Let me deal briefly with pensions. Like many of my colleagues here, I have a large number of pensioners in my constituency, and I am concerned that this Budget will do nothing to reduce pensioner poverty, currently

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standing at 1.7 million people nationally. There are no proposals to help pensioners who are struggling with rising living costs.

Moving on to growth, in a written answer I received on 17 January, the Economic Secretary told me:

“The OBR forecast that real household disposable income will grow in each year from 2013 to 2017.”—[Official Report, 17 January 2013; Vol. 556, c. 866W.]

In December 2010, the Chancellor was equally confident, telling CNBC:

“Britain is on the mend. We got pretty steady and sustainable economic growth forecasts, pretty sustainable increases in employment, a steady decline in the deficit.”

Well, how wrong could this Government be? Real wages are set to fall by 2.4% over this Parliament. The OBR has also halved the growth forecast for this year and downgraded it for next year, too. I ask the Chancellor to see some sense and stop relying on the private sector to provide the boost to the economy that is needed. Millions will be squeezed by another year of capping public sector pay, while the private sector has simply not managed to perform as well as was needed at a time when growth has stalled.

A sensible Budget would have seen an intervention to legislate for a living wage, rather than giving the tax break to millionaires that is coming up in a few days’ time. That would not only be fair on working people, but could help inject the economy with consumer spending power. The most ironic part of this plan is that the Chancellor has not even succeeded in reducing the deficit—the golden goal that we have been suffering these tax cuts in order to achieve. Borrowing is now forecast to be £245 billion more than was planned at the time of the spending review. We will not have balanced books, but we will have low-income families paying the price, while millionaires continue to count their money.

I concur with the views of the TUC, which welcomes the British business bank but is calling for more resources to support businesses on a larger scale and for the bank to be able to raise funds in the capital markets as comparable banks do.

I and, I am sure, my constituents do not see this as an aspirational Budget, but as a desperation Budget.

2.9 pm

David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): I am sorry to disappoint the House, but I will not be speaking about beer—[Hon. Members: “Oh!] I said I was sorry. I will not be speaking about spirits either, but I will—

George Freeman: Lift our spirits!

David Rutley: I will indeed lift our spirits. Given the co-operation of my hon. Friend, I will also say a little about life sciences. Let me begin, however, by joining other Government Members in welcoming a Budget which has delivered a positive response that recognises the needs of hard-working people, and which, as others have pointed out, has clearly demonstrated that the doors of British business are firmly open.

It is sometimes wondered whether “To intervene, or not to intervene” is the question when it comes to industrial policy. I believe that in normal free, competitive markets intervention should be minimal, but that, given the burden of regulation that was imposed on the

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British economy for 13 years by the Labour Government, the question needs to change from whether there should be intervention to how that intervention can take place effectively. For me, the answer to that question is simple: we need to flatten the barriers to growth, which is exactly what Government Members are determined to do.

We need only consider the recent experience of our northern neighbours to see how that can be achieved. Sweden has enjoyed tremendous success since the mid-1990s with an ethos of deregulation across the economy. Estonia had 2,000 enterprises in 1992; by the end of 1994, the figure had ballooned to 70,000. By 2003, an economic basket case with inflation of 1,000% in 1992 had spawned the invention of Skype. There are clear lessons to be learnt from those northern neighbours, the most fundamental being that if industrial policy is to work, there needs to be a broadly “horizontal” approach. That does not mean being laid back, but it does mean having a more laissez-faire confidence in the ability of businesses to identify and satisfy customer demand—as they are best placed to do—and providing the right foundation for enterprise to flourish across the board, rather than backing policies in the sense of picking winners. That is the course the Government have charted, and I am delighted they are sticking to it.

We have an industrial policy with a foundation that encourages enterprise across the board and, in key sectors, focuses on the removal of the roadblocks that prevent growth, rather than the line-by-line, multi-targeting Brownite plan for daily tactical interventions that we have seen in so many parts of the public sector. We want that foundation to consist of low taxes, a high skills base and deregulated, competitive markets, and those are being put in place.

The Government are making good progress. Before the Budget, we were on track to have the lowest corporation tax in the G7; now, as a result of the Budget, we are on track to have the lowest corporation tax in the G20—20%—by 2015. The new £2,000 employment allowance will help to spur growth and build on the Government’s successful record of creating jobs in the private sector: the private sector, not the public sector. In an enterprising constituency such as Macclesfield, where an unusually high proportion of the population are self-employed, reforms like those can tip the balance for sole traders, encouraging them to incorporate themselves in businesses that can grow, and for the self-employed, encouraging them to become regular employers.

Those are positive steps, and the Red Book goes further. It provides an important update on the progress the Government are making with their industrial policy, and demonstrates that they are breaking down barriers in certain sectors of industry and in certain local areas. I welcome the creation of the single local growth fund, which will be devolved to local level through local growth deals.

Some industrial sectors will always have greater prospects for growth than others. The Government’s industrial strategy, announced last autumn, identified 11 broad sectors that the Government want to support, including advanced manufacturing, creative industries and life sciences. That approach is bearing fruit in the case of life sciences. The Government’s “One Year On” review shows that deregulation is helping to reduce the time taken to set up clinical trials from 600 days to a 70-day benchmark. Those are important steps which need to be mirrored in many other sectors.

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This week we were given challenging news in AstraZeneca’s restructuring strategy statement. The good news is that, according to its plans, the Macclesfield manufacturing site will be secure, retaining 1,800 jobs which will be safeguarded for years to come. However, AstraZeneca also announced changes in the research and development plant at Alderley Park. The fact that 700 jobs have been safeguarded there is important, but the R and D facilities will move to Cambridge, which has created uncertainty for the employees. I am working with AstraZeneca to ensure that there are plans to provide them with proper careers advice and the support that they need.

The next priority—a vital priority for Alderley Park, for the sub-region, for the north-west and for the UK economy—is to ensure that the site has a vibrant future. The way in which to do that, and the way in which we are committed to doing it, is to provide a bio-science park where other businesses can go to work. We are working with the Government, and I am delighted to say that we have set up a taskforce. Evidence from other sites where the experience has been similar suggests that there will be spin-out operations.

We need to harness that energy, and ensure that we secure money from the regional growth fund on an emergency basis so that we can support this vital part of the UK’s life sciences sector. I am committed to doing that and to working with the Government, and I will knock on every door to make sure we receive the support that is required.

This Budget has been a huge success for British business, and I am sure that it will lead to further successes if we break down barriers, not just in life sciences but in many other sectors.

2.16 pm

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): I am grateful to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to speak in this important Budget debate. I shall make a relatively short speech, because I know that many other Members wish to speak. I make no apology for focusing on my constituency, and on the people who elected me to be their representative in Parliament.

I do not think there is a single issue in my area that people care about more than jobs, and I entirely agree with them. My constituents know that without work, there can be no community and no prosperity. Much concern has rightly been expressed about the fact that growth in our economy now stands at less than a seventh of the amount that the Chancellor anticipated in his 2010 spending review: 0.7%, rather than the 5.3% that was forecast at that time. However, I believe that we are right to be even more concerned about the fact that yesterday the Chancellor, rather alarmingly, had to admit that the growth forecast for this year had been cut in half, to just 0.6%. The forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility that borrowing will hit £114 billion this year, instead of the already immense £108 billion that was previously forecast, should fill us all with concern, as should the fact that yesterday’s UK unemployment figures were up by 7,000 to 2.52 million.

It troubles me, in human terms, that according to the very latest unemployment figures, one person in every 20 in the economically active population aged between 16 and 64—1,770 people—in my constituency is unemployed. I believe that that figure would be even

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higher were it not for the serious efforts of the Welsh Government’s Jobs Growth Wales fund, which has provided 4,000 jobs for young people throughout Wales.

On the day on which a new Archbishop of Canterbury is to be enthroned, I think that we can do worse than reflect on the words of one of his great predecessors. Archbishop William Temple wrote:

“The worst evil of unemployment is in its creating in the unemployed a sense that they have fallen out of the common life. However much their physical needs may be supplied the gravest part of the trouble remains; They are not wanted!”

Those are the words of someone who lived through the great depression of the 1930s, and who realised that without the politics of one nation, our country could never have stood against fascism. They are, I believe wise and prophetic words for us today. That is why I believe that discussions about unemployment affect us all, and why unemployment can never be seen as a price worth paying. It is why I am deeply disappointed that the Chancellor did not take the step yesterday that my party would have taken by guaranteeing a job for every young person out of work for a year or more and for every adult unemployed for more than two years—funded by a fair tax on bank bonuses and changes to pensions tax relief for the very richest. That would be a far better investment than the subsidy for second homes. For Labour Members, it is the flesh and blood of one nation politics and would have been the best and fairest option.

Real action on national insurance to help small businesses take on more staff would have been the fairest option too. Any Government Members awake at this point may say, “Did you not hear what the Chancellor said yesterday?” Of course I did, and I like the idea of the national insurance cuts for employers so much that I am delighted to be a member of the party that proposed them. It is just that, in the interests of fairness, growth and getting our economy going again, I have to ask: if it matters so much to him, why will he not do it now? Why does he think that excellent local small businesses such as the Community café in Rhosymedre should not be supported this year, yet millionaires will get their tax cut from next month? Why will he not commit to a British investment bank? The hon. Member for Burton (Andrew Griffiths) spoke eloquently about the Campaign for Real Ale and real ale pubs. Unlike him, I have last year’s CAMRA pub of the year in my constituency. One of its biggest problems in setting up was that bank managers persistently refused it loans. It is exactly the sort of programme that our British investment bank would support. The Government’s thinking on this one just does not make sense.

Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): In view of the need to support small businesses with finance, how can the hon. Lady justify in the current economic scenario Finance Wales, which is funded by the Welsh Government, giving out loans at 8% or 9% above base?

Susan Elan Jones: I am sure that we could carry on this conversation ad infinitum. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman could tell me how he can justify all the cuts in revenue spending that are coming to the Welsh Government, but we will carry that one on some other day. I am sure that he could also tell me about the

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excellent impact there will be on his local economy when the holiday homes subsidy is in place, but, again, we will carry that on later.

I believe that investment, growth and employment are not just terms in economic textbooks; they are at the heart of what makes communities and countries work. I am talking about communities in my constituency and, more widely, across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. If our Government and our Chancellor cannot understand that, it is high time for them to be replaced by a genuinely one nation Government who do understand.

2.22 pm

John Howell (Henley) (Con): One is tempted to start with the unemployment figure in one’s constituency—it is down by 25% since April 2010—but I wish to speak about housing. It is appropriate to raise that issue today because our reforms are as much about the supply of housing as about the demand for it and about the importance of that sector and of the construction sector as a whole.

The Localism Act 2011 turned us into a nation of planners. Neighbourhood plans are steaming ahead, and the reform of the planning system has ended one of the biggest blocks to development and taken away a large amount of red tape. I understand that the proportion of planning applications approved is at a 10-year high. As for local plans, 70% of councils now have something on paper. However, there is still much more to do to turn this nation of planners into a nation of builders. I was interested to read paragraph 1.115 in the Red Book, which said that yet more reforms to the planning system were proposed. We are to have reduced planning guidance, which will come forward in line with Lord Taylor’s recommendations, and

“pro-growth planning policies and delivery arrangements”

for local areas as part of local growth deals.

The importance of the supply side can be seen in a number of areas. The first such area is affordable housing, which is an important element for this Government and always has been. We have recently issued a prospectus to support affordable homes delivered through the guarantee programme, so I was pleased that an additional £225 million had been put into the Budget to support a further 15,000 affordable homes, which will be built by 2015.

Sheila Gilmore: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

John Howell: No, I am not giving way. Those 15,000 homes will be new build homes. As for the build-to-rent sector, the Budget provides £1 billion to support the development of more homes—that is an awful lot of homes to be built. We also need certainty on social rents, which is left to the spending round in the Budget book. On the right to buy, a great Conservative measure, we are increasing the London cap to £100,000 and reducing the qualifying period to three years. Overall, this Budget introduces billions of pounds of financial support to tackle both the long-term housing market problems—the problems with the sector—and the problems faced by people wanting to get on to the housing ladder.

