Live Treasury Questions House of Commons


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First, we have questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mick

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Hammond, and his team. Questions to Mr Chancellor of the

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Exchequer. Question number one, Mr Speaker. We have regular discussions

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with Cabinet colleagues as to how the Government can contribute to

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greater productivity across Scotland and the UK. The Government is

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currently discussing city deals for Edinburgh and Stirling and is

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looking forward to receiving proposals for the Tay cities. With

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the honourable gentleman agree with me that the Ayrshire growth deal

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will generate investment and create the economic conditions to achieve a

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step change throughout Ayrshire, an area of huge potential? Will he

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commit today to actively and constructively, working with the

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four Ayrshire MPs, the local authorities and the Scottish

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Government, support this deal to the benefit of the whole county of

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Ayrshire? Well, up to this point, growth deals have been city growth

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deals and by definition focused on cities. And we haven't made a lot of

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progress, as I said earlier, in terms of all the Scottish cities. Of

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course, it is open to the Scottish Government to take forward projects

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to enable growth in the County of Ayrshire if it wishes to do so. The

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Financial Secretary to the Treasury. With your permission, Mr Speaker,

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could I group this question with question 12? The Government Beckett

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knows is absolutely the key role that small businesses play in the

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economy. That's why for example in the Autumn Statement, we have

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allocated ?400 million for the British business bank to help firms

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access finance. And there are other steps we have taken, including for

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example introducing the enterprise investment scheme. I think the

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minister for that response. Does she agree with me that independent

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retail stores such as ones in my constituency add greatly to the

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character and vitality of our towns in high streets and the Government

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should do what they can to support them? As a former co-chair of the

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all-party retail group, I could not agree with him more. Independent

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retailers and retail generally is a vital sector, and he is right that

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we want to support them on our high streets. From April, 600,000 of the

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smallest businesses will not have to pay business rates again. That is

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occupying more than a third of all properties. This is part of the

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business rates package which will kick in over the next few years. I

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hope you would agree that that is a really helpful bit of support for

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some key local businesses. I recently attended my local Chamber

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of Commerce breakfast meeting in Seaford and met with many small

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businesses who are pleased the economy is doing so well and being

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so expertly led by this government. However, they do have some concerns

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around the introduction of quarterly tax returns and the impact that this

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will have on costs on small businesses. They have suggested

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maybe a threshold be introduced for the smallest businesses - would the

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minister consider this? I thank my honourable friend for that question.

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I also have a good relationship with my local Chamber of Commerce. Of

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course we are not introducing quarterly tax refunds, but she is

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referring to the tax digital project. And we do understand that

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whilst the select committee recently said that the long-term future can

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and probably should be digital, we do understand that we need to look

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carefully at the consultation responses we've had, and at the

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concerns from small businesses. We have already exempted a number of

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small businesses from the threshold, but we are looking carefully at the

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consultation responses and at the select committee's report. We do not

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recognise the Federation of Small Businesses' figure on the costs, and

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we have not seen the assumptions which underpin it. That would be

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very helpful if I am to address those concerns. Small businesses in

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Doncaster are facing a very worrying skills shortage. So, will the

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minister support those businesses by impressing on her colleagues in the

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DfEE the need for a speedy decision on Doncaster's university technical

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college and give the go-ahead for the money? Will she have a word,

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please? I am of course very happy to raise the issue with the right

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honourable lady mentions with colleagues. More broadly, the

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Government absolutely is supportive of the skills agenda, and we have

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made this a real priority. If we are going to close the productivity gap

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in this country, then clearly investing in skills and high quality

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apprenticeships is key to it and we are taking a lot of action in that

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regard. One useful thing which the Treasury could enforce more

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manufacturers in my constituency is to announce an objective to stay in

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the customs union. Up to now, the Treasury has been a beacon in saying

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that they want decisions based on analysis, not rhetoric and ideology.

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Can she assure the House that that is still under consideration? Well,

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again, these are issues we are looking at very, very carefully. The

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Chancellor has had a series of round table meetings with different

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sectors of industry in recent months, as have all of us as

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ministers. We are looking very carefully at some of those detailed

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issues. Much more will be said on this in the House I'm sure data

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today. For we are quite clear that we want to understand issues faced

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by businesses, so that we can move forward to make our future outside

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the European Union and resolve some of those practical issues that

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businesses face in a way way which helps the British economy. Access to

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capital is vital for small businesses. A refusal from a big and

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should not be the end of the line. Will the minister continue to

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support the bank referral scheme as an alternative source of finance for

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businesses? Absolutely we will. The Government's finance referral policy

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helps SMEs whose finance applications have been declined by

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their bank and helps them to explore alternative options. It requires the

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major banks to refer them if they are rejected for finance. And there

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are a range of other things that we can do to support the very good

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point which my honourable friend makes. I would encourage all

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members, if they have SMEs in their area, who have had finance

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applications rejected, to refer them to some of these schemes, because

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they are making a difference. Many of the small businesses in my area

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operate in the tourism sector. Given the Chancellor's reported comments

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at the weekend, will the Government now look again at the opportunities

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which could be presented by the tourism industry's proposals for a

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lower rate of VAT on that sector? Well, Mr Speaker, the House will be

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unsurprised to learn that the Treasury is having a number of

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suggestions about what might happen to VAT in some future new

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arrangements, when we are not members of the EU any longer. And

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I'm aware of the representations made by the tourism industry. Indeed

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I meeting with the Northern Ireland select committee tomorrow, and I

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know this is likely to be one of the issues on their mind. But we are

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still of the EU, and all of our legal obligations etc remain whilst

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we are. Thank you, Mr Speaker. As announced at the Autumn Statement,

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the Government is significantly increasing investment in R, rising

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to an extra ?2 billion a year by 2021. This is the largest increase

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over a Parliament since 1979. It includes an industrial strategy

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challenge fund to support collaborations between businesses

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and science, to ensure the UK remains an attractive place for

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business to invest in innovative research, and that the next

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generation of discoveries are made, developed and produced in the United

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Kingdom. I thank the minister for his response. One of the largest

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employers in my constituency, Scientifica, is a winner of several

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awards. I will be in could be proud to join Scientifica when they open

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on the London Stock Exchange in March. Will he congratulate

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Scientifica along with me and will he pledge to support such

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businesses, which export the best of British scientific innovation and

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enterprise to the rest of the world? I'm delighted to join my honourable

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friend in congratulate Scientifica and I'm very happy to make that

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pledge. We committed to 107 to ?5 million investment to drive UK

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exports in this area. And we remain committed to making sure UK

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exporters receive world-class support. -- 107 to ?5 million. On

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Friday, I visited and innovative telephone technology company in

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Newcastle in the emerging payments sector. They are concerned that

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leaving the European single market, particularly the passport in rights,

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will diminish investment in their area. What reassurance will he give

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them? As the honourable member will be aware, the Prime Minister has

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just begun making a speech on this matter. And my right honourable

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friend, the Secretary of State for the department for exiting the

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European Union, will be making a statement to the House later. The UK

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is in a very strong position in terms of Finn 1ft it is a priority

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that we ensure that this is a successful sector.

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We led a delegation to India, with a focus on this sector, among other

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things, with the aim of promoting British businesses. We will continue

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ensure that the UK remains a strong base for that Fin Tech sector. Will

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he join with me in welcoming the fact that Cheltenham's GCHQ cyber

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accelerator is now up and running? Does he agree with me that this key

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project will bring jobs and opportunities for Gloucestershire?

