Rishi Sunak – 2021 Budget Statement

The statement made by Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the House of Commons on 28 October 2021.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I have heard your words and those of Mr Speaker. I have the greatest respect for you both and want to assure you that I have listened very carefully to what you have said. May I also send my best wishes to the Leader of the Opposition? I know that the whole House will join me in doing that.

With your permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, let me turn to today’s Budget. Employment is up, investment is growing, public services are improving, the public finances are stabilising and wages are rising. Today’s Budget delivers a stronger economy for the British people: stronger growth, with the UK recovering faster than our major competitors; stronger public finances, with our debt under control; and stronger employment, with fewer people out of work and more people in work. Growth is up, jobs are up and debt is down. Let there be no doubt: our plan is working.

This Budget is about what this Government are about: investment in a more innovative, high-skilled economy, because that is the only sustainable path to individual prosperity; world-class public services, because they are the common goods from which we all benefit; backing business, because our future cannot be built by the Government alone but must come from the imagination and drive of our entrepreneurs; help for working families with the cost of living, because we will always give people the support they need and the tools to build a better life for themselves; and levelling up, because for too long—far too long—the location of your birth has determined too much of your future, and because the awesome power of opportunity should not be available only to a wealthy few but be the birthright of every child in an independent and prosperous United Kingdom.

Today’s Budget does not draw a line under covid; we have challenging months ahead, and I encourage everyone eligible to get their booster jabs as soon as possible. But today’s Budget does begin the work of preparing for a new economy post covid: the Prime Minister’s economy of higher wages, higher skills and rising productivity, and of strong public services, vibrant communities and safer streets—an economy fit for a new age of optimism, where the only limit to our potential is the effort we are prepared to put in and the sacrifices we are prepared to make. That is the stronger economy of the future, and this Budget is the foundation.

The House will recognise the challenging backdrop of rising inflation. Let me begin by carefully explaining what is happening in our economy and why. Inflation in September was 3.1% and is likely to rise further, with the Office for Budget Responsibility expecting the consumer prices index to average 4% over the next year. The majority of this rise in inflation can be explained by two global forces. First, as economies around the world reopen, demand for goods has increased more quickly than supply chains can meet. Having been shut down for almost a year, it takes time for factories to scale up production, for container ships to move goods to where demand is and for businesses to hire the people they need.

Secondly, global demand for energy has surged at a time when supplies have already been disrupted, putting a strain on prices. In the year to September, the global wholesale price of oil, coal and gas combined has more than doubled.

The pressures caused by supply chains and energy prices will take months to ease. It would be irresponsible for anyone to pretend that we can solve this overnight. I am in regular communication with Finance Ministers around the world and it is clear that these are shared global problems, neither unique to the UK nor possible for us to address on our own. But where the Government can ease these pressures, we will act. To address the driver shortage, the Transport Secretary is introducing temporary visas, tackling testing backlogs and changing cabotage requirements, and is today announcing new funding to improve lorry park facilities. We have already suspended the HGV levy until August, and I can do more today, extending it for a further year until 2023 and freezing vehicle excise duty for heavy goods vehicles.

To help with the cost of living, we have introduced a new £500 million household support fund, and today’s Budget will support working families further.

On our fiscal policy, we will meet our commitments on public services and capital investment, but we will do so keeping in mind the need to control inflation.

Finally, I have written to the Governor of the Bank of England today to reaffirm the Bank’s remit to achieve low and stable inflation. People should be reassured: it has a strong track record in doing so.

I understand that people are concerned about global inflation, but they have a Government here at home ready and willing to act. In a period of global uncertainty, we need to work hard to maintain a strong economy and be responsible with the public finances, and that is what we are doing. I am grateful to the OBR for its work, and I am pleased to say that it now expects our recovery to be quicker. Thanks to this Government’s actions, it forecasts the economy to return to its pre-covid level at the turn of the year—earlier than it thought in March.

Growth this year is revised up from 4% to 6.5%. The OBR then expects the economy to grow by 6% in 2022, and 2.1 %, 1.3% and 1.6% over the next three years. In July last year, at the height of the pandemic, unemployment was expected to peak at 12%.

Today, the OBR expects unemployment to peak at just 5.2%. That means more than 2 million fewer people out of work than previously feared. Wages are rising: compared with those in February 2020, they have grown in real terms by almost 3.5%. I can confirm for the House that the OBR’s forecast for business investment has been revised up over the next five years.

