Jack Brereton debates with HM Treasury

There have been 14 exchanges between Jack Brereton and HM Treasury

Wed 8th July 2020 The Economy 3 interactions (492 words)
Mon 20th January 2020 Economy and Jobs 3 interactions (921 words)
Thu 24th October 2019 The Economy 3 interactions (717 words)
Tue 11th December 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 5 interactions (68 words)
Mon 19th November 2018 Finance (No. 3) Bill 32 interactions (1,857 words)
Mon 12th November 2018 Finance (No. 3) Bill 3 interactions (1,279 words)
Mon 16th July 2018 Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill 3 interactions (143 words)
Mon 2nd July 2018 Saddleworth Moor and Tameside: Ongoing Fire 3 interactions (40 words)
Tue 24th April 2018 Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [Lords] 8 interactions (1,127 words)
Tue 17th April 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 5 interactions (49 words)
Mon 8th January 2018 Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill 3 interactions (636 words)
Mon 11th December 2017 Finance (No. 2) Bill 5 interactions (1,378 words)
Tue 12th September 2017 Finance Bill 5 interactions (640 words)
Tue 12th September 2017 Finance Bill 3 interactions (744 words)

The Economy

Jack Brereton Excerpts
Wednesday 8th July 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP) - Hansard
8 Jul 2020, 6:29 p.m.

I rise to partake in this debate in frustration, because at the start of March I highlighted in the Chamber during the Budget debate the fact that the oil price had collapsed and that the Government needed to provide support. Obviously, we then went into lockdown and the price collapsed even further. I raised concerns in the only way possible at that time, by writing directly to Ministers on numerous occasions, and I joined my colleagues, my hon. Friends the Members for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman), for Gordon (Richard Thomson) and for Angus (Dave Doogan), to do likewise. I have raised the issue at every possible occasion in the public domain. I raised it in the Public Bill Committee during the passage of the Finance Bill and I raised it in this Chamber last week and again earlier today, yet still there is not a word from the Chancellor in respect of an oil and gas sector deal. I cannot describe how frustrating that is in a manner that would not get me into a lot of trouble with you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The reality is that the sector has put £365 billion-worth of income into the Treasury. This is not just about protecting the jobs of the individuals in the sector at this moment in time; it is about what comes next. It is about being able to reach net zero. It is about being able to create an sustainable energy future for Aberdeen and for Scotland, be that through the hydrogen backbone across Europe, through an energy transition zone, or through the Acorn project on carbon capture and underground storage. So much could be announced, but to date the Government have continued to sit silent. The consequence of that has been job loss after job loss after job loss, and it is my constituents who are having to face that harsh reality.

On top of the challenges in hospitality and tourism, and all the other challenges that everyone else has in their constituency, the challenge facing Aberdeen because of the downturn in the oil price is huge. It is time for this Government to step up to the plate. I am fed up with asking them to deliver. What I am asking them to deliver on is their own manifesto commitment, nothing more, nothing less. They need to step up to the plate and do it now. If they do not, they need only look at the polls from Scotland to see that the tide is turning. The people of Scotland’s eyes have been readily awoken to how shambolic this UK Government are, and if they continue to ignore our needs we will respond accordingly.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Hansard
8 Jul 2020, 12:06 a.m.

Businesses in my constituency are overwhelmingly grateful for the excellent support put in place by the Chancellor and this Government. We must recover as soon as possible, because under the pre-pandemic conditions we were moving forward, not least in Stoke-on-Trent, which was on the up after decades of slow decline. Local manufacturers are only too eager to create the high-skilled, high-paid jobs our communities need. I am particularly pleased by measures announced today by the Chancellor to support young people into employment, apprenticeships and training. I know that this Government are committed to levelling up, and Stoke-on-Trent is an area that absolutely embodies that agenda. More to improve bus services, help for our high streets and a town deal would be particularly welcome.

I am delighted that my proposals to reopen Meir station have got backing in government, but rather than take each funding project in turn, I have a general point to make. I offer this helpful insight as I am passionate about levelling up and about getting the maximum economic return by releasing the greatest unrealised potential. Too often there has been something like a 25% local contribution rule, which makes it pointless to bid, because we could never afford it, so funding schemes that were supposed to help places such as Stoke-on-Trent will instead go to places that can afford to pay. These areas have the means to make schemes shovel-ready, whereas many of the local areas we seek to level up have had to prioritise resources elsewhere long ago. I ask the Government to look carefully at how we can help make schemes shovel-ready in places such as Stoke-on-Trent.

North Staffordshire is one of the largest conurbations, at the heart of the country, plugged into a world of interconnectivity. Thanks to the support of Government and the city council, as I speak LilaConnect is laying a new full-fibre network in Stoke-on-Trent, providing direct fibre to homes and businesses that is more advanced than that anywhere else, promising up to 1,000 megabits per second. If we get it right, no city is keener to build, build, build than Stoke-on-Trent. Prior to covid, property prices were rising healthily and developers have told me that demand was high. However, low property values have often caused viability constraints locally. We have plenty of brownfield land ripe for development, but the cost of remediating the sites is often prohibitive. It has been necessary for Government to step in to stimulate those more challenging sites and work with the local city council.

Advanced manufacturing, digital and logistics are all strengths in Stoke-on-Trent and they will be key sectors in our new economic future, removing the hurdles and unlocking the potential that has been constrained for far too long. The more skilled, better-paid jobs we create locally, the more houses we can sustain and the greater the national contribution we can make. We just need a helping hand from national Government to give us a really good start.

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab) - Hansard

This pandemic is hitting Blaenau Gwent hard. Its shockwaves are shaking our south Wales valleys now. An entire shopping centre is under threat. A logistics centre that supplies the drinks industry is facing redundancies. Our small-town high streets are under big pressures. Care workers are under the cosh. These heroes have put their lives on the line to look after our loved ones, but now some of them are seeing their hours cut, and others are losing their jobs completely. The whispers and rumours of redundancies are back, and while things are so uncertain, this will keep on happening.

The valleys have seen this before. People in my constituency remember the 1980s, when pit and steel closures hugely impacted our communities. We know how important early investment is during tough times. In 2018, the Government promised to launch the shared prosperity fund, but we are still waiting for it. That pot of money could help Blaenau Gwent to rebuild following this period of uncertainty. It could help to revive our economy, which is facing the threats of these dark times. It would build vital infrastructure, giving us the good-quality roads and the rail tracks that we need. We have waited too long for this fund. The Government need to step up and give us this detail as a matter of urgency.

We also need to invest in young people. Dubbed “generation covid”, they are facing the toughest job market in decades. The kick-start scheme is to be welcomed. At first sight, it resembles Labour’s successful future jobs fund, and I am glad that it is being revived. In Ebbw Vale in my constituency, Cyber College Cymru offers young people future-proof training in this growing sector. The project links up with major employers, helping young people to gain the work experience they need to get into the jobs market. It is a shining example that should be replicated across the whole country. Young people need these opportunities straightaway. Neither they nor our economy can afford to wait. Blaenau Gwent and its young people need a helping hand now—let’s get on with it.

Economy and Jobs

Jack Brereton Excerpts
Monday 20th January 2020

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Jack Dromey Portrait Jack Dromey - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 6:05 p.m.

I totally agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and I am going to go on to that topic next. To add insult to injury, not only is there the treatment of workers employed by Amazon, but there is, to be frank, tax dodging. The Guardian reported in September 2019 that Amazon UK Services, one of Amazon’s key British divisions, paid £14 million in tax despite making £2.3 billion in sales and £75.4 million in pre-tax profits. In March 2018, the Daily Mail reported that Amazon paid only £20 million across its eight British-based companies— £4.5 million in corporation tax—despite registering £2.9 billion in UK sales. The issue was also focused upon by the Public Accounts Committee, which found:

“Amazon has a reported turnover of £207 million for 2011 for its UK company (Amazon.co.uk), on which it has shown a tax expense of only £1.8 million, however it shows a European-wide turnover of €9.1 billion for its Luxembourg based company (Amazon EU Sarl) and a tax of €8.2 million.”

I could go on, but the figures are stark and tell the story to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. It is completely unacceptable. Amazon is owned by Jeff Bezos, one of the wealthiest men in the world, and shame on him that he presides over a company that treats workers in such a way on the one hand and dodges paying the tax on the other.

What should be done about this situation? I applaud the tremendous work done by the GMB in standing up for the workers of Amazon, and there is now a global network, because the problem exists not just in Britain, but in Amazon’s companies worldwide. The Government talk about the dignity of labour and respect. The Government talk about wanting to be the champions of working people. What are the Government going to do or say about how Amazon conducts itself? There is a set of commercial relationships between various arms of Government and Amazon, so where do the Government stand? Why not call upon Amazon to do what I proposed when I went into the giant Rugeley depot? I was told, “We are very interested in that idea,” but nothing was done about it. There have been 600 ambulance calls to that and other depots. Why not agree to the proposal that there should be an independent investigation conducted jointly by the HSE and the GMB into the health and safety practices? The Government have power, including the power of advocacy, but will the Government speak out?

In conclusion, I have certainly dealt with some bad employers throughout my life, but I have also dealt with many good employers, and I celebrate how they treat their employees. This country is seeing the growth of insecure employment, under which millions of people endure a difficult life, so the Government should not only bring forward the Taylor proposals, which do not actually go far enough, but speak out. When it comes to the response to today’s debate and to what the Government have to say to Amazon, I am not holding my breath, but I hope the Government say, “Amazon, you need to up your game in terms of your working practices and agree to sit down with the GMB and sort the undoubted and deep-seated problems within the company.”

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 6:09 p.m.

I congratulate hon. Members, especially my new constituency neighbours, on all the fantastic maiden speeches we have heard throughout the debates on Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech—I look forward to hearing from my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) and for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) later tonight.

The economy and jobs are critical to rebalancing our national prosperity, and nowhere more so than in Stoke-on-Trent. We now have more people in work but, on average, wage levels continue to be among the lowest in the country. If we are to level up the opportunities, we must ensure that people in the midlands and the north have the same life chances as people everywhere else. A critical part of that is ensuring that people have the skills and the ability to access good jobs.

Improving educational standards is key for the future of Stoke-on-Trent, and we have seen significant and consistent improvements thanks to the hard work of our local teachers, with more children achieving their best. However, there is still more to do. At key stage 4, the city’s outcomes are currently far too low. It pains me to say that little more than half of Stoke-on-Trent’s pupils achieve grades 9 to 4 in English and maths at GCSE, compared with nearly two thirds of pupils nationally.

In the past we have fallen victim to poor planning in accommodating demographic growth in our local secondary schools. In September, only 82% of children in Stoke-on-Trent’s got their first preference for secondary school, compared with 92% in the rest of Staffordshire and 90% in Cheshire.

I thank and pay tribute to all our local heads who have done their absolute best and gone beyond what should be expected to accommodate additional pupils this year. Every one of the city’s 14 secondary schools is full, with 11 oversubscribed, putting huge pressure on the education system. Children are forced to travel miles to find a place, with many having no choice but to accept inadequate standards.

I am delighted to support plans for a new free school, the Florence MacWilliams Academy, on part of the former Longton High School site. The school will boost excellence and choice for local parents. I am pleased the Conservative-led city council will be working with Educo to take forward this fantastic initiative. A new free school will boost standards in our schools, create more good and outstanding places and equip our young people with the skills to be the workforce of the future.

Another critical part of addressing the economic imbalance will be tackling the decline of our high streets. The sight of boarded-up, derelict properties has become all too common for many towns in the midlands and the north. Once thriving economic hubs, these centres are now struggling to compete with the growth of online retail, as we heard from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey). We must face the reality that our town centres have always evolved to stay relevant. They must transition to exciting new uses that provide attractive spaces for new and expanding businesses.

Towns and cities like Stoke-on-Trent will need help to achieve that. It remains disappointing that Fenton and Longton, the historic market towns that make up my constituency, are not included in the town deals funding. Neither has received future high streets funding, which could have achieved so much, particularly as it would tie in with our plans under the transforming cities fund to revolutionise public transport provision in the city.

Towns and cities like Stoke-on-Trent, where property prices are among the lowest in the country, face major viability challenges in converting properties and encouraging redevelopment. Investment is necessary, and I know from our discussions that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government is well aware of the importance of investing in our towns that make up Stoke-on-Trent.

I am pleased that progress continues on the Longton heritage action zone and that the historic Longton town hall, which the Labour party threatened to demolish in the 1980s, is once again in civic use as a new local centre. Our industrial heritage must be a key asset in Stoke-on-Trent’s future, attracting businesses and visitors alike who value the authentic Potteries townscapes that local residents so rightly value.

There also needs to be greater flexibility in planning use categories to make it easier to convert former retail properties. Today’s high streets need to be responsive to changing local economic demands. We must also seriously consider removing taxes that disincentivise the redevelopment of our town centres. Creating business rate relief zones that cover town centres is an excellent way of supporting innovation and viability, which will breathe new life into our communities.

We must also continue to build on those schemes that have worked well. I hope the Government will extend the Ceramic Valley enterprise zone, which has helped to transform once derelict brownfield sites across Stoke-on-Trent, creating thousands of jobs and supporting economic growth. We want to see business rates relief continue in the zone, with the zone expanded to include additional brownfield sites in the south of the city.

This is an exciting time for our country and for Stoke-on-Trent. The Government have a convincing majority to deliver the change that people in Stoke-on-Trent, and towns and cities like it, want to see. This should truly be about levelling up communities that, for decades, felt left behind and taken for granted by Labour. It means ensuring excellent educational opportunities in every community, alongside supporting industry and innovation to grow economic prosperity in our towns so that everyone can succeed.

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson (Gordon) (SNP) - Hansard
20 Jan 2020, 6:15 p.m.

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) and to be called to make my maiden speech on behalf of my constituents as the newly elected Member of Parliament for Gordon.

Before I get under way, I draw Members’ attention to the fact that I am a member of the Aberdeen city region deal joint committee, and I confirm that I have supplied this information in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests because it is relevant to some points I wish to make towards the end of my speech.

It is a particular privilege to make my first parliamentary contribution as my party’s spokesperson on business and industry. Before I come to the substance of the debate, however, I take this opportunity to acknowledge the service of my predecessor, Mr Colin Clark. I first got to know Colin when we were both councillors in Aberdeenshire. I had particular reason to get to know him because his election as a councillor for Inverurie deprived me, as the council leader, of a working majority. However, whether in our dealings on Aberdeenshire Council, in my dealings with him when he was a Member or, subsequently, in our dealings throughout the campaign, I have always found Colin to be a very courteous and generous opponent. I wish Colin, his family and the team of staff who worked alongside him all the very best for the future.

