than we have ever done in the last 70 years in the pandemic – what was the result? It was a Labour government.”
Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the Government was “making the largest investment in skills in a decade” to “deliver the technical education our economy needs”.
He said: “We are investing over £3.8 billion over the course of this Parliament in further education and skills to make sure people have access to the kind of high-quality training and education that will open the doors to good jobs, which is in turn going to boost productivity and support levelling up.”
On schools, Mr Zahawi said “core funding will rise by £4.7 billion in 2024/25, building on the largest cash boost for a decade provided in 2019 spending review. This equates to a total cash increase of £1,500 per pupil compared to 2019”.
But Labour’s Clive Efford (Eltham) queried school spending levels since 2010, arguing: “Why have young people in our schools been forced to pay the price of Tory austerity over that period of time?”
Shadow education secretary Kate Green said the Government had made “inadequate” childcare announcements in the Budget to help reduce costs for parents and boost quality.
She told the Commons: “When Labour left office there were 3,500 Sure Start centres delivering support to over 2.9 million children in every local authority in the country.
“One thousand children’s centres have closed since then and the Secretary of State, I think, was promising a moment ago new family hubs only in half of local authorities.”
The SNP’s business spokesperson Stephen Flynn argued increases for Scotland will be below inflation.
He said “spending now will be 60% of what it was in real terms in relation to 2010”, adding that life expectancy for the poorest had “plummeted on the watch of this Government”, and that disabled people had “literally been pummelled into the ground by this Conservative Party”.
Labour former shadow chancellor John McDonnell called for “reform of local government finance that provides an independent, adequate resource for local authorities, and that does include the reform of business rates”.
Mr McDonnell insisted the system of distribution needs to be fair, adding: “To have a Chancellor stand up and list the towns and areas that will be showered with his or her beneficence is not good enough.”
He added: “Fair taxation means not cutting the tax on the bankers who caused the crisis of 2008. It also means a fairer taxation on wealth, that’s capital gains and also the wealthiest.
“I actually say also, it is time now that the City starts pulling its weight. That’s why the financial transaction tax, now nearly designed over the last month, by the Robin Hood campaigners actually could be a realistic way in which the City contributes better to our economy overall.”