Derbyshire Times Column

As published in the Derbyshire Times, 7th March 2013

Many constituents regularly contact me about the level of immigration and what can be done to reduce it. We did of course promise to reduce this from the hundreds of thousands a year to the tens of thousands during this parliament. The Government has introduced various measures since the election to cap immigration and prevent visas being issued fraudulently. This was reflected in welcome news last week with data published showing net immigration down a third since the election and with this fall continuing.

There are also many people concerned about the impact of the expiry at the end of 2013 of the restrictions on the free movement of Romanians and Bulgarians. Of particular concern is ensuring that our benefits systems and public services are not abused by people who have never contributed to them. Last week the Prime Minister announced that the Government is looking at ways of restricting access by immigrants. This should bring down welfare tourism, which in itself will reduce net migration. It’s absolutely fair that those who have contributed to the system are able to claim should they lose their job, but while British taxpayers are hard pressed, surely it’s right that we move to place restrictions on those who have yet to contribute.

The Budget is now only a couple of weeks away and we saw last week, with the downgrade by Moody’s of the UK credit rating, just how difficult the economic climate is. The simple fact is that we are still spending more than we can afford. Our national debt is now well over £1 trillion and this year we will spend about £120 billion more than tax revenues. While there are no easy fixes to this situation, the last thing we need is to start spending and borrowing even more.

We can’t play fast and loose with the markets and simply hope that interest rates will remain low – we need to take action to make sure that families can afford to pay their mortgages. We will continue with our plan which has seen the deficit fall by a quarter, given us record low interest rates, and a record number of jobs.

There is therefore little room for manoeuvre for the Chancellor but his priorities should be helping ordinary people with the cost of living. I’m therefore urging him to again freeze fuel duty – the price of petrol is still far too high. It’s also time to stop the hikes in duty on beer – it’s gone up enough in recent years and threatens the future of our local pubs and breweries. We should be supporting a great British product not milking it.

We’ve already increased the personal allowance in income tax by £2,965, cutting income tax for everyone. But also expected in the Budget is a further increase in the personal allowance, bringing it closer to the £10,000 level to which we aspire by the end of this parliament – something particularly important for the lowest paid.