I wish to say a few words about the growth strategy. Today, the Chancellor announced a comprehensive new approach, containing many measures that we should welcome, not least the large list of deregulation measures he cited, the simplification of planning and the measures to improve access to start-up capital. On all those, it is essential that each part of the strategy is consistent with other parts of public policy. Individually, direct measures

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always sound attractive, but the test is whether they form a coherent strategy. On those grounds, I warmly welcome what amounts to a new agenda for tax reform to create the most competitive tax system in the advanced world. I particularly support the reductions in corporation tax, which will bring it down to 23% within a few years.

It is an absolute disgrace that the UK now has the longest tax code in the world. The complexity of the system is getting in the way of thousands of small businesses in our constituencies—these are the very people who can take us back to sustained growth. We must have a tax system that allows enterprise to flourish. A few weeks ago, the Treasury Committee published a report setting out the key principles that should underpin tax reform. I can summarise them briefly: let us have more simplicity, let us have more stability and let us have lower rates and fewer reliefs, where possible. I note that in this Budget the Chancellor has abolished 43 reliefs and got rid of 100 pages of the tax code, which is a huge step forward. Let us have less meddling in the tax system as well. The Chancellor appears to have set us out in the right direction and it will be for the Treasury Committee and others to judge whether his proposals match up to the principles set out in our report, which match closely what others in the tax advice industry have concluded as being the right way forward.

The Treasury Committee will also examine who gains and who loses from the Budget. Last year, the Committee demanded an unprecedented amount of detail on the distributional effects of the Budget and the Chancellor responded by publishing more information than had ever been provided by a Chancellor before—I commend him for that. This will be particularly important with respect to the plan to merge income tax and national insurance contributions. Successive Chancellors of the Exchequer have examined that beguiling idea closely and in the end rejected it, largely because it hits the incomes of certain groups in unexpected ways. Perhaps its time has come, and the Treasury Committee will take evidence on whether the time has indeed come to implement it. We should also examine a number of other proposals that may have long-term distributional impacts, among which is the encouragement of charitable giving with the sizeable extension of gift aid and the inheritance tax reliefs. I hope that the vast majority of us in the House welcome that too.

The Committee will also do its best to examine the coherence of some of the Chancellor’s other measures when set against wider public policies. I can best illustrate that by alluding to points made to me by colleagues in the House in recent months. For example, the Chancellor announced the creation of 21 enterprise zones, which must be designed carefully to ensure that they create jobs and increase overall activity. The risk with such zones will always be that they distort activity at the boundaries and add no new jobs.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend for his thoughtful remarks. Does he not agree that the enterprise zones should be extended out of the cities and into towns such as Harlow, which has a strong scientific corridor?

Mr Tyrie: It just crosses my mind that my hon. Friend might have an interest in Harlow. The crucial issue is that if we are to create areas that have special

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reliefs, we must not inadvertently end up merely moving activity around the country while adding nothing to the overall welfare of UK Inc. That involves a difficult judgment and we need to look extremely carefully at it.

Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North) (Con): My hon. Friend will have heard the Chancellor say that discussions will take place on the position in Wales and Scotland. If the Welsh Assembly were not to follow this policy, the existence of an enterprise zone in the Bristol area might result in that very relocation to which my hon. Friend refers.

Mr Tyrie: I note what my hon. Friend says and think that careful account needs to be taken of those points.

Another area in which it is important to have coherent policy is on the cost of fuel. This Budget gives some relief on fuel duty rises, with the cancellation of the fuel duty escalator, among other things. However, while motoring bills are being reduced, other Government policies are putting up the cost of energy for a lot for businesses and home owners in other ways, not least through the price of electricity, and the cost of rail travel is also increasing. Does all this—a reduction for motorists, but an increase for rail users and much higher energy bills—form a coherent policy? I do not know, but that needs to be carefully examined, particularly in the light of the Chancellor’s announcement of a floor price for carbon. All these issues need to be carefully examined, because a distortive energy policy will make Britain less competitive, particularly in our export markets.

In our efforts to return to sustained growth, we need to make the best use of every pound invested in our public services. Another example of the need to make sure we have coherence in growth policy has been put to me by colleagues on both sides of the House. They have asked whether spending £17 billion on a high-speed rail link is better use of the money than investing in modern rolling stock and improving the existing tracks. I suspect that millions of rail commuters who cannot currently get a seat and whose trains are unreliable and relatively slow will be interested in the answer to that question. I am very pleased that the Select Committee on Transport has just announced an inquiry into that matter, as a lot of people will await its outcome.

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that high-speed rail has the potential to be a profoundly bad economic decision for the whole country?

Mr Tyrie: What I am trying to do is not answer the questions, but pose them for Select Committees and others to try to answer. I am trying to point out that in order to generate a coherent growth strategy, a large number of policies need to be looked at in the round to ensure that we are not wasting public resources.

Mr Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op) rose

Mr Tyrie: I shall give way to a fellow member of the Treasury Committee.

Mr Love: Does it not concern the hon. Gentleman that nothing has been said in today’s Budget about the centrepiece of the Government’s growth strategy—the national insurance holiday for small companies outside

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London and the south-east? Should we not know more about how that is going and whether it is, in any way, a success?

Mr Tyrie: That is an interesting point. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Committee will be holding hearings next week and we will have an opportunity to take evidence on exactly that point.

I wish to draw my remarks to a close by observing that growth and the deficit reduction strategy—the two issues I have been discussing—will be one and the same thing if a reduction in the size of government allows room for the private sector to grow. I know that this is not something on which agreement will be reached across the House and that it is the very stuff of party politics, but I hope that Members sitting on the other side of the House will permit me to end with a personal view. Even if there were no deficit, we should still reduce public spending because at close to 50% of gross domestic product it is too high. It reduces choice and freedom for millions of individuals, and it burdens enterprises with unacceptable levels of taxation. During the 13 years of the previous Government, public spending averaged about 40% of GDP. I support this Government’s plans to reduce it to that level again.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Many Members want to speak today—quite rightly—and we want to get as many in as possible. There is no time limit on speeches but brevity would help other people.

2 pm

Sir Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak early and to follow the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie). He made three points that I would like to take up. First, he referred to the reduction in the deficit over the next four to five years and said that he thought that that would cause grave concern and bring great pressure to bear on the Government not to continue with the programme. He is perfectly right: £146 billion will be reduced to £122 billion, which will be reduced to £70 billion, which will be reduced to £26 billion in the years 2015-16. That is a massive and steep drop and will have serious consequences for the public sector, which the hon. Gentleman acknowledged.

In his Budget speech, the Chancellor did not mention the welfare state or the point on which the hon. Member for Chichester finished his speech, which is the balance between the public and private sectors. We will see a clear imbalance between the public and private sectors as regards the question of whether the public sector can shed jobs and whether they can go into the private sector. That is an interesting point that will be followed closely in the north-east of England, where some 47% of employment is in the public sector. We will then see the difficulties and dangers of moving quickly and rapidly with such a massive debt reduction over four to five years.

Harold Wilson once said that one man’s pay rise was another man’s ticket to the dole queue, but the deficit reduction we are talking about today involves one man’s job passing from the public sector to the dole queue. I must tell the hon. Member for Chichester, since he made the point, that he must remember that those who

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work in the public sector are producers who pay taxes and consume and to remove them from that sector with such a drastic and rapid reduction in the deficit will not add to the prosperity or standard of living of our people.

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): The hon. Gentleman should remember that the Chancellor has announced today that over five years, this Government plan to borrow an additional £485 billion—or a 50% increase in official state debt. They are not paying down the deficit or paying off the debt—they are just trying to borrow a little less each year, but it is still adding a huge amount to the national mortgage.

Sir Stuart Bell: I was much amused when statements were made about how the debt was reduced, how much we had to pay off and how much the Labour Government borrowed. In the month of February, the Government borrowed £11 billion when they should have borrowed £8 billion. It is perfectly correct that we have mixed up the structural deficit with the overall deficit, but public spending will continue to go up. There was a certain sleight of hand from the Chancellor when he made his Budget speech.

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that cutting public sector jobs has a direct effect on the private sector? I do not know whether he has seen the study modelling done by Durham university that shows that in the north-east, some 50,000 jobs will go because of public sector cuts, 20,000 of which will be in the private sector.

Sir Stuart Bell: I have seen that study. I have also seen the study by PricewaterhouseCoopers about the impact on the north-east of the various deficit reduction plans.

May I, without in the least way being sycophantic, congratulate the Leader of the Opposition? He made a short and precise speech but he hit every nail on the head that needed to be hit. Growth is down. Snow or no snow, we entered into zero growth in the last quarter. Where is growth going this year? It is at 1.7% for the year. How does that compare with Germany, where there is 3% growth?

Jesse Norman (Hereford and South Herefordshire) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman enlighten the House about when in any recovery from any major asset-based deflation growth has returned within even a five or seven-year period? One thinks of the 1930s, and there was no return to growth until the end of that decade, and of Japan, where there was no return to growth until the beginning of this decade. How can he possibly attribute the situation as regards growth to this Government in such a way?

Sir Stuart Bell: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point, because we have argued consistently—and so has the international community—that we had a financial crisis from 2008 and 2009 and that out of that financial crisis, without referring to tsunamis or earthquakes, there have been many aftershocks and it will take much time to get over that. I agree with that point but it was not us who said that we would raise growth last year—it was the Conservative Government. The hon. Member for Chichester made an excellent point when he said, quite rightly, that under a Labour Government we had

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40% debt in relation to gross domestic product. My recollection is that for some years it was 37% and it was the financial crisis that pushed it up to where it was.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): Would my hon. Friend also say that what is particularly startling today is that, after all the measures we have heard from the Chancellor about in the Budget, the growth forecast has taken place as an after-effect? How bad would the growth forecast have been without those measures? It is still drastically down from what the Chancellor suggested that it would be when he delivered his previous Budget nine or 10 months ago.

Sir Stuart Bell: That is the point that the Leader of the Opposition made. I was reminded by those on the Front Bench—I had not got so far in my speech—that if growth is down, inflation is up. The Chancellor made a point about commodity prices going up. They are going up in France, where inflation is 2%. We have higher inflation because of the Government’s policy. We have depreciated the value of our currency over a period of time by 25%. We have increased our exports but we have also increased our imports. Our imports are still greater than our exports. We are now importing inflation. The difference between French inflation at 2% and our inflation, which will run between 3.5% and 5%, is that we are importing it, because of Government policy.

Unemployment is going up; it is at a 17-year high. The Chancellor made a great thing about 3,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector, but he did not refer to all the jobs that have been lost. How many more jobs will be lost when we move into the cuts to local councils that will start on 1 April? How will Middlesbrough council cope with a 28% deficit reduction? How will the national health service cope? We know that we will lose at least 1,000 jobs in Middlesbrough and unemployment in my constituency is disgracefully high. We have the fourth highest unemployment rate in the country and that is wrong. It happened under a Labour Government and under a Tory Government. The cuts that are being announced and those that have been made through the massive deficit reduction programme announced by the Chancellor in his previous Budget will push us further down.

No reference was made, as I have said, to the welfare state. What happened to the welfare state? What happened to the balance between the public and private sectors? What happened to those who are unable to look after themselves? Where was all that in today’s Budget?

David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): The hon. Gentleman has talked about what is happening in the north-east. In the north-west, we have seen public sector jobs increase by 100,000 between 1999 and 2009, whereas in the private sector, we have seen growth to the tune of 10,000 jobs in the same period. That is completely unsustainable. What are the Opposition’s proposals to address that situation?

Sir Stuart Bell: That might be the figure in the hon. Gentleman’s part of the world, but it might not be a figure in other parts of the world.

Let me get back to the point—we created a balance between the public sector and the private sector and we believed that that balance was right for our country. In

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the north-east of England, when we lost manufacturing jobs, steel jobs, coal jobs and shipbuilding jobs, they were absorbed into the public sector. Those who worked in the public sector created careers for themselves. My hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) made this point: there was a relationship between the public and private sectors. They worked together.

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): The hon. Gentleman is being most generous in giving way. Can he explain why the Government whom he supported were running a structural deficit several years before the financial crisis?

