The main event which affects family finances takes place today when the Chancellor makes the Autumn Statement. This is basically an update on the figures announced in the Budget earlier in the year. New forecasts will be made and invariably every Chancellor uses the opportunity to make slight adjustments to spending plans.
Before the main event there will be Questions to the Secretary of Scotland and then Questions to the Prime Minister. After the Autumn Statement there will be another in the series of debate being tabled by the government on the effects of the UK leaving the EU this time the focus will be on transport.
Yesterday the Higher Education and Research Bill completed its passage through the House of Commons after seven contested divisions. I was also had a student from Manchester University down on work experience for the day. I also welcomed the Chief executive of the Bury Society for Blind and Partially Sighted People who had been invited by the Lloyds Bank Foundation the charitable arm of Lloyds Bank to a reception which was celebrating the valuable work done by small and medium-sized charities.
Today after questions to the Foreign Office there are Opposition day debates on education and social mobility and also on the NHS. I am attending a briefing at lunch by the Surface Engineering Association. It is always useful to hear at first hand from businessmen about the current trading position. This afternoon I will be attending the weekly meeting of the Backbench Business Committee.
I am sorry to hear that there has been more disruption caused by the heavy and prolonged rains. I have yet to receive definitive explanations as to the cause but it does look as though most of the problems have been caused by the drains and culverts being overwhelmed by the volume of water. Whether this has partly been caused by them being blocked by autumn leaves and debris or there are other reasons I have yet to hear. Either way it is little comfort for those who have been affected. What I do know is that central government and local government have been working on improving flood resilience all year. That does not mean of course there never will be any more flooding. I think what it does reinforce is the need to ensure that careful assessment is made of the impact on the existing drains before new housing is allowed to be constructed.
I am heading back to London today when the main business will be the remaining stages of the Higher Education and Research Bill. This is the legislation which will make it easier for new providers to start up encouraging more competition and giving more choice for students. The Bill also creates the Office for Students and creates a single research and innovation funding body the United Kingdom Research and Innovation group. Questions today are to the Department for Work and Pensions.
By definition part of the rationale behind the European Union project and their long term desire to create a single European superstate means that the EU has to be a single market. So logically, leaving the European Union means not being part of the single market. It does not mean not having access to the single market. It does not mean the U.K. no longer wishes to trade with the EU and their single market. As it is anyone can sell into the single market. No different to selling goods to any other country. It is though common sense that if you wish to sell good to another country you have to comply with their requirements, and so it is with the EU and their single market. Of course the EU may threaten to impose tariffs on goods we sell to them. This is going to be a real test for the EU. Do they really believe in free trade? The U.K. will be saying to the EU we want to have free trade with you. The question is how will the EU respond. As the EU sell more to us than we do to them (not surprising given the respective sizes) if the EU do impose tariffs and we therefore also impose tariffs on imports from the EU it follows EU exporters will be paying much more than UK exporters.
We must leave the EU as the British people voted for. We must leave the Single Market, offer the EU a free trade deal, see how they respond and we then respond accordingly. Meanwhile, we must go as far as we can in putting in place new trade agreements with countries around the world. There are tremendous opportunities across the World for our companies.
The very long term project that is HS2 inched another step forward this week when the Secretary of State for Transport published the proposed route from Birmingham up to Manchester and Leeds. I have never been a fan of this project. I just think the amount being spent on a single railway line could have been spent in more innovative ways. My preferred plan would have been to connect fibre to every home. But, as I said during the discussion on ITV’s politics programme this week there is no point trying to continue to fight a battle that has been lost. At the same time as announcing the HS2 phase two route the government also announced the first contracts for phase one and it looks as though the first construction works may well start next year. It will not be until the mid 2030’s before the whole route is up and running so any problems it aims to solve are going to be around for years to come.
Constituency boundaries will dominate the proceedings in the Commons today. Labour are bringing forward a Bill which would have the effect of scrapping the current proposals and effectively starting again. Instead of 600 constituencies there would continue to be 650. The variation in sizes allowed would increase from 10% to 20%. We have already seen with the present boundary commission proposals how controversial changes to boundaries can be but I think one thing most people agree on is that the current variances between constituency sizes are difficult to defend.