Helen Whately debates with HM Treasury

There have been 12 exchanges between Helen Whately and HM Treasury

Tue 2nd April 2019 Business Rates 3 interactions (137 words)
Thu 28th March 2019 Beer Taxation and Pubs 3 interactions (66 words)
Tue 8th January 2019 Finance (No. 3) Bill 21 interactions (1,380 words)
Tue 22nd May 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (64 words)
Wed 28th March 2018 Social Mobility and the Economy (Westminster Hall) 3 interactions (89 words)
Wed 21st February 2018 Finance (No. 2) Bill 28 interactions (908 words)
Mon 11th December 2017 Finance (No. 2) Bill 11 interactions (1,201 words)
Thu 23rd November 2017 Budget Resolutions 7 interactions (840 words)
Tue 14th November 2017 Tax Avoidance and Evasion 3 interactions (62 words)
Mon 6th November 2017 Paradise Papers 3 interactions (58 words)
Tue 31st October 2017 Taxation: Beer and Pubs (Westminster Hall) 3 interactions (61 words)
Wed 5th July 2017 Public Sector Pay Cap 3 interactions (111 words)

Business Rates

Helen Whately Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd April 2019

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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2 Apr 2019, 5:01 p.m.

Order. Before the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent intervenes, I must make two points. First, I think it important for the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) to be allowed to finish responding to one intervention before being interrupted by another. Secondly, I know that it is very tempting to look at the Member who has intervened, but it is a good idea to face in this direction because of the microphones. Obviously, no one would want to miss a word of the debate.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
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2 Apr 2019, 2:59 p.m.

The reason for my enthusiasm about intervening at that particular juncture was my wish to raise a point that is remarkably similar to—if not the same as—the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk). A couple of weeks ago I visited a nursery in my constituency whose staff told me about exactly the same problem. Business rates are a huge challenge to its success as a business, but it provides a very important service for local parents—especially mums, but also dads. Regulations require them to have a certain amount of floor space, so they are hit pretty hard by business rates. I am keen to hear the section of my hon. Friend’s speech that deals with possible cases for extra support, and I hope that nurseries will be considered in that regard.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
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2 Apr 2019, 5:02 p.m.

I do apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker, for not facing you. Of course I should like to face you all the time, but my hon. Friends have been tempting me in the other direction. I will try not to be tempted again.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The problem for nurseries is partly a business rates problem, but it is also connected with the pledge in our manifesto to grant free nursery spaces for an extra number of hours. That means employing extra staff, which the nurseries are finding hard to do. Nurseries—and I visit some in my constituency—are facing difficulties of all sorts. We must help them where we can. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister has heard my hon. Friend’s intervention; perhaps he will say that we can help in some way.

Beer Taxation and Pubs

Helen Whately Excerpts
Thursday 28th March 2019

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
Mike Wood Portrait Mike Wood
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28 Mar 2019, 1:51 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point, which is one of those that needs to be considered. I understand the Treasury’s concerns about the risk of fraud, the ability to actually enforce it, and particularly, at the moment, legality under the current European duty framework.

Beer duty has divided this House in the past, but there is now a general agreement on all sides that it is already high and we certainly need to avoid rises. When the hated beer duty escalator was introduced by Gordon Brown, beer duty rose by a staggering 42%, while beer consumption in the UK fell by 16% overall and by nearly a quarter in our pubs. Almost 7,000 pubs called time for good, and more than 58,000 beer-dependent jobs were lost. This was a very expensive policy failure, and the price was paid by beer drinkers, publicans and employees alike. I am delighted that, as a country, we are now drinking more beer but also paying less tax on it as a proportion of the cost. However, the amount of this beer being sold in pubs continues to fall, and while the rate of pub closures has slowed, as I said, they are still closing at a disturbing rate.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
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28 Mar 2019, 1:53 p.m.

I commend my hon. Friend on his speech. Pubs are very important in my constituency, where the brewery Shepherd Neame is the largest employer as well as the producer of excellent beer. I see colleagues nodding. Lower-alcohol beers are becoming increasingly popular, so does he agree that there may be a case for looking at the threshold at which brewers get duty relief for such beers?

Mike Wood Portrait Mike Wood
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28 Mar 2019, 1:53 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) would also agree, with St Peter’s being a major advocate of this argument as well. The European Union, within its beer duty framework, is in the process of changing those thresholds. I would hope that the Treasury, regardless of what form of Brexit we end up with, will make sure that, at the very least, we follow the mechanisms that are already in place, amending the threshold for low-alcohol beers to one where it is rather more viable for brewers to produce at that strength. Encouraging people to go down from over 4% to around 3% is better for their health, and if we can make sure that it is fiscally better for the brewer as well, then so much the better.

As CAMRA has made clear, one of the opportunities as we leave the European Union—we know from last night’s discussion that there is an element of disagreement as to what should happen next—is that we are able to take back control of our excise duty regime. This gives the Chancellor an opportunity to look afresh at how we tax beer in pubs, in particular—how we can use fiscal measures to help pubs to thrive, to support responsible drinking, and to redress the competitive disadvantage that our community pubs have as against, in particular, supermarkets that are able to stack drinks high, sell them below cost, and use them a loss-leader.

Finance (No. 3) Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Helen Whately Excerpts
Tuesday 8th January 2019

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
Vernon Coaker
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8 Jan 2019, 3:55 p.m.

I agree. I am not sure if the Minister is listening, but that is the point. Surely the Government would want to know whether their policies were working, so that they could do more of them. And if their policies were not working, all of us would want the Government to change tack.

Poverty and inequality should be at the heart of everything the Government do and of everything this Parliament demands. All that the new clauses and amendments are doing is saying to the Government, “Look at what your policies are doing. Look at the impact out there. What are you doing to tackle the utterly unacceptable inequality, child poverty and increased use of food banks that we see in our country? How are your policies going to address this?” That is the purpose of the new clauses, which I totally support.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
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8 Jan 2019, 3:57 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker). In fact, I agree with some of the sentiments that he has expressed. The level of poverty is still unacceptable, and that makes me unhappy. I am also unhappy about the level of inequality across the country and in my own constituency, but I want to support a Government who are doing something about it, not just through words but through actually taking steps to make these things better.

I have enormous respect for the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), who introduced her new clause 1 earlier. It proposes a review of the impact of clause 5 on child poverty and equality—that is, the impact of raising the level of the personal allowance after which people start paying tax. She also spoke to new clause 5, which proposes a review of the public health and poverty impact of the whole Act. It is enormously tempting to say yes, we should do this. All of us in this Chamber care enormously about poverty and inequality levels. I have a background in healthcare, and I feel very strongly about reducing health inequalities. I am also conscious of the different life expectancies within my own constituency, which are substantial, but we must be careful not to be lured into a sense that reviewing a specific part of an Act will give us an accurate picture of all that is being done and of its impact on, for example, reducing health inequalities.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams
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8 Jan 2019, 3:59 p.m.

I want to reciprocate by expressing my respect for the hon. Lady and for the work that she does in this place on mental health. I have huge experience in this area. I spent more than 20 years working on health inequalities and specifically on the assessment of policies to ensure that we get them right. That is part of the reason that I came into Parliament, and I know that this can be done. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) said, if we are all so committed to reducing poverty and inequality, let us assess our policies before they are implemented, to ensure that they do just that.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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8 Jan 2019, 4:01 p.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention, but we should be a little cautious about assessing a particular bit of policy in isolation without considering other policy areas, because that might result in false information. For instance, if we examined a specific bit of Government spending, it may appear to be doing a fantastic job, but if we do not consider the counter-effect and the money that is being taken away from people elsewhere, it does not provide the whole picture and might lead to poor policy decisions.

I want us to look at the overall impact of Government policy in the round. For example, we should look not only at the impact of raising the personal tax allowance, which is positive because it enables people on low incomes to retain more of what they earn, but at where the Government are investing money. For health inequalities, we should look harder at the extra £20.5 billion going into healthcare and the impact of the NHS long-term plan, published yesterday, which has a particular focus on directing funding to reduce inequalities and increasing funding for primary and community care. Those things will particularly help those in the most deprived areas and those with some of the worst health outcomes.

I know that it is enormously controversial, but universal credit—I will probably get booed by the other side of the Chamber—is helping people into work and is doing so hand in hand with an economy that is strong overall, leading to unemployment in my constituency halving since 2010.

Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP)
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I totally support what the hon. Lady is saying about importance of inequalities and health inequalities, but does she not recognise that two thirds of children in poverty have a working parent? People are trapped in low-paid work, and they are still poor, and she knows from her time on the Health and Social Care Committee that poverty is the biggest driver of ill health and health inequalities.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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8 Jan 2019, 4:03 p.m.

