View from the House
ON December 3, the Chancellor gave his Autumn Statement on the economy to the House of Commons. The occasion has become, in effect, a ‘mini-Budget’ for the next six months. I was pleased to see two long-standing campaigns of mine bear some fruit. Since becoming the MP for Esher and Walton in 2010, I have been talking to local retailers, from Molesey to Walton, about the high cost of business rates and the unfair advantage this gives to online traders. So it was welcome to see George Osborne extend the discount for small businesses and launch a full review of business rates, to report in time for the 2016 Budget. The Chancellor also announced major reform of stamp duty. This unfair and inefficient tax has hit families in Elmbridge disproportionately hard, compared to other parts of the country. The new system will cut stamp duty for all homes costing £937,000 or less but increase it for most homes costing more. The vast majority will gain locally.
Still, the risk is that rising house prices in the years to come will drag more and more middle-class buyers and sellers into paying the new higher rates. So, as I argued in Parliament, it is vital that the government links the thresholds to house price inflation, so stamp duty does not return to being a stealth tax on the middle classes. More broadly, the Autumn Statement provides a good snapshot of the state of the economy. It confirmed that Britain is currently the fastest growing of any major advanced economy. Since 2010, the economy has grown by more than 8%, the budget deficit has been cut by around a half and unemployment is down to 6% (from 8% under Labour). There is still a long haul ahead. But, overall, this Autumn Statement was good news for Elmbridge and good news for Britain.