Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:35 pm on 25th March 2013.

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Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester 6:35 pm, 25th March 2013

The right hon. Gentleman has had his chance.

I absolutely relate to my hon. Friend Alok Sharma and his aspiration that everyone on the minimum wage should in due course pay no income tax. That was a magnificent announcement of Conservative and coalition policy to help those who work hardest on the lowest incomes, and we should all applaud it.

Secondly, the Leader of the Opposition made a great deal recently of apologising for Labour’s axing of the 10p rate, and he now wants to bring it back, but while he is busy executing a second U-turn on 10p tax, my constituents, especially the many thousands who will benefit from the changes in the Budget, prefer the simple Conservative and coalition approach of zero tax for the lowest paid.

The whole House should unite in applauding the Government for announcing an employment allowance of £2,000, which can be used by small businesses for apprentices or new employees who are older, and can help to continue to bring down youth unemployment, which in my constituency of Gloucester, as a result of all the new apprenticeships that started last year, fell by 18% in 2012. Ten days ago, during national apprenticeships week, I visited three new apprentices in Gloucester, in real estate, golf clubs and ski centres, and if ever there was an example of how apprenticeships have spread through previously unknown sectors those three new apprentices proved it. That is why the Government should go on supporting apprenticeships and bringing the young into employment.

Today, housing is at the core of the debate, and I believe that it is the key to growth stimulus, as it was after the recession of the 1930s and the recession of the second world war. The Centre for Cities rightly said in its recent note that

“there is one area where effective interventions have the potential to generate jobs and growth in the short term: housing.”

It went on to say that

“100,000 new houses…could boost Gross Domestic Product by 1% and support up to 150,000 jobs.”

The Centre for Cities, which recently moved Gloucester up the ratings for cities from 49th to 21st, is clearly a research institute to be followed closely, and I agree with its conclusions on the ratings and with its analysis on the importance of housing.

Hilary Benn said that he believed that the response to the Budget on housing was largely critical. He was right in one respect, as the National Housing Federation said:

“The Government should be focusing on unlocking investment to build more new homes”.

However, we cannot new build new homes unless there is a market for them, which is why the Government’s policy, through help to buy, of providing £3.5 billion for new homes, will make a significant difference to make sure that people can afford to buy those new homes. The National House Building Council said that it is

“great news that housing has been the centre piece of this Budget. This is a positive step for homebuilders and homeowners alike.”

Both Barratt and Persimmon welcomed the development, and Barratt said:

“We are now gearing up to meet the increase in inquiries that we expect to see.”