I left HM Treasury last month, after two years as Financial Secretary. My chat with the Prime Minister was a surprise, not least since it came less than 48 hours after I had completed the landmark Health & Social Care Levy Bill in the House of Commons.
But I did not, and do not, regret my decision to step down. I very much believe that governments should be properly diverse and representative. And like Pep Guardiola, I also believe in the principle of squad rotation.
Besides, I had had a terrific two years in the job. When a major crisis like a pandemic strikes, with all its potential for public health and economic catastrophe, who would not want to be right in the engine room of government?
The Financial Secretary is normally responsible for HM Revenue & Customs, a department of 60,000 people, and for tax policy. Taxation is central to government; the reason why Parliament exists is because monarchs needed to raise tax, and taxpayers needed to scrutinise expenditure. And the UK raises £640 billion in taxation in a good year, which is not peanuts.
Then I had tariffs and trade policy, right in the middle of the Brexit process; and the role of deputy on public spending, at a time of overwhelming need to support people and businesses through the pandemic.
But in my case, successive Chancellors had also added the National Infrastructure Strategy, which is at the heart of the government's desire to level up across the UK. So I felt astonishingly lucky to be 150% engaged on a huge array of issues, all of them urgent priorities.
What did I do? I ran the furlough and other covid schemes, I put in place a 10-year UK tax administration strategy, accelerated the digitisation of tax, and pushed through a host of measures against promoters and enablers of tax avoidance.
I put eight pieces of primary legislation onto the statute book, including two Finance Acts, the Covid Contingencies Fund legislation, as well as the Health & Social Care Levy. And I led on and launched the new UK Infrastructure Bank, among much else.
Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, someone called me and my wife Kate "Mr Tax and Mrs Vax". It was a madly busy period for us both. I am very proud to have served as FST, but still prouder to continue to represent my constituents as their MP.
First published in the Hereford Times, 7 Oct 2021