Delivering the budget is one of the busiest and most exciting days in Parliament for my team and I. This year was even more interesting as it was the first budget I have been involved in since I was appointed to the Government Whips Office. It is always interesting to see how the House works and adapts to change especially as the Chancellor delivered this year’s statement amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to the budget I discussed North Cornwall’s financial priorities with my staff and fed this back to the Treasury. This year, the main issue from an economic perspective was the protection of my constituent’s livelihoods, financial wellbeing, and our local businesses. North Cornwall has a higher percentage of self-employed people than most constituencies and I am very pleased that we will introduce a fourth grant covering the period February to April, worth 80 per cent of people’s average monthly revenues. From May, a fifth grant will be available which is more targeted towards those most affected by the pandemic: people whose turnover has fallen by more than 30 per cent will receive the 80 per cent grant, while those whose turnover has fallen by less than 30 per cent will receive a 30 per cent grant. We will also ensure that people who became self-employed last year and filed their 19/20 tax return by 2 March, will now be eligible for both grants. Overall, we will have spent £33 billion on the self-employed, among the most generous anywhere in the world.
As we reopen our economy, I felt it was important that people in North Cornwall have the assurance that their jobs will still be there to come back to. I made this clear in my discussions with the Treasury team and I am also pleased that the furlough has been extended until the end of September. The furlough scheme has already supported 11.2 million jobs across the UK, worth £53 billion. But to provide further certainty, we are extending the scheme until the end of September. Employees will continue to receive 80 per cent of wages for hours not worked, but as businesses reopen, we will ask them to contribute 10 per cent of wages in July, and 20 per cent in August and September.
This Budget will also unlock more than £40 million of funding to reinstate passenger services on the Okehampton - Exeter line, subject to final approval of costs and contracts. The reopening of a second line to support Cornwall has been a pledge of mine since my first election so I am very pleased that this project has been formalised (subject to final approval) in the budget. The Devon MPs and council have been instrumental in delivering on the Okehampton line, but I would also like to highlight the efforts of the campaign groups Oke Rail, and Connect Bude, with who I have worked closely over the past six years.
Last Friday was St Piran's day, and each year, whether I am in Westminster or in the constituency I do something to promote Cornwall. This year is obviously different with none of the usual parades and events which is a real shame. My staff and I discussed what we could do to promote Cornwall online, and one of my team mentioned there was no Cornwall flag emoji so perhaps I should write to Facebook and ask them for one.
It’s something a bit different and fun for St Piran’s, but with the G7 coming up, we’re in a unique position to promote Cornwall to the rest of the world. Since the Cornish flag is such an integral part of the Cornwall brand it would be great if people could tag it on their Facebook posts.
In recent years Cornwall’s MPs have held events in Parliament on St Piran’s day to highlight and promote Cornish business and culture. Steve Double, MP for St Austell & Newquay has previously hosted ‘A Taste of Cornwall’ in Parliament, an event which was attended by many of the Duchy’s companies and showcased some of the best products and produce Cornwall has to offer.