Like many colleagues, it has been a privilege for me to have served in local government, and particularly to have had responsibility, as council leader, for all the local government area of Aberdeenshire. I will resist the temptation to say that I now represent the finest part of that historic county, not least because I have no wish to be assailed quite yet by indignant parliamentary neighbours, on whichever side of the Chamber they happen to sit.

Nevertheless, Gordon is a constituency of real contrasts. Geographically, despite its northern location, it sits right on the cusp of highland and lowland Scotland. It is a mix of city and country, upland and lowland, urban and rural. Starting in the north-west, taking in the historic town of Huntly and the villages and landscapes of Strathbogie and Strathdon, it heads eastwards into the fertile agricultural lands of the Garioch and Formartine, where towns such as Insch, Inverurie, Ellon and Oldmeldrum sit close to rapidly expanding settlements like Kintore and Balmedie. Finally, it sweeps down to the banks of the River Don, where the historic papermaking industry continues to this day—in fact, it is where much of the paper we use here in the House of Commons still comes from—and then into the northern suburbs of the great city of Aberdeen, taking in Dyce, Bucksburn, Danestone and Bridge of Don itself.

Many of my constituents still find work in the traditional areas of agriculture and food production. Many, of course, work offshore either in the oil and gas sector or in the burgeoning renewables sector. In Gordon, we brew, we distil and we grow. Through the offshore energy sector and the north-east’s world-leading universities, we extract, we harness, we innovate and we power. The strength of the private sector is complemented by the role of the public sector and those who teach, who care, who make, who mend and who help others to live the best lives they possibly can, whatever their circumstances.

Gordon is a constituency that not only makes things; it makes people. It is an area where people are hard-working, fair-minded and community-spirited. It is a welcoming place that embraces those who come to make their lives there, no matter where in the world they come from and no matter what their circumstances. It is a place that earns its prosperity, even if sadly still too few have the opportunity to participate in it. In short, we are a region rich in human and natural capital, and in the end markets for what we produce, we are an area that has always looked outwards to Europe and the world, and is determined to continue doing so.

My constituency is one that emphatically did not vote to “Get Brexit Done”—quite the reverse. People there are pragmatic and well understand the benefits EU membership has brought us, as well as the pitfalls of trying to leave under a Government seemingly without a clear idea of the terms on which they would like that to happen. Although my constituents can take political uncertainty in their stride, they understand well the need to progress on the basis of a realistic consideration of the problems that might occur. Watching supporters of the Government swaggering into television interviews and arguing about who is going to have the biggest set of bongs in the negotiations to come with our European partners leaves them, as it does our European partners, pretty well cold. This House, in its deliberations to come, would do well to heed the wise words of the Danish Finance Minister Kristian Jensen, when he observed that

“There are two kinds of European Nations—there are small nations, and there are countries that have not yet realised that they are small nations.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a small nation. I, like my colleagues, hope to see another one emerge on to the international stage in the not-too-distant future. When you understand, as we do, that it is possible to enhance your national sovereignty by sharing it and that it is possible to share it without anyone else getting it, you see that it is little wonder that EU membership has not ever seemed to provoke the kind of existential crisis in Scotland that it has elsewhere in the UK.

This is, of course, a debate on the economy and, in drawing my remarks to a close, I wish to highlight three challenges pertinent to my constituents in particular. The first relates to the energy transition. Of course North sea oil and gas will continue to meet our energy needs and provide employment for some time to come. However, we need to be preparing to enact a just transition to the low-carbon industries of the future, harnessing fully the skills and knowledge of our present industries. The best way to start would be to ring-fence the corporation tax receipts from that industry and invest the proceeds with that objective in mind.

The second relates to diversifying the local economy. We need to be growing other areas of our economy in the north-east too, whether that is in digital, life sciences, food and drink or tourism. This is something on which there is complete consensus throughout the north-east, so it remains a disappointment to me that when it comes to the Aberdeen city region deal and the subsequent side deal, the Scottish Government are still out-funding the UK Government’s contribution by a factor of 2:1. The Scottish Government are also still doing too much of the heavy lifting on broadband, given that responsibility is still in the purview of Westminster. I believe it is time the UK Government started to take their responsibilities for that seriously, while they still have them.

The final challenge relates to alignment with the single market. We can well see the contradiction between a Prime Minister who assures our colleagues in Northern Ireland that there will be no divergence between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and a Chancellor who says that there will be changes. There is not so much as a chlorinated chicken whiff of a trade deal coming along that will compensate for the trade deals we are about to leave behind. We must remain in alignment with the single market and not allow the Prime Minister another chance to crash out, leaving others to pick up the pieces of that failure.

If the election brings us two comforts, they are these: first, the Prime Minister is now the master of his own destiny and so is responsible for and in charge of everything that now follows, with the resulting mess being his and his alone. Secondly, the people of Scotland have chosen my party to represent them in this place to defend their interests. That is a task I look forward with relish to carrying out, along with my colleagues.

The Economy

Jack Brereton Excerpts
Thursday 24th October 2019

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab) Hansard
24 Oct 2019, 2:48 p.m.

Last week, union representatives from Rolls-Royce came to see my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) and me. Rolls-Royce is one of the main anchors of the UK’s aerospace sector and has operations in no less than nine EU member states. They came to tell us about their worries, the most direct and immediate being the disastrous impact that a no-deal Brexit would have on their sector. They were also clear that avoiding a no-deal Brexit was not enough, and they left us in no doubt about the importance to the long-term health of their company and their sector of preserving the frictionless trade that is key to their sector’s success and which prevents the dislocation of the integrated operations of that company and its supply chains across the EU. In short, they echoed the very issues that the aerospace, food and drink, pharmaceuticals and automotive sectors had put to the Government in a letter just the week before.

Together those sectors employ more than 1 million people in this country and contribute £98 billion to the UK economy every year. They are very concerned about the downgrade that the Prime Minister’s political declaration will mean for the economic relationship between the UK and the EU—a downgrade not only from the close alignment we already have with the EU, but even from that envisaged in the political declaration brought forward by the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). That downgrade was forensically exposed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) in Saturday’s debate.

I will give a few examples. The first is aerospace. Post Brexit, the UK will either be part of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency or it will not. EASA is a mechanism for aligning standards that ADS, the aerospace industry body, describes as “vital” for the sector. But we still have no clarity at all about whether the UK will remain a member.

Chemicals is not only a key industry in its own right, but an essential part of the aerospace supply chain. Sixty per cent. of UK chemical exports go to the EU and 75% of the UK’s chemical imports come from the EU. Chemicals or products containing them are bought, developed and sold backwards and forwards repeatedly between the EU and the UK. That can only happen without checks and delays and because they are governed by a common set of regulatory standards held in place by the UK’s being part of the EU’s REACH—registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals—safety programme. Will we stay part of that after Brexit? We simply do not know and the political declaration leaves us none the wiser.

The automotive sector is the UK’s biggest single exporter of goods. We know that WTO tariffs, which would immediately kick in in the event of a no-deal Brexit, would be a hammer blow for the industry. However, it is not just avoiding no deal that is important; it is also about having a common rulebook of regulatory standards that remove the need for checks on goods that move over national borders.

I say to Ministers that constantly repeating the mantra that they are looking to have a “best in class”—their words—free trade agreement just will not cut it. That will not cut it, unless they provide the real and specific answers that are needed to the real and specific questions that UK industry has put to them. Unless they do that, either we will be back to the disaster that a no-deal Brexit would mean for our economy, or we will end up with something so half-baked that UK competitiveness will end up in a not very slow- motion car crash.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Hansard
24 Oct 2019, 2:54 p.m.

Nothing matters more to families and communities than creating good jobs and improving the cost of living. We have witnessed incredible economic success for our country, thanks to the careful economic management of Conservatives, and it is with confidence and positivity that I can tell the House that Stoke-on-Trent is on the up. The city’s population, economy and house prices are experiencing among the very highest growth in the country. Although we still have our challenges to overcome to reach our full potential, our local economy is now stronger and more diverse than ever before. We have a whole range of sectors calling Stoke-on-Trent their home, with companies from highest-end manufacturing to the most advanced digital industries flourishing.

Tragically, under Blair and Brown, we lost many of Stoke-on-Trent’s biggest pottery names and factories and this has left us with brownfield sites that need to be redeveloped. The Conservative-led city council is working constructively with the Conservative Government to ensure that redevelopment takes place and the ceramics industry has experienced a revival. For example, the historic Duchess China works in Longton, which I visited recently, has been taken over by Heraldic Pottery of Newstead, with fantastic plans to increase production at this iconic site. Staffs Fitness Ltd, a supplier of gym equipment, has just moved into buildings that were once part of the Fenton Glebe colliery site. Last week, I was delighted to visit and open what is a fantastic new home for this business, demonstrating what can be achieved.

However, while we are seeing new private investment in the city, many sites remain challenging, needing remediation due to former industrial uses. It is essential that we do more to address viability constraints that hold back brownfield sites from being developed. Especially, we must build on the huge success of the Ceramic Valley enterprise zone. As I discussed with the Secretary of State for Business recently, I hope that enterprise zone can continue and can expand to cover additional sites, particularly brownfield sites in Fenton, so that we can continue to see these sites redeveloped to create good-quality jobs.

It is vital that we do more to revive our high streets, incentivising the conversion of empty properties for new businesses and residential uses, and improving our town centre infrastructure. Stoke-on-Trent is made up of six historic market towns, and Longton and Fenton are within my constituency. I am pleased to have secured a heritage action zone that is focused on Longton town centre, which I hope will address this, but to be truly transformational and to maximise the heritage action zone’s potential, we need some additional investment. I am deeply disappointed that we have so far missed out on future high streets funding, stronger towns funding and access for all funding for Longton station. The time to address the decline of our high streets in Stoke-on-Trent is now, and I know from discussions that I have had with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government that he is well aware of the importance of overcoming these challenges.

On transport infrastructure, I hope that the transforming cities fund will help to address this and it is essential that Stoke-on-Trent receives the full ask of Government in the second phase. I also hope that we are successful in our bid for a fair share of the £200 million bus fund. Bus services in Stoke-on-Trent are currently dire, having been reduced beyond recognition. My constituents are regularly raising the fact that they no longer have services at all, or that services finish too early to get them home from work. The city council’s intentions are nothing short of revolutionary, and increasing the number of fast, direct, reliable, affordable and popular bus services is an absolute must.

We must also improve traffic flows. As I have long advocated, junction 15 of the M6 needs to improve and we need additional work on the A50 and the A500 to address traffic hotspots. I am delighted by the work of Midlands Connect in its strategy to address that. I also welcome its work to address rail services on the North Staffordshire-Crewe-Derby line. I am delighted my efforts have already helped to secure improvements that will soon see longer trains to address overcrowding, more services in the evenings and at weekends, and most services extending to Nottingham.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
24 Oct 2019, 2:55 p.m.

The theatre of calling on Her Majesty to read the Government’s manifesto; the drama of Parliament being called to sit on a Saturday, when all the Prime Minister had to do was write a letter; the cost to the taxpayer—all that is nothing to the elites running their show, but to my constituents it was pounds and pence that they desperately need. They are paying a far heavier price, however, for a decade of failure, which was emphasised again in the Humble Address.

The Humble Address exposed two things. First, the list of Bills demonstrated that Brexit will not be “done”, and that this is the start of at least a decade of Brexit talks, pushing out legislative space to deal with our national crises. Housing—not mentioned; poverty—not considered; jobs—not offered; inequality, which is stifling talent and opportunity—not even on the agenda. We should be in no doubt about the stark contrast between this Tory programme and a Government who will say anything to retain power, and a Labour programme that seeks to do everything, in a fiscally responsible way, to address people’s very real needs. Labour has a robust programme to end poverty, sort out Brexit, fix our public services, tackle climate injustice, and grow the economy through the creation of good quality jobs.

The pursuit of Brexit, deal or no deal, will make my constituents poorer. Indeed, York will be the eighth worst hit place in the country should we leave with no deal. A deal will increase inequality in one of the UK’s most inequitable cities, yet the Government’s programme does not address how my constituents will survive this economic shock. That is why we need an economic impact assessment.

Secondly, I must draw attention to the sheer number of criminal justice Bills that are proposed, as they are symbolic in exposing how a failed decade of cuts has put my community at risk. More prison places is a sign of failure; more draconian policing is a sign of being out of control. This Queen’s Speech may result in more law, but it exposes no order.

When the wrong interests shape the economic priorities society breaks down, and this Queen’s Speech was not the antidote. Labour has long understood that, and just as when Keir Hardie set out Labour’s first programme of policies, or when Clement Attlee rebuilt our nation after the war, today Labour’s programme will fix the broken economy. The values are the same, the priorities are the same: building the housing that families need, fixing the services they use, and creating the jobs on which they depend.

Let us not pretend that the economy is working for all—it is not. In York, the boom in luxury housing means that my constituents cannot afford to live in their city, and they have to pay more than 10 times their annual wage for a home. Waiting lists in the NHS mean that my primary care mental health service is not just being cut but is being scrapped, despite the fact that we have some of the highest levels of self-harm, eating disorders, suicide and deaths from substance misuse in the country. We hear that millions and billions are being spent on the NHS, but that is not saving lives in my constituency. I know the fixes that York needs to function, and Labour’s programme will address them. When the pursuit of power is the only objective, the cornerstones to rebuilding our communities get lost.

Behind the boisterous bluster, there is a chilling, calculated populist pursuit for power. We have seen it before; I know the story. I have read the history books, and it does not end well. This nation must wake up and recognise the signs; and in this place, from these Benches, Opposition Members have a duty to call them out. Populism does not work; it does not build houses, it does not put money into schools, it does not create jobs and it does not tackle inequality. Populism will not save my health service, but Labour will, and that is why I am proud to speak from these Benches.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jack Brereton Excerpts
Tuesday 11th December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
HM Treasury
John Glen Portrait John Glen - Parliament Live - Hansard

There is considerable analysis from the Bank of England and the Government’s analysis of the long-term effect of the different options, with a significant reference paper demonstrating the different scenarios and what lies behind them. The Government are seeking to deliver on the decision of the British people in the referendum in a way that maximises the opportunities for the British economy.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

15. What steps he is taking to support businesses and entrepreneurs. [908137]

Robert Jenrick Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Robert Jenrick) - Parliament Live - Hansard

This Government are determined to make the UK the best place in the world to start a business. We are keeping taxes low and helping businesses and entrepreneurs to access the support that they need. We have cut corporation tax to the lowest rate in the G20 and made changes to business rates that will be worth over £13 billion by 2023.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Dec 2018, 12:18 p.m.