The Chancellor mentioned two schemes in that latter regard, the first of which is the “help to buy: equity loan” scheme. It applies to new builds only, and someone

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will need a minimum 5% deposit to qualify. The scheme will expand the existing FirstBuy scheme and is available to everyone; the Government will lend up to 20% of the value of the property through an equity loan. That provides extremely important assistance to first-time buyers and to those wanting to acquire a new build as part of their development. The second scheme is the mortgage guarantee scheme, under the same arrangement, where the intention is clearly not to provide a subsidy for second homes—the intention is to have a consultation to ensure that it precisely does not give subsidies to second homes.

All these measures illustrate the main point: the Government have understood that the link between the supply of mortgages and the supply of houses is an intimate one, and that these things cannot be tackled separately. They need to be looked at in the round and together.

We hope that by tackling the problem of access to mortgages we will help to stimulate the economy. That is certainly what the Federation of Small Businesses has suggested. It has said:

“The Help to Buy scheme is a bold move from the Chancellor to boost the industry and to get people onto the housing ladder.”

It continued:

“In addition the measure to build 15,000 new homes will give the sector a welcome boost.”

The Home Builders Federation has said:

“Building the homes the country desperately needs can be a key driver of economic activity. Government must be praised for its attempts to stimulate activity”.

I agree absolutely with that. A very bold attempt is being made to stimulate activity, both on the development of housing and on access to that housing.

2.28 pm

Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op): This Budget comes at an unprecedented moment in our economic history, when families and businesses are looking to the Government for a change of direction and bold action to kick-start our flatlining economy. It is a time for urgency, as after three years of this Chancellor the economy is still 3% smaller than it was five years ago. However, all we got was more of the same. Unemployment in Feltham and Heston has risen by nearly l0% in the past six months; the number of young people out of work is at its highest level since March last year. During the Budget debate last year, I spoke of how there were six people chasing every job in Feltham and Heston. A year later, I am deeply concerned and saddened that I am saying the same thing again. There has been no change from this Government. This is the third successive year of less than 1% growth and the Budget is a gamble, not a plan.

Some measures are welcome. Local businesses will welcome the fuel duty freeze as well as measures to help them take on extra workers, for which Labour has been calling for some time. This is a jam tomorrow Budget, however, not one that takes action now. As John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce commented yesterday, many of the Chancellor’s measures might come too late. Britain needs urgency, scale and delivery today. In the last quarter, net lending to businesses fell by £4.5 billion, and in the past two years, under this Chancellor, it has fallen by £28.1 billion. The reality

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behind those figures is that thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses—our country’s wealth creators—are unable to access the finance they need to grow and to take on new employees. The Budget shows no signs of changing that. As the female entrepreneur Laura Tenison said on “Newsnight” last night, “I am trying to create jobs, but the Government isn’t helping.”

One nation Labour is the party for small business and enterprise. We had a regional development agenda and a legacy of which we could be proud which was dismantled by this Government and replaced with confusion. The Chancellor said yesterday that the Budget confronts our problems head on. The problem is that his judgment is the problem. A Treasury team of five men and no women has produced a Budget that did not even mention women and business. Research shows that if we had the same levels of female entrepreneurship as the US, £42 billion would be added to the economy. With more than 1 million women out of work across the UK, the Budget missed an opportunity to support female entrepreneurship. I should not have held my breath. The Government’s previous three Budgets have shown policies that have hit women the hardest. Women are paying three times as much to bring the deficit down—decisions that were made by a Cabinet with three times more men than women.

Hundreds of families in Hounslow have recently called on the Government to help mums, not millionaires. The Chancellor has ignored those calls and will go ahead with a £180 tax on new mums on the same day as millionaires will get a £100,000 tax cut. The House of Commons Library has also shown that low-paid new mums are set to lose £1,300 by the end of the first year of a child’s life, through the cuts to pregnancy support and tax credits and real-term cuts to maternity pay.

The record on housing is no better. Affordable home statistics in London have fallen off a cliff. Figures published by the Greater London authority show that 425 affordable homes were started in the first six months of the current financial year, compared with 4,659 in the previous year and more than 18,000 in 2010-11.

Sheila Gilmore: Does my hon. Friend agree—this is the point that I would have made to the hon. Member for Henley (John Howell), by the way—that it is a misnomer to call such homes affordable when the rents will be up to 80% of market rent? The subsidy on each of the 15,000 houses that were referred to will be £15,000, which is why the rents have to be so high. The houses will not be affordable and, what is more, they will put up the housing benefit bill.

Seema Malhotra: My hon. Friend makes her point extremely well. The £225 million proposed in the Budget to support “affordable” homes building is a fraction of the £4 billion that Labour would have invested.

The Government proposed change but this is more of the same. The policies of this Government have failed on jobs, on growth, on the deficit and in the lives of ordinary people. The Budget will do nothing for the 13,000 on the waiting list for a home in my constituency.

Andrew Griffiths: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Seema Malhotra: I am sorry, but I will not.

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The Budget will do nothing for the 74-year-old woman waiting a week for a blood transfusion because of staffing cuts in the local hospital. The Budget will do nothing for the family I met recently who live in one room: two teenage brothers sharing a bed; a mother and father who put mattresses down on the floor; the father who goes to work at 4 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon; the mother goes to work at 11 am and comes back at 11 pm. They are not shirkers, they are hard workers and they will not be helped by the Budget.

The legacy of the past three years in my constituency is rising unemployment, Sure Start centres under threat, longer waiting times in local hospitals and police numbers being cut. Families are suffering for the decisions that the Government have made and are wondering where they will live as the bedroom tax kicks in and makes their homes unaffordable. It is not too late for the Chancellor to change his mind, change course and get a plan for jobs and growth that will deliver for Britain’s families and businesses.

2.35 pm

George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con): I congratulate the Chancellor and his Treasury team on the work they have done on the historic and disgraceful debt legacy that this generation, this Parliament and this Government are having to deal with. The lack of any apology from Labour in the nearly three years in which I have had the honour to be a Member of this place is deeply shaming—[Interruption.] For the record, the Opposition’s barracking of my point serves simply to highlight their lack of ability to deal with the truth, difficult though it may be.

We are still trying to deal with a legacy of debt that we and future generations inherited from the Labour party—a legacy that hangs over the economy and this country. The Budget has been warmly and widely welcomed by all serious commentators: the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the Bank of England, the CBI, the Institute of Directors and the British Chambers of Commerce. I urge the Chancellor to stay the course and not to be lured by the siren voices of Opposition Front Benchers calling for more borrowing, or of those calling for borrowing-funded tax cuts.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

George Freeman: I will develop my argument a little further, if I may, as time is limited.

We need a credible programme for deficit reduction, a fair burden of taxation and a long-term vision for the British economy, and that is what the Budget delivered. Simon Walker of the Institute of Directors said yesterday:

“We applaud this Budget. The Chancellor has stuck to his guns and held his nerve—which is exactly what we wanted to see. Deficit reduction is not an optional policy, it is an absolute necessity, and he is right to reject the siren calls to abandon it.”

Plan A is right for three central reasons. First, it tackles the appalling structural debt legacy that we were bequeathed by the Opposition. Secondly, it does so in a way that is fair in allocating the burden of taxation that must be paid. Thirdly, it is bold in setting out the platform at the base of an industrial policy for a sustainable

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economic recovery in which future generations—particularly the current young generation, who will have to deal with the debt crisis—can have confidence.

Let me remind the House, particularly Opposition Front Benchers, of the nature of the debt legacy we inherited. We started with the worst debt to GDP ratio of any country in the western world, worse than that of Greece and other economies that have been put into special measures by the IMF. The annual deficit when we started was running at 11% of GDP and is now 7%—that, for the benefit of Opposition Front Benchers, is a reduction.

In the situation we inherited, the interest on our debts was set to rise, if we had not acted, to £76 billion a year. We were spending £1 on interest for every £4 the Government were spending on public services. The national debt was just short of £1 trillion—roughly £15,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. As 1 trillion is a big number and people are baffled by big numbers, let me try to break it down. If it took 11 days to pay off £1 million, how long would it take to pay off £1 billion? Thirty-two years—[Interruption.] Opposition Members might think that it is funny, but I can assure them I do not, my constituents do not and the young people who will have to claw their way out of the crisis do not. If it takes 11 days to pay off £1 million and 32 years to pay off £1 billion, it takes 32,000 years to pay off £1 trillion at the same rate.

The truth is that we inherited not just an annual deficit but a structural deficit. For the benefit of Opposition Members who are not aware of the difference, the structural deficit is that bit of the Budget which, even when the economy is growing, continues to haemorrhage money. The biggest drivers of our structural deficit are pensions, benefits and the NHS. The IFS pre-Budget briefing yesterday, which was made available to all parties, makes it clear that the structural deficit continues to put a black hole at the heart of our public finances. The IFS forecasts that between 2011 and 2018 we will be spending an extra £5 billion on pensions, £20 billion on benefits and £15 billion on the NHS. That is after the sensible and pragmatic reforms we have introduced. It is a legacy the Opposition should be ashamed of.

Plan A sets out three key ways of dealing with that—tackling the deficit, a fair burden of tax and a sustainable long-term platform for growth. We have cut the deficit by 30%, from 11% of GDP to 7%, although the shadow Chancellor seemed unable this morning to accept that that is indeed a reduction. The IFS has made it clear that under the Labour party’s plan B we would incur £201 billion more debt by 2016-17. Who on earth could think that borrowing another £200 billion, given that legacy, is the answer?

On the second part of plan A, the fairness of the burden of taxation, the Opposition have been scaremongering about it and need to understand it. First, the Chancellor has decided, rightly, to pay off 80% of the debt through public spending reductions and 20% through taxation. The burden of taxation is powerfully shifted towards those with the broadest shoulders. I remind the House that 1% of taxpayers in this country pay 25% of all tax, and 50% of our income tax is paid by the top 20%. We have taken 2 million people out of tax altogether. The £130 billion funding to help new homeowners is the largest package of support—far larger than anything the Opposition were asking for. The £6 billion relief on

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fuel duty is a massive support for hard-working families, and coming from a rural constituency I particularly welcome its effect on the rural economy. The beer duty measure, too, is a substantial one for rural communities where pubs are at the very heart of rural life; substantial help is also being provided with child care.

This is a Budget to help the working poor. Taken alongside the universal credit and the welfare reforms, it will have a substantial impact on those who are striving to get on. In the remaining seconds, I want to pay tribute to the Government’s work in laying the foundations for a sustainable economic recovery. We cannot borrow our way out of this crisis. We will have to trade our way out.

Richard Fuller: I would be interested to hear what my hon. Friend thinks should be the foundations of that strategy.

George Freeman: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I believe that this country has every reason to be optimistic about our ability to trade our way out of the present crisis. Around the world the emerging nations are growing at a phenomenal rate—7% to 8% for the BRIC nations and the 11+ nations following them. They have extraordinary needs, and in the next 30 years they will go through a revolution in medicine, food, energy, professional services, IT and leisure that we took nearly 200 years to go through. In all the areas where we have a strong and mature offering, these countries will drive phenomenal demand in the years ahead.

I applaud the work the Government have done to lay the foundations in science and research funding, skills and the industrial strategy, on which we heard from colleagues earlier. In my own sector—life sciences, food, medicine and energy, three of the largest markets in the world—today, Astra Zeneca has made a major commitment to this country, investing £300 million in Cambridge and making us its global head of research and development. With this vision, people can be confident that we are tackling the debt crisis in a way that is fair and that will allow their children to be optimistic for a better future.

2.45 pm

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): People in my constituency must have hoped that the Budget could provide some light at the end of the tunnel created by austerity and cuts, but they will have been disappointed. Thousands of them are being hit this year by the coalition Government’s fiscal and welfare reform measures, to be implemented after 1 April. After so many Government U-turns there could have been action in the Budget to soften the blow of these changes. The Chancellor could have done that, instead of the tax cut for millionaires he is going ahead with.

