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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Hon. Members, who remain seated, keep saying that the matters raised are not in the Budget. Perhaps I should refer them to "Erskine May" so that they may be clear on what is happening. "Erskine May" says that on Third Reading of the Finance Bill

although that is not allowed on Third Reading of other Bills.

Mr. Twigg: Your ruling and advice are, as usual, excellent and on the ball, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You rightly rebuked me yesterday, and you have made the point clear to the Opposition. They do not like to hear good news coming from Labour. They want to go on living in their own little world, away from reality. They are worried about their seats; in that case, they should support us.

Child benefit is important to millions of families in the United Kingdom. The Conservatives are saying that those families are not interested in having another £2.50. [Interruption.] That is what they seem to be saying; they do not want to hear the news of a welcome and popular measure. After the Chancellor made his Budget statement, my local newspaper, the Widnes and Runcorn Weekly News, an influential newspaper read by many people in my constituency, did a vox pop interview with several of my constituents. The only person who did not welcome the Budget was someone who was not from the constituency and who was just passing through. My constituents welcomed in particular our child benefit measures. On petrol duty, they understood what the Government were trying to do about improving the environment. The Budget was welcomed by almost all those interviewed in the street on that day. Those were cold interviews. I did not set them up. I was not even there. Ordinary people stopped in the street welcomed the Chancellor's excellent Budget.

Sometimes, I wonder whether the Conservatives ever talk to their constituents. They tell me that they have had hundreds of letters about measures in the Budget. That may be so, but I must tell them that I had precisely two letters on the Finance Bill. The Conservatives told us that we would be inundated, and claimed that we were sitting on letters and hiding them away. In the real world, that was not so. The hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton seemed to be the Member for the whole of Great Britain when he began to read letters from as far away as Yorkshire, Bristol and the south-east.

Mr. Jim Murphy (Eastwood): Dundee.

Mr. Twigg: I am not sure that he went as far as Scotland.

Mr. Ross Cranston (Dudley, North): Dudley.

Mr. Twigg: Dudley was mentioned. My hon. Friend figured large in the Standing Committee, where he made some excellent points.

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To hear the Opposition, one would think that the people were rising from the streets in revolution, and banging on the gates of Parliament to tell us how disgraceful the Finance Bill was. I seem to have missed that.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I have been able to help the hon. Gentleman on a number of occasions during his speech, but the Opposition's behaviour has nothing to do with the Third Reading of the Finance Bill.

Mr. Twigg: I appreciate that advice, Mr, Deputy Speaker. I merely wanted to make it clear that our debates in Committee may have given a false idea of the real state of public opinion.

The Budget is about economic stability, low taxes on work, help with child care, lower taxes on business and more money for health and education. It is a people's Budget, which will help to ensure that our country is prosperous, and that our economy is based on sustainable investment which will allow it to grow.

5.38 pm

Mr. Salmond: The hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Twigg) should know that complaining about politicians talking to anti-European business people might be interpreted as a grave sign of disloyalty to the Chancellor. In the environment created by new Labour, he should be careful about the allegations that he makes.

I was moved to speak by what I can only describe as the triviality of the Financial Secretary's response to serious questions on the economy. When she was a Labour Back Bencher, she used to ask the then Administration, and her Front-Bench colleagues, serious questions about the direction of our economic policy. To respond to questions about the Finance Bill on its Third Reading--which are basically about whether, as amended, it is capable of dealing with our economic circumstances--by engaging in a yah-boo discussion on whether the Liberal Democrat spokesman was present at a meeting of the Committee or who said what to whom in Committee is inadequate.

This afternoon, there was a private notice question on the extent of redundancies in the Borders in Scotland. The question mirrored announcements the length and breadth of the country as the industrial economy bleeds as a result of the exchange rate and the Government's total reliance on monetary policy as a means of demand management. The hon. Member for Halton seemed to think that there was a huge contrast between this Budget and economic policy over the past 20 years. I have been in the House long enough to have seen two previous occasions when the Government relied solely on monetary policy as the means of economic management. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) described a Tory Chancellor as a one-club golfer. We are in the same circumstances with the same reliance on the same policy instruments, and it will have the same result for the industrial economy.

The Government's mantra is that this will bring about economic stability. I suppose that an industrial desert could be described as stability, but is there no recognition among Labour Members of the importance of manufacturing, of the competitive position and of the seriousness of the announcements that are made daily about job after job in every area and sector of the economy? [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for

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Eastwood (Mr. Murphy) is so incapable of defending the Government's economic policy that he has to engage in economics of the actualite with youngsters on the "Trial By Night" programme, he should think carefully before appearing in debates in the House.

The bleeding of the industrial economy, the competitive position of United Kingdom manufacturing, the inability to use any policy instrument beyond monetary policy to control the economy, and the impact that that has in constituencies the length and breadth of the country are serious matters.

Mr. Burnett: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. Does he agree that, if taxes had been imposed on consumption a year or so ago, we would not have the problems that he is adumbrating to the House? I, too, have had a factory closure in my constituency. At lunchtime today, 49 jobs were lost at Inch's cider factory in Winkleigh.

Mr. Salmond: In the imbalance between taxes on consumption and between taxes on investment lies one of the key weaknesses in the Finance Bill. That imbalance, as well as the uncertainty over the Government's exchange rate policy and their approach to the single currency, contributes to the high level of sterling and the inability of key sectors of our economy to deal with the consequences of the exchange rate position.

The previous Conservative Government used to argue that the jobs that were being lost, the sectors that were disappearing and the companies that were being downsized were the weaker sections of the economy and that the UK economy would be leaner and fitter after the process was complete. It was the same as arguing that we could improve the average health of the population by getting rid of everyone who could not run a four-minute mile. That would certainly improve average health, but the resultant population would be small. The argument is now repeated by Labour Members, who say that the diminution of the industrial economy will result in a leaner, fitter, more competitive manufacturing sector. However, the key economies, which have grown their manufacturing base, have not taken the attitude that they can dispose of entire industries and companies; they have used critical growth path to build up their competitive position to compete on world markets.

The central charge against the Finance Bill and the Financial Secretary is that they are incapable of addressing the different positions of key sectors of the economy: the consumption and service sector side and the manufacturing and export sector side. Is there any measure in the Bill that accepts that there is a manufacturing recession while the consumer part of the economy is still moving ahead? What are the Government going to do about it?

There is also the charge that the Government, like their Conservative predecessors, are unable to lift their vision beyond the south of England economy and consider how the regional economies in England and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish economies are performing. It is ludicrous to argue that Scotland needs to restrain demand because of inflationary pressures in the Scottish economy. Where are the inflationary pressures that the interest rate

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medicine in Scotland is designed to combat? As a modest start, it would help if the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England included in its membership some people with direct experience of the sectors and regions of England and the nations of Scotland and Wales, to give some awareness that there is an economy that is suffering beyond Potters Bar.

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