The next Budget is on Wednesday 22nd November and in the last week the first round of speculative news stories began. The weeks before a Budget contain an interesting process, a sort of condensed democracy, in which MPs will receive hundreds of suggestions to take forward to the Chancellor, meetings are held, lobbyists gather in Portcullis House and briefings both official and unofficial are given to journalists.
Some announcements are foreshadowed in speeches at the party conference and, quite rightly, we can expect some measures to help students repaying their loans. I tend to be in the more progressive camp on that and would argue that the system needs a further overhaul. There is no loan system in the world in which most loans aren’t repaid in full and payments are linked to income. In reality it is a time limited graduate tax and acknowledging that would be a healthy start.
There is some speculation about tax breaks for the young and help with housing issues. It is true that a lot of the country’s wealth is concentrated in the older generations who are often, in turn very generous in supporting their own families. Added to this though are the issues of underfunded pension funds, a massive issue especially in the public sector and the increasing cost of social care. Questions of intergenerational fairness will clearly not be answered in one Budget but we should not shy away from the conversation.
I am calling for an increase in the budget for the Armed Forces. There is increasing speculation that some of our military capability may be lost if we do not increase the funds available. I am leading a debate in Parliament on this issue this week to raise its profile. In addition to the importance of the military and related industrial partners to our own area, the world seems less stable than it has for a long time. As we forge a new set of security arrangements with our European neighbours we should be showing leadership and doing so from a position of strength.
Given the competing demands on the Treasury it is perhaps only reasonable that delivering the Budget is the only time that an MP may have a drink whilst at the Despatch Box. The last to do so was Ken Clarke who would have a whisky. I could suggest Mr Hammond tries one of our Somerset ales or ciders, or perhaps if he wants to throw his trademark caution to the wind, a cider brandy. Suggestions on this or any other aspect of the Budget are very welcome.
Thanks to everyone involved in my Somerset meetings last week. I always look forward to being here and had a particularly good couple of days ranging from discussing international trade with Leonardo and the Secretary of State to learning about flower arranging in Combe St Nicholas. As always, if you have an issue that I may be able to help with or would like an appointment at one of my regular advice surgeries please do email email@example.com or call 01935314321.