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Finance (No. 3) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:57 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of Julian Knight Julian Knight Conservative, Solihull 7:57 pm, 12th November 2018

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention—that is absolutely true. If someone is unemployed for 18 months, they are often unemployed for the very long term—for the rest of their life, in some instances. It ruins lives, shortens lives and makes those lives more miserable.

The way in which we have approached corporation tax is absolutely correct. On small business rate relief, my hon. Friend, again—I do not wish to just copy his speech—talked about how that had been very well received in his business community and on his high street. It is a blessed relief that will bring a much-needed boost to our small businesses and to our high streets, which we have to nurture. We cannot have the high street of just the bookmaker, the pub next door, and the charity shop—although charity shops do very valuable work. We need diversity in the high street, not just in terms of retail but living space, opportunity, health and social services.

On debt, as I said in the Budget debate, with a ratio of 82% to GDP, we really should not give ourselves a pat on the back. It is not a good place to be at all. It makes us less likely and less able to effectively withstand the winds of global recession that happen on a cyclical basis. However, we have chosen a path by which, over time, we bring that under control. There are two ways to reduce the GDP-to-debt ratio: through productivity or inflation. The choice of British Governments, for years and years, was inflation. Inflation is a fool’s errand: it destroys living standards and destroys savings. The second approach is productivity. I am really pleased to see in the Red Book that many elements of this Budget really focus and home in on productivity, but we need to keep that going. We need a step change in our economy in this respect.

I turn to what I call car taxes. As the vice-chair of the APPG on fair fuel, and the former chair of said august APPG, I am absolutely delighted to see the freeze in fuel duty. However, I want to make a point about diesel cars in this respect. That is not, obviously, just because my constituency has 9,500 workers in this sector and 93% of the engines that come off the track are diesel cars. We have seen a 45% fall in diesel sales, and that hurts the Exchequer.

This problem originated in Wolfsburg. The irony is that the Germans are now changing their approach with regard to diesel, so the originators of the difficulty within the diesel market are now looking at the market and saying, “Hold on a minute—we need to ensure that clean, modern diesels are supported.” We have a higher excise duty on modern, clean diesels. According to the AA, 270 of the diesel cars currently tested are now within tolerance in that respect. If we have this disincentive, people will hold on to their older cars for longer. These cars can run for a quarter of a million miles—I know; I have one. That means that the older EU5 and EU4 engines will stay on the road longer and pollute more. We need to get really smart about this and construct the tax system to support all modern petrol and diesel engines while, at the same time, aiding the transition towards new technologies.

On the Budget as a whole, it is quite remarkable to note, as a former personal finance journalist, how we used to have a merry time pulling Budgets apart. We could almost guarantee that, by the end of the first day, we would have something to go at the Government on. With this one, that is not the case. That is a testament to the Chancellor and the team. I will be absolutely delighted to vote for this Bill tonight.