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However, despite that depreciation we are still overvalued. We still have a massive trade deficit, with the EU in particular, amounting to about £1 billion a week, which is about 1 million jobs that we have exported to the continent of Europe. We must get an appropriate exchange rate for our economy that is considerably lower than it is now. Because the euro is depreciating, the pound is appreciating, which is going to make things worse. We therefore have what is called the J-curve effect: things seem to get better initially, but will get much worse later on when our competitiveness is seriously damaged by a depreciating euro. We therefore ought to be addressing the exchange rate, seeking to manage it down to an appropriate value, which will give us long-term protection for our manufacturing. As a result of consistent over-valuation over decades, manufacturing has fallen to half the size of that of Germany. Germany manages its exchange rate; it cemented it against all its competitor countries in the EU, which has protected it. We must do something similar, not by joining a fixed currency, but by managing our exchange rate. Our balance of trade is a serious problem that has to be addressed.

If competiveness is damaged by a poor exchange rate, investment is less likely. We still have a low level of investment compared with the average for the rest of the world, and it is a tiny fraction of China’s investment. We therefore still have low productivity. We have the second lowest productivity in the G7, above only Japan. All these factors are affected by the exchange rate. I hope the next Government—it should be a Labour Government—will address the exchange rate and ensure that we have a long-term appropriate exchange rate to make sure our industries survive and prosper.

2.5 pm

Dan Byles (North Warwickshire) (Con): I warmly welcome the Budget, and welcome the fact that the Chancellor resisted the urge, which all Chancellors face, to pull a pre-election rabbit out of a hat. Instead, we saw a competent Budget by a competent Chancellor that continues the excellent work of rebuilding Britain’s battered economy.

The headline figures are very welcome: the deficit is falling; national debt as a percentage of GDP is falling; growth for 2015 has been revised up to 2.5%; youth employment is rising by more than that of the rest of the EU put together; and 1,000 new jobs are being created for every day this Government have been in office. National figures can sometimes seem a bit dry, however. I am generally more interested in how the work we have done to rebuild our economy has had a direct impact on my constituents in North Warwickshire and Bedworth, and that record is one that I am proud of.

Our economy is genuinely working for local people. Just in the last month we saw a further expansion of the MIRA technology park enterprise zone on the A5, with £300 million of ongoing investment creating high-quality jobs and securing our position as the leading transport and automotive region in the UK. We also saw local employer Brose announce a £35 million investment package in Bedworth—private sector money—creating hundreds of new jobs there, too. These announcements of growth and new jobs have followed similar announcements over the last few years from a string of companies from a wide variety of sectors including

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Sertec, ADV Manufacturing, Aldi, Euro Car Parts, Ocado, Premier Group, Loades EcoParc, the Coventry building society, Leekes, the Rolton Group and Energetics UK. Thousands of new jobs for local people have been created since 2010.

Our economy in North Warwickshire and Bedworth suffered badly in the great recession of 2008, which saw local unemployment rocket by more than 1,500 in the last two years of the previous Labour Government alone, with more than 2,500 people claiming unemployment benefit. The number of jobseekers has now fallen by around 1,800 since the start of 2010—an incredible 70% drop. There are fewer people unemployed in North Warwickshire and Bedworth now than at any time in the entire 13 years of the previous Labour Government. That has not happened by accident; it is the result of five years of tough but essential economic policies designed to grip the deficit, get control of the economy, support employers and businesses, and rebalance the economy back towards manufacturing and exports.

In fact, the entire local economy is being rebalanced, with fewer people working in warehousing and transport than in 2009, and the number of people working in the manufacturing sector up by 20%. That amounts to more than 1,400 new manufacturing jobs in the constituency. This is essential for ensuring that we have high-quality and sustainable jobs going forward.

Helping people back into work is a fundamental moral priority, and I am proud of the work my team and I have done to help support local employers. I am also proud of the annual jobs fairs that my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) and I instigated in our local area, which each year has seen more and more real jobs available for local people.

Having a sound economy is the bedrock on which we can build stronger public services. Our local public services in North Warwickshire and Bedworth have faced the challenges of reform, and have risen to that challenge magnificently. Crime locally has fallen consistently over the last five years—down 10% last year alone—and is considerably below 2010 levels.

The George Eliot hospital is now out of special measures, after being driven there by the same Labour Health Ministers who refused repeatedly to hold a public inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire scandal, and has been rated “good” by the Care Quality Commission. Clinical staff numbers are rising: there are 39 more doctors and 86 more nurses than in 2010.

A number of our primary and secondary schools in North Warwickshire and Bedworth have taken advantage of the academy scheme in order to take control of their own destinies. In North Warwickshire, the number of schools rated as “needing improvement” has halved, from 20 to 10, while the number rated “good” or “outstanding” is up from 24 to 30.

All these developments rely on a strong economy underpinning the nation. But we are not there yet. We still face significant challenges both nationally and locally, but I am absolutely clear that the people of North Warwickshire and Bedworth are better off following five years of the Chancellor’s deft handling of the economy. They will be better off as a result of yesterday’s solid Budget, and with local small business man Craig Tracey as the new Conservative MP from May, they will continue to be better off in the years to come.

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2.10 pm

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): It is a great privilege to speak in this Budget debate and to follow all the previous speakers, who have passionately expressed their views. I want to pay particular tribute to my right hon. Friends the shadow Chancellor and the Leader of the Opposition, who spoke thoughtfully and in great depth, sharing their vision of how our country can and should be better, and describing how this Government have failed working families. That is the real debate of this Budget—the one the Conservatives do not want to have.

I suspect it is even the reason why the Prime Minister is refusing my right hon. Friend the courtesy of a one-to-one television debate. The Americans have been doing this since Nixon and Kennedy, and at the last election the Prime Minister said that his predecessor would show that he was “out of touch” if he did not agree to such a debate. This is not like the Bullingdon club photograph that the Prime Minister has done everything in his power to stop media outlets showing: he cannot airbrush out a television debate. He can hide and refuse to debate, but he cannot stop the real debate taking place in households, workplaces, communities and families the length and breadth of the country.

