South West Herts MP David Gauke gives an insight into his ministerial role in the Treasury, as this year’s Autumn Statement looms.
Next week is the Autumn Statement, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer sets out to Parliament the Office of Budget Responsibility’s forecasts for economic growth and the public finances, as well as various Government measures relating to the economy.
As a Treasury minister, the run-up to Autumn Statements and Budg ‘fiscal events’ is always a particularly busy time. Various ideas are brought up by Ministers, officials or outside bodies and then there is a great deal of work as the ideas are rejected or refined until the final decisions are taken whether to include them in the final announcement.
Although it is the time of year when the hours are the longest (even the weekends are filled with going through my Ministerial Red Boxes full of paperwork), it is also one of the more interesting.
This is my tenth fiscal event as a Minister, so the routine is familiar. But it is still exciting to see, for example, a policy idea you have worked on for months come to fruition.
At the point of writing, all the big decisions have been taken. But I can’t let you know what they might be. Not even a hint. However, do let me know your thoughts after December 3. I have been a Treasury Minister throughout this Parliament and largely had the same responsibilities. However, there have been a couple of additions. Last year, I was given responsibility for pensions tax – in advance of the Chancellor’s big reforms announced at the Budget.
This year, in the July reshuffle, I was also given responsibility for the EU Budget. I have had the role of taking the Taxation of Pensions Bill through the House of Commons. This is the detailed legislation which will give people retiring after next April much greater flexibility in what they do with their pension savings.
EU Budget matters have been particularly topical after the EU Commission presented us with an unexpected £1.7bn bill to be paid by December 1. However, we have ensured that the UK’s rebate applies to this sum which brings it down to £850m. We have also secured agreement from other member states that this reduced sum can be paid next year, in two instalments.
However, that is not the only issue. The EU also has to agree details of its Budget for 2014 and 2015 and, so far, no agreement has been reached. One thing does look clear – the 2014 EU Budget will be lower than the 2013 one. However, at a time when countries have to control their spending, so should the EU.
I mentioned earlier how exciting it is to see a policy you have worked on come to fruition. One example is the introduction of tax summaries, which was announced in 2012. These are being sent out this autumn to millions of taxpayers, showing them how much they pay in income tax and National Insurance contributions, as well as showing how this tax contribution is spent.
I hope it gives a clearer sense of how much tax people pay on their income and how taxpayers’ money is spent. The objective is to give people the information to hold MPs and Ministers to account.
There’s plenty going on – not that I am complaining. Having had the experience of being in opposition and being in government, the latter is both busier and more satisfying. I, for one, am hoping that 2015 will be just as busy as 2014.