8 March 2021
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown welcomes Budget strong on enterprise, innovation and recovery

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown calls for extra support for small businesses in the hospitality, leisure and the tourism sectors and for the Government to accelerate the reopening of sectors such as outdoor events.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con) [V]

I commend my right hon. Friend the Chancellor for his Budget, which was strong on enterprise, innovation and recovery. The help announced last week for businesses has been particularly welcomed in the Cotswolds, where the local economy is built on small businesses, notably in hospitality, leisure and the tourism sectors. I have been calling for extra support for those businesses, as they are the backbone of our economy and deserve protection after being compelled to stop trading by the pandemic. The restart grant of up to £18,000 for hospitality and leisure businesses, including personal care, hairdressers and gyms, will help to reinvigorate them as we begin to open up the economy, in addition to the local council discretionary fund of another £425 million.

The road map has brought a great deal of reassurance for many business owners, with hospitality, leisure and personal care businesses starting to reopen on 12 April. They want to be able to reopen sooner and I have been making extensive representations to the Government on that point. Sadly, some are not scheduled to reopen until 21 June. I will continue to raise their plight. As the whole route map is driven by data, if it is safe to do so, we should accelerate the reopening of certain sectors, such as outdoor events.

Around 60,000 businesses in the UK are in the weddings sector. They usually thrive in the Cotswolds, but have been pushed to the brink by lockdown. I hope that many of those businesses will be supported by the restart grant, but they were not specifically mentioned in the Budget speech.

Debt and borrowing are at a peacetime high, so the fiscal challenge to reduce them is particularly challenging. No one wants to see taxes rise, but in these difficult circumstances it is right to even up the burden between individual and corporation tax.

Finally, it is important that G7 agreement is sought so that the digital tax is made effective. It would be totally unfair for those businesses on the high street that have suffered considerably due to the lockdown—and will have to start paying rates in June—if companies online that have made substantial windfall profits are not efficiently taxed.