We well remember the debate about “broken Britain”, thoughtfully expressed in the research of the Centre for Social Justice, which the Conservative party often trumpeted. However, that now demonstrates itself in the nightmare of the anti-family, debt-inducing curse of zero-hours contracts. It is a debate we hear in community groups, charities, churches and other faith organisations.

As we debate this Budget, it is worth noting that the 2014 National Church and Social Action survey reports that food distribution tops the list of church community activities. It is above parent and toddler groups; above community festivals and fun days; it is even above school assemblies and religious education. As someone who worked for charities for 15 years before becoming a Member of this House, I do not just welcome voluntary endeavours, I consider them vital. However, the Government have shown where their priorities lie—and it is certainly not with people facing zero-hours contracts. A lady in my constituency whose church collects food regularly for the Oswestry food bank just over the border, put it memorably:

“We’re used to collecting, but it used to be for Romanian orphans, not for people in our country without enough to eat.”

That is not to say that everything the Government do is bad. There were some positives in the Budget and I want to mention two I particularly liked. I welcome the increase in personal allowances, and in the gift aid-like payment in the Small Charitable Donations Bill, not least because a number of Labour Members worked on that Bill Committee to increase the threshold. The details need to be worked out, but there are some real positives. However, the Government need to increase support for the self-employed. I am very much of the view that if we as a nation handle this right, the potential for private sector-led regeneration in rural and semi-rural communities is great.

Let me tell the House about the kind of enterprise in my area that I am talking about. Recently, Alice Murray, who lives in Overton in my constituency, visited me here

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in the Houses of Parliament. Alice is responsible for setting up the company Giggles and Games, and last year she won the prestigious “Entrepreneur of the Year” award at the Free2Network business awards. Alice had not worked outside the home during the 17 years she brought up her four children. By her own admission, she was too nervous to attend an open day at Glyndwr university in Wrexham five years ago. But she grew in confidence while studying. Having organised a major event as part of a college module in entrepreneurship, Alice, after graduating in 2012, established Giggles and Games - The Giant Game People, a company that has achieved great acclaim for its games for parties, weddings and corporates. Based in north Wales, it covers Shropshire and Cheshire, but its staff are more than willing to travel further afield. The Giant Games include Giant 5ft Buzzers, Giant Connect Four, Giant Chess, Giant Snakes and Ladders—3 metres by 3 metres—and, best of the lot, Giant Stocks. The company is innovative, different and appealing, and it employs people and brings money into our local economy. I appreciate that Giant Space Hoppers are not everyone’s thing, but the business is thriving because it is innovative.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): My hon. Friend is making some very good points—and I am tempted to suggest some people who could be put in the stocks to which she refers. However, if such businesses are to be successful, they need universal superfast broadband that is accessible to all. Does she agree, and share my hope that the Government will take that issue up with even more vigour?

Susan Elan Jones: I agree with my hon. Friend that that is a hugely important issue. In my area there are many businesses waiting to be born that will never even reach gestation, simply because we do not give enough practical help to would-be entrepreneurs. The more than 5 million working people in our country who are self-employed face huge problems. Two thirds have no pension, and one in five cannot get a mortgage. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition spoke powerfully last autumn when he declared that the next Labour Government will ensure equal rights for the self-employed. That is a very important issue.

Finally, I want to use this Budget debate to seek clarity about a particular concern I have. There has been a great deal of interesting debate about the effectiveness of the new allowances for those who are married or in civil partnerships. That issue has been debated before in the House, and I am sure it will be in future. Both halves of the pantomime horse that seem to make up the coalition appear to have differing views on that issue. However, according to a written reply I received from the House of Commons Library, those who wish to claim the new transferable tax allowance for married couples and civil partners may only register for it over the internet. Given that 18% of adults in the UK cannot use the internet, the lack of options is quite surprising. Whatever our views on the efficacy and effectiveness of this allowance, it has no validity whatsoever if it is not available to those who cannot access the internet, many of whom are likely to be elderly and/or on lower incomes. Wherever we stand on this subject, there is a very real question for the Government to answer and I look forward to a response.

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2.18 pm

Mr Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): I greatly welcome the Budget and particularly the announcements on housing. I make no apology for talking about housing in a debate opened by the Business Secretary. As the representative of the CBI said at the Homes for Britain rally in Methodist Central Hall earlier this week, housing is a business issue. If employees cannot find somewhere to live that is relatively near work, it affects the way they work, because they spend too long commuting. Housing is central to all our lives, so I welcome the measures the Government have taken on housing in the Budget.

The hon. Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), who, sadly, is not in his place, referred to the Chartered Institute of Housing’s comment on Help to Buy ISAs—that they would make no difference because they do not address the fundamental problem. I, too, have read that quote, but I thought it was slightly unfair, which is why I intervened on him. The Budget also addresses the supply side through the doubling of the number of housing zones, and I shall concentrate on that subject in my speech. It proposes to create 20 new housing zones which, according to the deputy mayor of London, Richard Blakeway, will provide a “framework for focused engagement” in particular geographical areas, create “planning certainty” and, most importantly, provide funding that is committed to essential infrastructure. I want to concentrate on that last aspect.

A number of endeavours have made an enormous difference over the past few years, in which the Government have engaged with the public and private sectors to provide a focused environment in which huge amounts of activity can occur. The most obvious example is the London Docklands development corporation, which transformed the docklands a generation ago. We can now see the extraordinary development that simply was not there 25 years ago. I have seen something similar in Northern Ireland, in the Laganside development, where the investment of £130 million of public money led to about £1 billion of investment from the private sector. This has transformed the nature of Belfast city centre completely.