I recognise that there is poverty in working families, but I do not agree with her use of the word “trapped”. It is important to ensure that people are in work, because that is the best way out of poverty, and then to ensure that we support people to raise their earnings. One way of doing that is through the support available through the jobcentre when people resume universal credit, which now tends to help people to move up and earn more money, and the other is by looking at the wider economy. As the hon. Lady will know, the minimum wage has risen and is rising, but we are also seeing wages rising independent of the minimum wage as a result of a more productive economy. What is actually key to a better level of wellbeing and fewer people being in poverty is having more people in work, which is the case, and a more productive economy, which means that people earn more. We can achieve that through driving up skills and technology, increasing exports and a swath of other things that would take me into a whole other conversation.

Mrs Main
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My hon. Friend has mentioned some of the benefits of having a working parent or family member, but it also sets an enormously good example for the children. Children brought up in workless households have low aspirations and ambitions when it comes to obtaining work themselves, so somebody being in work is not just about money, it is about psychological and educative factors, too.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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8 Jan 2019, 4:04 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. While education standards are rising in our schools—readings levels, for example, are increasing substantially, leading to better opportunities for children—low levels of aspiration are still a problem and, as the teacher I was speaking to at a primary school in a deprived area said the other day, raising young people’s aspirations is key.

Laura Smith
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8 Jan 2019, 4:04 p.m.

I am completely insulted by the point made by the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main). I grew up in in-work poverty. My parents were working, and I saw them struggle day in, day out, but I assure the House that my aspirations were not stopped. It may do some Members good to understand what people living in such conditions have to go through day in, day out, and Members should not patronise people when they simply do not understand the situation.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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8 Jan 2019, 4:05 p.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for her contribution and for the example she sets. Although she has described a very tough childhood, she is a role model and is playing her part in Parliament.

To be clear, what I said was from a conversation with a teacher, who is doing a very good job in a very deprived school, about her experience. The hon. Lady’s experience might be different but, from this teacher’s experience, although there is so much she can do to help children learn to read, write and perform better in their education, what would make the next difference for those children is for their aspirations to be raised and for them to have a sense of the opportunities for them beyond their needs and environment.

Laura Smith
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Will the hon. Lady give way?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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8 Jan 2019, 4:05 p.m.

I have already taken an intervention from the hon. Lady, so she has had a chance to make her point.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford
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8 Jan 2019, 4:06 p.m.

Does my hon. Friend agree that making sure people can keep more of their earnings before they pay tax, introducing the national living wage and reducing the very high taper rate for people on legacy benefits will all contribute to helping people to get out of the in-work poverty trap?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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8 Jan 2019, 4:06 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and she reminds me of a constituency case, before universal credit, of a mum who was looking to raise her income but who was coming up against a threshold. If she worked more than 16 hours a week, she would not benefit, so she was trapped in poverty—the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) used the word “trapped” earlier—because it did not make sense for her to increase her hours of work.

Luke Graham
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8 Jan 2019, 4:07 p.m.

My hon. Friend is making an important point about aspiration. In this House we often get caught on economics and money, but social capital is just as important. In many communities right across the United Kingdom, we need to be helping people to see the true opportunities, both inside and outside their communities, to allow them to realise their true potential. It is important that we consider the social alongside the monetary in all these debates.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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8 Jan 2019, 4:07 p.m.

I absolutely agree and that is one reason why we have to look at policies in the round. I completely support the policy of taking people out of income tax, but let us look not just at that. Let us look, for example, at the strong economy, at the opportunities that gives people and, beyond that, at the strength provided by having a family and community around people, which also provides the social capital to be able to make the most of their lives.

Oliver Heald Portrait Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con)
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8 Jan 2019, 4:08 p.m.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the challenge for Parliament changes over time? In the Labour years we were very concerned in Parliament about the number of workless households—there were 3 million then. There are now a lot more people in work, but there is this issue, which has been rightly raised, of the quality of that work, of the skills involved and of whether it rewards people adequately. That is the new challenge, but we are making progress.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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8 Jan 2019, 4:08 p.m.

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his intervention.

The hon. Member for Gedling spoke earlier of his frustration. He did not want people to talk about changes in percentages and there being perhaps a few fewer people in poverty, but actually the numbers do matter. The numbers tell us what is happening, and the numbers are moving in the right direction, which is really important. The fact that the numbers are moving in the direction of our having fewer workless households should not be sniffed at or dismissed. Achieving that has been a challenging job, and it has involved a significant effort from many people.

Laura Smith
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8 Jan 2019, 4:09 p.m.

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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I think I should conclude my remarks, as I am aware that I have been speaking for a while.

New clauses 1 and 5, which call for reviews on specific aspects, have been advocated in a way that suggests that one side of the House cares more about poverty, for instance, than the other, but that is not the case at all. Members on this side of the House care very deeply about poverty and equality within society.

What really matters is the track record of governing parties in these areas. I would raise these questions with the House. Which party in government oversaw an increase in unemployment from 5% to 8%? Which party left office with nearly 4 million workless households? Which party left office with rising absolute poverty? All of us know that it was Labour.

In contrast, under this Government, we have more than 3 million more people in work, the lowest unemployment since the 1970s, 600,000 fewer children living in workless households, falling absolute poverty and rising wages. When it comes down to it, this is what matters—getting right those policies that improve people’s lives, reduce inequality, reduce poverty and make life better for everybody. That is what we should all be backing.

Simon Hoare Portrait Simon Hoare
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8 Jan 2019, 4:10 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately).

I rise to oppose new clause 1, and I do so for these reasons. If any Members were so inclined, they should please come and visit my constituency of North Dorset. If they visited North Dorset, they could easily be forgiven for thinking that everything in the garden was rosy. There are pretty villages, attractive market towns, lush fields, healthy-looking cattle grazing and a strong local economy where unemployment is virtually zero. If Polly Toynbee or the hon. Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd) were to arrive in North Dorset and say to me, “Simon, would you take me to your most deprived ward?” I could not, because I do not have one, but I know that I have pockets of deprivation and of poverty in each village and market town in my constituency.

One of the big challenges facing any suite of financial policies is recognising that poverty manifests itself in various ways and guises, but right the way across our nation. It is, I would suggest, far easier to identify large pockets of urban deprivation and poverty. The real public policy challenge is also to recognise and address those of rural poverty, often in sparsely populated areas where the instinct—maybe it is part of the rural community DNA—is slightly to shy away from asking the state, either local or national, for support and to demonstrate a strong sense of resilience and smaller communities trying to work together, although that is no excuse for any Government to shy away from focusing like an Exocet on trying to deliver policies that help to address rural poverty.

I am motivated by this every day. I know the figures move around, but the average national salary for the UK is in the region of £24,000 or £24,500 per annum, as I understand it. In North Dorset, when I was first elected in 2015, the figure was £16,500 and it has just risen to about £18,000, but rural jobs always pay less, if people are in the agricultural sector, food production or the hospitality trade. In those rural areas we do not have those big, high-paying employers. That is why we should always focus on trying to deliver support.

Oral Answers to Questions

Helen Whately Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd May 2018

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
Lord Hammond of Runnymede Portrait Mr Hammond
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22 May 2018, 11:39 a.m.

The hon. Lady correctly identifies the underlying problem: the nature of retailing is changing. Britain is leading the world in the adoption of online retail, which has huge opportunities, but will also bring huge changes. This is a microcosm of the changes we will face in this economy over the next 10, 20 or 30 years, as the digital revolution changes fundamentally the way we do business. The answer is not to try to resist change, but to embrace it, and to make sure that we train our people so that they can take up the new challenges and have the new opportunities that this economy will bring.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
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20. Microbusinesses are a great British success story, with thousands of new businesses set up around people’s kitchen tables, but many are struggling with regulations and tax changes that are intended to constrain the actions of big business. Will my right hon. Friend advise us what steps he is taking to make sure that he controls regulation and reduces tax burdens affecting microbusinesses? [905488]

Lord Hammond of Runnymede Portrait Mr Hammond
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We have taken steps that I have already outlined this morning to reduce the burden of taxation on businesses large and small, although of course small businesses are most beneficially affected by the £10 billion programme of reducing business rates costs and through the reduction in corporation tax levels. But we are always looking for further ways to support the smallest businesses and to encourage them to become larger businesses.

Social Mobility and the Economy

Helen Whately Excerpts
Wednesday 28th March 2018

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Westminster Hall

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HM Treasury
Justine Greening
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The hon. Lady is right—this must be a two-way street. I put the call out to teachers to have the confidence to work with businesses that want to come and help raise aspirations for their young people, just as teachers themselves do. Inspiring the Future works successfully with thousands of schools—primary and secondary—around our country. We know such activity can work and we know how it benefits those children. Today, I am seeking to expand the opportunities for children who currently do not have enough of them.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
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Businesses such as South East Coachworks, Macknade and BMM Weston in my constituency make huge efforts to give kids work experience and opportunities, as do schools such as the Abbey School. However, the children still tell me that they want more work experience, and to know more about career opportunities and what work will be like. I fully support my right hon. Friend’s initiative to make it easier for businesses and schools to work together and give children the opportunities that can help them to get ahead in life.

