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It is a pleasure to follow Mr Shuker. I have to say that although we do not always agree, he has put forward some good points.
It is well recognised that Britain is a world leader in science and technological research. As we saw earlier at a STEM event in Portcullis House, many advances, which begin as just glimmers of ideas, are developed by our amazing entrepreneurs and commercialised. Such entrepreneurs are vital in helping Britain succeed in a global economy. However, that is not a reason to shy away from bringing parity into the tax system, between the employed and the self-employed. Before being elected to this place, I was self-employed for 19 years. When I first ventured down that path, I did not think, “I must become self-employed to pay less national insurance.” I went self-employed because I had a business idea and relished the challenge of making a success of it, and I wanted the freedom of being my own boss.
After my first year of trading, I was quite surprised to see just how little national insurance I was paying. Although I recognised that there were many benefits that I would not be able to access as a result of being self-employed, I felt that the advantages outweighed those disadvantages. I welcome the news that Matthew Taylor is looking at the differing employment practices that we now find across the industry. I also welcome the review, because this is the time not to tinker around the edges, but to make lasting reforms to the tax system that are fit for the changes that we are seeing in today’s employment environment in the gig economy and also to keep us at the forefront of the global market.
I also want to spend a little time in welcoming the additional funding for social care. As the Chancellor quite rightly said in his Budget statement, the social care system is under a great deal of pressure, which in turn puts pressure on our national health service. As someone who has family experience of great working practices, I can say that this is about not only money, but how we implement processes and spend the money.
I am a member of the Health Committee, which has taken evidence from people about great working practices. Although I welcome news of the extra £2 billion over the next three years, with £1 billion for the next financial year, we must ensure that that money comes with reform. What is wrong is when stakeholders, clinical commissioning groups, local authorities, health trusts, primary care trusts and third sector providers are not willing to come together to make the changes that are so necessary.
Sustainability and transformation plans are necessary. We cannot continue to do what we have always done and then expect to get different results. The future of the NHS and social care has got to be two-way: reform must come alongside additional funding. That is why I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of a Green Paper on the future financing of social care later this year. As with the reforms to the tax system, these reforms cannot tinker at the edges and think that the job is done.
As a midlands MP, it would be remiss of me not to mention the midlands engine. As an east midlands MP, it would also be remiss of me not to remind people that the midlands engine covers both the west midlands and the east midlands. Sometimes that gets glossed over. I welcome the focus on skills and training, and the investment in transport infrastructure at pinch points. However, more needs to be done. I have called for an additional motorway junction between junctions 25 and 26 on the M1, which would really help to alleviate some of the congestion throughout my constituency. Alleviating congestion helps productivity.
It is important to remember that investment in skills, training and infrastructure across the whole of the midlands, as part of the midlands engine for growth, will really benefit small towns and large cities. My message to the Chancellor is that we need to continue that investment to ensure that we hold our place in the global economy and at a local level.