The approach that has been adopted in the commercial sector can also be applied in the residential sector, and that is what housing zones are all about. I am pleased about the provision for them in the Budget. If we are to unlock finance for schemes in the residential space, the most important thing is to get rid of the blockages that are making that so difficult to achieve. We have to ask ourselves why housing supply does not rise to meet demand in the way that happens in most other markets. The truth is that people who would like to get involved in the housing market have very limited choices.

The volume house builders do a reasonably good job for the people who want to buy their product, but 75% of the people polled in a YouGov survey said that they did not want to buy the volume house builders’ product. In a well-functioning market, other providers would come in and the range of supply to meet that latent demand, which is not being satisfied, would naturally enter the market. That does not happen in the housing space, however, simply because it is so difficult to get into the market because of problems with access to land and access to finance. The Government’s proposals for housing zones start to address that, and I hope that their announcement in yesterday’s Budget will be the harbinger of a new direction that will solve the housing problem.

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The hon. Member for Halton said earlier that Labour would build 200,000 houses if it got into government. I remember, half a generation ago, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), when he was Chancellor, appointing Kate Barker to undertake a review and subsequently announcing the building of 240,000 houses. Announcements do not actually make a difference, however, because it is not Governments or Oppositions who build houses. It is house builders who build houses, and if we took more notice of customers and their preferences, we would get more houses built.

Meg Hillier: The hon. Gentleman might have had a different experience in Norfolk, but in my constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch, many of those “customers” are non-domiciled overseas landlords who never interact with the people who end up living in their homes. There is often a desire among those developers to get a quick, easy sale over a weekend in places such as Hong Kong and Dubai, rather than putting out to market properties that would benefit local people. Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that this really needs to be tackled?

Mr Bacon: The hon. Lady makes a valid point. I have listened to economists saying that this has not been a problem in London and that the wall of money that has come in to support investment was simply replacing investment that did not happen after the crash, but I am not sure that I agree with them. We see flats in London being exchanged time and again without anyone ever living in them, and there comes a point at which this becomes a moral issue. There is developed property with nobody living in it, and I think that we should be thinking first about our own people. That fundamentally describes the planning problem, and we need to decide how to do these things.

My Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill, which I am pleased to say is now going to become an Act, will give people in every area an opportunity to go to their local council and say, “Where is your register? I want to put my name down as someone who wants to acquire a serviced plot.” The council will have a statutory obligation to keep a register of such people and to have regard to it when drawing up its housing plans, whether for planning and housing, for regeneration or for the disposal of land. In visits overseas, I have seen that such space can also encompass housing for affordable rent through housing co-operatives as well as housing for private purchase. The point about serviced plots is key. This goes back to what I was saying about infrastructure and about removing the blockages to further development. This is about funding the essential infrastructure that is needed before further development can take place.

In the Government’s Budget last year, they announced the provision of £150 million towards serviced plots, and I interpret the creation of 20 housing zones that was announced yesterday as a further step in the right direction towards making the providing of the necessary infrastructure much easier. If a customer wants to come into the marketplace and take advantage of the opportunity to build a house that meets their own needs, the blockages that they meet can prove terminal. They might be trying to find a site, to acquire a piece of land or to obtain the necessary finance, for example. They might be told by the local authority to do an archaeological survey that they did not realise they would need, or a service supplier might tell them that the cost of supplying electricity or water, say, to the site would be prohibitive.

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Going back to what Mr Blakeway, the deputy mayor of London, has said about planning certainty, removing all those blockages would create a focused environment in which we know that houses would be built. Housing zones are part of the way to make that happen. The underlying infrastructure being funded by the Government would create the possibility for much more housing being developed more quickly. There is also the possibility of recouping some of that cost through the tax revenues, including council tax revenues, that would flow once the housing was in place.

We need a housing market that works. We need to make the supply work in a way that it is currently not doing. We need to unlock the power of potential customers who do not yet have an opportunity to turn their latent demand into something real. The National Custom and Self-build Association commissioned Ipsos MORI to carry out a survey, which found that 1 million people would like to build their own dwelling or get someone to build it for them in the next 12 months, and that 7 million people would like to do that at some point in their lives. I hope that this Budget will be the harbinger of an important turn of direction towards emphasising the importance of getting underlying infrastructure in place so that the energy and vision of our own people can be deployed in providing the housing that we need.

2.27 pm

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): I should like to draw Members’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I have an interest in housing.

I represent a constituency that is now often described as “achingly cool”, but it is also one of the poorest parts of the country. Those achingly cool young hipsters with their beards and pink hair who populate the coffee bars and watering holes of Hackney and who make the creative industries there the great success that they are—even they face challenges.

In yesterday’s Budget debate, and since then, we have heard so much huff and puff that anyone would think that the Budget had been written by the big bad wolf. In my constituency, that will be its effect on many people. This Government have left a £30 billion bombshell that will hit us after the general election. We know that there will be £12 billion of welfare cuts, and the rest will come from public services, but the Government have so far remained silent on where the axe will fall.

I know for a fact that Hackney council is looking to make £28 million-worth of cuts, and we have already seen 24% cuts to further education colleges, including my own excellent Hackney community college. These public services matter massively in areas such as Hackney, where about 36% of children live in poverty. That is the third highest rate in London. Many of those children live in households that are poor but ambitious. Their parents are working on zero-hours contracts in low-wage jobs while having to meet the costs of child care and high private rents. Many poor families cannot now get housing in the social sector. That means that many of them are trapped on benefits or tax credits. Talking about tax and welfare cuts sounds appealing, but it actually traps people who have the ambition to break out of benefits and into work and to be self-supporting. It stops them in their tracks. The routes to self-advancement are shrinking. Another cut like the 24% cut to FE would

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have a devastating effect, particularly on women stuck at home who do not speak English and who need English for speakers of other languages courses just to get into the initial job market.

