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Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): As I rise to challenge the received wisdom that we are living in a land of milk and honey, I confess that I am gatecrashing the Chancellor's glee club on the other side of the Chamber. I have unashamedly looked at the Budget through the prism of the way in which it will affect my constituents and my constituency. There is a chasm between the Chancellor's rhetoric and the situation in the real world for business and the public services, which I shall touch on later in my speech. Such rhetoric includes:


I find it hard to reconcile those comments with a Chancellor who is imposing a social market model on this country and squandering the golden economic legacy that was left by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke).

People have eschewed facts today, but facts are important, so let us consider the statistics. The tax take this year is £490 billion. Public expenditure is up by £207 billion since 1997. If one adds tax credits, as de facto welfare payments, into expenditure, 39 per cent. of our GDP is going on public expenditure. There will be £73 billion of public borrowing over the next two years, and tax will be up to 41 per cent. of GDP by 2011, or the equivalent of more than £7,000 a family.

Businesses have been much lauded by the Chancellor, but business investment is at its lowest for 41 years in cash terms. This country is 5 per cent. worse off for capital equipment than Germany and the United States.
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Output per worker has gone up by just 1.6 per cent. in the past nine years, which is well behind the figure for the United States of America. We know that the Chancellor has had to downgrade his growth forecast constantly, but we should also remember that he has got the tax-take projections wrong in the last six financial years. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe pointed out, growth per output since 1995 has, according to the university of Groningen, fallen behind France and Germany. We are something like fourth or fifth in the list of output and productivity in the G7.

The Budget is also marked by a sleight of hand. We have heard nothing about the private finance initiative and the £60 billion that is off-balance-sheet debt. As my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) said, we have heard nothing about the council tax bribe of £200—an urgent issue in 2005 before the general election, which is suddenly less urgent this year. We are constantly told by Labour Members that this is a Budget for the future that tackles the big issues, yet we have heard nothing about the Turner report or the structural reform of pensions. We have heard nothing except briefing in a turf war by the Treasury against Lord Turner and others.

Let me give one simple example of how the Government have done nothing for the most needy people in our society. The Alzheimer's Society has written that carers save the Exchequer £57 billion, but there is nothing for them except a slap in the face. They have been ignored.

Martin Horwood: Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the policy of the Alzheimer's Society, and of the Liberal Democrats, to implement the recommendations of the royal commission on long-term care?

Mr. Jackson: A policy review is being undertaken by my party. We have a realistic chance of being elected to government, unlike the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.

There are other gimmicks, too. The planning gain tax will be organised on a regional basis. Does that mean that my constituents in Peterborough, where there is high growth and lots of house building, will suddenly find that tax going to Thurrock, Great Yarmouth or other Labour-voting areas?

There was nothing about manufacturing in the Budget. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher), who has 30 years' experience in this place, and the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) for talking about manufacturing. In my constituency, in a city famous for its railways and engineering, 4,500 people have lost their jobs. Employment is down by 28.7 per cent. Under this Labour Government, whose members constantly attacked the Conservatives throughout the 1980s for their record on manufacturing jobs, we have seen a reduction from 15 per cent. of the economy to 12 per cent. of the economy. That is not a record to be proud of.

On the stamp duty threshold, even the Council of Mortgage Lenders has said that the policy will not work, because the threshold has not gone up in line with
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inflation and price rises. House prices in my constituency have risen by 100 per cent. in the past five years.

Reference was made to the impact of tax credits on the poorest in our society. There still is a 60 per cent. marginal tax rate. If someone on the minimum wage has the tax credits taken away when he works, the basic rate of income tax and the tax credit removal, combined with national insurance contributions, will mean that he pays a 60 or 70 per cent. real marginal rate of taxation. That is not good enough.

Yes, I pay tribute to the Government for at least trying to do something about child poverty, but the Chancellor should not forget the overall tax burden that falls on ordinary working families, not just the rich people in Chelsea tractors. I notice that the Chancellor paid tribute to the class war, keeping the "red in tooth and claw" leftist battalions on the Back Benches happy, but it was meaningless. It was student union gimmick politics—I am not referring to the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen).

