Despite all the budget day bluster from Labour, when it came down to the actual vote (on Monday evening) Labour politicians failed to oppose the cut to the 50p tax rate. The vote was forced by Plaid Cymru and the SNP, some 22 MPs voted against the cut, with only two Labour MPs voting to keep the top rate at 50p. The vote took place after both Labour Leader Ed Milliband and Carwyn Jones (Welsh First Minister) made much of their party’s opposition to the cut from 50p to 45p proposed in last Wednesday's Budget.
Plaid Cymru's Treasury spokesperson, Jonathan Edwards MP said:
"Having heard Labour's alleged objection to this regressive taxation policy time and again last week, the inaction of its party members last night showed astonishing hypocrisy.
"Over the past few months, we have seen Labour abstaining or voting with the ConDems on important issues such as privatisation of the NHS and cutting Welsh farming subsidies. Labour of course introduced regional pay in the public sector and are now advocating a regional cap on benefits. What we saw last night was the Tory-Labour tag-team at work yet again.
"Plaid Cymru has always maintained that progressive taxation is a principle, not an option, and those who are most able to afford to pay must make a fair contribution.
“Cutting the 50p income tax rate for the mega rich who earn more than £3,000 per week whilst continuing to slash support for the needy and vulnerable shows once again that the Coalition only cares about the rich and wealthy.
"Labour's failure to vote last night clearly shows that their priorities are much the same.
"First Minister Carwyn Jones's inability to influence his MPs in Westminster reveals a crisis of leadership for the party in Wales.
"His Treasury spokesperson, Owen Smith MP, was quoted last week as saying that cutting the top rate of tax for the rich would show how out of touch this Government is, yet when it came to the crunch last night, Labour failed to deliver.
"The Labour Welsh Government as always is more interested in serving its masters in London Labour HQ than serving the people of Wales."
An advisor to Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, has admitted that Labour had made a “screw-up” on Monday night by not voting with Plaid Cymru and the SNP to oppose Con Dem plans to cut the top rate of tax for the highest earners. The admission reveals embarrassing efforts by Labour staff to claim their abstention had been planned, and also reveal that Carwyn Jones was only belatedly told what was going on in Westminster rather than being part of Labour Party discussions. The Labour no-show followed some pretty vocal opposition and several pledges from shadow chancellor Ed Balls to vote against the Budget measure. The Con Dem Government won the vote on the 45p rate by 319 to 22, a majority of 297.