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Budget Resolutions - Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:03 pm on 13th March 2017.

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Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Sub-Committee 9:03 pm, 13th March 2017

It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate. It is interesting that the Opposition keep telling us that we must spend more, when of course we inherited a deficit of £150 from them, so every year we are borrowing £150 billion more than we are earning. Now we are finally getting that down to £50 billion, but we still have a £50 billion deficit. It is right that the Chancellor takes strong action to get down our deficit. Until we remove our deficit, we will not get debt down—debt will rise. The Opposition will then start saying, “Debt’s going up.” Of course it is—because we inherited such as basket case of an economy from them.

I very much welcome taking many of the lower paid out of tax altogether, and I welcome the fact that work actually pays. I have some concern, however, when we look at the self-employed. This Government have rightly reduced corporation tax so that large businesses can come to this country and existing businesses can do well from lower corporation tax. Many small businesses and companies in my constituency and across the country are not, however, incorporated, so trying to tax the self-employed more is not the right way forward.

I look forward to the Taylor report. There may be some abuses where people set up bogus businesses and act as self-employed, but the genuinely self-employed who have set up their businesses and struggled to start them without earning much money do not get all the benefits of the employed, so they need to be helped through that situation.

As we move into Brexit and away from the European Union—whether or not we are in the single market—the one thing this country will need is a lot of good businesses, and we have got them. We have seen a reduction in the value of the pound. We might not necessarily have engineered that as a Government, but after the Brexit vote the pound dropped by about 18%, which has created a huge stimulus to the economy. We must make sure that we benefit from it by allowing these businesses to develop. As these self-employed businesses develop, they will create employment, which is what we need. It is another great success of this Government. Millions of jobs, we were told, were going to be lost when the coalition Government came into power in 2010. Instead of that, we have created millions of jobs—something that seems to be lost in the forecast of Opposition Members.

Let me deal in my remaining three minutes with the situation in my constituency. It is great to see that, on the basis of previous Budgets and this one, we are still very much looking at infrastructure. What has happened on the A303 and the A30 is a great innovation, but we must make sure that we do not stop at Ilminster, but get through to Honiton, because there is a bit of a gap at the moment. I have been talking about this matter for some time.

When it comes to social care and our hospitals, I very much welcome the little bit of extra money in the Budget, but many Members always have little local difficulties, which is the case for me, too. At the moment, we have hospital beds both in Honiton and in Seaton, but there is a proposal to remove those hospital beds from both of those places. That will create an area of approximately 100 square miles without any hospital beds. The administrations of the health service need to realise the size of Devon and the distance people have to travel in order to get to hospital, including those who want to visit their loved ones. The cottage hospitals have a great advantage in reducing some of the pressures on the acute hospitals, so we need to ensure that we find some funding for them. We need to care for people more in their homes, but we also need to care for people in hospital.

There was a little mention of more funding for schools and education. Devon has been able to educate its children across the county with a very low budget. Over the years, we have had a poor share of the overall budget. Now we have seen an increase in that share, which is welcome, but as always we need some more cash. Although this is not down to the Chancellor, we also need a little more flexibility when it comes to how Devon spends its cash. If we had that flexibility, we could make the money go further.

Great education for our children is what we will need when we move into this brave new world. I voted to remain, but I am now very much committed to the fact that our economy is strong and that this country will be great—in or out of the European Union, and in or out of the single market. We must make sure that we get our trade deals, look after our farmers and have great food, as we do these Brexit deals. The one thing we must do is always talk up this country—never down.