Few of us will ever forget watching the majestic and dignified scenes of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on 19th September. It was an occasion which united millions of Britons in prayer, thanksgiving and reflection, as well as capturing the attention of even greater audiences watching around the world. On the Saturday evening before the funeral, I attended the Queen’s lying-in state at Westminster Hall, along with my wife Sarah, and our children Claudia and Hugo. This ancient building forms part of the Palace of Westminster and is a space I walk through each week when parliament is sitting. It has hosted the lying-in state of previous Monarchs, and it is where The Queen, as well as other world leaders, have given speeches on significant occasions. Yet for four days, in all its splendour, it brought together for the last time The Queen with her people, many of whom had queued for more than twelve hours to pay their respects. Last Sunday, I visited the queue along the south bank of the river Thames, to thank the volunteer marshals for all their hard work, and to talk to some of the people waiting in line. It all passed in good humour, and many queuing made new friends as they progressed towards Westminster.
Following the funeral, the business of government and parliament has returned. I was honoured to be re-appointed in the new government as Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. As before my focus will be on delivering our world leading Online Safety Bill, publishing our review of gambling law and driving growth and fair competition in the digital economy. On Friday this week the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, whom I recently welcomed to Folkestone to meet local businesses, delivered his statement in the House of Commons, on economic growth. With the challenges we face today, as a consequence of the greatest energy crisis we have faced in generations, the government has to take bold action to protect household budgets and support businesses large and small.
New measures include cancelling the planned rise in corporation tax, keeping it the lowest in the G20 group of nations at 19%, and reversing the 1.25% rise in National Insurance contributions, a change which will save 920,000 businesses almost £10,000 on average next year. The Chancellor also announced more relief for businesses by making the Annual Investment Allowance £1 million permanently, rather than letting it return to £200,000 in March 2023. This gives 100% tax relief to businesses on their plant and machinery investments up to the higher £1 million limit. The Chancellor has also abolished the IR35 regulations for self employed people. The government is going even further to support first time buyers, who will now pay no stamp duty up to £425,000, and increasing the value of the property on which first time buyers can claim relief, from £500,000 to £625,000. The government’s Energy Price Guarantee will save the typical household £1,000 a year on their energy bill with the Energy Bill Relief Scheme halving the cost of business energy bills. The Chancellor has also introduced new cuts to income tax for all earners. Overall this statement will support people now, as well as promoting investment to grow our economy in the future.