Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tory Tax Talk

Today has been an important day for the Conservative Party. We started talking about tax again. While I have been supportive of David Cameron's strategy to re-image the party (I do not like the phrase 'decontaminating the brand'), I do not believe it is credible for us to go into a General Election without a 'lower tax' policy. I believe that we should be seen as the 'lower tax' party - if not the 'low tax' party. I accept that it is too far out from an election to make specific committments and we cannot know what the state of the nation's accounts will be. But I do think we should support the principle that the control and intrusion of the state into our lives should be 'less rather than more' and the control and responsibility of the individual over their own lives should be 'more rather than less'.
Today's publication from Michael Forsyth's Tax Commission makes interesting reading. It is the basis for constuctive debate - so here goes. I would not give top billing to cutting the basic rate of income tax. I would prefer to see the preposterous 10p rate abolished and millions on people taken out of liability altogether by raising allowances. This would roll back the state as well as help the lower end of the income scale.
Next, I want to see Stamp Duty cut. George Osborne, our impressive Shadow Chancellor has already talked about cutting this duty on shares dealing. I believe these cuts should be extended to houses as well. We are the party of the homeowner and have pushed up the level of homeownership in the UK. This policy makes no sense if we have a tax system that makes it prohibitively expensive to trade in housing. Modern employment patterns need people to move around the country and it damages the economy if the tax system discourages them. Stamp Duty has become a ball and chain on the development of a flexible Labour Market in the UK.
Not all of my Party colleagues will agree with me here but I welcome George Osborne's embrace of the 'green tax switch' principle. Increasing the level of duty on air travel would not be popular - but it is right. We must stimulate technological research into fuel efficiecy through the tax system. But the most important aspect of today's developments is that we Conservatives are talking about tax again.

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