I shall concentrate on two areas. We hear a lot about health and how health spending is the great panacea that will solve the problem of the NHS and the infinite demand for health care, but there was not a word about health in the Budget. Health is now embarrassing. The Secretary of State for Health said just two months ago that the deficit was unlikely to be more than £200 million. That is typical of this Labour Government: they are only out by a factor of five, because by the end of the financial year the figure is more likely to be £1 billion.

After nine years of the stewardship of the Chancellor, my constituency is losing 185 NHS jobs. Decent, hard-working and professional people are being thrown on the scrapheap. We have a cumulative budget deficit of £10 million over two years. Three wards are closing. That does not take account of the crisis in NHS dentistry in my city. Older people, children and young families are all being denied preventive dental treatment. We know that the Chancellor is keen on dentistry. He can get his teeth fixed at extremely high cost as part of his Trinny and Susannah-style makeover in preparation for moving next door to No. 10, but unfortunately my constituents cannot.

It is no good talking about gimmicks, such as paying consultants only a 1 per cent. increase in salary. The Chancellor knows full well that there are only 34,000 consultants, which is a drop in the ocean compared with the increase that he is paying to other health care workers. Together with things like the working time directive, "Agenda for Change" and the botched GP and consultant contracts, which overran by £390 million, that has brought a structural deficit to a majority of trusts. We need not even mention manipulation of the national tariff. I, and probably other hon. Members, cannot remember the last time the NHS so mismanaged the national tariff that it had to withdraw it and bring it out again.

The hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) will no doubt speak eloquently about the cuts in mental health services in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire.
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Those are the most destructive cuts. Many of the young people affected by the cuts are vulnerable and need help. Their services are being cut hugely.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Ivan Lewis): Will the hon. Gentleman give us a comparison of the year-on-year increases in NHS expenditure under the Government whom he loyally supported with the year-on-year increases that we have seen in the NHS?

Mr. Jackson: Delighted to; obviously the hon. Gentleman has not been reading Hansard. For every year of the Conservative Administration, between 1979 and 1997 we spent 64 per cent. above the rate of inflation, and for every week that we were in power we spent £1 million on a new capital project. He will have to ask a trickier trick question next time. [Interruption.] Those are the figures, if he wants to check them.

On crime and policing, the Chancellor talks about police community support officers, but those are not fully trained policemen and women. They are decent civic-minded people who will do their best, but they are not policemen. We also hear about the regional forces that are being forced on our constituencies, allegedly costing more than £550 million, according to the Association of Police Authorities. The Government are going to fund that policy, possibly to the tune of £150 million, although no one wants it. It is a top-down approach. The police and local people are against it, but the Government have an arrogant disdain for local views and will go ahead with it anyway. As a result, we have to find £400 million from the council tax in my area and throughout the country—£400 million that is not being spent on crime fighting or tackling drugs, violent crime or antisocial behaviour, because it is being spent instead on new badges, new buildings and new management structures. That matters.

Let me give the detection rates for my basic command unit, the northern division of Cambridgeshire. Some 53 per cent. of sexual offences are detected, which means that 47 per cent. are not solved; 15 per cent. of burglary cases are detected, so 85 per cent. are not solved; and 20 per cent. of vehicle thefts are detected, which means that 80 per cent. are not solved. That is after nine years of a Government who came to power saying that they were tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is an old man in a hurry. Last week's Budget was a "cones hotline" Budget. It had no vision, it was full of bombast and hyperbole, and it was empty and vacuous. I note that the Prime Minister, even 12,000 miles away, has got his betrayal in first, so the Chancellor may not move next door very quickly. The Budget is full of gimmicks, and although it does not have any price tags or time lines, it includes the much vaunted reannouncement of education spending. It fails the people of my constituency and, above all, it fails the country.

8 pm

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