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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:10 pm on 23rd March 2011.

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Photo of Marcus Jones Marcus Jones Conservative, Nuneaton 6:10 pm, 23rd March 2011

No. I am not giving way to the hon. Lady.

Moving on, I welcome the help that we are giving first-time buyers, although I would ask those on the Front Bench to consider a couple of issues. Can we build the properties that we need to sustain the scheme quickly enough? Would it be better to extend the scheme to older properties, as well as new-build properties? First-time buyers are the lifeblood of the property market and of any chain. I acknowledge that the policy will do a lot of good for the building industry, but we also need to put in place measures to ensure that the property market can sustain itself. Currently it is under intense pressure. Expanding the policy to cover the property market as a whole will do a lot of good and improve the situation for the industries that rely on it.

I make a plea for the Chancellor to look at stamp duty land tax in his next couple of Budgets, because it is quite punitive in terms of the slab rate, particularly up at the £250,000 threshold. Over this Parliament, if not during the next one, we need to look at putting in place changes to stamp duty land tax that result in more marginal rates, just as we have different levels of income tax.

I also make a plea for anything that is done in the property market to be implemented as quickly as is practically possible. Back in 2008, the Labour Government introduced a stamp duty holiday, but if I recall rightly, they suggested in the press that they were doing so about six or eight weeks before it was actually implemented. That had a dramatic and devastating effect on the property market and those involved in it during that interim period. Therefore, we need to ensure that we are expeditious in implementing policies.

This has been a great Budget for business, within the constraints that the Government face. I would like to mention fuel again. Many small and medium-sized hauliers in my constituency are struggling to cope with increases in the price of fuel. In the main, they have to pay for fuel at the pump, but they are not paid by those for whom they work for 60 to 90 days. I am sure that they will welcome the Chancellor’s announcement today.

Regulation is one of the biggest banes of business, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, and costs them £80 billion a year, so they will welcome a reduction in red tape and regulation. They will also welcome the fact that the Prime Minister is looking to reduce regulation in the European Union to make it more competitive as a whole, which is vital. I hope that Government Members will continue to press the Chancellor and the Prime Minister to ensure that those plans bear fruit, because they are important to freeing up our businesses and allowing them to expand and employ more people.

I want to mention the beer and pub industry. I am slightly disappointed that in today’s Budget we have not sought to do anything about the beer duty escalator introduced by the previous Government. Since 2008, beer duty has increased by 26%. Unfortunately, we have not looked to soften that blow today. However, I hope that those on the Front Bench will listen to what I am saying and look to soften the blow for both the brewing industry and the pub industry. We have hundreds of thousands of pubs closing every year. Our great British pub is under pressure, and we should look to support it. I hope those on the Front Bench will take that on board.

Finally, I want to mention the advances that we are making on skills, which are vital to ensuring that our work force can sustain the jobs that we will hopefully help to create in the economy with the additional measures that the Chancellor has mentioned this afternoon. It is fantastic that we will have another 250,000 apprenticeships over the next four years. I am heartened by that, because young people have for so long been cast adrift, and this will help to bring them into employment and training in a sustainable way, and also in a way that will perhaps enable them to garner the knowledge to create their own businesses one day and employ others, which is what we have seen over many years.

I welcome the university training colleges, and I am sure that the large industrial companies in the west midlands will welcome that approach. I hope that it will help people to acquire the skills to fill what those companies are describing at the moment as a void. Companies such as Jaguar Land Rover want to expand greatly, and they need a supply of skills to sustain any such expansion. They need skills from local people in the west midlands. We do not want to bring in people from other countries to fill that void.

Given the constraints that the Government are having to work under—it was far from a golden legacy that we inherited from Labour—this is a positive Budget with good intentions for business and for creating jobs with substance. It also contains measures to bring back to this country the prosperity that has been badly needed for many years.