Next month’s budget will be the first to be delivered to a largely virtual Commons Chamber. Traditionally the Chancellor is heard without intervention to ensure the audience don’t miss any detail. The Leader of the Opposition’s response is one of the hardest to deliver – and again is heard without intervention. Working virtually means that convention will be extended to most contributors.
This budget is likely to be one of the most significant of modern times. Britain’s economy has contracted more than virtually any other advanced economy because of the pandemic but also after a decade of underinvestment.
The choices the Chancellor makes will be crucial with thousands of businesses at risk and with them potentially millions of jobs. Many have depended on support from central Government but now face having to repay loans before they have had a chance to recover. It’s not a demand we make on students for example who are only obliged to pay back loans once they reach a certain income. It’s a principle we could extend to businesses.
Pushing businesses over the edge not only risks jobs but makes the taxpayer liable for default, wasting money which should be used to rebuild the NHS.
We should also be looking for an extension of the business rates holiday to help save our high streets and use furlough smarter to help safeguard jobs. The choices for the Chancellor are tough but this is his opportunity to make a break with the debunked policies of the past and show he really grasps the urgency of the current situation.