By Steve Webb MP

Despite the difficult economic backdrop, I thought there was a surprising amount of good news in the Autumn Statement.   This includes a range of issues which my constituents have contacted me about and where I’ve lobbied government colleagues for action.  Some highlights included:

  • A further move towards the £10,000 tax free allowance which we promised at the last election;  the allowance in 2013-14 will now be over £9,400 tax free per person;
  • Cancelling the 3p petrol duty increase for January 2013;  by the time this is looked at again in September, petrol duty will have been frozen for two and a half years!
  • Getting the richest people to pay their tax – a new deal has been done with Switzerland which means we will be raising £5 billion in tax on money in Swiss bank accounts!
  • Meeting our commitment to uprate the state pension by the highest of 2.5% or the growth in earnings or the growth in prices;  this year, that means an above-inflation increase for 12 million pensioners; 
  • Whilst all other benefits cannot be uprated in line with inflation, we have protected benefits for carers and for disabled people;
  • An extra £5 billion for much-needed capital investment, including money for new school buildings;
  • A relaxation on the ‘income drawdown’ rules which will ease the pressure on retired people with particular sorts of pensions;
  • The Chancellor confirming that the Government will press ahead with the plans I have been working on for a reformed and simpler state pension system which would be fairer for savers and would help many women and lower-paid workers.
  • No introduction of regional pay in the NHS.

It’s good to see that the Chancellor has listened on so many of these issues.   Given the difficult economic situation in Europe and beyond, there is a lot to be welcomed in this Statement.