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Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): The Budget claimed to be a Budget for education and a green Budget, but as my hon. Friend the Member for
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Twickenham (Dr. Cable) pointed out, there were disgraceful omissions from the Budget in those respects and also in respect of the NHS. I shall take each of those in turn.

Education takes many forms, including the learning of IT skills. I am pleased that in the debate many hon. Members have mentioned the home computing initiative. There is a long history of using computers in my family and my constituency. My father, Don Horwood, helped to build the very first programmable digital computer, Colossus, during the 1940s at Bletchley Park. Bletchley Park became GCHQ and moved ultimately to Cheltenham, so there is a good connection.

Many families are excluded from the IT revolution that took place during my father's lifetime, sometimes because of their low incomes and sometimes simply because of inexperience in IT. The home computing initiative was a valuable programme not only because it gave access to IT equipment, but because it improved the employment prospects of those on low incomes and their families, and increased the overall set of IT skills of the nation, thereby increasing our productivity—another Budget theme.

It is disgraceful that the home computing initiative was abolished in the Budget. That was not flagged up in the Budget statement, of course, but was buried in the small print. The home computing industry was not consulted or informed beforehand, despite the existence of an industry body, the home computing industry alliance. I have had angry e-mails from constituents who are in the industry and who are appalled that that was done at such short notice and in such a sneaky back-door way. It is a very unfortunate cancellation of a valuable scheme.

Support for the NHS has been identified by other hon. Members as a subject that was not mentioned in the Budget speech. It is an outrage that it did not rate even a mention at a time when the NHS is in financial crisis. I do not represent one of those legendary 6 per cent. of areas that are in deep financial crisis. I speak for an area represented by Cheltenham and Tewkesbury primary care trust, which, as my neighbour, the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) knows, has been in financial balance. It is a three-star primary care trust. We have an acute trust, Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust, which is a relatively low cost provider of services, doing exactly as the Government wanted it to do. We even have a mental health partnership trust, which is a three-star trust hoping to apply to be one of the first partnership trusts to gain the much-vaunted foundation status. That is precisely the kind of area that should not be in crisis.

Why, in that case, was it announced today that Battledown children's ward in my constituency will close as a 24-hour in-patient facility, despite pledges from all three primary care trusts and the acute trust last year that it would stay open? Why will St. Paul's maternity wing close in due course, and why will the Delancey rehabilitation hospital probably close? Why are adult mental health services to be rationalised, and a range of other services that were provided in both Cheltenham and Gloucester to be provided in only one place? I suspect that my neighbour, the hon. Member for
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Cotswold, will be considering community hospitals and local NHS services in his constituency with some trepidation given the overall package.

Why has that devastating news been delivered to the people of Cheltenham today? The answer is that the Department of Health got its sums wrong. Initiative after initiative, contract after contract and target after target have been inadequately funded by the Department of Health. The result has been the requirement for some £29 million of savings across the three PCTs in Gloucestershire and £10 million lost to Gloucester Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, even if it stands still on its current activity. That is an unacceptable attack on front-line services, and I agree with my hon. Friends that it could cost lives.

I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to leave the debate to meet the Secretary of State for Health tonight. I asked her why a PCT that is in balance and that has a low-cost acute trust provider is facing such cuts. She said, "We can't take funds other than from the NHS to bail out the overspending PCTs." "Can't"? The Chancellor keeps telling us that he has 10 years' experience. Why "can't" the political will be found to protect services, even in the areas of the NHS that have been in balance and that have done everything that the Government have asked of them? Furthermore, those events are taking place while the threat of pandemic flu hangs over the NHS—this is the very time when we should be looking at increasing capacity in the NHS, not cutting it.

Finally, the Chancellor claims to have produced a green Budget, but it is a very pale green. For all the Government's protestations, the simple fact remains that CO 2 emissions are going up, not down. Today's conveniently delayed climate change review—it is a shame that there was not enough time to produce it just before the Budget speech—makes it clear that the climate change levy has been frozen since its creation and that it will be increased only in line with inflation from 2007. Let us hope that climate change itself proceeds only at the rate of inflation with six-year pauses, although that is unlikely because, as the evidence shows, while the Government are slowing down, climate change is speeding up.

It is also disappointing that the Chancellor has only partially implemented Liberal Democrat policy by placing higher vehicle excise duty on the most gas-guzzling vehicles and introducing a zero rate for those vehicles that are the lowest consumers. However, the rate is feeble, and, as Conservative Members have pointed out, there is no protection for rural farmers who genuinely need such vehicles. Instead, the owner of a Porsche Cayenne, which the Environmental Transport Association lists as one of the worst offenders and which costs between £30,000 and £50,000, now faces an extra bill per annum of £30, which is rather less than the cost of one Porsche Cayenne windscreen wiper.

At this point in my speech, I must declare an interest because, like the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), I have got the builders in to plan an extension to my house. I plan to install a mini-wind turbine, a combined heat and power boiler and solar panels, but I was surprised to discover that some of the grants that I was hoping to take advantage of under the
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clear skies programme seem to have run out. There is no provision in the Budget, not even in the small print, on householder microgeneration. On an MP's salary, I may be able to afford to go ahead, but many others will not. Earlier in the debate, the Minister gave me a disingenuous answer on that point, because, although he discussed supporting microgeneration for the Government's own buildings, he      made no firm commitment on householder microgeneration. Microgeneration has huge potential to reduce emissions and fuel poverty, to lower fuel bills for a wide section of the population and to more than fill the gap left by the nuclear industry were we to decide—rightly—to decommission it completely.