At my surgery, a man came to see me in tears. He was a kitchen porter on minimum wage and had been asked by the jobcentre to seek jobs in zones 5 and 6, which is not an unreasonable request, but his wife had a part-time minimum wage job and they looked after two children between them, and the cost of child care and the extra travel combined meant that even in a council property he could not make ends meet. The Government are once again threatening to squeeze people in Hackney until the pips really squeak. In fact, I am not sure that there are any pips left to squeak for many people in my constituency.

A key issue that was not fully addressed yesterday is housing and I am glad that the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon) has mentioned it. I am fed up with the mantra from the Government about building brownfield land as though that is a great solution, because every experience I have in Hackney and across London shows how empty those words are. Huge publicly owned sites are being sold in my constituency to the highest bidder and not for local affordable homes.

I have some shocking examples. St Leonard’s hospital was taken from the local NHS and is now held by NHS Property Services Ltd, or PropCo. We do not know what will happen to that site but, in a horrible twist of irony, it was formerly Hackney's workhouse. In my view and that of the council and of others locally it should be used for affordable housing for local families when it is eventually redeveloped. That would do more for public health locally than the private housing that is likely to appear there.

Mr Binley: Does the hon. Lady recognise that Northampton especially will take on much of the burden of the problem of housing in London and the south-east and that the answer to the burden will be to build on brownfield sites? Outside London, brownfield sites are a massive opportunity.

Meg Hillier: I do not doubt that some are, but my particular issue is brownfield sites that are owned by the public—the taxpayer. They are part of Government departments and are being sold off to the highest bidder rather than adding value to the local community. With all due respect, I am sure that Northampton is a lovely place to be, but my constituents want to live in Hackney South and Shoreditch and Hoxton and Homerton. They do not want to be living out of London, facing long commutes to work. When people are on the minimum wage, that is just not an option. In fact, even if they are on much more than the minimum wage it is not an option, as commuting costs make it unsustainable.

Kingsland fire station was not only rashly closed by our Tory Mayor of London but has now been sold off for a rumoured £28 million. That clearly cannot be for affordable housing, but the situation is still shrouded in secrecy and we are waiting for final information. Another example, neighbouring my constituency, is the Mount Pleasant sorting office in Islington, which my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) has rightly championed. That huge publicly owned former sorting office site is being sold mostly for luxury homes. It is time that the Treasury

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rules changed and, instead of the highest cash bid winning, the welfare and benefits of local people were taken into account.

What do the Government offer on housing? They offer Help to Buy and now the ISA for homebuyers, with up to £3,000 for young savers. They are great for those people, but it fuels the house price increases we have seen in my constituency. Let me give Members the flavour of that. In 2005, the average house price was £269,000. Today, the average house price—it might have gone up since I looked at it this morning—is £606,000. That is a staggering 124.9% increase in 10 years.

Rents are also rising sky high and there is nothing in the Budget for renters. The median private rent in Hackney is £330 a week and median full-time earnings in Hackney are £608 a week. More than half of people’s earnings are going on rent and many are trapped sharing bedrooms with strangers, using living rooms as bedrooms and not having the option of moving. It is impossible to be sure that one can raise a family in most private sector accommodation, as there is no security. I am glad that my Front Benchers are considering this, but we need to go further. Hackney is an example of what will face other parts of the country in future.

I was staggered to hear the Business Secretary defend the bedroom tax. In the Hackney Homes homes alone—the former council properties—2,160 tenants have been hit by the bedroom tax. It sums up the Government’s approach, because it does not work. There are no homes for people to move to and it is costing the taxpayer. Let me give an example. One woman was living in a three-bedroom property. Her teenager moved out and she was temporarily not working, so she was encouraged to move to a smaller two-bedroom property. She did so, but even though it was a social housing property, the rent was higher than that for her three-bedroom property. She faces a terrible struggle to find work that will pay the higher rent and she has lost the home that had been the family home. It is mean-spirited, it undermines the stability of secure tenancies and it is wrong. It must go. No ifs, no buts—if there is a Labour Government, the bedroom tax will be abolished.

The Chancellor talked about tax avoidance, and aggressive tax avoidance must be tackled. As a member of the Public Accounts Committee I have been playing a role, along with the hon. Member for South Norfolk, in ensuring that that happens. We know that uncollected tax has risen by £3 billion under this Government and all parties want to see more investment in HMRC’s ability to tackle companies that are running rings around Revenue officials to pay as little tax as they possibly can. Let us consider businesses up and down the country. Businesses in my constituency tell me that not only is it difficult to borrow money, despite the Government’s raft of lending schemes, but overdrafts are a big issue. I see that the Economic Secretary, who is the Minister responsible for banking, is in her place. Why do we let the high street banks off the hook every time we discuss these issues? They should be lending to local businesses. They are best placed to make a decision about what works for those businesses, but they do not do it.

I am delighted that the Minister is in her place, because I know she has a genuine passion for change in the banking sector. In the Budget and the document

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“Banking for the 21st Century”, there is no mention of real-time data on credit records. We currently have to wait 30 to 60 days for our data on lending to be available on a credit record. That encourages irresponsible lending. We have had a lot of debate about payday lending, but real-time data on credit records would have ensured that such lending applied only to those who could afford to pay back the loans. If the Minister can give me any indication of the Government's latest thinking on that and how fast they could move towards what seems to me to be a sensible measure, I would very much welcome that.

The Budget does nothing for my constituents. It screws the poorest down into a very difficult situation. They are feeling trapped, unable to escape from a situation that is not of their making. Their incomes have gone down and they are caught in a benefits trap, despite the fact that many of them want to get out of it. The Government are rewarding people they believe will vote for their party but not delivering for my constituents.

