On 15th March 2017, a statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on national insurance contributions was repeated in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, responded to the statement.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I think I can paraphrase the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, by saying:
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”,
as Churchill said. It is a strength that the Government can change their mind so openly and directly, and I wish that politicians would more often simply and openly accept that they have changed their mind in the light of the evidence. So, in that sense, I welcome this announcement.
My concern is about the further measures. One of the problems with the triple lock and the guarantee on tax rates and so on is that tax increases tend to be stealth taxes of one form or another. In a healthy democracy, the more open, direct and progressive taxation is, the better. I wonder whether the Minister is willing to make some comment, from his heart, on that suggestion.
Lord Young of Cookham: The right reverend Prelate invites the sinner to repent; I think that was the gist of his remarks. I am sure the Chancellor, as he reflects on how to make good the deficit that we now have in the Budget, will take on board the suggestion that the right reverend Prelate made about openness and avoiding stealth taxes. However, I hope he is not implying that the Government should not make good the deficit and continue with their policy of getting it down.