Justine Greening
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28 Mar 2018, 9:44 a.m.

I am grateful for that intervention because it gives me the chance to point out that a recent study up in the north-east showed that 83% of young people felt that having work experience should be a compulsory part of the school curriculum. The challenge that they and we face is that there are not enough opportunities for them to do that—it does not matter whether they are growing up in Kent or in Newcastle. Businesses alone can help us to close that gap between the work experience that young people know they need and want, and the opportunities for them to do that while they are going through school.

The final piece of the pledge is about open recruitment practices. Changes such as introducing name-blind recruitment or contextual recruitment can help to promote a level playing field for candidates. In name-blind recruitment, the candidate’s name is replaced by a number and their CV is then assessed as normal. Employers can have unconscious bias in respect of black and minority ethnic candidates, and name bias based on gender and traditional working-class names, so name-blind approaches work. That is why Clifford Chance, a major law company, uses name-blind recruitment—in fact, it is one of the founding companies signed up to the pledge.

Contextual recruitment, which was referred to in the Social Mobility Commission’s annual report in 2016, takes into account the situation in which the academic and personal success of a candidate have been achieved, and how their performance compares with that of their peers from similar backgrounds who have had similar opportunities. It is already used by companies such as Deloitte, and by some of the magic circle law firms such as Linklaters. The research shows that disadvantaged applicants were 50% more likely to be hired using contextual recruitment than they otherwise would have been.

Finally, I am especially grateful for the support of the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses, the British Chambers of Commerce, and the many businesses that have signed up to the pledge, including companies such as BT, ITV, Adidas, Severn Trent, Viacom, KPMG, Aviva and PwC, to name just a few. The British Chambers of Commerce is encouraging all 75,000 of its members to sign up to the pledge, which is fantastic. Achieving that would be transformational. Similarly, the Federation of Small Businesses is behind the pledge and is encouraging its 170,000 members to commit to it.

Finance (No. 2) Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Helen Whately Excerpts
Wednesday 21st February 2018

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
Dawn Butler Portrait Dawn Butler
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21 Feb 2018, 2:07 p.m.

Again, the problem is that very few companies have actually published, and the deadline is quickly approaching.

The letter from the right hon. Member for Putney went on to say that the Treasury would complete a cumulative impact assessment. I have yet to receive confirmation of that cumulative impact assessment, so will the Minister confirm that it has been done and whether a copy will be placed in the Library?

I know that it is often difficult for the Government to hear the Opposition’s views, so I urge them to listen to the voices of Conservative Members, such as the right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan), the Chair of the Treasury Committee. The Committee is obviously a little perplexed by the lack of commitment to equality impact assessments. The Chancellor has complained about the type of data gathered, but when he was asked whether he had asked the Office for National Statistics about the gathering of that data, he replied that he had not. That does not exactly show a commitment to equality, does it?

The Treasury Committee went on to say:

“The Treasury should use ONS and HMRC data to produce and publish robust equalities impact assessments of future Budgets, including the individual tax and welfare measures contained within them. A deficiency of data in respect of some protected characteristics is not a reason for failing to produce an analysis in respect of others for which data is available. Nor should the risk of misinterpretation or methodological complexity preclude the publication of an Equalities Impact Assessment.”

In short, just do it.

The only reference in the Budget to identified gender impact is where it disproportionately affects men. What possible reason could there be for that? I understand that the Treasury Committee would welcome an explanation of the Government’s thinking, and so would we. It just does not make sense. The Chancellor alluded to the fact that Ministers see the equality impact assessments for their Departments. That makes me wonder: if Ministers see them, read them and give proper due regard to them, why would they implement the policies they do?

If the Government fail to support this new clause, there can be no public confidence in the Government’s commitment to protect and not punish people with protected characteristics. For the record, let me say that the nine protected characteristics are age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy; maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. I understand that the Prime Minister is a little pre-occupied and weak at the moment and that she is dealing with a serious ransom note, but I honestly believe she will not be pleased that her legacy will be the hindering of women and their life chances.

More children are homeless or living in temporary accommodation now than at any time since the 2007-08 financial crash. Shelter says that homelessness is a national scandal and estimates that 140 families become homeless every day. The estimate of rough sleeping shows an increase of 134%. Every day, we see and hear the damaging effects that this Government’s policies have had on people, especially those with protected characteristics. This Government are damaging, not protecting, vulnerable groups in our society. Even when the Government conduct an equality impact assessment, they seem to ignore it. Just two weeks ago, they released an equality impact assessment that revealed more bursaries will be axed—this is for about 1,000 nurses who enter the profession each year. The assessment revealed that the latest change risks discouraging women who are ethnic minority or from poorer backgrounds, but the Government went ahead and did this in any case.

We need a Prime Minister who cares enough to start laying foundations by which we can bring about true equality for women, diverse communities, LGBT+ communities and those with protected characteristics. A Labour Government led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) would do just that. A Labour Government’s success will be measured by how they reduce inequality. The next Labour Government will ensure that we publish comprehensive equality impact assessments and conduct them before implementing policies. A Labour Government would have pre-legislative and post-legislative scrutiny to ascertain whether policies are making a situation better or worse. The Labour way will enable us to truly build an economy for the many and not the few. If the Government fail to support this very reasonable new clause, more people will question—

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
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21 Feb 2018, 2:12 p.m.

rose—

Dawn Butler Portrait Dawn Butler
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21 Feb 2018, 2:12 p.m.

I am sorry, but I am just coming to the end of my speech. If the Government fail to support this very reasonable new clause, more and more people will begin to question why this Government are so intent on harming and hindering women and those with protected characteristics, as opposed to helping them.

Break in Debate

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman
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21 Feb 2018, 2:26 p.m.

Before the vote on the Scottish Government’s budget, they produced a paper on the rationale behind their proposed changes. They consulted each of the parties in the Scottish Parliament and asked them all to put forward their tax plans, so that they could be analysed. The consultation was first put forward in October or November—I am not entirely sure—and the vote is taking place today. That left a significant length of time between the production of the consultation documents and the first discussions and the actual vote in Parliament.

Here in Westminster, we have the Budget debate and then the votes on the Ways and Means resolutions. We have votes on proposals that are being put in place from that day. That is very different from the situation in the Scottish Parliament, where a length of time is allowed for consultation because the draft budget is produced. All the parties in the Scottish Parliament are welcome to produce an Opposition budget and they are welcome to take that to the Parliament to be voted on. Some of them have chosen to do that and some have not. I suggest that those that have not chosen to do that might be struggling to balance the books, or they might have just decided that ours is clearly the best option.

I do not wish to take up any more time. The call for equality assessments and for more transparency and information would be helpful not only for the Opposition, who scrutinise the Budget, but for the Ministers who take decisions. They would take better decisions if they could see all the impacts, particularly on people with protected characteristics.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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21 Feb 2018, 2:29 p.m.

I wish to make a few brief comments, particularly as I was unable to intervene on the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler). I was quite shocked by some of the accusations she made and by what I consider to be her somewhat unsubstantiated claims about a rather illusory bright future under a Corbyn Government. I felt that she somewhat ignored the legacy of the previous Labour Government, who failed to build homes, thereby contributing to the current housing challenge; who failed on jobs, leaving many thousands of families jobless when the Conservative Government took over; and who increased inequality in our society.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op)
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The number of home-owning households increased by 1 million under the Labour Government and has fallen under Conservative Governments. I thought it important to correct the record.

Mr Speaker
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21 Feb 2018, 2:28 p.m.

It may be important to correct the record and I know that the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) was led into that by the observations of the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately)—it is quite easy to elide into disorderly conduct—but it is important that we try to focus the exchanges on new clause 9, to which with laser-like intensity I know the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent will now turn.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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21 Feb 2018, 2:28 p.m.

The hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) made a different point from the one I made. My point stands because it was about the building of houses.

By contrast with the previous Labour Government, the current Government have made progress on the gender pay gap. This is the Government who are requiring companies to publish data on the gender pay gap. As we well know, and as has been said this afternoon, transparency is a huge driver of change. We have seen that in many sectors, including a lot in the health sector, which is where I got most of my experience. This Government introduced and are raising the national living wage, which disproportionately benefits women; this Government have taken the lowest paid out of tax; this Government are making sure that for every £1 that the lowest-income households pay in tax, they benefit from £4-worth of public spending; and this Government have overseen a huge expansion in jobs so that millions more are in work.

On the point that the hon. Member for Brent Central made about children, it is significant that many more children are now in households in which somebody in the family is working; far fewer are in workless households. We know that work is key to getting out of poverty.

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
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21 Feb 2018, 2:30 p.m.

My hon. Friend is making a great point about our record on job creation. Does she also recognise that it is this Government who have overseen the greatest expansion of women in work since records began?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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21 Feb 2018, 2:30 p.m.

