Peter Aldous raises concerns about impact of changes to working tax credits

15th September 2015

Peter Aldous backs Government strategy of encouraging earnings growth rather than supporting working families through the benefits system but raises his concerns about the impact on low-income families in the short term.

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): In laying this instrument before the House, the Government are pursuing the right strategic course of supporting working families through the tax system and encouraging earnings growth rather than doing that through the benefits system. For that reason, I shall support it, although I have serious concerns about the impact on working families in the short term over the next two to three years. I urge the Government to address these issues in the coming months before the measures come into effect next April.
 
The Government are right to be going in this direction. The current system is extremely expensive, and if nothing is done the cost will escalate to unsustainable levels. For me, it is wrong to be promoting what is, in effect, state dependency. It is also wrong that the Government are subsidising employers so that they pay low wages.
 
Clive Lewis (Norwich South) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman talks about high productivity and high wages, and Labour Members would agree with him on that, but yesterday we watched him file through the Lobby and vote against trade unions. They are one of the key ways that we can raise people’s wages, and he is undercutting them. How does he explain that?
 
Peter Aldous: I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that point, but I am constrained specifically to the issues we are debating.
 
It is wrong that the Government are subsidising employers in this way. Moreover, the current system of tapering income thresholds and interconnectivity with other benefits is ridiculously complicated and opaque.
 
I welcome the Government’s proposals to increase the personal allowance and to introduce the national living wage. It is right that working taxpayers, especially those on low pay, should keep more of the money that they earn as an incentive to work. My concern is that in the short term, over the course of the next two to three years, those who will be hit hardest by these measures are working families, often with children, on low wages. These are the hard-working families—the people doing the right thing—that all political parties say they support and must support.
 
In my constituency, where the median wage is just under £24,000, many people will be seriously affected by these changes. As of May this year, 4,200 families were receiving working tax credits.
 
Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): Representing a constituency where the median salary is even lower, at £17,500, I entirely concur with my hon. Friend’s concerns about this measure, and that is why I will not support it. Does he agree, though, that if it goes through, there is time between now and next year to make changes, be they to national insurance, emergency tax codes, or whatever, to mitigate the impact on the poorest?
 
Peter Aldous: I agree with my hon. Friend. I will come to that when I conclude.
 
Yes, the rise in the tax threshold and the introduction of a national living wage will help, but, as shown in research by the House of Commons Library, they will not on their own make up for what will be significant reductions in income.
 
Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a powerful point. I also represent a constituency where wages are quite low. The Government must recognise that the living wage must be brought up so that people are not worse off as a result of the cut in tax credits. We have to drive up the living wage so that we do not take too much money away from them.
 
Peter Aldous: I thank my hon. Friend for that notable intervention.
 
In my Waverley constituency, the demise of traditional industries, high levels of unemployment, low wages, lack of skills and poor infrastructure have been brakes on growth and job creation for 40 years. Both the previous Government and this Government have taken decisive action to address those problems, to halt and reverse the seemingly never-ending downward spiral of decline: unemployment has fallen significantly since 2010; there has been notable investment in apprenticeships; an enterprise zone has been set up; assisted area status has been granted; and funds have been committed to upgrading the roads and railways. That support and investment is to be both applauded and welcomed, and it will bring new, well-paid jobs to the area. However, it will not do so overnight. In the meantime, a particularly vulnerable group of society will be left very much exposed.
 
As I said at the beginning of my speech, the Government are pursuing the right course, albeit through choppy waters, and for that reason I shall be supporting the proposals. However, there are real concerns that must be addressed, and I urge Ministers to ensure before next April—possibly in the autumn statement or the next Budget—that those on low incomes are not hit unfairly and disproportionately by the proposals and that they do not have the unintended consequence of undermining the incentive to work.
 
4.56 pm
 

Surgeries

Peter holds regular surgeries at various locations in the constituency. Please call 01502 586568 to make an appointment.

 

Get Lowestoft Moving Campaign

 

A47 Alliance

Suppor the A47 Alliance

Download the report...

A47 Gateway to Growth

Your Local Councillors

Enter your Postcode below for details of all your elected representatives:

  

Lowestoft Transport Prospectus

Constituency Map

View Waveney in a larger map