Manchester and Salford are cities hardest hit by the bedroom tax. More than 2,600 families in my constituency will be hit by that policy, and many will have to pay between £500 and £900 extra to continue to rent their homes. If they cannot pay, they are expected to move, but the catch is that there are very few smaller properties available for those trying to move. City West housing trust told me that some 460 families have asked to downsize. However, it expects to have re-housed only 43 families by April, and 260 more in 2013-14. The trust

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believes that some 80 households might find a mutual exchange. So, the total number of households that can be helped to move is less than 400, leaving more than 2,000 to find between £500 and £900 extra in rent. It is estimated that the bedroom tax will cost our local economy £1.9 million in my constituency and almost twice that in Salford, because tenants will have so much less to spend.

This year, pensioners in my constituency lost more than £80 because the personal allowance was frozen, and people who turn 65 this year will lose much more—£320—owing to the change in age-related allowances. Parents in my constituency have lost out on child benefit. Constituents who lost this previously universal benefit felt deep resentment at that. A survey carried out by the Child Poverty Action Group found that child benefit is overwhelmingly spent on clothes, books, education and food—so that is a further loss to our local economy. The hon. Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman) spoke about serious commentators. The Child Poverty Action Group did not welcome yesterday’s Budget, for obvious reasons.

Unemployment rose yesterday in my constituency— 3,477 people are now unemployed, an increase on the previous month’s figure. As a result of the Government’s failure on growth and jobs, borrowing is set to be billions higher. To pay for this failure, the Chancellor is taking billions from working-age benefits and tax credits by uprating them, as we know, by only 1% over the next three years, a real-terms cut.

Sheila Gilmore: One thing that has not been discussed much is that, on top of that 1% cut, the Government appear to want to cap the type of expenditure that has always been demand-led. That will presumably require further cuts to benefits; otherwise, it will not happen.

Barbara Keeley: It is frightening both in extent and in scale. In Worsley and Eccles South, 7,500 people are in work and receiving tax credits. They are the ones who will lose out over the next three years. Most of the savings the Government are making are not from out-of-work benefits, as we have discussed in previous debates, but from tax credits, maternity allowance, maternity pay, sick pay and housing benefit, all of which are claimed by working people—the strivers whom David Cameron promised to stand up for and who are now being hit by Government cuts.

As my right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor said earlier, the 1% benefits uprating, along with all the other changes that keep being trumpeted, such as the tax allowances, will mean that a one-earner family on £20,000 with two children will lose £380 a year. A family on that level of income is also likely to be hit further by the bedroom tax and the cut to council tax benefit. Indeed, 20,000 households in Salford will be affected by the 10% cut to council tax benefits that the Government are leaving it to the city council to implement.

On new announcements, it is disappointing for families with children that the Government are pledging to help with child care costs in a scheme due to start in autumn 2015. Families on middle and low incomes have already lost up to £1,500 through earlier Government cuts to child care support. They need help now, not in two and a half years’ time.

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Seema Malhotra: Does my hon. Friend agree that that is yet another example of delaying giving people the resources and support they need, which in turn will delay the recovery and people’s ability to go back to work?

Barbara Keeley: I very much agree, particularly in the case of child care support. Families with a couple of children will now have to wait two and a half years before they can get help with child care, which is very expensive. That delay is bad enough, but, worse still, the proposed child care scheme will give a tax break to families earning up to £300,000 a year but offer no help to families on tax credits, whose incomes are already squeezed. Once again, the coalition Government are giving more help to higher earners and less to those on low and modest incomes, the people with the greatest need of child care support.

The Government propose to set the cap for social care at £72,000. Although we welcome the fact that a cap is finally being set, having waited more than a year for the announcement, we must remember that the Dilnot commission recommended a cap of £35,000. Setting the cap at that level would have offered the best protection to people on lower and middle incomes. It is very disappointing, to say the least, that the Government have ignored the advice of the experts whom they put together in the commission, and set the cap at a much higher level while also—this point tends to be ignored—making people pay accommodation costs of £12,000 a year, the very top end of what Dilnot recommended. People who need care when they are elderly, frail or ill will continue to face the shock of large care bills. Examples I have seen of the cap being set at such a high level show that the reality is that often, people will have to pay for their care for four or five years before getting any state help. Many fewer people will be helped by the Government’s proposals.

The final hit on my constituency, which I was disturbed to hear about, is the damage that will be caused to the value of homes as a result of exploration for shale gas. The Government have already caused confusion and uncertainty through their drastic overhaul of the planning system, yet the Red Book states:

“As the shale gas industry develops the Government will ensure an effective planning system is in place”.

That does not inspire confidence, because exploration for shale gas is going ahead in my constituency and, worryingly, it appears we do not have an effective planning system in place to deal with that. Drilling and fracking operations have been known to bring down house prices in an area by as much as 20%. People of course do not want to live in areas where fracking is planned, particularly after the disturbing events that took place when exploration first went ahead in other parts of the north-west. Exploration for shale gas could have a long-lasting adverse impact on the quality of life of people in my constituency. I am strongly opposed to it.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you know the geography of my constituency, so you will know that it is ringed by motorways; I am sure they are very useful in getting you home in the evening. A final aspect of the damage that the Budget will do to my constituency is that it goes ahead with an ill-advised widening of the M60 motorway, which will bring absolute chaos to 800 households in my constituency. When the motorway was built through

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my constituency, it was called the Stretford bypass. Now, the plan is to widen it by using the hard shoulders. “Hard shoulder running” will bring the M60—and you, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you are motoring—right next to the homes, windows and gardens of my constituents. Those 800 homes will be blighted by that ill-advised scheme, which I will continue to oppose to the best of my ability.

The Budget is a huge disappointment and will be seen as such in my constituency, because it is a massive missed opportunity and is damaging in so many different ways.

2.52 pm

Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), but I think that her speech was representative of those we have heard from Labour Members today: there was no effort to explain the context; not a single acknowledgement of the problems the Labour party left this Government; no mention of the fact that there is a crisis in the eurozone; no mention of the fact that the IMF has indicated that UK levels of growth will be higher than those of Germany and France; and no mention of the fact that we are facing an international energy crisis—there was no mention of reality. That is the truth about what we have heard from the Labour party. Labour Members seem to be living in their own fantasy world in which money grows on trees or can be created from nowhere. The truth, as my constituents, the people of Wales and the people of Britain know, is that money does not grow on trees; we have to pay our way in the world.

The worst thing I heard today from Labour Members is their complaint that there is no demand in the economy, apparently because of the welfare cuts being implemented by the Government. Those cuts are being implemented to deal with the mess the previous Administration left behind. There is no acknowledgement that the so-called growth period under the previous Government was basically built on unsustainable Government and personal debt. There is a lack of demand in the British economy because the British public have realised that they have to live within their means, and this Government realise that they must deal with the mess left behind by the previous Administration and that we must live within our means—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) might laugh, but the people of this country are not laughing at the mess the previous Administration left behind. That is the context of this Budget and, in that context, I think that the Government have made a substantial and significant move in the right direction.

We need confidence that businesses will create jobs. Labour Members continually talk about Governments creating jobs. Governments do not create long-term sustainable employment. The private sector does that; businesses do that, working with Government. This Government are making sure that people can invest in the United Kingdom with confidence and know that if they make a profit in this country they will do so with the right to a more competitive tax advantage than in any other part of the world. The competitive levels of the UK economy in comparison with the situation under the previous Government show that we are definitely moving in the right direction in creating the circumstances for business investment.

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Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): Does my hon. Friend acknowledge, as the Opposition clearly do not, that the OBR is forecasting 600,000 more jobs in the coming year than had previously been anticipated?

Guto Bebb: Indeed, and I welcome every single one of those jobs.

The worst thing about the argument that we are having is that every time Labour Members appear in the media in Wales, they complain, “Yes, jobs have been created, but they’re not our type of jobs—they’re not proper jobs.” They insult people who are going out to work and trying to earn a living in supermarkets and hotels by claiming that they are not taking the right type of jobs. People in my constituency know that a job is an opportunity to help themselves. This Government are making sure that people in low-paid jobs are keeping the money they earn because their tax rates are going down. Labour Members bribed people with their own money; this Government are allowing people to keep their money in order to look after themselves, encouraging self-sufficiency and responsibility rather than the expectation that the state will look after them. We are moving in a direction that I am proud of, because we will have a country in which people are confident that if they invest, they will be able to keep more of their money without being taxed and in which people will be able to earn money without being penalised for doing so.

In my constituency and in many other parts of Wales, we are very dependent on the small business community, which was never understood by Labour Members; indeed, they do not understand it now. I will give an example of how bad Labour is at understanding business. Labour’s Minister for Finance in Wales says that she does not believe in capitalism and prefers Marxism. If she were a trade unionist or a Labour activist, I would understand that, but she is the Minister responsible for economic development in Wales and does not believe in capitalism. She should give up her job and get somebody better to do it who will ensure that Wales can benefit from the policies of this Government.

Every single one of the small businesses in my constituency will benefit from a reduction in employer’s national insurance contributions. Labour increased national insurance contributions for people employing staff; we are reducing them significantly. Some 35,000 businesses in Wales will benefit, 20,000 of which will pay no employer’s national insurance contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Andrew Griffiths) talked about small breweries and the fact that the beer duty escalator has been stopped, which is a good thing for the industry. In my constituency I have four small breweries that will benefit not only from the changes to the beer duty escalator, which was brought in by Labour, but from the reduction in employer’s national insurance contributions, allowing them to invest and to develop more opportunities for work in the area.

There is a 13% differential between the rate at which Labour would be taxing petrol and what this Government are doing. In a rural constituency such as mine, that is crucial—13p per litre makes a huge difference. Labour Members might not understand this because they do not understand rural areas, but in my part of the world there is an understanding that the changes to fuel duty and excise duties are crucial for a rural area that depends

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on self-employment and the small businesses that do understand the needs of the community and the need to invest in order to improve.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): What does the hon. Gentleman think would be the effect on rural and, indeed, urban communities in his constituency of a housing measure that will apparently subsidise people to buy second homes up to a value of £600,000?

Guto Bebb: We await clarity on that issue. However, I am absolutely terrified about the fact that the administration of that measure will be partly devolved to Wales, where the situation is astonishing. The NewBuy scheme was introduced by this Government in April 2012, but it has yet to be introduced in Wales. The Welsh Labour Government will introduce it in June 2013. In other words, 15 months after the money was made available, the Labour Government in Cardiff are still not helping people in my constituency who want support to buy new houses.

I am concerned that the Labour Government in Cardiff are not delivering. Their decisions on every single policy are made for political reasons to undermine the work of this coalition Government, and nowhere is that more the case than with how the Welsh Government refuse to co-operate with the Work programme. Many programmes in Wales are funded by money from the European social fund and they provide support to those who need it to get back into employment, but the Welsh Labour Government refuse to allow those individuals to access the Work programme and the ESF business support programmes at the same time. The Labour party’s commitment to employment growth in Wales is zero, while its commitment to wrecking the work of this coalition Government is 100% and total. The people of Wales realise the betrayal of their communities by the Labour party.

The fact of the matter is that, on every single issue, this Budget is making an effort, in very difficult circumstances, to help those people who want to help themselves. As a Member who represents an area that is very dependent on self-employment, I welcome the key decision to introduce the flat pension rate. For far too long, the option of self-employment was penalised by the pensions system. The move to a flat system whereby people will benefit by about £144 a week from a guaranteed state pension is crucial. The decision to become self-employed is a difficult one to make, especially so in Wales, where it is also difficult to then provide for a pension, because the position of the public sector is so different. I warmly welcome the fact that this Government are tackling the need for a fairer pension system. Every single person in my constituency—employed or self-employed—will realise that if they put money aside for their own pension, they will be supported by a Government who are committed to supporting people to do the right thing.