I thank the Minister for that response. Walker’s Nonsuch, a family business in my constituency since 1894 and England’s finest toffee producer, enthusiastically welcomed the increased annual investment allowance. Does he agree that it is essential to continue to reduce tax on companies so that they invest in new equipment, increase productivity and create more jobs?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick - Hansard
11 Dec 2018, 12:19 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. While the Labour party wants to increase taxes on business, including on small businesses, we are cutting them, and the increased annual investment allowance will enable businesses such as the one in his constituency to invest in plant, machinery and new technology to drive it to future success.

Finance (No. 3) Bill

(Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
Jack Brereton Excerpts
Monday 19th November 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
HM Treasury
Debbie Abrahams - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:10 p.m.

That is absolutely right. I will come on to some of the really worrying figures about how, from birth, our children are being affected because of the poverty that they are experiencing.

What about disabled people? Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people because of the extra costs that they face around their disability. We have seen their social security support become absolutely emaciated. Given that we are the fifth richest country in the world, that is shocking—absolutely shocking. Four million disabled people are already living in poverty, with many now continually finding that they are becoming more and more isolated in their own homes.

Since 2015, as analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and others has shown that those who are in the lowest income decile have lost proportionately more income than any other group as a consequence of personal taxation and social security changes. That is the important thing. My new clause is not just about taxation. We cannot see that in isolation from how we then ensure, as a country, that we are supporting people on low incomes—and that support is completely inadequate. What was put forward in the Budget does not go anywhere near repairing the damage that was done in the summer Budget of 2015.

Last month’s Budget produces only marginal gains to the household income of the poorest, while reducing the number of higher-rate taxpayers by 300,000. The Government’s regressive measures have done nothing to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. When cuts to household incomes are combined with the cuts to public spending and services, the impact is even more dramatic, and again with disproportionate cuts to Government funding to towns and cities across the north, as evidence has repeatedly shown.

The effects of all this on life expectancy are now being seen, with health gains made over decades now falling away. Life expectancy has been stalling since 2011, and it is now flatlining, particularly in older age groups and for older women. In the same week—the very same week—that these data came out last year, the Government actually increased the state pension age. We know that our life expectancy is flatlining. For women—think about the 1950s-born women—it is going backwards, yet we are still putting up the state pension age. What is going on?

On top of this there are regional differences in how long people will live, with these health inequalities reflecting the socioeconomic inequalities across the country. Life expectancy for men in Windsor and Maidenhead stands at 81.6 years, while in my Oldham and Saddleworth constituency it is 77. Even within these areas, there are differences in how long people will live. Again, in the Windsor and Maidenhead local authority area, the life expectancy gap is 5.8 years for men and 4.8 years for women, while in my constituency it is 11.4 years for men and 10.7 years for women. These health inequalities are reflected right across the country. The gains Labour made in reducing health inequalities are now being reversed.

Similarly, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health reported last month that infant mortality has started to increase for the first time in 100 years. Four in 1,000 babies will not reach their first birthday in the UK, compared with 2.8 in the EU. These are the unacceptable consequences of austerity. I welcome the Department of Health and Social Care commissioning Public Health England to investigate the causes of this declining health status, but it is very late in the day. Public health specialists—renowned epidemiologists such as Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Professor Martin McKee and many others—have been calling for this for the past 18 months. We already know from the work that they have been doing that they are pointing the finger towards austerity. It is imperative that in addition to stopping austerity, and the misery and poverty that is being wrought, we tackle the inequalities within and between regions and communities.

An analysis of the effects of the Budget’s personal taxation measures is part of this, but it should not be seen in isolation. This would be outside the scope of the Bill, but the Government should be doing an analysis of their social security and public spending cuts. Reducing the gap between the rich and the poor is not just good for the economy. As evidence from totemic reports such as “The Spirit Level” shows, life expectancy then increases, as well as educational attainment, social mobility, trust, and much more. Fairer, more equal societies benefit everyone. Inequalities are not inevitable—they are socially reproduced and they can be changed—but to tackle them in all their forms takes commitment, it takes courage, and it takes leadership.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:15 p.m.

It is a pleasure to speak in this part of the debate. I really do think that this is the best Finance Bill that we have seen in some years. I return to the point that I made on Second Reading: Governments do not have their own money, only taxpayers’ money. It is absolutely imperative to remember that and to remember that taxes are paid in the expectation that they will be spent wisely and necessarily. Where the Government can find a way to enable taxpayers to keep more of their own hard-earned money, they should do so.

Helping families in constituencies like mine better to meet the costs of living is absolutely critical. I am therefore a strong supporter of clause 5, raising the personal allowance for us all and the scope of the basic rate to more of the middle earners who have previously been dragged into higher rates of taxes than they should have faced. These are not the top earners, but will often be the likes of middle management, senior nurses, or lower-rank inspectors in the police, and they have previously been penalised by this punitive higher rate of tax.

The increase in the personal allowance is the latest in a line of such increases. This will mean that a typical basic-rate taxpayer will pay £1,205 less tax in the next tax year than they did in 2010-11. Importantly, the increase to £12,500 comes a year earlier than planned. That can happen because the public finances are in a better shape than had been predicted, thanks to the hard work of the British people and the sound fiscal management of my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary, and the Ministers on the Front Bench. They know that taxpayers’ money is taxpayers’ money, and they have rightly allowed taxpayers to keep more of it as soon as it has been possible to do so, as we see in these clauses. This is combined with inflation coming back under control and wages rising again in real terms. The lowest paid have not only been taken out of income tax altogether but enjoy an increased national living wage.

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:18 p.m.

I share my hon. Friend’s thoughts about the increase in the personal allowance. Does he agree that one of the very significant positive things in this Finance Bill is also the—I am sorry; I will let him continue.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:18 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments.

As I was saying, allowing taxpayers to keep more than it would have been possible to do previously is combined with inflation coming back under control and wages rising again in real terms. The lowest paid have not only been taken out of income tax altogether but enjoy an increased national living wage, thanks to this Government. We are seeing the lowest paid paying less tax but also bringing home more money. The annual earnings of a full-time—

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:18 p.m.

Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that the national living wage is not actually a wage that one can live on, and that it does not apply to those under the age of 25? In fact, the gap for those aged 16 and 17 has been going up every year.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:19 p.m.

The national living wage is a critical part of ensuring that some of the lowest paid in our society earn much more and take home more pay. Earnings for a full-time minimum-wage worker will have increased by £2,750 since it was introduced in April 2016.

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:19 p.m.

rose—

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:19 p.m.

My hon. Friend can have a better go this time.

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty - Hansard

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way and giving me another chance. He mentioned inflation. Does he share my view that the fact that the annual deficit has been reduced by 80% since 2010 is another very significant piece of progress with regard to inflation?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:19 p.m.

I agree with my hon. Friend’s comments, which show the responsible approach we on this side of the House have taken to the economy, compared with the approach the previous Labour Government took.

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:19 p.m.

rose—

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:19 p.m.

And now the hon. Gentleman is going to tell us about Labour’s future approach if they ever get back into office.

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:20 p.m.

As the hon. Gentleman is talking about borrowing, does he agree that the Tory party in the last eight years has borrowed more money than all Labour Governments put together?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:20 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman will have seen the figures that show that debt is now coming down to lower levels than ever before, and we have seen the deficit back under control after the failings of the previous Labour Government who got us into an horrendous mess that working families in this country ended up paying for.

We are now seeing the numbers of low-paid workers at a record low, and we are seeing low taxpayers now paying record low levels of tax. The astonishing turnaround achieved in making work pay, not least through tax measures like those before us today, means that the Office for Budget Responsibility has now revised up its assumptions for the trend labour market participation rates and revised down its estimate of the equilibrium rate of employment. As the Treasury rightly highlights in the Red Book paragraph 1.15, both of these revisions raise the level of potential output, which is good news for the sustainability of the labour market boom which has undoubtedly been the greatest achievement of the policies pursued by this Conservative Government.

Ruth George Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:21 p.m.

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree with the Institute for Fiscal Studies that the cumulative impact of personal tax and benefit reform since 2015 has been that the bottom two thirds of society is far worse off and that the only people who are better off under this Government’s policies are the top third?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:21 p.m.

I totally disagree. We have seen increases in the national living wage and reduced tax in this Budget, and further measures in this Budget to support UC.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:22 p.m.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the fact we should be looking at is the fact reported by the OECD that the proportion of jobs that are low paid is at the lowest level for the past two decades? We should be celebrating that.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:23 p.m.

That is absolutely right. We should be looking at those figures, not some of the figures being used by Opposition Members, who want to keep people on a level of pay that is lower than it would ever be, because they want to keep people out of work and keep people in the workless society we saw under the previous Labour Government.

We on this side of the House have made work pay, and the long-term benefits of doing so are clear in the expansion of our non-inflationary production potential. The last time unemployment was so low, 40 or more years ago, there were massive peaks in inflation. The contrast with today is stark and we should be proud of our work as a country in digging ourselves out of the mess left by the Labour party.

For people in Stoke-on-Trent making work pay has added to the renaissance of our fine, proud city and its industries, and the situation is the same in once-forgotten manufacturing towns across the country, which are seeing a revival in real jobs for real levels of take home pay. Indeed the ONS estimates that real household disposable income per head was 4% higher in quarter 2 of 2018 than at the start of 2010, and the OBR expects it will increase by a further 3.2% by the end of 2023. At the same time, income inequality is down, and is lower than it was in 2010. To refute a number of the claims made from the Opposition Front Bench, the number of children in absolute low-income poverty has fallen since 2010.

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:24 p.m.

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but if he is so convinced of his policies in relation to the issues he is talking about, why will he not support the provision in section 5 of this Act of an impact assessment on child poverty and equality? What has he got to fear?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:24 p.m.

The reason is that the facts show that the number of children living in absolute poverty has fallen since 2010 and will continue to fall, because of the policies of this Conservative Government.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:25 p.m.

Does my hon. Friend agree that for every £1 those on low income pay in tax, £4 of public spending goes towards them, whereas for those on higher income, for every £5 they pay in tax they receive only £1 back in public spending, and that is because we are a fair society, which means that well-off people contribute to helping those on lower incomes?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:25 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for those comments, which show that the highest earners are paying their fair share, while the lowest paid in society are being supported as much as we can. That is what this Government have been doing: reducing taxes for the lowest paid in society and ensuring that the lowest paid can be paid more.

I reject many of the views of the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams). She made some comments about statistics and then used statistics in her own way. I will also refer to the G7 by saying that only in the UK and Japan have the lowest paid seen their wages grow in that time, and income inequality is lower than it was previously.

Debbie Abrahams - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:25 p.m.

On a point of order, Dame Eleanor. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) suggests that I have used statistics inappropriately. I can cite all my sources of evidence; can he?

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Eleanor Laing) - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:26 p.m.

Order. The hon. Lady knows that that is not a point of order for the Chair; it is a point of debate, and, as I have said many times in here—and so has Mr Speaker—fortunately it is not the duty of the Chair to decide between one set of statistics and another. It all depends on how one applies the statistics, and the hon. Lady is perfectly at liberty to intervene on the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), as is he to take an intervention from her, where they can continue the argument between them, but I will take no part in it.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:27 p.m.

Thank you, Dame Eleanor. The statistics I have used show that income inequality is lower than it was before the crash, and this is all alongside our continuing to reduce the deficit and debt, and meeting our targets three years early, while continuing to invest more in our vital public services. This responsible approach to public finances has seen our economy and the number of jobs boom, compared with the spiralling-out-of-control economy under Labour.

I was pleased that the Minister with responsibility for high streets—the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry)—visited my constituency on Friday and talked about some of the measures we are taking in this Budget to support towns like Longton and Fenton in my constituency, helping to address some of the issues on the high street. I hope we can get some of the £650 million pot announced in the Budget to convert many of their empty premises back into use and help with business rates to ensure that retailers with a rateable value of under £51,000 will receive relief, as that will be hugely welcome by the smallest retailers in our towns.

I also want to comment on some of the views expressed by Opposition Members about entrepreneurs’ relief. I was shocked that some of the views were so anti-business and anti-enterprise. We must condemn those views, which are damaging businesses in constituencies up and down the country.

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:28 p.m.

rose—

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:28 p.m.

Can the hon. Gentleman answer that one?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:28 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman must not misquote. We are looking for an assessment of entrepreneurs’ relief, and if he believes that what he suggests is good value for money for taxpayers he would support a review of that relief. What is wrong with that?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:29 p.m.

I just wanted to talk about the relief in Stoke-on-Trent as well. Entrepreneurs’ relief in my constituency will help many businesses that are starting up. We have some fantastic retention rates in Stoke-on-Trent; we have some of the highest new business start-up retention rates in the country, and that relief is critical in helping those businesses.

The measures introduced in the Budget to increase the time period from 12 to 24 months will help to ensure that it is businesses that are genuinely contributing to our economy that will receive the relief, making a huge contribution to the development of new technologies and innovation that we so much support in our economies throughout the country.

The proposed reductions in corporation tax in the Budget and the relief on capital allowances, which my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) spoke about, will also be a huge support for many of the businesses in my constituency, particularly manufacturers. Around 15% of the economy in Stoke-on-Trent is made up of manufacturing businesses. Those measures will be a huge support for those businesses, increasing the amount of machinery and equipment that they can buy. Increasing relief on capital allowances and the investment allowance up to £1 million will help more of those businesses to buy new equipment and invest in the plant in their factories. I welcome that measure, which will help not just those manufacturing businesses, but the huge number of businesses up and down the country that produce that machinery and the workforces in those industries, which are so valued up and down the country.

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:31 p.m.

Does my hon. Friend agree that when we are talking about support for businesses, through entrepreneurs’ relief and all these other measures, we are talking not just about the people who own those businesses, but about the people working in them who have a job because of these measures?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:31 p.m.

Absolutely, and we want to see the number of those workers and the opportunities and jobs in those industries continue to grow. That is why it is so shocking to hear views from the Opposition that would damage the jobs miracle that we have seen over the last few years in this country.

