Last week I presented to the House a Budget to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people, confirming more than £400 billion of support over this year and next, ranking as one of the most comprehensive responses of any country anywhere in the world. We also set out a fair and honest plan to begin fixing our public finances while also starting the work of building our future economy.
I cannot comment on ongoing negotiations; we remain committed to a constructive dialogue with our European partners regarding the memorandum of understanding, and I can confirm that those discussions are under way. With regard to financial services, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman saw the announcement of our listings review. I thank Jonathan Hill for his excellent work. We will take forward those reforms together with the Financial Conduct Authority to ensure that the UK remains one of the most attractive places anywhere in the world for companies to raise the finance they need to empower their future growth.
My right hon. Friend has raised this industry with me multiple times, and he is right to do so. Although some food and drink wholesalers have been significantly impacted, others—for example, those that predominately serve the public sector—have not been, so I do not think it would be fair to provide blanket support. He talked about a postcode lottery. The other side of that coin is empowering local government and local decision making, and I believe that is the right approach. We have announced £425 million of additional discretionary support to local authorities, but I am sure that his raising the issue in the House in this way will give his local council and others the steer they need to direct support to this important industry.
In 2017 the Chancellor asked a Member of this House whether Labour’s proposed increase in corporation tax
“would make it more or less likely that international investors would want to invest here in the UK?”—[Official Report, 12 September 2017; Vol. 628, c. 218WH.]
What’s the answer, Chancellor?
I am delighted that the hon. Lady is raising the topic of corporation tax at this Budget. I feel that we have had various different versions of the Labour party policy on this topic over the past couple of weeks. What I can say is that we are honest with the British people about the challenges facing our public finances, and we have set out a fair and honest way to address those challenges. This will remain one of the most internationally competitive places anywhere in the world to invest, to grow a business and to create jobs, and this Government will always deliver on that promise.
Last week, the Chancellor said he wanted to “level with” the public. He mentioned a moment ago that he wanted to take an honest approach. Well, the head of the NHS just confirmed that he budgeted for the 2.1% pay rise that nurses expected, so we need a straight answer now from the Chancellor: why do the Conservatives believe that our nurses are worth less now than they were before the pandemic?
I pay tribute to all those working on the frontline of our NHS and other public services. They are doing a fantastic job, and that is why this Government have supported the NHS with tens of billions of pounds of extra funding through this pandemic and will continue to do so. With regard to public sector pay, we set out a policy in November, but, given the situation, we were taking a more targeted approach to public sector pay to balance fairness and to protect as many jobs as possible. The hon. Lady will know that the NHS was exempted from that policy and NHS workers will receive a pay rise next year.
My hon. Friend is right to raise this important issue, as he has done with me several times on behalf of his local businesses. He is right that we are reviewing business rates. We are in the midst of that process. The next stage will be to publish all the consultation responses that we have received, which will happen shortly, and we will take forward the policy process over the course of this year. We outlined many options for potential reforms in the paper. I look forward to receiving from him some ideas on what the reforms might be. In the short term, we are providing a £6 billion tax cut in business rates, delivering a 75% discount on business rates for the vast majority of small and medium-sized businesses as they emerge from this pandemic.
This Government are committed to record amounts of investment in infrastructure, both road and rail, as we heard from my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary earlier. The Budget announced upgrades for several stations in and around the midlands after representations that we heard from the fantastic Mayor, Andy Street, about the needs of his area. We remain committed to publishing the integrated rail plan in due course.
What a fantastically niche question from my hon. Friend, and how delighted I am to be able to answer it. He will know that scoring is a matter for the OBR. As the Budget policy costings in the Budget 2021 document set out, the costing for corporation tax has been adjusted to reflect behavioural responses to an increase in the rate of corporation tax. It is important to be clear that dynamic scoring can include a number of potential behavioural responses, such as adjustments to reflect the impact on the incentive to incorporate, on profit shifting, and on investment. If he is so minded, he can find further detail on page 196 of the OBR’s “Economic and fiscal outlook”.
I am always happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and discuss that matter in more detail. As he will recognise, one of the features of the Budget was the number of UK-wide measures, but at the same time he is quite right to point to the additional £2.4 billion of Barnett consequential funding that was allocated to the devolved Administrations, which has enabled them to apply further support as a result of the fiscal strength that is offered by the UK Treasury. I am of course happy to discuss the specific point with him in more detail.
The Foreign Secretary is continuing to look very carefully at the legislative requirements and will set out further detail in due course on how the Government intend to proceed.
The hon. Gentleman will know we are carrying out an alcohol duty review that will look at all these decisions in the round, and I am very happy to speak to him in more detail specifically about any particular schemes or requests that he has.
The Government are supporting these businesses through new restart grants—a one-off cash grant of up to £6,000 per business premises for non-essential retailers in England—and up to £18,000 for hospitality and leisure businesses. They will also benefit from a five-month extension of the coronavirus job retention scheme, a further 12 months’ relief from business rates and a new UK-wide recovery loan scheme. Tony’s Deli, which my hon. Friend mentioned, and other businesses serving hot food can also enjoy a 12-month VAT cut at 5% until the end of September, and at 12.5% until the end of March.
A majority of those working in the public sector will see an increase in their pay this forthcoming year as a result of our pay policy. Importantly, those earning less than the median UK salary will receive a £250 increase in their pay, because we want to protect those on the lowest incomes. Even at a difficult time, that is what this Government are committed to doing.
We are committed to improving skills in the economy and levelling up productivity across England. That will be achieved through our lifetime skills guarantee and further reforms, which will create jobs and opportunity across the country, supporting us to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic. We will provide further detail and a full conclusion to the review of post-18 education and funding at the next comprehensive spending review. I thank my hon. Friend and the Open University for their engagement on this so far.
With respect, the hon. Lady is simply wrong on the facts with her question. Under the Agenda for Change three-year award, the average increase this year was 2.5%, not the figure she alluded to. But of course, the Government have asked the pay review body to consider a number of factors and, as is normal practice, the Department of Health and Social Care has set out what is affordable within its budgets.
Freeports will be national hubs for international trade, innovation and commerce and they will regenerate communities across the UK. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government led a fair, open and transparent selection process to determine successful freeport locations in England. Unfortunately, as with any competitive process, there will always be those that are unsuccessful, and I am afraid there are no plans to designate other freeports in England. Freeports are part of a wider package of UK Government support, which invests in skills, infrastructure and innovation at local, regional and national levels. As part of that package, Blyth was awarded £11 million through the future high streets fund in December and is also one of 101 towns eligible for up to £25 million funding from the towns fund.
The Government are committed to encouraging business investment in Doncaster and its surrounding area, and at the Budget we confirmed £23 million funding for Goldthorpe’s town deal—just due west of the town—and that will boost economic growth and encourage business investment in the area. MHCLG is currently assessing the remaining 49 towns fund bids, including those from Doncaster and Stainforth; we will make further announcements on those in due course.