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Mr. Des Browne: I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman, who clearly has an extensive knowledge, no    doubt developed from his Select Committee membership. Given the demonstrative leadership role that he wishes the Government to take, can he indicate to the House how he personally will be voting tonight in relation to the revalorisation of the climate change levy?

Mr. Hurd: Personally, I am a supporter of the revalorisation of the climate change levy—

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton) (Con): The answer is no.

Mr. Hurd: I know what the answer is. I happen to believe that the climate change levy has played a role. The Government are deluding themselves, however, if they think that that is the main piece on the chessboard and the bellwether with regard to climate change.

In the context of real leadership and clear policy making, we need long-term signals. Instead, we get muddled reviews—the climate change review announced today, an energy review over the next few months and, perhaps most importantly, the Stern review on the economics of climate change at the end of the year. We get incompetent management of key processes such as the definition of the national allocation plan in the first phase of the European emissions trading system. We get tolerance of inefficient taxation such as air passenger duty and a drift from the impressive momentum that the Government showed in terms of developing environmental taxation in their first Parliament between 1997 and 2001. All that drift, muddle and incompetence has served to undermine the credibility of the Government, who are increasingly seen as being good at words but having real problems, and
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struggling, with delivery. The test is not words but action. To be fair, the test is not the Budget but the reaction of the Treasury to the Stern review later in the year, which will set out what is possible for a brave Government prepared to show real leadership.

The second test is the inevitable row over the national allocation plan for the second phase of the EU emissions trading system and the age-old dialogue between the priority given to sustainability and the priority given to the arguments of competitiveness. That will tell us the reality of this Chancellor and his aspiration and commitment to preserving and enhancing our natural resources—the natural capital, which is an indispensable pillar of our global system of capitalism, and which we can no longer take for granted. Whether he passes that test or not, the Chancellor and I are at least agreed on one thing—we both hope that last week's Budget was his last.

8.47 pm

Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in the first Budget debate that I have attended. I hope that I do not have to listen to 10 more Budgets from the Chancellor, but I listened closely to the one that he gave, I think, last week.

I was going to bring my worst instincts to the Chamber and talk about the fact that there was nothing in the Budget on pensions, as many of my constituents live in fear of their future—both those who are saving for retirement and those currently in retirement. There was nothing on council tax—a hidden stealth tax that goes up year on year, causing great distress to young and old alike in my constituency. I was going to talk about the problems with transport funding and the fact that my constituents are packed on to trains early in the morning on the One railway franchise as the Treasury pockets £50 million a year in franchise fees and fails to invest that money on the network. But I say, "Get behind me Satan," because I want to be positive this evening, on issues that matter to everyone in the House, including the hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Edward Miliband).

I was absolutely delighted to hear the emphasis placed on education in the Budget. I have had the great privilege of visiting my primary and secondary schools in Hoddesdon, Cheshunt, Broxbourne, Waltham Cross and Northaw. It is the head teachers who make a difference in those schools. We are lucky and blessed to have excellent head teachers in my constituency. They work extremely hard for a great deal less money than I earn, put in a huge number of hours and are a credit to their schools and the community that they serve. On that point, I welcome the additional funding going directly to head teachers to spend on the things that really matter to them—IT, books and additional teaching resources. That money is very welcome, and I have to say that things have improved since Labour came to power nine years ago. Admittedly they should have improved, as Labour has spent a lot of money. When I visit my schools I see whiteboards and projectors, all of which have added to the educational experience of young people in my constituency. Nevertheless, that has created problems in itself, although I know that the budget was not there to deal with those problems. People are moving out of north
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London and gangs are regularly attacking our schools, stealing much of the equipment and creating a very hostile environment for young people. Perhaps that is happening in other Members' schools, and perhaps we could consider securing additional funds somewhere down the line to improve school security and the environment in which young people are educated.

One thing that I have noticed when touring my constituency—

Mr. Des Browne: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Walker: I will happily give way.

Mr. Browne: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman gets around to touring his constituency. May I allow him an      opportunity to welcome comprehensively the Chancellor's announcements of further investment in his constituency? Given his recognition of the need for further investment in the security of our communities, I am sure that he will wish to add a welcome for the investment in community support officers that the Chancellor also announced.

Mr. Walker: Of course I welcome additional investment in my constituency, if indeed it turns up. It is interesting that the Chief Secretary mentioned community support officers. I am working with a consortium of schools in my constituency, considering the possibility of part-funding CSOs to provide evening cover so that people who congregate around schools, wishing them harm and causing vandalism, can be moved on. I welcome any additional resources that we can find to finance community support officers.

As I was saying, one thing I have noticed is that the greatest difference between the private and public education sectors is class size. I believe that many of our public schools now have extremely good IT equipment and teaching facilities, but class size seems to be one of the key determinants of performance. I would welcome any measures introduced by the Government—or by our Government, when we win the next general election—that reduced class sizes and gave children from some of the most deprived parts of my constituency an even greater chance of achieving success. I do not believe that that wish is party political; I believe that it is shared by all the parties. We want the very best for our young people.

Having got that off my chest, however, I would like to be party political. Like many other Members—again, across the Chamber—I was extremely disappointed that the health service did not get a mention in the Chancellor's Budget statement. We have huge funding shortfalls in Hertfordshire, caused by and large by Government mismanagement. There is, for instance, the mismanagement of GP and consultant contracts, as a result of which too much money has been given in return for too little. Of course I want GPs and consultants to be paid properly, but the money should have been based on an increase in output and productivity.

What concerns me about Labour Members is all the chest-beating about the fact that they are spending more money. They are like the great apes that leap in, bang the
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ground and bang their chests. It is not about spending more money; it is about a return on investment. It is about output exceeding input. On that score, the Government have some work to do. Yes, they are spending more money, but are they securing a proper return on their investment for taxpayers across the country and in my constituency?

In the health service, we face significant front-line cuts throughout my constituency and across Hertfordshire. As I have said, we have huge deficits in our hospitals, but what concerns me most are the cuts in mental health services that affect the most vulnerable people in my community.

A health care professional asked me, "Why are you showing so much interest in mental health? As you'll find out, Charles, there are no votes in mental health." That is completely wrong, and I am sure that most hon. Members think so, too. Of course, I want outcomes for breast cancer and heart disease to improve, but people with mental health problems need a strong voice as well, and it is incumbent on hon. Members to give them that voice. I urge the Chief Secretary to look at NHS funding. I appreciate that there is no bottomless pit, but the £800 million shortfall is damaging the most vulnerable people in our society. They are not responsible for the problem, but they will pay the price. That causes me great concern.

So I come to a solution. May we perhaps consider clawing back some of the money that we will give to the European Union in the years ahead? I understand that we will make additional contributions to fund the lifestyle of French farmers. I love France; I love French markets, but given the fact that our health service is in financial crisis, is it really justifiable to give more money to the EU and to some of the richest countries in Europe? That is a hard sell in my constituency, and I imagine that it might be quite a hard sell in other hon. Member's constituencies. So thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me this canter through the sunlit uplands of Broxbourne. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope that I have not upset too many people.

8.56 pm

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