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I welcome what my honourable friend has just said in terms of the

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opportunities. He highlights what is an important sector that has

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significant potential for the UK and indeed Gloucestershire. Thank you

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very much, Mr Speaker. Minister, what discussions have gone on with

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the Department of energy and industrial strategy in Northern

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Ireland to ensure that catapulted projects, just as much as the rest

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of the UK, will happen in Northern Ireland, to help our science and

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business development? I think what I can say to the honourable member is

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that we are determined to ensure that all of the UK is a good place

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for these businesses to develop, to encourage the development of

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technology and businesses that are based on that. The future of the

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United Kingdom has to be as a highly skilled, technologically advanced,

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outward looking country and we will engage with all the devolved

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administrations to further that aim. Jonathan Reynolds. On this side of

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the house, we believe encouraging investment is essential to making

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our economy more productive and we recognise this will be especially

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important post Brexit. But does the Treasury have a genuine indicator of

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how levels of foreign direct investment have been impacted after

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the referendum result, given it was recently reeled that the Department

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of International trade's figures incorrectly include decisions taken

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before the vote for Brexit? I think we are at an early stage in terms of

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the impact on foreign direct investment. In terms of the levels

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of business investment since the referendum, the numbers have

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actually held up pretty strongly, although as I said, it is early days

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and early data. But I have to say to the honourable gentleman, he says he

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welcomes business investment in this country. I think he should be

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listening to some of the things that his party leadership are saying,

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which will do nothing but drive business out of the United Kingdom.

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Chris Davies. Thank you Mr Speaker, question four. Chancellor of the

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Exchequer. Mr Speaker, the only way to reduce debt sustainable use to

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return a public finances about and our new fiscal rules commit us to

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doing that as soon as possible in the next Parliament. We have already

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reduced borrowing as a share of GDP by almost two thirds from the

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post-war peak that we inherited in 2010. We are forecast to borrow less

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than 1% of GDP by the end of this Parliament. I think the Chancellor

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for his answer. The government 's debt interest currently sit at

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around 5% of overall government spending, which is nearly 20% of our

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overall health budget. Would my right honourable friend consider

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paying down our debt more swiftly in order to relieve the strain debt

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interest is putting on the public finances? Well Mr Speaker, we are

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committed to reducing debt, while at the same time we prioritise

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investment in high-value infrastructure which will enhance

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our productivity. But of course, the only way we can pay down debt is to

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generate a current surplus. That means more tax or less spending. And

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I think the trajectory that I set out in the Autumn Statement is the

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right trajectory for this country in the circumstances it finds itself in

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at the moment and I say to my honourable friend that I intend to

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stick to it, and ensure we get the public finances back into balance as

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early as possible in the next Parliament. Alison McGovern. Thank

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you Mr Speaker, the total of our UK Government debt owned by foreign

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investors now some is more than half ?1 trillion for the first time ever.

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As the value of sterling tumbles, what assessment as the Chancellor

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made of the risk of the cost of servicing our debt rising

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unsustainably? Mr Speaker, the way it works is that the pricing of new

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government debt is determined by the auctions around new issuance.

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Clearly, new issue and is is bought at current extreme traits as far as

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foreign purchases of debt are concerned. -- current exchange

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rates. The honourable lady raises a good point and it is important that

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currency volatility rather than the actual level of the currency does

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introduce an additional dimension for foreign purchasers of UK

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Government debt. I have said many times that the process that we are

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now embarked on, of negotiating the exit from the European Union,

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creates some uncertainty. We have seen some of that uncertainty

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manifesting itself in the currency markets. The sooner we can get

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through that period of uncertainty, to have clarity about our future

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relationship with the European Union, the better that will be for

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markets, for business and for people in this country. The purpose of the

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speech the Prime Minister is making right now is to start to give some

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clarity. Question five, sir. Mr Speaker, we have committed to return

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the public finances to balance as soon as possible in the next

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Parliament and to reduce the structural deficit to below 2% of

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GDP by the end of this Parliament. As I have said already, I think it

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strikes the right balance between restoring the public finances to

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health and giving ourselves enough flexibility to allow us to support

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the economy in the short term if necessary, as we go through this

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period of greater uncertainty. We have also been able to commit an

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additional ?23 billion to a national productivity investment fund, to

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improve our economic productivity. Does my right honourable friend

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agree with me that the resilience of our economy would be best served by

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what the Prime Minister has said today, that Britain will be leaving

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the single market with no ifs and no buts? Well, Mr Speaker, for six

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months, we have kept open as many options as possible while we review

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the way forward in this negotiation with the European Union. We have

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heard very clearly the views and the political red lines expressed by

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other European leaders. We want to work with them and we want to

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recognise and respect their political red lines. That is why the

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Prime Minister is setting out right now the position that she is...

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Which is that we will go forward, understanding that we cannot be

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members of the single market because of the political red lines around

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the four freedoms that are the European leaders have said. -- other

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European leaders have said. But expressing an ambitious agenda for a

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comprehensive free trader dream -- free-trade agreement with the

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European Union which will allow our companies to trade in Europe and

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European company to trade in Britain, minimising disruption to

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existing business patterns and minimising disruption to

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pan-European supply chains. Thank you, Mr Speaker. EU banks use

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passport arrangements in order to operate in the UK, providing jobs

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and revenue to the Exchequer. Given what the Prime Minister is saying at

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this moment, those arrangements are clearly at risk. How hopeful is he

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that passporting will survive exiting the European Union? Well, as

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the right honourable gentleman says, EU banks use passporting to operate

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in the UK and vice versa. UK banks use passporting to operate in the

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European Union. I think what is important is that banks, both in the

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European Union are able to continue operating in the UK, and banks in

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the UK are able to continue operating in the European Union. He

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will know that City UK, the Leeds city pressure group on this issue,

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have taken the strategic decision last week -- lead city pressure

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group on this issue, took the strategic decision last week to stop

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focusing on passporting and what I would instead describe as an

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enhanced equivalence regime. The important thing is not the mechanism

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at the end result. That is what the Prime Minister will be setting out.

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The Treasury committee has challenged whether the OBR's

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sustainability reports, and the latest was published just an hour

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ago, are worth the effort, given they amount to 50 year forecasting.

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Their latest effort does not even try to take account of Brexit at

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all. The OBR are required to do this work by statute. Doesn't the

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Chancellor think it might be a good idea to revisit that commitment?

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Well, Mr Speaker, my honourable friend has a point in one sense in

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that economic forecasters themselves admit that even on a five-year

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forecast, there will be a high degree of uncertainty. --

:19:48.:19:51.

uncertainty about the accuracy of the forecast. So one of 50 year

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forecast, there will be a very high degree of uncertainty. -- on a 50

:19:57.:20:01.

year forecast. But we will see how the debate goes around this fiscal

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sustainability report that is published today. I suspect it will

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provide a very... For discussing some of the really very important

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strategic issues that we face as a nation, not in the sort of white

:20:16.:20:19.

heat of immediate political debate, but able to think much longer term

:20:20.:20:25.

over a 50 year period about where we go in the balance between public

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spending and taxation and how we support our vital public services.

:20:30.:20:34.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, given the Chancellor's comments on the single

:20:35.:20:38.

market, the financial services industry employs 40,000 people in

:20:39.:20:42.

Edinburgh alone. What impact does the Chancellor think the changes

:20:43.:20:44.

around the single market, leaving the single market will have on jobs

:20:45.:20:49.

in Scotland? Mr Speaker, my assessment is that by setting out,

:20:50.:20:55.

as the Prime Minister is doing right now, our agenda, and setting out

:20:56.:20:59.

clear objectives, we are meeting the first ask of our European partners,

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which is to be clear about what we want. We are recognising the

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political red lines that they have set out. We are saying that we will

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respect them. And I think that is the first step to being able to have

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a sensible engagement with our European Union partners, to come to

:21:17.:21:21.

an outcome which is positive for the UK and positive for the European

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Union. That of course must include the freedom for financial services

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firms to continue doing their business. I was going to call the

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honourable gentleman... Well done, get in there, man, Jim Cunningham.

