Bim Afolami: Could my hon. Friend illuminate the House by saying what he fears would happen to small businesses such as the ones in Aldershot that he mentioned if they were subject to the programme of huge tax rises and nationalisation proposed by Labour?
Leo Docherty: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. The wholesale economic devastation that would be the consequence of Labour’s nationalisation plan—I do not know whether it has a plan to nationalise sausage production, but I hope not—would be clear. We have to make the case for the free market. In this day and age, it is astonishing that Labour Front Benchers espouse an ideology that totally opposes the free market.
The shadow Chancellor is a self-declared Marxist. The House will know that in 2006 he said:
“I’m honest with people: I’m a Marxist”.
He said of the 2008 crash:
“I’ve been waiting for this for a generation”.
In 2017, he stood in front of Communist flags at a May Day parade in London, and just this year he attended the Marx 200 conference in London, at which he claimed:
“Marxism is about the freedom of spirit”.
— later —
Bim Afolami: It is a pleasure to speak in the debate. First, I would like to address the measures in the Budget that relate to the digital economy, including the digital services tax. I declare an interest: I was a former corporate lawyer —I was even more fun when I was doing that. Someone who deals with international transactions and contracts learns that international tax treaties are very complicated and were designed for a time before the current technological revolution. The UK Government are leading the way in clamping down on the admittedly difficult and perhaps unsavoury practices of multinational tech firms. Of course, the digital services tax will not deal with that completely, but it is a step in the right direction. As I say, we are one of the first Governments in the world to do anything like this, and I commend it to the House.
Turning to my constituency, I want to address the measures relating to the high street. We all know that the high street has been under significant pressure over the past few years. Whenever I speak to the owners of small independent shops in both Hitchin and Harpenden, they say that business rates are a significant problem, so I look forward to telling them this weekend about the cut of a third in their business rates, if their rateable value is under £51,000. That measure will be of huge benefit to my independent shops and I commend it to the House.
Even more important than the cut in business rates is the £675 million future high streets fund because it will help to enable our local authorities and local areas to take leadership and act on their own initiative to reshape their high streets to deal with the modern world and its challenges. I urge the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who is sitting on the Treasury Bench, to make sure that this money gets to local councils as soon as possible so that we can get on with making improvements.
Gareth Johnson: Does my hon. Friend agree that the Budget’s tax cuts will also help the high street by ensuring that regular people have more money in their pockets to spend in high street shops, thereby improving the whole economy?
Bim Afolami: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I was coming to tax cuts because, particularly in relation to the high streets, they are a classic piece of positive Conservative economics that will increase demand and help consumer spending, and thereby help the high street. I commend the Chancellor and the Treasury team for putting the policy forward in the Budget.
On tax cuts more broadly, if someone is one of the 1.74 million people who, in only the last two years, the Government have taken out of tax altogether, that side is against them; this side is for them. If someone is one of the 25 million basic rate taxpayers who have saved more than £1,000 in real terms since 2010, that side is against them; this side is for them. If someone has the temerity to want to earn over £50,000—yes, there are people who want to do that—that side is against them; this side is for them. The Budget not only backs the NHS with the biggest cash increase in its history, not only backs the high street and not only backs working people up and down this country, but backs Britain. This party backs Britain; the other side does not.