SDLP candidate Mark Durkan

Mark Durkan
Mark Durkan

In terms of Income Tax rates I have supported increases in personal allowances for basic rate as best way of earning tax take on lower incomes – and have voted for the additional rate to be 50 per cent.

I have also proposed a special additional tax rate to be levied on any MPs’ pay increase above the public sector pay rate. This would mean that even if IPSA (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) go through with a proposed 10/11 per cent pay rise, tax would claw back most of it and leave only an increase on par with public service workers.

In terms of VAT, I have consistently called for lower rates for Tourism / Hospitality and Building repairs, extensions, refits (new-builds are currently VAT free). Indeed, a reduction in tourism VAT would be a key economic driver which I have pressed for at Westminster.

I tabled the original parliamentary motion on VAT reduction in 2011 – as well as an amendment in the Budget calling on George Osborne to reduce the VAT rate that would provide a much-needed boost for the hospitality and tourism sector here.

Many EU Member States, including the Republic of Ireland, have introduced a reduced rate of VAT within their tourism and hospitality sectors for hotels, restaurants and pubs, and such measures have had a very positive impact.

A VAT reduction would not only create jobs and stimulate business locally but also help our hospitality sector to move forward and encourage more visitors to come here every year.

In terms of other changes, I have consistently called for the government to rethink its spending on nuclear weapons. I have argued that at a time of savage and indiscriminate spending cuts – in particular billions of pounds in welfare cuts – committing £100 billion to nuclear weapons is simply unjustifiable.

Cutting spending on Trident and other prestige follies would save billions of pounds at a time when public spending here and across the UK is being severely hit – not least with cuts to frontline services.

With such deep cuts severely hitting hard-pressed families and the vulnerable, the Treasury axe should first fall on fantasy status projects like Trident.

Tax is a key instrument, one for gaining the revenue for public services but also it is a tool for redistribution as well.

It is one of the reasons why, whilst not a fan of the administrative nightmare that came with tax credits, I did support, and have supported the basic concept of tax credits in terms of being able to better support people who have those family responsibilities.

In terms of other personal allowances I have been broadly supportive of increasing the personal allowances to take more people out of tax and even in the last Parliament, whenever the British Labour Party abolished the 10 per cent tax band in one of Gordon Brown’s budgets, I opposed that because I thought it was hitting less well off workers doing that. They were losing out.

Labour MPs at the time thought it wasn’t so. Then they came to realise that it was exactly what it was doing, which is why they scrambled to change the policy subsequently.

As well as raising the personal allowances I think there is also an issue of targeting further changes in relation to personal allowances to family commitment and family support so building in an element of child tax allowance into some of those changes rather than just as personal allowances and that might have been a more productive area for the Government to focus on rather than getting into the whole principle of tax allowances to support marriage as such.

I think addressing the issue of family responsibilities and parental costs that people have rather than focusing on marriage as a principle itself would be, I think, a fairer and more productive way of going.

In the last Parliament as well the Government have brought forward what they call child care payments, which are in effect tax allowances around child care that will pay up to 20 per cent of costs, which can go up to £10,000, that’s potentially up to £2,000 per child, as a child care payment and the Assembly has done parallel legislation on this but, of course, I have pointed out in Westminster debates that there is a different infrastructure for child care across the water so there would be more choices and better usages of that money in England than is currently available in the north.

I have also pointed out that there is an inequity in a Government making that provision around the child care allowances, which will benefit the better off because it’s not just the people on the basic rate of taxation who are able to get their allowances of up to 20 per cent, of up to £10,000 that they spend per child in a year, on child care.

I’ve pointed out that there’s no limit to the number of children that those better off families are able to get that child care allowance for whereas under the Government’s plans for universal credit the child care limit there will be limited to two children.

So if you have more than two children you won’t get any additional childcare element for the third, fourth or fifth child so I’ve pointed out that there’s an inequity there.

There’s also an inequity in that those people who are getting the child care payments as tax allowances will actually receive that money as bankable allowances so that they will show what their planned expenditure and commitment is, they will get those allowances granted them and then they will be free to spend them accordingly.

They will literally be bankable allowances for them, whereas under the plans for universal credit, the child care element, you can only claim for money you can show has already been spent and it has to be claimed within a very narrow time limit and again it’s only for two children.

So the Tories have literally brought in one law in terms of tax treatment for child care for the better off and for those who aren’t better off.

That’s part of why we’ve been consistent around our concerns about the Welfare Reform Bill in areas around Universal Credit and also we’ve been active and attentive around taxation members and how they affect families here.

That’s part of doing the job of an MP.

I voted against every stage of the Welfare Reform Bill in Westminster.

I voted for amendments that the Tories voted down and then my party colleagues in the Assembly voted for the same amendments when the bill went through here.

Unfortunately, the other parties here did what the Tories did and voted those amendments down.