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Motion made, and Question,

put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 51 (Ways and means motions), and agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I now call on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to move the motion entitled "Amendment of the law". It is on that motion that the debate will take place today and on the succeeding days. The remaining motions will not be put until the end of the Budget debate, next week; they will then be decided, without debate.
22 Mar 2006 : Column 303

Budget Resolutions


Motion made, and Question proposed,

      (b)   for refunding and amount of tax;

      (c)   for any relief, other than a relief that—

      (i)   so far as it is applicable to goods, applies to goods of    every description, and

      (ii)   so far as it is applicable to services, applies to services    of every description—[Mr. Gordon Brown.]
1.34 pm

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): Well, we wondered today whether we would get a Budget or a leadership bid, and I have to say that we did not get much of either. One can tell how big the crisis in the health service is—the health service did not even get a mention. If we cut through all the rhetoric, what we have is a Chancellor who has taxed too much, borrowed too much and is the roadblock to reform. He is a politician completely stuck in the past.

Of course, there are some things in the Budget that we welcome—not least because we proposed them. I particularly welcome what the Chancellor had to say about independent statistics and youth volunteering. We will look carefully at the detail, but I like what is happening: I come up with the ideas and he puts them in his Budget. [Interruption.] Bye-bye.

The Chancellor made a lot of the changes to the climate change levy, but he still has not addressed the real problem: it is a tax on energy, not a charge on carbon, which is why carbon emissions keep going up.

The Chancellor has just announced a new environment institute, but this is the same Chancellor who is closing the very laboratories that do the research into climate change. This was not a genuinely green Budget, and that is not surprising, because this Chancellor has not made a single major speech on the environment in 11 years. In a carbon-conscious world, we have got a fossil-fuel Chancellor.

I congratulate the Chancellor on what he had to say about the Olympics. I do not want to overdo it, however, as he has just spent an hour congratulating himself.

The Chancellor told us that his borrowing forecasts were correct. Yes, he correctly forecast that the public finances are in a mess. He is borrowing £37 billion this year. He told us that his economic growth forecasts were correct. Yes, he correctly forecast that Britain would grow more slowly than the United States, Canada, the G7, Spain, Ireland, the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Australia. [Interruption.] I know that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister get to talk to each other only once a year, on Budget day, but they ought to listen to this bit.
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We will study the rest of the Budget carefully because, after 10 Budgets, we know that this Chancellor's Budget speeches bear very little relation to the Budget itself. He told us about the savings culture, but why did he not tell us that according to page 238 of the Red Book—or, in the Prime Minister's case, the unread book—the savings ratio is only 5.75 per cent.? That is half what it was when he took office. Why did he not tell us that business investment, at 9 per cent., is at a record low? And he did not tell us that today he has revised the figure downward compared with three months ago. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker, there are two central facts that tell us the real story of this Budget. [Interruption.] First—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. The Chancellor was listened to with very—[Interruption.] Order. The hon. Member for Glasgow, North-West (John Robertson) will be removed if he behaves like that. One expects a certain reaction to these things, but the Chancellor was heard in relative silence and the same courtesy should be offered to the Leader of the Opposition and to the leader of the Liberal Democrats afterward.

Mr. Cameron: There are two central facts that tell the story of this Budget. First, the tax burden is at its highest ever level in the history of this country: higher than when Denis Healey made the pips squeak; higher than when Ramsey MacDonald sat where the Prime Minister is sitting now.

People who listened to the Budget will have noticed the second fact: even with the highest tax burden in Britain's history, the Government are borrowing £175 billion over the next six years. I know that the Chancellor is a man in a hurry, but that is no excuse for belting out figures like a supercharged bookmaker. Let me go through the figures in turn. He is going to borrow £37 billion this year, then £36 billion, then £30 billion, then £25 billion, then £24 billion, then £23 billion. That is £175 billion over six years. This Chancellor is mortgaging this country's future. That is more than £6,000 of debt for every household in this country. Those are the facts. After all the years of spin about enterprise and prudence, we have finally got to the truth. He is an old-fashioned, tax-and-spend Chancellor, and that approach is completely out of date. The story of this week is of a Prime Minister and a Chancellor up to their necks in debt, making promises that they cannot keep and not knowing whether to work together or fight with each other as the ship starts going down.

The real challenge facing this country is competing in the new global economy. The Chancellor has given us the biggest tax burden in Britain's history, and cannot be the right person to meet that challenge. We used to have the 10th lowest business taxes in the developed world, but we now have the 10th highest. The Chancellor has had 10 Budgets to boost science, but science departments in our universities are closing. He has had 10 Budgets to improve transport, and some of our motorways look like car parks. He cannot be the change that this country needs, because he is the architect of the policies that have put us where we are.

This country also faces a huge challenge to reform public services. The Chancellor, who has squandered billions of pounds on unreformed public services,
22 Mar 2006 : Column 305
cannot be the right person to meet that challenge. He has doubled spending on the health service but this weekend one hospital sacked almost 1,000 staff. Deficits across the NHS have now reached £1 billion. The Chancellor has doubled spending on education, but more than half of our children leave school without attaining the required standard.

Billions of pounds have been raised and spent, but we have no idea where the money has gone. With a record like that, the Chancellor should be running for treasurer of the Labour party.

In his Budget, the Chancellor mentioned pensions. After everything that he has done, millions of people in this country will think that he has got a nerve. This is the Chancellor who took £5 billion out of the nation's pension funds, and whose means testing destroyed savings. No mention was made of whether his pre-election bribe of £200 would be continued: I expect that we will have to find that in the Red Book.

This is the Chancellor who caused the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field)—the Government's first pensions Minister, and the only one who was any good—to say:

The Chancellor who smashed up the pension system cannot be the right person to rebuild it.

Labour MPs may think that the Chancellor is their salvation from the mess that they find themselves in this week, but the big policy failures of this Government—as opposed to the sleaze and the spin—are his failures. The failure to spend money wisely, to reform public services, to protect people's pensions, and to prepare for Britain's future—those failures are made in Nos. 10 and 11 Downing street.

The Chancellor may see himself as the rock on which Labour can rebuild its church. Instead, he is the roadblock stopping Britain from meeting the challenges of the future. He is an analogue politician in a digital age. He is the past. [Interruption.]

1.43 pm

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