Neil Parish welcomes Budget announcements on raising the tax threshold, help for small businesses, Equitable Life, fuel duty and first-time buyers in particular.| Parliament TV
Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): It is good to follow the hon. Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Brown), and I agree with him that it is all about confidence. I believe that the Budget will help to produce confidence in this country, especially in my constituency, where many people are not on the highest wages. Taking people out of tax right up to nearly £10,000 is absolutely the right way to go. The previous Government spent far too much time on a complex tax system, but it is much better to take people out of tax altogether so that they know that they can earn up to a certain amount—nearly £10,000 in this case—before having to pay any tax.It is also right to reduce national insurance contributions, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses, because they will generate the most jobs.
The reduction makes it less expensive to employ people, and that is what the Budget is about. Our economy must be, and will be, more competitive, because we are in a very competitive world and we need to compete. I think that the Budget will bring that about.I echo what many Members, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), have said about Equitable Life and all the people who will now be compensated for policies prior to 1992, which have not previously been compensated. Many of those people are elderly and frail, so I urge the Government to get the money to them as quickly as possible. They were hard-working people who put money away for their retirement and basically were robbed in one way or another. I really thank the Chancellor and the Government for agreeing to those payments, but they need to be made quickly.
On infrastructure, there is a wonderful road, the A30 and the A303, running east from Honiton, and it needs to be dualled—there no doubt about it. We want to dual that road until we get into Wiltshire, where we might encounter problems with a few stones. I will not say which stones, but I think that Members probably know what they are—Stonehenge. There are all sorts of problems around there, but let us not worry about that. Let us move from Honiton up through Devon and Somerset and into Wiltshire, and let us get that road built. We need a second arterial route into the west country, because tourism is so important to us, and it is linked to agriculture and many of our other industries.That brings me to fuel and fuel duty.
My constituency is only 10 miles wide, but it is 42 miles long and covers over 400 square miles. It starts up in Exmoor and meets the sea at Seaton. My constituents live mainly in villages and hamlets. If they wait for a bus, it might never come. If it does come, it probably is not going to where they want to go. I am being slightly facetious, but the point is that bus services in many rural areas do not stack up economically, however much subsidy we throw at them, so fuel and cars are not a luxury; they are an essential. Therefore, every time we raise fuel duty, we tax people’s means of getting to work. That is why I congratulate the Chancellor on freezing fuel duty. It is now 13p less than it was when Labour was in power. I am also delighted about the 1p reduction in beer duty, although I remind the Chancellor that the west country and Devon are, of course, full of cider producers, so I ask him please not to forget them.
I think that the support for home buyers, particularly first-time buyers, is a wonderful idea, because many people in my constituency are on low wages, but house prices are upwards of £220,000, so they really need help with deposits. If this Conservative-led Government are about anything, they must be about getting more people to own their own homes and look after themselves, and this support is one way of helping them to do that. I am absolutely delighted to see it happening. We inherited a huge amount of debt and we are doing our very best to reduce it. I look forward to the Budget having a very positive effect in my constituency and across the country.| Hansard| Parliament TV
Later interventions in the same debateNeil Parish: I agree with my hon. Friend about bank lending. Does he agree that getting greater competition locally is essential so that businesses can get better rates of interest and better deals with banks?
Guy Opperman: That is entirely the case. As we all know, 75% of bank lending in this country comes from the big banks and few smaller community banks are supported. The decline in local lending is definitely affecting SMEs.| Hansard