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Sir Robert Smith: The Rolling Stones are a classic example of the fact that the tax man does not hit the high payers. He hits people like my constituents, whose employment as contractors for the oil industry takes them all over the world. They have little other option, if they want to continue to support their families. The tax is applied unfairly to them.

Mr. Twigg: The hon. Gentleman should talk to Conservative Members. I was a member of the Standing Committee, and I remember the reference to the Rolling Stones.

It was often said that we were sitting on our hands and were not speaking, but it was the Opposition's role to speak against the Bill. It was for us to support it. Opposition Members have forgotten what their role is: they are not yet used to being in opposition. What Opposition Front Benchers said in response to questions was usually couched in the form of some insult. It was suggested that some measures did not need to be debated on the Floor of the House. During the passage of the previous Finance Bill, the right hon. Member for Wells

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(Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) was involved in delegating a fair amount of legislation outside the Chamber. It seems that it was all right for the Conservative party to deal with legislation in that way, but it is not all right for us to do so. The right hon. Gentleman tried to twist the argument. In fact, the Opposition's performance was pretty lamentable. It is difficult to think of any Opposition arguments that made any sense.

This is a tremendous Budget, which has been widely welcomed. The Chancellor has done an excellent job. As we learned from a fax that was sent to a Labour Member by mistake, the new shadow Chancellor had to speak to a Back Bencher to learn about economic policy before he was able to make a speech. How many shadow Chancellors have the Opposition got through so far? I wonder how long the shadow Financial Secretary will be in place. Perhaps he will be the next to move on, or perhaps it will be one of the other Front-Bench spokesmen.

We are not sure who decides the Opposition's economic policy. We do not know whether the Euro-sceptics agree with the Europhiles. Economic policy seems to be all over the place. But this Budget, and this Finance Bill, set the scene for a shift of resources from the better off to the least well off. There have been many other important developments. As was announced yesterday, a massive amount has been injected into the national health service to cut waiting lists, and money has also been provided to reduce class sizes. Lower taxes are being imposed on businesses: the Government are backing small firms to create jobs. Unlike the Opposition, we have thought in terms of long-term stability and investment, rather than boom-and-bust economics. Their approach to past Budgets has been characterised by short-termism. Having been through two recessions--and Black Wednesday--Opposition Members should not lecture us on economic competence. They made an appalling mess of the economy when they were in government, displaying their incompetence in a range of ways. We are having to pick up the pieces and clear up the mess that they made, which is shameful.

As was said earlier, many aspects of the Budget have not yet been mentioned, although they mean a good deal to ordinary people such as my constituents in Halton. They suffered massively from unemployment and poverty as a result of the last Government's policies. There are tax cuts for all employees who pay national insurance contributions; child benefit has been increased by £2.50 a week--£130 a year--which is the largest increase ever; and the Government have provided working families tax credit, child care tax credit and a cut in the business tax rate. The tax cuts for employees who pay national insurance contributions will give them more than £65 a year, and families with children will gain more than £250 a year.

A question was asked about families at Prime Minister's Question Time today: what has the Conservative party ever done for families? Nothing at all. This Budget does much more for them. The poorest 20 per cent. of families with children will gain an average of £500 a year. A family with a full-time worker will now be guaranteed take-home pay of £180 a week, and a couple with two children and an income below £17,000 a year will receive 70 per cent. of the maximum entitlement to child care costs. This Government care about families

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and will do something for them, unlike the Conservative party. Families earning up to £30,000 a year will benefit from child care tax credits. That is superb.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am not an expert on the Bill, but even I know--and the Financial Secretary confirmed it to me--that none of these measures is included in it. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to mention them on Third Reading?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: It is normal to have a reasonably wide debate on the Finance Bill.