Finally, one of my concerns about the current economic situation relates to financing for small businesses. This is not a criticism of the Government. Time and again I meet representatives from banks who claim that they have money available but that there is a lack of demand for funding. We have heard the same complaints from the Labour party. The key thing is that MPs can do a lot

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of work on this matter. During the Easter recess I will hold two surgeries to tell businesses how to get themselves fit for the lending available. Circumstances have changed. The time when money was thrown at businesses has gone, but businesses that go to the banks with appropriate business plans and ideas for development and growth should and could access money at much cheaper rates than the Welsh Assembly-funded Finance Wales scheme. MPs can stand up in this Chamber and complain as much as they want, but the key thing is that we—I know that my Government colleagues do this—work with businesses to help them access that funding, rather than complain all the time in the way that the Labour party does.

3.3 pm

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb), whose analysis was wrong on so many levels. That is probably why he was rejected by Plaid Cymru, which, frankly, takes some doing.

It is worth remembering that in his June 2010 Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stood at the Dispatch Box and announced that the growth rate for 2013 would be 2.9%. In his autumn statement, just a few months ago in December 2012, he stood at the same Dispatch Box and announced that the rate would be 1.2%. Yesterday, humiliatingly for the Chancellor, he had to announce to the country that the Office for Budget Responsibility’s own statistics show that the projected growth rate for this year is a miserly 0.6%. It does not get any better, because the 2010 Budget’s projected growth for 2014 was 2.5%, which was downgraded by the autumn statement to 2%, and yesterday the Chancellor said that it would be 1.8%, which is, frankly, optimistic. It is worth remembering that in 2010, actual growth was 1.8%. This is a real humiliation for the Chancellor, because he has had to admit that for the last three years his growth strategy has been a no growth strategy, because there has not been any growth in our economy.

Of course, the Business Secretary admitted to that last year, when he wrote to the Prime Minister and said that his Government lacked a “compelling vision” for growth. He was absolutely right. I was pleased to hear him finally acknowledge from the Dispatch Box today that the Chancellor and the coalition Government got it wrong in 2010 when they cut the investment that this country so desperately needed. I do not recall any apology from the Business Secretary or the Chancellor before today. I might have missed it because I am not an avid reader of the Evening Standard, but I do not think that it was pre-briefed that they have got it wrong for the past three years. It is three years too late for many of our constituents. The Government snuffed out the recovery that was beginning in 2010.

I will refer briefly to some of the local initiatives and challenges in my Denton and Reddish constituency. In the short time I have left, I will then recognise the positive ideas in Lord Heseltine’s “No Stone Unturned” strategy. To be fair to Lord Heseltine, unlike most Members on the Government Benches, he understands what is needed to drive up growth in the English regions. A number of his initiatives should be taken on board.

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Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): My hon. Friend is stating things very clearly. Does he believe that this Government will allow Lord Heseltine’s proactive approach to regenerate the regions?

Andrew Gwynne: I very much doubt it; we can but hope. There are some good ideas that build on the many regional initiatives that the last Labour Government left in place in May 2010. The strategy almost reinvents the wheel, but I do not care who reinvents the wheel; the fact is that the wheel should never have been smashed up in the first place.

My Denton and Reddish constituency has been badly affected by unemployment. The figures that were released yesterday showed an increase in those claiming jobseeker’s allowance over the past 12 months. There are now 2,642 unemployed claimants in my constituency, which is 6% of the economically active population. The longer-term picture is far worse. The number of those claiming jobseeker’s allowance over the past 12 months has now gone up 32%. The figure has gone up 44% for young people and, staggeringly, for people over 25 claiming jobseeker’s allowance, the figure has gone up 70% in the past year.

Barbara Keeley: Is my hon. Friend as concerned as I am to learn from the OBR forecasts that unemployment has not peaked? It will peak later this year or early next year, so the figures that he and I have quoted will get worse.

Andrew Gwynne: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. She may have read the Manchester Evening News research, which showed that Tameside, which is part of my constituency, is the worst place in the north-west of England for young people to access job opportunities. There are real issues here that need to be resolved by Government.

Some good local initiatives are being pushed through by my two local authorities. One is Tameside, a Labour local authority, and the other is Stockport, a Liberal Democrat authority. They are doing their best in very tight circumstances, not least because every man, woman and child in Tameside is losing the equivalent of £163 in central Government grant to the local authority and Stockport is losing £94 per head of population.

We are seeing initiatives such as the introduction of town teams in Denton—I am proud that my office is represented on the Denton town team—and a pooled apprenticeship scheme in Tameside, which enables firms to reduce the risk in taking on apprentices. That initiative has been ably led by the leader of Tameside council, Councillor Kieran Quinn, who set out an ambition to have every young person in work or training by 2020. Tameside council has done a deal with New Charter Housing, the local registered social landlord, to ensure that one affordable house is built per week for the next three years. Stockport has the Stockport Boost initiative, its town centre is a Portas pilot, and there are huge opportunities along the M60 corridor with its close proximity to the airport city enterprise zone and the Grand Central redevelopment. That initiative is being pushed forward by the Greater Manchester combined authority and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities—a Labour-led, city region initiative.

Lord Heseltine talks about combined authorities and giving more responsibility to local enterprise partnerships, and that is where Greater Manchester takes a lead. He

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also mentions local leadership, which is a thorny issue. I personally support the idea of a Greater Manchester-wide mayor, and although I realise that others in the city region are not convinced, I at least welcome the debate started by Lord Heseltine in his report.

My final point—which I have already touched on—is about housing, which continues to be a big problem in my constituency. The new homes bonus announced by the Government in 2010 was supposed to unleash growth and help build at least 400,000 additional homes, but it has failed to deliver.

Mark Lazarowicz: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Andrew Gwynne: I will not as I do not have time. Housing starts fell by 11% last year to below 100,000—fewer than half the number required to meet housing need. The Government’s £10 billion guarantee scheme has yet to deliver a single penny of support for house building. There were a number of small things to be welcomed in the Budget, but there were no answers on growth or for communities such as Denton and Reddish. After three years of failure, it is time for a different approach.

3.12 pm

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): Following the speech by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) I feel I should point out that the Government do welcome Lord Heseltine’s report, which is why they have adopted the vast majority of his recommendations. I was also pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman mention the success of town teams and the Portas pilots, although he failed to mention that those initiatives were introduced by this Government.

I am sure, Mr Deputy Speaker, as a bit of context for this debate, that you will be familiar with the novel by Chris Mullin, a former Member of this House, called “A Very British Coup”—many Members will have read it; I think it was almost a manifesto for certain Opposition Members at one point. It tells the story of a left-wing Labour Government who run out of money and go cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund, but they cannot accept the terms that the IMF offers, so instead they go cap in hand to the Russians.

That scenario has, thankfully, been avoided here, but it is the meat and drink of a member of the eurozone and a European country, albeit a small country: Cyprus. It has lost control of its debts and spending and is in the awful position—as countries are when they get to this point—where the cuts it is being asked to make at this late stage are much worse than those it might have made earlier, at the right time. Countries find that they cannot go on borrowing for ever because one day the people lending the money will not lend it any more, or only at a rate so punitive that it cannot be accepted. That warning is live. It is affecting a member of the eurozone and may soon affect other countries. The Labour party ignore that peril, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer is steering this country away from it.

Throughout this debate Opposition Members, just as the shadow Chancellor and Leader of the Opposition did yesterday, have pointed out how much the country is borrowing and said that we are borrowing more than was forecast—a perfectly legitimate point. They are, however, much more reluctant to be drawn on whether they would borrow even more. The shadow Chancellor seems to be very happy when he is touring the news

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studios and sitting on the sofas to be a bit more frank and open about this, but he was asked about it twice in the debate and refused to answer both times. Last week, he was asked by Gavin Esler on “Newsnight” whether his plans would mean that the Labour party would borrow more, and his answer was, “Of course it would.” He is right. His plans do not come out of thin air. He must borrow the money to put in place the stimulus he wants. The reason he is not forthcoming is that he knows that that is not what the country wants. He knows that people are genuinely concerned about the high level of debt we have and about the costs we will put on future generations if we do not get on top of it now. He knows that people are looking at countries such as Cyprus and thinking, “That could happen here if we do not get a grip of our debts.”

Barbara Keeley: The hon. Gentleman does not hear what I hear from the shadow Chancellor. I heard him say, first, that we want a cut to VAT to stimulate the economy—the economy has been badly affected by the VAT increase—and, secondly, that we would use the proceeds from the 4G spectrum auction to build 100,000 houses, which would also stimulate the economy and the construction sector. My right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor does answer those questions; the hon. Gentleman should listen to him.

Damian Collins: I hear the shadow Chancellor tell us how he will spend the same money a number of times. A VAT holiday could not be paid for, and would be only a temporary measure—the rate would go back up again. It would be an artificial stimulus, and the country cannot afford any more of those. Why will Labour Members not have the courage of their convictions and say, “Yes, of course borrowing would go up. That is the truth of the matter.” That is what the shadow Chancellor said on “Newsnight”. When they challenge the Chancellor, it is like a sumo wrestler giving unsolicited advice on dieting. Their prescription is worse. They want to borrow more than we have borrowed. People need to understand that. I do not understand why Labour Members will not be up front about it.

What can we do to get our economy going? Labour Members do not like to talk about the growth in jobs, because the recovery of the private sector economy and its response to the measures put in place by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his series of Budgets is an inconvenient fact.

I was recently at the London launch of the campaign to market the east Kent regional growth fund. Doug Richard, the entrepreneur and former dragon on “Dragons’ Den”, was there to support the event. He is a great supporter of start-up businesses, particularly in the tech and digital sectors. He said that now is a great time not only to start a business—that is why we have a record number of private sector businesses in this country—but to go to the market to look for finance to set up a business. He highlighted, as have many entrepreneurs—particularly in the tech, creative and digital sectors, which are so important to the future growth of our economy—that initiatives such as the seed enterprise investment scheme, which the Chancellor mentioned in his Budget, provide great incentives to bring private sector money into start-up business, and to encourage individual investors to support the growth in those businesses.

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Mr Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): I accept what the hon. Gentleman says about those schemes, but the main funnel for credit provision to small businesses is the funding for lending scheme. That scheme is not working as effectively as we would want. Is he disappointed that there were no initiatives in the Budget to improve funding for lending to address the small business problem?

Damian Collins: We should look at the series of schemes and initiatives that have been put in place and accept that it sometimes takes time from the moment of their creation for the money to come through. Funding is now coming through for the regional growth fund for east Kent. A high-end engineering business in my constituency, HV Wooding, which supplies parts for the CERN hadron collider and grand prix engines, has received a grant of more than £1 million from the regional growth fund, which could create up to 50 sustainable, high-skilled engineering jobs at its factory in Hythe. Those are exactly the type of businesses we want to support. Money is also coming through the seed enterprise investment scheme to support creative businesses, and digital businesses in particular.

People can see the benefits that those schemes are creating in the economy. That is one reason why we see job creation in the economy and new business start-ups performing strongly. The measures put in place in the past four Budgets are starting to bear fruit, which we should appreciate and accept.

The help to buy scheme, launched by the Chancellor yesterday, is a bold and imaginative measure that could help to stimulate the housing market and construction sector. I have been in many debates in the past year in which people have said that the problem with the construction industry and the housing market is that builders are reluctant to commit to starting projects because they do not think that they will be able to sell the properties. The scheme put in place by the Chancellor will give them the confidence to start building, and will give people the confidence to start buying. That can have a dramatic impact on our housing sector.

As in the measure to support small and start-up businesses, the Chancellor is working with the grain of the aspirations of the British people to give them the opportunity to start a business or buy their own home, with the backing of the Government to do so. The hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) said that the cap on the cost of residential care—the implementation of the Dilnot measures—was still quite high, but at least it is there now, and we are saying for the first time that people who work and save all their lives, who set up a business or buy their own home, will not have all that taken away late in life. There will be a cap on their contributions so that they do not pay through the nose for something that other people get for free. That is part of supporting the aspirations of the British people, and I welcome the Budget.

