There is a strong case for saying that, especially given the way in which Government fixed capital spending is due to fall over the next year. Of course, as interest rates are low and are predicted to go up, now is the time to borrow and spend.
My second issue has been raised by a number of Members, but it needs to be restated, because it is so important to constituencies like mine, that there will be an increase in tax, through national insurance contributions, for the self-employed. I serve a constituency that is about half rural. Many of my constituents depend on self-employment for work. We have lost a number of jobs through big manufacturing closures over the past couple of years, and many of the people who lost their job have moved into self-employment. Local enterprise agencies in my constituency, according to figures they recently gave me, have encouraged some 1,400 people into self-employment through training. Many of those people start by taking a risk with their redundancy money. They work long hours for not a great deal of money, and they do not have the benefits and security that people in full-time employment have.
The Government say, “The system has been abused, so we have to level up the tax paid.” We do not do that in other areas of taxation. The BBC, for example, gets its top presenters to go into self-employment to avoid taxation. If that is an abuse, stop it, but do not impose additional costs on people who help to bring up the United Kingdom’s employment figures and bring down the unemployment figures by taking risks and going into self-employment. The Chancellor tried to downplay the amount of money involved, but many self-employed people are struggling at the margins because they are trying to get businesses up and running. The difference in taxation will be significant for them. The Government have got that one wrong. Hopefully, the issue will not come back to bite them; it has not been very well explained.
The last issue I shall raise is housing. One way to increase employment and, of course, productivity in the economy is by having a good housing stock that enables people to move around easily. However, if we look at the figures, we find that housing investment is due to fall by 50% this year and stay at a low level. The statistics attached to the Budget indicate that house prices will go up by more than twice the rate of inflation as a result. That will make the average house price around nine times the average salary, which will mean that many young people will never have the chance to own their own house. At the same time, the restrictions on buy to let mean there will be increased costs for the rental market. It is disappointing that the Chancellor did not make any proposals on how he will deal with the housing issue, because it is as much part of making the economy fit for the future as it is part of giving people the opportunity to have a decent home.