Spring Budget 2020
Today the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced the 2020 Spring Budget. Dame Eleanor Laing, the Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means, became the first woman to chair a Budget. There will now be four days of debate on its contents.
The Budget and Opposition response (first day of debate)
The Chancellor announced £170bn investment programme over five years, which he said will boost growth by 0.5% of GDP. He stated that the national minimum wage will rise to £10.50 an hour by 2024. There will be a tax break regarding national insurance and business rates will be abolished for small businesses.
Mr Sunak said that statutory sick pay would be available to everybody who had to self-isolate as a result of coronavirus from day one. The Government will also launch a loan scheme for business affected by coronavirus.
He said these measures would:
"support British people, British jobs and British businesses through this moment".
But the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, said that the Budget would not reverse the "damage done to our country" under the Government's austerity programme of the last decade.
Mr Corbyn quoted a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that stated it would take £54 billion of current spending this year, excluding health and social care, to return the country to 2010 levels.
He said that:
"we’ve heard nothing approaching that scale from the Chancellor today".
The Leader of the Opposition also criticised the freeze on fuel duty and the money promised to fund road building, saying they showed "complacency about climate change", and highlighted the lack of provision for lowering rail and bus fares.
Second day of debate
During the second day of debate MPs discussed topics such as support for those affected by coronavirus, the social care crisis, statutory sick pay, universal credit, child and in-work poverty, and cuts to local authority funding.
The debate was opened by Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, who called for:
"a Budget that tackles our social emergency, our crisis in public services, the levels of poverty and inequality in our society, and the existential threat of climate change."
In response, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, said:
"the Budget delivers for our businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs. It is a Budget to power pioneers and problem solvers right across our country."
Third day of debate
During the third day of debate MPs discussed topics such as funding for health and vaccines, medical supplies, cuts to the NHS, testing medics for COVID-19, the staffing crisis among doctors and nurses, social care, and the shortage of hospital beds.
The debate was opened by Health Minister, Edward Argar, who stated:
"Coronavirus is the most serious public health challenge that our country has faced in a generation. Our goal is to protect life and to protect our NHS. Last week’s Budget showed that we will rise to that challenge."
In response, Shadow Health Minister, Justin Madders, said:
"While we welcome the extra funding, we are aware that it is in the context of the NHS already facing extreme pressure, as usually happens over a busy winter period."
Fourth day of debate
The Speaker did not select the amendment tabled by the Opposition.
During the fourth day of debate MPs discussed topics such as support for travel and hospitality firms during the coronavirus pandemic, nationalisation of transport, HS2, road maintenance and climate change.
The debate was opened by Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, who told the House:
"Levelling up will not be achieved through a single fiscal event such as the Budget, but it will be part of an integrated plan over the next five years, and I have mentioned already some of the other fiscal events."
In response, Shadow Transport Secretary, Andy McDonald, said:
"On the greatest crisis facing humanity, the climate crisis, this Budget is going in the wrong direction. On the most immediate crisis facing us, the coronavirus, the Budget fails to provide the country and its workers with the safety and security they require."
The House voted to approve the Budget Resolutions without a division.
Image: PA Images/Clara Molden
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