3.21 pm

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): This is a Government whose central argument rests on the spurious claim that the economic crisis was national and all Labour’s fault up until 2010, and magically internationalised only after they came to power. With every passing day, the extent of that basic deception and the false conclusions drawn from it are exposed. We were told the pain would be worth it because the Chancellor

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would have the debt and the deficit under control by 2015. Now it will be 2017-18 and, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the current debt overshoot is likely to be £8 billion higher than predicted just three months ago.

This was the tomorrow budget for a tomorrow that never comes—almost anything of any value is put off until 2015 or beyond. With a Chancellor whose forecasts have proved worthless so far, just what kind of certainty does that provide? The Government’s claim is that the deficit is down by a third but the OBR’s figures show that it is down by less than a quarter, and there is no prospect of further cuts in the deficit in the next two years.

Richard Fuller: Does the hon. Gentleman think that the answer is to borrow more money?

Steve McCabe: The answer can be to borrow some money for investment, but not to squander it on rising unemployment and wasteful expenditure, which is what the Chancellor is doing. All the pain will simply be to stand still. The OBR has also pointed out that the public debt in 2015, rather than being the £37 billion the Chancellor originally promised, will actually be a staggering £108.4 billion. Just when are this lot going to learn that they have lost all right to lecture anybody about debt?

I welcome the cut in the duty on beer, although the VAT rise added 5p to a pint of beer, and the likely benefit of the measure will be offset by the loss of jobs and sales in the whisky industry, so it is not quite the achievement that some people might think. I am also pleased that the Chancellor has offered some certainty by scrapping, rather than postponing for the umpteenth time, the planned rise in petrol. The £3 billion lift in capital spending is welcome, but we need it now, not in 2015. His own fiscal rules allow him to borrow to invest: why does he not do so?

We can all welcome the cut in national insurance for small employers as probably the one genuinely growth-stimulating measure in the Budget. Perhaps that is not surprising, as it was our idea.

The Chancellor has once again promised a cut in corporation tax in 2015. Just like the now-forgotten triple A rating, stimulating inward investment by cuts to corporation tax is a Government mantra. It is not working, however. Foreign direct investment inflows to the UK fell between 2010 and 2011, and are now about a third of what they were before the crash. Meanwhile our total investment rate is 15% of GDP—the lowest in the G7—and our current account deficit is now at its highest since the 1980s. We are stifling opportunities for investment.

Legitimate foreign students are worth approximately £8 billion a year to the British economy, and that is being lost in pursuit of the Home Secretary’s immigration target. Simultaneously, she is letting in 30,000 people a year on temporary student visas that require no entry qualifications, no evidence of income and no guarantee of qualification. As usual, it is the wrong target at the wrong time. Similarly, the lack of Chinese tourists means that the very people we need to attract and to encourage to trade with us are now four times more likely to take their spending to France.

As usual, this was a Budget of missed opportunities. Where is the plan for a properly capitalised British investment bank of the kind operated by every other

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G7 country? There is nothing in the Budget about a target to decarbonise by 2030, but that is exactly the message that would provide certainty for the renewables supply chain and create jobs. Only one in 10 wind farm components are directly sourced in the UK. Why is it that the Chancellor is unable to see what everybody else can see?

The Chancellor called this a budget for an aspiration nation; it sounds more like alienation to me. He is presiding over what Professor Arnold Blumberg calls a zombie economy where rising inflation and no growth eats away at savings, strangles enterprise and innovation, and deprives small businesses of the capital and opportunities they need to grow. We have yet to see who the real beneficiaries of the abolition of stamp duty on share trading will be, but we know who it will not be. This is an alienation budget because the vast majority of our people are into their third year of pay cuts and falling livings standards, and the only ones doing okay are the millionaires in line for a tax cut. There is alienation as it emerges that the mortgage assistance scheme is actually a second home subsidy at the very time when the bedroom tax threatens to throw others out on to the street.

I invite the Chancellor to try listening to real people, like I do. Of those I surveyed in Selly Oak, 50% said that creating jobs and the conditions for jobs should be his top priority, 39% were worried about the rise in domestic gas and electricity prices, and 29% cannot make ends meet and will be forced into debt by his policies. The people of Selly Oak are a good barometer and they know what needs to be done. When will this Chancellor start to listen to real people and do the things that the country desperately needs?

3.28 pm

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe), who grudgingly accepted that there are good things in the Budget as well as things to condemn. A Budget is a snapshot in time that builds on previous Budgets. Good things have come out of previous Budgets and there are great things in this Budget.

One performance measure of an economy is the level of unemployment. In my constituency, in April 2005, the level of unemployment was 1,402. By the time the Labour Government left office in April 2010, it was 1,901. That is an increase of 36%, but then we all know that Labour Governments always leave office with higher unemployment than when they arrive. Now, however, unemployment is down to 1,632—a fall of 14% in three years—showing that despite the recession and the difficulties, the Government have got it right on encouraging and promoting employment.

Next month, 4,035 of my constituents will be taken out of tax completely by the Government’s increases in the personal allowance. More importantly, 40,101 working people in my constituency will get a tax reduction, which means they will have more money in their bank accounts to spend as they choose. One of the great measures is the new employment allowance, from which 145,000 businesses across London will gain. They will be able to employ people without having to pay national insurance contributions. Furthermore, 75,000 of those businesses will pay nothing at all for the people they

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recruit, which has got to be great news. Combined with the abolition of the fuel and beer duty escalators, that means that the Government have got it right on taxation.

I want to dedicate most of my speech to the treatment of Equitable Life policyholders. For 13 years, when Labour ran the country, it refused to do anything about the 1 million people who suffered as a result of this scandal. I am proud to belong to a party and a Government who have taken steps to assist the victims. In 2010, the coalition Government honoured our election pledges to compensate the victims of that fiasco. The claimants asserted that £5.2 billion-worth of compensation would be needed, if full compensation was to be paid. Clearly, given the economic position, we could not afford that, so £1.5 billion was set aside to ensure that the victims received due recompense.

The victims split into three groups. The first group comprised the 37,000 with-profit annuity policyholders, who have received full compensation for the losses that resulted from the scandal for which the then Government, the regulator and Equitable Life were responsible. The nearly 900,000 people who took out pension plans have also been compensated, but at a much lower level, because they had the alternative of transferring their pension plans elsewhere. Unfortunately, however, owing to how the scheme was implemented, the people who were most vulnerable and most desperately in need of assistance—those whose money was trapped in their pension plans because they took them out before 1 September 1992—received no compensation at all.

Mr Love: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his campaign. Will he be campaigning for further compensation for those who have not received anything thus far?

Bob Blackman: I shall come to that when I conclude my remarks.

Some 10,000 of the most vulnerable people received no compensation at all. The all-party group on justice for Equitable Life policyholders put forward clear evidence that they suffered as much as the people being compensated. We pointed out that they could not have known before 1 September 1992 that this scandal was going on, and that they had suffered and lost money like all the others. It has taken a long time and a lot of persuasion, and my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury listened with great patience, weighed the evidence and proposed to the Chancellor that the pre-1992 trapped annuitants receive compensation. I am delighted to congratulate the Chancellor and his team on listening to the evidence, weighing it up and saying, “Yes, we got it slightly wrong.” All the people I have mentioned will now get £5,000 in compensation automatically, as an ex gratia payment without taxation, while those on pension credit will get an additional £5,000. It is not the full compensation that we would like to see, but it is a recognition of the fact that every policyholder suffered as a result of the scandal and will be repaid.

Let me turn to the intervention by the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr Love). The campaign continues. The policyholders have not received the full compensation that they are due or the compensation that has been promised—it is still being paid. My clarion call to my colleagues on the Front Bench is this. Let us ensure that they receive the money—particularly the trapped annuitants —as fast as possible, because since we started the campaign

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in 2010, 1,000 of the trapped annuitants have sadly died, and they are dying each day. We want to see people compensated and receiving their money as fast as possible, so that they can enjoy their retirement in a reasonable way. I say thank you to my colleagues on the Front Bench, but with this word of warning: we will carry on campaigning and ensuring that the compensation is paid as it should be.

Finally, I want to refer to housing. Currently, banks and financial institutions are demanding a 25% deposit before they will allow people to get a loan for a mortgage. In my constituency, prices start at £300,000 for a two-bedroom flat. A detached house can be up to £1 million or more. A reasonable three-bedroom property is of the order of £500,000. Imagine trying to find £125,000 as a deposit to buy a family home. It is almost impossible and beyond the reach of ordinary working people. I therefore welcome what the Government are doing to support them. We want to get the housing market moving, with new properties being built and existing properties passed on, so that the starter homes can be used by new people.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. To accommodate the remaining speakers we are moving to a five-minute limit.

3.37 pm

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman). I acknowledge the effective advocacy that he has provided for Equitable Life annuitants. I commend him and the Chancellor and his ministerial colleagues for addressing that outstanding injustice. The issue now is to deliver not just the solution that has been designed, but the outcome that people deserve.

There are some things in the Budget that it would be churlish of me not to acknowledge from a Northern Ireland perspective. Our exclusion from the carbon price floor is hugely important, given that Northern Ireland is part of a single electricity market in Ireland. The effect of the price floor would have been to skew investment in our generating capacity in a way that would have penalised business and consumers. I am therefore glad that Ministers woke up to the problems that many of us have been raising in the Chamber for so long, ever since the measure was announced.

We already know that there is some confusion about aspects of the Budget, such as Help to Buy, the mortgage support scheme. The shadow Chancellor has rightly raised some issues and questions about the scheme, but let us be clear: whether or not it will support people with buy-to-let mortgages, there is to be no income cap whatever on the people qualifying for it. At a time when people here are all about the “aspiration nation”, there are a lot of people out there who just feel exasperation that a scheme such as this should come along with no income cap. Meanwhile, they have suffered the loss of child benefit, on which there is an income cap, starting at £50,000, with payments ending completely at £60,000. Those people are exasperated too when they hear, “Oh yes, child care benefits are coming”—in two and a half

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years’ time. Government Members used to criticise the former Chancellor and Prime Minister when he produced Budgets and made announcements about things that would be introduced in two or three years’ time but sold them as though they were happening at the time. They rightly criticised him for that, yet they are cheering on their own Chancellor for doing exactly the same thing, while people are suffering the loss of support for caring for their children.

The Chancellor talked a lot yesterday about investing in new energy sources, but we needed to hear about investing in energy efficiency. He talked about new house building schemes to help the construction sector, but the sector is screaming out for support for repairs, maintenance and retrofitting to support energy efficiency in our existing housing stock. Many people want to stay where they are and to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, and they should be supported in that, not least through proper, targeted VAT relief and reductions.

Similar VAT reductions should be targeted at the tourism sector. That is happening in quite a number of EU member states. It is allowed, it is effective and it traps the multipliers here at home. I do not agree with the proposals for a blanket reduction in VAT for a particular period, as it could suck in all sorts of imports and send other money out of the country. We should target VAT reductions where they will produce real benefit in home sectors, and such targeting on the construction and tourism sectors would help.

Mark Lazarowicz: I agree with my hon. Friend’s point about targeting help, particularly on building maintenance and repair and on tourism. Does he agree that one benefit of such targeting is that it would take effect very quickly and would be likely to help small business and small traders? Many of the housing measures announced yesterday were welcome, but they will mainly benefit the bigger builders. The VAT cuts that my hon. Friend is suggesting would provide a quick way of boosting the economy and helping many of the people who need help now.

Mark Durkan: I fully accept my hon. Friend’s point. The multipliers would get into gear far faster under that sort of measure than under some of the other measures that have been proposed, welcome though they are in their own context.

Certain aspects of the Budget served notice of more pain to come. The Chancellor spoke yesterday about changes that he will be making through annually managed expenditure. That sounds like a dry, technical change, but it will have a significant impact in relation to the controls that are being placed on welfare spending. We have already had the Welfare Reform Act 2012, which changed many of the rules, structures and qualifying criteria for benefits. It was designed in such a way as to allow for wide regulatory powers to place further changes and squeezes on benefits without the need for further primary legislation.

