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Finance Bill supports fairness security and opportunity for all

Letter from Westminster - 26 April 2004

For most people, the Budget is a day when the Chancellor of the Exchequer stands on the steps of 11 Downing Street, holding his red box up for the cameras. I see it rather differently now, because as Paymaster General I have overall responsibility for making sure it gets passed into law afterwards.

After the Chancellor has made his statement, all the changes he has announced must be agreed by MPs, so Parliament spends much of the following weeks debating the Finance Bill. Treasury Ministers are present throughout these debates and must be ready to respond to the many and varied points that are raised. These can get a bit technical - for example, during last week's second reading I spoke on such things as pension simplification, avoidance, legal privilege and transfer pricing. But fundamentally, this Finance Bill is about supporting fairness, security and opportunity for all.

It will enable the Government to invest more money in our schools and childcare, and provide an extra £100 for people aged 70 or over. It will pave the way for extending the National Minimum Wage to 16 and 17 year olds, and introduce a New Deal for Skills. It will give extra support for lone parents and those on Incapacity Benefit, who want to return to employment. And it will help improve the efficiency of public services, releasing resources for the front-line.

So, while the parliamentary debates may go unnoticed, I firmly believe their effects will not.

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