Thursday September 16th, 2021
Like most MPs, I returned to the House of Commons on Monday 6th September having worked and voted on legislation remotely for 18 months.
The Speaker of the House had been very clear about not wanting too many MPs on the Parliamentary Estate milling around the cramped and narrow corridors. He is keen to minimise the risks of Covid, and rightly so. Nevertheless, Parliament certainly has a “back to school” vibe, and Prime Minister’s Questions was by far the most rambunctious since before the crisis first hit.
If this once in a century pandemic had occurred even 20 years ago, remote working would have been near impossible. But with the wonders of modern technology, with programs like Zoom enabling video conferencing, remote working is almost as good as the real thing. True, the cut and thrust of Parliamentary debates have been blunted somewhat, but House meetings and questioning of ministers have been effective over Zoom.
Closer to home, I have considerable sympathy with Cllr Doug Pullen who leads Lichfield District Council and who would have liked virtual Council meetings to continue. Attendance has been high using video conferencing but for the time being, the Government are keen that both Parliament and local government meet in person only. This is something I will pursue with the ministers, as I know a number of councillors are unhappy with face-to-face meetings as the winter draws in.
I have been telling everyone who asked that tax rises were sadly inevitable. With one of the most generous furlough systems in the world keeping companies in business and staff employed, it all had to be paid for.
The nation has spent over £400 billion on supporting companies and employees since the start of the pandemic. Some will say that we should continue to borrow more, but with national debt set to reach nearly 100% of GDP, tough decisions had to be made or future generations will be paying the price. France, Germany, and Japan are all similarly increasing their social security contributions.
The Labour Party say using National Insurance is unfair yet a couple of years ago their own shadow Minister for Social Care promoted a new dedicated health and social care tax also based on National Insurance.
Nobody votes for tax rises, but sometimes tough decisions have to be made for the good of the country.