Budget days come and go. Politicians get terribly excited in the run up to these events but few people notice anything long lasting. Thinking back, probably the biggest memory anyone has from a budget is the “pasty tax” which was hardy a success for the Chancellor all those years ago.
There were two key features for me. Firstly, I have been campaigning on getting more people training in the health services. Obviously, there is a Brexit angle in that we want to train more British people to take these opportunities but also, with an aging population and medical technology enabling more and better treatments, there is more need for an increasingly skilled work force.
Secondly, I wanted this investment to be delivered locally to give my constituents, and so many others in the surrounding area, the opportunity of a great career looking after our health.
Well, the Chancellor has delivered on both of these points by investing in the Bolton College of Medical Sciences. Local MPs do spend a great deal of time lobbying ministers on behalf of their constituents and it is always so positive to get the right result. This will not only give a huge opportunity for local people to train and get jobs but, because medical schools attract so much talent, they always give a huge boost to the local services as many of the best remain in the area after qualifying.
By tradition, the Budget speech is the only occasion when a politician can have an alcoholic drink at the Dispatch Box. The tradition has gone into abeyance over recent years with the last Chancellor to have a drink being Ken Clark who enjoyed a whisky and water. Rishi Sunak MP is tea-total but there was a good reason why he could have raised a glass in the Commons.
He has simplified the complex tax system on alcoholic beverages, rebalancing the focus away from supermarkets to local pubs and reduced business rates for many.
For years, a local cider producer has been telling me that the rules have worked against him and his small brewery, but these changes are intended to help the smaller businesses. Also, the emphasis has shifted from an almost random looking framework to a simplified one based on alcohol content – the stronger the drink the higher the tax. This means that fruit ciders now get taxed the same as normal cider rather than being treated as a wine just because of the addition of a few blackcurrants.
Just as Budgets try and keep pace with changes in society and technology so the health system evolves with time. How it deals with the Covid-19 outbreak shows this in high speed, but it also shows us the politics around it.
The vaccine programme has delivered a range of extraordinarily effective vaccines and has ensured that every adult that wants one has their first, second and, for many, their third jab. This has to be regarded as an amazing success.
Why, when we all regard it as a great success do many say that we have not gone nearly far enough?
The former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, has written that there must be far more compulsory vaccination and, to exploit current circumstances, this must include the jab for influenza.
Before the first injection of the first vaccine, how would we have defined success? I would have said, when every person who has a health concern or is over the age of fifty has had it then we can continue with the rollout but otherwise return to normal. Who would have thought that fifty million first doses, forty-five million second doses and ten million third doses would not be enough?
Vaccinating twelve-year-old children is still not enough and, if we follow America, then the target age range will drop down to five years old.
Let us get back to normal before it is too late.