Wages are rising, inflation is stable, unemployment has been so low for so long that the Office for Budget Responsibility believes that the equilibrium rate has fallen, income inequality is down and disposable income is up. This is the extraordinary record of making work pay. It is a huge economic success story, after the financial meltdown that the Labour party presided over. I want to see the success continue, and I know that to do so this House must support the Bill. I shall continue to do so, not least because of the concrete measures it contains for putting money in the pockets of Stoke-on-Trent’s very many hard-working people.

Thelma Walker (Colne Valley) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:32 p.m.

I begin by reflecting on the purpose of our society—the purpose of our communities, locally and nationally. The great Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee said:

“No social system will bring us happiness, health and prosperity unless it is inspired by something greater than materialism.”

I agree with Clement Attlee. To me and many others in this House, the aspiration is to create and be part of a community and society that cares for one another and enables everyone to succeed in life, in whatever form success takes—a society that is safe and secure from cradle to grave and that provides accessible healthcare, quality housing, outstanding education and secure employment. A Government’s ultimate goal should be the wellbeing of its citizens, and there is much evidence to suggest that higher levels of wellbeing can lead to higher levels of job performance and productivity and greater job satisfaction. That is the society I want to live in.

Unfortunately, to say that that is not a reality under the current Government is an understatement. This Finance Bill does nothing to deliver the people of this country’s wellbeing. On new clause 2, a UN report just last week told us that the Government have inflicted “great misery” on our people, with

“punitive, mean-spirited and often callous”

austerity policies, driven by a political desire to undertake social re-engineering rather than by economic necessity. This is from the United Nations poverty envoy. We are told that levels of child poverty are

“not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and economic disaster”.

The Budget was an opportunity to make some attempt to right those wrongs. Did it offer full and fair funding for our teachers and education service? No. Did it offer reassurance for those suffering the consequences of the cruel and callous roll-out of universal credit? No. Did it attempt to put an end to the causes of homelessness and destitution? No. Did it commit to funding our police services to help halt the massive increase in violent crime? No. Did it commit to funding our local councils, suffering 50% cuts, which are damaging the very fabric of our society? No. Did it do anything to relieve the hardship felt by so many women across our country? No.

Some 14 million of our citizens—our people; a fifth of the population—are living in poverty. One and a half million are destitute, with no money for even basic essentials. Up to 40% of children will be living in poverty by 2022. This Finance Bill is about lip service and rhetoric—pretending to care about the poor and vulnerable, but doing nothing substantial to address the misery and suffering felt by so many in our society. There is so much poverty and inequality in our country, and our country has never been more miserable or divided—divided geographically, generationally and economically. We have poverty in our cities, towns and villages, but under this Government there is a poverty of compassion, a poverty of empathy and a poverty of insight into what real, ordinary people’s lives are like.

My mum said to me a few years before her death, having lived through the depression in the 1930s and survived the Manchester blitz in the second world war: “I’m glad I’m at the end of my life and not at the start when I look at what this Government are doing to our society. They’re punishing people for being poor”. Enough now. The people of this country have had enough. Labour will keep up the pressure and fight for those who are stuck in poor quality housing, those who are struggling to feed their families and those who are not yet old enough to understand what poverty is and how it may impact their life. They deserve better.

I would like to finish with a quotation from the philosopher Thomas Paine:

“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.”

It is interesting that the Government are currently facing so many questions and inquiries, both within this House and beyond.

Finance (No. 3) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
Jack Brereton Excerpts
Monday 12th November 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
HM Treasury
Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens - Hansard
12 Nov 2018, 8:29 p.m.

I am not sure whether that was an intervention or a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Suffice to say, once again, that I will allow hon. Members to read Hansard tomorrow morning and reach their own conclusions.

In this centenary year of the women’s vote, what is missing from the Bill and the Budget most of all is anything for women born in the 1950s. That is a disgraceful omission. I am delighted that the Work and Pensions Committee has agreed to my suggestion to hold an inquiry so that we can get to the bottom of helping women born in the 1950s to get justice, to get their pensions and to get compensation.

We were told that austerity is over. It is not. We were then told it is coming to an end. It is not. For the poorest and most vulnerable in our society who have had to pay the price of austerity, austerity must end. That is why I will not be supporting a Second Reading for the Finance Bill.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Hansard
12 Nov 2018, 8:30 p.m.

It is a pleasure to speak on Second Reading.

After all the years of hard work since 2010, and the necessary repair of the public finances after the catastrophic failures of the last Labour Government, this Budget was a turning point for our country. The Government are meeting their fiscal rules three years early and the deficit has been reduced to its lowest level since 2001. Debt has started its first sustained fall in a generation. The Bill reflects the success of that hard work and it rewards the British people for what they have achieved.

No Government have money of their own, only taxpayers’ money. It is right that hardworking taxpayers be allowed to keep more of their own money now that the economy is back on track; people in Stoke-on-Trent have more money in their pockets due to the measures in the Bill. It is also right that a new path is set for the public finances that reflects the huge efficiencies and fiscal improvements that have been achieved. Combined with Brexit, the Bill means that after eight years of hard work to get out of the mess left behind by the Labour Government, those of us on the Conservative Benches can focus on the measures that will take our country forward to a global future in the decades ahead.

What a contrast in approach: a Conservative party working to take us forward to the 2070s against a Labour party scheming to take us back decades to the 1970s. In his initial remarks, the shadow Minister, who is no longer in his place, tried to say that the Conservatives are not a party of opportunity. I would like to ask him what he would say to my constituents, as well as millions across the country, who were subjected to a life of dependency and worthlessness under the last Labour Government and who are now in work thanks to Conservative policies.

At a time of momentous change as we deliver on Brexit, the Government’s continuing commitment to sound economic management is to be welcomed. There are continuing efforts to make the tax system fairer, with anti-avoidance measures to ensure that legitimate reliefs are not abused. In addition, there are measures to increase the generosity of certain reliefs and exemptions where they encourage behaviours that are beneficial to the economy and to society. For example, the quintupling of the annual investment allowance, from £200,000 to £1 million, is a strong response to the very temporary uncertainty that Brexit might bring.

That measure is hugely welcomed by manufacturers in Stoke-on-Trent South, as it will be across the country. Indeed, when I visited Walkers Nonsuch Toffee last week, it was very clear that these measures will see it invest in more new machinery to build on the great success it is experiencing. I can tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I very much enjoyed tasting some of its products on my visit. A family business since 1894, it exports England’s finest toffee from my constituency right around the world, with many of its largest growing markets in South Korea, Australia and China. Equally, I welcome measures such as the 60% increase in the charity small trading tax exemption limit to £8,000 and £80,000 depending on turnover, and the extension of the first-year allowance for electric car charging points for four years. While there is a case to be made for having reliefs and exemptions to encourage beneficial outcomes, there is also a clear case for increasing taxes on harmful and detrimental behaviours. That is why I welcome the action on white, high-strength ciders and continuing strong fiscal disincentives to smoking, both of which are having major impacts on the lives of individuals, public health and our NHS.

In addition, I welcome the measures for a new tax on the largest online companies to ensure that they pay a fair share. That is very important for the revival of our town centres, as is reducing taxes on smaller retailers and putting in place funding for the town centres in places such as Longton and Fenton, which I hope will benefit from the additional funding for the conversion of some of the empty units.

For areas such as Stoke-on-Trent, which is made up of six historic market towns with a strong manufacturing tradition, opportunities have arisen for a sustained revival. The Office for National Statistics last week reported that

“around half of total production growth in Quarter 3 was driven by manufacturing.”

That is very good to see and suggests that the slippage in quarters one and two was anomalous to a longer-term trend of manufacturing growth under this Government. Goods exports are also back in quarter three to a position where they are rising faster than service exports, which is a positive sign for a country that needs to rebalance our national economy to areas where people are skilled and proud to make things. No manufacturers are more skilled and proud than the local advanced manufacturers of Stoke-on-Trent.

Moving on to trade and our global approach, we need to ensure that trade is more international as we move through Brexit. Global Britain starts from a solid economic base, underpinned, of course, by the attraction of a world-renowned, trusted, legal system and sound rules of governance. As a country that plays by the rules, the UK is a great partner to trade with and a great place to invest in. I know that the Government will rightly enter all trade negotiations in a spirit of optimism and generosity in offering free and fair rules-based trade deals. There are great opportunities ahead.

In Stoke-on-Trent, despite manufacturing making up 15% of the economy, I am afraid that we do not export enough of the fantastic products that we make, falling well behind our statistical neighbours in the rest of Staffordshire. Far too often, historical trade beyond the EU has been occurring by chance rather than from concerted efforts to promote British products. Brexit must lead to opportunities to broaden trade and especially to help smaller businesses in places such as Stoke-on-Trent to export more, and it is pleasing to see the Department for International Trade ramping up its efforts in these global markets. We can look to open up new channels for inflows and outflows of foreign direct investment, particularly to facilitate UK direct investment in sales and distribution operations beyond the EU, and look to strengthen our presence in key markets of the USA, the Commonwealth, South America and south-east Asia, which promise many opportunities for Stoke-on-Trent’s fantastic export offer.

There is much to be positive about in the Government championing free and fair trade, but it is inescapably the case that some of our competitors, in an effort to boost their state-aided, quasi-private businesses, do not always play by the rules. So, where we are rightly open to proffering carrots, we must also be pretty clear that we will keep a few sticks if the agreed rules with our new trade partners are not kept. I know from correspondence I have had with Department for International Trade Ministers and, indeed, the Prime Minister, that this is very much the case and the intention, moving forward.

Global Britain is our future and we must be prepared for that future so that we can seize the opportunities available on the world stage. The Bill certainly moves us forward to that future. Through a fairer tax system, growth deals, city deals, sector deals, local funds, transport projects, devolved funding and international trade support for local businesses on the world stage, this Government are ensuring that no part of the United Kingdom is left behind and, as part of that agenda, I am very happy to support the Bill tonight.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Nov 2018, 8:39 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton). This Finance Bill does not address the fundamental funding problems in our communities and public services. During the Chancellor’s Budget speech, he told us that the era of austerity was nearly over. He told us about the money for the “little extras” for our schools and that all would be rosy as he increased tax thresholds. Perhaps he was too distracted thinking up bad jokes to fully appreciate the effect of his Budget and policies, which mean that for many people the era of austerity is far from over. The Budget did not provide the substantial funding our public services need to be reliable and decent, and failed to invest properly in our public services. This is quite clearly a continuation of austerity.

My borough of Enfield has seen its funding cut by £161 million since 2010, which is well over 50% of its government funding, with other cuts still to come, and it is not alone. Like Enfield, most councils have been cut to the bone. Demand-led pressures on areas such as children’s services and adult social care will mean the council having to cut already-reduced services. Enfield has been affected by damping. The Government, having worked out what it needed, decided to take money away and move it elsewhere. I ask the Minister: when can we have that money back to fund the services that Enfield needs, and which the Government agree it needs? For such councils, austerity is not over, but will carry on for years to come. Is he pleased to see councils failing—councils such as Northampton—and going bust on the Government’s watch? The Government can fix this but choose not to.

Policing remains under-resourced. Last week, a 98-year-old man was seriously assaulted in his home in my constituency and now lies seriously ill in hospital, and today I learned there had been a stabbing near Arnos Grove station. What does the Minister have to say about the increase in crime and the cuts to policing in my constituency and across the country? Is austerity over for them? Yesterday, I spoke to the two police officers and one police community support officer charged with policing one ward of 10,000 people in my constituency. Does the Chancellor think that is sufficient? I invite him to come and listen to the concerns of local residents, victims of crime and those who live in fear. Why isn’t anything being done to reverse these cuts? Is the Minister happy with the level of police funding?

Education is another area of failure for the Government. The idea that £400 million for so-called “little extras” goes anywhere near to addressing the funding crisis in schools is insulting. I am a school governor at Eversley Primary School, in my constituency, and I am missing a governors meeting tonight to take part in this debate to let the Government know how schools are suffering with their budget cuts. In my conversation with the headteacher earlier today, she told me that the school was facing a £500,000 budget deficit next year and was now relying on the donations of parents and staff to pay for resources. Eversley is an outstanding primary school and is not alone in my constituency in facing a funding crisis that is a direct result of the Government’s policies. If the Minister does not believe me, he is welcome to meet me and headteachers in my constituency to look at their budgets for next year. He suggests there is more money for schools, but does he realise there are more children in our schools than ever before?

Even for school meals, the Government have taken no account of the increase in food prices or inflation since 2010, meaning that the budget for producing free school meals for all pupils from reception to year 2 has remained the same for more than eight years at £2.30 per meal. That makes it harder to provide a nutritious meal for children in their early school years. How is that joined up with the Government’s strategy on tackling childhood obesity? If the Chancellor wants to know where to find additional funding for education, he could look at the Education and Skills Funding Agency, which last year spent £17 million re-brokering failing academies to other academy chains. Why is there no scrutiny of this shocking waste of taxpayers’ money?

As my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) mentioned so eloquently, in an attempt to shore up and support bookmakers, the Chancellor decided to give them more time to make more profits from fixed odds betting terminals—and thus more revenue for the Treasury—thereby condemning hundreds of people to the abject misery brought on by gambling addiction, with many suffering great personal harm and some committing suicide. What a shocking state of affairs.

There was no help in the Budget either for people on universal credit. The £1.7 billion put back in by the Government is less than a third of the £7 billion taken out. That is no help to a local resident losing £58 per week as she migrates from family tax credits to universal credit. The amount she is losing is going towards funding the tax cuts in the Budget. The Minister spoke of fairness in his opening speech. Where is the fairness for her?

The Chancellor issued a caveat in his statement, saying that the Budget would be all off if there were a no-deal Brexit. What the Bill aims to do is give the Government sweeping powers to amend tax legislation in such an event. It is another attempt at a power grab, which is something that we have become used to with this Government. Once again, Parliament is being sidelined.

The Government’s economic failure will continue with this Finance Bill. The Bill and the Budget are not fair. They are failing our communities by not replacing the police officers whose numbers have been cut since 2010, by not giving local authorities the funds that they need, by not providing what is needed for our schools, and by not helping the most vulnerable in our society.

A fair taxation system is for the common good, and should underpin shared prosperity through universal services. The Bill does not offer a progressive and fair tax system, and it means more austerity for the vast majority of the people. The Minister forgets at his peril that the people who benefit from tax cuts are also the people who are asked to make donations to cover the funding cuts in their children’s schools, who experience the burglaries that police no longer attend, who have seen a deterioration in public services, and who are worse off under universal credit. Austerity is not over for them either.