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. We have put in place policies to help women. The extra free childcare for three-year-olds benefits both parents but, as women are often the main child carer, it particularly helps women who have an ambition to work.

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con)
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21 Feb 2018, 2:30 p.m.

Does my hon. Friend recognise that, since the last Labour Government were in power, youth unemployment has been cut in half? That generates opportunities, the dignity of work, the chance to get on and the chance for women and children to achieve their best in society.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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21 Feb 2018, 2:31 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for making such an important point. This Government have given thousands of young people the opportunity to have a job. It was not that long ago that everyone was always talking about NEETs—the big debate was about all those young people not in education, employment or training. Those numbers have now shrunk phenomenally under this Government’s leadership.

Stella Creasy Portrait Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op)
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21 Feb 2018, 2:31 p.m.

The hon. Lady has mentioned the power of numbers to be able to track progress. Obviously, new clause 9 is about the power of numbers to be able to track progress in tackling inequality. If she thinks that those numbers were so important in the battle to ensure that we did not leave young people behind, why does she not think the same when it comes to women and ethnic minorities?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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I am not surprised by the hon. Lady’s intervention. The point is that there is a thorough impact analysis of the Budget. Where does it get us if we endlessly go around these things, again and again?

Bim Afolami Portrait Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con)
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21 Feb 2018, 2:32 p.m.

If we compare 2003 to 2006 under the Labour Government with 2013 to 2016, we will see that the number of women in business and entrepreneurship has grown by more than 40%. Does my hon. Friend agree that that shows the Government’s commitment to women in business?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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21 Feb 2018, 2:32 p.m.

Another very well-informed point from a colleague about the great progress that women are making in the workplace with the support of this Government.

The headline point that I was keen to make is that this Government have a track record in reducing inequality. I am keen to ensure that we base what we say on the track record—the track record of improving the lives of people on the lowest incomes and of reducing inequality.

Stephen McPartland Portrait Stephen McPartland (Stevenage) (Con)
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21 Feb 2018, 2:33 p.m.

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is about not just incomes, but equality of opportunity and aspiration?

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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21 Feb 2018, 2:33 p.m.

I agree. We should not just look at the outcomes. The outcomes are a desired end but, in order to get to a better outcome, the key is to give people opportunities to make the most of their lives. In particular, we should help those who have a difficult start, or who find themselves in a difficult situation. They may need extra help to access the opportunities but, absolutely, opportunity is the key.

Rather than painting a picture that can mislead people into believing this illusion of a perfect world, we need to base claims on substantial policies. I know that it is controversial, but universal credit is making a difference in my constituency for people who want to work and who want to work more hours. I have heard many criticisms of the policy, but genuinely it is making a difference and giving people the opportunity to increase the work that they do. Improvements in the standard of education and the opportunities coming through thanks to the industrial strategy—these are the concrete policies that will make life better for people. That is how we reduce inequalities and that is why I am delighted to support the Government throughout this Finance Bill.

Luke Graham
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21 Feb 2018, 2:34 p.m.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the chance to speak on new clause 9 and more broadly.

As I said when I intervened on the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler), I appreciate that we should look at the distribution and at the impacts of some of the Budget provisions. That is what the Treasury already does. At every budgetary event, it does look at the impact on distribution across the United Kingdom. ONS statistics also look at distribution and the impact across different households.

When we talk about making sure that we shine a light on these issues and target equality, for which I and many Members share the hon. Lady’s passion, we should recognise that this is the Government who put pressure on companies to produce these publications. Although there is not yet full compliance, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will continue to put pressure on the sector—I referred to this matter earlier—to follow other industry-leading programmes such as Crossrail, which use publication and peer review to add pressure and to show companies what best practice is in the UK and internationally.

Let me pick up on some broader points about the pay gap, particularly the gender pay gap. I hope that Opposition Members saw the recent study quoted in the Financial Times just a month ago—I would be happy to share it with them—which looked at male and female pay rates. Those rates were actually very equal up to around middle-to-senior manager level, after which there was a big gap. The biggest disparity, and where some of the most uneven gap appears, was at the very senior roles, as in chief executive officer and chief financial officer roles. One of the key drivers for that, as stated in that study, was women taking maternity leave. So we have already identified the pay gap problem, and we should be looking at policies to increase flexible working and to help women back into the workplace after taking maternity leave. I know that colleagues on the Front Bench have been looking into that and have reflected that in the Budget.

More broadly, let me pick up on some of the points made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) about tax and equality. Just to be clear—new clause 9 refers to every part of the United Kingdom—some of the tax increases that have just been made in Scotland are said to produce a much fairer society, but, to clarify this for the House, the tax changes mean that those on the lowest incomes in Scotland get £20 more a year—that is it. That is 38p a week. When Scottish National party Members stand in this House and lecture this Front Bench and this Government on being unfair, let us remember that the tax changes that the SNP has introduced bring in 38p a week, or £20 a year, and the tax changes that the Conservatives have introduced bring in £1,500 a year through the changes to the tax threshold. Let us leave the SNP to bicker on the sidelines while the Conservatives bring about truly transformational change.

I was also amazed by what the hon. Member for Aberdeen North said about the marriage allowance. I am glad that she was pulled up on it, because the party has been in the papers about the marriage allowance just this weekend. The Chancellor of the Exchequer of the UK Government had to stand up and guarantee to people living in Scotland that the Government will bridge the gap created in the marriage allowance by the tax changes that have been imposed by the SNP Administration in Holyrood. Yet again, it is the UK Exchequer that is having to stump up for SNP failures in Scotland.

When we talk about fairness, it is also important to recognise that it is this Budget that is increasing the block grants in Scotland in real terms. It was even recognised by the Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, in the Scottish Parliament, that it is a real-terms increase. Therefore, on top of the £1,750 per head spending we get—or Union dividend we get—already, we are getting a further real-terms increase to spend on frontline services in Scotland.

I am conscious of the time, but one important area that impacts on equality issues is tax avoidance, which has been picked up in the Budget. I am talking not only about tax avoidance generally, but about the VAT provision. The Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, has been specifically interested in that. The provisions that have been included to target VAT avoidance, especially for international payment platforms and for international marketplaces, give the Exchequer a good opportunity to target those who are not currently paying VAT but who should. Hopefully, that will bring more money into UK coffers and allow us to close the equality gap further still.

Break in Debate

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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21 Feb 2018, 3:19 p.m.

If the hon. Lady can come up with a sure-fire way of identifying women who live with men who do not confuse them, we will probably make some progress. The point I am making is that this area is riddled with huge complexity, yet new clause 9 seeks to achieve the presentation of reports and assessments that have the imprimatur of Government and the Treasury upon them. They are relied upon to take very important decisions, yet the arguments I am prosecuting suggest that we would actually end up with an incomplete picture. In fact, I would go further than that and say that they could be misleading in a way that would be unhelpful to what I know the hon. Lady is seeking to achieve and indeed what the Government are also seeking to achieve.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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Does the Minister share the view expressed by many of us this afternoon that while those on the Opposition Benches are looking for very complicated analysis that may, unfortunately, be rather misleading, we actually have a very strong track record, if we take a step back, of reducing inequality and making things better for those on the lowest incomes?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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21 Feb 2018, 3:24 p.m.

Yes. My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. We know that the gender pay gap is at its lowest level on record, for example. That is a very substantial achievement and we are making considerable headway in that particular respect.

Some of the other taxes mentioned in new clause 9 include employment and disguised remuneration. Disguised remuneration is a highly complicated area, as the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) will know, having discussed it in some detail in Committee. The mind boggles as to how one would possibly unpack the effects on the various protected characteristics of that particular taxation. Pension schemes are also extremely complicated. Settlements and air passenger duty are perhaps a little bit easier than some of the others, but the point is that overall—and we have to look at the new clause in its entirety—new clause 9 is extremely complicated indeed.

Finally, there should be no doubt that those of us on the Government Benches are entirely committed to ensuring that we drive the equality agenda and drive it very hard indeed. We should, as my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately) suggested, look to our own record in that respect. We now have more women in work than at any time in our history. In the past year, 60% of employment growth came from female employment. We have the lowest gender pay gap in full-time employment ever. Those companies employing 250 employees or more, as we have said often in this debate, are now required by law to provide a gender wage audit. Contrary to what the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler) suggested, there are teeth. Penalties can be applied by the ECHR, and fines can follow where that is not done. For those who are disabled, we spend a record amount in excess of £50 billion a year on benefits. As has been said by a number of Government Members, the national living wage has disproportionately helped some of the most needy in our society. When we talk about equality on this side of the House, we mean it. I urge the House to reject new clause 9.

Break in Debate

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds
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21 Feb 2018, 6:07 p.m.

I do not believe that that is uniform across the country. Of course there would be implications if there were very rapid changes. That would concern many people, but we feel that in this area, when it comes to the cost for first-time buyers, there has not been a significant change. If the right hon. Gentleman has evidence that there has been a change for first-time buyers, I would certainly like to see it. There might have been a change across the whole piece, but it certainly has not had an impact on first-time buyers who are trying to buy the lowest cost houses, as many are struggling more than ever before.