Mr. Twigg: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Yesterday, you were generous to the right hon. Member for Wells, who, when we were discussing the narrow and specific issue of the retail industry, raised wide-ranging issues of economic policy. I accept your ruling entirely. The Conservatives are now complaining about us. The problem is that they do not like to hear what I am saying: it upsets them, because they realise that they have done nothing, that they are in disarray and that their economic policy is in a mess. They do not like hearing the good news that we have given the people of this country. I am surprised by the Opposition's reaction. It is typical of their reaction to the Finance Bill. I am sure you are glad that you did not have to sit through all the debates, Mr. Deputy Speaker; unfortunately, others did.

What upsets the Conservatives is that they could not cut corporation tax to the level that we achieved. In Committee, they came up with some spurious excuse for the fact that it had taken them 18 years to get the tax down to the level that they managed; but the point is that they did not reduce it to our level. They missed the opportunity, which is their problem.

The guaranteed income provided by working families tax credit is particularly important. It should be put in the proper economic context. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I keep hearing hon. Members saying that the hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Twigg) is out of order. No one knows better than I do when someone is out of order, and the hon. Gentleman is not out of order.

Mr. Twigg: Opposition Members think that Labour Members are programmed to say certain things. It may surprise them that an awful lot of us actually agree with what the Government are doing. When I stood for Parliament on the basis of our manifesto, I supported that manifesto--unlike some who asked for help from various business men who are anti-Europe. We will not go into that, however. We are not sure what the Opposition support. Their economic policy is all over the place. Their spokespersons on education and on health say that not enough money is spent and there should be expenditure increases. Their Treasury spokesmen say that we should reduce expenditure, but they have produced initiatives that would cost £6 billion or £7 billion. They cannot say where the money would come from for that, which merely shows the economic incompetence that they displayed over 18 years. [Interruption.]

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Perhaps national insurance reform is near enough the Finance Bill for Opposition Members. The burden is being reduced on employers in respect of most workers, who earn up to £440 a week. That is encouraging job creation. The Tories never encouraged job creation; they used to decimate employment. The current structure of national insurance contributions means that they bear particularly heavily on the low-paid, and we are trying to help them. Our policy is about getting people into work and making sure that they stay in it. [Interruption.] The Conservatives are not interested in the low-paid; poverty reached record levels when they were in power. Currently, £1 extra in weekly earnings can attract £1.28 in employee contributions. An extra 1p paid to a worker can add £6.30 to contributions. The system acts as a disincentive to both employers and employees.

Welfare to work is crucial to the Finance Bill. The Conservatives opposed the windfall tax on the utilities, but at the weekend we heard that Yorkshire Water would be paying its directors massive amounts of money. The Conservatives said that the windfall tax would cripple utilities, but they can still afford appalling massive pay increases for their directors.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham): As he is a customer of Yorkshire Water, is the hon. Gentleman aware that the company has increased bills by 8 per cent. for those who do not have meters, which is well above inflation?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is certainly going wide of the Third Reading debate.

Mr. Twigg: My hon. Friend makes an important point about the whole economic system, how the utilities operate within it and the mess left by the Tories. Some of the Tories' chickens are coming home to roost, and we will have to deal with them. We have to pick up the mess. They expect us to do that in a year, but it took them 18 years, two recessions and Black Wednesday to make the mess. I do not want to repeat all that, but the Tories seem to forget it.

In Halton, where the unemployment rates for the young and the long-term unemployed are high--the demise of the chemical industry means that middle-aged men have problems finding jobs--the new deal for both the young and the over-25s will be very important. I have been to several meetings on the new deal for lone parents, and I have been told that the biggest disincentive to work for lone parents is child care. That message has come over clearly every time I have talked to a range of lone parents. Without exception, lone parents welcome the Government's initiative and the extra resources that we are providing.

Important points can be made about the new deal. We are giving help to employers, and introducing special measures for people over 50 and for partners of new dealers. All that is crucial to improving our economic development and economic growth.

Child benefits are another crucial part of our economic strategy. [Interruption.] They are about helping families. Children will gain an average £250 a year from the Budget. In 20 per cent. of the poorest households, children will gain an average £500 a year. Child benefits increases and equivalent increases in income support and other

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benefits will help all families with children who do not already receive a high rate of benefit. Poverty affects large families worst. [Interruption.]

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