The Bill is not fair. It does not help our communities, including the most vulnerable, and it is not fit for purpose.

Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Jack Brereton Excerpts
Monday 16th July 2018

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Mr Speaker Hansard

There is one minute.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Jul 2018, 8:28 p.m.

I want to focus on trade remedies. This is particularly important for the ceramic sector in my constituency, so I am absolutely delighted that the Government have listened to the arguments I have been making over the past year and secured clarifying amendments on trade remedies that, critically, will deliver the right Brexit for the ceramic sector, for wider manufacturing industry, and, most importantly, for the workforce and the voters of Stoke-on-Trent.

The Government have tabled several critical amendments. I was very pleased last week to have an answer to a written question providing confirmation on establishing normal value. That is so important to resisting the dumping of ceramic products from China. Significant state subsidisation by China, particularly in the ceramics industry, threatens British industry, so I am pleased that the Government have listened to those arguments and, through their amendments, have taken action.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Jul 2018, 8:30 p.m.

Given that there may not be a Third Reading, I will start very briefly with some thank yous. I would like to thank Scott Taylor, one of our researchers. I would also like to thank the work of the Public Bill Office, particularly that of Colin Lee and Gail Poulton, who have been absolutely excellent in their support to all of us who have been here throughout the passage of the Bill.

I want to talk about the history of the Bill and how we got to this point. We had the Committee stage earlier this year. On the Saturday morning after it finished, and almost out of the blue, the UK Government announced that they would not be entering into a customs union. They clearly did not think it through, bringing out the announcement at the most stupid time: after all the debates in Committee. It was totally ill-thought-out.

We then had the Chequers agreement on 6 July. The White Paper was published on 12 July, which Members will note was the day after the amendments were tabled to this Report stage of the Bill—we all had to table our amendments before we had actually seen the White Paper. I thank the Minister for coming to Westminster Hall to give us some level of reassurance, but pretty much all the reassurance he could give was, “Please look at the White Paper that’s coming out on Thursday.” It has, therefore, been really difficult to prepare for the Bill. It has been really difficult to write this speech, trying to game exactly what is going to happen tonight. I am still not clear.

There are too many factions in this House. We have the UK Government, the Conservative remainers, the European Research Group, the Democratic Unionist party, the Labour leavers, the Labour remainers and the Labour Front Bench. The UK Government will not support things put forward by anybody who supports remain. The Labour Front Bench will not support anything put forward by the Conservative remainers. The members of the ERG will not support anything put forward by anybody except themselves. The Democratic Unionist party will support whatever the UK Government tell it to, on the basis that it is being paid to do so. It is a complete shambles. Trying to do anything sensible in this House is incredibly difficult, especially given that we know there is a majority for a customs union among the Members of this House. Despite that, we are going to end up in a situation where members of the ERG, who believe in the polar opposite of a customs union, are having their amendments accepted. When the rest of us put forward anything vaguely sensible, our amendments are not accepted.

This is certainly not about sovereignty for the people or sovereignty for Parliament; it is about sovereignty for a very small group of elite Tories who want to have their say. The Government are letting them have their say. I could not be more angry about the fact that the ERG’s amendments are apparently going to be accepted. I do not want to direct all my ire at those on the Government Front Bench. Those on the Labour Front Bench need to be absolutely clear on their position. They need to be clear that they will support the softest possible Brexit. If they are talking about a jobs-first Brexit, they need to recognise the benefits of the customs union and the single market. They have the opportunity to do that tonight by supporting some of the amendments that have been tabled by those who support a soft Brexit.

The Scottish National party does not support fully a number of amendments that we plan to vote for tonight. Our position is that Scotland voted to remain in the EU, so we would like to remain in the EU. Scotland supports remaining in the single market and the customs union, so the SNP will support anything that keeps us in the single market and the customs union. In the absence of those options being on the table, we will do what we can to protect the economic and cultural interests of the whole United Kingdom. Even though some of the amendments are not brilliant, we will vote for anything that makes Brexit slightly softer than the Brexit that is being proposed. I needed to make it clear that just because we support an amendment here does not mean that it is a preferred option. It means that it is not quite as bad as some of the other options.

I make it clear that I will press new clause 16, in my name and the names of my colleagues, and I would also like to speak in favour of our other amendments. The SNP position is crystal clear, as I said. The UK Government position is not. I welcome some clarity that is given in the White Paper that was published after Chequers, but I have major concerns about some of it. It mentions specifically a trusted trader scheme. On the trusted trader scheme that we have—the authorised economic operator scheme—I have raised concern after concern about it, and I am not the only one; organisations such as the British Chambers of Commerce have, too. If there is to be an expanded trusted trader scheme, it needs to actually work. It needs to be applicable to small businesses and businesses need to be able to access that scheme. We are now at the stage that businesses should know what those schemes are. If the Government are going to bring them forward, they need to do so as quickly as they possibly can so that businesses can be clear on what basis they will be trading in future. That is really important.

I am pleased to see that diagonal accumulation has been recognised in the Chequers agreement. I have been talking about it for some time, and I am really glad that it has been recognised and that we will have a situation where we will possibly still be able to export cars to South Korea, because that is really important for our car industry. I am pleased that the Government have now made it clear that they are pursuing that.

Protective geographical indicators are also mentioned in the Chequers White Paper. I am slightly concerned about the way the Government are going on this. It would be very good to have more information around that. A PGI scheme that applies only to the UK and does not recognise EU PGIs is a bit of a problem, so we need more clarity from the UK Government on how they intend the PGI scheme to work. I know that there is a negotiation, but if we could have their point of view first, that would be very useful.

I want to briefly mention some of the other meat in the Bill and something that the British Retail Consortium brought to us. It encapsulated some of the issues with the Bill very neatly. It said that there are not yet agreements on security, transit, haulage, VAT and people and that we need mutual recognition on veterinary, health and other checks with the EU. It seems that the Government are pursuing some of this, so that is good news. We need investment in IT systems to deliver the customs declaration system. Again, I am still not convinced that this will come through in time, so if the Minister could give reassurance that it will, I would very much appreciate it. We need co-ordination between agencies at ports and borders, as well as investment and capacity and staff at ports. The Government have not done enough on both those things. They have not put the extra resource into ports. They have not told ports how they will be administering these things in the future. If ports are going to have to massively increase their staff numbers, they need to know now how they will do that.

On queuing, a two-minute delay at Dover will create a 17-mile queue, so it is not as though Operation Stack will just happen as normal. This will not be Operation Stack. It will be an incredibly large version of it, and Operation Stack was bad enough. The BRC also mentioned AEOs, particularly in relation to small and medium-sized enterprises. All those things are still concerns about the Bill and I will raise them on Third Reading, if we have a Third Reading debate, because I do not believe that the Bill is fit for purpose as it is.

I specifically want to talk about the new clauses from the ERG. If the UK Government are bound to accept them, we have a very, very severe problem. I have major issues with new clauses 36 and 37 and amendments 72 and 73. New clause 36 relates to reciprocity. Page 13 of the Chequers agreement says:

“At the core of the UK’s proposal is the establishment by the UK and the EU of a free trade area for goods.”

It then goes on to make clear on page 17 that

“the UK is not proposing that the EU applies the UK’s tariffs and trade policy at its border for goods intended for the UK.”

This new clause directly contradicts that.

What is the point in having a White Paper released on a Thursday if the Government are going to ignore it on Monday? I do not understand how we can be in that position. How can businesses know where we are going if the Government do not even know where they are going? For the Government to be accepting amendments by a group of around 14—who knows how many of them there are?—ERG members to get a hard Brexit is absolutely ridiculous. If there is going to be a Brexit, we need a Brexit that does what the Labour party suggests it should do: protects jobs. We need the Labour party to support a Brexit that protects jobs as well, not just us.

The Bill is a mess. It does not do what it set out to do, which is replicate the union customs code, and it does not now do what the Chequers agreement said it would on Friday. We need everybody in the House, from all the various factions I mentioned earlier, to get behind proposals that protect jobs and the sovereignty of the people, not just the sovereignty of an elite few.

Saddleworth Moor and Tameside: Ongoing Fire

Jack Brereton Excerpts
Monday 2nd July 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Mr Hurd Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2018, 4:36 p.m.

On funding for the emergency services, I stated earlier that the core spending power of fire services increased this year, even though, as the hon. Lady knows, the number of fire incidents has fallen by 50% over the past decade. On the management of risk going forward, I am leading an exercise and speaking to every fire authority to understand their perception of future demand and risk, to inform decisions in the next spending round.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2018, 4:37 p.m.

Will the Minister join me in thanking Staffordshire fire and rescue service for the incredible work it has been doing at Thorncliffe in the constituency of my parliamentary neighbour, my right hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley)?

Mr Hurd Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2018, 4:37 p.m.

I am delighted to show appreciation for and thank, on the Government’s behalf, all the fire services that are involved in the support operation for these major incidents, as well as to thank my hon. Friend’s local service for the work that it does back in Staffordshire.

Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [Lords]

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report: 3rd sitting: House of Commons)
Jack Brereton Excerpts
Tuesday 24th April 2018

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Lord Field of Birkenhead Portrait Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Apr 2018, 3:48 p.m.

I wish to speak to amendments (b), (c) and (d) to new clause 9, which stand in my name. As the House might know, they arise from the work that the Work and Pensions Committee did on miners’ pensions. For most people, decisions about moving pension capital are made towards the end of their lives, but miners had to decide where they should safely put their pension savings as a result of the change in the ownership of their industry.

Given the warning from the hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray) that we may not get on to the second set of amendments, I should mention that I have some amendments in that group to raise with the pensions Minister. Perhaps I may address two points to the Economic Secretary, but first I thank both Ministers for the way they have engaged with the Work and Pensions Committee for our report and in our meetings. We are immensely grateful to them. On some issues, I have joined my Front-Bench spokesmen because we have been pushing the same measures and interests.

I wish to raise two points that I hope the Economic Secretary will say will be added to the Bill. First, not only should cold calling become unlawful, but any information that arises from it should not be used for commercial purposes—that is, in respect of pension savings. Secondly, would it not be sensible to use the opportunity presented by this Bill to add the Financial Conduct Authority to the list of bodies in the Government’s policing arm to counter activities that unlawfully undermine people’s pension savings by trying to persuade them to move their assets in one way or another?

In the interests of getting on to the second set of amendments, I conclude my comments.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Hansard
24 Apr 2018, 3:51 p.m.

I am pleased to be called to speak in this debate, Madam Deputy Speaker, because the issues are of particular interest to me as a member of the Work and Pensions Committee. I want to reflect on some of the evidence the Committee has heard in its inquiry into pension freedoms and choice, as it relates to some of the changes proposed in the Bill.

While I am extremely supportive of the work the Government have done to increase the freedom of our constituents in respect of their pension savings, it has undoubtedly created new challenges that must be addressed. I am pleased that the Bill has been brought forward as an opportunity to address them. The first challenge is advice. It was apparent from our sessions on the British Steel pension fund that those who find themselves needing to switch often struggle to get the advice they need. There were mixed experiences, with some people receiving very good local advice and others receiving very bad advice or none at all.

Mark Tami Portrait Mark Tami - Hansard
24 Apr 2018, 3:52 p.m.

On the British Steel pension scheme, does the hon. Gentleman agree that the FCA has been very slow to react, when it was clear in certain locations that there were many problems with the way some people were advising people to get out of the scheme?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
24 Apr 2018, 3:54 p.m.

That issue certainly came up in our evidence. Those who saw our evidence sessions will know that there was quite a significant grilling of the FCA.

Those experiences show that some irrational decisions—often described as “emotional” decisions—were made in the moment. Sadly, those short-term decisions were not the best investment decisions for the longer term. Unfortunately, this vulnerability—the vulnerability of immediacy or a form of panic, one might say—allowed predatory vulture companies to take advantage of an emotionally charged situation, with people reinvesting their pension pots without the full, impartial advice that is needed. Those vultures exploited scheme holders, framing what they were doing as giving impartial advice, when it was nothing of the sort. Many people felt that they were not fully informed of the consequences of the complex investment decisions they were having to make.

The accessibility of free independent advice in such situations has, in some cases, been woefully limited. More generally, the often perplexing nature of pensions leaves many people making decisions about their investments that are not necessarily in their best interests. Evidence presented to the Select Committee by the Association of British Insurers from the FCA’s “Financial Advice Market Review: Baseline report” suggests that not even one in 10 UK adults—just 6%—had received regulated financial advice. Worryingly, 25% of people who needed advice about their finances did not access it.

There are a number of reasons why our constituents are not accessing the advice they need, but what has been demonstrated is that not enough people are currently accessing the free independent advice that is available. The Association of British Insurers suggested that although 44% of people who are approaching retirement had access to some sort of advice, only 10% used the Pensions Advisory Service and only 7% used Pension Wise. The lack of clear advice combined with confusion about who to trust for independent advice has made it too challenging for those making investment decisions. Not enough people are getting the advice that they need to make properly informed judgments.

Secondly, we also found that very limited numbers of people are making the active decision to shop around and switch providers. Often, the tendency of those changing schemes is to stick to the same provider, so switching—active consumerism—is another challenge. There are, of course, a number of reasons why people might find it difficult to switch providers, not least the lack of good information and advice about the choices available, as I just related. It is also a major barrier to consumer activity, so I am pleased that part of the Bill proposes to create a single guidance body. That will make it much clearer for our constituents to see where they can turn for the right advice to make informed decisions and manage their finances for the future.

Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con) - Hansard

My hon. Friend is giving an important speech. Some of the evidence that we received on the Work and Pensions Committee was from Citizens Advice, which suggested that 97% of the pension scams that had taken place in one year originated from unsolicited calls. Does he think that the measures that the Government are bringing forward in the Bill will go some way to combating that?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
24 Apr 2018, 3:56 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for that point; I agree that it is critical that we take action to stop cold calls, and I am about to come on to some of those points.

This change will also ensure that the advice that is available is joined-up and better suited to our constituents’ needs, ensuring that decisions are not made in isolation, but with consideration to the wider implications of investment decisions on an individual’s overall finances. Measures in the Bill will also ensure that people receive the appropriate advice as a matter of course and that they should opt out if they do not wish to receive such advice. I also hope that the commitment made by the Government and the industry to develop a pensions dashboard will be delivered, making it easier for our constituents to have access to the information that they need about their pension savings to make suitable decisions.