:21:36.:21:40.

What provisions at the Chancellor of the Exchequer made after 2020 in

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relation to the universities in this country? Will he match pound for

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pound the lack of EU money? What we have said is that where EU funding

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is awarded projects involving universities, businesses, external

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research Institute, farmers, between now the point of our departure from

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the European Union, provided those awards meet with our value for money

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criteria and have the support of the UK or devolved administration

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responsible department, that the Treasury will underwrite those

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awards. We expect that in any settlement with the European Union,

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the commission will go on paying those awards after we have left the

:22:26.:22:30.

European Union. But in case they don't, we will stand behind them.

:22:31.:22:35.

Many small businesses in Kettering are supplied by other British firms

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and they sell their goods and services to British consumers. Yet

:22:38.:22:43.

all are affected by often unnecessary EU regulation. Will the

:22:44.:22:47.

Chancellor joint effort supposed Brexit to reduce this burden as

:22:48.:22:51.

quickly as possible? -- join efforts post Brexit? The remedy to the

:22:52.:22:56.

problem that the honourable gentleman sets out will of course

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lie in the hands of this Parliament once we repatriate it in the great

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repeal Bill. In the seven years to 2014, Scotland's trade with the EU

:23:09.:23:13.

rose by 20%. Twice the rate of growth in trade to the rest of the

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UK. And vital for a resilient economy. Today's hard Tory Brexit

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puts that at risk. But is this not also a kick in the teeth to many of

:23:26.:23:30.

those who voted Leave, believing there would be an EEA, Efta

:23:31.:23:41.

arrangement put in place to mitigate the damage done? I reject the

:23:42.:23:45.

gentleman's analysis. I think this is engaging constructively with the

:23:46.:23:48.

real world, recognising the political red lines of our European

:23:49.:23:51.

Union partners because if we don't recognise them, frankly we Anyon our

:23:52.:23:56.

heads against a brick wall. They have to recognise our political red

:23:57.:23:59.

lines and we have to recognise that and then we have to work together to

:24:00.:24:02.

find a pragmatic solution that works fall of the people of the UK within

:24:03.:24:05.

those red lines and that is what we doing. -- for all of the people. ...

:24:06.:24:12.

So long as trade with the rest of the world on the same time frame

:24:13.:24:17.

grew by 50%, driven by EU trade agreements. Given it takes an

:24:18.:24:22.

average of 28 months to conclude a single agreement, how many pragmatic

:24:23.:24:27.

decades is the Chancellor -- does the Chancellor believe it will take

:24:28.:24:31.

to put in place the trade agreements we need to mitigate the damage of

:24:32.:24:37.

the hard Tory Brexit? You know, Mr Speaker, I'm disappointed to hear

:24:38.:24:40.

the honourable gentleman resorting to the sound bite. He's normally

:24:41.:24:44.

better than that. Let me say this, the discussions I have had with

:24:45.:24:49.

third countries that currently have free trade agreement with the

:24:50.:24:52.

European Union suggest that there is a strong appetite for a quick and

:24:53.:24:59.

simple agreement with the UK so that as it leaves the European Union, we

:25:00.:25:05.

are able to immediately enter into a successor agreement with those

:25:06.:25:08.

countries like South Korea, for example, so we can continue trading

:25:09.:25:14.

with them on the same terms. Mr Speaker, at the weekend, the

:25:15.:25:17.

Chancellor told the German newspaper, notice not this house, Mr

:25:18.:25:20.

Speaker, that he prepared to turn this country into a tax haven. If

:25:21.:25:24.

that means competing with the likes of Ireland on the 12.5% corporation

:25:25.:25:29.

tax rate, on top of existing Tory tax cuts, it means according to the

:25:30.:25:33.

House of Commons library, giving away over ?100 billion to

:25:34.:25:36.

corporations over the next five years. That is the equivalent to

:25:37.:25:39.

almost 5p on the basic of income tax. How does the Chancellor ever

:25:40.:25:45.

propose to solve the funding crisis in the NHS and social care then,

:25:46.:25:49.

given that this morning, the OBR thinks the public finances are on an

:25:50.:25:54.

unsustainable path? Well, let's just take that question apart, if I may,

:25:55.:26:00.

Mr Speaker, two points. The OBR 50 year forecast this morning sets out

:26:01.:26:04.

a possible outcome, if the government takes no action. As I

:26:05.:26:07.

made very clear in the Autumn Statement, we are acutely aware that

:26:08.:26:12.

action will be required in order to return the public finances the

:26:13.:26:17.

balance. In terms of the interview that he referred to at the weekend,

:26:18.:26:23.

what I said very clearly, and I'm sorry if it didn't come across in

:26:24.:26:28.

the UK reporting, but he should read the original, what I said very

:26:29.:26:31.

clearly is that Britain wants to remain in the European mainstream

:26:32.:26:36.

with its economic and social model, but that can only happen if we get a

:26:37.:26:41.

sensible Brexit deal for continued access to the European market. If we

:26:42.:26:45.

don't, the people of this country are not going to simply lie down and

:26:46.:26:49.

accept that they will be poorer. We will do whatever it takes to

:26:50.:26:53.

maintain our competitiveness and to protect our standard of living.

:26:54.:27:00.

The threat is there, on the record, that this will be a tax haven,

:27:01.:27:07.

according to what he has said today. The Prime Minister is now saying

:27:08.:27:10.

that she is intent on drawing up the drawbridge, leaving the single

:27:11.:27:15.

market, and possibly, possibly, the customs union. We will be cutting

:27:16.:27:18.

ourselves off from one of the largest markets on the entire

:27:19.:27:21.

planet, threatening jobs and finances. This is not a clean

:27:22.:27:26.

Brexit, it is an extremely Messi Brexit, with the consequences we

:27:27.:27:29.

have already seen in terms of the rise in the rate of inflation. And

:27:30.:27:33.

with real living standards squeezed by this policy announcement so far,

:27:34.:27:37.

isn't it time, and I appeal to the Chancellor, he has the opportunity

:27:38.:27:40.

then to reconsider his cuts to in work benefits, and in the widget in

:27:41.:27:49.

March, withdraw them in full? No, Mr Speaker, what the Prime Minister is

:27:50.:27:52.

setting up to day use an ambitious agenda for a Britain engaged with

:27:53.:27:57.

the world and a Britain engaged with the European Union. What she is

:27:58.:28:00.

setting out is a broad-based offer for future collaboration in trade,

:28:01.:28:08.

in investment, in technical and scientific collaboration and many

:28:09.:28:11.

other areas. We want to remain engaged with the European Union, and

:28:12.:28:15.

I am confident that the approach the Prime Minister is setting up today

:28:16.:28:21.

will allow us successfully to negotiate a future relationship with

:28:22.:28:28.

the European Union. We need to speed up. Short replies, please at the

:28:29.:28:34.

Autumn Statement, the Government backed recommendations... This

:28:35.:28:40.

includes development funding for the expressway road scheme, and ?100

:28:41.:28:48.

million for the express line. The Government supports the delivery

:28:49.:28:56.

models. Thank you, Mr Speaker. How does my right honourable friend

:28:57.:29:00.

envisage this benefiting the economy in Northamptonshire? It is worth

:29:01.:29:07.

pointing out, in the terms of reference for the national

:29:08.:29:10.

commission's report, the Government noted that the area contained four

:29:11.:29:13.

of the UK's fastest-growing and most productive places, including Oxford,

:29:14.:29:18.