Sir Stuart Bell: We had no difficulty with the structural deficit because we believed in infrastructure projects. We believed in public-private initiatives and off-balance sheet finance, which was exactly the same as what the Germans were doing. At the time, it was thought a fine way of doing things and it is still a fine way of doing things. In my constituency, we got the first public-private initiative in the James Cook university hospital, so we have nothing to regret about what is now called the structural deficit. As I said earlier, the structural deficit is like any other, it is part and parcel of the fullest objective. The right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) was right to say that, while we are tackling that particular deficit, public expenditure in other areas is going up. We need to get the balance right, but that is not happening at the moment.

The Chancellor said that we had moved from fourth in the league of competitiveness to 12th and made a big thing about competitiveness, but he did not mention the eurozone, not surprisingly. He did not mention the conference tomorrow and the day after when the 17 members of the eurozone will get together to create a competitiveness pact. Why are they doing that? Because they wish to increase their growth and exports, and we are in competition with them. We are in competition with Germany and France and we will be in competition with those other countries.

The Chancellor talked about Greece, Portugal and Spain, but why does the fourth-largest economy in the world have to compare itself with Greece, which has a deficit of 150% against gross domestic product, not the 60% or 50% we are talking about? Why does our nation state have to be compared with a small country such as Greece? On that basis, we had £67 billion-worth of deficit reduction in one Budget. Today, the Chancellor was very gracious in saying that, now he has taken all that money out of the economy, he will not take any more out. He might have said, “I’ll do you all a favour: I’ve hit you on the head with one big hammer, so I’m not coming back with another.” How gracious of him to destabilise, within the space of nine months, our economy. That is what he has done and is continuing to do. He will certainly rebalance the economy—away from the welfare state, the public sector and the work force of our country—and he will weaken the fabric of our country. He will weaken the standard of living of all our people.

Jesse Norman: It is not the Chancellor who has associated our economy with those of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, but the international markets. When

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the Governor of the Bank of England was before the Treasury Committee two weeks ago, he and his team confirmed that without a package of fiscal austerity measures, this country would be borrowing in the international markets at a rate 3% higher than we currently are. That is the Bank’s official position and that is why those difficult measures have been taken.

Sir Stuart Bell: I am not going to go down the route that the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer might have gone down at one stage of attacking or criticising the Governor of the Bank of England. That would not be appropriate for me. The advice that was given to the Government, when they came to government, was very severe and we were compared with Greece.

The hon. Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) makes an interesting point. At what point in our history did we turn over our economy to the rating agencies instead of saying, “It’s only the rating agencies”. When the rating agencies call the Élysée palace, they have a fit of panic there, asking, “You’re not going to reduce our rating are you?” Why did we, as a nation state, give our economy over to a rating agency—to Fitch, Moody’s or Standard and Poor’s? Where was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who stood up and said, “No, I am not going to do that”? The rating agencies had accepted the Labour Government’s deficit reduction plan and were at ease with it. They were happy with the four-year programme and it was the current Government who fell back to the age of Lord Lamont and John Major, whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) has mentioned, and ideas such as, “If it’s not hurting it’s not working”.

David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that when John Major left office, he left us with no deficit, unlike the previous Government?

Sir Stuart Bell: That is not true and could not possibly be true.

I have just referred to the fact that we borrowed £11 billion in February alone. My point in relation to Lord Lamont and John Major is that if one takes every aspect of the Government’s policy on competitiveness, growth, unemployment and inflation, one sees that they are falling back to where they were in the years between 1979 and 1983 and into 1992. So, it seems that the public sector and the welfare state do not count for much and that what counts is balancing the budget. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Chichester did not go one stage further and say that in five years we might adopt the German approach of balancing the budget completely.

I do not want to hold up the House for much longer, but I want to mention my constituency and say to the Chancellor that we are very grateful that we have an enterprise zone and a local enterprise partnership for Tees valley and that we will work closely with the Government on both of them. The mothballing of Redcar steel mill has been reversed and there is a new buyer taking it over. On Teesside, we will look to the Budget, the LEP, the new enterprise zone and the new steel mill, which will create jobs and bring in £600 million in investment. So, despite the cutbacks and the impact

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on local councils, the future is bright for Teesside. I am happy to be confident in that future, notwithstanding all the blows that we will take over the next four years.


2.17 pm

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I remind the House that I offer industrial business advice to a Swedish, quoted international industrial group and investment advice to a British investment company.

Some Opposition Members have expressed displeasure that Government Members should have mentioned the circumstances in Greece and Portugal. The Opposition rightly remind us that we have a much bigger economy than those of Greece and Portugal and I am pleased to say that ours is also currently better managed. Those points are important because our public deficit was larger even than theirs, as a proportion of national income, when the big deficit reduction programme started. I praise my right hon. Friend the Chancellor for seeing that his single, central task, day in, day out, month in, month out, year in, year out—indeed, the five-year burden for all of us in the House—is to get that deficit down before it kills our public finances and our economy.

If anyone thinks there is no risk, I invite them to visit Greece, Portugal or Ireland and see what happens when a country ignores a deficit for the best of reasons and says, “I do want to spend a little more on a good public cause so I will borrow it to spend it.” Of course, we all have great causes on which we would like to spend more money. Borrowing is so often the easy option, but when a country gets to the point at which it is borrowing too much, it does not just destroy the general economy and place too big a burden on those who have to pay the taxes and interest charges—in the end, it brings down the public sector as well, with far bigger cuts and far less favourable choices than we have when we take matters into our own hands by planning a steady deficit reduction.

We are debating, in a relatively civilised atmosphere and in a relatively sane and sensible way, an economic position about which there are strong disagreements. However, there is no overall disagreement about the imperative to avoid big rises in bond rates and interest rates and to get on with some kind of deficit reduction. It is particularly poignant that we are having this debate on the same day that the Portuguese Parliament is meeting to discuss not its first, second or third, but fourth package of emergency, deep, damaging public spending cuts and unaffordable tax increases. Such is the plight that its economy has been driven into by reckless overspending and too much borrowing and, of course, by being in the euro area.

Jesse Norman: Does my right hon. Friend agree that to answer the question of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell), who asked when the rating agencies took over, one need go no further back than 1949, 1969, and 1976 to 1979, when there were runs on the foreign exchange markets under Labour Governments?

Mr Redwood: My hon. Friend is quite right, but the Labour party could point to one or two examples under Conservative Governments, so I do not want to be drawn too far down that historical path. We can see what we need to see by looking at the modern reality. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said, fortunately, British bond rates—the rate that we have to pay to

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borrow money for public purposes—are much closer to those in Germany than those in many other countries in Europe. They are under half the level of those in troubled Portugal. The Portuguese 10-year rates went above 8% today. I stress to beleaguered Portuguese parliamentarians, who are battling over whether a general election is the answer to their problems, that if they do not take dire and immediate action, their country simply will not be able to borrow at an affordable rate of interest. They cannot go on spending the extra 10% of national income that we are spending, which is borrowed, to tide us through and get us to better-managed times.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor, having set out a pathway for tackling the deficit, was right to turn to the question of how he can accelerate growth. The truth of the five-year deficit programme is simple: we need well-above-average growth in the last three or four years of the programme to deliver the numbers in the Red Book, which are similar to those in the Chancellor’s first edition of the Red Book last summer.

To remind the House of the scale of the task, the Government plan to spend £70 billion a year more, in cash terms, in the fifth year of the plan—2014-15—than in the last Labour year; that is not a big increase, but there will be pressures because of it. They plan to get the deficit down by increasing the tax revenue collected in the last year of the plan to an eye-watering £175 billion more than in the last Labour year. We believe that we have seen all the important tax rate rises that the Chancellor thinks are needed to do that; the rest depends on the above-average growth that is still in the official forecasts of the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Mr Love: As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman is laying out why we need a credible reduction in our deficit in the light of the likely market reaction, but is he not concerned about the impact that any austerity programme might have? Although there has been only a limited impact so far in the United Kingdom, as in Greece and as is likely in Ireland, it may be too much, too soon.

Mr Redwood: That is absolutely right. The policies that Ireland, Greece and Portugal are being driven to may well not work because they are excessive, but that is the result of going into the euro and following the market pressures that that inevitably produces. I see some Labour Members trying to pretend that that is nothing to do with them, or looking the other way. I remember being a pretty lonely figure in the ’90s when I said that we should never join the euro. I am pleased that my party now seems to be very broadly of that view, and I believe that the other two principal parties in the House have come round to the view that we certainly should not join the euro any time yet, but we have still to receive apologies from them. Surely they must now accept that if Britain had been driven into the euro, as they wanted, we would have broken the euro and broken ourselves. The euro could scarcely contain small economies the size of Greece, Portugal and Ireland, with their amount of debt; it certainly could not have contained Britain comfortably with the level of debt that the previous Government started to incur. It would have found the British banks over-mighty subjects, just as it is finding the Spanish banks rather difficult to tackle.

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Sir Stuart Bell: I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman added the words “any time yet” to his remarks about joining the euro, because it is inevitable that, over many years, we will join the euro. Tomorrow and the day after, 17 euro states will get together and put forward a proper plan for competitiveness within the euro. For the first time in our history, the United Kingdom is excluded.

Mr Redwood: If those countries come up with good ideas, we can adopt them, and if they come up with bad ideas, we would be wise to sidestep them; that is exactly the freedom that I and others have argued for passionately over many years, and that the Government wish to enjoy if all goes well.

The hon. Gentleman also said that the reductions could prove difficult. Believe it or not, I did not become a Member of Parliament to have teachers sacked from my schools or doctors sacked from my surgeries; I want them to be well paid and well funded, and I want sensible growth in numbers where there is extra demand. We are all of that view—it is quite misleading of the Opposition to suggest that some of us do not appreciate that and do not want that for our constituents—but it has to be affordable. It has to be within the power of the free enterprise part of the economy to pay for that out of reasonable taxation in a way that does not damage our growth; that is so important.

The Government have managed to find an extra £70 billion of cash spending for the fifth year of the plan, compared with in the start year. It is crucial that we keep public sector costs down, so that the maximum amount possible can go to improving service and quality, and, in some cases, to improving the amount of service, and the minimum goes on extra costs and extra inefficiencies. All parties will say in office that they want more efficiently run public services, but they have to will not only the end but the means. That is why the reforms on which the Government are embarking are so important. It is crucial that the Government listen, and that sensible criticisms be taken on board, but public services have to be reformed so that we can say to people in five years’ time, “You are getting more for that £70 billion. We haven’t had to cut things that really matter, because we have managed things better and have found a bit of extra money.”

Jesse Norman: Is my right hon. Friend aware of the enormous interest in the private finance initiative community in reform of the PFI? A succession of chief executives of PFI companies have asked me, “Why can we not be allowed to save money?” The reason is the enormously expensive procurement process. Not a single school has been built recently that does not have an atrium, and that is because it has been decided that schools, which have nothing to do with corporations, must have corporate atriums. Nothing could be sillier or more resistant to good Government spending.

Mr Redwood: My hon. Friend is quite right. Improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of our purchasing is crucial in Government. There are many opportunities; PFI and public-private partnerships provide some good examples, but so does general purchase. It would speed up the deficit reduction if there were a stronger moratorium on purchasing items and supplies where there are already stocks. Any company undertaking the kind of radical turnaround that the country is trying to achieve would immediately freeze all unnecessary purchases and make people run stocks down to save money.

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Where I have had answers to my questions on this subject, I have found that the current rate of natural wastage of staff in core Departments is running at about 6% per annum; it was about 4% in the first eight months. Quite a number of those posts have been filled by taking on new people from outside. I urge my friends on the Front Bench to get more of a grip on that, because the easiest way of reducing the administrative overhead on the scale that they want—the least painful way for their staff, who need their morale to be up—is to not replace people who leave and not to make others redundant. We cannot afford the redundancies. If we make greater use of natural wastage, Ministers can say to their staff that it means better opportunities for promotion and a change of job. If the post vacated is not essential, it should be removed; if it is essential, we should appoint someone from inside and remove some other, less important, post. That surely is the civilised, sensible way to tackle the necessary task of cutting the administrative overhead. If the Government can cut their administrative overhead by the very large 30% that they are talking about, it takes the pressure off cuts in the areas where none of us wish to see them—in the schools and hospitals, the front-line services that matter so much.