Because of the actions that we took to support our economy, we have been more successful than previously feared in preventing the long-term economic damage of covid.

The OBR has today revised down its scarring assumption from 3% to 2%. In the depths of the worst economic crisis on record, we set out a plan for jobs. It is a plan that was backed by business groups and trade bodies; a plan that has helped millions of people and saved millions of jobs; and a plan that the OBR has today described as “remarkably successful”. Today’s forecasts confirm beyond doubt that our plan for jobs is working.

Disruption in the global economy highlights the importance of strong public finances. Coronavirus left us with borrowing higher than at any time since the second world war. As the Prime Minister reminded us in his conference speech: higher borrowing today is just higher interest rates and even higher taxes tomorrow. We need to strengthen our public finances so that when the next crisis comes, we have the fiscal space to act. Today I am publishing a new charter for budget responsibility. The charter sets out two fiscal rules that will keep this Government on the path of discipline and responsibility. First, underlying public sector net debt, excluding the impact of the Bank of England, must, as a percentage of GDP, be falling. Secondly, in normal times the state should only borrow to invest in our future growth and prosperity. Everyday spending must be paid for through taxation. Both rules must be met by the third year of every forecast period, giving us the flexibility to respond to crises while credibly keeping the public finances under control. These rules are supplemented by targets to spend up to 3% of GDP on capital investment and to keep welfare spending on a sustainable path.

The House will be asked to vote on our charter, giving Members a simple choice—to abandon our fiscal anchor and leave our economy adrift with reckless unfunded pledges, or to vote for what we on the Government side of the House know is the right course: sound public finances and a stronger economy for the British people.

Important as the charter is, our credibility comes as much from what we do as what we say, so I am pleased to tell the House that, because our plan is delivering a stronger economy and because we have taken tough but responsible decisions on the public finances, the OBR reports today that all our fiscal rules have been met. Underlying debt is forecast to be 85.2% of GDP this year, then 85.4% in 2022-23, before peaking at 85.7% in 2023-24. It then falls in the final three years of the forecast, from 85.1% to 83.3%. Borrowing as a percentage of GDP is forecast to fall in every single year, from 7.9% this year to 3.3% next year, then 2.4%, 1.7%, 1.7% and 1.5% in the following years. Borrowing down, debt down: proving once again it is the Conservatives, and only the Conservatives, who can be trusted with taxpayers’ money.

I have made four fiscal judgements in this Budget. First, we will meet our fiscal rules with a margin to protect ourselves against economic risks. That is the responsible decision at a time of increasing global economic uncertainty, when our public finances are twice as sensitive to changes in interest rates as they were before the pandemic and six times as sensitive as they were before the financial crisis. Just a one percentage point increase in inflation and interest rates would cost us around £23 billion. My second judgment today is to continue to support working families.

Thirdly, as well as helping people at home, our improving fiscal position means that we will meet our obligations to the world’s poorest. I told the House that when we met our fiscal tests, we would return to spending 0.7% of our national income on overseas aid. Some people said this was a trick or a device. I told this House that it was no such thing, and based on the tests that I set out, today’s forecasts show that we are, in fact, scheduled to return to 0.7% in 2024-25—before the end of this Parliament.

My fourth fiscal judgment is this: today’s Budget increases total departmental spending over this Parliament by £150 billion. That is the largest increase this century, with spending growing by 3.8% a year in real terms. As a result of this spending review, and contrary to speculation, there will be a real-terms rise in overall spending for every single Department, and public sector net investment as a share of GDP will be at the highest sustained level for nearly half a century. If anyone still doubts it, today’s Budget confirms it: the Conservatives are the real party of public services.

Our stronger economy lays the foundation for everything that we want to achieve in today’s Budget: world class public services and more investment in our future growth. Before I turn to the details, I would like to thank the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Mr Clarke). Completing the spending review in such challenging circumstances was a tall order—and thankfully we had just the man for the job.

At the start of this Parliament, resource spending on healthcare was £133 billion. Today’s spending review confirms that by the end of this Parliament it will increase by £44 billion to over £177 billion; and the extra revenue we are forecast to raise from the health and social care levy is going direct to the NHS and social care as promised. The health capital budget will be the largest since 2010: record investment in health R&D, including better newborn screening, as campaigned for by my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken); 40 new hospitals; 70 hospital upgrades; more operating theatres to tackle the backlog; and 100 community diagnostic centres, all staffed by a bigger, better-trained workforce, with 50,000 more nurses and 50 million more primary care appointments. As well as funding to deliver the Prime Minister’s historic reforms to social care, we are providing local government with new grant funding over the next three years of £4.8 billion—the largest increase in core funding for over a decade.