Milton Keynes and Northampton. Transport investment is key to

:29:19.:29:23.

maximising the growth potential in this area. We will invest in the

:29:24.:29:31.

east-west rail and expressway, which will connect the region better with

:29:32.:29:33.

itself and with the rest of the country. The commission will issue

:29:34.:29:37.

their final report later this year, including work on delivery options

:29:38.:29:41.

for housing and transport. We will carefully consider those

:29:42.:29:50.

recommendations. Mr Speaker, the government absolutely recognises the

:29:51.:29:55.

significant contribution to the UK economy which is made by the

:29:56.:30:01.

chemicals industry. And of course, the complex supply chains which

:30:02.:30:04.

exist between the UK and the EU. We heard the Chancellor's words just

:30:05.:30:08.

now about the importance we attach to getting the best portable market

:30:09.:30:11.

access, and the Prime Minister is obviously talking about that this

:30:12.:30:16.

morning. We are looking at a comprehensive range of analyses, to

:30:17.:30:19.

inform our position as we go into those negotiations. Clarity and

:30:20.:30:24.

certainty are one of the industry's big asks. The chemical industries

:30:25.:30:34.

Association Brexit manifesto shows how the UK as a location for future

:30:35.:30:38.

investment can be enhanced, whilst playing a leading part in addressing

:30:39.:30:41.

global and invite a mental challenges. Has the minister read

:30:42.:30:45.

the manifesto, and what is she doing to reassure the chemical industry

:30:46.:30:49.

that it's very specific needs are at the forefront of her mind as the

:30:50.:30:54.

Government develops its strategy? Rather than just need the manifesto,

:30:55.:30:57.

ministers have been meeting with the chemical industry. The department

:30:58.:31:04.

for exiting the EU met with the association on the 17th of November.

:31:05.:31:07.

I know that all of these issues were explored in some detail. While

:31:08.:31:17.

welcoming her typical constructive approach, does she recall the

:31:18.:31:21.

directive which destroyed much of the pharmaceutical industry in this

:31:22.:31:25.

country overnight, including Pfizer's in east Kent? As I recall,

:31:26.:31:32.

the original directive did have some negative effects, but I know that it

:31:33.:31:37.

was improved on in subsequent negotiations in terms of making

:31:38.:31:41.

improvements to make sure it did not have the same effect. Voters partly

:31:42.:31:52.

backed Leave on the basis of a ?350 million economic boost that our NHS

:31:53.:31:55.

is still waiting for. Where, therefore, is the democratic mandate

:31:56.:32:00.

for this Conservative version of hard Brexit, leaving the customs

:32:01.:32:04.

union and the single market which the Chancellor himself has admitted

:32:05.:32:08.

damages the economy and puts jobs in my Tooting constituency at risk?

:32:09.:32:14.

This was with particular reference to unemployment in the chemical

:32:15.:32:18.

industry! I'm sure she meant to add that into her question! Mr Speaker,

:32:19.:32:25.

as colleagues across the House recognise getting the best deal

:32:26.:32:29.

Britain means getting the best deal for all of our main sectors.

:32:30.:32:44.

Does my honourable friend agree that when we leave the European Union,

:32:45.:32:49.

the fact that this Parliament will be free to redraw the Reach

:32:50.:32:54.

regulation is, which have long been identified as some of the most

:32:55.:32:58.

burdensome EU regulations, will be of enormous benefit to small and

:32:59.:33:01.

medium-sized businesses in the comical industry, particularly those

:33:02.:33:06.

who only operate within the UK? Well, he makes a very fair point. I

:33:07.:33:13.

do know that a discussion about the Reach regulations was on the agenda

:33:14.:33:17.

when my colleague, the Parliamentary undersecretary, met the chemical

:33:18.:33:21.

industry, and of course will form part of our discussions going

:33:22.:33:32.

forward. US banks operating in the UK are begin late it applied the

:33:33.:33:38.

Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority, the

:33:39.:33:44.

men facing -- booming facing regime applies to all banks operating in

:33:45.:33:49.

the UK. There is a threshold of ?25 billion. Does the minister agree

:33:50.:33:55.

with me that the likely rolling back of the act in the US, combined with

:33:56.:34:00.

the watering down of banking conduct reform, could result in either

:34:01.:34:03.

deleted American banks with high-risk lending patterns operating

:34:04.:34:12.

in the UK? It's worth saying that the UK and US financial sectors have

:34:13.:34:15.

significantly increased their resilience since the crisis, and the

:34:16.:34:19.

PRA has the powers it needs to begin late overseas firms operating in the

:34:20.:34:22.

UK, to ensure the stability of the UK financial system. What steps is

:34:23.:34:28.

the Government taking to ensure that banks meet the 2019 deadline for

:34:29.:34:34.

separating retail banking from risky investment banking activity? I can

:34:35.:34:40.

tell my honourable friend, well under way and we are keeping a close

:34:41.:34:51.

eye on it. Mr Speaker, households' financial situations have improved.

:34:52.:34:56.

Household debt has fallen from 160% of household income to 144%. UK

:34:57.:35:06.

households have undertaken the second largest amount of

:35:07.:35:08.

deleveraging in the G7. However, we should be alert to signs of a recent

:35:09.:35:12.

reduction in the level of household savings. The savings ratio is now,

:35:13.:35:22.

in Q3 2016, at 5.6%, down from 6.6% in Q3 2015. Notwithstanding that,

:35:23.:35:27.

household debt IS very high, and housing costs are a bit proportion

:35:28.:35:36.

of household expenditure. Has the Chancellor made an assessment of

:35:37.:35:38.

what the impact would be of an interest rate increase on growth in

:35:39.:35:43.

the industry, given that that growth history than by consumer spending?

:35:44.:35:47.

Yes, Mr Speaker. The Bank of England makes regular assessments of the

:35:48.:35:53.

impact of changes in interest rates. It is a central part of the

:35:54.:35:56.

modelling work that it does. He's absolutely right that one of the

:35:57.:36:01.

drivers of the relatively high household debt levels in this

:36:02.:36:05.

country is our housing model being a relatively high percentage of

:36:06.:36:14.

household... Mr Speaker, the Governor of the Bank of England

:36:15.:36:17.

identified that we for the most serious challenges to the economy

:36:18.:36:20.

today are the levels of household debt and of course the falling

:36:21.:36:24.

pound. Both of these are made worse by the widespread belief in the

:36:25.:36:27.

general public that interest rates are not going to go up. What more

:36:28.:36:31.

can the Government do, and the Governor of the Bank of England, to

:36:32.:36:34.

signal to the public that interest rates RISE and not fall in the near

:36:35.:36:39.

future? That's not a matter for the Government, because as my honourable

:36:40.:36:42.

friend knows very well, interest rates are a matter for the Monetary

:36:43.:36:46.

Policy Committee of the Bank of England. And it is up to the

:36:47.:36:51.

Governor and individual members of that committee to do as this e-fit.

:36:52.:36:59.

Analysis published last week showed that unsecured household debt is at

:37:00.:37:04.

a record high. Even the Bank of England voiced concern yesterday

:37:05.:37:07.

that the UK was relying upon consumer spending rather than

:37:08.:37:10.

exports and investment to boost growth reach boded poorly for the

:37:11.:37:14.

future. Does the Chancellor acknowledge that such high levels of

:37:15.:37:19.

household debt are indicative of the fact that the government Jose

:37:20.:37:24.

canonic strategy simply is not working, especially for most

:37:25.:37:29.

families, who are now struggling to get by on their income is alone? No,

:37:30.:37:33.

Mr Speaker, I do not accept that at all. What I do accept is that the

:37:34.:37:37.

extra Audrey performance of the UK economy over the last six months

:37:38.:37:41.

which has defied many predictions, has been largely driven by consumer

:37:42.:37:46.

behaviour. And as I just set out in answer to the previous question, the

:37:47.:37:54.

savings ratio has declined. So, consumers are feeling confident,

:37:55.:37:56.

they've been spending money rather than saving it over the last six

:37:57.:38:01.

months. I would invite the Chancellor to meet struggling

:38:02.:38:04.

families in my constituency, and indeed across the rest of Britain.

