Stamp Duty Land Tax (Temporary Relief) Bill

We have faced a huge human health crisis, and we are now working to prevent that horrific health crisis being accompanied by a similar economic crisis. The Government have delivered an extensive package of support measures for workers and for companies through the coronavirus job retention scheme. They have delivered support for the self-employed through grants, loans and a wide range of measures to help protect jobs and ensure that despite the enormous impact of this outbreak, businesses are able to see a way through it and are able to continue to employ people, and the self-employed or those in small businesses can see a way to get through the outbreak to rebuild in the better times ahead.

Sadly, of course, many people have already lost their jobs and, even more sadly, many more are likely to lose their jobs over the coming months, as businesses take time to adjust—to adapt their businesses to order books which, in many cases, are unlikely to return to pre-crisis levels for some time. We need to do what we can to minimise those job losses and to help as many people as possible to return to work and to stay in work, because we know, as we have seen from previous recessions, that jobs can be lost very quickly during economic downturns. It can take many, many more years to replace those jobs and to bring people back into work. With a shock as sharp and as deep as the one that we have seen over the past few months from this pandemic, measures such as this and the many others that the Chancellor has announced over the past four months are not only appropriate, but unprecedented and certainly necessary.

If we are to prevent enormous numbers of people from losing their jobs, enormous numbers of businesses from closing for good, and enormous numbers of families from being deprived of the security and prosperity of paid employment, we need the economy to recover, which means that we need consumers to start spending. We need consumers to have the confidence to return to something approaching economic normality. If people do not have confidence in the economy, they do not part with their cash. When that happens, there is a risk of a vicious circle of economic decline, with inevitable large job losses as a consequence. It is crucial that we break that cycle and promote spending, which is why I support this legislation today.

This measure is designed to bring forward spending. Certainly, the largest piece of spending that almost anybody makes is investment in a home. We need to make sure that consumers have the confidence to make those decisions over the next few months as we rebuild our economy rather than put them off for a year or more, because, naturally, caution, for many of the reasons that
the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) mentioned, may make people concerned about such large spending as we come out of this health crisis. Our economy needs this economic activity to recover. It needs people to be spending. It needs a successful and vibrant housing market, because, as many hon. Members have said, the housing market is not purely about those businesses and those industries that are directly associated with it—the estate agents and the removal firms—but something that goes far beyond that. It goes through construction, to the decorators, the small businesses, the self-employed carpet fitters and the gardeners. In many cases, much of their work centres around people who are moving into new homes and wanting to make them to their taste.

As chair of the all-party group for furniture and furnishings I know how much of furniture manufacturing and retail in this country depends on a successful and thriving housing market. By stimulating that market—by bringing forward to the next six or nine months the decision to buy a house that could be put off for a year or more—we are protecting those jobs by giving confidence to those companies, to those employers, and to those small businesses that there will be a housing market and that there will be people wanting to redecorate, to refit their bathrooms, to redo the garden and to buy new furniture. This measure will give them the confidence to invest in their staff and to keep their workforce as close to normal levels as much as possible. That seems to me to be a good investment. When the question is asked as to whether this is the right way for the Chancellor to spend resources, I invite right hon. and hon. Members to consider what the alternative is. I do not see the evidence locally that the housing market is instantly bouncing back without further intervention and support. I am not seeing a huge amount of confidence; quite the reverse. As the hon. Member for Richmond Park said, people are nervous about the plans that they had put in place either to buy their first home or to move up the housing ladder. In many cases they are saying, “Perhaps now is not the right time.” If the measures in the Bill can help to bring forward those decisions and to make sure that that spending happens as soon as possible, that will protect the jobs and the prosperity that our constituents rely on. That is why I will support the Bill this evening.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (Relief) Bill: Mike Wood MP