We are investing more in housing and home ownership too, with a multi-year housing settlement totalling nearly £24 billion—£11.5 billion to build up to 180,000 new affordable homes, the largest cash investment in a decade, 20% more than the previous programme. We are investing an extra £1.8 billion—enough to bring 1,500 hectares of brownfield land into use, meet our commitment to invest £10 billion in new housing, and unlock 1 million new homes. We are also confirming £5 billion to remove unsafe cladding from the highest risk buildings, partly funded by the residential property developers tax, which I can confirm will be levied on developers with profits over £25 million at a rate of 4%. We have already reduced rough sleeping by over a third, but we will go further, with £640 million a year for rough sleeping and homelessness—an 85% increase in funding compared to 2019.

Today’s Budget funds our ambition to recruit 20,000 new police officers; provides an extra £2.2 billion for courts, prisons and probation services, including £0.5 billion to reduce the courts backlog; pays for programmes to tackle neighbourhood crime, reoffending, county lines, violence against women and girls, victims’ services and improved responses to rape cases; and, over the next three years, commits £3.8 billion to the largest prison-building programme in a generation.

All Governments should aspire to provide greater life chances for future generations, but few Governments can match our ambition. So let me now turn to what this Budget does to support children. The evidence is compelling that the first 1,001 days of a child’s life are the most important. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Dame Andrea Leadsom) has recognised this with her inspirational report. We are responding today with £300 million for a start for life offer for families; high-quality parenting programmes; tailored services to help with perinatal mental health; and, I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), funding to create a network of family hubs around the country too. To improve the quality of childcare, we are going to pay providers more, with today’s spending review providing an extra £170 million by 2024-25. We are confirming £150 million to support training and development for the entire early years workforce. To help up to 300,000 more families facing multiple needs, we are investing an extra £200 million in the supporting families programme, and we will provide over £200 million a year to continue the holiday activities and food programme.

Today’s spending review also delivers our commitment to schools, with an extra £4.7 billion by 2024-25, which, combined with the ambitious plans we announced at spending review 2019, will restore per-pupil funding to 2010 levels in real terms, equivalent to a cash increase for every pupil of more than £1,500. For children with special educational needs and disabilities, we are more than tripling the amount we invest to create 30,000 new school places. We know that the pandemic caused significant disruption to children’s learning. We have already announced £3.1 billion to help education recovery. Today, as promised by the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary, we will go further, with just under £2 billion of new funding to help schools and colleges, bringing this Government’s total support for education recovery to almost £5 billion.

As we level up public services, we are also levelling up communities, restoring the pride people feel in the places they call home. To do that, we are providing £560 million for youth services, enough to fund up to 300 youth clubs in England; over £200 million to build or transform up to 8,000 state-of-the-art community football pitches across the UK; and funding to turn over 100 areas of derelict land into new “pocket parks”.

I am allocating the first round of bids from the levelling up fund—£1.7 billion to invest in the infrastructure of everyday life in over 100 local areas. With £170 million in Scotland, £120 million in Wales, and £50 million in Northern Ireland—more than their Barnett shares—this will benefit the whole United Kingdom. We are backing projects in Aberdeen, Bury, Burnley, Lewes, Clwyd South, and not one, not two, but three successful projects for the great city of Stoke-on-Trent. But that is not all. We are also going to fund projects in Ashton-under-Lyne, Doncaster, South Leicester, Sunderland and West Leeds. We are so committed to levelling up, we are even levelling up the Opposition Front Bench.

Levelling up is also about protecting our unique culture and heritage. The British Museum; Tate Liverpool; the York Railway Museum: we are investing £850 million to protect museums, galleries, libraries, and local culture. Thanks to the Culture Secretary, over 100 regional museums and libraries will be renovated, restored and revived; and she has secured up to £2 million to start work on a new Beatles attraction on the Liverpool waterfront. We are also going to review our museum freedoms and make our creative tax reliefs more generous. On current plans, the tax relief for museums and galleries is due to end in March next year, just as exhibitions are starting to tour again, so I have decided to extend it for two years to March 2024. To support theatres, orchestras, museums and galleries to recover from covid, the tax reliefs for all those sectors, from today until April 2023, will be doubled, and they will not return to the normal rate until April 2024. That is a tax relief for culture worth almost a quarter of a billion pounds.