The question that I was about to ask before the interventions was about the international context. How easy is it going to be for the Government to have the three or four years of above-average growth which are so crucial to the strategy? I must warn those on the Front Bench that I fear that the world background will get more difficult going into 2012 and 2013 than it is at present. There has been a prolonged boom in the emerging market world, and we now see China, India and Brazil lifting their interest rates to very high levels. They are desperately trying to squeeze inflation out of their system, so in a year or so we must anticipate some fall-off in demand and spending power growth rates in those big emerging market economies.

The United States economy will have a good year this year, by the looks of it, on the back of a lot of money printing, low interest rates and other matters. That comes to an end in the middle of this year, so by next year we will see a slower rate of growth in the United States of America as well. Were the situation in the middle east to get worse, and the damage from politics to spread into oilfields outside Libya, we could have another unpleasant external shock on the oil price, which would also serve to impede the growth of the world economy.

The conclusion that I take from this is that the world economy does not look as though it is going to go back into another deep recession—we are not going to have that kind of impossible situation—but the world economy is not going to provide the impetus that it is currently providing. It may not feel that great, but it is providing quite a bit of impetus at the moment. It will provide less impetus next year and beyond. That means that the Chancellor must intensify his pursuit of measures that make the UK that much more competitive and that much more successful.

Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend comment on the importance of improving our export position vis-à-vis the BRIC countries in particular—Brazil, Russia, India and China—and how important a part that could play in our recovery?

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Mr Redwood: It is a good point. We have heard figures from the Government indicating that we export less to the BRIC countries combined than we do to Ireland, but we have a close relationship with Ireland and we are close neighbours. It is understandable that we export a lot to Ireland and it to us. That figure conceals one important point, which is that British business has probably been a little more active than it suggests, but for various reasons the larger British companies tend to go into India, Brazil and China and set up joint ventures or factories of their own there to service the local market. It is easier to service those markets in that way, for reasons that we need not go into in detail today, but I agree that it would be good if we exported more, and it would be good if we helped small and medium-sized enterprises that do not have the capability to set up factories on the other side of the world to export in their turn.

The devaluation that happened more than a year ago has given us one nasty result, which is a much higher inflation rate than comparable economies, but it has given us one pleasant result, which is that it is very easy to export out of a British base now because British industry is so much more competitive at the current level of the pound. We should have that on our side. Paradoxically, quite a bit of British business in the manufacturing sector is close to capacity, and those businesses are tending to put the prices up a bit to collect a little more revenue and improve their balance sheets because it is not that easy to expand turnover. That is where the things that the Chancellor is talking about are vital and need to be done speedily.

Britain needs to be able to put up factories more quickly and get them into use more quickly. It needs to define the skilled engineers and the other skilled individuals who want to work in an industrial setting rather than in an advisory or City setting, and then expand the capability of their companies as a result. Modern manufacturing requires a very high degree of skills input, talented people and good management. It does not require so many people to operate machines because really good manufacturing now is highly automated. It needs the precision of expensive machinery. Indeed, the easiest way to compete out of a German or a British base is to have highly automated plant, so labour costs are a rather unimportant part of the total cost. The intellectual property content, the skill content and the plant and equipment content are much higher, but they are affordable with a quality product.

Mr Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): Further to my right hon. Friend’s points, a director from JCB gave evidence to the Select Committee on Education yesterday and said that he had 57 vacancies for engineers that he cannot fill order to ensure that JCB’s products remain globally competitive, reduce energy usage and so on. That, unfortunately, is a legacy of too many years in which we have not delivered the technical, vocational, practical education that is required. Is my right hon. Friend, like me, enthusiastic about the Government taking forward the programme from the Wolf review and supporting Lord Baker with his university technical colleges?

Mr Redwood: I am happy with those proposals. The Government are clearly on the right lines and I hope there will be cross-party agreement that we need to raise our game at skills, training and education, particularly in engineering, pharmaceuticals, chemistry and so forth,

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where we have an advantage and can have a much bigger advantage if we do more. Yes, we need to review how easy it is to buy or build a factory and how easy it is to equip it. Anything that can be done to lower the effect of tax rate on business will make Britain a much more attractive place to be.

As hon. Members know, I take the view that if we set lower rates, we normally collect a lot more revenue. If we want that kind of growth rate, the lower the realistic rate that we can set, the more revenue growth and the more overall growth we will have. It would be a great tragedy to abort the recovery in certain sectors because the tax rate was too high. I am pleased to see the progress on corporation tax. We need to see the details of some of the individual tax schemes and how the carbon tax rebate would work. If we went ahead as trailblazers in Britain and set a high carbon price, we would price our energy-intensive business out of Britain into a less clean or less acceptable venue. It is important that the rebates and discounts are properly thought through, so that at a time when the Government are trying to promote more industry, they are not taxing it too heavily.

Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): On the competitiveness of British industry, my right hon. Friend has in the past talked of a cut in regulation being equivalent to a free tax cut. Does he welcome the measures in the Budget to have a low level of regulation for new start-up companies and small companies? Does he share my hope that Europe will become more competitive by reducing the regulatory burden that it seeks to impose on British business and business in other member states?

Mr Redwood: Of course I welcome that. One of the big barriers to entry and to more effective competition for the large companies in Britain is the weight of regulation, which hits anyone who tries to start up a new business. I have done it in the past and I know what it feels like. One has to raise a lot more extra money because for six months to a year one is just trying to comply in many areas before one can trade. Yes, of course we want sensible regulation. We do not believe in an unregulated world. We believe in the law of contract. We believe that people should have a duty of care towards their staff and their customers, but if there are too many and too detailed competing types of prescriptive regulation, it puts people off and they say, “It’s too expensive. I can’t be bothered.”

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op): But does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the issue for small business today is not so much regulation as liquidity and lending to SMEs by the banks? A constituent of mine, Alun Richards, is on hunger strike. He had a business with net assets and a limited amount of debt, and Lloyds bank came along and withdrew the debt. Now he is going bankrupt because he has no working capital. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that is disgraceful, particularly from a bank that is owned by the taxpayer? Poor old Alun Richards wants to run his business, not to be undermined by the banks. What are the Government doing about that?

Mr Redwood: Of course I agree that if there is a solvent and enterprising business and it is not getting proper banking facilities, that is very bad indeed. It is particularly bad if it is a state-owned or state-influenced bank that is responsible.

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My final points are about banking, as time presses and many others want to speak. Of equal importance to the weighty matters covered by the Chancellor today will be the Vickers report and the Government’s response to it. I believe that we will have interim conclusions from Sir John Vickers on 11 April. We are not going to have fast, sustained, above-average growth in this country unless we sort out the banks a little more than we have done so far. All colleagues in the House are united in having individual cases where they feel a company could have been saved or could have grown more rapidly if only there had been more sympathetic or understanding bank managers and facilities. There is a problem with British banking serving the SME sector town by town, county by county. There is a lot of talent in the banks, concentrated at the national level and in the big national accounts. Many hon. Members like to knock those people, but they made an important contribution to the growth rate under the previous Government and to our economy.

Andrea Leadsom: In the last quarter of 2010, lending to the SME sector dropped by 38% from the last quarter of 2008. One of my big concerns is that this reflects the incredible concentration of SME lending among the four or five largest banks, which are responsible for around 90% of all SME lending. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the work of the Vickers commission and the Treasury Committee should focus on breaking up the oligopolistic positions of some of those big banks?

Mr Redwood: I certainly hope that when we see the Vickers report and have a proper debate on it we will be able to find sensible ways of promoting much more competition in the domestic banking market. We need more competition on the high street for individuals and families and more competition in town centres for SMEs, which in previous generations probably had better and more direct relationships with local bank managers, who had a bit more authority to grant loans and make money available on judgment than is currently the case through the box-ticking, centralised computer systems.

Geraint Davies: In that case, and given the last intervention, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that perhaps the Budget should have introduced tax relief or tax credits for individuals wanting to invest in SMEs, because venture capitalists want too high a return and the banks are failing the small business sector? We want an inclusive economy. Surely there should have been some support for SMEs so that we could all invest in small businesses more effectively.

Mr Redwood: That is exactly what the Budget contained. I think there was a revamped and revised enterprise investment scheme and an improvement in the capital gains treatment for successful entrepreneurs. It is always nice for new people setting up small businesses to be able to dream, and why should those of them who are successful not keep the proceeds if they have created jobs and done so much?

The outcome of the Budget will depend on two important considerations: whether we can put enough measures in place along the lines that the Chancellor

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has laid out for promoting growth; and whether there is a happy and sensible resolution to the banking problems as they affect SMEs and the wider public in Britain. There has been much discussion of the big banks, the investment banks and all those sorts of issues, but we now need to laser in on how the banks serve local communities and the SME sector. We need a more pro-competitive answer. I have some thoughts on how we could do that, but will not detain the House with them because today is not the day for that. However, without such measures the Budget will find it difficult to deliver the very large figures for increased revenue on which the whole plan rests.

2.43 pm

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): I appreciate being called so early in the debate, Mr Deputy Speaker. In Northern Ireland we are in competition with neither the Conservative party nor the Liberal Democrats when it comes to elections, so I suppose I can afford to be a little more objective in my assessment of the Budget. As we know, the allies of the Conservative party in Northern Ireland have now abandoned them, and the hon. Member for Belfast East (Naomi Long), who had some association with the Lib Dems, has abandoned them since coming to the House, so I hope that I can be objective on this.

The Chancellor made it clear in his speech today that his ambition for the Budget is that it should promote growth in the economy, and I wish him well in that. Coming from a part of the United Kingdom where growth has been most sluggish and, as a result, unemployment is rising faster than in any other part of the UK, I know that success for the Chancellor will mean success for our economy. It will reduce the deficit so that huge resources will not go simply on paying interest, put people back into work, increase living standards and, in the long run, provide funding for vital public services.

I wish the Chancellor well in that, but I think it is a little ironic that the Budget has been headlined as a Budget for growth, because one of its major statistical announcements is that growth forecasts have been downgraded once again. Indeed, the Chancellor optimistically indicated last June, and again in October, that the measures he would undertake would give us growth of around 2.5% or 2.3%, but in the six months since then we have had a 33% reduction in his forecast. There is a certain degree of irony in that, which is one of the reasons I believe that some of the criticisms that have come from the Opposition about the speed and depth of deficit reduction have some merit. I remember that when I used to teach economics I would say that there are always two sides to the economic growth coin. First, there is the question of how to increase the economy’s potential to produce more. If we do not increase potential, once demand goes up, all we get is inflation, or we will suck in imports.

The Chancellor outlined a number of measures today—I will not go through them all—some of which are contradictory. The measure that he held out as the beacon at the start of his speech was the decrease in corporation tax, which he argued will give firms the ability to keep more profits and, therefore, the opportunity to invest in new equipment, new markets or research and development. According to the Red Book, the decrease in corporation tax should put £1.075 billion

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into the coffers of companies over the next five years, so it could certainly be argued that the Chancellor has released resources for companies to invest if they choose to do so.

However, on the next page we see that, as a result of wanting to be a trendy green, or I suspect of looking for a stealth tax, he is imposing a carbon floor price. By 2015, all the additional revenue that firms will have from the decrease in corporation tax will be more than absorbed in the carbon price floor tax—£1.41 billion. On the surface, the measure appears to be a way of releasing resources to companies, but closer examination shows that companies will not be much better equipped.

Stephen Williams (Bristol West) (LD): Will the hon. Gentleman concede that the whole purpose of a carbon tax is to incentivise firms to change their behaviour so that those that do change their behaviour by producing goods more sustainably will pay less carbon tax and benefit from reduced corporation tax and those that do not will pay more?

Sammy Wilson: That is clearly not what the Chancellor intends, because he hopes to raise £1.4 billion. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that this is all about changing behaviour so that firms do not get the money, there is an immediate hole in the figures the Chancellor is presenting to the House today. I suspect that it is not all about that at all, but is another way of raising tax. What appears on the surface to be a good supply-side measure will be more than offset by some of the other measures undertaken. Of course, the kinds of firms that are most likely to be hit by this are the very firms that the Chancellor says he wishes to promote: those in manufacturing industry. The service industry will not be hit by those measures as much as manufacturing will, and, given Northern Ireland’s reliance on gas and oil to fuel and power manufacturing industry, and the fact that our energy costs are already higher than in other parts of the United Kingdom, that will gravely disadvantage manufacturing firms in Northern Ireland, at the very time when the Executive in Northern Ireland is trying to rebalance the economy.

Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove) (Con): The hon. Gentleman started his speech by saying that he would provide a more objective analysis, and I was excited by that. In that vein, does he accept that the Chancellor’s announcement that, for the first time, as a major departure from corporation tax policy, he would consider a separate tax rate for Northern Ireland, making the whole Province an enterprise zone, is very welcome and could help with some of the things that the hon. Gentleman is pointing out?

Sammy Wilson: I wish to come to that point later, but I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept that my comments so far, at least, have been objective, because they are based on the figures that the Chancellor has provided.

The Chancellor talked about another measure today for encouraging growth, the enterprise zones that the hon. Gentleman mentions. When we look at the figures in the Red Book, however, we find that in the first year, 21 enterprise zones will eventually be in place but the money made available to businesses as a result of tax exemption will amount to £20 million. By the final year, the figure will be £80 million, and I do not know whether £4 million in each zone will generate a great deal in additional output.

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Mr Kevan Jones: In 2009-10, the budget for the nine regional development agencies in the UK was £2.2 billion.

Sammy Wilson: That probably puts it all in perspective. The measure looks good in the Chancellor’s speech, but, when one looks at the resources that it releases, which in turn are supposed to increase the willingness of firms to invest and the productive potential of the economy, one sees just how miniscule it is, and we have to judge whether it will make a very great impact.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): My hon. Friend speaks with great expertise as the Minister for Finance in Northern Ireland, and I congratulated him on the production of his budget there just a few weeks ago. Does he share my concern at the response from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, during Northern Ireland questions? When asked about the enterprise zone and the real substantive changes, he said that it was really a phrase he had been using to “cover”—that is the word he used—the idea of Northern Ireland being more open for business in relation to corporation tax. Does my hon. Friend share my concern that, in Northern Ireland, there might not be much substance to that phrase?

Sammy Wilson: My fear is that, not just in Northern Ireland but throughout the United Kingdom, the measure will be more like a branding exercise and good for a soundbite, rather than something that will have any real impact. I hope that the measure has an impact, but, if I look at the amount of resources that will go into the zones, and at what really is required to lift such areas, I fear that it will not.

Other changes have been mentioned, such as those to the tax structure, and I noted what the Chancellor said, but some of them might not include extensive consultation—the issue is complex—and might be years away. So, again, they look good in the Budget, but what is the immediate impact going to be?

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): On that point, it is interesting to look at the changes to national insurance contributions, which are forecast to have an impact right out to 2016, because they show that the proposed bringing together of the two taxes—national insurance and income tax—will not happen for at least five years.

Sammy Wilson: I hope I am not quoting the Chancellor wrongly, but I think he talked about nine years in the future before those changes have an impact, so again we have to ask, “What is the impact going to be?”

Dr William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): Does my hon. Friend agree that the Chancellor missed a vital opportunity for the Northern Ireland economy today? Does my hon. Friend think it right that a £7.5 billion loan from the British Exchequer to the Government of the Irish Republic should be used to enable that Government to abolish air passenger duty, which in turn gives them an unprecedented competitive edge on flights, bearing in mind that it impacts on my constituency and the international airport in it?

Sammy Wilson: I am a bit miffed, because I wanted to use that point later in my speech, so I will have to scribble it out. When we look at some of the issues,

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whether they are the delays, the amount of money being put in, the offsetting of increases in taxation when some tax cuts have been made, the regulations or the consultation that has still to take place with Europe to see whether we can reduce red tape, we have to ask whether the predictions for future growth based on the supply-side measures in the Budget are as fragile as the autumn predictions that were wiped out by a fall of snow. If that is how fragile the predictions are, then I have concerns.

There is another side to the coin, because not only do we have to increase the productive potential of the economy, but people must be willing to purchase the goods that can be produced, and aggregate demand can be made up of several different factors. The Government have already ruled out one for very good reasons, and I accept that the deficit has to be reduced. I may have some issues about how quickly it is being reduced, but the one thing we do know is that Government spending is not going to take up the slack that already exists in the economy.

Consumer spending is not going to take up the slack, either, because the Chancellor made it quite clear that he would not make any tax giveaways. Indeed, if one looks at what he said about the indexation of direct taxes, one finds that he has now built automatic increases into the tax system for the next four years. There will not be discretion on a year-to-year basis; inflationary increases are now built into the tax system.

That leaves investment demand and exports, and it seems that the Chancellor is emphasising the role of exports. Given that over the past year and a half the exchange rate has fallen by 20%, our export growth is still one of the weakest among the OECD countries. Investment might improve competitiveness, but the only direct measure that the Chancellor has produced today is the export credit guarantee. I have quickly looked through the Red Book to see how much the guarantee involves, and I cannot get a figure, but that is the only measure to increase the one component of aggregate demand on which the Chancellor is relying to improve growth in the economy.

If we look at the supply-side measures and the lack of demand-side measures, we have to ask, “Can we really be confident that this is a Budget for growth?” The conclusion that I come to—not because I want to take a pot-shot at the Government, but because I want to get in behind the figures to see whether the hope being held out is genuine—is that I am left with some concerns.

Mr Graham Stuart: The hon. Gentleman is right to be sombre because of the situation the country is in. The Chancellor mentioned what is happening in other countries, and we are in a fragile position because of the appalling inheritance. The growth predictions, however, are no longer the predictions of a politician; they are the predictions of the OBR. We are in a very fragile state, and it is no wonder that predictions change, but the prediction is that over this Parliament this country’s growth will be higher than the EU average. That, considering where we started, would not mean golden times, but it would be a solid achievement.

Sammy Wilson: Of course, the earlier growth figures were also OBR-ified, if one wants to use that term, yet they did not prove to be realisable over a six-month

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period. We cannot simply rely on the assurances that the OBR has looked at the figures and thinks they are okay, as there could well be a revision. I am merely pointing to some aspects within the Budget document that give me cause for concern as to whether these growth figures can be achieved. If they cannot, there are implications for the deficit, for employment, for living standards, and for the ability to provide public services in future.

Let me turn to some of the measures that apply to Northern Ireland. As we heard in an earlier intervention, tomorrow morning an announcement will be made about the corporation tax proposals for Northern Ireland. I am waiting to see that. I have no doubt that the ability of the Northern Ireland Administration to reduce corporation tax could be a useful lever. As a Unionist—I know that the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) will probably be totally appalled that anyone from a devolved Administration should say this—I do not want to see huge fiscal powers devolved to Northern Ireland. I am part of the United Kingdom, I want to remain part of the United Kingdom, and I wish fiscal powers to stay part of the United Kingdom.

There has been a groundswell of opinion for some variation in corporation tax; indeed, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been very enthusiastic about it. However, there is no point in devolving corporation tax if the price tag attached is such that it savages public expenditure, which has already suffered a huge cut as a result of the Budget decisions made last October. There would be a gestation period between a reduction in corporation tax and the impact on jobs on the ground, whereas any cut in public spending or in the block grant would take immediate effect. There would be no increase in private sector employment, together with an immediate decrease in public sector employment, and that cannot be good for economic recovery.

I fear that the figures in the document that we have tomorrow will be neither a fair reflection of the cost of devolving corporation tax to Northern Ireland nor the kind of opportunity and offer that would be attractive to the Northern Ireland Administration. We will want to see that the Treasury and the Government have not made a savage reduction in the block grant even though it bears no relation to what the real cost of devolving corporation tax might be.

Mr Dodds: Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a supreme irony in the fact that as part of the conditions for the bail-out of the Irish Republic—£6 billion of UK taxpayers’ money—the Irish Republic insisted that its corporation tax rate would stay at 12.5%, yet Northern Ireland, which, uniquely within the United Kingdom, is in direct competition with the Irish Republic, would be allowed to reduce its corporation tax but would not receive any similar subsidy from the UK Treasury, whereas the subsidy is going directly to the Irish Republic?

Sammy Wilson: We can see how the bail-out of the Irish Republic conflicts with what is happening in Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Dr McCrea) mentioned air passenger duty. I am disappointed about this because the Chancellor could have done something about it. In particular, the one flight between Northern Ireland and North America is very important in attracting not only tourists but inward

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investment. A sum of £2.1 million would have ensured that that flight continues, yet the Chancellor did not find that he could allow for regional variation. There are precedents for that because regional variations are allowed for Scotland. The irony is that the Irish Government, using the £7.5 billion that was obtained from the United Kingdom, are now going to abolish air passenger duty, which places them at an even more positive advantage regarding the service that flies from Northern Ireland.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the Irish Government had made the decision about air passenger duty before any loan facility was agreed with the UK Government—and I stress that it is a loan facility?

Sammy Wilson: I find it strange that the hon. Gentleman should want to apologise for the Irish Republic, which is in direct competition with the economy of the area that he represents, but we will leave it to his constituents to question him about that.

The Chancellor has made much of the fuel duty escalator. Northern Ireland does not have the highest fuel prices in the United Kingdom, but it certainly has the second highest, and we also have the problem of the border with the Irish Republic. I would have hoped that the Chancellor would come through on the promise that he made when he was in opposition. We have a promise that future price increases will be deferred, but the impact on current prices will be very slight. That leaves Northern Ireland, with its high dependence on road transport for its manufactured goods and its dispersed rural nature, at a disadvantage.

I acknowledge that the Government have responded to some developments recently. I look forward to seeing the outcome of the aggregates levy and the allowance that has been made. I welcome the fact that the loan facility for the Presbyterian Mutual Society has been built into the Budget. In his concluding remarks, the Chancellor said that he would put the fuel in the tank of the British economy so that it could drive forward. I may be about to show my age, but I hope that it is a tiger in the tank so that we finish up with a tiger economy. I fear that we are going to run out of fuel very quickly, and we will all be poorer for it.

3.7 pm

Mr Robert Syms (Poole) (Con): I should like to draw Members’ attention to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests in case I stray into the subject of property or something similar.

The situation at the end of the previous Government’s time in office was unprecedented in international terms. The way that they handled things in their last 18 months was not too bad. They went down to 0.5% interest rates, allowed the automatic stabilisers to come in, and allowed the pound to devalue, as we could because we still control our own monetary policy. Everything possible was done to adjust to the dire situation in the banking system.

To be less complimentary, the regulatory regime that allowed the banks to do some of the things that they did was set by the former Prime Minister when he was Chancellor by taking powers away from the Bank of

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England. That was a retrograde step, and I am glad that the current Government are reviewing it. Before we hit trouble, the deficit was 3%, whereas the German economy had a surplus of 3%. The difference that we can see today is that the Germans have a deficit of 5% or 6%, while we have one of nearer to 10%. That means that the adjustments we will have to make over the next four or five years will be much more difficult, and it will take longer to get there.

Mr Kevan Jones: I accept the hon. Gentleman’s point about bank regulation, but he has a very short memory, because I remember being in this House when the current Chancellor and Prime Minister were calling for more light-touch regulation of the financial industry, not for more regulation, as they seem to be doing now.

Mr Syms: It was nothing to do with light-touch regulation; in fact, we needed more competent regulation. The Financial Services Authority was not up to the job, and the Bank of England would have done a better one.

The key thing is that we now have a great imbalance in our economy. Over the long term, Britain has always tended to have public spending of about 40% of GDP, taxation of about 40% of GDP, and a national debt of about 40% of GDP. We have always managed to grow and export, and to be a fairly successful economy. We now have to yank public spending and the deficit back to those sorts of levels. As was pointed out earlier in the debate, even after five or six years, we will only be back down to where we were towards the end of the Labour Government when we had to go into deficit to deal with the difficult economic situation.

I think that the Government’s response is sensible. It is planned over five or six years, and is gradual. For all the talk of expenditure cuts, the expenditure cuts will be gradual over that period. The plan, as the Chancellor set out today, is for the economy to grow. That should generate more tax revenue. The difficulty, of course, is that we will have to raise taxation, as can be seen in the plans, to help balance the budget. I hope that that is more of a short term, rather than a medium to long term thing, because we need to build incentives back into the British economy.