2.37 pm

Mary Macleod (Brentford and Isleworth) (Con): It is a privilege to speak in the debate and to welcome the Budget. We have a plan that is working in a Budget that works for people in our constituencies, unlike the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier). In my constituency, I have a growing economy, a record number of jobs and rising living standards. The deficit is down across the country and our national debt is starting to fall as a share of the economy. Great Britain is becoming great again and in 49 days’ time, hopefully, under a Conservative Government, Great Britain will become even more great.

Why is the Budget good for people in Chiswick, Brentford, Isleworth, Osterley and Hounslow? We have helped to transform their lives. My constituents want stability, jobs, a national recovery and aspiration in their lives. They also want to make work pay, which is why we heard yesterday about the increase in the personal tax allowance to £10,800 in 2016 and £11,000 in 2017. That is taking 3.7 million of the lowest paid out of tax all together. In my constituency, more than 53,000 people have seen their taxes cut since 2010 and nearly 6,000 have been taken out of tax altogether.

Business and jobs are critical to the recovery of this country and employment is at a record high, with 1,000 more jobs created every day under this Government. I will repeat that: 1,000 more jobs per day are created under this Government. We have 9,400 more businesses in my constituency since 2010. My Plumber, which my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary visited in Brentford, is one example of the many businesses that have been set up in my constituency in the past five years. The claimant count is down to 2% in my constituency, which represents a fall of 36%, and youth unemployment is down by 45%. We are also continuing to cut corporation tax.

I fought hard, along with my local Chiswick traders, to get a review of business rates, and we have seen that happen. The Chancellor confirmed that the reform of business rates will be “far-reaching”, which is great to hear. We do have to raise the £27 billion that business rates raise, but there are different and fairer ways of doing it. Businesses want to pay their fair share of tax, but they want to do so in a way that is fair to everyone.

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My right hon. Friend has already cut £1,000 off so many business rates on the high street, benefiting about 500 businesses in my constituency.

We also talked about supporting small businesses and abolishing class 2 national insurance contributions for the self-employed. That represents a massive simplification for about 5 million people, with about 8,000 of them being in my constituency. The Chancellor has also raised the annual investment allowance for firms to £500,000, which is part of the reason why business investment is four times higher than it was in the last Parliament. He is committed to looking at that again in the autumn statement, which I know local businesses will welcome.

We also heard yesterday about the creative industries. I have created a west London creative industries hub, and we have a massive sector there. The sector is booming, with so much growth and opportunity in it. It is worth £76 billion to the UK plc economy as a whole, and there is much more that we can do. We heard yesterday about the TV and film tax credits, which will be more generous, and about expanding support for video games. That is great news for businesses in my constituency.

Several hon. Members have mentioned superfast broadband, and I ask the Minister to take this away and look it a bit further, because small businesses in London face a real issue on superfast broadband—I would like it if we just had fast broadband. Perhaps one day we will get to superfast broadband, but this issue is deterring growth in some of our small businesses in this great capital. We need to examine the digital infrastructure for London to make sure we are doing all we can to support small businesses and the growth we need from them.

We also heard yesterday about the support for the brewing industry; we are cutting beer duty for the third year running and taking another penny off a pint, helping companies such as Fuller’s and its brewery in my constituency. That move is great for the local economy. We heard about the freezing of fuel duty, helping small businesses, as well as families. Having that strong economy, which is growing faster than any other advanced economy, is fundamental to the investment for the future that we need.

Secondly, I wish to touch on housing, which has been discussed by some hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon), who spoke eloquently about it. This is the No. 1 issue for Londoners, according to the Mayor’s recent annual survey. Some 45,000 homes on brownfield sites in London have been announced, and my area will have a new Hounslow town centre housing zone, containing 3,500 new homes, including nearly 1,400 affordable homes. We do, in London, need to push for those affordable homes, because it is difficult for people to get on the housing ladder. I was pleased to hear yesterday about the Help to Buy ISA to help people save for their first deposit. For every £200 saved, the Government will add £50—in effect, this is a tax cut—for first-time buyers, up to a value of £3,000. That will be very welcome across London.

Thirdly, I wish to touch on education, because four new schools have been confirmed in my constituency under this Government. That is a huge investment, and I thank the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Education Secretary for it. London has had such a large population growth, with my borough being the fourth-fastest growing borough in London. School places are

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one of my biggest issues. This Government have delivered two new primary schools and announced two new secondary schools only last week. They will make a massive difference to families across my constituency, whether we are talking about the Nishkam school, which has already opened, the Floreat Brentford school, which is opening in September, or the two announced recently, the Green school for boys and the Hounslow improvement partnership school. This is exactly what we need for the people in west London.

I was also pleased to hear about the news on skills for London, with more power for the Mayor over skills funding to support apprenticeships and the commissioning role in the National Careers Service. In London, crime has fallen by 16%, and we have had £10 million for domestic abuse refuges from the Home Secretary and £5 million from the Mayor of London. We have been given the Piccadilly line upgrade, with trains stopping at Turnham Green once that upgrade takes place—that is another achievement. If the Government want to make some savings, I suggest that they opt to expand Gatwick rather than Heathrow, because the expansion of Gatwick is simpler, easier and better and it will cost the taxpayer nothing, whereas Heathrow’s expansion will require billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.

In conclusion, over the next 49 days I will perhaps be focused on a tough fight I have in west London where every vote counts, but I hope residents will judge me on my record of what I have done and what I still want to do. If I am fortunate enough to be re-elected, I will make sure I go about implementing the approach of more schools, more apprenticeships and more businesses, and transforming lives in my communities.

2.45 pm

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): I worry about the poorest people in society, including the working poor, in places such as Stockton-on-Tees, because this outgoing Government have failed, even at the last opportunity, to do anything to help them. The Government have done nothing to boost their incomes or provide them with the jobs they would love to have. The Budget will bring no benefit to tens of thousands of people across Teesside, and more across the country, who hold low-paid jobs, with wages of no more than £5,000 or £6,000 a year. While the Chancellor maintains huge tax cuts for millionaires and increases tax-free allowances for people paying higher-rate tax, very few low-paid workers gain anything from changes to the tax system. These people can only dream about saving some money.