:38:05.:38:08.

Even the Office for National Statistics reported on the 10th of

:38:09.:38:11.

January that non-retired households have less money on average than

:38:12.:38:15.

before the economic crash. Chronic low pay, lack of opportunity and

:38:16.:38:21.

government cuts to support means they are desperately trying to find

:38:22.:38:24.

ways to make ends meet on a monthly basis, using debt. And the

:38:25.:38:28.

Chancellor therefore confirm what protection he will offer these

:38:29.:38:33.

families, should inflation rise significantly as a result of the

:38:34.:38:37.

pound's weakness since Brexit and indeed in light of the Bank of

:38:38.:38:40.

England suggesting yesterday that interest rates could go up? Mr

:38:41.:38:45.

Speaker, the honourable lady is right of course that the declining

:38:46.:38:49.

value of sterling will have an impact on inflation, and we have to

:38:50.:38:53.

take that into account as it feeds through into the economy, and the

:38:54.:38:56.

OBR signalled in its Autumn Statement how it expects that to

:38:57.:39:01.

occur. We will get new reports from the OBR in respect of currency

:39:02.:39:05.

movements since the Autumn Statement at the time of the budget, on the

:39:06.:39:09.

8th of March. And I will report to the House again then. Banks are

:39:10.:39:15.

required to treat customers fairly and ensure that vulnerable customers

:39:16.:39:19.

have appropriate access to banking. My right honourable friend and I met

:39:20.:39:22.

recently to discuss this, and I'm pleased to understand that both the

:39:23.:39:27.

FCA and the BBA have offered to meet with my honourable friend to discuss

:39:28.:39:32.

this. I am grateful to my honourable friend, who as a carer for an adult

:39:33.:39:38.

son, manages his finances in the hope that he will be able to live as

:39:39.:39:42.

independent a life as possible but has real issues trying to access his

:39:43.:39:46.

online banking. Even the increasing number of carers in the country,

:39:47.:39:49.

does he agree with me that the banking industry should do all it

:39:50.:39:57.

scan -- should do all it can? I know the FCA and the BBA are both looking

:39:58.:40:00.

at ways to make it easier for trusted friends or family to be able

:40:01.:40:04.

to manage their money safely. And I wish him luck. Mr Speaker, as my

:40:05.:40:12.

brother's appointee, after severe head trauma, I can see many avenues

:40:13.:40:17.

in which the time of carers is taken up with dealing with red tape. Can

:40:18.:40:21.

the minister explain how things such as online banking can be kept safe

:40:22.:40:27.

but made more simple for carers, with regards to multiple usernames?

:40:28.:40:33.

I thank him for the question. I can assure him that this is something we

:40:34.:40:36.

have discussed and it is the very issue which my honourable friend

:40:37.:40:39.

will be discussing both with the FCA and the BBA but the Government are

:40:40.:40:45.

keeping a close eye on it. Number 11, Mr Speaker. Progress has been

:40:46.:40:53.

made since 2010, with housing starts near at -- now at an eight year

:40:54.:40:59.

high. The Chancellor announced in the Autumn Statement that the

:41:00.:41:02.

Government will invest more than ?5 billion in housing, including a new

:41:03.:41:07.

housing infrastructure fund which will deliver up to 100,000 homes in

:41:08.:41:14.

high demand areas. ?1.4 billion will go towards affordable homes. ?1.7

:41:15.:41:18.

billion towards a programme of accelerated construction on public

:41:19.:41:24.

land. I thank my right honourable friend. Does he agree with me that

:41:25.:41:28.

supporting the off-site construction of new homes, as we've been doing in

:41:29.:41:33.

Peterborough, is one important way to get more good-quality homes built

:41:34.:41:38.

quickly? I do agree with my honourable friend that we should

:41:39.:41:41.

explore the potential of modern methods of construction, including

:41:42.:41:50.

off-site instruction. The accelerated construction programme

:41:51.:41:56.

announced in October, which aims to speed up the building of homes on

:41:57.:41:59.

public land, will include an element of off-site construction. The

:42:00.:42:04.

department of amenities and local governing is considering ways of

:42:05.:42:06.

encouraging diversification in the house-building market. We had better

:42:07.:42:17.

get the fella in, I do not like to see him unhappy! As someone who

:42:18.:42:22.

chairs a national charity based in Peterborough, but also the members

:42:23.:42:26.

of Parliament for Huddersfield, can hide back the people who have been

:42:27.:42:29.

saying that what we need is a more diverse housing market, better

:42:30.:42:32.

provision, but also say that the future must be lower cost housing,

:42:33.:42:39.

off-site construction, but to a highly sustainable standard?

:42:40.:42:44.

I think we can agree on all of that. The is a consensus on this point. We

:42:45.:42:50.

do need to build more homes. Being able to build more homes more

:42:51.:42:56.

cheaply but of high quality and on a sustainable basis is something that

:42:57.:43:00.

I hope the whole house can... Thank you, Mr is bigger. In my

:43:01.:43:03.

constituency Rochester and Strood, we are facing high numbers of new

:43:04.:43:07.

housing being proposed. Can the minister assure me this will be

:43:08.:43:09.

matched with the increased investment in our local

:43:10.:43:14.

infrastructure? Well, I think I withdraw my honourable's --

:43:15.:43:19.

honourable friend's attention to the housing infrastructure fund which I

:43:20.:43:21.

think demonstrates the determination of government to ensure that in

:43:22.:43:25.

areas of high demand, where new housing is built, we also deliver

:43:26.:43:28.

the infrastructure to support that housing. I think that will have a

:43:29.:43:31.

beneficial effect in terms of getting more houses built and

:43:32.:43:34.

ensuring that the appropriate infrastructure is there. This is

:43:35.:43:40.

about Peterborough in England, not kill Marnoch and Loudoun or even

:43:41.:43:45.

Scotland. I'm going to save the honourable gentleman up for a later

:43:46.:43:49.

occasion. We look forward to that with eager anticipation. Mick

:43:50.:43:54.

Kearney. For many in my constituency, homeownership is but a

:43:55.:43:58.

pipe dream with more people renting privately than owning their own

:43:59.:44:01.

homes. What steps is the minister considering to encourage private

:44:02.:44:04.

landlords to offer at least longer term tenancies for these very

:44:05.:44:07.

private renters in London and Hackney South? Well, we look to take

:44:08.:44:13.

measures to support all sectors and all types of housing and she's

:44:14.:44:20.

absolutely right to say that the Private rented housing is a really

:44:21.:44:23.

important sector. I'm sure she would agree with this but I think we have

:44:24.:44:27.

to be careful about some proposals that float around in terms of rent

:44:28.:44:31.

controls in this area which would be damaging for the private rented

:44:32.:44:38.

sector. Fiona McTaggart. Number 13. Chancellor. The government does not

:44:39.:44:42.

comment on currency movements and we don't target and exchange rate but

:44:43.:44:45.

in the last few minutes, I will tell the house the pound has spiked while

:44:46.:44:48.

the Prime Minister has been speaking. The vote to leave the EU

:44:49.:44:52.

has obviously caused some uncertainty and movements in

:44:53.:44:56.

financial markets. More generally, the fundamentals of our economy over

:44:57.:44:59.

the last couple of years have been strong. I think what the Chancellor

:45:00.:45:03.

means is that he does not comment on currency movement unless he does.

:45:04.:45:09.

