Finance (No. 3) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:04 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Conservative, Walsall North 9:04 pm, 12th November 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Siobhain McDonagh, not least because I shared a platform with her during the Conservative party conference. It was great that she took the opportunity to attend the party conference and I felt a bit of a convert to her cause with regard to the reassessment of some green-belt land that might not otherwise really be described as green belt.

Anyway, that is obviously a topic for another day, as is, possibly, the subject of fixed odds betting terminals. My son, Sam, used to manage a Betfred, and he would occasionally regale us with stories of the people who came in. The store would be empty all Sunday afternoon, then someone would come in for the last hour of the day and blow £400 or £500 on one of those machines in an hour. That would make keeping the shop open all day worth while. I am not making a political point here, but it was the Labour Government who introduced the legislation that gave us fixed odds betting terminals. Personally, I think it is to be celebrated that this Government are going to see their demise, or at least a reduction in the stake to £2. Whether that happens at one point or another, I am personally glad that it is happening at all.

Actually, none of that was what I wanted to talk about this evening. I want to talk about a slightly abstract topic. I understand that it was Tiberius, the second Roman emperor, who said that it was the duty of a good shepherd to shear his sheep but not to skin them. I say “his sheep”, because obviously they were not so politically correct in those days. He obviously meant “his or her sheep”. I understand that that maxim is on the wall in No. 11 Downing Street, although I have not been privileged enough to go in and see it for myself. Perhaps my hon. Friend Gillian Keegan can confirm that for me.

How do I know that to be true? I read it in an excellent textbook, “Taxation: Policy and Practice”, by Andy Lymer. Andy is professor of taxation at Birmingham University, and I went to see him recently in order to educate myself. I think it is the duty of all MPs to adopt continuing professional development and to ensure that we understand something about the topics that we are talking about, although in my case it is clearly a very small something.

Anyway, the point was well made by Tiberius: we should not overtax our people. He clearly knew what he was talking about because, when he left office in 37 AD, the were 3 billion sesterces in the Treasury. I have no idea whether that is a lot of money, but 3 billion of anything sounds like quite a lot. He was clearly a man who knew what he was doing. I understand that he achieved that by limiting his wars with neighbouring factions and ensuring that he operated a good diplomatic policy. Perhaps those are other Conservative principles that we can adopt more these days.

Now, why am I going on about this? It is because the tax-free threshold in 2010 was £6,745, and this party is now going to increase it to £12,500. I believe that I represent the most deprived constituency represented by a Conservative MP, so it is incredibly important to my constituents that they will now find themselves £1,200 a year better off. That will have a significant impact on their lives. How many of them are there? The House of Commons Library could not give me specific details, but it told me that approximately 499,000 people will be taken out of the tax bracket because of that change, and 8% of taxpayers are in the west midlands, so that translates to approximately 40,000 people in the west midlands who will not be paying tax as a result of this above-inflation increase for the year 2019-20. For the following year, 2020-21, there will be a further 12,500 people in the west midlands not paying tax. That is hugely significant.

The Mayor for the west midlands, Andy Street, welcomed the Budget as

“a £100 million vote of confidence” in the west midlands. Why would he say that? It is because approximately £70 million is being given to transport infrastructure across the region, and a further £20 million is being given to help the region to cement its position as a global leader for connected and electric vehicles. That is the future and it is very exciting to see. This Government are making sure that they link up elements of policy. There will be taxation changes for businesses that provide electric charging points at work. Clearly, there is more to be done. In order for people to adopt the new technology, they will need to be able to charge electric vehicles very frequently, so we need to make sure that there are charging points in many convenient locations, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

The other measure I welcome for my constituents is the stamp duty relief for first-time buyers. I understand that for the previous financial year 270 of my constituents benefited from that relief to the tune of approximately £1,100 each. Again, that is no small potatoes for my constituents. The Government are continuing to support my constituents and to leave the money in their pockets so they can choose where best to spend it.

I encourage the Treasury Front-Bench team to adopt Tiberius’s maxim and continue to shear the sheep, not skin them—it is good Conservative policy.