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Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:12 pm on 22nd March 2016.

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Photo of Richard Drax Richard Drax Conservative, South Dorset 4:12 pm, 22nd March 2016

I do, and I welcome the Prime Minister’s comments. I am simply expanding on the need for highly specialist training. All kinds of things—images that can change during an attack and different lights—are needed in what will be a highly strategic attack. Our armed police would not be able to stay outside and wait for the Special Air Service to come; they would have to get into the building and save lives, as I am sure they would. I do not doubt for one second their courage or dedication. I am requesting that the Treasury and the Prime Minister look carefully at the moneys available to train our armed police to deal with assaults such as what we saw this morning which, sadly and tragically, are becoming more common.

Speaking of the military, may I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on resorting to military tactics? It is always said that attack is the best form of defence, and my right hon. Friend’s robust performance in the House today was a very good example of that.

I welcome much of what is in the Budget. I welcome the raising of the tax-free personal allowance, the increase of the higher-rate threshold to £45,000, the freezing of fuel, beer and cider duties, and the expanding of the savings culture. The Chancellor also reduced corporation tax and cut taxes for small businesses, and I want to direct my remarks about those measures to Opposition Members. We heard the shadow Chancellor say that they constituted a tax cut for the rich. May I remind the Opposition that such businesses are the engine room of our country? Many people risk their homes to invest in businesses and struggle for years to make a profit. They then pay for all the people whom we are trying to get into work, while also taking vast risks in making all the goods that we need for the economy to run, and generating the money that we need to spend on, for instance, schools and hospitals.

The more money those business people keep, the more they can reinvest in their companies. It is not a matter of people jetting off in their 747s. I have visited many businesses, and I am sure that Opposition Members have done the same in their constituencies. I know that small engineering companies are now having to buy equipment that is worth £600,000, £700,000 or £800,000, and that profits are minimal. We need to help such companies for the sake of the future of our country, and the future of those whom we want to get back into work.

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend Richard Fuller about the sugar tax. I, too, have doubts about it, and I hope that Ministers will think again. I am also concerned about the effects of raising the business rates threshold for small businesses and exempting some businesses altogether. I am sure that someone will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that more and more local authorities, particularly rural authorities like mine, will rely increasingly on business rates, because central Government funding will be reduced to zero. If that is the case, and if businesses are to be exempted from business rates—which I absolutely applaud; do not get me wrong—where will the money come from for small rural councils such as mine? I should be grateful if the Minister could answer that question when he sums up the debate.

Let me now say something about the personal independence payment, and all that has happened in that connection. Like others, I have huge praise for my right hon. Friend Mr Duncan Smith. Having been the leader of our party, a lesser man would have gone off into a cave and stayed there, but not this man; he went out and did all that he could do, and has done, for the poorest in our society. He has dedicated so much of his life to that, and I commend him for it.

I want to draw attention to an aspect of the PIP that greatly concerns me. Many constituents come to my surgeries and say that they have been assessed unfairly or lazily—whatever it may be. It is a tick-box culture, and I have never liked the ticking of boxes. In some instances, support has been withdrawn from my constituents while their cases are assessed, although many of them have had doctors’ certificates explaining why they need the money. May I strongly urge the Government to look closely at the assessing system? We need occupational therapists, family members and doctors to contribute to assessments. It is true that that would probably be more expensive, but at least we would get the assessments right, rather than causing huge distress to those who are least able to deal with it by taking away what support they have, and then giving it back to them x months later when a Member of Parliament has become involved.

Finally, let me point out that virtually every departmental budget is now ring-fenced. Which areas can we stop ring-fencing? There must be savings to be made, not least in overseas aid, which I am sure could be spent and targeted in a far better way.