It is clear that, by moving to change the rules relating to annually managed expenditure, the Chancellor is trying to put in place more fixed envelopes for welfare spending. That will have particular implications for the way in which social security spend is managed in Northern Ireland, because the money comes to Northern Ireland not as part of the departmental expenditure

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limit—the DEL—but as annually managed expenditure. If that is now to be subject to some fixed-envelope procedure and capped in advance, it will put serious stress on the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Assembly is in the bizarre position of having to pass karaoke legislation that has to be exactly the same as that passed here, but it is notionally responsible for the administrative discretion on delivery. That will be a fundamental challenge for us in Northern Ireland, and we all need to wake up to that fact.

We need to be as alert to that challenge as the Executive have been on the case for corporation tax. I can see where the Chancellor is going with that, but his rate of travel in regard to corporation tax UK-wide means that, by the time any concession is delivered to Northern Ireland, the marginal benefits it will give us will be a lot less.

Damian Collins: The hon. Gentleman is talking about business. Will he welcome the introduction of the employment allowance, and the benefit that it will bring to small businesses in Northern Ireland?

Mark Durkan: Yes, I welcome that. Labour has advocated it as well; it is a good, sensible measure that I know many firms will take up.

Similarly, I welcome the increase in the personal allowance, although it will perhaps not benefit as many people in my constituency as in the constituencies of some Government Members who have mentioned the measure. That is because my constituency has very high unemployment and high rates of economic inactivity. The problem in my constituency is the lack of work, not the lack of a work ethic. I will support any measures in the Budget or anywhere else that will ensure that more people can find work, embrace and express their aspirations and ambitions and make a contribution to their community and society.

The Chancellor is introducing fiscal apps and things in regional and city economies here in Britain that I would like to see our Executive and Assembly emulate at home in Northern Ireland. I would like to see the devolution discretion used a lot more to give us more creative capacity. When I see some of the measures in the Budget, I recognise that there is some constructive engagement to get the economy going again, but we need to get our share of it.

3.44 pm

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan), who represents a very different part of the United Kingdom from the one I represent. It is always informative to listen to his contributions, and I always learn something from them.

There are some very good points in the Budget for the people of Bedford and Kempston. The cuts in national insurance rates—Labour’s job tax—are a welcome change, meaning that the people of Bedford are more likely to have a job. When they travel to work in their cars, they can look at the petrol pump and see that fuel duty has been frozen. When they arrive at work, they will know that at the end of the day, thanks to the increase in the personal allowance, they will keep more of the money they have earned. When they get home in

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the evening and go out to the pub with their mates, they can raise a pint to the Chancellor and say, “Thank you very much for scrapping that other iniquity of our tax system left by the last Labour Government—the beer duty escalator.” Those are all very welcome measures. On fuel duty, it is particularly important for everyone to realise that when they fill up their tank and look up at the price per litre, 13p of that is Labour’s price on fuel, which applies every time we fill up our cars.

Let me draw your attention, Mr Deputy Speaker, and that of Members to page 12 of the Red Book, which features an interesting chart—I see Members avidly reaching for it—showing the growth of debt in this country from the mid-1990s until 2010. It shows that the last Labour Government left this country as the most indebted nation on earth. They grew our debt—this does not include Government debt, which has to be added on top—from two times to five times the size of the economy. That is a massive debt that must be paid for by our children and grandchildren. I wonder whether the Economic Secretary would consider adding the Government debt to this chart and requiring to be displayed on a poster in every single school, so that our children know what they are going to have to pay back owing to the policies pursued by the last Labour Government. Their policies were an abject failure of economic management.

In the private sector, when companies have poorly performing management, we fire them and bring in other people. In the Labour party, they promote them.

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): He’s pointing at me!

Richard Fuller: The Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Chancellor were promoted, yet their fingers are all over this increase in debt. I must say that the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) has it right. Those two are acting as bed blockers for more talented people on the Opposition Front Bench. Let us hope there will be a change in that regard some day.

Let me say more broadly, if I may—I sometimes get a little controversial—that the debates I have heard in this place since becoming a Member of Parliament have reinforced my view that the political class has let down the people of this country, regardless of political party. The debt is not just the fault of the last Labour Government but of the country as a whole, which had got itself into terrible levels of debt.

There are two ways of looking at the problem. The Government are borrowing £1 billion every three days, the interest on which amounts to £15 million. So, every three days, £15 million has to be taken out of the budget for our schools and our hospitals. That is a very considerable burden that places pressure on the Government, and I say to the Economic Secretary that I am not sure the Government have done enough to bring public expenditure under control. We have to go further. We need to look at the Heseltine review of the way the Government spend their money—not as an end-point, but as a starting-point for a much more radical reform of how we provide our cherished public services, so that we can deliver on the promise of providing more for less money.

In my remaining time, let me mention the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme. I have read the scheme outline and there are some interesting charts in it, but an important chart is missing—that for the loan-to-value ratio over time.

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Andrew Griffiths: Does my hon. Friend share the joy of many first-time buyers in my constituency at the fact that this will give them a real chance to get on the housing ladder?

Richard Fuller: I appreciate my hon. Friend’s intervention, but I am not sure that I can share his joy. The impetus behind this Treasury document is the notion that enhancing loan-to-value ratios of 95% is somehow a good policy, and I need some more reassurance about that.

Let us compare the average house bought in 1997 at the average loan-to-value ratio of 80% with the average house bought in 2007—after all that price inflation—at a 95% loan-to-value ratio. Over the 20 or 25 years of their mortgage, the people who bought the average house in 2007 will have to spend £234,000 more than those who bought the average house in 1997. Increasing loan-to-value ratios depresses people’s ability to spend money on other things, because they are spending more on their mortgages. I want some more reassurance from the Treasury that this scheme will not have unintended consequences for their ability to spend money appropriately in relation to their incomes.

Mark Lazarowicz: Is not another possible unintended consequence of the measure the setting off of regionally based house price spirals, exacerbating some of the regional differences that other measures in the Budget are intended to address?

Richard Fuller: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point, but I do not see that that would be a problem in this instance. In fact, the scheme might counteract the problem. However, it is clear that the issue needs to be sorted out as what is currently an outline becomes a fully developed scheme.

Let me end by making a fundamental point. Every politician in the House must recognise that our debt burden presents us all with a challenge to do more with less. The answer is not to continue kicking the can down the road. We must face up to our responsibilities, and we owe it to the generations to come to do that quickly, while interest rates are low, rather than waiting to see what—as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins)—may happen if they suddenly start to spike, and we find ourselves in a much more difficult position in trying to bring Government spending back under control.

3.52 pm

Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): I am extremely grateful not only to have been called to speak, but to follow the hon. Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller), because I intend to use his speech as a launchpad for my own. I have a great deal of sympathy with much of what he said. In particular, I agree with him that the rising level of private sector debt in the economy is worrying—much more worrying than the rising level of public sector debt during the earlier period to which he referred.

However, the most important question for the House to answer is this. Given that members of all parties know there is a massive problem in our economy—the mountain of debt that is at this moment being added to our existing national debt—why do Ministers refuse to face up to it?

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Where would we have been, had the OBR’s initial assessment been correct? By this point in the present Parliament, our economy would have grown by 5% or 6%, there would have been a solid and recognisable recovery, and further scope for a reduction in public spending as the deficit went down. Instead, we have seen growth of between 0% and 1%, and we know that, in this first quarter of 2013, we are a margin of error away from a triple-dip recession—let alone the double-dip recession that has already happened. There is clearly a lack of confidence, not just consumer confidence but confidence among businesses and elsewhere, preventing investment and the securing of the growth we need.

The result of all this—the result of the halving of growth in the most recent Budget assessment, and of the Chancellor’s having not only to downgrade his own assessments of growth but to upgrade the amount he will have to borrow every time he comes to the Dispatch Box—is quite simple. We are adding an incredible amount of debt to the economy, and the Government are giving no clear indication of what they are going to do. The pain experienced by my constituents, and by many of our constituents throughout the country, can be tempered only by a sense that we are getting somewhere in sorting out the problem that has been created.

However, the sad assessment is that we have wasted three years in getting there. The debt has continued to rise. When Government Members say, “We are paying down Britain’s debts”, either they are being ignorant of the facts or something more sinister is going on. No debt has been paid down by this Government. In their five years, this Government will have borrowed more than was borrowed during the 13 years of the previous Labour Government, and that was true even before yesterday’s horror-show figures. We know that at the end of this Parliament the deficit will still be in the tens of billions of pounds; I believe the figure will be £70 billion in the final year of this Parliament. We know that last year, this year and next year the deficit remains, in essence, unchanged, at about £120 billion.

Many of us choose not to talk about this next issue. Many Government Members would say privately that they are deeply concerned about the Government’s economic strategy, but they will not talk about it in this Chamber. The shocking thing is the effect that is having on the general public’s perception of what is going on in the real economy. All the polling shows us that only about one in 10 people understands that the debt is going up, rather than going down or remaining the same. The public believe, by and large, that these cuts are productive. They confuse—possibly because the Government themselves have confused—the debt and the deficit, but, believe it or not, this Government will borrow more in their period in office than the previous Labour Government did in 13 years. We need to call them out on that as clearly as we can.

For a plan to work, it needs to be credible. What do I mean by that? First, a proper plan is needed. This Government said that they had one—Labour had one going into the last election. Secondly, the belief is needed that the Government will see it through. This Government say they will see it through, even though they are clearly not keeping to the plan. We believe that the best way to make a credible case for seeing it through would be an Act of Parliament stating that the deficit will be halved in four years. The third test of a credible plan is: does it work? I ask in the simplest way

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I can: on what measure is the Chancellor’s economic plan working? The answer is none whatsoever, and that presents real challenges to our constituents and to our country.

3.57 pm

Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon) (Con): Given the time constraints, this will, obviously, be a bit of a whistle-stop tour. However, I will set out some of my Budget highlights and, with each one, something on my wish list to try to be constructive for the Government. First, I very much welcome the £10,000 personal allowance. As we know, that is a tax cut for 24 million people and 2.7 million people will be completely taken out of paying income tax. This is genuinely a reward for people doing the right thing.

Some excellent work by the TaxPayers Alliance has highlighted a chronic lack of understanding of the impact of changes to taxation in people’s own payslips. In this week’s The Spectator, I set out a request that when changes to pay-as-you-earn made by any future Government, of any colour, kick in, they should be explained on the employee’s payslip. In that way, we can get greater engagement. I know through my work on the all-party group on financial education for young people that because we now have so many direct debits and standing orders, people are disfranchised from their own bank accounts. Therefore, setting out the information I suggest will help.

I welcome the various measures to support business, such as the 20p rate of corporation tax and the £2,000 employment allowance. It will make a huge difference in the south-west, as 85,000 employers will gain and 40,000 will be taken out of paying national insurance altogether. Some 1.25 million private sector jobs have been created and a quarter of a million new businesses have started since we came to power. My constituency has seen the fastest increase in the number of start-up businesses in the south-west. It is also crucial that we continue to support businesses looking to export to emerging economies such as Brazil, India and China, so that we are not so exposed to the turbulence in the European Union.

I also want more to be done to help promote young entrepreneurs. We all support that principle, but young people face a challenge, as I find when I talk to business students. I was the only one of the 350 who studied business on my university course who ended up running their own business and employing people. When I ask business students whether they would like to run a business, all the hands go up and they are extremely enthusiastic; they have been enthused by “The Apprentice” and “Dragons’ Den”. When I then ask how many will do it, all the hands go back down, because they simply do not know how. When people choose to go to university or take on an apprenticeship—the number of which has increased massively—a clear, defined career path is laid out for them. If they tick the box, get the grades and pass the application process, that is what they will do. We need to do a lot more in that regard.