Fiona McTaggart. But isn't it the case that number ten's office

:45:10.:45:12.

briefed that the pound would fall as a result of her remarks today? And

:45:13.:45:16.

did they do that in a cynical attempt to get the sound bite that

:45:17.:45:23.

he has just sought to achieve? Mr Speaker, first of all, I draw a

:45:24.:45:27.

distinction between providing a house with information and

:45:28.:45:29.

commenting on that information. I wouldn't dream of doing the latter.

:45:30.:45:33.

The other thing I would not dream of commenting on is any operations that

:45:34.:45:38.

number ten might undertake that are well beyond my pay grade. James

:45:39.:45:46.

Morris. Mr Speaker, the depreciation of the pound in the last two months

:45:47.:45:50.

has had a significant benefit the West Midlands exporters,

:45:51.:45:53.

particularly outside the European Union. So would the Chancellor agree

:45:54.:45:57.

with me that whatever arrangements we come to for access to the single

:45:58.:46:02.

market when we leave the European Union, we must not constrain West

:46:03.:46:05.

Midlands exporters from growing their trade outside of the European

:46:06.:46:10.

Union? On the contrary, Mr Speaker, it must support West Midlands

:46:11.:46:13.

exporters in that endeavour. We still have a very large

:46:14.:46:18.

current-account external deficit. We need to bring our trade into better

:46:19.:46:25.

balance and one of our objectives in concluding the exit arrangements

:46:26.:46:27.

from the European Union will be to support that. Question 14, Mr

:46:28.:46:35.

Speaker. Well, Mr Speaker, the independent National Audit Office

:46:36.:46:38.

has in fact just publics -- published its report into HMRC's

:46:39.:46:44.

contract with Concentrix, today and HMRC managers will be attending a

:46:45.:46:47.

Public Accounts Committee hearing on the 25th of January where the report

:46:48.:46:53.

will be discussed? Thank you, Mr Speaker, giving the report the

:46:54.:46:55.

Minister referred to believe this morning, and given the fact the

:46:56.:46:58.

holder buckle has caused undue stress to thousands of people across

:46:59.:47:02.

the country, including in my own constituency, can I ask the minister

:47:03.:47:05.

what specific lessons have the Department and herself learned?

:47:06.:47:10.

Well, Mr Speaker, there are a number of things, as indeed I reflected

:47:11.:47:14.

when we had the opposition Day debate when the front bench, I

:47:15.:47:17.

accepted their motion on this. Of course, there are a number of

:47:18.:47:20.

lessons we have learned. That includes four ministers in the way

:47:21.:47:24.

that we monitor the concerns that colleagues have, for example, in the

:47:25.:47:30.

way we deal with their concerns behalf their constituents. HMRC have

:47:31.:47:33.

confirmed they are not planning a contract of this nature for this

:47:34.:47:35.

particular operation going forward. But they will have more to say when

:47:36.:47:41.

they respond, both in committee and to the report. Given the National

:47:42.:47:47.

Audit Office is exit rating -- office's exit rating report on

:47:48.:47:51.

Concentrix's failure to achieve savings targets, performance

:47:52.:47:54.

targets, serviceable staffing levels, sufficient levels of

:47:55.:47:59.

training, call handling accuracy, proficient contract management,

:48:00.:48:00.

competent decision-making while unbelievably increasing commission

:48:01.:48:07.

by almost threefold, wouldn't the Chancellor's time be better spent on

:48:08.:48:10.

concentrating on getting HMRC into a modicum of efficiency, rather than

:48:11.:48:19.

popping off to Davos for a winter soldier? The first thing I want to

:48:20.:48:23.

say Mr Speaker is that there are many tens of thousands of people

:48:24.:48:27.

working for HMRC and it would do their morale the power of good if

:48:28.:48:32.

people in this house could reflect on their current excellent

:48:33.:48:34.

performance and the improvements they've made on two years ago in

:48:35.:48:38.

terms of customer service. I want to publicly compliment them on the

:48:39.:48:41.

improvements they have made. Mistakes were made on Concentrix and

:48:42.:48:46.

we have accepted that and that is the reason the agreement was

:48:47.:48:50.

terminated. We will be reflecting more on that when we respond to the

:48:51.:48:54.

National Audit Office report. Topical questions. Topical one. Mr

:48:55.:49:00.

Speaker, my principal responsibility remains delivering near term

:49:01.:49:03.

measures to ensure stability and resilient as the UK exit the EU

:49:04.:49:07.

while also addressing the UK's long-term productivity challenge. My

:49:08.:49:10.

immediate focus is preparing the last ever spring budget for delivery

:49:11.:49:17.

on the 8th of March. Many of my constituents are concerned about the

:49:18.:49:20.

future of the clean investment bank, the potential of asset stripping,

:49:21.:49:24.

the worth of the shares and the suitability of the buyers. What is

:49:25.:49:27.

the Minister's department doing to ensure that the UK taxpayer is given

:49:28.:49:34.

a fair deal out of the sale of the bank and that it retains its green

:49:35.:49:39.

focus? Those are two of the criteria that we have set, that there should

:49:40.:49:44.

be value for money for the taxpayer, and that the bank's focus for future

:49:45.:49:47.

operations should be retained and protected. We are reviewing the sale

:49:48.:49:52.

process as it goes forward and we will make sure that those outcomes

:49:53.:49:57.

are protected. Thank you, Mr Speaker. The latest fiscal

:49:58.:50:01.

sustainability report was published by the Office for Budget

:50:02.:50:03.

Responsibility just over an hour ago. Knowing what a Crick read my

:50:04.:50:07.

right honourable friend is, what assessment has he made of the

:50:08.:50:13.

implications for the long-term health of the public finances? Not

:50:14.:50:19.

only a quick reader but able to read the report while also answering

:50:20.:50:24.

questions in the house. The OBR's report actually shows that under

:50:25.:50:27.

certain circumstances, the UK public finances will come under increasing

:50:28.:50:31.

pressure over the next 50 years. As I said earlier, what this does is

:50:32.:50:36.

create a catalyst for a discussion which we have to have about how we

:50:37.:50:40.

maintain the sustainability of our crucial public services, looking at

:50:41.:50:45.

the demographic pressures and other pressures that they will face. I do

:50:46.:50:49.

believe this report has served a useful purpose and I hope because

:50:50.:50:57.

the point, 50 years outcome is sufficiently far away, we will be

:50:58.:51:00.

able to have a mature cross-party discussion about how we address

:51:01.:51:07.

these issues. The Autumn Statement revealed Brexit bombshell that

:51:08.:51:10.

growth will be a massive 2.4% lower than previously predicted. What

:51:11.:51:13.

further in fact does the Chancellor expect leaving the single market

:51:14.:51:18.

will have on GDP growth in years to come? Well, Mr Speaker, I think the

:51:19.:51:22.

OBR has set out its projections under different scenarios at the

:51:23.:51:26.

Autumn Statement. It is the OBR that makes the forecast. It will of

:51:27.:51:30.

course produce a revised set of forecasts which will be published on

:51:31.:51:40.

the 8th of March, budget day. Derek Thomas. Businesses including

:51:41.:51:42.

restaurants and guesthouses in my constituency curtail their business

:51:43.:51:44.

in order to keep within their budget threshold. This obviously has a

:51:45.:51:46.

negative impact on economic activity and jobs in West Cornwall and the

:51:47.:51:51.

Isles of Scilly. We'll be Chancellor consider increasing the VAT

:51:52.:51:54.

threshold as soon as the opportunity arises? Well, I thank my honourable

:51:55.:51:59.

friend for the point and I'm happy to discuss it when we have the

:52:00.:52:02.

meeting. It is worth putting on the record that the VAT rate is ?138

:52:03.:52:07.

billion towards the public finances, projected for this year and it is in

:52:08.:52:11.

fact one of the highest threshold in the EU but I'm always happy to

:52:12.:52:14.

listen to colleagues and I know the concerns of the tourism industry in

:52:15.:52:19.

particular are to the fore of the minds of many. Last week, the

:52:20.:52:22.

nuclear decommissioning authority began a statutory consultation on UK

:52:23.:52:27.