This is a Budget for the whole United Kingdom. Through the Barnett formula, today’s decisions increase Scottish Government funding, in each year, by an average of £4.6 billion, Welsh Government funding by £2.5 billion, and £1.6 billion for the Northern Ireland Executive. This delivers, in real terms, the largest block grants for the devolved Administrations since the devolution settlements of 1998. The whole of the United Kingdom will benefit from the UK shared prosperity fund, and over time we will ramp up funding so that total domestic UK-wide funding will match EU receipts, averaging around £1.5 billion a year. We will fund projects across the UK, including funding for the Extreme E race in Scotland—the 2022 Hebrides X-Prix—accelerating funding for the Cardiff city region deal in Wales, and funding in Northern Ireland for community cohesion. While today demonstrates the indisputable fiscal benefit of being part of the United Kingdom, this is and always will be secondary to the simple truth that we are bound together by more than transactional benefit. It is our collective history, our culture and our security. We are, and always will be, one family and one United Kingdom.

While today’s Budget delivers historically high levels of public spending, its success will be measured not by the billions we spend, but by the outcomes we achieve and the difference we make to people’s lives. The budgets are set; the plans are in place; the task is clear. Now we must deliver because this is not the Government’s money—it is taxpayer’s money.

Our stronger economy allows us to fund world-class public services—the people’s priority—but over the long-term, the only way to pay for higher spending is economic growth. If we want to see higher growth, we have to tackle the problem that has been holding back this country for far too long: our uneven economic geography. As we come out of the worst economic shock we have ever seen, we have a choice—to retrench, or to invest. This Government choose to invest: to invest in our economic infrastructure, to invest in innovation, to invest in skills and to invest in a plan for growth that builds a stronger economy for the future. That is what this Budget is about and that is what this Government are about.

Infrastructure connects our country, drives productivity and levels up. That is why our national infrastructure strategy invests in economic infrastructure such as roads, railways, broadband and mobile—over £130 billion. To connect our towns and cities, we are investing £21 billion on roads and £46 billion on railways. Our integrated rail plan will be published soon, dramatically improving journey times between our towns and cities. Today, we are providing £5.7 billion for London-style transport settlements in Greater Manchester, the Liverpool city region, the Tees Valley, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, the west midlands and the west of England. We are helping local transport everywhere with £2.6 billion for a long-term pipeline of more than 50 local roads upgrades, over £5 billion for local roads maintenance—enough to fill 1 million more potholes a year—and funding for buses, cycling and walking totalling more than £5 billion. The Prime Minister promised an infrastructure revolution. This Budget delivers an infrastructure revolution.

Investment in our infrastructure is just the first step. We need to do what the people of this country have always done: invent, discover, and create the ideas and technologies that will change the world. So we will also invest more in innovation. The UK is already a world leader. With less than 1% of the world’s population, we have four of the world’s top 20 universities, 14% of the world’s most impactful research and the second most Nobel laureates. We want to go further. I can confirm we will maintain our target to increase research and development investment to £22 billion. But in order to get there, and deliver on our other priorities, we will reach the target in 2026-27, spending, by the end of this Parliament, £20 billion a year on R&D. That is a cash increase of 50%—the fastest increase ever. I can confirm for the House that this £20 billion is in addition to the cost of our R&D tax reliefs. Combined with those tax reliefs, total public investment in R&D is increasing from 0.7% of GDP in 2018 to 1.1% of GDP by the end of the Parliament.

How does 1.1% compare internationally? Well, the latest available data shows an OECD average of just 0.7%. Germany is investing 0.9%, France 1% and the United States just 0.7%. This unprecedented funding will: increase core science funding to £5.9 billion a year by 2024-25, a cash increase of 37%; meet the full costs of associating with Horizon Europe; establish the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency with £800 million by 2025-26; and strengthen our focus on late-stage innovation, increasing Innovate UK’s annual core budget to £1 billion, double what it was at the start of the Parliament.

There is more to becoming a science superpower than just what the Government spend on R&D. Our ambitious net zero strategy is also an innovation strategy, investing £30 billion to create the new green industries of the future. We have just issued our second green bond, making us the third-largest issuer of sovereign green bonds anywhere in the world. London last week was named the best place in the world for green finance. On Monday, the new UK Infrastructure Bank announced its first ever investment: £107 million to support offshore wind in Teesside. To build on this work, one week today I will be hosting global finance ministers and businesses at COP26.

