During the debate on the Budget, James welcomed continued support for families and jobs in North West Norfolk, particularly extending the Universal Credit uplift, continuing the furlough scheme, and widening access to self-employment support.
He highlighted the challenging situation for tourism and hospitality businesses that are vital to North West Norfolk and praised the decision to extend business rates holiday and the 5% VAT rate that he campaigned for. He said there is a strong case for extending the lower 12.5% VAT rate that applies from October on an ongoing basis.
Longer term, he spoke about the proposal Visit East of England and New Anglia LEP are developing for a Tourism Zone for Norfolk and Suffolk and encouraged ministers to include the timetable and process in the tourism recovery strategy in the spring.
James welcomed that King’s Lynn and West Norfolk is in the priority group for the new Levelling Up Fund and said that the Town Investment Plan submitted recently should be looked at closely by government to promote jobs, skills, regeneration, and a better connected town to drive growth, innovation, and investment.
He praised the "super-deduction" to increase business investment in capital equipment while raising concerns expressed by the NFU about the ability of some firms in the agricultural sector to benefit for investment in new farm technology. He also called on the government to stick to the timetable for the business rates review to create a level-playing field for our high streets..
Finally, he said that the Budget was honest about the challenges and makes the right call to continue short term support, while setting out a path to fix the finances.
Full text of James' speech:
I welcome this Budget and the continued support for families and jobs in North West Norfolk. The scale of the package is vast, and I particularly welcome extending the universal credit uplift, continuing the furlough scheme and widening access to self-employment support.
The Chancellor once again recognised the very challenging situation faced by tourism and hospitality businesses. This is a vital part of west Norfolk’s economy, worth about £500 million and making up one in every five jobs, so it is great news that the business rates holiday and the 5% VAT rate, which I campaigned for, have been extended. There is also a strong case to consider extending the lower 12.5% VAT rate, which applies from October, on an ongoing basis.
Longer term, we need further action to build a more resilient visitor economy. The 2019 sector deal pledged to create five tourism zones, increase visitor numbers, extend the season and invest in skills. Visit East of England and the New Anglia local enterprise partnership are developing a bid for Norfolk and Suffolk, focused on heritage, culture, sustainability, skills and accessibility. Digital is also an important part of that bid, through skills for small and medium-sized enterprises and access to full fibre. I would be grateful if the Minister could ensure that the tourism recovery strategy that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport mentioned will kick off that process. While some delay has been understandable, it is now important to get on with this initiative.
The Budget also shows the Government’s commitment to growth across the country. I am pleased that King’s Lynn and west Norfolk is in the priority group for the new levelling-up fund. After a very disappointing result in the Future High Streets bid, I know that Ministers will look closely at our town investment plan, which includes projects to maximise our historic riverfront and town centre, the creative hub and guildhall complex at the oldest working theatre in England, with strong Shakespeare links, the innovation incubator community hub and the sustainably connected town centre.
It is business investment that will help drive the recovery, so the super deduction is very welcome, but I urge the Treasury to look at the concerns of the National Farmers Union that many firms will not be able to benefit from investment in new farm technology. Measures to encourage apprentices and trainees are the right priorities, and, like businesses, I look forward to the interim business rates review. It is important that the timetable for creating a level playing field for our high streets does not slip.
In the face of an unprecedented pandemic, unprecedented economic support has been provided. The Budget was honest about the challenges, but it makes the right call to continue short-term support while setting out a path to fix the finances. While corporation taxes are unwelcome, they are necessary because as Conservatives we know, from clearing up the mess left by Labour Governments, that you cannot keep spending without one day having to settle the bill. I back the Budget to support the recovery as well as to lay the foundations for a strong economy.