This is another Budget for the better off to be better off still and the poor to be poorer. The Chancellor even failed to deliver the promised minimum wage of £7 an hour—Labour will do much better. In his very first Budget speech, the Chancellor pledged that under his economic management the coalition Government would build

“an economy where prosperity is shared among all sections of society and all parts of the country.”—[Official Report, 22 June 2010; Vol. 512, c. 167.]

Many of the people I represent have not benefited from even the low inflation rate. Instead they have been stung by above-inflation increases in the cost of things such as energy and other utility bills. The Chancellor might be in it with his rich pals from the hedge funds who bankroll the Tory party, but I do not see much evidence on Teesside of everyone sharing in that prosperity.

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Perhaps more worryingly, we have seen the repeated pattern of the poorest being hit the hardest, and nowhere are the effects of this more starkly illustrated than in the jobs market. For too long, unemployment has been higher in the north-east than anywhere else in the UK and that has been the case in every quarter since April to June 2011. Hon. Members will not be surprised to learn, then, that the claimant count in the north-east is also the highest in the country, and in my constituency the numbers are higher still. The 4.1% we have claiming support related to unemployment is more than three times higher than the rate in the south-east, and almost seven times higher than the rate in the Chancellor’s seat in Tatton.

Are Government figures an honest reflection of the numbers of people who ceased claiming this allowance? They are not. According to research by the House of Commons Library, of those who have ceased claiming jobseeker’s allowance in my constituency, only just over one third did so because they had found work. Conversely, more than half were recorded as doing it “for other reasons”. Not a single person has done so as a result of upping their hours to more than 16 a week. So, where have they gone? We know that they do not have jobs. Although a few may have gone abroad, into education, or even died, that has not happened to the hundreds of people who have disappeared from the Government’s statistics.

It is also a sad fact that too many people feel insecure and powerless at work. Record numbers of people are working fewer hours than they would like, and there is an increasing reliance on zero-hours contracts. The result is that more people worry about having enough money to pay their way. More than 5 million people are in low-paid jobs, while a quarter of a million people earn below the national minimum wage.

Meg Hillier: My hon. Friend sums up the challenges well. People may be in jobs, but what is the quality of those jobs and what prospects do they have? Does he agree that that is an issue not just in his constituency but in many other constituencies, including mine?

Alex Cunningham: Certainly, it is an issue across the entire country. I hear from people who are told at 6 o’clock in the morning that they are required for work, or, worse still, that they are not required for work. That is nonsense. What surety of income does that give them as they go into the week ahead?

The value of the national minimum wage has dropped by 5% since 2010, which is why the amount spent on in-work benefits and tax credits has risen 18%. Why cannot this outgoing Government recognise that people want to earn their money and look after their families rather than exist in a dead end, low-paid role that leaves them dependent on the state? What of those who, through no fault of their own, are dependent on the state? I fear what the Chancellor is planning to do to them next. Why is the Chancellor so coy about spelling out where the £12 billion cut in welfare spending will fall? Is it because he knows that decent people will baulk at his plans to devalue further the incomes of our most vulnerable?

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Has the Minister seen the report that came overnight from Herriot-Watt university for Centrepoint, which shows that more young people will be homeless as a result of Government policies, and that many in work could lose their jobs if their housing benefit is removed and they are forced to return to live with their parents? We should not forget that this Government’s policies have seen these young people shoulder a disproportionate share of austerity and its worst effects.

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): Before my hon. Friend moves on, will he estimate the number of people in his constituency who are living with their parents because they are unable to buy their own home? How many of them could afford to save £200 to get the advantage of the individual savings account?

Alex Cunningham: I may not have the exact statistics, but I do know that large numbers of young people are in such a position. When I go to local colleges, I hear the anxieties of young people. They say that they want to live independent lives, go to university, and develop their plan for their own home, but they cannot do any of that.

The education maintenance allowance has been removed, support from the access to learning fund and student opportunity fund has been cut, housing benefit for under-25s has been reduced, higher education tuition fees have been trebled, and careers services have been slashed. On top of that, youth services have been hit by funding cuts of £60 million since 2012. I saw nothing in the Budget to address those issues, just a prediction of many more cuts to come.

In the north-east, 11 of the 12 councils suffered higher than average reductions in spending power for 2014-15 along with a 5% funding reduction. That is 10 times higher than cuts in the south-east, and almost four times higher in percentage terms. Our front-line emergency services are suffering more than most, too. It is no secret that A and E departments up and down the country are having a torrid time as a result of this Government’s wanton neglect of the NHS. We have £3 billion wasted on a reorganisation that has increased bureaucracy and allowed confusion to reign; fewer nurses than in 2010; and a GP work force in crisis. But much less well publicised has been the net loss of 293 officers from Cleveland police force since 2010, with more to go as the police and crime commissioner faces another 5.1% budget cut. Cleveland police are £35 million worse off than they were in 2010-11.

That picture is repeated in the fire service, with many brigades struggling to budget for the coming year while having to maintain confidence in the speed and efficiency of their emergency response services. Despite being a centre for the petrochemicals industry and posing one of the biggest fire risks in Europe, Cleveland is facing one of the biggest hits to its spending, with additional cuts this year of 10.4%.

Would the Chancellor still have the temerity to suggest that the quality of public services has gone up, not down, if he could see that services such as Cleveland are having to replace trained, full-time firefighters with retained firefighters just to make ends meet? Would he also do so if he knew that his cuts had spurred the service to close the marine fire station at the centre of our industrial complex?

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Energy intensive industries form a large part of the economy on Teesside and across the north-east. The Chancellor mentioned the steel and chemical industries, but he has done little to help them. Although it was announced that the feed-in tariff element of renewable compensation for energy intensive industries will be brought forward to the point of state aid approval, renewables obligation compensation will not be introduced until 2016. That means yet another year of struggling in highly competitive global markets against international competition, which has more favourable conditions, thereby risking jobs and growth in Teesside, as companies are undercut and the jobs moved elsewhere.

