By Lord Dolar Popat, Government Whip and Lord-in-Waiting and Spokesman for Business, Innovation and Skills and Transport
For centuries the Chancellor of the Exchequer has annually presented their Budget to the House of Commons and the country. Some Budgets are memorable for their radical changes, others for their disastrous impacts; some Budgets change little and fade quickly from the memory.
In recent years the Autumn Statement has joined the annual Budget. Behind every one of these economic set pieces are months of negotiations and political considerations. It’s a high-wire act for every Chancellor.
Last Wednesday George Osborne presented the last Autumn Statement of this Parliament, and he once again showed that he is the boldest Chancellor I have known in my forty-five years in Britain. We have, in our current Chancellor, a man who has in four years halved our nation’s deficit whilst overseeing record levels of employment and the fastest growing economy in the G7.
Put his reforms implemented before this week into context and they’re unrivalled. Income tax has been cut for 25 million people. The state pension has been increased by £ 800 and the annuities market revolutionised for pensioners. Help to Buy has given thousands of families a home of their own. The NHS Budget has been ring-fenced to provide care for our most vulnerable.
It is a remarkable record -one that truly supports aspiration; yet last week he went further. He announced the overhaul of stamp duty – a long-hated tax on home sales - which will mean 98% of stamp duty payers pay less tax when they buy their home. He revealed investment in major road and rail schemes across our country, which will help families and businesses alike. The tax-free personal allowance has gone up to £10,600 and fuel duty has been frozen again.
George Osborne is rebalancing our economy, making Britain one of the most attractive places to invest in the world and supporting families and the most vulnerable. What he has achieved in four and half years is little short of an economic miracle.
Yet when I met with the Chancellor earlier this week to discuss the Autumn Statement, I was most struck by his passion for supporting small businesses. He has retargeted the Funding for Lending Scheme at SMEs, given more investment to the British Business Bank to improve access to finance and abolished the employers’ jobs tax on apprenticeships.
He is passionate about ensuring that SME’s can flourish in England and that they will drive our efforts not only to rebalance the economy, but to remain one of the leading economies in the world. Many SMEs I’ve spoken to in recent months have complained about business rates; last week the Chancellor announced a full review of the structure of business rates to report before Budget 2016. History is always the greatest judge of how successful a Chancellor’s actions are. However I am confident that the current occupant in Number 11 Downing Street will be seen as an extraordinary politician; a man who – in the shadows of one of the greatest economic crises our country has ever faced - helped to reshape Britain into a 21st Century powerhouse.
When it comes to next May we will all have a choice to make; support the Prime Minister and Chancellor who have proved to be as ambitious as they have been successful. Or to back the two economic advisers who assisted Gordon Brown in driving our economy over the cliff. As George Osborne showed this week, he is the reformer we need to deliver prosperity for Britain.