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Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:24 pm on 22nd March 2016.

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Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East 4:24 pm, 22nd March 2016

It is a pleasure and an honour to follow Stella Creasy. As a graduate in physics and maths from the University of Liverpool, I both congratulate and condemn her on managing to get both Stephen Hawking and Wayne Rooney into the same speech.

I want to send my condolences to the families of the victims in Brussels. I was in Brussels shortly after the Paris attacks and the degree of security being implemented demonstrated that the authorities were already on high alert. It is clearly a devastating tragedy.

The events of the past few days seem to have over-shadowed a remarkably good Budget from the Chancellor. Reducing business taxes to promote growth to enable people to have the dignity of earning a living, rather than a life on benefits, should be applauded on both sides of the Chamber, not condemned. I trust that that will be the Government’s focus over the next four years.

London has done particularly well out of the Budget, but I have not heard many details mentioned in the Chamber. The Chancellor has invested £80 million in Crossrail 2, which will be this country’s single biggest transport operation outside HS2 and something that we clearly need to get on with. I am looking forward to Crossrail 2 enhancing north-west London and my constituency in particular. It will be excellent for everyone involved in transport across London. Transferring business rates powers to the Mayor of London and London councils is remarkably important and will mean that the transport projects that London desperately needs will be funded by the business rates paid by London’s businesses, with that money being appropriately retained. Kick-starting the redevelopment of Old Oak Common will be central to the generation of new homes, new jobs and new businesses and a much better transport infrastructure for London.

Combating rough sleeping across the country is important. Ensuring that people do not experience a second night out is vital, particularly in London. I ask the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend Greg Hands, to make it clear when he replies to the debate how much of the money will go to London, because London has the biggest homelessness problem and we all want to see it combated. I recently visited FirmFoundation in my constituency, which does a brilliant job of dealing with single homeless men, but it needs additional resources to assist such men and to enable them to get back into a proper home and get their lives back together again. It desperately wants to know how it can apply for the extra money being made available, so I trust that we will hear more details later.

In contrast to my hon. Friend Richard Fuller, I applaud the Chancellor for introducing the sugar tax. Given that behaviours can be driven by taxation, something of which I strongly approve, the Chancellor has missed an opportunity. I welcome the increase in tobacco duty, particularly on rolling tobacco, to encourage people to give up smoking. However, given that the Chancellor has said that the sugar tax will be spent on things to encourage a reduction in obesity, let us drive behaviour by adding additional duties. Just a penny increase on every cigarette smoked in this country would raise £500 million, which could be invested in initiatives such as encouraging people to give up smoking or, even better, not to start in the first place.

The other issue that I want to mention is something that is not going to go away: seeking justice for Equitable Life policyholders. I had hoped that we would hear something in the Budget about further compensation for both the pre-1992 trapped annuitants and the people who have not received compensation thus far. Let me put the Chancellor on notice that we will continue our campaign until we get justice for those who suffered as a result of that terrible scandal.