Chancellor Rishi Sunak should have declared an interest to explain why he's unlikely to tax the rich – Tommy Sheppard MP

Rishi Sunak’s chances of being the next Tory prime minister took a step backwards on Wednesday.
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Faced with a cost-of-living crisis coming at us like a runaway train, he did nothing. Well, almost nothing. It’s true diesel will only cost £1.70 a litre instead of £1.75, but that’s little comfort since the price was £1.12 just two years ago.

Many of the UK’s economic woes are caused by global events, not least the war and pestilence which has been the hallmark of the 2020s. No government could fix this by itself. But we ought to expect the state to mitigate the problems where it can and protect the most vulnerable.

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Sunak is doing the opposite. We know that rising prices hit those on low and fixed incomes hardest, and those unable to work through sickness or disability worst of all. Yet for them the Chancellor is cutting the value of social security payments by at least four per cent. And that comes after a decade of Tory squeeze on benefits through rate caps and freezes.

Meanwhile he refuses to countenance any suggestion that the super-rich, those with vast accumulated wealth, should pay a penny more. He really ought to declare an interest here. Sunak's family are billionaires and he is himself the richest MP in the Commons. He's hardly likely to tax the rich.

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Nor will he ask those with the biggest incomes to pay more. The top rate of tax will stay far lower than it was under Margaret Thatcher. But he will put up taxes for everyone on average incomes.

Nor will he look at taxing excess profits of the corporations who have made a killing out of Covid, a so-called windfall tax. Labour's Rachel Reeves claimed the SNP were against this too. For the record, we're not. We just don't think a levy should be limited to oil and gas giants. Big tech and retailers like Amazon who have had a good pandemic ought to pay more too.

Boris Johnson congratulates Rishi Sunak after the Chancellor delivered his Spring Statement in the House of Commons (Picture: PA)Boris Johnson congratulates Rishi Sunak after the Chancellor delivered his Spring Statement in the House of Commons (Picture: PA)
Boris Johnson congratulates Rishi Sunak after the Chancellor delivered his Spring Statement in the House of Commons (Picture: PA)
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Sunak's entire statement never even mentioned the word climate. Yet the action we need to tackle climate change and to help people pay their bills is exactly that same.

Instead of squandering vast sums on nuclear or opening up new oilfields like Cambo, the way forward is wind power, both offshore and onshore, rapidly stepping up marine energy production and finding the funding for a massive programme to retrofit homes so people can be warm for less.

I'm pleased the Scottish Government has taken a different approach. It has uprated the social security payments it runs by double the UK increase. It has doubled the new Scottish child payment, targeted at least well off. But truth be told there is so much it cannot do.

The Scottish Government cannot fundamentally change the tax system. It has no power to levy taxes on profits. It cannot raise the capital needed to invest at scale in renewable energy production. These are the consequences of Scotland being under the rules of Sunak’s Treasury, rather than being an independent country.

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As bills soar and real incomes plummet, it will become crystal clear whose side Sunak is on. And it's not ours. Just another reason why people in Scotland should take control of our own affairs.

Tommy Sheppard is SNP MP for Edinburgh East

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