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Several hon. Members rose--

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Hon. Members know the rule when the hon. Member on his feet does not give way.

Mr. Milburn: Over the hullabaloo I said that the Conservatives' only answer to broken promises has been to make more promises. The problem for Conservative Members is that they will not be believed because they are not trusted, and they are not trusted because they have landed Britain with the biggest tax hike in its peacetime history. Above all, they are not trusted because they have not delivered on their economic promises.

At the last general election the Prime Minister promised that if people voted Tory on Thursday the recovery would begin on Friday. But since then almost 10 million people have experienced at least one spell of unemploymentas insecurity became the new scourge of the 1990s. Myhon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Donohoe) made that point about his constituency. The Tories promised that they would balance the nation's books, but by the end of this financial year they will have borrowed £66 billion more in the five years of this Parliament than they said would be needed in the Budget immediately preceding the last general election.

Taxes and borrowing have been at record levels for one simple reason. They have risen because of the Government's failure on the economy. Now, of course, they say that everything is well, that everything in the garden is rosy. It is strange, is it not, that in Britain under the Tories our country is always on the verge of a new economic golden age. The economy, they say, is poised for an unprecedented period of growth. They say that Britain is the enterprise centre of Europe, thanks to their policies. We have heard the soundbite repeated endlessly during the debate. High growth, falling unemployment, low inflation and Britain leading the world would certainly be welcome, but the Tories have neither delivered such a record in the past nor are they capable of delivering it in the future.

Mr. Duncan: What about unemployment?

Mr. Milburn: Let us look at unemployment, which the Government say is falling fast. Let us ignore the fact that it is still double the 1979 rate and disregard the Government's 30 fiddles of the unemployment count.

Instead, let us consider the labour force survey--a Government survey. The picture is not quite so rosy when we consider that survey, is it? No one is earning a wage in one of five households of working age in Great Britain, and the percentage is one in four households in London, Strathclyde, Tyne and Wear, Merseyside and Glamorgan. There are 1.5 million children growing up in families in which there is no breadwinner.

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The Tories have made dependency a way of life for millions, and now the Budget proposal to abolish the child benefit top-up for working lone parents will trap even more people on benefit, when all they want to do is to go out to work and earn a wage. The proposal will result in more young people being dragged down, when they should be helped up.

Taxpayers can no longer afford the cost of unemployment. They needed--as the unemployed needed--this Budget to deliver Labour's programme to move people from welfare into work. The Budget failed that test. It will be for Labour to introduce a windfall levy on the excess profits of the privatised utilities, to get 250,000 of our young people back to work. It does not matter an inch how much Conservative Members yell, it does not matter how much the utilities lobby and it does not matter how often the Conservative party sponsors debates in the House about the privatised utilities, there will be a windfall tax on the excess profits of the privatised utilities.

Unless we move people off welfare and into work, we will not have a sustainable recovery and a strong economy. Inflation and investment are already heading in the wrong direction, and the cracks are already appearing in the so-called "second Tory economic miracle in 10 years".

Last month, there was the biggest monthly increase in inflation in six years, and millions of homeowners are already feeling the pinch because of higher interest rates. Those rises mean that Britain is now only 11th out of 15 European countries for inflation and interest rates. But one economic indicator is falling--it is falling fast--and the Financial Secretary should pay attention to it, because it is the investment level. It is falling, but it should be rising. Since 1979, the Tories have given Britain the worst average investment record of any nation in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Moreover, investment is growing more slowly than in any recovery this century, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) said.

Mr. Jack: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Milburn: I am winding up.

In the past quarter, manufacturing investment recorded the biggest yearly fall for 15 years. The truth is that there was nothing in this Budget to help equip Britain for the challenges that lie ahead, in an increasingly competitive global market, and the Government's failure to equip our country for the future is the real reason why this recovery is built on sand. We should be the enterprise centre of Europe, but we are not. National income in France and Germany in a downturn is higher than it is in Britain in a supposed upturn.

The Conservatives have betrayed all their promises. There are higher taxes, greater insecurity and fewer jobs since the Prime Minister took over in 1990. They have failed to equip our country for the future, and they should be judged on that record.

9.43 pm

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Michael Jack): I had planned on extending to the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Milburn) the courtesies

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that one extends to someone coming to the Dispatch Box for the first time in a Budget debate. However, I shall have to delete the word "debate", because so many of my hon. Friends wanted to ask sensible and probing questions of the Opposition, but Opposition Members would not give way and answer.

The only thing in which the hon. Member for Darlington took pride was his party's absolute commitment that were the Labour party--God forbid--ever to form a Government, it would increase taxes. The only thing to which he is committed is a windfall tax--a raid on the value of the pension funds which hold the shares of our utilities and an attack on the employment and investment of those great enterprises. The hon. Gentleman was proud of that boast.

What does the hon. Gentleman think is fuelling what is now the fastest growing major economy in western Europe? The answer is investment, which is up 6 per cent. on last year. The projected total investment is predicted to be up nearly 10 per cent. for next year. The hon. Gentleman should examine my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor's proposals.

The trouble is that Opposition Members have been through a cloning process, a form of brainwashing. They get an idea in their head--never mind the facts--and keep churning it out, but eventually the battery will run down. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health made it extremely clear that our pledge of a real terms increase in spending on health year on year is well met. He proved it conclusively, using the figures in the Red Book.

I remind the hon. Member for Darlington, who now seems more concerned with his pile of papers than with the facts, that there is £1.6 billion extra for patient care next year. That is a real terms increase. The shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury may shake his head, but last Thursday night he almost admitted something about Labour's plans for health. When I challenged him on "Question Time", he could not make up his mind about whether Labour's proposals were a pledge, a promise or yet more waffle. He retreated rapidly, just as the hon. Member for Darlington has done, except on the windfall tax. We know why--it is because he has secretly signed up to £30 billion-worth of spending pledges and he knows where the money has to come from. Labour will need not £3 billion or £5 billion but £10 billion from the windfall tax. It is not telling us the truth.

There was some sanity in today's debate. Not only did we have a superb opening speech from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health but my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) reminded us of the importance of the family in our Budget considerations. I shall say more about that in a moment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) drew our attention to an important point--the falling proportion of Government spending in terms of gross domestic product--which is one of the Chancellor's major achievements. My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) rightly reminded us of how strong the overall economy is. He sagely pointed out that, although the Opposition are claiming that there have been

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22 changes in tax, we can top it because 25 is a bigger number than 22 and that is the number of tax reductions that we have introduced.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith) on his continued support for our plans to simplify tax. He reminded us of Labour's appalling record in government. It is indeed the party of high tax; we see that locally. The only tax that it is prepared to talk about tonight is the windfall tax, which confirms its position as the party of high tax.

My hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) drew our attention to recent newspaper reports about Labour's further ideas on tax, to which I shall return in a moment. The newspapers must have got those ideas from somewhere.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. French) took up the theme of health and mentioned long-term care. I shall study carefully what he had to say. My hon. Friends the Members for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and for South-West Bedfordshire (Sir D. Madel) also drew our attention to the local government settlement and the whingeing that we have come to expect from Labour authorities and their apologists in the House. They will know of the millions of pounds of uncollected council tax and the £1.2 billion of borrowing in Manchester--so much for proper finances. I see that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) is here, but I shall not embarrass him too much by repeating facts about Sheffield and its finances. The voices off about the council tax will come from the same councils that need to put their own financial houses in order.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold)--

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