Budget Resolutions - Income Tax (Charge)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:49 pm on 31st October 2018.

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Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Conservative, Mid Worcestershire 2:49 pm, 31st October 2018

There is a lot to praise in this Budget. I and my constituents particularly welcome the confirmation of the additional funding for the NHS and the additional money for social care, infrastructure, broadband, schools and defence, as well as of course the changes to business rates. I appreciate the fact that the Chancellor acknowledged my own representations on VAT, and given that I have 107 pubs in my constituency—about 35 more than the average—I particularly welcome the freeze on beer and spirits duty, as do my constituents.

The fact that the Chancellor was able to do all these things, announcing about £100 billion of additional spending over a five-year period, without increasing taxes—in fact, reducing them—is a remarkable achievement, and he deserves considerable praise. Although my constituents have been telling me for months—in fact, for years—that if it was necessary to increase tax, they would be willing for that to happen, I am glad that it has not happened.

This is not just about the total amount of money being spent; it is about where and how it is spent. I believe we have considerable further work to do on this, because if the money is not spent in a balanced way, areas of the country suffer. My area of the country is not getting its fair share of public expenditure. We are now seeing this in the fact that my constituency was ranked 522nd out of 533 in the latest social mobility index by constituency.

One key is education and education funding. There are few more important things in politics than enabling our children to reach their full potential, and education is the key route to doing so. It is my personal ambition to focus on that in Parliament. I am from a relatively modest background. My dad—my Labour-voting, trade unionist dad, by the way—worked in a factory and my Mum was on the tills at Asda, and I went to a comprehensive school. I was the first person from my school to go to Oxford, and the first person in my family to go to university. Social mobility is therefore key for me, and it is very important.

We know that education is not all about money, but it plays such an important role. It is no accident that the top-funded places in the country—they are mainly in London—also have the highest social mobility and, conversely, that the lowest funded areas are the lowest for social mobility. There is clearly a strong link. In my constituency, average funding for secondary schools is £4,875. It is one of the lowest figures in the country, and it is £500 below the average school. It is also £3,000 per pupil per year less than in Hackney and £2,000 per pupil per year less than in Islington. Yet average incomes in my constituency, at £404, are £39 below the national average. That is also £150 less than in the shadow Home Secretary’s constituency of Hackney North and Stoke Newington, so this is not just related to income.

This is unfair, and I am glad that the Government are taking action and, with the fairer funding formula, ensuring that we will make changes. I applaud the fact that we will do so as fast and in as easy a way as we can, and like my right hon. Friend Sir Michael Fallon, who is no longer in his place, I support significant increases in education funding. If that means increases in tax, I will support that and my constituents will support it. It is that important.

My area of Worcestershire is also suffering in other ways, such as in clinical commissioning group spending.