Labour Members say that the situation might be different if the measure was accompanied by others that promoted the production of genuinely affordable homes. As it stands, however, any additional homes—at least those promoted by any Government policy—will not be in place before the stamp duty cut takes place. The funding allocated in this regard is woefully inadequate. Our most recent debate about this matter in this Chamber revealed that the Government’s new housing infrastructure fund moneys, such as they are, will not start to come forward until 2019-20, which means that the £585 million cost of stamp duty cuts in 2018-19 will not be accompanied by housing infrastructure measures, and the same will be the case the following year. It is only two years later that extra money for the infrastructure fund will be forthcoming. In any case, that will amount to less than half of what the public purse will have renounced that year because of the cut in stamp duty. It is extremely disturbing that the Government have chosen to plough ahead with this approach in the absence of measures to significantly boost supply.

I repeat the calls we made in previous debates on the Bill for the Government to come clean on the advice they received about this measure. What do the economists in the Treasury say about this approach in the absence of measures to substantially increase supply? Ministers can claim—we have heard this from the Chancellor—that the OBR has not taken the small clutch of housing measures in the Budget into account in its analysis, but most experts who have taken those very small changes into account concur with the OBR’s original assessment. Was that also the case with Treasury officials? We in this House deserve to know, as do our constituents, particularly if they are faced with any rise in house prices for first-time buyers, as anticipated by the OBR. I point out that the Government’s own assessment of a previous stamp duty cut, again in the absence of measures to boost substantially the supply of affordable housing, indicated that

“the tax relief has not had a significant impact on improving affordability for first-time buyers.”

We also need to know the regional impact of the measure. As colleagues mentioned in our previous debate on this matter, the upper limit of £500,000 in high-cost areas and £300,000 elsewhere means that the change will not have a positive impact in huge swathes of the country, aside from reducing the revenue pot overall, with the result that other taxes on individuals and companies have to take up the slack, unless public services are to be cut further. For many people, home ownership is a distant dream when there is no way they can afford the necessary deposit. Today’s figures showing that real wages have fallen for the seventh month in a row should give us all pause for thought about whether the proposed measure is appropriate.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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21 Feb 2018, 6:11 p.m.

It is difficult for first-time buyers in my area to afford a deposit and they welcome the help the Government are giving to increase their opportunities when they are competing against people who are selling properties and are therefore more able to afford a deposit. This sort of policy is therefore very welcome, and it goes hand in hand with measures to increase housing supply. We are seeing significant—and not necessarily popular—increases in the housing targets for areas such as my constituency, coupled with work to make sure that houses are built when planning permission has been granted. I therefore contest the hon. Lady’s remarks on that point.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds
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21 Feb 2018, 6:12 p.m.

In practice, most of the commentary that I have seen from experts and those working in the housing sector suggests that in areas where there is extreme competition between different types of buyer—for example, first-time buyers, those buying additional properties, investors, and those moving to a second or third property—such a measure may help initially, but the overall cost increase will also affect first-time buyers. They will therefore be buying at a higher price, so most of the impact of the measure—as with previous stamp duty changes without a boost in supply—will help sellers, not buyers. That was the Conservative Government’s own assessment of the impact of their previous cut to stamp duty in the absence of additional measures to boost supply.

Finance (No. 2) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Helen Whately Excerpts
Monday 11th December 2017

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
HM Treasury
Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
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11 Dec 2017, 6:45 p.m.

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. The Government have reached the stage where they blame anyone they can. The gaffe-prone Chancellor has blamed disabled people for bringing down the productivity rate. He is so out of touch that such comments are water off a duck’s back to him.

As the Minister said, this is the third Finance Bill of the year. All three of them have failed to address the challenge that our economy faces.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
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11 Dec 2017, 6:46 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman referred to low wages, but he knows that the Finance Bill contains measures to raise the national minimum wage, so we are addressing that. He seems to be reluctant to answer people’s questions, so I want to bring him back to some that he was asked a few moments ago. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Leo Docherty) asked him a simple question about the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the hon. Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke) asked him a clear question about the cost of Labour’s proposals. The answer is not written down anywhere, so may I ask—this is the 24th time—about the amount and cost of borrowing that would result from Labour’s tax proposals?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
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11 Dec 2017, 6:47 p.m.

The hon. Member for Aldershot (Leo Docherty) might not like the answer that I gave to his question, but I have referred him to the documentation. If the hon. Lady is incapable of going to the internet and looking up the facts and figures, it is not for me to do that for her. The bottom line is that there is nothing in the Bill for public sector workers, who head into the new year with their wages continuing to fall and the cap sticking.

Break in Debate

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab)
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11 Dec 2017, 8:43 p.m.

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd) said, this Finance Bill is testament to an out-of-touch Government with no idea of the reality of people’s lives and no plan to improve them. In the time that I have, I want to make particular reference to the lack of any apparent willingness on the Government’s part to invest in the west to east Crossrail for the north that we in the so-called northern powerhouse so desperately need and want.

In the Budget, the Chancellor made no mention of investment to improve the trans-Pennine rail route other than an announcement about improved wi-fi. As the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said, at least we will be able to text and tweet our families and friends to let them know that we will be late. It is not just northern voices saying this: Derek Robbins, senior lecturer in transport and tourism at Bournemouth University, said:

“I would…describe the lack of progress towards a modernised and reliable transPennine rail route as more than disappointing, given that it is an essential investment for future economic growth in the north.”

Labour is planning to borrow to invest, unlike this Government who borrow to cover day-to-day spending. Investment that gives higher returns than the cost of financing the extra debt makes sense. The £10 billion cost of Crossrail for the north would unlock £85 billion of additional economic growth. However, I do not believe that this Government have the imagination or the will to make the northern powerhouse anything more than just a slogan. When I asked the Secretary of State for Transport what conversations he had had with the northern powerhouse Minister about Crossrail for the north, his response was to talk about the electrification of the line from Manchester to Liverpool. That lack of response led me to believe that the answer to my question was probably none. Maybe the Secretary of State has the same problem I have encountered when trying to set up meetings with the aforementioned Minister for the northern powerhouse. I am still waiting for a response to a request for a meeting that was sent in October.

Yesterday, we witnessed an historic moment for Manchester’s rail network, with the opening of the Ordsall Chord—an £85 million scheme linking the main central Manchester stations of Victoria, Oxford Road and Piccadilly. However, our enthusiasm for this achievement was tempered somewhat by our concern over Government investment in rail in the north. For Manchester to really benefit from the Ordsall Chord, we need investment in Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations. For High Speed 2 to bring any benefit to the people of Greater Manchester, we need expansion of Piccadilly station, and that expansion must also take in and plan for HS3—Crossrail for the north. Yet the Government have indicated that Piccadilly might get only a digital upgrade, rather than the extra platforms that are needed. This decision has been met with despair from rail action groups, which have pointed out the very real need for physical capacity for more trains to go through the station, and that digital signalling is just not enough.

As I said immediately following the Budget statement, that statement was notable more for what it did not say than for what it did say. There was nothing for our police and fire services, nothing for social care, nothing for children’s services and no adequate equality impact assessment. For the last seven years, we have had nothing from this Government but missed opportunities and missed targets. The five-year austerity plan did not work; now it is the 15-year austerity plan. The Government keep missing their targets, but they keep returning to them—just with a longer timeline every single time.

This Government’s obsession with deficit reduction is at the expense of investment for our future, and it is people in the north who are losing out the most. In terms of transport spending, London has received over five times more public spending in the last five years than the north-west—hardly a country that works for everyone.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes),although I could not help but notice that her speech was almost entirely about spending, with almost nothing about raising money for that spending. The Finance Bill is about raising revenue.

Liz McInnes
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If the £10 billion was spent on Crossrail for the north, it would bring revenues of £85 billion. I have talked about spending and raising money.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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11 Dec 2017, 8:49 p.m.

I appreciate the hon. Lady’s point, but I still think that she very much spoke about spending and not about the content of this Finance Bill.

Our job in this House is to make difficult decisions not just on what we spend money on but on how we raise that money—who we tax and what we tax, when we are reluctant to tax people and would much rather they had the money in their pockets to spend themselves. Our aim is to make things better for our constituents, young or old and those in between. It is not our job to make promises that cannot be kept, to write cheques that we cannot cash, and just to say things that sound nice, like massive amounts of spending, but might turn out to have nasty consequences like high unemployment. Labour Members may tell us differently, but spending that we cannot afford is not the moral high ground—it is the moral low ground.

This Finance Bill builds on the tough decisions of the Governments led by Conservative Prime Ministers over the past seven years who have reduced the deficit by 75%, while as of next year debt will fall as a share of GDP. Let us not throw that all away, as Labour Members would, with uncosted proposals and unquantified borrowing. As we heard earlier, they could not answer our questions on how much their borrowing would cost.