Helen Goodman: On that point, has the hon. Gentleman not noticed that table 2.1 on page 42 of the Red Book shows that, over that period, personal tax allowances will increase substantially, because the switch to CPI and the changes to national insurance outweigh significantly—by several hundred million pounds—the increase in personal allowances that the Chancellor made? This is a tax-raising Budget, not a neutral Budget as he said.

Mr Syms: The key fact is that the Government whom the hon. Lady supported left us with massive debts. There is no honest or honourable way in which we can deal with that problem, other than taking tough decisions, which will involve many of our constituents paying considerably more money. Over the next five years, unfortunately, more money will come in through taxation. There is no way around that. That is the legacy that Labour has left us. If we want to be responsible, to get the economy back into balance and to have long-term economic growth, we have no choice but to take tough measures.

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Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that the previous Government were the worst villains in fiscal drag that this country has ever seen? They failed to raise thresholds year after year, and dragged many taxpayers into higher income tax brackets.

Mr Syms: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I welcome what the Chancellor has done with the personal allowance and the £10,000 target. If a central part of the Government’s plans is welfare reform, it is inevitable that we must reduce the tax on the lowest-paid. Otherwise, we will not get people off welfare and into work, which I think is what all of us want.

I will touch on one or two measures, but I do not want to take up too much time. I welcome the Government’s plans to assist the housing market. I wish they had gone farther, because there is a lot of capacity in the housing market, which could provide more jobs and help to get the economy going. However, what the Chancellor announced was very good.

I welcome the Chancellor’s proposals on charities. Poole has one of the biggest charities in the UK, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which raises a considerable amount of money from bequests. People getting relief on inheritance tax will be a major boost to that charity and to many others.

I welcome the move back to enterprise zones, because we have to become an enterprise economy. One lesson of the last decade is that we do not want to rely on an overheated south-east and London. We must ensure that future growth is balanced so that it occurs in greater Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and many of our great provincial cities. What the Chancellor announced will assist in that.

The Government are doing what they can to help people, with limited room for manoeuvre, by putting off the fuel duty rises and freezing council tax. We have a difficult inheritance and the Chancellor has precious little room for manoeuvre. He started his Budget speech by saying that this is basically a neutral Budget. I think that it is right to have a neutral Budget. In some respects, it would be better not to have a Budget at all, but just to let the long-term plans of the Government roll on. That gives the best hope of getting the economy sorted, and of restoring growth to the British economy.

We have heard debate about the OBR forecasts. They are forecasts and will change several times before we know what the situation is. I think that we have an excellent chance over the next four or five years to get growth. I think that the Government’s strategy is right. They are concentrating on training and simplifying the tax code. Hopefully, when we can, we will start to reduce the rates.

3.14 pm

Dame Anne Begg (Aberdeen South) (Lab): At the end of every Budget speech, the Chancellor has to pull a rabbit out of the hat. I will begin my remarks on the rabbit that I was not expecting today. It is something that will affect my constituency. Because I have been sitting in the Chamber since the Chancellor made his speech, I have not been able to quantify exactly how it will affect my constituency, but I have great fears that it might have a devastating effect.

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I should explain that as a Member for Aberdeen, the economy of my constituency is based on the offshore oil and gas industry. I should also explain that I am the chair of the all-party group on the offshore oil and gas industry. Aberdeen has survived the downturn probably better than anywhere else, because the oil industry has been fairly buoyant. Unemployment in my constituency has risen from only 1.9% to 2.5%. I appreciate that that will sound very good to many Members. I fear that because of the rabbit that the Chancellor pulled out of his hat, that may not continue.

I speak, of course, about the fair fuel stabiliser. I think that that has the potential to destabilise the offshore oil and gas industry quite dramatically. I appreciate that the Chancellor was looking for something so that he could bring down fuel prices. However, it appears from the Red Book that huge amounts of money will come from the North sea. Apart from in the financial year 2011-12, in which the amount that will be given back to the taxpayer is £1.9 billion and only £1.78 billion will come in from the North sea from the increase in the supplementary charge, in every other year more will be raised by the Exchequer from the North sea oil and gas industry than the Chancellor will give away by bringing down petrol prices.

Helen Goodman: I also noticed that very interesting line in table 2.1—line 28. It shows that the proposed revenue stream is the same in every year. However, as the Chancellor said, that will depend on the oil price. Unless he is absolutely confident that the oil price will remain at the same level throughout the period, these are completely unfounded forecasts and estimates.

Dame Anne Begg: Indeed, if the oil price goes up, the amount that the Chancellor gets will go up. These must at best be guesstimates. Therein lies the problem for the offshore industry. The North sea is a mature province, but there is still a lot of oil left. In fact, there are probably as many known oil reserves in the North sea today as there were in the 1970s, but they are much harder to reach and more challenging to get out of the ground. The one thing that the offshore oil and gas industry needs is stability—stability in what the Chancellor is going to do. The last time the tax revenues for the offshore industry were changed, by the last Labour Government, there was a slowdown in the industry for a good two years before it recovered. The industry complained about the unexpected nature of that change and the fact that it was not able to plan for it. This change comes into effect from 12 o’clock tonight, so it will come as a huge shock to the offshore sector that it will be affected.

Mr Kevan Jones: Does my hon. Friend recognise, given her expertise on the oil industry, that investment in exploration is long term? In some of the fields that she is talking about, planning and investment can take up to 10 years. A fluctuating oil price will make such decisions very difficult. That will have a direct impact on Tyneside and Teesside, which are strongly supported by the supply industry for North sea oil.

Dame Anne Begg: I could not agree more. In fact, I believe that 200 constituencies have 50 jobs or more that are directly related to the supply chain of the offshore industry. The change will come as a big shock out of the blue, and I do not think people are prepared for it.

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As my hon. Friend suggests, in its long-term planning, the offshore sector tends to use an oil price of between $50 and $60 a barrel. In other words, it projects a stable oil price in its forward planning. That is clearly not the real situation, because sometimes the price dips below that level and sometimes, as at the moment, it goes up to $100 a barrel. The fluctuation of the oil price makes the sector’s long-term planning difficult, and the Chancellor has added another factor that will fluctuate, making the situation even less stable. To call it a fair fuel stabiliser is a complete misnomer.

Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) (Con): Like the hon. Lady, I represent an area in which the oil and gas industry is prevalent. Does she agree that the measures that the Chancellor has taken today deal with the problem that arises when there is effectively a windfall for companies because of oil prices? In the long run, the change will be neutral to the taxpayer and the companies will not be at a loss. It just deals with what are effectively windfall profits that they have received because of the current high oil prices, to the benefit of the consumer.

Dame Anne Begg: With all due respect, that is not how the Chancellor has sold it. Even if there has been a windfall, perhaps it would have been better had he given some warning of the change so that people in the oil industry in particular could have taken account of it in their planning.

When we look at the Red Book, we see that the change is not tax-neutral. It states that by 2012-13, the tax raised will be £2.2 billion, and that it will be £2.1 billion the following year. The Chancellor is expecting to raise more than £2 billion a year—a much larger amount than is being given back to the consumer who buys petrol at the pump. Line 6 on page 42 of the Red Book shows that the Chancellor is taking more from the offshore oil and gas industry than from the banks, by a factor of 10.

Helen Goodman: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for being so generous in giving way. The other interesting thing in those numbers is that whereas the Chancellor claimed that the banks would not benefit from the corporation tax change, we can see from the Red Book that corporation tax reliefs will rise over the period in question but the bank levy will absolutely collapse.

Dame Anne Begg: Indeed, the bank levy will come down to just £100 million by 2015-16.

The change to the oil and gas charge has come as a bit of a shock, and it worries me. From looking at the Red Book, I am getting more and more worried about what the Chancellor has announced today. The Red Book states:

“The Supplementary Charge on oil and gas production will therefore increase to 32 per cent from midnight tonight.”

There was no warning, and it will have come as a big shock to the industry. The effect could be dramatic in my constituency. I only hope that the Chancellor has thought the matter through and had some discussions with the industry. I suspect he has not, and I am worried about what will happen.

I wonder what other nasties are lurking in the Red Book. Last time it was the 10% sanction on housing benefit when someone had been out of work for a year,

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which we did not discover until days afterwards. I am glad that the Government have backed down on that and that today’s Red Book shows that money again.

From a cursory glance at the Red Book, I discover something that comes as a bit of a surprise to those of us who were here for Prime Minister’s questions today. The Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister why the Government were taking the higher-rate mobility component of disability allowance from people living in residential care. Those who were here will remember that the Prime Minister replied, “We are not”—a simple, straightforward answer. However, line d on page 44 of the Red Book is about the plan to

“remove mobility components for claimants in residential care from April 2013”,

with a figure of £155 million to be saved. That is different from the last Red Book, which stated that the change would come in in 2011-12 and save £135 million. All that the Government have done is delay it by two years. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the change is still in the Welfare Reform Bill, and here it is in the Red Book. Perhaps the Prime Minister might want to come to the Chamber and apologise for not having been as accurate as he might have been.

Richard Fuller: For clarification, has the hon. Lady checked the following page, page 45, which mentions the disability living allowance reform gateway funds, which will kick in at £360 million in 2013-14 and rise to £1.45 billion? How does that match the figures that she has given, if at all?

Dame Anne Begg: They do not match, because they are totally different things. In fact, the Prime Minister did not quite understand that. The DLA gateway is about tightening up the criteria for those coming on to DLA. That will come in with the introduction of personal independence payments. The reform of the gateway is totally different from taking DLA away from people who live in residential care. By any criteria, such people would qualify to get through the gateway. The Government have decided that they will not get the money because they live in residential care, not because they do not fit the criteria.

Richard Fuller: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that clarification. I am sure she will recognise that there are hon. Members on both sides of the House who share concern about the continuation of the mobility component of DLA. I believe that Ministers are looking for a way to both maintain the mobility component and expand personal payments, so that people with disabilities who live in care homes continue to receive the funding that they require for a decent living. If that is not included in the Budget, I will be very interested to talk to her about it.

Dame Anne Begg: What I have said is based on a cursory glance at the Red Book, but the evidence from the Welfare Reform Bill, which states that those in residential care will not get higher-rate mobility DLA, and from the Red Book makes it appear that the Government still intend to take the mobility element away from such people, albeit two years later. Those of us who said that the proposal was unfair thought we had won the battle, but it now appears that we have not won it at all. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his

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intervention, because I know that Members of all parties objected to the proposal. I hope that he will put pressure on his Government to reconsider the matter.

I wish to say a wee bit about the merging of national insurance and income tax. It was trailed slightly in the press, but we needed to find out what it meant in reality. The Chancellor said it would not be the end of the contributory principle, but it is very hard to see how it cannot be. There needs to be a debate about the future of that principle, because other measures that the Government have taken have undermined it. People are quite shocked about what is happening, having paid their national insurance all their lives thinking that they were paying into an insurance scheme and that they would get money out of it when something went wrong. People get only six months’ jobseeker’s allowance of £65 a week as a result of their NI contributions when they are unemployed. Under the Welfare Reform Bill, people will get only one year’s sickness benefit under the new employment and support allowance as a result of such contributions. Most people assume that they get the basic state pension because of their NI contributions. That is the big one, because people are quite happy to pay their NI contributions for that, but the Government plan to introduce a flat-rate, £140 a week state pension. Such contributions pay for the basic state pension state and the earnings-related pension scheme as well as pension credit, and everything then gets divided out.

It is difficult to see how pensions can be based on a contributory record, as the Red Book says they are, if everybody gets the same. The Work and Pensions Secretary said a couple of weeks ago that he will introduce the flat-rate pension, and that that will help women, but it will do so only if it is not dependent on contributions. The Government cannot have it both ways. Either people get the flat-rate pension based on their working record and NI contributions, which will be part of income tax, or they get it because they have fulfilled other criteria, such as residency. The country and all parties in the House need a proper debate on how we fund welfare, the basis of our welfare system, and the future of the contributory principle.

Lorely Burt (Solihull) (LD): The Liberal Democrats take pensions very seriously. I acknowledge that a lot of consultation and working out must be done, but does the hon. Lady welcome a basic state pension of £140 a week?