With energy prices being business critical, it is possible for these industries to operate only in countries with competitive prices. If we continue in that manner, the UK will fall off the list, and it is areas such as Teesside and the north-east that will again be hit the hardest. That represents yet another missed opportunity to stimulate growth and create jobs.

With working people worse off than they were in 2010, millionaires receiving tax cuts while VAT has been bumped up to 20%, public services being decimated and front-line emergency services slashed, and at the same time that employment is insecure and those on low pay are struggling just to make ends meet, it is little wonder that people in the north-east, and indeed across the country, feel no connection at all with the two parties in government.

2.55 pm

Angie Bray (Ealing Central and Acton) (Con): The Chancellor’s Budget yesterday has been warmly welcomed by business organisations up and down the country. The British Chambers of Commerce, for example, has said:

“The Chancellor’s focus on business growth and prosperity will receive a warm welcome from businesses of all sizes”.

It is certainly the kind of Budget that businesses in my constituency wanted to see, and what is good for businesses is good for our constituents and the communities in which they operate—something that Opposition Members do not always appear to understand.

Despite the strong growth we have seen under this Government, there is no denying that things have been challenging for smaller businesses. Things are getting better, but at my most recent business breakfast club last week, several local businessmen and women raised their No. 1 concern: there is still more that could be done to support businesses, especially smaller businesses and the high street more generally. I expect that they welcomed what they heard yesterday.

In particular, they will have liked the Chancellor’s big announcement that the major review of business rates will report back in time for the 2016 Budget, which is just one year away. It sounds to me like the Government need to be getting on with that, as there is a massive amount of work to do. As he said, business rates have not kept pace with the needs of the modern economy and the whole structure needs rethinking. The advent of online businesses, both commercial and retail, has thrown the whole system out of kilter. When one considers the massive retail giants such as Amazon, one realises that it cannot be right that the businesses on our high streets that continue to trade out of bricks and mortar, in

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shops and other premises, should have to pay tax on the space they occupy while their online competitors do not. There is no longer the same relationship between the size and location of premises and the contribution businesses make through business rates. As I have said, that cannot be right, so I welcome the decision to have a root-and-branch review.

It is great news that corporation tax is to be reduced again to 20%, which sends an important signal that Britain is really open to business, with

“one of the lowest rates of a major economy in the world.”—[Official Report, 18 March 2015; Vol. 594, c. 776.]

It is to be regretted that the Labour party wants to raise the tax, were it ever to get a chance—what a retrograde step that would be.

Another measure that will surely benefit business is the announcement that fuel tax will be frozen again, making that the longest duty freeze in 20 years. Many small businesses that depend on a van or some other vehicle will continue to benefit from the freeze as well as from the much lower petrol prices at the pump, which we are all enjoying at the moment.

I very much welcome the Chancellor’s continuing commitment to supporting our creative industries. As the Member of Parliament for Ealing Central and Acton, which of course contains the world-famous Ealing film studios, the world’s longest continually running studios, I am delighted that he proposes to make TV and film tax credits more generous, along with expanding support for video games and a new tax credit for orchestras. As a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, I participated in our report on growing our creative industries, which make an increasingly important contribution to Treasury revenues. On a visit to Los Angeles to find out whether the UK is seen as a good place to film and do business, we were given a resounding yes, and our film tax credits were singled out as a major reason for more studios choosing to shoot films over here. I was delighted to learn recently that Ealing Studios is fully booked for the whole of this year. That is a tax credit that earns far more than it costs.

I also welcome the Chancellor’s plans to provide more support for our digital infrastructure, funding work to improve mobile networks, funding free wi-fi in our public libraries and continuing to roll out ultra-fast broadband to nearly every home, which is vital in a world where people work on the move and at home. However, I still make the point that many smaller businesses, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mary Macleod) said, continue to get a poor deal when it comes to superfast broadband. In Park Royal in Acton, many businesses complain that they keep being promised that it is just around the corner, but it never actually happens. That is crazy. Park Royal is less than 15 miles from one of the busiest international airports in the world. We need all our businesses to be properly and speedily plugged in. To be fair, I have had an assurance from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport that this issue is being looked at, but we need it to happen fast if we are not to leave our small businesses in places such as Park Royal at a disadvantage.

Business will benefit from the good news on tax cuts for hard-working people, families and savers. The more comfortable and secure we feel financially, the more likely we are to feel able to spend a little more, so it is

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great news that yet again the personal tax allowance will be raised. Next month we will see it go up to £10,600, and it will go up again next year to £10,800 and then £11,000. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, the average taxpayer in 2015 will be better off by £900 a year, compared with 2010. The best news for the low paid is the raising of the minimum wage to £6.70 an hour in October, the largest real-terms increase since 2008. Apprentices will get a pay rise, too—up to £3.30 an hour.

Basic rate taxpayers with savings will be able to enjoy the first £1,000 of the interest they earn on savings tax free. Higher rate payers will benefit from the first £500. From this autumn, savers will be free to take money out of an ISA and put it back in later in the year without losing their tax-free entitlement. These measures are all about freeing up people’s earned and saved money, which can only help businesses.

I welcome this Budget because it does what Conservatives do best—trust the people. We trust the people to make investments in their businesses and to drive growth, and they have. We trust the people to invest in their employees and bring on apprentices, and they do. We trust the people to spend their own hard-earned money in retirement in a way that best suits them, and they will. Put simply, and unlike the Labour party, we trust the people to do the right thing—and it is paying off, with the fastest growth of any major economy in the world. More people are in work than ever before, paying down the deficit and taking more people out of tax. The Opposition may not like it, but the plan is working. As Government Members know, we cannot invest in proper public services, including the NHS, unless we have a strong economy to pay for it. If we cannot get the economy right, we cannot make the investments we all want to see. This Budget puts Britain firmly back in business and I support it.

