David Cameron’s Tories seem to have acquired a taste for tax-cutting after the apparent success of last week’s National Insurance pledge.
During intense negotiations between the Tories and Labour this evening (over the “wash-up” of Parliamentary business – horsetrading to see which bills will make it on to the statute book) the latter have been forced to drop three tax rises which were in the Budget.
It’s interesting because opposition parties rarely try to bring down finance bills. It seems that with only two days of Parliament remaining, Labour were prepared to drop quite a few of their treasured policies to keep their other bills intact.
Thus in the finance bill they have abandoned the inflation-plus-10 per cent rise in cider tax*, the 50p-a-home monthly levy to fund superfast broadband across Britain and a tax on furnished holiday lettings. Meanwhile the constitutional reform bill has been stripped of its most exotic parts – a referendum on an alternative vote and a commitment to ending the hereditaries in the Lords.
Labour officials have expressed bemusement at the Tories’ role in stopping tax rises when it was that party which supposedly wanted to tackle the deficit. The Tory riposte will be that on cider and broadband at least their policies are fully costed (a new supertax on superstrength “ciders” and money from the BBC license fee respectively).
* The Wurzels, pictured, celebrating this evening (not literally, you understand).
Could the Tory cider policy have anything to do with crucial Westcountry seats which the Conservatives want to seize from the Lib Dems? Perish the thought.
The idea of Taunton or Frome residents parading effigies of Philip Hammond through the streets seems a bit far-fetched; but who knows?
Incidentally: The Treasury points out that – even if the increase had gone ahead – cider would still only have been taxed at about half the rate of beer.