Innovation comes from the imagination, drive and risk-taking of business. That is why we have launched Help to Grow to turbocharge SME productivity and started a new co-investment venture capital fund, Future Fund: Breakthrough. It is why I am announcing today that we will consult on further changes to the regulatory charge cap for pensions schemes, unlocking institutional investment while protecting savers. It is why we are introducing a new £1.4 billion global Britain investment fund, supporting transformative economic activity in our world-leading sectors, such as life sciences. It is why today’s Budget increases the British Business Bank’s regional financing programmes to £1.6 billion, expanding their coverage and helping innovative businesses get access to the finance they need, across the whole United Kingdom.

A third of our science Nobel laureates have been immigrants. Half of our fastest growing companies have a foreign-born founder. So an economy built on innovation must be open and attractive to the best and brightest minds. Thanks to our brilliant Home Secretary, today’s Budget confirms the eligibility criteria for our new scale-up visa, making it quicker and easier for fast-growing businesses to bring in highly skilled individuals. The Trade Secretary’s new global talent network, launching initially in the Bay Area, Boston and Bangalore, will identify, attract and relocate the best global talent in science and tech sectors. It is all part of our plan to make our visa system for international talent the most competitive in the world.

If we want greater private sector innovation, we need to make our research and development tax reliefs fit for purpose. The latest figures show the UK has the second highest spending on R&D tax reliefs in the OECD. Yet it is not working as well as it should; UK business investment in R&D is less than half the OECD average. We have reviewed the reliefs and identified two issues we are solving today. First, the reliefs need to reflect how businesses conduct research in the modern world. So, as many companies have called for, I am expanding the scope of the reliefs to include cloud computing and data costs.

The second problem is this: companies claimed UK tax relief on £48 billion of R&D spending, yet UK business investment was around half of that, at just £26 billion. We are subsidising billions of pounds of R&D that is not even happening here in the United Kingdom. That is unfair on British taxpayers and it puts us out of step with places like Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland and the USA, which have all focused their R&D tax reliefs on domestic activity. So from April 2023, we are going to do the same, and incentivise greater investment here at home. So a £22-billion investment in R&D, the net zero strategy, the future fund, Help to Grow, more regional finance, unlocking institutional capital, a more competitive visa system and a modernised R&D tax credits regime—enough action to prove the hypothesis that we are making this country a science and technology superpower.

As well as investing in infrastructure and innovation, there is one further part of our plan for growth that is crucial: providing a world-class education to all our people. Higher skills lead to higher regional productivity and higher productivity leads to higher wages. With 80% of the UK’s 2030 workforce already in work, our future success depends on not just the schooling we give our children but the lifelong learning we offer to adults.

We have already done a lot. Our plan for jobs invested in apprenticeships, traineeships and the kickstart scheme, but we need to go further. Today’s Budget invests in the most wide-ranging skills agenda this country has seen in decades. We are increasing skills spending over the Parliament by £3.8 billion—an increase of 42%. We are expanding T-levels, building institutes of technology, rolling out the Prime Minister’s lifetime skills guarantee, upgrading our further education college estate, quadrupling the number of places on skills bootcamps and significantly increasing funding for apprenticeships.

We are also going to tackle a tragic fact: millions of adults in our country have numeracy skills lower than those expected of a nine-year-old. According to the leading charity National Numeracy, this costs individuals with poor numeracy up to £1,600 a year in lost earnings. People with poor numeracy skills are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as their peers. So today, I can announce a new UK-wide numeracy programme: Multiply. With £560 million, Multiply will improve basic maths skills and help to change people’s lives across the whole United Kingdom.

So we are building our infrastructure with new roads, railways and broadband; cementing our status as a science and technology superpower; and strengthening the skills of our people, the country’s greatest asset. That is a real plan for growth and that is how this Government are building a stronger economy for the British people.

World class public services are the people’s priority. Investment in infrastructure, innovation and skills will create the growth that we need to pay for them. But as Conservatives, we know that Government action alone will not be enough to create a stronger economy. We want this country to be the most exciting and dynamic place in the world for business. Now that we have left the EU, we have the freedom to do things differently and deliver a simpler, fairer tax system.

I want to begin with one of our smallest taxes, but a tax that plays an important role in one of our pre-eminent industries: shipping. Now that we have left the EU, today we start reforming our tonnage tax regime to make it simpler and more competitive. And we are also making it fairer for UK taxpayers.