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con)
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11 Dec 2017, 8:50 p.m.

Twenty-three times.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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11 Dec 2017, 8:51 p.m.

I think it was at least 25 times that Labour Members were asked, and still no answer other than “See if you can look it up for yourself.” Why it could not be said at the Dispatch Box, I do not know, but I fear that they are inevitably planning to pile up debt for future generations.

I welcome three things in particular. First, there is the Government’s commitment to help people on low wages. The continued increase in the personal allowance is taking people out of tax and enabling them to keep more of what they earn to spend as they need to. Alongside that, the minimum wage is rising, but at a rate that is manageable for businesses so that they do not have to lay people off in order to pay it. Policies in the Budget to increase the supply of houses should bring down rents, which, we acknowledge, have been going up far too fast. In this Bill, there is a stamp duty cut for first-time buyers to bring buying a home within reach of more families—a particular challenge for my constituency in the south-east. As Shepherd Neame brewery is the largest employer in my constituency, I should mention the very welcome freeze on beer duty, which will be good for it and good for beer drinkers across the country.

Secondly, I welcome the actions on tax avoidance and evasion to make sure that we collect more, if not all, of the tax owed. That builds on the Government’s track record in this area, as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury pointed out. Particularly in the context of my constituency, I welcome plans to cut down on online VAT evasion, with the advantages that gives to online businesses in paying VAT, because I want us to achieve a more level playing field between online businesses and those with premises such as our high street shops. Regarding the policy on landfill tax, in my area we have an ongoing problem with rogue land fillers who start off in line with the law and seem to end up not in line with it.

Thirdly, I welcome the incredibly important commitment to addressing our productivity challenge. This has been acknowledged by this Government many times—it is not suddenly news. In fact, the measures in the Budget and the Finance Bill are the product of a huge amount of work looking at how we can improve productivity—a long-running problem in this country. It is vital that we raise productivity because that means that people get more money for every hour that they work. That is the key to improving living standards and funding the public services that we want, particularly with NHS costs going up as people need and want more care. There are many factors underlying our productivity challenge. Skills are a challenge for us. There is an issue with companies investing in workers, and workers investing in themselves. It is, to some extent, a cultural challenge. One venture capital investor told me that the key difference that he notices between British and American start-ups is that it is common to see in the business plan of American start-ups investment in training for themselves as the founders of the business. He rarely sees that in British start-up companies. That is, to some extent, a cultural challenge; we do not see investing in ourselves and our skills as part of life.

We know that we lag behind other countries in the use of technology and investment in automation. One specific example is our robot density. In Japan, there are 305 robots per 10,000 employees. In Germany the figure is 301 and in the Netherlands it is 120, but in the UK it is just 71. That is just one example of where we lag behind in investment in technology and automation. We have to drive up investment in those areas, as the Finance Bill does. Such investment cannot just come from Government spending more; we have to stimulate private investment in those areas, as my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) said eloquently. We have to mobilise private capital through incentives such as the EIS, which really works. I welcome the increases in that area, which will help to ensure that more businesses start and grow in this country, to provide the jobs and the higher wages that our constituents want.

There are no easy answers; what matters is getting the right answers. We need to help people on the lowest wages to keep more of what they earn, get a fair contribution from high earners and global businesses, build a more productive economy and invest in skills and technology. We want people to have higher wages in the jobs of the future so that they can live as they aspire to.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11 Dec 2017, 8:56 p.m.

I am pleased to be able to speak in this important debate, and to follow the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately). I am speaking in support of Labour’s reasoned amendment, setting out our opposition to the Finance Bill. That includes our opposition to the £4.7 billion reduction in the banking levy while children’s services are cut, the lack of adequate equality impact assessments, the lack of provision for lifting the public sector pay cap, and the lack of provision for addressing the funding crisis in social care and our NHS. I also oppose what I see as a lack of concrete action to tackle tax avoidance and evasion properly.

There are a number of areas that I will not be able to cover, but I did not want to make a contribution without mentioning the Women Against State Pension Inequality. We in the Opposition want justice for the WASPI women. I am sorry that the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman), is no longer in his place, because there will be an opportunity for the Government to do something about the matter on Thursday, after the Backbench Business Committee debate.

I am concerned that the Budget does not do enough for disabled people. I am concerned about stagnant pay and the failure to provide resources to lift the pay cap. I am concerned about the failure to provide resources for local government and the funding of our police and fire services. On housing, the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent said that Labour were not proposing any concrete, tangible solutions. I have been around for a few years, and I can look back at what works. Legitimate concerns have been expressed about the stamp duty proposals, which are feared to be the wrong solution. My understanding is that 40% of council houses that were sold under the right to buy are now in private ownership and, on average, rents in the private sector are twice those for council houses in the social housing sector. That costs this nation £10 billion—not as a one-off, but each and every year.

Surely a sensible person would say that in those circumstances, we should be building many more social houses. The Government’s target is, I believe, about 200,000 or 250,000 houses a year—[Interruption.] It is 300,000; I am grateful for that sedentary intervention. The last time we got anywhere near that was in 1973. As I am sure Members will recall, that is the year that Sunderland won the FA cup. Ian Porterfield scored the goal, and Jimmy Montgomery made a marvellous double save from Trevor Cherry and Peter Lorimer. In 1973, 100,000 council houses were built. That is the scale and magnitude of the challenge we face, and the Government should take that into account.

Like several of my hon. Friends, I want to concentrate, in the short time I have, on making the case for more investment in integrated transport networks, particularly in the north-east—we have heard about the north-west; I want to put the case for the north-east. The Budget is the time when the Government make political choices, and they should be held to account. I acknowledge that the Government have announced an investment in the Metro on Tyneside, which is certainly important, but the Metro is 40 years old, and the investment is to replace the rolling stock.

I represent the constituency of Easington, and I would love to see the Metro extended to the hinterland of Tyne and Wear, providing opportunities for expansion to towns such as Seaham and Peterlee in my constituency. That would naturally promote economic growth in the north, help to join up communities, and allow access to jobs in places such as Sunderland, Gateshead and Newcastle.

I know that Ministers like to have an evidence base, and I draw their attention to an excellent Library publication, “Transport Spending by Region”, published just last month. It gives transport spending totals overall, with the margin of discrepancy, with population factored in, between investment in the north-east and London. Overall, there is 10 times more investment in London and four times more in the south-east than in the north-east, while for railways there is 20 times more investment in London and five times more in the south-east. They say there is a big investment in the Metro system, but we have to recognise that, in the five years from 2011 to 2016, there has been a massive lack of investment. We have had terrible under-investment during that period.

Budget Resolutions

Helen Whately Excerpts
Thursday 23rd November 2017

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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23 Nov 2017, 1:22 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman will know, if he has had an opportunity to study the Budget closely, that the Chancellor referred to the housing deals that we are working on in Greater Manchester, Leeds and the west midlands. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the trans-Pennine railway, and he will know that the Chancellor offered an additional £300 million yesterday for the trans-Pennine railway. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will welcome that.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
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23 Nov 2017, 1:23 p.m.

A moment ago, the Secretary of State mentioned the review of the build-out of houses. One issue in my constituency is that many planning permissions are granted, but there seems to be a delay before the houses are built. We are getting the blight but not the benefit, and therefore not the affordability. May I welcome the Secretary of State’s plans to make sure that not only are planning permissions granted, but houses are built?

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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23 Nov 2017, 1:23 p.m.

My hon. Friend is right to highlight that. Many councils are, like hers, willing to take what may be tough decisions, provide the land for new homes and give the planning permissions, only to find that developers do not build those homes out at all, or that they do so far too slowly. The measures in the housing White Paper are hugely welcome and will make a difference, but I am not sure whether they are enough. That is why we wanted to have an independent inquiry, and I am sure that it will make a big difference.

The whole planning and building process will be overseen by our new national housing agency, Homes England. That agency will be based on the Homes and Communities Agency, but its remit will be far larger and will bring together money, expertise, planning and compulsory purchase orders. That will allow it to offer specific solutions to the barriers faced by different areas, maximising its impact and getting more of the right homes built in the right places.

It is no good building homes if people cannot afford them. Growing the economy and raising wages are key to that but, as I said last week, young people face a housing market that is very different from the one that their parents’ generation enjoyed. We are going to get more homes built, but that will not happen overnight. What has happened overnight is a change that means that no stamp duty will apply for the vast majority of first-time buyers. On average, a first-time buyer will save £1,600. In addition, we have provided £200 million for a pilot to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants in the midlands, allowing people to own the homes in which they have lived for many years and giving them the same opportunity as that enjoyed by council tenants.

Break in Debate

Susan Elan Jones
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23 Nov 2017, 3:33 p.m.