A couple of weeks ago, I set up a scheme with Swindon college to support a local charity, the Prospect hospice. Those who took part were each given £10 to raise money by trading in the Blunsdon market, a tough trading environment, and between them they raised more than £711. One team was so successful that the

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market has asked them to come back in the summer holidays to give it a go. Our town centre is looking to use the high street money provided through the Mary Portas scheme to set up pop-up shops, and has also made an offer to that team of very successful girls. Those who are interested might like to hear that they ran a 1950s tea shop-style café, dressed in 1950s clothes and played 1950s music; they understood customer service. My request is that we do more to set out clear career paths in business.

I welcome the good news on fuel duty. People have mentioned the 13p price difference—it is 59p if we use gallons, and sounds even more impressive. Whenever I use cutting-edge social media such as Facebook to conduct a “Fantasy Chancellor” poll and ask about the one thing people would do, fuel duty is always the most popular issue. I ask for no return to the 12 hikes in 13 years we saw under the previous Government. They regarded motorists as an easy hit, but the cost has a tangible effect on people.

The excellent news on beer duty is a credit to my hon. Friends the Members for Burton (Andrew Griffiths), for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) and for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland). I am a proud member of the save the pub group and the all-party group on beer. I had a text from the wonderful Arkell’s brewery in my constituency, which very much welcomed the move. It is important to the sector.

Andrew Griffiths: I thank my hon. Friend for his sterling support for the campaign to scrap the beer duty escalator. Earlier, he mentioned the work of the TaxPayers Alliance. Will he join me in congratulating the TPA on its “Mash Beer Tax” campaign, and The Sun newspaper on its fabulous campaign to scrap the beer duty escalator?

Justin Tomlinson: Absolutely. I also commend the constructive and proactive way they lobbied politicians on both sides of the House, so that they realised what a benefit such a move would be to the local economy, as well as for those who enjoy the odd pint in their local pub. It is cause for rejoicing.

I have two further requests. A considerable number of pubs are starting to provide food as a mainstream part of their offer. More needs to be done to encourage hospitality and catering students to consider becoming landlords, as a lot of breweries are struggling to find younger landlords. Secondly, I urge the Minister to consider the excellent work of my hon. Friend the Member for Burton and to commission him to look more widely than the beer duty: to consider why we are losing pubs and what more we can do in that regard, just as we commissioned Mary Portas to carry out the high street review.

Guto Bebb: Is my hon. Friend aware that the increase in the personal allowance can be crucial for businesses such as public houses, which are often run by a husband and wife working in partnership? Our changes mean that such partnerships can make a profit of £20,000 without paying a penny in tax.

Justin Tomlinson: Absolutely. The industry can react quickly and provide flexible employment opportunities, and it is a major contributor to local economies across the country.

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The Help to Buy scheme will provide £3.5 billion to help those wanting to get on to or move up the property ladder. I know that more details need to be considered, but we should think not only of the people who will benefit directly but of the huge numbers of people in the house building industry. Over the past 20 years, Swindon has been pretty much the fastest growing town, and a huge number of local residents are connected to that industry. They will welcome any measure to help restore confidence in the housing market.

We come up with these fantastic schemes, and I was challenged on local radio last night about whether this scheme would catch on. As entertaining as we all think we are, our wonderful debates in the Chamber often pass the public by. As the scheme comes into force in 2014, it would be nice to promote it in the annual council tax bill. The councils have already paid for the postage, so let us put a little information flyer in with the bill so that people can see what opportunities there are and whether they apply to them.

Finally, I want to talk about business rates, on which I would have liked a little more to have been done. Our high streets are struggling and business rates are becoming a bigger burden, with landlords lowering rents and so on. I was fortunate enough to become a member of the Public Accounts Committee, but one of my biggest disappointments is that that happened 24 hours after Starbucks and Amazon had their hearing. Amazon kindly came to meet me yesterday and it is fair to say that we rowed. Its actions over tax and transferring money to Luxembourg are disgraceful. The company is not operating on an even playing field. We have to investigate some form of internet consumer tax for such organisations, but with every single penny ring-fenced to subsidise the business rates of the traditional high street. If the high street struggles any more, Amazon will also struggle because the high street is the shop window. I have spoken to a number of independent retailers who provide the customer service—and consumers then simply pick up the phone and order from Amazon. Let us create a fair playing field for all retailers.

4.4 pm

Mr Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): I will try to be as quick as I can because I know that others want to make a contribution to this debate.

I will not get into the knockabout. If we are all honest with one another, every Government who come in after a period out of office inherit problems that they have to tackle. I am not running away from the fact that because of what the previous Government did to support banks, this Government were landed with a bigger problem than any of us would have wanted.

The debate this afternoon has been interesting. The hon. Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Gavin Shuker) and the hon. Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) all mentioned one word, which is vital to everything we do within the economy, and that word is confidence. Without confidence, we are going nowhere, and growth runs hand-in-hand with confidence.

I took the opportunity last night to speak to about a dozen people in my constituency. I had given them a commitment. Some were small business owners and they pointed out that some of the commitments that the

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Government gave yesterday were about what lies in the future, not about how they were going to get from where we are in 2013 to 2015. My constituency is in an area that depends very much on small and medium-sized enterprises for running the local economy, and there is little confidence out there in my locality.

On the concept of the private sector providing jobs, only this week I have heard announcements of the loss of 36 jobs in two private sector companies, one in the food industry and one in engineering. It is a different picture in different parts of the country.

Youth unemployment rose to 9.8% in my constituency yesterday—1,080 young people. For the fourth month running, unemployment overall rose and stands at more than 3,500. I want to say something about those young unemployed people. The issue is about more than just a job. One of my colleagues on the Opposition Benches—I will not mention names—shared some information with me. He had asked some questions about mental health problems and the astonishing figure came back to show that 32.9% of 16 to 25-year-olds have a mental health problem. That may be just depression or stress, but the figure is 32.9%. When we look at those figures region-wide and overlay them on to the youth unemployment figures, the result is frightening. The figures merge together. It is more than people just being out of work. Long-term ill health can begin to set in.

I say to the Government and the Treasury team dealing with the Budget that we do not want a re-run of what we experienced in this country in the 1980s and early 1990s, when we ended up with long-term second and third generation unemployed, a situation that my party tried to tackle. It is not good for individuals, families or communities and, above all else, it is not good for the country.

The Budget contained measures for small and medium-sized enterprises, which I would love to have seen happening sooner. I have concerns about what is being proposed in respect of house building. Is the confidence there for private sector house building? I would much prefer to see more money invested in public sector housing.

Finally, I shall mention something that is dear to the hearts of my constituents in a rural area—road fuel prices. Although he is not here, I want to mention the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr Reid). He does himself no credit, nor does anyone else, by saying that had a Labour Government been in office, road fuel would have cost 13p or 18p a litre extra. The price at the pumps today is a false price, with crude oil priced at $93. When we had the same price at the pumps previously, crude oil was $140 per barrel, so we have a false price. The weak pound is ratcheting the price up, and with a weak pound and no increase in exports, there is a problem lying in the undergrowth. That problem could well be inflation, and I would like to hear the Minister say something about that when he winds up.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. The wind-ups will start no later than 4.40 pm.

4.10 pm

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): It is good to follow the hon. Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Brown), and I agree with him that it is all about

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confidence. I believe that the Budget will help to produce confidence in this country, especially in my constituency, where many people are not on the highest wages. Taking people out of tax right up to nearly £10,000 is absolutely the right way to go. The previous Government spent far too much time on a complex tax system, but it is much better to take people out of tax altogether so that they know that they can earn up to a certain amount—nearly £10,000 in this case—before having to pay any tax.

It is also right to reduce national insurance contributions, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses, because they will generate the most jobs. The reduction makes it less expensive to employ people, and that is what the Budget is about. Our economy must be, and will be, more competitive, because we are in a very competitive world and we need to compete. I think that the Budget will bring that about.

I echo what many Members, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), have said about Equitable Life and all the people who will now be compensated for policies prior to 1992, which have not previously been compensated. Many of those people are elderly and frail, so I urge the Government to get the money to them as quickly as possible. They were hard-working people who put money away for their retirement and basically were robbed in one way or another. I really thank the Chancellor and the Government for agreeing to those payments, but they need to be made quickly.

On infrastructure, there is a wonderful road, the A30 and the A303, running east from Honiton, and it needs to be dualled—there is no doubt about it. We want to dual that road until we get into Wiltshire, where we might encounter problems with a few stones. I will not say which stones, but I think that Members probably know what they are—Stonehenge. There are all sorts of problems around there, but let us not worry about that. Let us move from Honiton up through Devon and Somerset and into Wiltshire, and let us get that road built. We need a second arterial route into the west country, because tourism is so important to us, and it is linked to agriculture and many of our other industries.

That brings me to fuel and fuel duty. My constituency is only 10 miles wide, but it is 42 miles long and covers over 400 square miles. It starts up in Exmoor and meets the sea at Seaton. My constituents live mainly in villages and hamlets. If they wait for a bus, it might never come. If it does come, it probably is not going where they want to go. I am being slightly facetious, but the point is that bus services in many rural areas do not stack up economically, however much subsidy we throw at them, so fuel and cars are not a luxury; they are an essential. Therefore, every time we raise fuel duty, we tax people’s means of getting to work. That is why I congratulate the Chancellor on freezing fuel duty. It is now 13p less than it was when Labour was in power. I am also delighted about the 1p reduction in beer duty, although I remind the Chancellor that the west country and Devon are, of course, full of cider producers, so I ask him please not to forget them.

I think that the support for home buyers, particularly first-time buyers, is a wonderful idea, because many people in my constituency are on low wages, but house prices are upwards of £220,000, so they really need help with deposits. If this Conservative-led Government are about anything, they must be about getting more people

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to own their own homes and look after themselves, and this support is one way of helping them to do that. I am absolutely delighted to see it happening. We inherited a huge amount of debt and we are doing our very best to reduce it. I look forward to the Budget having a very positive effect in my constituency and across the country.

4.15 pm

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): We are told that a number of announcements in the Budget will encourage investment in infrastructure and growth. I hope that these policies do have that effect, because that would be welcome. They are being announced again because the policies announced in the other Budgets since the election have, as yet, signally failed to bring about such growth. There is plenty of evidence about how slowly they are benefiting infra- structure and investment. The recent National Audit Office report on the national infrastructure plan pointed out that although developers notified the Government of 99 infrastructure projects under the plan, by December 2012 only three had been determined, six were expecting a decision within three months, and the remaining 90 were not even at a decision stage.

An example of announcements about infrastructure taking a long time to have an effect is the Caledonian sleeper service from London to Scotland, on which I have been involved in campaigning. It was announced in 2011 and announced again in 2012. The money for it will probably start flowing through into carriages and stations from late 2014 onwards, until perhaps 2017 or 2018. It is obviously a very good investment, but it will not have an effect on boosting the economy in 2013. It did not have that effect in 2012 or 2011, and it will not do so until 2015 onwards. What can be said of that project is certainly true of many of the other investment projects that the Government have been trying to encourage and bring about.

The Government know that they have to do more to get results in terms of boosting the economy. That is why at least some in the Government appear to want to set off a new housing boom before 2015. Of course, we all want to see the encouragement of affordable, or relatively affordable, housing for first-time buyers and people who cannot get on to the housing ladder, and we certainly want to see the desperately needed boost for the construction industry that would come from such measures. However, it is a different thing to promote a scheme that would apparently help anyone of any income to buy a house costing up to £600,000 in any part of the country. That would inevitably run a high risk of setting off an unsustainable house price boom, which, as we have learned from previous experience, is precisely the kind of thing that many parts of the country do not need. It also creates a great danger of exacerbating some of the regional economic differences that the measures in the Budget are supposedly trying to address.

When the Secretary of State was asked about this measure, he told us, in his usual emollient way, that the details are being discussed and that more consideration is going on. Most of us in the Chamber could already hear the gears crunching as the Government prepared another U-turn, or, alternatively, the Secretary of State personally distanced himself from Government policy. This policy is being spun in the media, no doubt by someone in the Treasury. It is not so much about

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helping people who need housing as trying to get a housing boom in 2015, and it is the wrong approach. The Government say that they are going to introduce a policy that would help people on whatever income, in whatever part of the country, to buy houses costing up to £600,000. That would particularly benefit people with high earnings in areas that already get a great deal of benefit from economic activity.