When we were in the old EU system, ships in the tonnage tax regime were required to fly the flag of an EU state, but that does not make sense for an independent nation. So I can announce today that our tonnage tax will, for the first time ever, reward companies for adopting the UK’s merchant shipping flag, the red ensign. That is entirely fitting for a country with such a proud maritime history as ours. I am sure that the Opposition will be delighted that red flags are still flying somewhere in this country, even if they are all at sea.

Let me turn now to air passenger duty. Right now, people pay more for return flights within and between the four nations of the United Kingdom than they do when flying home from abroad. We used to have a return-leg exemption for domestic flights, but we were required to remove it in 2001. But today I can announce that flights between airports in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will, from April 2023, be subject to a new lower rate of air passenger duty. This will help to cut the cost of living, with 9 million passengers seeing their duty cut by half; it will bring people together across the United Kingdom; and because they tend to have a greater proportion of domestic passengers, it is a boost to regional airports like Aberdeen, Belfast, Inverness and Southampton.

Airports are major regional employers, so to help them get through the winter I am also extending our support for English airports for a further six months. We are also making changes to reduce carbon emissions from aviation. Most emissions come from international rather than domestic aviation, so we are introducing, from April 2023, a new ultra-long-haul band in air passenger duty covering flights of over 5,500 miles, with an economy rate of £91. Less than 5% of passengers will pay more, but those who fly furthest will pay the most.

Our approach to corporate taxation strikes a responsible balance between funding public services and encouraging the investment we need for a stronger economy. At the March Budget, we took the difficult but necessary decision to increase the rate of corporation tax to 25% from 2023, which is still the lowest rate in the G7 and the fifth lowest rate in the G20. Alongside, I introduced the new super deduction—the biggest business tax cut in modern British history—and extended, to the end of this year, the annual investment allowance at its higher level of £1 million. Now is not the time to remove tax breaks on investment, so I can confirm today that the £1 million annual investment allowance will not end in December as planned. It will be extended all the way to March 2023.

I also said in March that I would review the bank surcharge within corporation tax to maintain the competitiveness of our financial services industry. We will retain a surcharge of 3%. The overall rate for corporation tax on banks will, in 2023, increase from 27% to 28% and will remain higher than the rate paid by other companies. Small challenger banks are improving banking competition, which is good for the sector and good for consumers, so to help them, I will also raise the annual allowance to £100 million.

Our manifesto promised to review business rates. We are publishing our conclusions today. Before I set out our plans, let me say this: we on the Conservative Benches are clear that reckless, unfunded promises to abolish a tax that raises £25 billion every year are completely irresponsible. It would be wrong to find £25 billion a year in extra borrowing, cuts to public services or tax rises elsewhere, so we will retain business rates, but with key reforms to ease the burden and create stronger high streets.

First, we will make the business rates system fairer and timelier with more frequent revaluations every three years. The new revaluation cycle will be delivered from 2023. Secondly, as called for by the Federation of Small Businesses and the British Property Federation, we are introducing a new investment relief to encourage businesses to adopt green technologies such as solar panels.

I am announcing today that we will accept the CBI and the British Retail Consortium’s recommendation to introduce a new business rates improvement relief. From 2023, every single business will be able to make property improvements and, for 12 months, pay no extra business rates. That means that a hotel adding extra rooms, a manufacturer expanding their factory, and an office adding new air conditioning, CCTV or bike shelters will all pay no extra rates.

Together with the new green investment relief, we are introducing investment incentives totalling £750 million. This will make a difference, but without action, millions of businesses would see their tax bills going up next year because of inflation. I want to help those businesses right now, so our third step is that next year’s planned increase in the multiplier will be cancelled. That is a tax cut for businesses worth, over the next five years, £4.6 billion.

I have one final measure to help those businesses hardest hit by the pandemic. I am announcing today, for one year, a new 50% business rates discount for businesses in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors: pubs, music venues, cinemas, restaurants, hotels, theatres and gyms. Any eligible business can claim a discount on their bills of 50%, up to a maximum of £110,000. That is a business tax cut worth almost £1.7 billion. Together with small business rates relief, this means that over 90% of all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will see a discount of at least 50%. Apart from the covid reliefs, this is the biggest single-year cut to business rates in over 30 years. Taken together, today’s Budget cuts business rates by £7 billion.

