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Income Tax (Charge)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Manufacturing) 3:35 pm, 12th March 2020

I congratulate all new hon. Members on their excellent maiden speeches.

This Budget is clearly set against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis that we are facing, and I agree with the Chancellor on one thing. It is absolutely right that we work together across all nations on these islands to stop the spread of this virus. I hope that the Treasury will clarify how it intends to work with the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes, on the details of the funding being made available for the response to coronavirus. However, on many other counts, this Budget has missed the mark for my constituents, and I will give some examples of where much more action is needed.

For the past decade, my constituents have seen the local banking services disappear one by one—RBS in Burnside gone, RBS in Blantyre gone, TSB, Clydesdale and RBS in Cambuslang gone. My constituents are paying the price for capricious and faceless commercial decision making, and for too long the big banks have been allowed to cut local services to the bone. Although digital payments and mobile apps are growing in usage and popularity, that should not come at the expense of elderly and vulnerable constituents’ ability to rely on face-to-face banking services and ATMs to manage their money. This is starkly illustrated by a shocking figure that Scots forked out more than £10 million on cash machine charges last year.

I urge the Chancellor to fully recognise the real financial hardships that come when the last bank in town shut its doors and the free-to-use cash machines disappear. I hope that he will consider supporting my cash machines Bill, which aims to end the practice once and for all of charging people for the privilege of accessing their own money. I will acknowledge the commitment in the Red Book on new legislation for access to cash, but there is not a lot of detail on exactly what aspects of cash use the new legislation will cover. I press Ministers to expand on the timescales for the introduction of this legislation, as it is vital for constituents and businesses who rely on cash for day-to-day transactions.

I would also stress that we need more than protection of access to cash. We need a raft of legislation which ensures that the banks deliver a minimum level of service for my constituents and for the constituents of many hon. Members across this House who have witnessed a decline in community banking.

I also want to refer to another measure that could level down opportunity for my constituents. The shows and fairgrounds industry makes a major contribution to the lifeblood of my constituency, yet it has faced significant financial pressures in recent years in providing entertainment to adults and children alike. The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain has highlighted to me that the planned increase in fuel duty on red diesel will put many of their members out of business, with some reporting that it could increase their overheads by as much as £24,000 per annum. I stress that I am strongly supportive of measures that tackle the climate emergency, and it is right that we take the necessary steps to switch to cleaner forms of transport, but showpeople are less able to absorb the significant increase in fuel duty compared with other big businesses that use red diesel, and currently there are no alternative cleaner fuels that could wholly replace red diesel for the power-generating equipment for fairground rides.

Most fairgrounds sites in the UK do not have the same electric charging point infrastructure for their vehicles compared with their European counterparts. In its submission to the Government’s recent call for evidence on this issue, the Showmen’s Guild stated that their members reported using between 150 litres per month and 1,500 litres per fortnight of red diesel to run fairground attractions. We must ensure that the show can go on. I am urging Ministers to listen to the voices of showpeople in my constituency and across the UK, and extend the exemption on the increase in fuel duty on red diesel to the fairground and shows industry.

I turn to another industry that deserves the necessary support to level up Scotland’s economy. Thanks to the actions of our Scottish Government, the Clydebridge steelworks in Cambuslang was saved from closure, protecting a vital industry for my constituents. The Chancellor has committed to a big round of infrastructure projects, for which steel will be an essential component, yet he has missed the opportunity to create a competitive environment for the rejuvenation of the steel industry. In its response to the Budget, UK Steel highlighted the UK Government’s failure to deliver just £50 million to reduce electricity prices, which would give steelworks in Scotland a much-needed boost.

Over the long term, this Budget does not get things done for Rutherglen and Hamilton West. My constituents want a different approach from the failure of austerity and the insularity of Brexit. They want a brighter, better future, and I will do everything in my power to secure their democratic right to choose their own future for their country.