The truth is that the Budget has failed to support education and productivity, to save the NHS from financial crisis and to protect the environment. Unless the Chancellor fails with his next job application, it will go down as his greatest missed opportunity.

8.23 pm

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): The contributions to tonight's debate have been detailed and far ranging, and they show the in-depth interest and attention that all hon. Members pay to every single aspect of the Budget. So many themes have come out of the debate, but I want to concentrate on my concern about the Budget.

I want to make a plea to the Treasury, the Chancellor and the Department of Trade and Industry to deliver a cross-cutting Budget. We should examine how the different measures in the Budget can be joined up across Departments and linked to partners on the ground. We have heard so much about issues such as social justice and child poverty, but we need the capacity on the ground to make the measures in the Budget a reality. That is my plea to Ministers tonight.

It is a privilege to take part in this debate. This is my right hon. Friend's 10th Budget and many other hon. Members have commented about how the public finances are now on a level playing field. It is so important to take that forward. I am a member of the Environmental Audit Committee which has examined the pre-Budget report and other Budgets for their green capacity. The Committee's reports always seem to conclude that the Government should do more, but that is true no matter how much Governments do. However, we should give the Government credit for the real step change in the Budget, especially in the chapter on protecting the environment.

I welcome the progress on environmental issues. As the climate change review published today shows, there is still so much more that could be done. It is up to all of      us to work collaboratively, whether through environmental improvements to our own homes, informing our constituents or getting our local authorities to adopt a leadership role on environmental issues. The Budget provides the foundations for real progress on environmental issues, not least in respect of microgeneration, at work, in schools and in all the public finance undertakings.

The Environmental Audit Committee is cross-cutting in looking at all Departments, and I want to look at some of the Budget measures in the same way, especially those that will have a real impact on my constituency. I hope that Ministers will work with north Staffordshire
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MPs to ensure a joined-up approach from the Department of Trade and Industry, the Office of the    Deputy Prime Minister, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Treasury. Unless we have that commitment, we will be unable to deliver services in north Staffordshire as we should.

I was interested in the remarks by my right hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher) about the loss of manufacturing jobs. I wish to flag up our heartlands, especially north Staffordshire, where heavy industry is bearing the brunt of the globalisation that many other hon. Members have mentioned. It is vital that we do everything in our power to create new jobs, to support those who have already lost their jobs and to retrain and give new skills to those in low-paid jobs and who wish to move on. It is important that the review of Advantage West Midlands and the other regional development agencies that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry mentioned earlier looks at what manufacturing needs. We have the wonderful example of the Ceramic Industry Forum, which is looking in an innovative way at what needs to be done. The education maintenance allowance, which was piloted in Stoke-on-Trent, is another wonderful example, and it has now been rolled out across the country. I hope that other schemes can be piloted in Stoke-on-Trent and used to maximum effect across the country.

This is a Budget for the regeneration of the UK's towns and cities. I declare an interest because my constituency includes Burslem, the mother town of the Potteries. The £65.5 million announced this week by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Renew North Staffordshire will give us unprecedented levels of investment in housing, and I hope that it will unlock many different opportunities for jobs and retraining. It will give us an opportunity to have sustainable methods of construction and to implement on the ground the warm homes policy that was again mentioned in this Budget. If the Government take a cross-cutting approach, this will all add up to a complete transformation of homes and jobs in our area.

I am pleased that the Lyons review was mentioned in paragraph 6.15 of the Budget. Some 7,800 jobs of the 20,000 proposed have already been moved out of London and the south-east, so there are still 12,000 to go. We have a site in north Staffordshire that could be used for relocation purposes under the Lyons review. It is a stone's throw away from the priority housing market renewal area, which would link up to Burslem. If the Government have the will, we can make it happen on the ground. The job losses that we face in north Staffordshire could give rise to opportunities for the innovative relocation of public services that would allow us to be a true engine of growth. That is the agenda that north Staffordshire wishes to convey to Ministers.

We have a wonderful resource centre that was originally launched by the Ceramic and Allied Trades union—now Unity. It has a proud record of upskilling and retraining the work force in north Staffordshire, and has had European funding. The education maintenance allowance offers the Government a model for ways of dealing with those in the traditional manufacturing areas who are losing jobs. They need only look at this gem to see how such projects can be rolled out still further.
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It will come as no surprise to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and the Regions to know that I cannot miss this opportunity to lobby yet again on the LEGI—local enterprise growth initiative—fund, phase 2 of which is on offer under this year's Budget. I say categorically to my right hon. Friend that we need that funding for north Staffordshire. If we need extra assistance and capacity in building a project that will meet the criteria, I ask for an assurance that the Government will work with us to ensure that it will be in place as soon as phase 2 gets under way.

I wish briefly to refer to the Budget information on private finance initiatives—"PFI: strengthening long-term partnerships". We need firm commitments from the Government about the way forward for the public services. Some changes to health service funding are directly affecting the deficits that are occurring in primary care trusts and health trusts around the country. In north Staffordshire, we have a private finance initiative that is nearing the stage of closure. I acknowledge all the welcome investment in research and development in the health service and all the extra resources that the Government are putting in, but my plea is for Ministers to look closely at box 6.1 in the PFI information. I hope that, in the winding-up speech, the Chief Secretary can assure north Staffordshire Members that we can have some certainty about the PFI for the new hospital.

We currently have two hospital sites, which means all sorts of extra costs that make it difficult to deal with the current position and the huge scale of job losses. Above all, we need certainty and joined-up thinking from the Treasury and the health service that the PFI can go ahead.

8.35 pm

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