The Chancellor of the Exchequer made his annual Autumn Statement to the House of Commons giving the latest reports on the state of the economy.
George Osborne also took advantage of this opportunity to announce several of the Government’s latest measures to put the economy back on track, and I wanted to outline a few of them with you.
We in Lincolnshire rely more on cars and the roads than other parts of the country. Fuel duty, then, affects us more than most, and so I particularly welcome the scrapping of next year’s fuel duty increase.
Petrol will be 20p per litre cheaper than previously planned, providing relief for working families and those small- and medium-sized enterprises that rely on our Lincolnshire roads to do business.
Meanwhile the jobs tax for under-21s will be completely abolished: earnings of £813 per week will not require any National Insurance contributions.
The Chancellor also had news that travellers and commuters will welcome: rail fares will be frozen as a cap is introduced limiting fare increases to the Retail Price Index for 2014.
I was very pleased by the announcement of one of the measures I have fought most hard for: the marriage tax allowance.
Britain is one of the few developed countries in the world that doesn’t recognise marriage in the tax system, which leads to an effective financial punishment for marriage.
From April 2015, however, couples will be able to claim a £1,000 transferable allowance, which will be automatically up-rated in line with the income tax personal allowance.
The Chancellor said this is “just a start” but it’s a fine start indeed for working married couples.
Besides married couples, there’s also good news for small businesses.
The Small Business Rate Relief scheme has been doubled and extended so that 360,000 small businesses will pay no business rates at all, and a further 180,000 benefitting from a sliding scale of relief.
For high street businesses, an additional discount of £1,000 on business rate bills for two years will be introduced for retail premises with a rateable value of up to £50,000.
Another measure that should help the High Street is that retail premises which have been unoccupied for over a year will receive a 50 per cent discount on their rates bill for 18 months.
In the past, we’ve relied too heavily on house price increases and consumer spending to push growth.
I have long argued that our economic recovery needs to focus not on the faceless big businesses and fostering the housing bubble but instead on everyday working people and families.
I’m glad the Government is focussing its energy in this direction, and the various measures announced in the Autumn Statement show how this is being done.
We need to be cutting taxes, not just freezing them.
We are continuing to push hard for more measures to make life simpler and easier for working people, but there remains a great deal more to be done.
Sir Edward Leigh
MP for Gainsborough