Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has vowed to keep fighting for a wealth tax as senior Liberal Democrats urge the party to seize the moment at its autumn party conference in Brighton.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday Clegg signalled he would not sanction any more cuts until a wealth tax was implemented.
He said: “The vast majority of people in this country would find it wholly unacceptable if further fiscal austerity was basically implemented on the backs of the poor. Most people in this country are very fair-minded and they understand we’re in the middle of a difficult journey.
“I’m not saying that something as big as welfare, which is about a third of Government expenditure, is immune from further savings, but I’m saying that the burden has to spread fairly.”
The Lib Dems included a proposal to put a charge of 1 per cent on all homes worth more than £2m in its last election manifesto, dubbed a mansion tax, but Clegg has signalled he would like to go further.
In a speech on Saturday night Clegg pledged to shift the tax burden from income to “unearned wealth” and appeared to go further than his previous calls for an emergency, time-limited wealth tax.
The party has set up a tax working group that held its first consultative meeting on Saturday. It will consider a land value tax and will determine Lib Dem policy for the rest of the parliament, the next spending review and its next manifesto.
Speaking at a fringe meeting for the Lib Dem Action for Land Tax and Economic reform group yesterday deputy leader Simon Hughes says the group’s work should also influence policy now.
He said: “If ever there is a moment where we could address the problem of getting land and asset taxation back on to the agenda, now is the time. In addition the party has realised that we need to have more than the policy with which we went into the last election, the mansion tax.
“The political argument is obvious and, bluntly, now is the best chance to prove the worth of the land value tax in the last 40 years. I hope in this parliament we will be rejoicing about delivering it.”
Hughes says there were discussions about introducing a mansion tax up in the run up to this year’s Budget where it gained support from some Tories.
Speaking at the Alter fringe meeting alongside Hughes former Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Lord Matthew Oakeshott says: “We are in a position to make a serious start towards wealth taxation. The mansion tax is an important first step towards a land tax.
“We have a real chance of doing this. Business secretary Vince Cable is making it very clear he supports the idea and I just saw Danny Alexander and he is supportive. The whole party is very much behind it and I believe we can actually get it. It was quite near last year when chancellor George Osborne was quite open-minded, it was prime minister David Cameron who was the problem. I really think it is serious.”