Yes, from north Wales—even better. [Laughter.] In all seriousness, one of the reasons why I feel so proud to have been born in this country is that I know the quality of our public servants across this country—the people who teach in our schools, the people who work in our hospitals, our firefighters and our police—who go above and beyond to serve us every day and right through the night. We often speak in statistics in this place, which is fair enough, but that is why we are right to feel aggrieved that there has been no real movement on the public sector pay gap. This is now as much a matter of morality as it is one of economics, and I regret the fact that the Government have not taken this more seriously.

Yesterday, I heard the very sad news of the passing of Mrs Anne Davies. She was a schoolteacher in Ponciau junior school in my constituency; indeed, she was one of my teachers. She served the communities of Ponciau and Rhosllannerchrugog with great distinction. She was a school teacher between the late 1940s and the 1980s, and I reckon she must have taught about 1,200 children. Think of the effect that one of the best teachers in Wales and one of the strongest people in those communities had on so many children. That is why the current public sector pay freeze does a grave disservice to people across the length and breadth of our country.

I agree with the Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Mark Drakeford, when he points out that the Welsh governmental budget will still be 5% lower in real terms in 2019-20 than it was in 2010-11. I feel concerned that, as the Chancellor said yesterday, we are only beginning negotiations on the north Wales growth deal. Those negotiations have been beginning for a long time, and it is time we had some action. Wrexham County Borough Council, which is run not by Labour but by a coalition of Conservatives and independents, makes that point on its website. It has already saved around £18 million in the past three years, and it thinks that it will have to find another £13 million over the next two years. It states:

“We have less and less money to spend every year”.

Yet as we hear about these great concerns, we recognise that we are now giving away £3 billion to pay for the Government’s failure in the Brexit negotiations—they never put that on the Brexit bus did they! UK national debt is now of staggering proportions. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, debt that was £358.6 billion in May 1998 now stands at £1,726.9 billion—a staggering sum. In a phrase worthy of Jim Hacker, yesterday the Chancellor said that our productivity performance “continues to disappoint”. Had Sir Humphrey been sitting behind him, he would have said, “A brave comment, Chancellor.”

The Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, Ben Broadbent, stated:

“Productivity growth has slowed in just about every advanced economy, but it has been more severe in this country than in others.”

The Daily Telegraph, that most Tory of Tory papers, commented that “productivity growth has crashed”. The journalist Tim Wallace spoke of how the 1860s was the last decade of negative real income growth. He wrote:

“That the move to electricity did spark a resurgence in growth would provide reassurance if only we knew that the next technological revolution was sure to bring the same benefits in the 21st century”.

That is the view from Planet Tory, which shows how the Government are failing. Finally, the Government really need to sort out land banking for the sake of Heol Berwyn in Cefn Mawr and other communities.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

23 Nov 2017, 3:40 p.m.

We all know, at least on this side of the House, that there are no easy answers, as do our constituents, and that the recovery from the financial crash, and from 30 years of Labour spending like there was no tomorrow when in government, was never going to be easy. However, there is no need to be quite as downbeat as many Labour Members have been today. We have the lowest unemployment since the 1970s and rising wages for the lowest paid. We have taken the lowest paid out of tax altogether, and, as of next year, debt as a share of GDP will start falling. There is plenty of good news to welcome.

I welcome the Chancellor’s Budget. It is comprehensive, balanced, good for business—especially small businesses—and for the lowest paid. It addresses concerns about universal credit, and it addresses costs of living such as housing, fuel and the price of beer—that is particularly welcome in my constituency because Faversham is the home of Britain’s oldest brewery, Shepherd Neame.

I particularly welcome the theme of laying the economic foundations for the future. For people in their 30s as their careers develop, for people in their 20s as they set out into the world of work, for teenagers dreaming of what life will hold, and for children like mine who are smaller still and of whom only a very few will fulfil their current life plan of being a ballerina or a footballer, the Government are investing in the economy of the future: the skills for the future, the businesses and jobs for the future, the infrastructure for the future and the technologies for the future. The Government are investing in innovative businesses, in research and development, in 5G and fast broadband, in taking Tech City UK-wide—I just need to get an outpost in Kent—and in the teaching of computer science and maths at school. All that will build the economy of the future.

The Chancellor also recognises that people in their 20s and 30s want not only jobs but homes. On housing, a raft of policies have been set out to fulfil the ambition to build 300,000 new homes a year. The abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyers will be welcomed by first-time buyers in my constituency, who are forecast to save about £2,500.

The volume of housing is a more challenging commitment for my area, which has already seen huge housing growth. For my constituents to support this ambition, a commitment to more infrastructure funding is vital. We need encouragement for more strategic planning to enable new settlements rather than urban sprawl, and to get to the bottom of the problem of the gap between planning permissions being granted and houses being built, which will be addressed in the coming review.

As well as looking ahead, the Chancellor has listened to people’s worries about the here and now, in particular on the NHS. There is extra money for the NHS this winter and over the next two years—part of the Government’s £8 billion commitment to increase funding over this Parliament—and an extra £3.5 billion of capital. In Kent, we will be bidding for our share of that for: health centres, such as the one we need in Maidstone; a contribution to a new hospital in east Kent; and a new medical school for Kent and Medway, for which a bid is going in today.

Critically, I welcome the additional funding for pay for nurses, midwives and paramedics, which is much needed. The unhappiness among nurses is not entirely about pay, but pay is increasingly becoming a factor. Too many nurses have told me that they simply do not feel valued. I say to any nurses and other healthcare professionals listening or watching today, “You are valued—you and all the other people whose jobs are to care for people.” As a society, I fear that in past years we have not valued caring and the caring professions enough. I want to make sure we end that and care for the people who care.

I am nearing the end of what I have to say, or at least my time at any rate. As I said at the start, there are no easy answers. The key to getting what we want—good jobs and excellent public services—while enabling people to keep the lion’s share of what they earn is Britain’s productivity. That is why we have to look forwards, not backwards to the 1970s. We have to invest in the economy of the future, which is why I strongly welcome the Budget for its commitment to laying the foundations for the future.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
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23 Nov 2017, 3:43 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately). I hope the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir Michael Fallon) uses his new-found freedom on the Back Benches to join me and many other Members in calling for the Red Arrows order to be brought forward to secure jobs at BAE.

The short-sightedness of the Government’s continued addiction to austerity is astounding, and the Government clearly have little understanding of cause and effect, but I hope with this speech that I can convince the Chancellor to make a proactive decision that will save NHS England money. On 18 October, I led a Westminster hall debate on transvaginal mesh. Transvaginal mesh has been used to treat stress incontinence on the NHS for 20 years and it is the most commonly used mesh implant. More than 120,000 UK women have had this in the past 10 years. Prolapse mesh has been used on the NHS since 2002, and is placed either vaginally or through the stomach. The draft National Institute for Health and Care Excellence report, expected for publication in December 2017, announces that vaginally placed prolapse mesh must only be used in a research context. We know this is surgeons’ code for “do not use”. Mesh was ruthlessly marketed as a quick inexpensive fix. However, a recent report shows evidence that about 10% of women have suffered complications after surgery.

This week, representatives of the all-party parliamentary group on surgical mesh implants met campaigners from Sling the Mesh. During the meeting, Kath Sansom illustrated the cost of mesh failure to the NHS. Mesh-injured women face the long-term costs of pain medication and removals, but no one has yet realised the extent of the increased health costs because of our fragmented NHS. Mesh-injured women are an unplanned extra cost to an NHS budget that is already overstretched: for example, Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust in my constituency has a deficit of £11.5 million.

Many mesh-injured women suffer chronic pain and urinary infections; many have leg pain, ranging from moderate to severe. Some are in wheelchairs, or are using sticks to help them to walk. Risks are serious, they are forever, and they are devastating. Many of these women claim benefits. Some work reduced hours and claim working family tax credit, while others receive personal independence payments or other disability benefits.

During the APPG meeting, Kath mentioned four women in connection with the costs to the NHS. I have just enough time to mention two. Joanne is an NHS administrator. She costs the NHS £180 a month, and in 11 years she has cost it £55,000. Jemima went from being super-fit to using sticks to walk, and is in daily agonising pain. Mesh has sliced her insides so badly that she knows that, at some point, her bowel will have to be removed. She is delaying that by using a special kit to pump herself out every day. It costs £900 a year, plus prescription medication costs of £135 a month.

In her response to my Westminster Hall debate, the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price), dismissed my call for a public inquiry and a retrospective audit. She said:

“I think it is more important that we get the treatment that is needed, but I encourage everybody to report their cases through the yellow card scheme.”—[Official Report, 18 October 2017; Vol. 629, c. 317WH.]

Most women are not aware of the yellow card scheme, and have no idea how to use it.

We need a retrospective audit on mesh so that the NHS can gather the necessary evidence of the scale of the injuries suffered by those who have had mesh fitted. The refusal to fund and commission such an audit is incredibly short-sighted. More women are having this operation every day, and the level of risk is unknown. We could be adding astronomical costs to our NHS daily as a result of future mesh failure. However, the costs of mesh failure are not just to the NHS; they are to all our public services.

