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Mr. Hope: I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has bothered to listen to any of the debates that have been held in the House during the past four years. The English rural development programme provides £600 million for rural areas, directly targeted on the small businesses which he claims have no support. Will he offer the House the facts about the support that the Government give to rural areas and small businesses, rather than misleading people by pretending that those programmes are not available?

Mr. Breed: The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the actual number of investments is extremely low. Many of them are not much more than buy-outs, where there is an opportunity to sell out to a trading investment or to go on to the market. There are pitifully few investments of small amounts--between £50,000 and £200,000--partly because of the costs and partly because of the monitoring and the barriers around such schemes. However, small businesses offer a real opportunity for employment growth.

I want to deal with landfill tax. I support the principle of such a tax, but do the Government realise that the fly tipping that results is beginning to affect the countryside? Many landowners are subjected to indiscriminate tipping of rubble on their land. That is a direct result of landfill tax; people are not prepared to pay it, so they tip their rubbish on someone else's land. That is wholly reprehensible, and we need to ensure that it stops. Increasingly, local authorities are unable either to detect fly tipping or to pick up the rubbish. The problem is growing in rural areas.

Last year, measures were introduced on interest on late payment of debt, in order to improve cash flows for small businesses. Many of us were sceptical about exactly what

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improvements would result; we felt that many small businesses would not charge their larger customers interest on outstanding debts. Recently, I examined the number of creditor days. It has not decreased; indeed, according to some reports, there has been a marginal increase.

Perhaps we should try another tactic: to name and shame those companies that persistently do not pay their bills--especially to small businesses. One way of doing that would be to insist that audited accounts include a note of debtors of 30 days, 60 days or more. We could then see which large companies persistently make late payments to their suppliers.

Mr. Jack: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the exercise he describes is already undertaken by the Federation of Small Businesses? That information is already in the public domain.

Mr. Breed: The Federation of Small Businesses has produced the information, but it is not at present included in audited accounts. Accounts are audited for tax purposes, and I see no reason why they cannot provide information to allow us to identify the companies.

A pesticides tax has not yet been introduced, but it is hanging like a sword of Damocles above many people in the agriculture industry and is due to be considered in 2002. No one could possibly suggest that the industry is likely to be in good enough shape to bear a further tax by then. Would it not be more sensible--indeed, humane--to defer the tax for at least a year, or even two, so that the industry had the opportunity to recover?

3.36 pm

Mr. James Wray (Glasgow, Baillieston): I come from a poor constituency. At one time, we had the highest unemployment in Britain; 40 per cent. of my constituents were recipients of social security.

It really annoys me to listen to Opposition Members in this Chamber talking about fiscal terms and Red Books. The red book that I read did not bother about tax increases as long as they were made in the right place and went in the right direction. Our Chancellor has done a great job on the economy. We must never forget--we must never let the people forget--the fragmentation, the misery and the deprivation left by the previous Government. They raided the coffers; they fell off the Front Bench like snow off a dyke because of corruption and all the consultancies they reached out for. They were not interested in the poor. We are interested in the poor.

The Tories were given plenty of advice from their bible--The Economist--about their short-term strategy and their boom and bust, but they did not heed it. They laid the foundation stones of the economy in sand and it crumbled around them. We do not forget the people who are still out there--thousands of them--who were enticed by the former Prime Minister to take out equity, but who finished up having their houses repossessed, even though wives and husbands were still working to pay the money back. That is why the people of this country will never forget and will never return a Conservative Government.

I come from a family who lived--10 of us--in one room and a kitchen. I saw some of my family die of poverty--from tuberculosis and from sleeping in damp beds. That is why we must give all that we can. The

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Chancellor made the right decisions; he is laying his foundation stones in concrete and he is spending his money on the right people--those who deserve it.

Is there anything wrong with giving to the poor? Is there anything wrong with a working families tax credit that takes account of the family situation so that children aged between one and 15 are given an extra £15 or £25? A family of four, with children aged 16 and 18, receive a further £26. Families can also receive a child care allowance, which is especially important for lone parents, who need it most. They can receive a grant of 70 per cent. of child care costs. That could be a lot of money for big families.