Dame Anne Begg: I advocated a universal or citizens pension as a Government Member for many years, but one strong argument against such a pension is that many people are very attached to the contributory principle. That came out in the original discussions, when the Government of the day decided to reduce the state pension qualifying years down to 30 for both men and women.

Part of the problem in this country is that we have no means other than NI contributions by which to determine who should qualify for a state pension, because we do not keep residency records, which is how the judgment is made in, for instance, New Zealand. The problem in this country is more complex than it may seem.

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The state pension age is about to go up to 66 for men and women by 2020. This was meant to be a Budget for growth, but the very first thing the Chancellor spoke of was the downgrading of the growth figures. I am worried about where all the jobs will come from given the increased number of people in the workplace. The numbers in the work force are expected to increase because of the new work obligations on jobseeker’s allowance claimants; because lone parents will be expected to look for work when their youngest child is five; because 30% of incapacity benefit claimants will be assessed as fully fit for work and expected to go into the workplace; and because another 30% of such claimants will end up in the work-related activity group of employment and support allowance. Huge numbers of people are expected to go into the workplace. It is difficult to get figures on how many more people will be looking for work because the Department for Work and Pensions could not give them to us, but on top of those, the raising of the state pension age means that even more people will be looking for work.

Mr Kevan Jones: The Chancellor trumpeted the extension of support for mortgage interest, but has my hon. Friend seen page 42 of the Red Book, which says that that will continue for 2012-13, but decrease in 2013-14 to £15 million and then to zero in 2014-15?

Dame Anne Begg: I was going to talk about housing, but I could speak for another three hours if I go down that route, so if my hon. Friend will forgive me, I shall resist.

Will older people who have not reached state pension age be in work or not? At the moment, only 30% of men are still in work aged 65—not only because of early retirement and other things, but because people lose their jobs towards the end of their working lives—but they will be expected to work another year. Only 47% of women aged 60 are still in work, but they will be expected to work for another six years. Those people will not necessarily get anything under the universal credit, because they will probably have saved a nice little nest egg—a nest egg of just over £16,000—to see them through retirement. They will not get jobseeker’s allowance—or rather, they might get it for six months, but that is all they will get through the contributory principle. If they have fallen out of work because of ill health, the most that they might get is a year of employment and support allowance before then getting nothing. Those are big figures, and that is where a lot of the welfare reform savings in the Red Book will come from.

Indeed, it is perhaps worth alerting the House to the fact that the big savings in welfare reform do not come from getting “shirkers” back into work; they come from taking money from those who would normally have got contributory incapacity benefit, but will now get only contributory employment and support allowance for a year. That means that around £80 a week will come out of those people’s incomes. They will get nothing else if they live in a household with someone in work or with any other source of income, or if they have a small pension or savings of more £16,000. Therefore, there will be a new group of people struggling, and they will not be old-age pensioners; they will be pre-old-age pensioners, as it were. They are people who have fallen out of work, but not been able to work to 66 and get their state pension. They have been left with little—in fact, in some cases nothing—from the safety net that we think the welfare state is there to provide.

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There is a lot more that I could say; indeed, I am sorry that I have spoken for longer than I intended. Over the coming days I will go through Red Book in a lot more detail than I have managed to today. However, from what I have seen already, there is a great deal for people to be concerned about in what the Chancellor has announced today.

3.36 pm

Stephen Williams (Bristol West) (LD): This is, of course, the second Budget of the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition Government. The first Budget was put together in the extraordinary circumstances that followed the 2010 general election, when the two parties came together to co-operate in government and clear up the mess left by the Labour Government. In that Budget we dealt with the emergency, and set out a plan to restore fiscal credibility and put Britain back on track. Today we begin the next phase of this coalition Government. Over the next four years we will build a stable economic future, with growth in our economy that is regionally balanced, encourages innovation, and is green and sustainable. We have moved from the rescue stage. We are now on to recovery, and we look forward to reform.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): When the hon. Gentleman stood for election last year and his leader said that making deep and fast cuts in public services would be dangerous, did he believe it? If he did, but then came to a different view, what made him change his mind?

Stephen Williams: I would remind the hon. Lady that we can all be selective with quotations from different party leaders or finance spokesmen in the general election. Indeed, we could do that all round the Chamber. I well remember the leader of my party saying that there would need to be “savage cuts” in public expenditure to deal with the desperate circumstances that whoever won the general election would have to deal with. He was heavily criticised for using the phrase “savage cuts”; none the less, he gave a stark warning that was also timely and well made.

Despite those circumstances, we—and in particular the Liberal Democrats in the coalition—have endeavoured to ensure that all the measures that we put in place, whether in the emergency Budget, the spending review or the Budgets to come, are underpinned by fairness. It is important that we recognise people’s concerns about the cost of living and the pressures on their household budgets. That is why today Liberal Democrats in particular welcome the further step taken towards our main manifesto commitment of ensuring that nobody on an income of less than £10,000 should face an income tax bill. From April this year, almost 900,000 people will be taken out of income tax altogether, with all average earners getting a tax cut of £200. In a year’s time, 1.1 million lower-paid people will be taken out of the income tax net altogether, leading to a tax cut for everyone on average earnings of £326 a year. This measure will, as we always pledged, help the poor and reward work.

Mr Stewart Jackson: I warmly endorse my hon. Friend’s comments about taking low-paid people out of tax. Does he agree that it ill behoves the Opposition to

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criticise these measures, given that Labour’s contribution was to get rid of the 10p tax rate and import more than 1 million unskilled, low-wage workers from eastern Europe over 13 years to undercut the pay and conditions of the poorest people in this country?

Stephen Williams: I well remember sitting on the Opposition Benches during the final Budget of the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), and being one of those who spotted the fact that the tax cut being given to higher-rate taxpayers and the cut in capital gains tax, which were cheered by Labour Members at the time, were effectively being funded by a tax rise for the poorest people in society that doubled their rate of income tax from 10p in the pound to 20p.

People are also rightly concerned about their household budgets as a result of high fuel prices. You and I will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that it is difficult now to find petrol or diesel costing less than 130p a litre anywhere in the city of Bristol. Even the local fuel station in my constituency is now charging 140p for diesel. I therefore welcome the measures to address those concerns by reducing fuel duty by 1p and by stopping Labour’s planned further increases, leading to a further 5p reduction in fuel duty. This will be welcomed by people not only in cities, such as those I represent, but in the rural areas around Britain represented by my colleagues.

Mr Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): I also welcome the fact that the rate of fuel duty on the islands will be cut by 5p a litre, starting from April 2012. That will put an extra £5 million into the economy of our islands.

Stephen Williams: My hon. Friend is of course referring to the derogation from the European Commission that has been applied for in order to ensure that the coalition Government’s Budget promise is deliverable under Community law, unlike the undeliverable measure to reduce VAT proposed by Labour.

Fuel duty is, however, a blunt instrument for taxing the motorist. I welcome the measures put forward today to stabilise the prices in between the oil companies and the consumer, but in the medium term, we must look for a much better way of developing a market mechanism for taxing the use of our roads.

A further issue of fairness relates to tax avoidance. Whether practised by large companies or by rich individuals, tax avoidance is an affront to fairness, when ordinary people around the country are going out to work, paying their taxes on time and making their contribution. It is an affront to them that some companies are using the tax system unfairly to avoid tax. Some rich people in society—including sportsmen whom people admire—are also using those schemes. It is therefore right that the Government should take further measures today to close down some of those avoidance schemes and introduce an increased levy on non-domiciled individuals.

Right across the age scale, from pensioners who will benefit from the triple lock, guaranteeing that their pension will go up each year, to children from the poorest families, whose schools will receive the pupil premium, this Government are delivering for all sectors of society. These are fair measures that meet the concerns of ordinary Britons, the people who, according to the

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term that my party leader, the Deputy Prime Minister, has recently injected into the political debate, wake up to alarm clock Britain.

[

Laughter.

]

I knew people would like that, but those are the ordinary families around the country whom all hon. Members represent, and we should not laugh. They are the people who get up and go out to work. They work hard, they want their children to do well and they want their parents to be secure in old age.

Another major element of the Budget, along with fairness, is the plan for growth in the green book that has been launched today. It is important that the plan should be regionally balanced. One of the unfortunate legacies of the last Labour Government was the overheated economy in London and the south-east of England, and the credit bubble which, as we know, eventually burst. We cannot allow that to happen again. This Government are determined that growth should be shared fairly right across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. That is why I particularly welcome the announcement today of 21 enterprise zones and I look forward tomorrow to hearing confirmation from the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister of where they will be based. I hope that one of them will be in the Greater Bristol local enterprise partnership.

Mr Kevan Jones: I suggest that the hon. Gentleman read the Red Book. If he looks at the figures for the local enterprise zones, he will see that they add up to about £900,000 for each one. That needs to be compared with the funding for the regional development agencies in the last year of the Labour Government, which was more than £2 billion.

Stephen Williams: We will have to wait and see the detail on the local enterprise zones. What we know from the detail we have had today is that there will be a year’s tax holiday from business rates for people locating in those zones. They will also be equipped with superfast broadband and, I am sure, other measures of support and advice. This issue is bound up with other announcements already made this week about the technology innovation centres and the Manufacturing Advisory Service. There is a whole package of measures that I suggest the hon. Gentleman looks at.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): Does my hon. Friend agree that the test of how well a Government policy works is not how much money is spent on it, but the benefits it has? That is why I hope my hon. Friend will join me in welcoming the steps taken to help entrepreneurs and scientific research in areas such as Babraham near my constituency.

Stephen Williams: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, and he is, of course, quite right. The question from Labour Members when they were in government was always, “How much money can we possibly spend on this situation?” rather than “What works?” That is the difference between this coalition Government and Labour. I commend my hon. Friend for the measures he has recently published on entrepreneurship.

Another aspect of growth that I want to see in the future that we have not had in the past is green and sustainable growth. I particularly support the confirmation that a green investment bank will be set up with initial

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capital not of £1 billion, but of £3 billion, to incentivise investment in the low-carbon economy of the future. The Red Book, quoted so much already, suggests that this will leverage into the low-carbon economy a further £18 billion-worth of investment. Before the end of this Parliament, once our finances are stabilised, that bank will be able to borrow in order to make further investments.

Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park) (Con): Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the downgrading of the Government’s flagship policy, the green investment bank, from what should have been and would have been a bank able to issue bonds from day one to what amounts to a fund for the next five years effectively reduces the prospects of our country becoming a world leader in green innovation? Does he also agree that by failing properly to back our fledgling green economy, we will find it harder to cut our emissions and harder to achieve or boost energy sovereignty, and we will be missing out on one of the greatest economic opportunities of all time?

Stephen Williams: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has been making that case in private to his well-connected friends. I and my colleagues have also been making the case for a green investment bank, not a green investment fund. It has been confirmed as a green investment bank today and it will have £3 billion of seedcorn capital to get it off to a flying start. It is going to start a year earlier than originally suggested. By the end of this Parliament, it will be able to issue bonds so that if we wish, we could all deposit our funds with that bank to invest in our green future.

I also welcome the investment made in innovation and skills, particularly in technology innovation centres. I talked a lot in the last Parliament about the skilling of our young people and how we needed to get more people to take up apprenticeship places, so the confirmation of 50,000 more places today means that there will be 250,000 more in this Parliament than we were left by the last Government.

Speaking as someone who before entering this House spent 17 years in a career in the private sector, advising small businesses on how to set up and take off, I welcome the confirmation or enhancement in the Budget of many reliefs designed to help new and innovative businesses to take off and the fact that by 2014 we will have the lowest rate of corporate tax in the G7. We now look forward to a further period of reform.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Dame Anne Begg) rightly mentioned the integration of the income tax and national insurance schemes, on which there is to be consultation after the Budget. It is, of course, 100 years since Lloyd George, my political hero, introduced the national insurance scheme. During the slump of the 1920s, however—this deals with the point made by the hon. Lady—the actuarial soundness of that scheme was essentially undermined, and ever since then the fiction has been maintained by Governments of all hues that it is a separate fund. In fact, it is a second income tax in all but name, and the time has come to reform it. I am very glad that the Government are going to do that; and because they are going to consult on how it should be done, all the issues raised by the hon. Lady about contributions-based benefits are likely to be dealt with.

