It is a pleasure to speak in the debate. First, I would like to address the measures in the Budget that relate to the digital economy, including the digital services tax. I declare an interest: I was a former corporate lawyer —I was even more fun when I was doing that. Someone who deals with international transactions and contracts learns that international tax treaties are very complicated and were designed for a time before the current technological revolution. The UK Government are leading the way in clamping down on the admittedly difficult and perhaps unsavoury practices of multinational tech firms. Of course, the digital services tax will not deal with that completely, but it is a step in the right direction. As I say, we are one of the first Governments in the world to do anything like this, and I commend it to the House.
Turning to my constituency, I want to address the measures relating to the high street. We all know that the high street has been under significant pressure over the past few years. Whenever I speak to the owners of small independent shops in both Hitchin and Harpenden, they say that business rates are a significant problem, so I look forward to telling them this weekend about the cut of a third in their business rates, if their rateable value is under £51,000. That measure will be of huge benefit to my independent shops and I commend it to the House.
Even more important than the cut in business rates is the £675 million future high streets fund because it will help to enable our local authorities and local areas to take leadership and act on their own initiative to reshape their high streets to deal with the modern world and its challenges. I urge the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who is sitting on the Treasury Bench, to make sure that this money gets to local councils as soon as possible so that we can get on with making improvements.