We are unleashing the dynamism and creativity of British businesses with a simpler, fairer and more competitive tax system: the biggest business tax cut in modern British history; the biggest single-year cut to business rates for 30 years; a £1 million investment allowance; tonnage tax reformed; air passenger duty cut. That is the way to back business and build a stronger economy.

Let me turn now to alcohol duties. First introduced in 1643 to help pay for the civil war, our alcohol duty system is outdated, complex and full of historical anomalies. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has called it “a mess”; the Institute of Economic Affairs said that it “defies common sense”; and the World Health Organisation has warned that countries such as the UK which follow the EU rules are:

“unable to implement tax systems that are optimal from the perspective of public health.”

So today, we are taking advantage of leaving the EU to announce the most radical simplification of alcohol duties for over 140 years. We are taking five steps today to create a system that is simpler, fairer, and healthier.

First, to radically simplify the system, we are slashing the number of main duty rates from 15 to just six. Our new system will be designed around a common-sense principle: the stronger the drink, the higher the rate. This means that some drinks, like stronger red wines, fortified wines and high-strength white ciders will see a small increase in their rates because they are currently undertaxed, given their strength. That is the right thing to do, and it will help to end the era of cheap, high-strength drinks which can harm public health and enable problem drinking. Because this is a more rational system, the converse is also true: many lower-alcohol drinks are currently overtaxed—and have been for many decades. Rosé, fruit ciders, liqueurs, lower strength beers and wines—today’s changes mean that they will pay less.

The second step I am taking today will encourage small, innovative craft producers: I am announcing proposals for a new small producer relief. This will extend the principle of the small brewers relief to include for the first time ever small cider makers and other producers making alcoholic drinks of less strength than 8.5%.

Thirdly, I am going to modernise the system to reflect the way people drink today. Over the last decade, consumption of sparkling wines like prosecco has doubled. English sparkling wine alone has increased almost tenfold. It is clear they are no longer the preserve of wealthy elites, and they are no stronger than still wines. So I am going to end the irrational duty premium of 28% that they currently pay. Sparkling wines, wherever they are produced, will now pay the same duty as still wines of equivalent strength. Because growing conditions in the UK typically favour lower-strength and sparkling wines, this means English and Welsh wines, compared with stronger imported wines, will now pay less. Sales of fruit cider have increased from one in a thousand ciders sold in 2005 to one in four today, but they can pay two or three times as much duty as cider made with apples or pears, so we are cutting the duty on them too.

The fourth step I am taking today would directly support the home of British community life for centuries: our pubs. Even before the pandemic, pubs were struggling: between 2000 and 2019, consumption in the on-trade fell by 40%. Many public health bodies recognise that pubs are often safer drinking environments than being at home. As my hon. Friends the Members for Dudley South (Mike Wood) and for North West Durham (Mr Holden) will agree, a fairer, healthier system supports pubs, so I can announce today draught relief.

Draught relief will apply a new lower rate of duty on draught beer and cider. It will apply to drinks served from draught containers over 40 litres. It will particularly benefit community pubs that do 75% of their trade on draught. Let me tell the House the new rate: draught relief will cut duty by 5%. That is the biggest cut to cider duty since 1923; the biggest cut to fruit ciders in a generation; the biggest cut to beer duty for 50 years. This is not temporary. It is a long-term investment in British pubs of £100 million a year and a permanent cut in the cost of a pint of 3p. I cannot wait for the Opposition to accuse me tomorrow of beer-barrel politics.

These much needed reforms will come into effect in February 2023, but I want to help the hospitality industry right now, so for my final announcement on alcohol duties today, I can confirm that the planned increases in duty on spirits like Scotch whisky, wine, cider and beer will all, from midnight tonight, be cancelled. That is a tax cut worth £3 billion.

Our reforms make the alcohol duty system simpler, fairer and healthier; they help with the cost of living while tackling problem drinking; they support innovative entrepreneurs and craft producers; they back pubs and public health; and they are only possible because we have left the European Union.

World-class public services; investment in infrastructure, innovation, and skills; simpler, fairer taxes to support businesses and consumers: all built on the foundation of a stronger economy and responsible public finances. That is our vision for the future and that is what this Budget delivers.

This Budget also supports working families. With fuel prices at the highest level in eight years, I am not prepared to add to the squeeze on families and small businesses, so I can confirm today that the planned rise in fuel duty will be cancelled. That is a saving over the next five years of almost £8 billion. Compared to pre-2010 plans, today’s freeze means the average tank of fuel will cost around £15 less per car; £30 less for vans; and £130 less for HGVs. After 12 consecutive years of frozen rates, the average car driver will now save a total of £1,900.