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The other reform to which I look forward is the move to a system based more on sustainability, involving a tax on carbon. I am delighted that the Chancellor has confirmed the introduction of a new carbon floor price. On behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I will shortly produce a paper fleshing out how that can work during the rest of the current Parliament.

It is disappointing that we have not been able to agree internationally on further taxes on aviation—both coalition parties wanted an aeroplane tax rather than air passenger duty—and I hope that international agreement will be secured so that that can be achieved. However, I welcome the confirmation that we are to end the absurd anomaly whereby the jets that most of us use when travelling abroad are subject to air passenger duty while private jets are not. Under the existing law, a plane full of football fans going off to watch their heroes must pay tax, while the team itself takes off in a private plane and pays none.

The measures that have already been outlined, and the reforms to which we look forward, reward hard work, incentivise enterprise, and make progress towards a low-carbon economy.

Let me deal finally with the issue of the banks. I welcome the fact that the Government have introduced a levy that will be permanent, throughout the life of this Parliament. It has been confirmed today that the banks will not benefit from the reduction in corporation tax, and that the levy will be increased in future. We shall have to wait for the results of the Vickers review to find out whether there are proposals to break up the banks.

Helen Goodman: How can the hon. Gentleman say what he has just said about the banks, given that the bank levy is falling from £600 million to £100 million within three years? That is patently ridiculous.

Stephen Williams (Bristol West) (LD): I understand that the bank levy is about £2.5 billion a year. The Chancellor announced recently that the levy, which was £1.8 billion in its first year, would be increased to £2.5 billion, and today it has been confirmed that the banks will not benefit from the reduction in corporation tax and that the levy will be increased.

Another issue connected with the banks is what we should do with our ownership, as taxpayers, of Lloyds Banking Group and the Royal Bank of Scotland. That is an issue with which the Government will have to deal at some point in the next few years. A couple of weeks ago I published a pamphlet, with CentreForum, which suggested that the shares should be given to the people so that the state could recover the £67 billion that was invested in the banks bail-out in 2008. The citizen should enjoy the upside: the citizen should enjoy the growth in those shares in the future. I hope that my Treasury colleagues will look favourably on that proposal as they decide what to do with the legacy from the last Government.

The Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition Government have dealt with Labour’s toxic legacy, but Labour Members seem to be still in denial about the problem. They have not acknowledged its existence, let alone shown any sign of contrition for their role in the deficit. The Leader of the Opposition produced some very good jokes today—I will give him that—but he could at least have made an apology. We have started to

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clear up the mess. Today’s Budget sets in train a plan for a Britain that is fairer, with a stable economy and a low-carbon future. It recognises the need to help households with their budgets now, and to give them confidence that the economy and their country are back on track.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Before we move on, I have to announce the result of a Division deferred from a previous day. On the question relating to a stability mechanism for member states whose currency is the euro, the Ayes were 310 and the Noes were 29. Therefore, the Ayes have it.

[The Division list is published at the end of today’s debates .]

I shall call Mr Dan Jarvis next, who will be making his maiden speech, and I remind hon. Members of the normal courtesies that should be extended when hearing a maiden speech.

3.55 pm

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this Budget debate. The first time I remember feeling like this was when I was being summoned by an RAF instructor to make my first parachute jump—a leap of faith into the unknown. Today, however, as I rise to make my maiden speech in this Chamber, I am reassured by knowing that the hon. Members who have gone before me—most of them—have landed without incurring permanent injury.

The people of Barnsley Central have a long history of electing good people to serve as their Member of Parliament. Only time will tell whether I extend that record, but it is a great privilege to pay tribute to my predecessors. It is truly humbling to think that I follow in the footsteps of the former Barnsley MP, Roy Mason, a coal miner at the age of 14. Lord Mason went on to serve the town as its MP for 34 years. During that time, he served in a number of Governments and held a number of high offices.

I also have the great privilege of representing wards that were previously in the Barnsley, West and Penistone constituency. Before being abolished, the constituency was represented by the formidable Michael Clapham. As an MP, Mick did tremendous work to support other former miners, securing compensation for those who had been injured through their work and for the families of those miners who had been killed.

As it was for Roy and Mick, so it was for Barnsley: coal mining was at the heart of the community. Barnsley is a town with a proud history of linen, wire and glass making, but coal mining once accounted for more than 30,000 jobs. It was a community built on coal. In good times and bad, in war and in peace, places such as Barnsley kept this economy and this country going. As is said in Barnsley: “We dug the coal.”

I would also like to pay tribute to my immediate predecessor, Eric Illsley. It is acknowledged that Eric made mistakes—mistakes that cast a shadow across his good work for the people of Barnsley—but we should not forget that Eric chose to dedicate his life to the betterment of the lives of working people. Like Mick and Roy, Eric served the community and spent 10 years as a National Union of Mineworkers official, including during the miners’ strike. Many people have told me

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that Eric was a very hard-working and conscientious constituency MP with a strong record of supporting and representing working men and women in Barnsley.

Having served two tours in Afghanistan, I was relieved to fight a—relatively, at least—peaceful by-election campaign in Barnsley, but I was ably supported by some brilliant local campaigners: people such as Anita Cherryhome and Tracey Cheetham, to name just two among the many to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude. My transition from the Army to civilian life has been made a pleasure because of the people of Barnsley and their support. I remember the warmth of the welcome I received at the New Lodge working men’s club while having a pint with Roy Butterwood, and from the fantastic people working in Barnsley hospital. Both institutions are, in different ways, at the heart of the community.

I met hundreds of amazing people during the by-election, including teachers, NHS workers, police officers, business owners and volunteers: remarkable people working hard and achieving remarkable things in Barnsley, in Yorkshire and beyond.

My constituents are proud people. People such as Len Picken and Jenny Platts are proud of their industrial heritage, proud of who they are today and proud of what Barnsley can continue to be in the future. There is no question but that the people of my constituency have the energy, skill and dedication to make our community a better place. The question today is whether Barnsley’s future is safe under this Government or whether it will be savaged by spending cuts and by a failure to protect jobs and opportunities for the young, as it was in the 1980s.

The people of Barnsley were looking for today’s Budget to pass two clear tests. Did it deliver for families who are finding times hard as pay freezes hit, world prices rise and the VAT increase takes up to £450 a year out of a family’s household spending; and did it demonstrate that the Government have a plan to generate jobs and the growth that would create jobs? The Barnsley of today, after more than a decade of investment and reform to our public services and our infrastructure, is not the Barnsley of the 1980s. Barnsley and our country can and should thrive. Indeed, a year ago, growth in this country was rising, and unemployment and inflation were falling. We had hoped that the mistakes of the past were forgotten and that communities such as Barnsley would not be abandoned as they were then, leaving a generation scarred.

The 1980s and 1990s were a dark chapter for the town, as the then Government closed down the mines which were the heart and soul of our community and stood back and let unemployment and misery linger for a generation. In recent years, Councillor Steve Houghton, the outstanding leader of Barnsley council, was instrumental in working with the Department for Work and Pensions in devising the future jobs fund, which helped more than 600 people find jobs in Barnsley. But the future jobs fund ends this month and Barnsley is facing some of the deepest cuts in the country. The council has to find £26 million this year and £46 million in total, and jobs will inevitably be lost. The truth is that today South Yorkshire police are losing 400 police officers and facing deeper cuts than many other forces. The increase in

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VAT on fuel is costing people in Yorkshire £53 million in extra fuel tax this year. The education maintenance allowance was helping more than 3,500 of Barnsley’s young people to afford to stay in education. This September, some of the poorest young people going into education will be £30 a week worse off and, even on the Government’s own figures, one in 10 of them will drop out of education as a result.

The Government told us that we were out of the danger zone, that their plan was working and that they should be judged on the figures. Today, inflation is rising, partly as a result of the VAT rise, unemployment is rising and growth has stalled. Barnsley urgently needs an alternative: a plan to get jobs and to help families feeling the squeeze. The Government could have chosen to repeat the bank bonus tax—a tax on those on whose shoulders much of the responsibility for our predicament should fall. That money could have funded a plan—a plan to build houses, to invest in infrastructure and to get young people in work—but they chose not take that approach. The real test of this Budget was whether the voice of the country had been heard, whether the evidence had been heeded and whether the Government had listened on jobs and on the cost of living. They have failed this test.

The previous Labour Government, whatever their faults, did their bit to invest in the future, and their investment in education and training was particularly important. In Barnsley, the Building Schools for the Future project has successfully provided new schools such as Darton college, the Dearne advanced learning centre and the Carlton community college, with six more in the pipeline, to sit alongside the inspirational Barnsley college, rated as “outstanding” in Ofsted’s last inspection.

My service in the Parachute Regiment has taught me that so much can be achieved when people are given the right tools, the right skills and the right training—when they are given the support and funding to be the best. I know from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that the men and women of our armed forces are the best. I have had the privilege of serving with some amazing people, but, above all, it has been a pleasure to serve with the soldiers and NCOs—the backbone of our armed forces. Today, I particularly remember Corporal Bryan Budd VC and Corporal Mark Wright GC, both of the Parachute Regiment, who lost their lives while serving our country with the most outstanding valour. I pay the highest tribute to them and to all those men and women who have fallen in the pursuit of maintaining the security of our country. We must never forget their families who are left behind to grieve, but it is not enough just to praise the armed forces. They must be supported with the best training and equipment, and the military covenant is not an optional extra but an essential piece of kit.

The strategic defence and security review may come to be remembered as the Fox review, but only in the future will we know whether it is as cunning as its name might suggest or if it is, as Professor Paul Cornish states in his recent Chatham House report, merely an attempt to “muddle through”. This is no time to muddle through. Clear policy and decisive action are a must, and we must move the debate on to determining the desired strategic outputs rather than merely considering defence inputs.

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Although there is rightly much focus on Libya and events in the middle east, in Afghanistan the efforts of our armed forces are nothing short of heroic, and they are buying space and time for the Afghan Government, but the question remains of how we should use that time. In the end, the true measure of progress is how far Afghanistan has advanced towards a political settlement capable of providing enduring stability, because that is the safest way of securing both our interests and those of the Afghans. We and our American allies should not wait to push forward a serious dialogue for reconciliation. Ultimately, politics is always the solution. Whatever the progress with that effort, it is critical to address not only the external and regional elements of the conflict, but its internal cause: the issues of legitimacy, the rule of law and grievance that push people to support the Taliban and to which my right hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy)referred in his recent speech to the Royal United Services Institute.

I must thank hon. Members on both sides of the House who, through their advice and kindness, have ensured my safe landing in this place. It is with my deepest thanks to them that I now feel a little more able to live up to my old regimental motto, “Utrinque paratus”, or “Ready for anything”.

Finally, if I have learnt nothing else during the by-election campaign, I have learnt this: the spirit and aspiration of the people of Barnsley cannot be trodden down and I, as their Member of Parliament, will do all I can to stand up for them. It is their hard work, their pride in themselves and their compassion for others that makes me so very proud to represent them here today.

4.7 pm

Mr David Amess (Southend West) (Con): It is an honour and privilege to follow any maiden speech, but it is particularly so in this case. I know I speak for the whole House when I congratulate the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) on a magnificent performance. He spoke with command, it was a measured speech and in every sense—whether it was the humorous side or the remarks he made about his predecessors—it was an absolute example of how an hon. Member should make a maiden speech. When I made my maiden speech at the end of 1983, it was an ordeal not only for me but for the House that had to listen to me.

The hon. Gentleman performed splendidly. I also held his predecessor in high regard as a parliamentarian and I much regret the way he left this House. Colleagues listening to the hon. Gentleman’s speech will have come to the conclusion that he brings unique experience to this place that will greatly enrich our deliberations in the future. I certainly would not willingly jump out of an aeroplane, you would have to push me and that would be the end of it. I speak for the whole House—I do not think we get much Conservative support in Barnsley Central—when I wish him a long and successful career.

Turning to the Budget, there is no doubt that this has been the most difficult and gloomy time I have known for people in business—until today. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on his well-crafted and clever Budget, which will cheer up the country. It has already cheered up Government Members and, as colleagues will have observed from the general atmosphere among Opposition Members three or four hours ago, it

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has absolutely cheesed off the Opposition. I am getting sick to death with Members on the Conservative and, dare I say, Liberal Benches being castigated for the absolute mess that the country is in. One party alone is responsible for that—Labour. It is because of the Labour party that we are facing debt interest of £120 million a day and because of the Labour party that we have the biggest structural debt in the G7.

