It is a pleasure to speak in this debate and to highlight the measures in the Budget that will be most welcomed by my constituents.
Many of my constituents will be thrilled by the increase in the personal allowance threshold, the higher rate threshold and the national living wage. I never tire of reminding people that I am a low-tax Conservative, and any Budget that gives 32 million people a tax break certainly gets my vote. Despite the mocking of Opposition Members, the funding for potholes is something that many of my constituents have been asking for repeatedly. The damage and cost to vehicles and the environment are enormous, and if they are not fixed soon, that will only decrease road safety and cost the Government and the taxpayer so much more later. It is right that we are spending that money.
Another issue that I must take the opportunity to highlight is crime and policing. My constituents want to see more money spent in this area, because our families and communities want to feel safe. I am glad the Chancellor referenced that in his speech, and I know that residents across Essex will be awaiting a very generous review of the police funding settlement this December.
I strongly welcome the extra £500 million for the housing infrastructure fund, so that councils can deliver 650,000 more homes. I am pleased that Chelmsford City Council is already shortlisted to receive a £5.7 million investment, to help with the Beaulieu station and north-east bypass projects, which are expected to deliver £250 million to the local economy and support more than 3,500 jobs. I pay tribute to the hard work of my hon. Friend Vicky Ford. We have been working together to promote those schemes, to the mutual benefit of our constituents. I also look forward to helping Uttlesford District Council in its bid for housing capacity funding to help deliver the infrastructure we need to provide for three new garden communities in the coming years.
Last year’s abolition of stamp duty on homes up to £300,000 has led to an 11-year high in the number of first-time buyers, with over 120,000 people being helped by this measure. I welcome the fact that stamp duty is now also being abolished for first-time buyers of shared ownership, because that was the type of property that helped me on to the housing ladder. I would not have what I have today without having had a shared ownership property, and I am glad that this option is being extended to even more people. I am also glad this will be backdated to cover those who have purchased shared ownership properties since last year’s Budget. I also welcome the fact that Help to Buy is being extended by two years, up to 2023, which will help so many more young people to own their own home. As well as helping people to get on the housing ladder, this change will diversify home ownership. So many of our towns and villages will become retirement homes without an influx of younger people bringing their skills and talents to our area, and these measures are to be welcomed.
This year, like last year, I joined my right hon. Friend Robert Halfon to lobby for fuel duty to be frozen. I congratulate him on his tireless campaigning on this issue, and the Chancellor on agreeing to our request. In the Chancellor’s own words, freezing fuel duty again will have
“saved the average car driver £850 and the average van driver over £2,100.”
This is important because it affects not just motorists but their families, and continuing the freeze will help to keep their bills and their overall cost of living low.
Finally, I welcome the digital services tax and the way the Chancellor has chosen to implement it. A constituent who runs an online business visited me at my surgery with concerns about an online sales tax for small business trading. He felt that an online sales tax for small businesses could be very damaging for him and his family, and he was worried that start-ups run by couples from the homes where they live and work would be affected. Small businesses such PVC Tube Online in Great Dunmow drive our local economies, and their owners face risk and uncertainty to grow their companies and to provide a better tomorrow for their families. I am therefore delighted that this digital services tax will target only the world’s wealthiest companies with global revenues of at least £500 million. The revenues raised will be money available to spend on our public services, so that families across the country can see more investment in their communities. Addressing the huge profits that the biggest companies make through their activity in the UK recognises the changing nature of the digital economy and the issues that accompany that, and this tax is a stepping stone to addressing those issues properly.
This Government are looking to the future and at how we can solve the problems of the 21st century. This is a forward-looking Budget, and I will be voting for it later today.