Is George Osborne planning to scrap the 50p income tax rate? Yes.
But not today, nor tomorrow. Not this month, or next. Not even before Christmas. The move may not even take place next year.
The rate – which applies to those earning £150,000 – has always been classified as “temporary” by the coalition.
In recent weeks the Tories and Lib Dems have played up their differences over the issue. In fact neither think the 50p rate should be removed just now; the internal debate is whether to go for 2012 or 2013.
Danny Alexander insisted last Sunday that scrapping the rate was not a priority – and that lifting the income tax threshold to £10,000 should come first. Tory outriders such as Boris Johnson and Lord Lamont called for it to be axed; but even Lamont said this should happen in 2013. Johnson, meanwhile, is unfettered by the responsibilities of national coalition government. Read more
The Lib Dems will publish on Monday the motions they are going to debate at their autumn conference in Birmingham. But today they have told us about one: calling for a panel to look at decriminalising possession of all illegal drugs.
The plans are backed by the party’s Glasgow south branch, and are already being supported by some backbenchers. They also appear to have the tacit approval of Nick Clegg, who is said to be “watching the motion with interest”.
Clegg may calculate that such a motion could provide an effective release valve for members frustrated at having to compromise their liberalism because of being in government with the Tories.
But it has the chance to escalate into a problem for the party. In essence, it backs a decriminalisation of all drugs, including class-As and a network of “heroin maintenance clinics for the most problematic and vulnerable heroin users”.
Julian Huppert, who is well respected in the party, says: Read more