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That is most kind of you, Madam Deputy Speaker; thank you for making that happen. I thank everyone who has made a contribution.
I wish to thank the Chancellor and his team for the tremendous efforts that have been made in producing this Budget, especially in the light of the current events that are overtaking all else. I welcome some of the measures taken. The planned increase in spirits duty will be cancelled, with no duties for cider or wine drinkers as well, although a packet of cigarettes will cost 27p more, which I have to say is good news. I welcome the abolition of the so-called tampon tax, and I would welcome further initiatives to combat period poverty. I am delighted to see the pledge to double the spending on research and development. I thank the Chancellor for all these things and congratulate him on them.
I express some concern about the fact that there was no mention at all of air passenger duty and its importance for us in Northern Ireland and, indeed, for the whole of the United Kingdom. Again, I understand the seriousness of the Budget in relation to coronavirus, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. The Chancellor outlined measures to ensure that small businesses in England receive rates relief, but the same processes are not in place in Northern Ireland. Our disappointment is that although the Chancellor said those things, unfortunately we do not see any benefit coming through to us at the moment.
The Health Secretary said that we will know “shortly”—perhaps in the next few minutes—how much money there will be to tackle coronavirus in Northern Ireland, and I hope we get the opportunity to hear that. Will the Minister confirm what money will be available for Northern Ireland, based on the Budget and Government information?
I welcome the fact that the Government will cover 14 days of statutory sick pay for companies with 250 employees, and the suspension of rates to pay sick leave, and so many other things that have been brought in for England. But are we in Northern Ireland any less British? Are our businesses any less deserving of help? Can we say that we have got what is needed from coronavirus aid? The answer is no, we have not, and I am very disappointed about that.
I have heard mothers say that if they have no school or paid day care for their children they will not be able to work, so if they have coronavirus and need to self-isolate, there will be real problems with childcare providers. I welcome the £210 million in the Budget to establish Treasury officials in Northern Ireland. The tax threshold has dropped, and there is no additional tax on red diesel—assistance that makes a difference for many things. I sincerely appreciate the Chancellor’s efforts in this uncertain time, but we need a whole UK approach. Just as in other times of national crisis the regions pulled together, so must we also do that. The Government intend to ensure that someone’s postcode does not dictate the help and assistance given, and neither should it dictate their income tax. Let us get this right.