The third Labour pledge was not to impose burdensome regulations on business, but business taxes are up by £5 billion a year according to the Confederation of British Industry. The Institute of Directors states that the burden of regulation on business represents another £5 billion a year. Our tax advantage against the rest of the European
Fourthly, the Government pledged to promote a savings culture. The savings ratio is now at a 37-year low, according to the Office for National Statistics. Information from the House of Commons Library states that the Chancellor's policies will soon have brought one half of all our pensioners into means-tested benefits. Half our retired people will now be required to give their intimate details to the Government to get benefit. However, the Chancellor is still taking £5 billion a year from the pension funds of people who are now saving for their retirement. He is attacking the people who are trying to do the right thing and want to be independent. He is impoverishing future generations of pensioners, driving more and more of them to be dependent on the state.
Fifthly, Labour promised to make Britain more competitive, but Britain has slipped behind. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says that our economy has grown by 2.6 per cent. over the past three years. That is worse than our record in the previous 15 years and a good deal less than the achievement of the countries of the eurozone, which have had growth of 2.9 per cent. and about half the figure for the United States. The OECD also states that our share of exports is down. The Chancellor promised to transform our productivity and, yes, in his own particular way he has transformed it. In the past four years, our productivity growth has averaged 1.3 per cent. a year against an average of 3.1 per cent. in the early 1990s.
Thirteen OECD countries have a better record on unemployment than Britain does. We have heard today with great sadness about the job losses at Vauxhall, but the problems of the car industry will get worse next year, when the Chancellor imposes an energy tax on our business that will cost every car manufacturer £1 million a year. The manufacturers in the rest of Europe will not face that burden. Again, I give the Chancellor the opportunity to promise that he will abandon this job-destroying tax, which will make life so much more difficult for our car manufacturers.
Mr. Portillo: This is a Chancellor who thinks that he is cleverer than everyone around him, and cleverer than those sitting behind him. He is the clever so-and-so who devised the stealth taxes, and they were too clever by half. Any of those hon. Members behind the Chancellor, whom he holds--[Interruption.]
Mr. Portillo: Any of those hon. Members sitting behind the Chancellor--those people he holds in such intellectual contempt--could have told him--[Hon. Members: "Oh!"] Do hon. Gentlemen deny it? I do not think so. Any of them could have told the Chancellor that the tax on petrol was not actually a stealth tax; it was displayed in blazing figures on every garage forecourt in the country. It was not so much a stealth tax as a neon-lit, 1 ft-high, you could not miss it in a blizzard tax, but the Chancellor proceeded with it. His Back Benchers could have told him--
If the Chancellor had been listening, his Back Benchers could have told him that pensioners would not take the 75p insult lying down. Only a Chancellor who is hopelessly out of touch with the British people could have acted so, without sparing a thought for the hardships being faced by pensioners and families.
Labour's summer of discontent had just one cause and one author: the man who is sitting opposite me--the Chancellor of the Exchequer, still wholly unrepentant. Labour is never having to say one is sorry. Even now, the Chancellor still refuses to acknowledge in the House that the tax burden is up, even though his own figures--distorted as they are--prove it to be perfectly true. So, he has banned Ministers from using the expression "tax burden". First, he taxed stealthily; now he wants to tax silently. He hopes that by banishing the thought, he can banish the concept. A Government who claim to be in touch with ordinary people tell families that taxes are not a burden but some sort of opportunity.
Even if Labour was never believed by the British people about what it would do on tax, the British people at least hoped that it would deliver on public services--but how they were deceived about that. We were told that Labour would save the national health service. Three and a half years on, waiting lists are longer and the Prime Minister predicts a crisis in the health service. If it is Labour and it is winter, there must be discontent.
Labour election posters promised smaller class sizes. Three and a half years on, the Labour party's own website says that class sizes in secondary schools are rising very slowly. That passes for candour under new Labour. Teachers are leaving; they have been let down and they are voting with their feet. Even this Government cannot blame the previous Conservative Government for the fact that teachers have lost patience with the Labour Government.
Anyone who believed the Chancellor then should take a short ride on the Jubilee line. The dome is a stinking mess of incompetence and shoddy accounting. Millions of hard-working punters have bought their lottery tickets week after week merely to see Ministers squander that money. Was that money not meant to be used for good causes? Would not £800 million spent on the dome have bought another Great Ormond street hospital for sick children in Manchester and one in Leeds, one in Newcastle and another in Bristol, with money left over?
Mr. Phil Hope (Corby): I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Do not he and his party support mixed economy funding for the health service? Will he now rule out charging patients for consulting their GP as part of Conservative policy?
Mr. Campbell-Savours: The right hon. Gentleman says that he would have spent the money for the dome on hospitals. I understand that all his colleagues spent the past three years arguing that they did not want lottery money to be spent on the NHS.
Mr. Portillo: I said no such thing. I said that £800 million is an awful lot of money. I said that everything in the lottery was meant to be for good causes--[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman tries to make light of £800 million; he knows the truth. I do not suppose that his constituents are any happier than anyone else's that £800 million was spent on that piece of vanity when it could have been spent on much better things.
Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro and St. Austell): Will the shadow Chancellor clarify for the House whether, when he was in government, he urged his Cabinet colleagues not to spend money on the dome, but to spend it on hospitals? If so, that is welcome news for which I shall credit the right hon. Gentleman. However, that is certainly not what was reported.
Mr. Portillo: The disaster of the dome was the way in which it was planned by the Government. That was a disgrace. [Laughter.] The public know that, and know that it is a monument to new Labour. The dome was supposed to have been on the first page of the new Labour manifesto. It has new Labour fingerprints all over it, which is why people are so angry with the Government.