Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:50 pm on 8th March 2017.

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Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Conservative, Tonbridge and Malling 5:50 pm, 8th March 2017

I am not going to comment, obviously, on the individual case the hon. Lady raises, but she is absolutely right that we will have to look with imagination at how we bring migrants into this country. As she will know, I was on the remain side of the argument, but many people on the leave side would say the same as I say now, which is that we must be open and much freer in how we look at this. Instead of focusing so much on European migration, we should perhaps go more global. I understand the argument, and I would rather have had freer European migration as well, but we are, as they say, where we are, and the vote has been cast. So, yes, the hon. Lady is absolutely right that the Home Office must play its part.

As we look through the various areas in which investment will happen, there are a few I would like to highlight a little more. First, I want to highlight the combating of domestic violence. Domestic Abuse Volunteer Support Services, which operates out of Tunbridge Wells, does a great deal to help victims of domestic violence to present themselves to court, to ensure that they get appropriate legal representation and to defend their interests properly against their abusers.

If we look in greater detail at devolution, we see that there is a lot of talk in the Red Book about city deals and about extra money going to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all of which I welcome, but there is not so much on devolution to Kent, for example. There is not so much on devolution to our boroughs and parishes, where a lot of our centralised efforts could be placed.

I want to highlight a few areas that contain perhaps a small element that I would work on. The Budget is not simply a collection of numbers; it is not an exercise in accounting; and it is not a spreadsheet. It is a political document, and it speaks to the areas in which we as a community, a Government and a nation wish to see investment and effort. It is a political work. That is why I find the emphasis on national insurance slightly concerning. I come from a political tradition that believes in small government and low taxes and that seeks to encourage entrepreneurship and enterprise. Although the figures that we are discussing are very minor—a percentage point here and there, or two over two years—they speak to a tone that is not entirely helpful, and in that I urge a rethink. We should be encouraging the self-employed, start-ups and people who are taking risks and carrying those risks themselves. We should recognise that through support, yes, but we should do so particularly through taxation.

That brings me to quarterly tax returns. I understand that the Chancellor has been generous in delaying their introduction by a year, but let us not kid ourselves that £85,000 a year is a particularly large turnover for a business; it is not. I would very much welcome a rethink about how we can assist those who do not have large budgets to pay accountants and who are not running businesses that will definitely generate millions in the future. We are talking about people who are experimenting. It may be two or three friends trying out an innovative idea, or two or three business partners experimenting with a new area of technology, who may indeed be the next Google but who are now in a garage somewhere in Manchester. It is worth thinking about what we can do to make sure that they have opportunities.

If we start putting burdens on businesses at a sum as low as £85,000, we will have to be careful that we do not discourage qualities that we Conservatives value—I know that the Chancellor, in his youth, demonstrated these—the innovation, the entrepreneurialism and the talent to succeed in this now-liberated Britain.