Thirdly, the Committee heard about the increasing number of pension scams that are being reported, with more people being actively deceived into making investments that are not in their best interests. It was suggested that many rogue companies are using cold calling to target people and to get them to invest without full thought of whether it is the right and best decision for them. I am sure that many right hon. and hon. Members have, like me, been contacted by constituents who have been continually badgered by cold calling. It is a real issue in Stoke-on-Trent South and I am sure that it is a challenge in other areas, too. Many of the people targeted by cold calling are elderly or vulnerable and are taken advantage of by those seeking to cheat our constituents out of their hard-earned life savings.

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan (Chippenham) (Con) - Hansard

Does my hon. Friend agree that although the pension freedoms that were introduced in 2015 were a fantastic opportunity for our constituents, they have led to an increase in rogue scammers and cold calling? That is why new clauses 9 and 4 are so important for the Bill.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
24 Apr 2018, 3:58 p.m.

I absolutely agree. That is why it is so important that this legislation is passed and that the Government have proposed these amendments. I am pleased that the Government have put measures in the Bill to ban the use of unsolicited marketing on pensions and financial products and services. It is a significant step towards preventing future abuses.

Of course, this legislation can never stop all scams being attempted—we cannot legislate away those who have nothing but contempt for legislation—but it does send a clear message not just to those conducting this behaviour, but to those who are at risk of being conned. By raising awareness of the challenge of scams, the Government can make more people wary of them. This will mean that those who are targeted can have the confidence that whenever they are cold-called by people trying to offer this sort of advice about their pensions or information about their investments, the calls are not legitimate but in fact illegal, and they should put the phone down. The Government are taking a balanced approach, acting if necessary to target where cold calling is most prolific and most damaging, such as in the area of pensions and financial products and services.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jack Brereton Excerpts
Tuesday 17th April 2018

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

I point out to the hon. Lady that real-terms spending in the Home Office is going up. We are funding the Home Office, but the important thing is what we do with that money, and that is why the Home Secretary has outlined the serious violence strategy to deal with that issue.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

5. What steps he is taking to invest in the infrastructure of small and medium-sized cities. [904778]

Robert Jenrick Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Robert Jenrick) - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Apr 2018, 11:54 a.m.

In this Parliament, investment, including in infrastructure, will be at its highest sustained level since the 1970s, and our cities large and small are an important part of that strategy. We recently launched the £1.7 billion Transforming Cities fund to upgrade infrastructure, in addition to £345 million of funding for local road projects in England.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
17 Apr 2018, 11:54 a.m.

I thank the Minister for his response and for meeting me recently. Does he agree that cities such as Stoke-on-Trent are perfectly placed to benefit from investment through the Transforming Cities fund?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Apr 2018, 11:54 a.m.

I quite agree: Stoke-on-Trent is exactly the kind of city that we designed the Transforming Cities fund to benefit. From the meeting we had, I know that my hon. Friend sees opportunity in Stoke—in Stoke station, at junction 15 on the M6 and in the proposal for a ceramics park. With the dynamic Conservative leadership in Stoke at the moment, we look forward to receiving that application.

Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Jack Brereton Excerpts
Monday 8th January 2018

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jan 2018, 9:06 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant), even though large parts of his speech were based on magical thinking.

I rise to address schedules 4 and 5, which propose the introduction of a new post-Brexit trade defence regime. Trade remedies enable countries to defend themselves against underpriced and state-subsidised goods, so they play a pivotal role in the rules-based WTO system. Governments would never have agreed to the radical trade liberalisation of the past half century were they not reassured that they could act to step in and defend their industries, if necessary. Trade defence remedies have therefore played a central role in tearing down the walls that prevent free and fair trade. How ironic, then, that this Bill is the work of a Conservative Government. The party that claims to be the voice of enterprise, free trade, business and industrial strategy has produced a Bill that, if passed in its current form, would fatally undermine the British manufacturing sector.

To illustrate my point, I wish to focus on what the Bill, in its current form, would mean for the British steel industry, which is centred on the Port Talbot steelworks in my Aberavon constituency. Over a third of the EU’s 92 trade defence instruments relate to steel, and over the years those 30-odd measures have played a vital part in stemming the flow of the dumped Chinese steel that almost led to the total collapse of the British steel industry. The Chinese Communist party owns 80% of that country’s steel industry. The party subsidises the industry to the hilt and sells the steel at well below cost on the global market. It is a well-established strategy that the Chinese state pursues relentlessly and ruthlessly in its bid to extinguish all competition and establish monopoly status.

The all-party group on steel’s “Steel 2020” report, which was supported and signed by Members who now serve in government, concluded that trade defence instruments exist not to unfairly protect certain sectors of the economy, but rather

“to support the free, fair and efficient functioning of the market.”

I will certainly not stand here and claim that the EU’s trade remedies regime works perfectly; it does not. It has often been too slow and bureaucratic, and it has unfortunately been hamstrung by the lesser duty rule. The fact of the matter is that the European Commission acts on behalf of 28 member states and 500 million consumers, so when it threatens action, even behemoths such as China sit up and take notice. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that were it not for the anti-dumping measures taken by the Commission at the height of the steel crisis, our precious steel industry would probably have gone under.

I speak today not only to raise concerns about the Bill’s implications for our steel industry, but to highlight the fact that this is about the future of our entire manufacturing sector. Indeed, the chief executive officers of the British steel, paper, ceramics, minerals and chemicals associations, along with their trade union counterparts, put it very well in their letter of 5 January to the Financial Times. They said:

“Without a robust approach to trade remedies the UK government will be unable to achieve its international trade or industrial strategy ambitions. The UK’s manufacturing base and tens of thousands of jobs around the country…will be at risk if parliament gets the bill wrong.”

I say to hon. Members on both sides of the House that if they have any form of manufacturing in their constituency, the Bill really matters to them.

As an MP who represents a constituency whose local economy relies almost entirely on manufacturing, I desperately want the Government’s industrial strategy to succeed, but the fact is that it will not be worth the paper it is written on if it is not underpinned by a robust trade remedies regime. It is in that constructive spirit that I urge the Government to undertake a radical rethink of schedules 4 and 5, with particular reference to five issues. First, the Bill contains very little detail about how the post-Brexit trade remedies regime will operate in practice. Instead it enables the Secretary of State to legislate for all-important details through statutory instruments. That really matters not only because it is yet another example of Ministers attempting to sideline Parliament, which has become a recurring theme of this whole Brexit process, but because there will be deep and widespread industry uncertainty until the secondary legislation is in place. Labour Members have raised the issue of steel in this place more than 300 times since 2015, but if this Bill passes in its current form, steelworkers and their families can kiss goodbye to the idea that they will have a voice in Parliament standing up for their interests and fighting their corner. We will not be able to do so because all the key decisions will be taken behind closed doors and implemented by statutory instruments.

Secondly, it is imperative that the Bill includes a cast-iron commitment to scrapping the lesser duty rule. This Government have been the ringleader of attempts to block EU moves to reform the rule, which means that we have only been able to impose tariffs of 13% to 16%, whereas the Americans, for example, can impose import duties of over 200% on dumped Chinese steel. An unreformed lesser duty rule must not be retained in UK law. We therefore call on the Government to state precisely how they intend to calculate the margin of injury to ensure that the process is at least as robust as the reformed EU system, and to lay out all that detail in the Bill.

Thirdly, the economic and public interest tests would create an unnecessarily high barrier to introducing any form of trade defence. None of those tests is required under WTO rules, so why are the Government intent on placing multiple obstacles in the path of an industry that wishes to file a complaint?

Fourthly, we need changes to the proposed remit and composition of the Trade Remedies Authority, bringing it in line with global norms and ensuring proper representation of trade unions and industry. Fifthly, the Bill must be amended to ensure that British courts are able to correct decisions made by the Government that deny British industry WTO-complainant rights that our competitors across the world enjoy. Without those changes, the Bill will fail in its essential task of establishing a fit and proper trade defence regime.

Once we have decoupled ourselves from the EU’s trade defence regime, it is simply beyond debate that we will have less leverage. Therefore, if anything, the post-Brexit regime that we create must be far tougher and more robust than the one that we have left. That is why we simply cannot allow schedules 4 and 5 to pass unamended. Unless the Bill is amended, it will deny us even those scant protections. For that reason, I urge hon. and right hon. Members to join me in the Lobby to amend and fix this broken Bill.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jan 2018, 9:15 p.m.

I agree with a number of the comments about trade remedies in relation to the ceramics industry, but I will touch on that later.

It is essential in leaving the EU and the EU customs union that we develop our own customs regime. It will put in place the foundations for the negotiations on leaving the EU but does not predetermine them, allowing the flexibility needed as with any negotiating process. I hope that we secure the best possible Brexit deal. But whatever the outcome may be from those negotiations on future customs—deal or not—it is essential to have legislation in place on the UK statute book when we leave. It is important that we have the strongest hand possible in the negotiations, with the powers in place as required to adapt the UK system to fit with the outcomes from the negotiations.

It is clear that we need to maintain certainty for our businesses, ensuring initially that there can be parity as far as possible between the existing EU customs union and the new regime developed for the UK, creating a smooth transitional period. This must be based on the continued strong support for rules-based free trade and the structures of international institutions set out particularly through the World Trade Organisation. An independent customs policy will allow us to pursue policies that are in the best interests of UK trade and our own economy, and in the interests of my constituents in Stoke-on-Trent South. We are clear on these Benches about our policy on trade and leaving the customs union. This is in stark contrast to the concoction of views from the Opposition Benches.

This is what my constituents voted for when they voted 70% to leave. They wanted to see a change—not just in leaving the EU, but in pursing our interests more effectively around the world and supporting all our communities to become more prosperous. Businesses in Stoke-on-Trent South, where we have a significant manufacturing base, see huge opportunities for developing new trade links outside the EU, and leaving the customs union will enable this. There is significant potential to grow our export markets in order to sell some of the fantastic products that we produce to countries such as the United States, Japan and other developed market economies around the world.

For manufacturing and specific industries such as ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent, it is critical that we have the right trade policies in place that support a robust trade remedies regime. This is about ensuring a level playing field for these industries, continuing the anti-dumping measures already put in place by the EU that have allowed industries such as ceramics to stabilise. I was pleased by the assurances given to me by the Secretary of State for International Trade when he visited my constituency that the current measures in place within the EU will continue post-Brexit.

Where we face unfair competition from state subsidisation in non-market economies such as China and others, resulting in huge overproduction, we need to ensure that it is not possible for below-value products to be dumped into the British market. Just to reflect on the vast scale of these distortions, there is currently an overproduction of tiles in China that is six times the entire EU annual demand. This puts at risk jobs in Stoke-on-Trent and other manufacturing industries across constituencies such as ours. To ensure that there can be real free trade, we must ensure that in leaving the EU there continues to be an effective trade remedies framework that aligns well with other WTO members.

In all, it is essential that the Bill is accepted by the House today to ensure that we have the necessary legislation in place when we leave the EU, with the flexibility to support our negotiations and a new tariffs regime that is in the national interest.

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jan 2018, 9:19 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) and, preceding him, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), both of whom represent industries that are also very important to my constituency—steel and ceramics. I join them in pursuing a robust trade remedies mechanism, and in agreeing particularly with my hon. Friend that there is much work still to do to make sure that we get this right. I also join my hon. Friend in being very clear that we are talking about a level playing field and not protectionism. I think that on the Labour Benches there is considerable support—I hope universal support—for genuine free trade. Protectionism is not the way forward if we want to grow economically and play our part on the global stage.

This Bill, if passed, will fundamentally change our relationships, whether for good or bad, not just with our closest trading partners but with countries across the world. The EU customs union is without question one of the key pillars supporting the largest free trading bloc in the global economy—a bloc that in 2016 accounted for 43% of our exports and 54% of our imports. Yet we are debating a Bill that, in effect, confirms the Government’s intention to take us out of the customs union—a mechanism that is, or has been, integral to delivering our current trading profile. The Government are doing this despite the fact that leaving the customs union could cost the UK an estimated £25 billion every year until at least 2030.

Leaving the union will also further complicate our key trading relationships by necessitating customs declarations for EU trade. The National Audit Office estimates that the number of declarations per year will increase from 55 million to 255 million if the UK leaves the customs union. Sometimes one has to lay down the statistics as barely as that, because this is what it all means. We have to see the global impact of the decisions that we are taking here in this Chamber.

To put into perspective what is at stake, it is worth looking in a little detail at the food and drink sector, which is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK economy. It is an industry worth more than £100 billion to the UK economy. In 2015, UK food exports to the EU were worth £11 billion, while food imports from the EU were worth £28 billion. The British Retail Consortium has established that the average tariff on food products imported from the EU could be in the order of 22%, with tariffs on Irish cheddar, for instance, being as high as 44%. I will not go into the detail of the Environment Secretary’s view on what we should do about that; one is reminded of “Wallace and Gromit” as much as anything else. The overall impact of that tariff—the Environment Secretary could not answer this point at the Select Committee—could be an increase in cheese prices of between 6% and 32% for consumers in this country. This is about workers’ rights but it is also about consumers. It is about the impact on the prices of everyday food staples, and on consumer choice.

The food and drink sector relies on the efficient, just-in-time movement of goods between EU countries in the context both of finished goods and the industry’s complex supply chain arrangements, which my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East (Mr Leslie) mentioned. This is not just a “nice to have” arrangement; it is an essential part of modern manufacturing processes. Just-in-time delivery not only ensures high quality, especially of perishable goods—the freshness and quality of the products on the shelf—but is very important for customer service. It is the same in the steel industry: in my constituency, just-in-time delivery of supply chain components and of products out of the plant is just as important for customer service as the quality and standards of the goods.

The next-day delivery of highly perishable produce—this is particularly pertinent to the food industry—is currently possible, yet the Bill threatens to put up barriers to this remarkable aspect of modern-day European Union trade. It is therefore imperative that the frictionless movement of goods across our borders remains in place, especially as far as the land border with Ireland is concerned. Anything else will have a seriously detrimental effect on the food and drink industry.

Equally, the lack of a commitment in the Bill to remain in the EU VAT area may mean that UK businesses face cash-flow issues, as well as customs delays, at the border. Many other Members have mentioned that today, but the point cannot be reiterated frequently enough, because it is so important. UK businesses are incredibly worried about the impact on cash flow if we get this wrong.

