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Income Tax (Charge)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:08 pm on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North 3:08 pm, 12th March 2020

It has been a great pleasure to hear the maiden speeches of three new hon. Members this afternoon, and particularly to hear about Appleton. I grew up in Cheshire and I know Appleton very well, so it brought back some very nice memories. I wish all those new hon. Members the very best with their parliamentary careers.

It is absolutely right that the tone of the debate this afternoon has been to accept that this Budget has been hijacked, as it were, by the coronavirus and the need for action to be taken. I want to commend the Government for the financial support they are putting in, with the £12 billion to provide support for public services, businesses and individuals whose finances will be affected, and the £5 billion for the NHS and other public services. I think that that is absolutely right, as is the extension of statutory sick pay. However, I hope that, in the emergency legislation that will be brought before the House in the next few days and weeks, we will see something for the people who are not covered by statutory sick pay.

The NHS will be under huge pressures in the coming weeks and months. While it is very welcome to see this additional emergency funding going in, this will shine a light on capacity in the NHS after many years of not being funded as adequately as we would like. I pay tribute to the wonderful staff of the NHS, who are working around the clock to treat patients and contain the disease.

Social care was not mentioned in the Budget—it remained untouched—and like my right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor, I remain concerned about the ability of that sector to cope with coronavirus. I was also concerned that local authority funding was untouched by the Budget. By 2022, local authorities will have lost 60p in every pound due to cuts, and cuts to the public health budget will also come home to roost. No allocations have been made to public health directors for the coming financial year, which starts in just a few weeks. The Treasury has made no assessment of the impact of this Budget on women, and it is down to organisations such as the Women’s Budget Group to tell us that 14% of workers will not benefit from the increase to the national insurance threshold, and 60% of those are women, because they are in the lowest paid jobs.

Earlier I mentioned the tampon tax. When the Minister responds to the debate, will he say something about where the estimated £393 million a year, which was raised from the tampon tax, will be found, so as to continue funding projects that combat violence against women and girls? Levelling up does not just mean cash injections into threadbare public services, or an infrastructure revolution; it also means a system of social security that will protect women and their families, and lift them out of poverty. That is particularly important after the recent Marmot review, which showed that for the first time, life expectancy for women in the most disadvantaged communities is going down. Working families in Hull have been hit hard by the benefits freeze, the two-child limit for child tax credits, and the baked-in five-week wait for universal credit, but there was no announcement in the Budget to support families who are struggling to make ends meet.

Let me mention some of the announcements that were made about Hull and the Humber. I and six of my Humber colleagues wrote to the Chancellor a fortnight ago, to ask him to invest in building the first fully deployed carbon capture and storage cluster in the UK, in our most carbon-intensive region. I was pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed to meet me, because I think the Humber has a compelling case to be one of two pilots for that scheme. I am pleased that the Government have decided not to introduce the rise in vehicle excise duty for new motorhomes. The caravan and motorhome sector is a big employer for local businesses in the region, and such a step would have caused it major problems.

On transport, I am all for the Chancellor’s plans for levelling up and investing in the north, but in the Budget I heard reference only to the railway line between Manchester and Leeds, and not to the larger plan for a northern powerhouse rail link between Liverpool and Hull. I hope the Government will make further announcements about that. I was pleased with the additional funding for flooding and flood resilience, and I hope the Government will support the plan brought forward by the previous Member for Scunthorpe, which was to have the National Flood Resilience Centre based there. I know that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has assured Holly Mumby-Croft that the Government are looking seriously at the funding bid that was submitted jointly by Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, and the University of Hull, and in light of what has happened in recent months, that would provide welcome resilience training to the whole United Kingdom.

Finally, the devolution deal for West Yorkshire was announced yesterday, with a mayoral combined authority from May 2021. With the South Yorkshire deal already done, the new deal means that the Yorkshire-wide devolution deal is dead. For the Humber, what happened yesterday in Committee Room 16 was probably more important, because it was sadly agreed that rather than having a Humber devolution deal, we are now going to move to a north-bank deal and a south-bank deal. From what was said yesterday—the Minister was there—I hope that we might be able to get to the point where we agree on a development corporation around the Humber, which is an economic entity and area that has the capacity to really power the northern powerhouse if we get agreement on both the north and south bank of the Humber. I hope that will come to fruition in any mayoral combined authority on the north and south bank.