If that money had been available when I was born, we would have had much better quality of life. That is what a Labour Government are here to do. We are not here to get consultancies; we are here to build the economy to ensure that we decrease the gap between the rich and the poor. Let us not worry too much about taxation, so long as it is against the rich and gives to the poor. We, as a Government, must be a Robin Hood.

Mr. Breed: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is reprehensible that many of the families who went through the appalling negative equity and are just getting back on their feet are being chased by the banks, which, although they are making billions of pounds profit, want to try to recoup some of the negative equity with which those families thought they had dispensed?

Mr. Wray: That is why we must pay heed, and why we should write off the debt. We should tax the banks a bit more heavily and give the money back to the poor, who were robbed in the first place. The shadow Secretary of State did not mention or apologise for the previous Government. He never talks about the £28 billion deficit or the fact that 42p in the pound was paid in interest charges because of the economic mess that they left behind. How can the Tories appeal to the nation to be the Government again? I do not think that they will ever be in government this century.

Mr. Bercow: The hon. Gentleman talks about the importance of giving help to those who most need it. Will he therefore helpfully explain the justification for the operation of the children's tax credit, whereby two parents, each of whom earns £30,000 a year, are eligible to receive the credit, but where only one parent earns £40,000 a year, he or she is not?

Mr. Wray: Sometimes we do not get the particular economics correct, but if there is any anomaly, and it is brought to our attention, we will make a change and redirect the money if we can. It is difficult to have a universal tax with low-income people, but that will be tackled in the near future. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we will not forget what the previous Government did when they took power. We cannot forgive you for the fact that 3 million people were unemployed. I do not know why you cannot understand that a Government who have created the conditions for the lowest percentage of unemployed people for 35 years must be a success.

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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. The hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member and should remember that he should use the third person when referring to another hon. Member.

Mr. Wray: The Opposition should know that we went through a difficult period, and I am only telling them that unemployment was never worse than when they were in power. Surely they are not against us spending millions of pounds more on the health service. We are talking about spending about £835 million on it in three years. One reason why we are doing so is that everyone knows that 3 per cent. more must be spent on the health service just for it to stand still. We hope to double that figure. That is because of the state that the previous Government left the health service in; they were not interested in nurses or sisters, or whatever. In fact, their White Paper said that they wanted to encourage accountants and business managers. We have to change all that. A lot of nurses left the health service because of that reconstruction, and we must encourage them back. The Government have said that they will spend £135 million on recruiting hospital nurses, which cannot be a bad thing.

Not enough money was spent on education when the previous Government were in power. There was overcrowding and composite classes, and children were sharing books, but things have changed now. We have decided that about £200 million will be invested to recruit extra teachers.

One of the most important things is that the Tories left a legacy of drug abuse, and it has taken millions of pounds to try to get rid of it. All kinds of people tried to attract some of the great financial resources that were put into drug abuse. An organisation called SCODA--the Standing Conference on Drug Abuse--was more interested in starting a federation so that that could control the finances. We must win the battle. I have heard hon. Members talk about harm reduction, but that is a backward step; we should invest the money to encourage all organisations--whether those involving teachers, ministers, priests, or ordinary fathers and mothers or brothers and sisters--to fight the problem. We have to deal with it; we cannot give in. We must be the winners. We must not be beaten by the minority--the drug dealers and peddlers.

I sometimes think that we do not pay enough attention to child abuse. We should do much more. Organisations outside the House know that it takes not only a great deal of time to get the perpetrators to court, but 10 or 20 years to discover the abuse. It should not take that length of time to help those children in care and protection who have been abused by housemasters and the various other workers in homes and other institutions. It is time to put our money into the problem and to change legislation to ensure that no one gets away with child abuse. We should change the legislation so that those who committed abuse before 1964 can be prosecuted. They should be treated in the same way as anyone who commits murder. There should be no restrictions on prosecutions for child abuse; they should be possible regardless of the date.

I want to raise one or two other issues, but I know that other hon. Members want to mention the many ways that people have gained under the Budget. I shall not take too much time because I know that they want to catch their trains and planes home. Once the Chancellor has made his statement, we always find that everything goes dull in

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the Chamber and people want to get home. I simply say that the Government's direction on the economy is right. I hope that there will be more changes and that pensioners, lone parents and unemployed people will gain. My constituents and I are grateful that the Chancellor gave consideration to the poor in the Budget.

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