Rishi Sunak discusses the Spring Budget
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Wycombe MP Steve Baker has said it is imperative for his colleagues to get behind the Government – insisting that the time for “scattergun rebellions” is over. Meanwhile, another Tory MP has likewise said it is crucial to maintain party discipline – fearing a defeat next week could jeopardise the stability of Boris Johnson’s administration.
Downing Street today warned Conservative MPs they risked losing the party whip if they vote against next week’s Budget, with some believed to be unhappy at Mr Sunak’s rumoured plan to increase Corporation Tax, currently 19 pence in the pound, to 25 percent over the lifetime of this Parliament.
Mr Baker, the former chairman of the eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG), was a member of the so-called Spartans who voted down Mrs May’s Brexit deal three times.
However, he warned any refusal to back Mr Sunak’s Budget, which he will deliver on March 3, would be foolish in the extreme.
He told Express.co.uk: “The time for scattergun rebellions under pressure is over.”
A second Tory MP, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Express.co.uk they saw no problem with a modest increase in Corporation Tax.
They said: “The government position is absolutely reasonable.
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“Rebelling on the budget vote is a very serious matter. It can cause a government to fall.
“In fact, the whips have been a lot too lenient recently.”
Any increases on VAT were “unlikely” the MP suggested, adding: “I think that some fiscal drag is likely to be employed – for example not increasing personal allowances.”
However, increasing Corporation Tax was reasonable “because the trend has been downwards for years”, the MP stressed.
The Prime Minister’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, told reporters on Thursday that No 10 would consider votes against the Government’s Budget by Tory MPs as a confidence issue, meaning they could be stripped of the whip.
She cited “difficult” policy decisions made by Mr Johnson, including to cut foreign aid, and to order people to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic.
She added: “This is a Prime Minister who is prepared to take difficult decisions and is weighing up very hard choices at the moment,
“We are committed to the manifesto.”
She nevertheless declined to comment on specifics until the Budget.
There has been widespread speculation about what Mr Sunak will announce, including reports that he could relaunch the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
Vouchers for high street shoppers have also been suggested, as has bringing in lower alcohol duty for restaurants and pubs in recognition that the sector will continue to be impacted by restrictions until early summer.
Mr Sunak may also opt to extend the stamp duty tax holiday by three months to stimulate the property market, as well as the business rates holiday.
He is also under pressure to extend the furlough scheme to protect jobs – due to end on April 30 – as well as increasing Universal Credit by £20-a-week.
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