Government plans to cut final salary pensions across the nuclear state,

:52:28.:52:32.

impacting 16,000 workers, including hundreds of my constituency. Is the

:52:33.:52:35.

Chancellor aware that this is a trailer promises made by Margaret

:52:36.:52:39.

Thatcher to nuclear workers when the energy industry was privatised? Of

:52:40.:52:46.

course, the government, indeed the relevant agency recognises the

:52:47.:52:50.

importance of the staff and employees that work in this sector.

:52:51.:52:55.

But it is also necessary to have terms and conditions which reflect

:52:56.:53:00.

the modern situation and what is the case that applies across the whole

:53:01.:53:07.

economy. The Solent region has a deficit of 6% in edge EVA compared

:53:08.:53:10.

to the rest of the south-east, and much of that is due to the lack of

:53:11.:53:15.

investment in local transport infrastructure, for example, no

:53:16.:53:18.

significant investment in rail for 50 years. Can the Chancellor

:53:19.:53:21.

confirmed the new national productivity investment fund can be

:53:22.:53:26.

used to address that deficit? Well, what I can say to my honourable

:53:27.:53:31.

friend is that the purpose of the national productivity investment

:53:32.:53:33.

fund is to support economic growth across all regions of the country.

:53:34.:53:37.

Further details are specifying how and where the national productivity

:53:38.:53:40.

investment fund will be invested will be set out by the relevant

:53:41.:53:43.

departments and agencies in due course. Of course, the Solent won't

:53:44.:53:47.

be forgotten and we are taking action to improve rail services with

:53:48.:53:50.

a new franchise expected to deliver more services and quicker journey

:53:51.:53:59.

times on South West trains. Mr Speaker, it's simply not good enough

:54:00.:54:03.

to throw Concentrix under the bus on this one. The NAA report today found

:54:04.:54:06.

that HMRC were at fault in the writing of the contract, in failing

:54:07.:54:10.

to monitor it, and in intervening to make things worse after a Paul

:54:11.:54:14.

Clough -- poor performance in summer 2015. Who will be held accountable,

:54:15.:54:19.

HMRC for these gross failings of this contract from beginning to end?

:54:20.:54:25.

-- accountable at HMRC. Well, Mr Speaker, the Honourable Lady and I

:54:26.:54:28.

have debated this usual and of course they are significant

:54:29.:54:30.

criticisms in the report and we are looking at those and we have

:54:31.:54:33.

accepted a number of the criticisms that have been made about the

:54:34.:54:36.

handling of this but are not -- a lot of money has been saved in the

:54:37.:54:40.

area for that exist in the tax credit system and HMRC will be

:54:41.:54:44.

responding in more detail at the PAC hearing next week and I will look at

:54:45.:54:47.

the report and consider it in detail. Nicola Halifax reports that

:54:48.:54:53.

the of first-time buyers is that it ties into 2007. -- the Halifax. It

:54:54.:54:57.

cites government schemes as hell to bide making a major contribution.

:54:58.:55:01.

What can the government do to back aspiration more and help people get

:55:02.:55:06.

on the housing ladder? Be helped by schemes have helped over 220,000

:55:07.:55:11.

households buy a home, including over 180,001st-time buyers. Add the

:55:12.:55:14.

Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced the government would

:55:15.:55:17.

invest an additional ?1.4 billion in affordable housing to deliver 40,000

:55:18.:55:21.

new homes for shared ownership, rented by and affordable rent,

:55:22.:55:24.

bringing the total funding of the affordable homes programme to ?7.1

:55:25.:55:30.

billion. Will the Chancellor state unequivocally the government's

:55:31.:55:33.

commitment to the 0.7% aid target in this and future spending rounds? Mr

:55:34.:55:41.

Speaker, as the honourable gentle minnows, the 0.7% target is

:55:42.:55:45.

enshrined in primary legislation. -- honourable gentleman knows. The

:55:46.:55:48.

government has no intention of changing that. The government is

:55:49.:55:52.

investing in major infrastructure projects including Heathrow Airport,

:55:53.:55:57.

HS2 and hopefully a new A36- 46 link Rd in my constituency. What is my

:55:58.:56:01.

right honourable friend doing to ensure we provide enough funds to

:56:02.:56:05.

make sure the work is conducted in a timely fashion? The government is

:56:06.:56:08.

committed to supporting the skills we need to deliver our national

:56:09.:56:13.

infrastructure. In 2016, the transport in the structure and skill

:56:14.:56:17.

strategy committed to creating 30 Thousand Rd and rail apprenticeships

:56:18.:56:22.

by the end of the Parliament. The Department for industrial strategy

:56:23.:56:26.

is investing ?40,000 in the high-speed rail college with further

:56:27.:56:29.

funding coming from local government and industry. Heathrow Airport has

:56:30.:56:32.

admitted to double the number of apprentices to 10,000 by the time

:56:33.:56:34.

the new third runway is operational. Changes to the regional funds for

:56:35.:56:50.

solar power will mean that solar rooftop installations on schools and

:56:51.:56:55.

hospitals could be increasing in cost by 68 times in April. Does the

:56:56.:56:58.

Government realise the hugely damaging impact this will have on

:56:59.:57:01.

organisations which have installed those panels in good health, and

:57:02.:57:06.

also for the solar panel industry? The installation of solar panels is

:57:07.:57:09.

of course only one of the factors which determine the rateable value.

:57:10.:57:14.

The transitional relief scheme will support businesses which have an

:57:15.:57:19.

increase in business rates bills and of course businesses with solar

:57:20.:57:23.

panels will also benefit from these ?6.7 billion package to reduce

:57:24.:57:28.

business rates, the biggest ever. The Government will be aware that

:57:29.:57:33.

north Wales has some of the lowest productivity rates in the UK at

:57:34.:57:38.

around 73% of the UK average. With that in mind, what plans does it

:57:39.:57:41.

have to work with the six north Wales councils, the Mersey--Dee

:57:42.:57:52.

Alliance and other organisations...? I can confirm to my honourable

:57:53.:57:56.

friend that Treasury ministers have regular discussions with ministerial

:57:57.:58:01.

colleagues as to how to increase growth and productivity across Wales

:58:02.:58:05.

and the United Kingdom. In 2016 the Government confirm that the door was

:58:06.:58:09.

still open for a growth deal with north Wales and it is committed to

:58:10.:58:12.

negotiating a City Deal for the Swansea bay region in south Wales. I

:58:13.:58:16.

look forward to receiving proposals from partners in the north Wales

:58:17.:58:22.

region over the coming months. Is always very well briefed these

:58:23.:58:30.

topical questions, reading out the screed, very good! IFS... What is

:58:31.:58:42.

the Chancellor's strategy to ensure that growth in our economy benefits

:58:43.:58:47.

everybody? Mr Speaker, we have seen income inequality falling, but of

:58:48.:58:56.

course, we face issues as the depreciation of sterling works its

:58:57.:58:59.

way through to inflation in the economy. That is an issue which we

:59:00.:59:03.

will keep very much focused on and I shall address it in more detail at

:59:04.:59:08.

the budget. Alongside other elements driving successful PMI is recently

:59:09.:59:12.

was seven consecutive months of export growth. Will the Chancellor

:59:13.:59:16.

agree this is a fine way to underpin our already record rates of

:59:17.:59:21.

employment? I would agree. The survey has shown significant

:59:22.:59:27.

resilience in the UK economy since the referendum, and the Prime

:59:28.:59:30.