This is the wrong Bill. There is no doubt in my mind that this should have been a Bill that confirmed an intention to keep us in the customs union to secure our economic future. While the country may have voted to sever its political union with the European Union, it did not vote to leave the customs union. I know that view has frequently been challenged by Government Members today, but I repeat the point that membership of the customs union and the single market was not on the ballot paper, and this country certainly did not vote to be poorer.

I recall the words of the Chair of the Treasury Committee, the right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan), who made the point in a debate in Committee on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill that one of the responsibilities of this House is to deploy its judgment and to bear in mind that future generations will judge us on the judgments that we make. Many Members of the House believe that if we get this wrong—if we get this Bill wrong—future generations will pay the price, and that is not a risk that many of us are prepared to take.

Such is the importance of the Bill that it is absolutely imperative for it to have thorough scrutiny in both Houses, but the Government seem determined to avoid proper scrutiny by using the Ways and Means procedure to determine that this is a money Bill. I have no intention, Mr Speaker, of dictating what your decision should be. All I am attempting to do is to make the argument that this Bill is so important and so far-reaching in its implications that it would be a disservice to democracy for it to be characterised as a mere money Bill. This legislation is far from that: it is global in importance and profound in its potential impact on the UK’s economic future. On those grounds, I hope you will give serious consideration to ensuring that members of the other place get their chance to scrutinise the Bill meaningfully.

Finance (No. 2) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Jack Brereton Excerpts
Monday 11th December 2017

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
HM Treasury
Stella Creasy Portrait Stella Creasy - Hansard
11 Dec 2017, 8:10 p.m.

I am so glad a new Member has raised one of the legacies of having an amazing feminist MP like my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) in Government, fighting for gender pay gap reporting in the Equality Act 2010. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Luke Graham) nodding, because it is wonderful to see the feminist soul of so many Government Members coming through. I hope we can tempt them to support these measures.

The reality is that if the Government do not measure something, they cannot be held to account on what they are doing about it. That is the challenge we have. Good data keeps Governments honest and on track. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not suggesting that inequality in British society is about one single issue, or indeed about one single group. It is about understanding where inequality lies and where individual and collective policies will make a difference. That is why it matters. We do not live in an equal society, so particular policy measures, such as those that this Finance Bill introduces, will have a differential impact.

We might have the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Equality Act, but equal pay is stagnating in Britain. Indeed, the figures for the past couple of years suggest that the gap is widening, not narrowing—crucially, among not just older women, but younger women. Among black and ethnic minority women, the gap is 26% for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women, and 24% for black African women. Women are twice as likely as men to receive the lowest pay. Only 36% of older women receive the full state pension. Therefore any finance measure that affects the tax and benefits situation in our country will have a differential impact.

Thankfully, organisations such as the Women’s Budget Group, the Fawcett Society, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Runnymede Trust have done what this Government have failed to do and started to identify the impact, so that we can understand just what the consequences are. Their research does not make happy reading for anybody who recognises that equality is one of the biggest economic motors we could have, and one of the best ways we could address the productivity gap in our society. Their figures show that this Government’s Budget will mean that women lose 10 times as much as they gain, with black and ethnic minority women losing 12 times as much.

What does that mean in practice? Forty-three per cent. of people do not earn enough to reach the tax threshold as it is—66% of them are women, and 41% of them have dependent children. When the Government raise the higher rate threshold, 73% of the beneficiaries are men. When we change corporation tax, we have to recognise that we do it in an environment in which shareholders, business owners and managers are disproportionately men. Men benefit more.

This is not about being a victim. This is not about pleading for special treatment. This is about understanding what measures the Government are introducing and how they are making it harder for us to unlock the potential of 51% of our society. It is about having a better economy and a better society, because there is a link between diversity and prosperity.

I am tired of people who eye-roll at this, and of Government Members who see this as being like foxhunting. Frankly, even if they do not get the strong economic or social case for this, they are legally required to do it. The public sector equality duty was introduced in 2011, and it means that the Government have to not just manage these things but do something about them. That includes being able to track the difference they are making, yet this Government have still failed to do any equality impact assessment, let alone a cumulative one. The only equality impact assessments that are published are in the tax information and impact notes, which have a sentence or two buried away in line 324b saying that most of the Government’s policies have little impact at all, or denying any impact. There has certainly been no impact assessment on things like alcohol excise duty rates or fuel duty giveaways—two policies that, again, have a differential impact on men and women.

We have not even begun to talk about the public sector pay cap, and Members on both sides of the House recognise that, when two thirds of our public sector workforce are women, a failure to pay the public sector properly clearly pushes more women into poverty. We can argue about the underlying inequalities that might cause the environment in which these policies operate, and we can argue about the policies’ impact, but we cannot let this Government get away either with saying that they cannot do these calculations when others such as the IFS have, or with arguing that any inequality caused by policies in a Finance Bill will be offset by spending in another Bill. It simply does not make sense. If they cannot measure it, how can they decide it is being offset by something else? That is why it is time that we had this data. [Interruption.]

I understand that the Government Whip, the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), would like me to sit down. I am sorry to disappoint him, but 51% of this population are being held back by a Government who do not even know what damage they are doing, and 100% of us deserve better. The way we do that is by holding this Government to account on the public sector equality duty, which says that the Government have a legal duty before making any decisions. It is not enough to consider the impact on equality afterwards. The duty is ongoing, and it is about not just a buried report once in a while, but consistent impact assessments. The duty also says it cannot be delegated—that Ministers cannot leave it to somebody else to figure out what damage they are doing. It also says that, when a problem has been identified, the Government have to act, and that a lack of resources—having just set out where the Government can get some resources, I do not accept there is a lack of them—is not an excuse.

These are examples of how this Budget and this Finance Bill are failing this country. We are in denial of some of the major challenges we face on productivity. This is about having the information so that we can understand how we can make better choices, and about how we have a Government who seem unconcerned that they are breaching the public sector equality duty. That is indicative of a wider problem facing the British public. They have a Government who, right now, have run out of ideas, who are lacking in leadership and who are struggling under the weight of Brexit, but we all know who is going to pay. It is the men and women in our communities who are struggling with debt—the men and women in households who are being disproportionately hit by Government policy.

Inequality is expensive for us all. All of Britain is held back when talent is held back because it is living in poverty. I hope I have shown that there is money to be found and data to be collected if there is a political will. The Brexit Secretary says that he does not have to be very clever to do his job, but I believe the British public do need competency. If they cannot get it from the Government Benches, they can certainly find it on the Labour Benches.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Hansard
11 Dec 2017, 7:30 p.m.

This is an important Bill for the long-term future of our country. It builds on hard-won progress, develops on the transition to Brexit, and sets out necessary measures to ensure that the UK economy is fit for a successful and sustainable global future. I welcome the emphasis the Chancellor gave in his Budget to the importance of improved skills, cutting-edge technology, world-class infrastructure, and the domestic fairness of a sustainable cost of living for the British people.

At a time when we are focused on the historic change that will come from Brexit, it is critical to stick to the Government’s commitment to financial and fiscal stability so that we can build a Britain and a Stoke-on-Trent fit for the future. I particularly welcome continuing efforts to make the tax system fairer and simpler. The latest raft of anti-avoidance measures ensures that legitimate reliefs are not abused.

It is important that the tax system can encourage behaviours that are beneficial to the economy, thereby supporting businesses to create more jobs and allowing our workers to prosper. For my constituency, it is essential that we continue to support our communities enabling them to flourish, and a critical part of that is ensuring families can take home more of the money they earn.

I am pleased that the Government are doing more to ensure we see not only more jobs, but better pay and improved skills. Continuing to increase the national living wage and the personal tax-free allowance will mean that my constituents will take home more in their pay packets.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Hansard
11 Dec 2017, 8:20 p.m.

The national living wage that the hon. Gentleman speaks of is not actually set at the national living wage rate. Does he agree that there needs to be a real national living wage that is available to everybody, including those under the age of 25?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Dec 2017, 8:20 p.m.

If the hon. Lady looks at this, she will see that the national living wage is continuing to increase. I know what she is referring to, but we are continuing to increase the national living wage, which will mean people taking home more money in their pay packets. We are reducing taxes on people’s earnings and helping constituents right across the country.

For areas such as Stoke-on-Trent that have a strong manufacturing tradition, opportunities have arisen for a sustained revival of our industry. Goods exports have been rising faster than service exports. “Despite Brexit”, as some attempt to say, the latest purchasing managers’ index for manufacturing activity hit an encouraging 51-month high. The revival is in no small part thanks to the path of national financial stability that the Bill continues, working in tandem with our modern industrial strategy. In addition to that work within the UK, we can look forward to the Government championing new trade agreements beyond our shores, both with our close friends in the EU and with overlooked partners in the wider world, allowing manufacturers in my constituency to trade more of their fantastic products abroad.

Only last week I was delighted to welcome the Secretary of State for International Trade to my constituency to see with his own eyes the reality of, and the further potential for, Stoke-on-Trent’s manufacturing export revival. He told me that in the past year there have been 58,000 tech start-ups across the UK, which is more than in any other country, and that our uniquely attractive intellectual property regime is key to this success. I want to ensure that Stoke-on-Trent shares in this growth, that our industries feel encouraged by IP protection, and that tech jobs are increasingly accessible to my local residents. By getting our skills base right, including the skills that many businesses need to become exporters for the first time, we will enable our businesses to trade more of the fantastic goods we produce. Having a workforce that is more skilled and productive means that our people and communities can become more prosperous.

Stoke-on-Trent’s part of the deal is to keep making the best products in the world, particularly in ceramics, which is the lifeblood of Stoke-on-Trent. The Government’s role as the driver of global Britain must be to open world markets to our local manufacturing excellence while, of course, guarding against unfair dumping by rogue competitors. In short, we need to grow our skills base while ensuring a level playing field in global markets.

Despite the sheer hard work of my constituents to improve productivity locally—it is, indeed, up—gross value added in Stoke-on-Trent is comparatively low compared with that of the rest of the country. It can be tempting to say that this is all a function of trends of economic geography, yet we have shown in recent years that we can indeed increase our local rates of productivity. We clearly have a great deal of potential that is yet to be realised, and key to achieving that will be to work with an enabling Government in developing a sector deal for ceramics. We need to invest in new infrastructure to enable businesses to innovate, prosper and create the skilled jobs that people need. This means local partners coming together to diversify and advance skills, working towards our global ambition for a dedicated ceramics research park. This will turn an old quarry into a world centre of excellence: a place rooted in the authentic heritage of the potteries where innovation in science, technology and design come together to drive economic growth. As I stressed to the International Trade Secretary, in Stoke-on-Trent we make not just world-class ceramic art and decorative goods, but advanced components for the high-tech automotive, aerospace, defence, digital, renewable energy and medical industries.

Far from being an industry of the past, ceramics is at the very forefront of the digital, high-tech future that the Government have rightly chosen to champion and that the Chancellor absolutely dedicated himself to in his Budget. Just as there is an internationally important life sciences cluster just to the north of Stoke-on-Trent, so there can be an advanced design and manufacturing cluster in Stoke-on-Trent itself. The UK ceramics industry is hugely ambitious. It seeks to secure significantly increased year-on-year growth and to increase our international market share. A sector deal could double the GVA and exports of the industry within the next decade. I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Minister for Climate Change and Industry wrote to me recently to confirm that the Government are actively considering the proposals from the sector, and that she welcomes the sector

“being so positive about the future opportunities”.

We are indeed positive about the future opportunities, no matter how much the Labour party seeks to talk Britain down.

One area where more needs to be done is in improving the rail services in Stoke-on-Trent, as there has been a lack of attention to this over many decades. I welcome, however, the commitment made by the Secretary of State for Transport that Stoke-on-Trent will be served by HS2. Enhanced rail connectivity could transform the future prosperity of the city and help to deliver new housing and jobs growth. I also welcome action to expand the rail network’s capacity, and to open, or reopen, many new local stations. There is also clear potential for increasing the frequency of services through my constituency, and for new or rebuilt stations at Fenton, Meir and Barlaston, and for World of Wedgwood and the bet365 stadium, for Stoke City football club. All those are in my constituency. With a heritage action zone now announced for Longton in my constituency, an enhancement of rail services there could propel the town as a visitor destination. There will be similar projects across the country, and it is to the Government’s credit that they have enabled so many of them to come forward as part of the localism agenda.

The Government have worked hard to increase our international competitiveness and to rebalance the economy domestically. We are also working hard to enable smaller businesses to grow and compete with global players. Local workers on the ground in Stoke-on-Trent should be the focus for a global Britain. We are talking about those who voted overwhelmingly for not just Brexit, but an improved quality of life. Improving the skills base, alongside boosting wages through lower taxes and an increased national living wage, will enable local workers to access the opportunities of global Britain. I am glad the Government recognise that embracing our global future means delivering for my constituents. That is what Brexit must mean, and it is in this context that this Bill moves the Government’s agenda of reform forward. I will be proud to support it in the Lobby tonight.

Judith Cummins Portrait Judith Cummins (Bradford South) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Dec 2017, 8:27 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton). This Finance Bill has short-changed my constituents, the city of Bradford and the people of the north in ways too numerous to list in the short time I have available today. But there was one instance where the north was not just short-changed but plain snubbed: it was starved of the vital investment needed to unleash the potential of its people and its businesses. In this Finance Bill, Ministers did nothing to redress the imbalance in favour of London in spending on transport, whereby it gets seven times more per head than the north. That is illogical, given the Government’s much publicised commitment to rebalancing this country’s two-speed economy.

Modern and efficient transport infrastructure is a catalyst for growth, and improved regional transport connectivity is the key to unlocking prosperity in my home city of Bradford. It is essential to the fostering of wider prosperity throughout west Yorkshire and the whole of the north of England. It is fundamental to addressing the regional differentials in the economy. With clause 33 and schedule 9, the Financial Secretary has found the money to cut the bank levy, but he cannot find the funds for trans-Pennine electrification to fulfil the Conservative manifesto promise made ahead of the 2015 general election.

Finance Bill

Jack Brereton Excerpts
Tuesday 12th September 2017

(3 years ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
HM Treasury
Craig Mackinlay Portrait Craig Mackinlay - Hansard
12 Sep 2017, 6:45 p.m.

There is an uprating coming into place to allow the floor to increase from £1 million in due course. There used not to be a lifetime allowance, but it started at £1.8 million some years ago and has come down to £1 million.