I hope that the Minister will soon clarify the scope of this policy. We all want support for first-time buyers and people who need housing, but we certainly do not want an unrestrained re-stimulation of the unsustainable housing booms that we have seen in the past.

4.19 pm

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): The good constituents of Hexham will welcome action on fuel duty, support for the victims of Equitable Life, action on increased infrastructure, tax-free child care, decreases in corporation tax, support for business and the raising of the personal allowance up to £10,000 by 2014, which will take millions more low-paid people out of tax altogether.

The action on fuel duty is the most important thing to the people of Hexham and Northumberland. There is a stark contrast between a Labour Government who raised fuel duty 10 times in 13 years and this Government who have managed, even in these difficult times, either to keep it flat or to reduce it. I listened to the speech by the hon. Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Brown), with whom I have debated fuel duty on many occasions, and it was as if I lived on a different planet, certainly not the one on which the previous Prime Minister increased fuel taxes. The reality is that the hon. Gentleman and I have the same sorts of constituents and this Government are looking after them with regard to what is the most important issue to them, namely fuel. The previous Government kept raising fuel prices. They were woeful.

Mr Russell Brown: All I will say, as I have told the hon. Gentleman before, is that the previous Government—this is a fact—froze or abandoned potential increases on 13 occasions over nine years.

Guy Opperman: There may have been plenty of times when the previous Government chose not to raise prices, but they did increase them on 10 occasions, and those with long memories in Northumberland and in Scotland remember that. [Interruption.] Opposition Members may chunter, but that is the bottom line.

The full acceptance of the Heseltine report was particularly welcomed in the north-east. It was specifically called for by the north-east chamber of commerce and has been welcomed by business. Exports from the north-east are up, jobs have improved dramatically since May 2010, and the number of apprentices has doubled. There has been a dramatic improvement. The Corus plant was shut by the previous Government—it was the titanic industrial issue in the build up to the 2010 election—but reopened by this coalition Government.

This Budget comes at a time of self-examination in the north-east. The January declaration and Lord Adonis’s review of the north-east, which I am contributing to and support wholeheartedly, are making a real difference

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to understanding how the region can improve itself. That is an example of proper self-examination from a detached standpoint.

Bank lending is another important issue. I welcome the Business Secretary’s statement on developments on the business bank and the fact that the Opposition have finally begun to realise that local community banking is a good idea. Sadly, when I invited the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright), to support my campaign for local community banks in a debate on manufacturing on 24 November 2011, he declined to do so, and the point was raised with him again on the same day the following year. The proof of the pudding lies in the fact that, during an April 2012 debate on the Financial Services Bill, the Labour party voted against clauses in favour of greater competition for local banks, greater ease of entry and greater ability to open a local bank. Why would Labour Members vote against greater competition and a local community bank that makes money for the community, with profits going back to the community? It is illogical in the extreme.

I welcome the fact that the Labour party has finally come on board and accepted that local community banking is a good thing. It has taken a while and I hope that Labour Members will back up what they are saying in public with votes in support of greater competition for local people. It is vital that our campaign for local community banks continues. The work done by the Financial Services Authority is to its credit. It has made it much easier to set up a community bank.

Neil Parish: I agree with my hon. Friend about bank lending. Does he agree that getting greater competition locally is essential so that businesses can get better rates of interest and better deals with banks?

Guy Opperman: That is entirely the case. As we all know, 75% of bank lending in this country comes from the big banks and few smaller community banks are supported. The decline in local lending is definitely affecting SMEs.

There were four challenges to the creation of new local banks. First, there was a lack of legislation to facilitate such changes. We passed that legislation in the Financial Services Act 2012. The second challenge was the length and complexity of the authorisation process. That has been reduced through our work with the FSA, so it is now much easier to set up a smaller bank, whether it is a bank established by an industrialist to back a local community or an infrastructure bank like Cambridge & Counties bank or Hampshire Trust.

Thirdly, the level of capital that new banks were required to hold used to be very high. They were effectively judged exactly as Barclays would be judged. That has also changed. The FSA has made it very clear, as I have demonstrated in this House by reading out letters to me from the FSA, that it requires lower amounts of capital on an ongoing basis from smaller entrants to the market. Finally, the scale and complexity of the infrastructure was proving to be a burden. That is also being addressed.

The future must surely be local community banks, run by somebody from the local community, investing in that local community. A gradual disaster took place under successive Governments over the past 25 to 30 years, whereby local community banks were divorced from the

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ability to make decisions locally. Community banks could make a decent amount of profit and return it, when a certain percentage is reached, to the community.

I am delighted to say that on 7 June, the FSA, the Prudential Regulation Authority, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and various other people will be coming to Newcastle for a debate on how we will take regional banking forward in this country. I urge all interested parties to come.

4.27 pm

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman), who was hyperactive and animated in his contribution. On balance, I feel that he protesteth too much about most things on this particular occasion.

The Chancellor can certainly talk the talk. The question the country is asking is whether he can walk the walk. In his Mais lecture on 24 February 2010, the then shadow Chancellor argued that there were a series of benchmarks for the policies of the next Parliament

“against which you will be able to judge whether a Conservative Government is delivering on this new economic model.”

He also said:

“I have set out the benchmarks against which we can be held accountable”;


“we will maintain Britain’s AAA credit rating”;


“We have to deal with our debts”.

We can mark the Chancellor against his own benchmarks. He has lost the UK’s triple A credit rating because he has failed to deliver growth and to reduce the deficit. The lack of growth has resulted in more, not less, borrowing. It is up £254 billion. Today’s Financial Times has a graph that demonstrates that the deficit is getting wider and that debt is going up. The headline says, “Things are worse and Plan A is off course.” It is now forecast that national debt as a percentage of GDP will not start falling until 2017-18.

In a sense, the Chancellor has supervised his own deficit expansion programme. Nice work by the Chancellor! But it was all too predictable. At least one learned commentator gave a warning in 2010—the Business Secretary who spoke from the Dispatch Box earlier. He said:

“Slashing spending now could push the economy back into recession and inflict further structural damage on the UK that will make it harder to sustain our credit rating.”

He said of the then shadow Chancellor:

“He…fails to appreciate that what the markets are looking for is a credible plan to reduce the deficit, not a willingness to slash regardless of economic conditions. In the current climate, it is essential that decisions about the speed and timing of tackling the deficit are based on the state of the economy, not political dogma.”

There we have it: decisions made from millionaires’ row and in yesterday’s Budget are affecting ordinary, hard-working people in my Scunthorpe constituency, and they are not making a difference for the better.

People are suffering from the removal of the education maintenance allowance, tuition fees, the rise in VAT, short-term working, tax credits being taken away, rising energy bills, fuel bills still going up despite the welcome move in the Budget, and the bedroom tax; and they are £381 a year worse off than they were in 2010. This

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Budget prefers a bedroom tax to a mansion tax, and it prefers giving a second home subsidy to those who can take advantage of it to building homes for those who need them. This is a Budget for millionaires, not hard-working people. It is a Budget of desperation and exasperation rather than aspiration, and another omnishambles.

Barbara Keeley: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. There has been lot of confusion over the last few hours about the Government’s new mortgage guarantee scheme, and while we have the opportunity I would like to ask those on the Treasury Bench to clarify whether second home owners are eligible for the scheme. Can the scheme, which can be used for new builds and other types of housing, be used in that way?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): That is not a point of order for the Chair. As the hon. Lady knows, we still have another half hour of this debate and two full days on the financial statement. No doubt I will be in the Chair at times during those two days, and I know that her point will be raised, and that the Government will respond, probably in a way similar to the responses we have heard during this debate. I am absolutely certain that it will be part of the debate.

4.32 pm

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): Last Thursday when I was going home on the train I read in the Evening Standard an article pointing out that our debates on this Budget, the previous Budget and the ones before that are not just a reprise of each other, but a reprise of the 1930s. The argument that the way to cure the country’s economic problems is to cut, cut, cut, took place in the 1930s and was proved wrong, yet here we are again. If MPs from that time were in the Chamber today as ghosts, they would think that they were still alive and taking part in the debate.

That has not all happened by accident, and the Government are following an ideological path. They told us that the public sector is a drag on the economy and that if we did not cut it back the private sector would never spring into growth. In fact, the public sector is a huge customer of the private sector, both institutionally, from the construction works it undertakes right down to the stationery it buys, and individually, because a public sector worker is a private sector consumer. Individual workers contribute to their local economies by buying and furnishing their homes, buying new bikes and cars and spending on all sorts of other consumer durables. Cutting all that directly affects the private sector, which is exactly what we have seen for the past three years.

Andrew Gwynne: Is it not an absolute truth that in 2010 all the economic indicators, including consumer confidence, were heading in the right direction, yet almost immediately at the point that the Government turned off the taps and brought in their austerity Budget, consumer confidence plummeted?

Sheila Gilmore: As a result of the stimulus provided by the previous Government, all those measurements were turning in the right direction at that time—[Interruption.] Perhaps the Minister who is laughing

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ought to look, as I did last weekend, at the OBR report on the June 2010 pre-Budget report. He might not be laughing quite so hard then. The Government fail to analyse the problem correctly, so it is not surprising that they do not arrive at the right decision.

On jobs, it is not surprising that the Chancellor did not want to dwell on unemployment and this week’s increase. All we hear about is the increased number in employment. For once, I will not dwell on the statistics—others have done so, and I mentioned them in an intervention, but I want to highlight what the jobs situation means in the real world.

Last Saturday, I was out knocking on doors in my constituency. Within half an hour, I had met two people who were good examples of what the jobs situation means for them. One man had a 15-hour a week job in a local supermarket. No doubt these flexible short-term jobs are quite useful for the employer in meeting peak demand, and, of course, a person working 15 hours for the minimum wage will be below the national insurance threshold, which is another advantage for the employer. He had asked for more hours because he will be hit by the bedroom tax, but he was told that extra hours were not available.

Even if the hours were available, whom would they be taken from? My constituent might be given more hours, but unless there is a need for extra hours to be done in that job, another employee will get fewer hours, or another person would not get a job. Counting low-hour part-time jobs—we should remember that some so-called full-time jobs involve low hours—and saying, “Aren’t they wonderful?” is to forget that we are talking about real people. What effect does that have on them? The man is working and wants to work. More work in future would be good for his well-being, but he remains in poverty, like so many others.

Barbara Keeley: My hon. Friend makes some excellent points. Does she agree that, although people want those jobs, taking them often means they are denied the chance of further training and other opportunities? They would rather stick in the jobs they have than take the risk of going for those opportunities.

Sheila Gilmore: I know from work by single parent organisations that that is a problem for single parents who want to re-skill so that they can get jobs that will help them to bring up their children.

In the situation I have described, the individual stays poor, and the economy stagnates. That is the reality of the so-called jobs miracle. It is time the Government got real about what is happening.

On the housing measures, if the Government want to help the housing crisis and stimulate the economy, the best way would be through direct investment, which could be done very quickly. There are lots of sites with planning permission that could be used to build affordable homes. To say that 15,000 additional so-called affordable homes will be built as a result of the Budget is so far away from helping the problem that I do not know where to begin. As I said in an intervention, those are not really affordable homes—homes at 80% of market value are not affordable to most people. If they become affordable for people on low incomes, the housing benefit

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bill will be ratcheted up, when the Government have told us for so long that they are trying to reduce it. One part of the Government is ensuring that many of my constituents suffer a substantial cut in their income from the bedroom tax to cut the housing benefit bill, but another part is busily putting the housing benefit bill up. The policy does not make sense. Last year, we were told that 100,000 people will benefit from the Help to Buy scheme. The reality is that only 1,5000 have benefited. It is not enough to talk about all those plans and say how wonderful they will be when none of them results in anything.

Frankly, an athlete who became slower after their trainer told them they had only to diet to get faster would sack the trainer. That is what we need to do.