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It is not true that pensioner poverty has not been tackled. We have spent a great deal of money on tackling it and we have made a big difference to the poorest pensioners, who have seen the largest gains. The hon. Member for Rochdale should at least admit that we will spend £15 billion a year more by 2020 under the pension
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reforms. As I have said, 57 per cent. of pensioners will pay no income tax from 2008.

The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) made one of his usual contributions, which I always enjoy. He and I have been in the House a long time and spent a lot of time on Select Committees together bantering about our different views of politics and how society should be run. However, I have never known him be so cheeky as to pray in aid Barbara Castle. He also talked about SERPS—the state earnings-related pension scheme—and professed great outrage that it had been cut so often, but he failed to remind the House that the Tories introduced the largest ever cut in SERPS in the Social Security Act 1986. That was in between cutting the link with earnings and telling people, as they descended into poverty, with child poverty doubling and pensioner poverty soaring, that if it was not hurting, it was not working. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his sheer brass neck.

On the Government proposals to claw back money by introducing an upper accruals point early, the flat-rating of SERPS was one of the recommendations of Adair Turner’s Pensions Commission, and it had cross-party consensus when it was published. There was a statement in the House and the Conservatives said that they agreed with it. The Bill will essentially achieve that, but all those who have spoken tonight have said that they are against it. What are we to believe? The hon. Gentleman mentioned increases in national insurance contributions, but the biggest increase was in 1985, when the Conservatives abolished the upper earnings limit for employers. That was done by Nigel Lawson.

I know that Barbara Castle, who was a doughty fighter for social justice, a fantastic Labour Minister and a particular heroine of mine, would have congratulated the Government on their work in attempting to abolish pensioner poverty. She would also have noted with interest the effect of the state second pension and the pension reforms. Many people underestimate the radical nature of those reforms. The Bill is in essence a paving Bill that will ensure that the reforms to the pension system can be put in place. When they are completed they will reduce the number of years of contributions required before individuals qualify for a full pension from 44 years for men and 39 years for women to 30 years for everybody. That is a substantial and progressive change that Barbara Castle would have been proud to introduce herself. I am sure that she would have congratulated this Labour Government on doing so.

Another aspect of the pension reforms with which the Bill will assist is the crediting in of those people caring for older people and those with disabilities, as well as children, for the first time. That is something that Barbara Castle campaigned on all her life. Indeed, she used, as a main reason for the original introduction of SERPS, the broken earnings records of many women. The changes involved in the state second pension and other pension reforms will, for the first time, ensure that women are not disadvantaged by broken earnings records. Crediting in will start in 2010, and we can look forward to the once unthinkable achievement that 90 per cent. of women, like 90 per cent. of men, will qualify for the basic state pension in their own right by 2020. Barbara Castle campaigned for that all her life and she would be extremely proud that it is to happen.

The hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker) smelt rats and talked about stealth taxes, as did the
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hon. Member for Putney. However, if they agree that there should be a balanced package as part of the pension consensus, it is unfair to try to claim that the bits that increase tax are bad while failing to mention the bits that return that income in the form of the tax changes that are part of the package. It is important to consider the package as a whole. I reject the view of many Opposition Members that the measure is part of a stealth tax. Actually, it is part of an extremely balanced package that will enable the pension reforms that I have just mentioned to be brought into effect at the same time as the changes in personal tax rates. That will lead to our having the lowest rate of income tax in 75 years and will mean that we get 200,000 children out of poverty and 600,000 pensioners out of paying tax. We must continue to pursue that aim and the Bill will enable us to do that.

The hon. Member for Putney talked a lot about stealth taxes.

Rob Marris: Does my hon. Friend agree that the phrase “stealth taxes” is completely meaningless? We in the House know what taxes are; we debate them all the time whether on Finance Bills or Bills such as this. The phrase “stealth tax” is emotive and meaningless and is typical of the empty rhetoric from the Opposition.

Angela Eagle: My hon. Friend is obviously right to call me to order on that point. I must stop internalising these heavily accented phrases and realise that any tax rise appears in the Red Book, is not carried out behind everybody’s back and is there for everybody to see.

When the hon. Member for Broxbourne was smelling a rat, he said something with which I have difficulty. He said that the nicest Treasury Ministers had been sent to the Front Bench to sell this measure.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Andy Burnham): What did he mean?

Angela Eagle: Not only does my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary feel insulted because he does not think that he should be left out of the phrase “the nicest Treasury Ministers”, but I feel insulted because the hon. Gentleman is ruining my reputation by making out that I am nice. By trying to compliment those on the Front Bench, he has succeeded in insulting us all. Perhaps that was his original intention.

The hon. Member for Putney was not the only one to say that the Bill would somehow remove parliamentary scrutiny of the upper earnings limit by abolishing the seven-and-a-half times limit on where the upper earnings limit can fall. If she had been a bit more generous, she might have admitted that the Bill will use the affirmative resolution procedure, which means that any future changes to the upper earnings limit will have to come before this House and the other place and be subject to a debate with a potential vote. I do not see that that change should give anyone cause for concern in terms of parliamentary scrutiny. The House always considers extremely carefully affirmative resolutions that come before it. I do not think that the hon. Lady should worry too much that any future increase in the upper earnings limit will somehow go through the House without anyone noticing.

The hon. Lady talked about the potential burdens on business, and she is right to say that the changes before us rely on an increase in administration. However, I
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have to point out to her that that will be modest even if, as with all these things, it is regrettable. The Conservative party signed up to the flat-rating of the state second pension and that will require the administrative change to be made, so the only difference is that it is being made three years earlier than planned. I assure her that we have had detailed conversations with the appropriate members of the business community to see whether we can minimise the burden.

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): My hon. Friend will be aware of the importance of national insurance contributions to our public services and, in particular, to the health service. Will she perhaps expand on what would happen if the Bill were defeated tonight and on how that would impact on public services?

Angela Eagle: My hon. Friend is right. I suspect that Opposition Members will have to explain to their constituents, perhaps over the Christmas period, why they went into the Lobby to vote against taking 200,000 children out of poverty and 600,000 pensioners out of tax.

As the Bill goes into Committee, clearly a number of points will have to be debated at greater length. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will look forward to having those debates. However, let me once more remind the House what the Bill will achieve. First, it will allow us to deliver a package of changes that will create one of the simplest personal tax structures of any developed country so that the two main rates of income tax apply to the same bands of income as the two rates of national insurance contributions for the first time in our history. Secondly, the Bill returns the timetable for the introduction of a simple flat rate state second pension scheme to around 2030, as recommended by the Pensions Commission, rather than its being delayed by several years. The Bill simplifies our personal tax system and it brings forward the simplification of our state second pension system. I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 291, Noes 161.

Division No. 033]
[7.56 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gilroy, Linda
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCarthy, Kerry

McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh Edward
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Watson, Mr. Tom
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Wishart, Pete
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Dave Watts and
Steve McCabe

Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brazier, Mr. Julian

Brokenshire, James
Browning, Angela
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Cash, Mr. William
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Field, Mr. Mark
Francois, Mr. Mark
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Key, Robert
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Maclean, rh David
Main, Anne
Maples, Mr. John
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Penrose, John
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Rennie, Willie
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stunell, Andrew
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Teather, Sarah
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy

Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Nick Hurd and
Mr. John Baron
Question accordingly agreed to.
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Bill read a Second time.

National Insurance Contributions Bill (Programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 83A (Programme motions),

Question agreed to.

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