Friday, 16 March 2012

Article for ConHome: Put low earners first

Today ConservativeHome have published my article calling for the scrapping of income tax on the lowest paid and the introduction of a mansion tax:

In the run up to the budget MP's up and down the country get asked what they would like to see the Chancellor do when he stands at the dispatch box to deliver his budget.

The government has very little money, which means very little help to go around. But I believe very strongly that those at the bottom must get the help first.  Under the previous Labour Government millions of people on low incomes were forced to pay hundreds of pounds in income tax every year. Hands up who remembers the 10p tax?

A mum working full-time, stacking shelves in my constituency, earning just the minimum wage, has nearly £1000 taken from her in income tax. In fact, everyone on the minimum wage putting in a full weeks work does. That's wrong.

The Government is right to be raising the tax threshold to £10,000, which will put £700 into the pockets of everyone working hard for a living. But I would like to see the Government go further.

I believe that nobody earning the minimum wage and working a standard week should pay tax on that income.  This is a radical proposal, but one I believe is right. It's not Lib Dem policy. Nor is it Conservative policy. But it should be. It's one I'll be championing, alongside supporting the fantastic Right Angle project by my friend Robert Halfon MP.

Over past weeks, on ConservativeHome, Tim has outlined practical ways we can reconnect with the North, and indeed the wider country to help us win a majority. However it's not just our campaigning priorities we need to fix, it's our principles too.

Since when did helping those on the lowest incomes be something only the Lib Dems and Labour talked about? What has happened to our party? We are the party of Right to Buy, of the Strivers, of aspiration,  of helping those who want to get on in life. Yet too often we are talking about the 50p tax, a tax which effects those on six times the average salary, rather than the taxes on the lowest paid.

Of course, unlike Labour, I know that any tax cut has to be paid for, and unlike Labour I know borrowing more money is out of the question. There can be no unfunded tax cuts.

That's why I do support calls for a mansion tax. A bit of extra tax on properties over £2million seems perfectly fair to me.

There are lots of ways such a tax could be made to work. I would propose the tax would be paid only when a property is sold - becoming a mansion sales tax, in many ways what Stamp Duty was always designed for.

I have heard a lot about why a Mansion Tax is unfair on those it would hit. At what point did it become 'Conservative' to worry about those with a £2million house, before those struggling to pay a £100,000 mortgage? Think about that for a minute. Not a £200,000 house, but TWO MILLION.

The average house price in the UK is £161,545. In the North East, the region I represent, it is £102,066. If we ever want to win significant numbers of seats in the North again, and we must to win a majority, we need to remember those figures every time we talk about our tax and spend priorities.

It's not envy to ask those with the broadest shoulders to help those at the bottom. It's called fairness.