I can also announce today that public sector workers will see fair and affordable pay rises across the whole spending review period as we return to the normal, independent pay-setting process, and I can take action to help the lowest paid as well. It was a Conservative Government who introduced the national living wage in 2016, a Conservative Government who, according to statistics published just yesterday, have overseen the proportion of people in low-paid work falling to its lowest level since 1997, and it is a Conservative Government who are increasing the wage floor again today. The independent Low Pay Commission brings together economists, business groups and trade unions. The Government are accepting its recommendation to increase the national living wage next year by 6.6%, to £9.50 an hour. For a full-time worker that is a pay rise worth over £1,000. It will benefit over 2 million of the lowest paid workers in the country, it is broadly consistent with previous increases, it keeps us on track for our target of two thirds of median earnings by 2024, and it is a major commitment to the high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy of the future.

As we build this stronger economy, we are doing so at the end of an extraordinary 18 months. Covid was not just a public health challenge and an economic challenge—it was a moral challenge, too. We had to show we could pull together as a country, and we did. We had to put aside questions of ideology and orthodoxy to do whatever it took to care for our people and each other, and we did.

There is a different moral dimension to the economic challenge we face now. Last year, the state grew to be over half the size of the total economy, and taxes are rising to their highest level as a percentage of GDP since the 1950s. I do not like it, but I cannot apologise for it: it is the result of the unprecedented crisis we faced and the extraordinary action we took in response. But now we have a choice: do we want to live in a country where the response to every question is “What are the Government going to do about it?”, where every time prices rise, every time a company gets in trouble, every time some new challenge emerges, the answer is always that the taxpayer must pay? Or do we choose to recognise that Government has limits?

Government should have limits. If this seems a controversial statement to make, then I am all the more glad for saying it because that means it needed saying. And it is what we believe. There is a reason we talk about the importance of family, community and personal responsibility. We do so not because these are an alternative to the market or the state, but because they are more important than the market or the state. The moments that make life worth living are not created by Government, are not announced by Government, are not granted by Government: they come from us as people—our choices, our sacrifices, our efforts—and we believe people should keep more of the rewards of those efforts. Yes, we have taken some corrective action to fund the NHS and get our debt under control, but as we look towards the future I want to say this simple thing to the House and the British people: my goal is to reduce taxes. By the end of this Parliament, I want taxes to be going down, not up. I want this to be a society that rewards energy, ingenuity and inventiveness, a society that rewards work. That is what we believe on this side of the House. That is my mission over the remainder of this Parliament.

The final announcement in today’s Budget takes a first step. For many of the lowest paid in society there is a hidden tax on work: the universal credit taper withdraws support as people work more hours. The rate is currently 63%, so for every £1 someone earns, their universal credit is reduced by 63p. Let us be in no doubt: this is a tax on work—and a high rate of tax at that. Organisations as varied as the Trades Union Congress, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Resolution Foundation, the Centre for Policy Studies, and the Centre for Social Justice have all said it is too high. So, to make sure work pays and help some of the lowest-income families in our country to keep more of their hard-earned money, I have decided to cut this rate, not by 1%, not by 2%, but by 8%. This—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] This is a tax on working people and we are cutting it from 63% to 55%, the rate originally envisaged by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith). And because I am also increasing the work allowances by £500, this is a tax cut next year worth over £2 billion. Nearly 2 million families will keep on average an extra £1,000 a year. Changes like this normally take effect at the start of the new tax year in April, but we want to help people right now, so we will introduce this within weeks and no later than 1 December.

Let me tell the House what these changes mean. A single mother of two renting and working full-time on the national living wage will be better off by around £1,200. A couple renting a home with their two children, one parent working full-time, the other working part-time, will be better off every single year by £1,800. This is a £2 billion tax cut for the lowest paid workers in our country. It supports working families, it helps with the cost of living and it rewards work.

So, fuel duty cut, air passenger duty cut, alcohol duty cut, the biggest cut to business rates in 30 years, growth up, jobs up, wages up, public finances back in a better place, more investment in infrastructure, innovation and skills, a pay rise for over 2 million people, and a £2 billion tax cut for the lowest paid. This Budget helps with the cost of living. This Budget levels up to a higher-wage, higher-skill, higher-productivity economy. This Budget builds a stronger economy for the British people. I commend it to the House.