I want to share with colleagues who were elected last year what the past 13 years have been like. As hon. Members will know, the last Prime Minister was previously the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I had the experience of listening to 10 of his Budgets, which he greatly enjoyed delivering. He used to come to the Dispatch Box and two thirds of the way through his speech he would wind Conservative Members up. Then he would make what he thought would be the headline-grabbing news item that would cheer everyone up. But then we would all go away and people would read the Red Book and within a few weeks we would find out that what he had told us was not in any sense accurate. So I congratulate the Chancellor on the new Red Book, because unlike the previous one it is not big enough to use as a doorstop, which is all that one was fit for.

Labour Members seem to think that Government Members relish making cuts.

Mr Kevan Jones: You do!

Mr Amess: We do not, and I find it hypocritical that although Labour Members used to speak about cuts before the general election—I can only talk about those who were here before the election—we no longer hear about the cuts they were going to make. It is as though the Conservatives and Liberals rejoice in making cuts. If anyone wants to know why the country is in a mess, I can tell them it is because the Labour party took away regulation from the Bank of England and gave it to an organisation that was not fit for purpose. Also, as one of my colleagues said during Prime Minister’s questions, Labour stupidly sold off our gold reserves.

I will go further: in all his Budgets the then Chancellor of the Exchequer would make announcements about spending in terms not of millions but billions, and we in opposition used to wonder how it could be funded. We now know that it could not be funded and that we were spending money we never had. I will never forgive Tony Blair—[ Interruption. ] Hon. Members might huff and puff, but I am entitled to say this because it was Tony Blair who got me to vote for the war in Iraq and I will never forgive him for having told us a pack of lies at the Dispatch Box.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. I know that the hon. Gentleman feels very passionately about the subject, but perhaps he would like to temper his language and, in particular, withdraw the accusation of lying.

Mr Amess: I entirely accept your ruling, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thought we could make remarks about people who were no longer Members of Parliament.

Madam Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman can make remarks about people who are not Members of Parliament. I am touching on his language, and the

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convention in this House on the moderate use of language and on allegations against people who are unable to correct what has been said.

Mr Amess: I hope that Tony Blair will correct what I have said when he again gives evidence, but I blame him for the way he completely misled the country on any number of issues. Not the least part of his lasting legacy is the fact that he destroyed the House of Commons, because this is certainly not the place that I entered in 1983. I further blame the last Prime Minister, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer. New Labour Members come into the Chamber and castigate Government Members for what is going on; what on earth were they standing for in the general election campaign in May?

Mr Kevan Jones: Having listened to the hon. Gentleman’s speech, I wish he was in an aeroplane so that we could push him out. He feels that he has been duped on Iraq and on spending, but why, then, did he and the leader of his party say right up to 2008, including in a speech by the leader of his party in July 2008 to the CBI conference, that the Conservatives would match the Labour Government’s spending?

Mr Amess: I believe that the only commitment that we gave was to match spending on the health service.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): I wanted to check whether the hon. Gentleman’s position of not relishing cuts—I am sure that he does not relish them—reflects the position of his party generally, given that the Chair of the Treasury Committee said this morning that he believed that public spending should be reduced, even if we were not in deficit.

Mr Amess: I was not at the Select Committee this morning—[Interruption.] I am afraid that I missed the speech that my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie) made on the Budget. I will have to discuss the issue with him later.

Mr Stewart Jackson: Does my hon. Friend not agree that it takes an enormous degree of mismanagement and incompetence, after 12 years of economic growth, to leave 5 million people on out-of-work benefits, languishing in a half-life on the edge of society? That is the legacy of the Labour Government.

Mr Amess: Of course I agree with my hon. Friend, but I would just say that if Labour Members feel that they were absolutely spot on in their judgment on the economy, why was Labour not re-elected last year? We had a general election last year, and the Conservative party was overwhelmingly the largest party returned; in any case, the Labour party was defeated. I am afraid that the Labour party’s reaction to the Budget today—they were absolutely cheesed off—says it all.

Before the Budget, I had representations from all manner of organisations, including the Association for Consultancy and Engineering and others in a conglomeration of engineering companies, and Essex chambers of commerce. I have to say that the Budget was much brighter and more positive than I expected, so whatever demands have been made, I think that the Chancellor has met them completely. I am delighted that at long last something is being done about regulation.

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I am absolutely delighted that we are looking at how we deal with income tax and national insurance. I am delighted about the cut in corporation tax. I am absolutely delighted with what we are doing about fuel duty; one could see from Labour Members’ glum faces that they were very disappointed with that. I am glad that in the east of England, 106,000 people are being taken out of a tax band, and I am very pleased with what has happened about gift aid.

I hope that Conservative Members will become a little more robust when Opposition Members have the temerity to castigate them after nine months for the mess that the country is in. Conservative and Liberal Democrat Members are looking at the party that is entirely responsible for meltdown Britain. I congratulate the Chancellor on his Budget today and on cheering up the country.

4.20 pm

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): I would love to say that it was a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Southend West (Mr Amess), but instead I will restrict myself to saying that I agree with him entirely that the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) made a very good maiden speech indeed. It is certainly a pleasure to follow him, if not the hon. Member for Southend West. [Interruption.] The Economic Secretary to the Treasury says from a sedentary position that that is harsh. It is only a little harsh.

The Budget was billed as a Budget for growth, and by goodness, we need it, so let us test that. In his statement and in the Red Book the Chancellor gave us a great deal of information. Our national debt for 2010-11 was expected last year to be £932 billion. It is now forecast to be £909 billion for that year. It was expected to be £1.6 trillion next year, but it is coming in at £1.46 trillion. The deficit was expected to be £149 billion for last year. That seems to be coming in at £146 billion. But the figure for 2011-12 was forecast to be £116 billion and that is now up to £122 billion, if the numbers are to be believed. That tells us that the Chancellor may have had a little room for manoeuvre, but growth is essential if the figures are to remain on target and if we are to have any chance at all of protecting jobs and services.

I welcome the direction of travel on corporation tax but, because the Budget was so thin and fiscally neutral—the entire Budget barely shifted £10 million in total—it effectively confirms that the cuts, which were forecast last year at £99 billion and revised down to £81 billion in the comprehensive spending review, are still there. It confirms that £29 billion of tax rises announced last year are effectively still there. It confirms the swingeing benefit cuts of £11 billion announced last year and confirmed in the CSR. It also confirms the changes in some of the pension component, particularly the RPI-CPI switch, which will yield the Exchequer £1.2 billion this year, rising to nearly £6 billion in 2014-15.

On pensions, the Chancellor spoke about a single-tier pension. That is similar to the citizens pension concept that many of us support, but to deliver that with savings predicated on changing not just the state pension, but all public sector pensions, which are contracted and paid into, in some cases, for many, many years, cannot be right. He also said in relation to pensions that he would accept all the Hutton recommendations. It may

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well be that all of us have to save a little more a little longer for the pension that we expect at the end, but let the Government be in no doubt that a 3% hike in pension contributions now will put some of our constituents—indeed, many of our constituents—in serious financial difficulties in the short term. I hope that the implementation of that is carefully considered.

On PFI—the Labour party’s worst legacy—the figures are truly frightening. The value of the capital projects is some £56 billion. The cost of the outstanding repayment liability is £214 billion. The average repayment each year until 2047-48 will be £6 billion, and that will peak at more than £9 billion in 2017-18. The Chancellor said nothing about that, or about how we would replace the PFI system. Throughout his speech he spoke of encouraging private investment, and some of that is to be welcomed, but he said nothing about how we would replace PFI by means of public capital investment. We know how vital that is, given that the economic impact multiplier for capital expenditure is 1:1. It is the most significant thing we can invest in and, more dangerously, the worse possible thing we can cut.

The Chancellor had a great deal to say about oil, which is not surprising given that the forecast for 2011-12 shows that the North sea will generate an additional £4 billion. He is right to take immediate action because households and businesses are struggling. The price of a gallon of petrol in rural Scotland is routinely £6.50, and we know that in the past four or five weeks the price increase in diesel has added £1,000 to the annual cost of running a truck. That is unsustainable and inflationary. I welcome the 1p cut and the fact that the proposed increase has been stopped, but the Government said that they had introduced a stabiliser, and I have re-read his speech any number of times. The stabiliser seems to me to suggest that when the barrel price increases it is merely the escalator that is cancelled, leaving the indexed rise in place. I always understood that the stabiliser would reduce the duty level when the price rose so that we could temper out some of spikes in rising prices. By only including the escalator, we do not have a stabiliser at all and will still see many of the spikes that we have been trying to smooth out to bring some stability back into the economy, particularly in the haulage sector.

The Chancellor said surprisingly little about the banks, so I will go back to what he said in February. He announced that the banks would lend more, especially to small businesses, pay more taxes, bring responsibility and restraint to the sector, pay less in bonuses, be more transparent and make a greater contribution to the regional economy. That is all fine, but in order to thrive and grow companies need access to affordable and flexible funding, and they need it now. That remains a huge hurdle for many of our businesses.

The lack of new lending in particular is continuing to have an adverse impact on individual companies as well as on the economy as a whole. Business investment, as the Minister knows, will remain some 20% below pre-recession levels. Indeed, there was a 0.5% fall in gross fixed capital formation in the last quarter of 2010, which is extremely worrying, given that this is supposed to be a business growth and export-driven recovery.

All the evidence I have seen highlights the importance of expanding sustainable lending. Although we welcome the lending commitments agreed between the Government and the banks, it is important to ensure that they move

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quickly on the issue. I would have thought that the Chancellor had much more to say today about how the banking community would increase even gross lending to businesses across the country. Instead, although he did increase enterprise investment scheme limits to encourage private investment, which I welcome, he said nothing about bank lending. It is the retail banks on the high street that most of our small businesses depend upon for both capital and cash flow.

The two key issues of oil and access to finance are not just about economic recovery, but about fairness, as is alcohol duty, and there were a few changes on that today. However, the Government brought forward no measure whatsoever to tax alcoholic drinks by alcohol content. Whisky is still penalised and we still have the ludicrous situation where 4% beer is taxed more heavily than 7.5% cider, which does nothing to promote public health or address the wider social and economic consequences of excessive drinking. Picking up the tab for those costs is estimated to equate to a tax of some £3.5 billion in Scotland alone. I am surprised that the Chancellor did not use the Budget to take measures to deal with that problem.

There are also huge dangers in the Budget, as it confirms the cut to the Scottish budget and threatens recovery there. I am sure that the whole House will welcome the recent reduction in unemployment. The figures for March show that unemployment in Scotland has fallen by 16,000 and employment has risen by 8,000, the eighth consecutive reported rise in employment. That is all good news, and we have to drive it forward, but cutting the Scottish budget, particularly £800 million from the capital budget, will have a huge impact on the Scottish Parliament’s ability to drive forward many of the initiatives that were making a difference as we came out of the recession.

Given the economic backdrop, particularly the fourth quarter figures for the whole UK and the need to continue to support growth, the Scottish Government and, indeed, the UK Government need a Budget that supports clear, targeted resources. Given also that the Chancellor had some flexibility, I am surprised that he did not offer up a targeted measure to increase capital expenditure, because it has the most significant impact of any public spending.

What the Chancellor did talk about was enterprise zones, of course, and we certainly welcome those as a concept. They could be used in Moray, for example, given the closure of RAF Kinloss, but the Budget offered little detail beyond suggesting some business rate reductions and streamlined planning measures, both of which the Chancellor rightly said are devolved. For enterprise zones to work properly, they should revert to the old form, which included the significant use of capital resources, but, given that there is only £80 million in four years’ time, or £4 million per site, much of which I suspect will be used to offset business rates for local authorities, it strikes me as inconceivable that the Government have planned and prepared for the significant use of capital allowances to deliver their potential.

Mr Kevan Jones: The amount is actually less than that to which the hon. Gentleman refers, because, although page 42 of the Red Book cites £80 million in year four, over the period, if we spread the amount across the 21 proposed enterprise zones, we find that it works out at less than £1 million per zone.