Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:13 pm on 27th April 2020.

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Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield 6:13 pm, 27th April 2020

What a pleasure it is to contribute to this debate while in my isolation that I am still under, which meant that I could not accept the invitation to be in the Chamber today. I have one very quick point to make on the background of this debate. The Finance Bill, more or less like the Queen’s Speech, was redundant almost before the print had dried, because we are in a situation we could not have imagined when either was first framed.

I want to make a pitch in particular for an unrepresented group in our society: children and young people. I believe that young people—school leavers, children in school and children in pre-school—have had a pretty tough time during this coronavirus epidemic, and they are still having a tough time. Looking forward, we are going to see real problems. If we have the recession that every authority is predicting, we will have a very serious problem of youth unemployment, and young people will have to accept jobs that they would not otherwise have dreamed of accepting. We have to concentrate and modify at every level to prepare for that great demand, and we must amend the Finance Bill, because we have a responsibility to look after young people well.

When I first came into Parliament all those years ago in 1981, everyone was surprised when Margaret Thatcher, the new Conservative Prime Minister, introduced a windfall profit tax on the banks, because they had made money while doing very little about it. I want this Bill to be amended very soon to include a windfall profit tax on those who have done rather well, even though they did not plot or plan it. I am thinking of Amazon, Google, Netflix and the gambling sector, all of which are ripe for a windfall tax that could be distributed to look after young people.

One way to do that would be to learn from the Americans—from the Kennedys and the peace corps—and give young people at 18, at 21 or at any stage of their lives the chance to go and serve the community abroad or at home. I would like us to take a bit of that, and perhaps a bit of the green apprenticeship in Germany, and create a new green national service. It would give every young person in our country an opportunity—at the age of 16, 18, 21 or whenever they chose—to spend a year working on climate change and the environment. We need the money to do that, and I think a windfall profit tax would be the way.

I believe that that would go some small way to addressing the unfairness of the taxation system, which other colleagues have spoken about eloquently. In Huddersfield, the typical town of Britain, we know that very well. We know that universities, which are the heartbeat of many communities such as mine, will be under threat in the coming months and years. We need to focus on young people, education and higher education, and we need a windfall tax to give us the resources and the opportunity to do something substantial rapidly in the coming months and years.