MP Stewart Jackson tells the BBC’s Paul Stainton he is broadly in favour of the Budget proposals but hopes to persuade the Government to extend National Insurance relief for start-up businesses to include those in his Peterborough constituency. Broadcast at 07:10 on Wednesday 23rd June 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
PAUL: : So the Chancellor stood up at twelve thirty yesterday and with a slightly faltering voice .. (YODELS) .. a little bit. Yes he did, didn’t he? A bit nervous, but then bless him, it’s a big day, a big day. And he laid out all the cuts and the tax rises and everything else. But something that’s pertinent to Peterborough came up a bit later on. We alluded to it yesterday on the Show. New businesses in the city won’t be eligible for the National Insurance tax break announced yesterday. Start-ups outside East Anglia won’t have to pay National Insurance contributions for the first year. But places like Peterborough will not benefit from this. Stewart Jackson is the Conservative MP for the city of course. Morning Stewart.
STEWART: Good morning Paul.
PAUL: This is bad news for us really, isn’t it? Really bad news.
STEWART: Well I wouldn’t say it’s really bad news. You’ve got to remember that the reason George Osborne put forward this proposal is he was specifically aiming to bring more private sector business to those regions which have frankly too much public sector employment and not enough private sector employment generating wealth, such as the North-East, the North-West and the West Midlands. The thing about London and the South-East and the Eastern Region is we have very high levels of private sector employment, and therefore it was felt that we didn’t need any National Insurance tax breaks. Having said that, I agree that it’s disappointing news to an extent, in that they should have possibly looked at pockets of unemployment and economic problems in the Eastern regions, such as Harlow, Stevenage, Luton and Peterbroough, where we could definitely have done with that national Insurance tax break.
PAUL: What the Government are saying, what your Government is saying is that we’re a bit too prosperous for help. And yet we’ve heard from yourself and other people on this Show many times that we don’t have enough money to look after the people we’ve got. We’re far from prosperous.
STEWART: Well I can’t diagree with you. I’m not going to tell you black is white. I’ve been on the Show many times Paul to talk about job-losses, to talk about the lack of skills in the city, the fact we need the University Centre. And I certainly will be lobbying the Chancellor George Osborne in the next few days to say that the Treasury should have taken a more nuanced approach to this, in that there are pockets of difficulty in terms of economic growth, where we have sustained job-losses. But the difficulty really is to make that argument, because they will say well look, the Eastern Region is generally wealthy, the per capita economic growth is high, and it certainly ranks up there with the South-East and London. And it’s a difficult argument to make when you’re looking at relatively wealthy places such as Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, and of course I’m not interested in them, I’m interested in sticking up for Peterborough. So I will be making that case in due course.
PAUL: Now yesterday of course we were all expecting this Budget. We’ve been building up to it for weeks and weeks and weeks. It was going to be the pain, the hardest Budget we’ve had in years, and indeed it didn’t disappoint did it? Tax hikes and also massive cutbacks, there’s going to be a lot of pain for the local economy, a lot of pain for probably the town council, a twenty five per cent cut in public spending which is going to have a huge impact, isn’t it?
STEWART: Well this is inevitable given what Labour have left us, the hundred and fifty eight billion pound public sector debt. In fact Labour had already had planned forty billion pounds worth of savings. In fact, the difference with them was that they didn’t have any detailed plans where those savings would be made. And I think any responsible government has to do that. We’ve got a choice here as to how we proceed. I think it was a tough Budget, but it was fair as well. So wealthier people are taking a hit on things like the capital gains tax for top-rate taxpayers, that’s going up from eighteen to twenty eight per cent. But we’re also looking after the least well-off. People in the public sector who are earning say less than twenty one thousand pounds, they will not have a pay freeze. Personal tax allowances are to go up by a thousand pounds for low and middle income earners, and we’re looking at putting an extra two billion pounds in child tax credits specifically aimed at the poorest families.
PAUL: Labour say this Budget is going to harm the recovery, and the VAT rise from January is particularly going to harm the economy. It’s going to hit everybody including the poorest.
STEWART: Well Labour have to answer the question what would you do? What would you do to set us back on the path of sound money? And what would you do to get growth, particularly in the private sector economy? And the answer is they have no answer to those particular points. And no-one was ever pretending that it’s easy to make these decisions. But unless we start now, we are going to be in a terrible mess and be on the road to being another Greece, and go through the problems that they are going through. And the City of London has generally welcomed the Budget, in that they are saying at least you’ve got a government that’s being up-front, that’s being straight, and is telling people what will happen.
PAUL: But you’ve taken a battering ram. The City of London might welcome it but you’ve taken a battering ram to the welfare system as well, haven’t you? People who are ill, people who are on benefit, are going to suffer as well.
STEWART: No not at all. We all know that the welfare state expenditure is out of control, whether it’s housing benefit, whether it’s other benefits that people receive. And there are people who can and should work who don’t. I found going round in the General Election campaign talking to people that those who did the right thing, who were on modest incomes, trying to do the best for their kids by working, were frankly fed-up with people who they knew could work, and didn’t choose to work, and were on benefit. And I think any responsible government has to look at everyone. And those that are the weakest, those who are sick, those who can’t work, will be looked after and taken care of. And those that can work will be forced to work, and I (?) that.
PAUL: Is compassionate conservatism still alive?
PAUL: Absolutely. And that’s why, as I say, we are aiming these, in very difficult times, we’re aiming these benefits at people who desperately need them. And in fact we’re doing other .. we’re keeping to our pledge we made at the election, which I think is one of the most important parts of this Budget, that we are going to relink the state pension to earnings, so that pensioners will be able to live in dignity and have a decent living when they retire. And I think even despite the difficulties generally in the economy, that’s quite something to be able to deliver in a budget.
PAUL: Stewart, thank you for coming on this morning. Stewart Jackson MP for Peterborough.