On Wednesday the Budget was announced by the Chancellor in Parliament, and I used an earlier opportunity at Prime Minister’s Questions to press home the case for a personal allowance rise for ordinary working people. This policy, which was on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto, is delivering a tax cut of £700 a year for millions of workers on low and average pay.
The Chancellor also scrapped a planned rise in fuel duty. This Budget was a clear attempt by the Coalition Government to help hard-pressed households facing a squeeze on their own budgets. It also cut the tax on jobs paid by small businesses by £2,000 a year, which should help reduce unemployment further and build a stronger economy.
In the Commons, I asked justice ministers about managing the risks posed by offenders, which were all too vividly illustrated by news reports from Chippenham last week. I urged that medium-risk offenders be properly assessed by skilled probation officers even after their reforms in that area. I also asked the Local Government Minister what guidance will be provided to local authorities to prevent registrars unnecessarily losing their jobs once the Equal Marriage Bill becomes law. I was pleased he agreed to discuss the issue further.
In Business Department questions, I promoted local bids to the Regional Development Fund from Melksham’s Cooper Tires and the Corsham Institute. The fund offers Government grants to businesses to help secure employment and create new jobs, so I do hope that our local bids are successful.
Outside of the Commons chamber, I was on a panel of MPs taking part in a debate organised by First News, a newspaper for schools. We were grilled by pupils from around the country, with questions about school exams, cycling, voting, and recycling.
Back in Wiltshire I was delighted to present community badges to 1st Corsham Guides and hear about their own community surveys. Before leaving for London again, I joined the Melksham Town Team for a community litter-pick in the town centre on Sunday. Despite the cold more than 20 good-spirited volunteers gave up their time to make the town smarter.
After two surgeries in my constituency office in Chippenham, my next surgeries will be held on Saturday, March 30, from 10am-11.30am at the Pound Arts centre in Corsham; and on April 5 from noon-1.30pm at Bradford on Avon library.