The flexibility of SIPPs and the success of auto-enrolment are essential if we are to rebalance our savings rates, which have been fairly poor by comparison with those of other G20 countries. I am looking forward to seeing how lifetime ISAs will plug any holes in the pension market. We have had a lot of change, and even though much of it has been to the good, we are in danger of losing stability. People become rather unsure about what will happen in the pension market and whether the changes will affect them. The last thing we want to do is to deter people from saving for their pensions.

On IR35, much has changed in the last year, particularly in terms of personal service companies that provide services to public sector bodies. It has long been known that personal service companies and the IR35 rules have been abused—that was recognised in the House of Lords’ report—and so I welcomed the change that came in from April this year. It is not right that personal service companies, which are, by any other measure, a disguised form of employment, are not being taxed in the right way. I fully support what is happening, but I do think that we need greater clarity over employment status.

The rather complex process of recognition of whether a person is properly self-employed or properly employed is quite confusing for a small employer. That is still somewhat vague, and there is some gold-plating in the public sector because of worry about people’s status. I regularly see people who work through a proper personal service company and who are clearly self-employed, not in an employment situation. Out of fear, the public sector is tending to move everybody who works in such a way to an IR35 status, which adds to costs in the sector. It is a very difficult balance.

Termination payments have been discussed this afternoon. My worry about them is that the £30,000 level has been in place since the early 1990s. If it were more realistically upgraded in accordance with inflation to today’s values, it would be in the region of £70,000. Other changes are likely to bring more termination payments—most likely correctly—into tax.

I turn to the dividend tax changes. Dividend tax has been subject to huge change over the last few years. Just two years ago, it was announced that the first £5,000 would be completely free of tax, after which an individual enters the regime of 7.5% while they are within the basic rate band. I am concerned that we have moved so quickly to cut the allowance from £5,000 to £2,000. In doing so, we have not provided a stable playing field for people to get used to. I can certainly understand, from the Treasury’s point of view, that this has been an area of tax loss. It has long been known that owner-managers probably give themselves the lowest level of salary, but then pay themselves through a dividend route. People recognise that the situation has perhaps been too good for too long and that things now have to change, but I am concerned that it did not take very long for the allowance to be reduced from £5,000 to £2,000.

I realise that much of the Finance Bill—the provisions amount to some 300 pages— concerns the corporation tax loss regime and the restriction of interest. I will canter through this as fast as I possibly can. Brought-forward losses may now be used very flexibly, which is very good for the smaller company. The one complexity that the Bill will bring in is that there will be two lots of losses: old losses, which have to be used in the old way; and new losses, arising after 1 April 2017, which will be used in the new way. For the smaller company, that will add a level of complexity that we perhaps do not need. I therefore seek from the Treasury Bench some change, if possible, to allow smaller companies some degree of exemption.

All in all, we are in a very good place with our tax system. There could be more simplification, and I have previously raised with Treasury Ministers my concerns about various aspects of the system. I hope that we can look again at one concern that turns up regularly in my inbox, which is the restriction on landlord’s interest. That has been ill thought out and could be looked at again.

My hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) and I often discuss enterprise investment schemes and seed EISs. The sad fact is that the number of seed EISs, which should be a very flexible way of getting small amounts of capital into small start-ups, have not really been used as widely as they should have been. From my perspective of having tried to put them in place professionally, it is very unlikely that a smaller business can afford even the modest professional fees necessary for raising such a small amount of capital. Some flexibility is needed if we are to encourage seed EISs.

We need to continue to debate tax policy. Much was said by my hon. Friend about how we have a tax system that was designed with the 19th and 20th centuries in mind—trying to tax things or recognisable services—but the new digital economy means that the playing field is rather different. We need to think rather carefully, perhaps on a cross-party basis, about how we can tax the digital economy properly. We also need to discuss what our tax policy is trying to achieve. For too long, whenever we have tried to make a small change, it has either been howled down or the media have got involved, and I am afraid that we have become somewhat fearful of change. It is now time for cross-party working on what we are trying to achieve in raising the appropriate amounts of tax in the modern age.

Much has been said about productivity, but it is very difficult to measure—I am sorry to be so technical—especially in services, which are rather more prevalent in our economy than in those of other OECD countries. I know, however, that I would rather have lower levels of productivity and higher levels of employment than the massively high youth unemployment seen in other countries in the EU, which—by whatever measure—have managed to have higher productivity among those actually in work. I put that down to the more laissez-faire system under which we operate in the UK, where the employment rules are slightly more liberal. In France and Germany, employers dare not get it wrong, because they have very little flexibility in getting it right when they need to shed staff.

I will leave my thoughts on the tax system there, and I look forward to supporting the Second Reading this evening.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Hansard
12 Sep 2017, 6:54 p.m.

There have been a number of excellent and informed speeches today by Conservative Members and I am very pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay).

Owing to the economic policies of the Conservatives, we have seen our national economy and the economy in Stoke-on-Trent South prosper. Nationally, the International Monetary Fund has upgraded the growth forecast to 2% from 1.5% and we have got Labour’s crippling deficit under control, having cut it by two thirds. However, we must complete the job to get our finances fully back on track. Labour’s plans would only lead to the deficit doubling. Labour would spend more than our constituents can afford and re-inflict the misery of its financial crisis on our constituents.

We must continue to build on the recovery of our economy by creating jobs and opportunities for the people of my constituency and by helping businesses to create better quality jobs. We have already seen 3 million more jobs nationally, many of them in areas like Stoke-on-Trent. An all-time record 32 million people are now in work nationally. That was never seen in Stoke-on-Trent under Labour. We had years of Labour Members and Labour Governments being elected to this place, and what did we see for it? Nothing—only more debt, more people unemployed and more people subjected to years of misery.

The Conservatives believe in aspiration and the ability of individuals to achieve and prosper. We help those who are just about getting on and we provide the support they need to achieve. What we are seeing in Stoke-on-Trent South is that the Conservatives are starting to address the legacy of decline left by Labour. We Conservatives have been helping businesses and making work pay. That has been key to our economic recovery in Stoke-on-Trent, as it has been nationally. Rather than leaving people dependent on benefits, as Labour did for so many years, we are ensuring that an increasing number of people are in jobs. There is growing employment and prosperity.

Instead of a life on benefits, there is now a living wage, which is improving people’s quality of life. The national minimum wage has been increased from £5.93 in 2010 to £7.50 today. That is a 26% increase. That change to the minimum wage has added £3,200 per year to the gross wages of someone in full-time work on the minimum wage since 2010. At the same time, the top 1% pay 28% of all income tax—more than was ever seen under Labour—and income inequality is at a 30-year low. That has incentivised more people to get into work and stay in work. No longer are people better off out of work and on benefits than in work. That, in turn, is reducing the pressures on our national welfare bill and helping to get our deficit under control.

The median tax bill in Stoke-on-Trent South fell from £2,000 to £1,520 between 2011 and 2015. That means that, on average, workers have more than £500 more in their pockets than when Labour was in power.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman - Hansard
12 Sep 2017, 6:58 p.m.

As I said earlier, median household disposable income has not increased; in fact, it is lower than before the financial crash. We have had 10 years of no increases in real household disposable income. The hon. Gentleman cannot say that just because people’s tax has been reduced, their disposable income has increased. That is not how it works.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
12 Sep 2017, 6:59 p.m.

This is about keeping more of the money that people earn in their pockets, rather than it going into taxes.

It is a huge success that there are now more families in which parents are working, ensuring that our children and future generations have examples to look up to. It is a shocking indictment of Labour’s failures in government that so many children were living in households where no one went to work. We are doing more to support working families. We are increasing the amount of free childcare to 30 hours per week for three and four-year-olds, as well as introducing 15 hours per week for disadvantaged two-year-olds. The success we have seen is due to Conservative Governments’ financial policies. That is no more evident than from the enormous reductions in unemployment in my constituency.

Ruth George Hansard

As the hon. Gentleman is so concerned about working poverty and children in working households in poverty, what does he think of the Government’s proposals for universal credit, which will cut over £1,500 a year from 2.1 million working households?

Finance Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Jack Brereton Excerpts
Tuesday 12th September 2017

(3 years ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
HM Treasury
Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle) - Hansard
12 Sep 2017, 7:01 p.m.

Hang on a minute. I thank the Government Whips, who have turned out in force, for their advice. I do not know what fear you have put among them, Mr Jones. However, if they were really interested in filibustering, they would have asked you speak. The fact that they did not has probably saved the House. As you well know, that is not a point of order but you have put your point on the record.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
12 Sep 2017, 7:01 p.m.

On the points made by the hon. Member for High Peak (Ruth George) in her intervention, we are simplifying the tax system to ensure that work pays for people who are in work. Under Labour, people were better off on benefits and that is not right. People should be better off when they are in work. Some of Labour’s claims are not true. We on the Conservative Benches believe that the only way for people to get out of poverty and deprivation is through work.

We must monitor closely the increases in consumer debt and insolvency in constituencies such as mine. It is much lower than the 150% it was under Labour during the financial crisis, but with low interest rates making borrowing cheaper we have seen rises from 130% to 135% of income in recent years. As Conservatives in government, we must continue to ensure that lenders are not allowed to take the high levels of risk seen under Labour. Lenders need to continue to be more careful, and to ensure that mortgages and other consumer borrowing remains affordable.

It is vital that we do all we can to ensure a decent level of security for our constituents and their families in later life. Measures introduced under the Conservative leadership, such as pension auto-enrolment, have made sure that millions more are now saving enough to support themselves in retirement. It is now even more important that savers of working age access the advice they need to manage their pension investments to maximise their income once they draw their pension. Clause 3 will therefore be welcomed by my constituents. In 2017-18, the state pension is more than £1,200 higher than in 2010. For those reaching state pension age after April 2016, the new state pension introduces a single flat rate of £159.55 per week. That means many people will receive much more than under the old system, and it is much fairer.

We have some incredible employers in my constituency. I was very privileged to visit Goodwin International and Wedgwood over the summer. Such businesses are at the cutting edge in their field. Whether it be in high-tech manufacturing, precision engineering or the creative ceramics industry, businesses are enjoying blossoming success with the fruits of better skilled jobs.

I am particularly pleased with the provisions on business investment relief, which will help businesses to continue to bring more investment to the UK and encourage more foreign investment in British companies, with investors no longer being dissuaded by excessive taxes. It is especially important that more of this investment enters areas such as Stoke-on-Trent, where we have an appetite for development, huge potential to grow and prosper and an ability to improve jobs. The provisions will expand the types of investment that can be made in UK businesses under the business investment relief scheme and so encourage greater foreign investment. It builds on the more than £1.5 billion invested under the scheme since its introduction in April 2012 and makes it easier and more attractive to bring in foreign investment that would otherwise go elsewhere.

Although I can identify examples in my constituency of the progress made nationally, we still need to go further in Stoke-on-Trent, which has suffered from years of lacklustre representation by Labour MPs who failed to deliver for the area even when their own party was in government. I have made it clear that the battle now is over skills and creating higher skilled and better paid jobs for my constituents, and critical to this is helping local businesses to grow these opportunities. We have colossal potential in Stoke-on-Trent to do this and to expand further the successes of Conservatives in government and Conservative MPs locally.

Stoke-on-Trent has been named the second-best place in the country to start a business and one of the best places nationally for business survival. Nationally, there are 1 million more businesses now than in 2010. The Government have helped business create jobs through cuts to corporation tax, which has fallen from 28% to 19% since 2010 and is set to fall further to 17%, and through the re-evaluation of business rates, which has taken 600,000 small firms out tax altogether. This is in direct contrast to Labour’s often stated policy of taxing businesses and jobs to pay for its £58 billion spending black hole. These uncosted promises could be paid for only through higher taxes and debt for our constituents, and that is why I will be supporting the Bill tonight.

Ms Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Nusrat Ghani (Wealden) (Con) - Hansard
12 Sep 2017, 7:07 p.m.

It is an honour to follow the passionate and detailed speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton).

I am not sure, Mr Deputy Speaker, if, like me, you were reminded on reading the Bill of the reason you sought elected office: the desire to provide security and opportunity for our constituents. The Government have a proud record of 3 million extra jobs, Labour’s deficit cut by two thirds, and some of the strongest growth figures in the G7. The economy is in good shape thanks to the sound and responsible policies implemented over the past seven years, and we are delivering a strong economy with strong public services.

The Bill delivers an alternative to Labour’s black hole. It is about a fair taxation system that delivers for ordinary working families, that does not place a stranglehold on individual entrepreneurialism or burden people with tax bills they cannot afford, that is fair and robust, and that tackles tax avoidance and evasion. We have a good record on taxes, too. We have reduced corporation tax from 28% to 19%, meaning that SMEs, which are so important to our economy, including Wealden’s economy, can keep more of their own money. This has generated more income for the Treasury: corporation tax receipts have increased from £37 billion to £50 billion.

One nation Conservatism is perfectly explained by the raising of the personal allowance, which has given 30 million people a tax cut of £1,000 and lifted 1.3 million out of income tax entirely. In combination with the national living wage and the freezing of fuel duty for the seventh consecutive year, this means that ordinary families are better off thanks to a Conservative Government.

By contrast, over 13 years in government, Labour failed to deliver on tax avoidance. The tax gap—the difference between the taxes owed and the taxes received—stood at 10%, and it allowed the Mayfair loophole to go unchallenged, which let hedge fund billionaires off the hook to the tune of millions of pounds. Labour was weak on tax avoidance in the Finance Bill that the House debated before the general election, demanding that the measures we are discussing today be stripped from the wash-up Bill. Labour cannot be trusted on tax avoidance. Its Members occasionally talk the talk, but they will never walk the walk.

Where Labour failed, we are delivering. The Bill contains important measures to crack down on individuals and corporations when they do not pay what they owe. Tax avoidance by larger companies and wealthy individuals not only short-changes the Treasury, but short-changes the SMEs that drive the economy, and that is a message we are sending very clearly today.

Like every other Member in the Chamber, I have many small businesses in my constituency. It is our job to stand up for those businesses in this place. They are not able to use complex tax schemes and clever accounting to shuffle their money around the world, reducing their tax bills to near zero; instead, they pay their fair share. By 2020, the contribution that SMEs make to the economy will be more than £200 billion and, importantly, they will be employing more than 15 million people.

The Bill will deliver on our promises and commitments, helping to level the playing field. It will ensure that our public finances are in order, allowing us to invest more in our public services and better preparing our economy. Above all, supporting it is the responsible thing to do, and that is why I shall support the Bill tonight.