By Paul Goodman
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Within the last few weeks, Conservative MPs have recommended that the following taxes be cut in the budget:
- Income tax.
- Corporation tax.
- Employers' National Insurance contributions.
- Capital gains tax on business investments
- Fuel duty.
- Air Passenger Duty.
- Beer Duty…
…And there are more calls if one trawls back further, such as for transferable allowances for married couples.
Some of these reductions would doubtless raise more money for the Treasury in the medium-term or even the short-term. (I pay tribute to our old friend, the Laffer Curve.) But only the most goofy supply-sider believes that taxes can be cut, on the one hand, without proper spending control, on the other. The two must march in step.
And identifying spending cuts is a less cheer-raising proposition than identifying tax cuts. The right-wing media has fought very shy of it, though this site has run a series on how it might be done. The present battle between Conservative and Liberal Democrat Cabinet members over the welfare budget is a reminder that Ministers and MPs find it no easier.
So it was cheering to read three Conservative MPs from the Free Enterprise Group set out in today's Telegraph where savings might be found.
- The Bronze Medal goes to…Brooks Newmark, who said that "universal pensioner benefits should be means-tested". However, David Cameron ruled that out in 2010, so any such move will have to wait until after 2015.
- The Silver Medal goes to…the dynamic duo of Kwasi Kwarteng and Therese Coffey, who between them suggested reducing the aid budget by a third, and abandoning the ring-fencing of the NHS and schools. But these been ruled out too.
- And the Gold Medal for telling the truth to power, or rather to voters, goes to Ben Gummer, who has also fought for greater tax transparency. The Ipswich MP recommended "deep cuts to welfare and pensions which he said soaked up one
third of all income tax paid":
“Unless we start tackling that in the medium
and long term we are not going to be in a position to start promising those
welfare benefits to our children and grandchildren,” he said."
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, health and pensions could account for £1 of every £2 of public spending by 2050.