• Question Time

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    09 March 2018

    Last week we had Treasury Questions. The Commons starts the day with departmental questions. The various departments of government work to a rota and when it is their turn their ministers sit on the front bench and answer questions from the floor of the House. The Treasury in which I am a Minister appears once every 6 sitting weeks. The session lasts an hour with The Chancellor and his Ministers answering. Some questions are provided in advance and appear on the Order Paper – these are the so-called ‘substantive’ questions. After each member has asked their question they are allowed to ask a supplementary and then other members may ask additional questions as long as they relate to the same subject matter as the initial question. Once we have gone through the substantive questions we move on to ‘topical’ questions. These do not appear on the order paper and are quite varied. Questions are key to ensuring the government is held to account by Parliament. The government, drawn from the governing party, comprises around a third of its MPs. Those on the government backbenches and all opposition MPs are there to hold us to account. This time around I fielded questions on a wide range of topics. From the Scottish and Welsh economies to our performance in the Brexit negotiations. As the questions come thick and fast the team is constantly shuffling up and down the bench to make way for the minister who is due to answer at the despatch box. If you are not careful you might sit down from answering and end up in the Chancellor’s lap – something that so far I have managed to avoid! On tax avoidance I pointed out that the UK’s Tax Gap –the difference between what we should be collecting and what we do collect is at a historic low. This really matters. If it were at the same level now as it was under Labour then we would be losing around £13 billion a year – enough to employ every policeman and policewoman in England and Wales. Making sure that we get in the tax that is due is vital and we are world class at it. I also took a question on the taxation of digital businesses who make substantial profits here in the UK. These are businesses that run digital platforms and where the significant value created is due to the fact that they have a high level of UK consumer interaction with their platforms. These businesses include internet search engines, online market places and social media platforms. We have announced that we will be introducing new approaches to taxing these businesses, possibly based on turnover. The public expects action in this area and I am determined that we deliver on fair taxes for these companies. You can see my interview on this with Kamal Ahmed at and follow Treasury Questions on the Parliament TV Channel. More from Mel on Twitter @MelJStride.