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Income Tax (Charge)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:29 pm on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Opposition Whip (Commons) 4:29 pm, 12th March 2020

It is a pleasure to follow Mike Wood, and I share his commitments to and support for the revision of how we do business rates. However, my constituents will be concerned about all sorts of things in the Budget, so I will try to pull apart a few things in the time I have available.

Of course, we welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to making provision for covid-19 and for businesses, and I thank him for the relief of business rates. My constituents who work in the NHS are only frustrated that it takes a crisis for the Chancellor to say the important words that he will let the NHS have “whatever it needs”. I urge him to make that a motto for the future, because the NHS should genuinely always have what it needs.

My constituents will be concerned about school funding, and of course, I welcome any cash increase in that, but that is against the backdrop of sustained cuts over the last 10 years. There has been a lost generation of children and young people whose education has been damaged by having large classes or subjects cut, and particularly those with special educational needs. There was barely anything on social care, either for adults or children. Children with special educational needs and disabilities have paid a price for austerity, and that can never be recovered. Parents tell me of their sadness at what has been lost in delayed assessments and missing support.

On the creative industries, as we leave the EU, this country could have chosen to negotiate to stay in Creative Europe. Thirteen European states that are not members of the EU are in fact members of Creative Europe. This is about not just money, but the economic benefits of the non-cash elements of Creative Europe for our fantastic creative industries. That is missing, unfortunately, from the aims for negotiation with the EU, but the Chancellor could have made up for it. The cultural investment fund is welcome, but it is in no way an adequate replacement for the networking, exposure and sharing of our creative industries, and that is a lost decade to come.

On Brexit mitigation, there is the ridiculous but now trademark and rather dreary slogan about getting it done, which I am absolutely sure Ministers must know is complete rubbish, because we are still in negotiation about the future relationship, and that is massive. My constituents told me for much of the last three years about the consequences for them of this now rapid drift away from the original promise by the original Brexit Secretary of State, Mr Davis, that we would get the “exact same benefits” in the future relationship. That aim has disappeared, never mind the reality. I am sure that we all really knew—and I am absolutely certain that the right hon. Gentleman knew—that this was going to be nonsense, and so it has proved. We have now seen successive Brexit Secretaries of State and two Prime Ministers downgrade that “exact same benefits” to a “best-in-class” trade deal, and now to a very slim volume of negotiating aims, with mean-spirited language about our nearest neighbours—in sharp contrast to rather thicker volume about the negotiating aims of the US.

We are now hurtling towards what I have to name as a no-deal Brexit, with all the tariff and non-tariff barriers that that will bring. That will hurt the exporters and importers in my constituency. We could choose to stick to our previous commitment as a country to some form of regulatory alignment and some form of level playing field, but without that, it is not surprising that we look likely to make any deal with the European Union virtually impossible.

Finally, and most importantly, I turn to climate change. The Committee on Climate Change—not me, the Committee—said that the best they could say about the Budget was that it was a “realistic start” but it was not close to what is really needed. The Chancellor kept saying that the Government were going to meet their environmental obligations, but environmental groups do not agree. The Government’s advisory group does not agree. I do not agree. My constituents definitely do not agree. This is an existential threat. It is a matter of urgency—it is an emergency. I salute the Chancellor for taking the coronavirus emergency seriously and I just want him to do the same, with the same level of urgency, with the climate change emergency.

In conclusion, this Budget fails to address my constituents’ concerns. While it contains many good things, especially on covid-19, it does not undo the economic and social damage of the past 10 years or the cuts to public services, and it fails to treat the climate emergency as an emergency. It is a Brexit Budget. The Chancellor used to be seen as the coming man, but I fear that he is now just seen as Cummings’ man, with an agenda of deregulation, downgrading of public services, and shrinking of the state. The Chancellor has a family, and one day they will ask him what he did about climate change, and I hope that he will be able, before the COP climate change conference this autumn, to tell them exactly what he did to protect the climate.