Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:20 pm on 27th April 2020.

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Photo of Lee Rowley Lee Rowley Conservative, North East Derbyshire 8:20 pm, 27th April 2020

I refer Members to my declaration in the register, which pertains to some of the remarks that I will make today.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to speak at this incredibly odd and strange time. We are in truly unprecedented times. I am not sure that we would have expected just a few short weeks ago that we would be here in the Chamber with some of our colleagues dialling in.

Debating the Budget, and the Finance Bill which I warmly welcome that succeeds it, almost feels as though we are talking about another time. We have moved on, but it is important to go back to many of the measures in the Budget—which I welcome, as one would expect of a member of the governing party—because it demonstrated this Government’s commitment to levelling up in many regions such as my own by putting in additional investment into areas that perhaps have not received the investment that they have needed and desired over the past half century. That ranges from broadband to R&D and to all the many things that so many of us across the House, particularly on the Government Benches, will welcome, not least the continuing commitment to debt falling as a proportion of GDP. That is important for constituencies such as mine because, although talking about bypasses might not seem to strike quite the right tone, there is money in the Bill for a bypass for which people in North East Derbyshire have waited for nearly a century. We first proposed it in 1927 and we are hoping that it might be built before 2027. With the help of my colleagues on the Treasury Bench, I will continue to push for that.

I warmly welcome the Budget. Of course, one can never agree with absolutely everything in a Budget package. There are challenges in my constituency. I have bent the ear of Ministers on the Treasury Bench about the challenges with regard to dilution—an issue relating to alcohol duty that was introduced in a previous Budget but implemented just a few short weeks ago. Such things cause challenges to towns such as Clay Cross in my constituency that are heavily reliant on companies that work in that sector. I look forward to the alcohol duty review, because I am very keen to promote the importance of fairness and equity in alcohol duty laws to support businesses and employees in my constituency.

I want to turn to what has been talked about both remotely and here in the Chamber throughout today’s sitting—the thing that is in front of us and has caused unprecedented changes to the way we work, the way we live and the way we are as a society, hopefully temporarily. I welcome what the Government have done over the past six weeks to respond to the most unprecedented crisis in our lifetimes. We forget, because we move very quickly through this, that we are trying to do something—I say this as somebody who was a historian many years ago at university—that is utterly unprecedented in the history of humanity: to turn back the tide of a pandemic which at any other time in our history would have overwhelmed us. The efforts that have been put in across the community, across local government and national Government and at the frontline of the NHS are absolutely unprecedented. I welcome and pay tribute to those efforts not just in North East Derbyshire but across the country as a whole.

In particular, I welcome what the Government have done to bring forward their support for people and for businesses, including today. I was in the Chamber when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor brought forward the latest in the package of bounce-back loans, and I look forward to businesses in North East Derbyshire benefiting from them.

We have said that we are trying to put ideology aside, and in the main I think that we have been positive in doing that in this debate. I say this as somebody who is genuinely a smaller-state liberal economic free marketeer who wants to see us thrive through those means: even I recognise—as do my right hon. Friend John Redwood and my hon. Friend Mr Baker, who have already spoken, and many other colleagues—that now is the time to ensure that people have the support to get through these unprecedented times, and that is why I support these measures. However, that creates a responsibility for us in this House. I say this without any real ideology: we have a responsibility to support the immediate challenge in front of us, which is to ensure that the health of our nation and our communities is protected, but we also have a responsibility to ensure, as the Government and many Members of all parties are doing, that the health of our economy can come back in the medium term.

There is something that has not been talked about so much tonight, perhaps understandably, although I hope there will be more time to do so in the future. We also have a responsibility, in what we are doing as a nation, to the long-term health of our public finances and to the debt, so that when we pass this on to future generations, if they have a similar challenge to this one—God forbid that they do—they will be able to tackle it in the way we are doing at the moment.