How can Hull City Council provide the support that is needed both by mesh-injured women and other disabled adults when it has lost 32% of its funding since 2010? Those cuts are having an impact on its ability to deliver local services, including adult social care. East Riding of Yorkshire Council faces an increase in adult social care costs of more than £21 million, without the increased budget to pay for it. Some mesh-injured women need supported housing because of their disabilities. Many of them are suffering from both depression and anxiety, which adds more pressure and demand on our already overstretched mental health services. Our councils cannot continue to foot the bill for the Government’s failure to take the action that is needed. The councils need budgets that will enable them to provide those services for everyone.

One way in which the Government could save money for our NHS and our councils would be to fund a retrospective audit for all mesh-injured women. That would save the costs of treating and caring for them in the future.

Tax Avoidance and Evasion

Helen Whately Excerpts
Tuesday 14th November 2017

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
Margaret Hodge Portrait Dame Margaret Hodge
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14 Nov 2017, 1:03 p.m.

I completely concur with my hon. Friend’s important remarks.

It is our job, as the elected representatives of those who are angry, to do what we can to put a stop to tax injustice. Tax avoidance should be not an issue that divides us, but one on which we work together in the interests of all taxpayers and in order to protect our public services. The Paradise papers are the latest in a series of leaks unmasked by the international press. I salute the professional investigatory journalists involved in making sense of the millions of documents passed to them, especially those at The Guardian and on “Panorama”, who have been working on the papers for a year, and I salute the public-spirited courage of the whistleblower who first passed the papers to the German newspaper, the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The Paradise papers contain 13.4 million files from just two offshore providers of tax advice and the company registries of 19 tax havens. The scale of the data is what makes the leaks so important.

We have had the Panama papers, the Luxembourg leaks, the Falciani leaks, the so-called Russian and Azerbaijani laundromat revelations on money laundering, and now we have the Paradise papers. We will continue to see new leaks splashed over our papers and filling our television screens until the Government act firmly to clamp down on the avoidance that is so blatant and yet so wrong.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
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14 Nov 2017, 1:05 p.m.

The right hon. Lady has said several things I agree with—for instance, that everybody should pay their fair share into the tax system, which helps fund our vital public services, and that everyone should work together on tax avoidance—but, given that, does she not feel ashamed at her party’s actions to block steps, before the election, that would have reduced tax avoidance?

Margaret Hodge Portrait Dame Margaret Hodge
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am trying not to make this overly partisan, but I feel more ashamed, as a Member of Parliament, at the hon. Lady’s party’s reluctance to adopt the clear and simple measures that could really tackle tax avoidance.

Paradise Papers

Helen Whately Excerpts
Monday 6th November 2017

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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6 Nov 2017, 3:56 p.m.

As the hon. Lady will know, this Government have brought in £160 billion in relation to tax avoidance since 2010, including £2.8 billion in respect of individuals attempting to hide funds overseas. She raises the issue of HMRC. As is quite right and proper, it is going through reconstruction and reassignments at the moment, so that we have a series of hubs with a critical mass of individuals in them and the right technology and infrastructure to go after those who, as assessed on a risk basis, are avoiding taxation.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
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6 Nov 2017, 3:56 p.m.

I welcome the lead the Government are taking internationally in tackling tax avoidance, because this is clearly not a problem that we can solve on our own in isolation. Will my right hon. Friend advise us what the Government are doing to use transparency to make sure individuals, trusts and companies pay their fair share to the Treasury?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

6 Nov 2017, 3:57 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. As I have pointed out a few times already, we are currently looking at reporting standards. We are also looking at various recommendations coming out of the BEPS regime, some of which were covered in the Finance Bill, to stop flagrant tax avoidance, sometimes on the part of some of the largest corporations in the country. As I mentioned earlier, the Labour party sought to kill that Bill on Third Reading.

Taxation: Beer and Pubs

Helen Whately Excerpts
Tuesday 31st October 2017

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall

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HM Treasury
Mike Wood Portrait Mike Wood
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31 Oct 2017, 2:36 p.m.

I must continue because a lot of colleagues are waiting to get in.

The beer industry is a true success story for home-grown British manufacturing. A staggering 82% of all beer consumed in this country is made in the UK. The UK now has more than 2,000 breweries, producing 25 million barrels of beer a year. With 923 million pints exported to 110 different countries, beer is the third largest food and drink export sector in the UK and it is worth £550 million to the UK economy. In my constituency alone, the sector accounts for 1,156 jobs, of which 313 are held by under-25s. It also contributes more than £37 million to our local economy.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
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31 Oct 2017, 2:37 p.m.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. Shepherd Neame, the pub and brewing company, is the largest employer in my constituency, so let me support the case he is making. Given the importance of these companies as employers, and the role of pubs in our villages, we must have a tax regime that supports this part of the economy.

Mike Wood Portrait Mike Wood
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

31 Oct 2017, 2:37 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend, who represents our oldest brewery. It is important that we support established breweries as well as more recent entries into the market. The beer and pub sector adds more than £23 billion to the UK economy, and I know that the Minister will be very grateful for the £13 billion of taxes that it contributes to the Treasury.

There has been a suggestion that duty changes have little or no impact on beer sales in pubs. That is simply not true and is not consistent with the available evidence. The last Labour Government introduced the hated beer duty escalator in 2008. It was hated because the escalator saw beer duty increase by a staggering 42%, hitting beer sales, making pints less affordable and closing pubs at a faster rate than ever. Beer sales have been falling for many years. However, we saw that trend accelerate sharply under the escalator. In the six years before the duty escalator, on-trade beer sales fell by about 3% a year. During the escalator years, on-trade sales fell by more than a quarter, which was about 5.4% a year on average. Almost 7,000 pubs called time for good, and more than 58,000 beer-dependent jobs were lost. However, although beer duty increased by 42%, beer duty revenues rose by only 12%. It was a very expensive failure of a policy and one that I hope the Labour party has put firmly in the past.

Beer duty is now 20% lower than it would have been with tax rises previously planned under the escalator. In the years between 2013 and 2016, when duty was cut or frozen, the annual decline in on-trade beer sales was not 5.4%, but 2%, which year on year makes a significant difference to the number of jobs and the size of the industry. However, the return to a retail prices index-linked rise in this March’s Budget was disappointing. Announcing a second duty rise in the same calendar year would in effect take us back to the days of the beer duty escalator through the back door.

As the price difference between sales in pubs and supermarkets has widened, consumers have become increasingly price sensitive, especially pub-goers. A respected consultancy, Oxford Economics, which has consistently and accurately forecast the impact of duty changes in recent years, calculates that even a freeze in beer duty in next month’s Budget, rather than the planned increase, would boost pub sales by about 33 million pints per year against the current baseline and that that would mean more than 2,000 additional jobs.

The Exchequer Secretary will remember the front-page headlines praising the previous Chancellor for cutting beer duty. I cannot promise the Exchequer Secretary the front page of the Evening Standard—maybe he knows a man who can—but I have no doubt that if the current Chancellor freezes beer duty, the whole Treasury team would be carried shoulder high across Whitehall.

The financial benefits of the beer and brewing industry are clear, but just as great is the social impact of pubs and the detrimental effect that pub closures have on the fabric of our society, because pubs are a great addition to the social make-up of our country, at the heart of our local communities. They offer a safe environment in which drinking can be supervised and highly regulated, which is in stark contrast to much street drinking.

Public Sector Pay Cap

Helen Whately Excerpts
Wednesday 5th July 2017

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss
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5 Jul 2017, 1:04 p.m.

As I have outlined, pay is determined by a very clear process. Independent pay review bodies make recommendations on areas such as pay for the police and nurses. We will look very carefully at those recommendations to balance fairness for public sector workers, and recruitment and retention of the best possible people, with affordability for the public finances. That is a responsible approach to take, and it will ensure that our economy grows and unemployment continues to move in a positive direction.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)
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5 Jul 2017, 1:05 p.m.

Since 2010, 13,000 more nurses have been employed in the NHS. I am worried that the Labour party’s unfunded proposals for public sector workers could lead to a cut in the number of nurses, given the £68 billion black hole in the financing of the party’s manifesto. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that when she looks at pay for nurses, she will not only consider what is a fair level of pay, but ensure that we remain able to afford to employ more nurses in the NHS? Will she also ensure that we continue to focus on sound finances and a strong economy to pay for our public services?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss
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5 Jul 2017, 1:05 p.m.

My hon. Friend is right to point out that, by having this balanced policy, we have protected jobs in the public sector and we have protected important services. The Office for Budget Responsibility outlined in its report that our policy protects the jobs of 200,000 public sector workers. That is important for those people, but it is also important for our constituents who receive those public services and who are seeing improvements in our schools and hospitals, and a reduction in crime. It is important that we take that balanced approach.