Minister has made it very clear recently that we will make a success

:59:31.:59:33.

of leaving the EU. Given the minister's earlier comments about

:59:34.:59:37.

attempts to stimulate house-building, can he guarantee

:59:38.:59:41.

that at the end of this Parliament, the supply of rented homes will be

:59:42.:59:50.

higher than at the beginning? What I can say to the honourable... To the

:59:51.:59:56.

honourable gentleman, is that we are likely to build more affordable

:59:57.:59:58.

homes in the course of this Parliament than has been done since

:59:59.:00:08.

the 1970s. Currently, 87,000 ultralow emission vehicles on our

:00:09.:00:12.

roads. , but a Committee on Climate Change says we need to have 1.7 by

:00:13.:00:16.

2020. What more can the Treasury do to help us reach that challenging

:00:17.:00:24.

target? I recognise his concern. As Transport Secretary in 2010, this

:00:25.:00:28.

was on my agenda. The roll-out of ultralow emission vehicles has been

:00:29.:00:31.

disappointing. It has not gone as fast as I would have hoped. And it

:00:32.:00:35.

will be one of the issues that we look at as we seek to respond to

:00:36.:00:39.

concerns about air quality, reinforced by recent court decisions

:00:40.:00:44.

requiring the Government to review its approach to our quality. In his

:00:45.:00:54.

last budget, the Chancellor stuck a 7 billion investment line on the

:00:55.:01:00.

year 2022 which is actually beyond the remit of this Parliament. Can he

:01:01.:01:05.

explain the purpose of that? I did not hear the first part of the

:01:06.:01:09.

question. It's customary to present forecasts for fiscal events over the

:01:10.:01:15.

forecast period, which as we progress through the Parliament will

:01:16.:01:19.

stretch beyond the end of the current Parliament. But the way it

:01:20.:01:23.

has always been done and I'm afraid it would not be hopeful to give

:01:24.:01:33.

Parliament a shorter horizon. Mr James Berry. It is a London related

:01:34.:01:39.

question. Major infrastructure investment will form a vital part of

:01:40.:01:44.

our economy in post-Brexit Britain. Can my right honourable friend

:01:45.:01:50.

confirm this in regard to Crossrail 2? Mr Speaker, the Government will

:01:51.:01:55.

of course consider all proposals for infrastructure investment on their

:01:56.:01:59.

merits. The industrial strategy green paper, when it is published,

:02:00.:02:05.

will set out the Government's approach to prioritising

:02:06.:02:06.

infrastructure to support the economy. When the Chancellor

:02:07.:02:11.

considers the effects of bringing in quarterly reporting, will he look at

:02:12.:02:15.

the figures which show that only 25% of our smaller businesses have

:02:16.:02:19.

maintained electronic accounting records, and just 38% lack basic

:02:20.:02:31.

digital skills? So will you listen to the committee which described

:02:32.:02:36.

this as a potential disaster? Mr Speaker, I Will always listen to

:02:37.:02:39.

what the tremens of the Treasury Select Committee says. It is a very

:02:40.:02:43.

useful support and I am considering it carefully. They acknowledged that

:02:44.:02:49.

the future digitisation of the tax service is the direction we should

:02:50.:02:52.

be travelling in. But of course we are looking carefully at the impact

:02:53.:02:56.

on small businesses, many thousands of whom we have already exempted

:02:57.:02:58.

without current announcement. I think it is Lancashire's turn, Jake

:02:59.:03:07.

Berry! Thank you, Mr Speaker. On the subject of berries, does my right

:03:08.:03:11.

honourable friend the Chancellor share my concern that too many jams

:03:12.:03:16.

are becoming jam tomorrow, with household debt? What will he do to

:03:17.:03:21.

stop irresponsible lending by credit card companies and banks to

:03:22.:03:25.

low-income households? Well, Mr Speaker, the Government does, the

:03:26.:03:31.

regulatory authorities do take appropriate measures to prevent

:03:32.:03:33.

inappropriate lending and to make sure that credit products are not

:03:34.:03:39.

mis-sold. And we will continue to do so. Member for East Lothian, always

:03:40.:03:44.

looks so happy. We will make him happier! Thank you, it is your

:03:45.:03:52.

presence that makes me happy! While the Chancellor has been answering

:03:53.:04:02.

questions, the Prime Minister in her speech has said that the UK will

:04:03.:04:06.

most likely continue to pay into EU budgets. With the Chancellor have

:04:07.:04:13.

something to say on that? Mr Speaker, we have always said that if

:04:14.:04:17.

as part of our future arrangements with our former European Union

:04:18.:04:21.

partners, we continue to collaborate in certain areas, scientific and

:04:22.:04:25.

technical, research programmes, for example, then of course we'll have

:04:26.:04:31.

to expect to contribute. All of this is for the negotiations ahead. What

:04:32.:04:34.

the Prime Minister has done to date is set out a 12 point plan for

:04:35.:04:40.

Britain's future relationship with the European Union, exactly what our

:04:41.:04:43.

partners have been demanding from us. And I hope that this will no

:04:44.:04:47.

signal the beginning of the serious engagement on Britain's future

:04:48.:04:51.

relationship... I heard this morning that an overseas insurance company

:04:52.:04:57.

had chosen Zurich over London as its European base because they felt the

:04:58.:04:59.

Swiss authorities were much quicker to engage with them than the London

:05:00.:05:03.

authorities. With the Chancellor have a look at, ensure that we are

:05:04.:05:05.

the most competitive financial services market in the world and

:05:06.:05:11.

that we really take overseas investment seriously? Of course, Mr

:05:12.:05:19.

Speaker, I thought my honourable for was going to tell me that they had

:05:20.:05:22.

chosen an EU location over London so I am interested to hear that they

:05:23.:05:26.

have chosen Zurich, the only possible non-EU location over

:05:27.:05:30.

London. But of course I will look at the issue. It is our objective to

:05:31.:05:34.

have the most attractive location for inward investment for foreign

:05:35.:05:37.

businesses to do their business on this continent. Inflation is still

:05:38.:05:43.

below the Monetary Policy Committee's official target. The

:05:44.:05:50.

economy has long been a more worrying risk in terms of deflation,

:05:51.:05:52.

rather than inflation. Though he therefore seek to deflate the

:05:53.:05:57.

Governor of the Bank of England from any notion of raising interest rates

:05:58.:06:00.

which would inflict damage to the economy? No, Mr Speaker, it is not a

:06:01.:06:08.

matter for me to persuade or dissuade the Governor of the Bank of

:06:09.:06:11.

England with respect to this. But while the inflation figures

:06:12.:06:15.

published this morning at 1.6% are below the Bank of England's target

:06:16.:06:21.

rate, the OBR's forecast and indeed the Bank of England's forecast for

:06:22.:06:26.

later on this year suggest that they will meet and exceed the target rate

:06:27.:06:33.

later in the year. Over a year ago, the Treasury promised to consult on

:06:34.:06:38.

breathing space, which would assist and protect people from interest and

:06:39.:06:42.

other charges while they seek help. Will the minister commit to bringing

:06:43.:06:47.

this forward as a matter of urgency in view of the high levels of

:06:48.:06:52.

personal debt? We are looking very closely at, we will see some

:06:53.:06:59.

progress in the vein of future. Statement, the Secretary of State

:07:00.:07:10.

for Health man. -- the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

:07:11.:07:17.

Secretary James Brokenshire. Thank you, Mr Speaker. With permission, I

:07:18.:07:21.

should like to make a statement regarding forthcoming elections to

:07:22.:07:27.

the Northern Ireland Assembly. As the House is aware, Martin

:07:28.:07:29.

McGuinness resigned as

:07:30.:07:30.

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