As I wrote yesterday, ConservativeHome doesn’t have a remote control for George Osborne – but we have submitted our manifesto into the mix in the hope that some of its ideas will be taken up. A number already have been, and happily a few more of them feature in today’s Autumn Statement:
- Reform Stamp Duty: We picked out Stamp Duty as one of the taxes that “gum up the works” that should be progressively phased out. The Chancellor’s decision to reform it by abolishing the absurd and unfair slab system was the first step we suggested back in March. It’s also a win for the TaxPayers’ Alliance whose Stamp Out Stamp Duty campaign has applied pressure on the topic.
- Greater fiscal devolution: Our manifesto proposed fiscal decentralisation, and Devo Max for all four home nations. Those ideas are yet to come about, but the steps to devolve further tax powers to Wales, Scotland and (contingent on the competence of Stormont) Northern Ireland are moves in the right direction. Notably, the Chancellor used the opportunity to say that the case for English votes on English laws is now “unanswerable”, and the details of the documents released today suggest a reduction of up to two thirds in the Barnett Formula, so it seems England isn’t going to be left out.
- Legislation on balancing the books: As expected, Osborne announced that a Charter for Budget Responsibility will come before the House in the New Year. This will likely specify the elimination of the deficit in the next parliament – a step towards our proposal for a permanent Balance Budget Plus rule and a debt ceiling in law.
- Focusing tax cuts on the young and poor: We made our priority for tax cuts the Employers’ National Insurance on the lowest-paid young people. Our proposal was to abolish it on under-25s on the National Minimum Wage. The Chancellor didn’t go that far, but he did abolish Employers’ NI on apprentices under 25, a more modest reflection of exactly the same priority.
- Spend northern shale gas tax revenues in the North: Our manifesto proposed a Northern Infrastructure Fund, which would receive among other things the tax revenues of northern shale gas extraction. “We’re announcing a new Sovereign Wealth Fund for the North of England so that the shale gas resources of the North are used to invest in the future of the North,” quoth the Chancellor.
- Clamp down on aggressive tax avoidance: Osborne’s new Diverted Profits Tax, properly implemented, will help to fulfil the tax fairness our manifesto proposed.
- Reparations for financial crisis emergency measures: Given that taxpayers and ordinary savers bore the cost of emergency measures like bailouts and quantitative easing during the financial crisis, the ConHome manifesto proposed “to investigate the workability of a windfall tax on the major corporate gainers” from those measures. It’s a different format to that which we imagined, but limiting the amount of losses that can be offset against tax on later profits of the banks is a similar step (though there are other corporate gainers who it won’t touch).
With over 30 specific proposals, and some wide-ranging radical reforms to the structure of the British state, there’s plenty more in our manifesto which hasn’t been adopted (yet). But it’s encouraging to some of our ideas, and some of the broad principles of our Homes, Jobs and Savings agenda, making their way into Osborne’s thinking.