3.1 pm

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I have been in this place 18 years and I can think of few events that make it clearer why people have lost faith in our politics than yesterday’s Budget—little effort to address the main issues, just shameless grandstanding by a man more concerned with fitting his policies to scriptwriters’ gags than addressing the needs of our communities. Just days before the end of this Parliament he delivered a Budget which he knows cannot get proper parliamentary scrutiny and where the measures actually implemented will be largely dependent on the support and agreement of the Opposition. It is a political ploy and people can see straight through it. It may have improved on the chaos of the man who gave us the pasty tax, the granny tax and the omnishambles, but I doubt whether history will judge yesterday’s little show as a particularly competent moment.

There are measures that deserve support. Who could object to a penny off a pint? That is not exactly original, like much else to do with this Chancellor, although I believe there is currently a vacancy for a baron of Bexley. Anything that helps jobs in the whisky industry is welcome. If there was ever any likelihood of an increase in petrol duty, thank goodness somebody has persuaded him to drop it. However, yesterday’s Budget certainly will not go into the history books as a great radical or reforming Budget.

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I welcome the decision to allow Greater Manchester and Cambridgeshire to retain their business rates. I welcome it because it is Labour policy, but of course I would like to see the same opportunity given to Birmingham. Voters in Birmingham must be asking what the Government have against them. Why is our police service subject to the largest cuts in the country? Why are our council services being decimated? Why is there no extra support for our small businesses? Just what has this Chancellor got against our city?

I support the plan to raise the starting point at which people pay higher-rate tax, but I wonder why the Chancellor did that and left the cut-off for losing child benefit unchanged. That is not a very family-friendly policy, because under his plans the number of households losing child benefit is now set to double. While the increase in the personal allowance is welcome, it does nothing for the 4.6 million people who do not earn enough to pay tax in the first place, and, as we have heard, any gains will be wiped out overnight if he makes it back to the Treasury and promptly raises VAT, just like he did last time.

I was bothered by the fact that the Chancellor completely ignored the NHS. In my constituency, a walk-in centre at Katie road has been under threat ever since this Government came to power, and nothing he did yesterday makes it any more secure. The Bournbrook Varsity practice, which caters for a large number of our student population, is set to lose substantial funds through the abolition of the minimum practice guarantee and other cuts that will lead to redundancies and a loss of services. Our wonderful Queen Elizabeth hospital is set to lose about 11% of its budget as a result of punitive measures that attack its success as a regional specialist centre. Labour has a plan to grow the NHS. Under this Chancellor, we are already experiencing NHS cuts, and most people feel that there is more to come. Yesterday’s Budget largely confirmed these fears.

My constituency has an unemployment rate of 4.4%. It is now in the top 17% of constituencies for unemployment —110th out of 650. Try telling my constituents that the sun is shining. What they experience is insecure employment, zero-hours contracts, and people working all hours to make ends meet and still having to resort to food banks to feed their kids. Try telling them about the Chancellor’s economic plan. What we need is action to support start-ups, with Government money to match initiatives like Entrepreneurial Spark, a cut in business rates and taxes for small and micro businesses, an improvement in the minimum wage that amounts to more than 70p over a Parliament, and action to enforce the minimum wage so that unscrupulous employers cannot exploit those desperate for work.

As the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) said, instead of a headlong rush to offload Lloyds bank, perhaps the Chancellor should encourage it to show a greater sense of social responsibility and more respect for local business people in places like Bournville, where its high-handed closure programme shows contempt for the local community and taxpayers. It is a joke for the Business Secretary to come here and say that he will protect the last bank in the village. It is the last bank in the village, there is a massive public stake in it, and he cannot lift a hand to do anything about it.

Where are the measures in this Budget that people in my constituency really care about? They are absent. The Chancellor says that the sun is shining as he strives to

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paint a rosy picture in the face of the misery endured by so many. It is a Budget where he simply ignored his broken promises and inaccurate predictions—a Budget where the threat of more suffering is ever present. It is less “Here Comes the Sun” and more like here comes the “Sun King”: a man who has lost touch with reality, with vanity crowding out the ability to speak or hear the truth; who is not interested in the lives of real people; and who is armed with an economic soundbite rather than a plan. His assurances are as reliable as those of the party chairman, and his integrity is as intact as that of the former party treasurer. We deserve better, and the country needs a lot, lot more.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Let me say to Members that we have more time than expected because of some withdrawals, so I can lift the time limit to 12 minutes. I call Brian Binley.

3.9 pm

Mr Brian Binley (Northampton South) (Con): As ever, I am most grateful to you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It has been an honour to serve under you. This will be my last speech in a major debate and I am delighted that you are in the Chair.

Let me continue to be nice by telling the Economic Secretary how much I welcome this Budget for growth. It is based on five years of careful management, the provision of affordable services and the gradual reduction of a massive budget deficit. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and the Chancellor for creating this opportunity for growth, which I believe many businesses and taxpayers up and down the country will welcome enormously.

Some years ago, I said that my grandmother would have told this place, “You have only two options when you’re in financial difficulties: earn more or spend less.” Listening to the Opposition’s arguments, it seems to me that they believe that, while earning more has some merit, spending less has no merit at all. My grandmother would have said that they were foolish. I would not dare say that in this place, but I know that she would have been pleased with the Budget this Government have produced.

It does no harm to recognise the inheritance this Government were dealt by a Labour Government who had themselves inherited a golden legacy that they frittered away. [Interruption.] It certainly was a golden legacy and was said to be so by pretty much every economist in the country, except, of course, for those affiliated to the Labour party. The Labour Government engineered a growing structural deficit from 2002 onwards. That is totally irrefutable. The deficit they left was not, as has been said, £140 billion; in their last Budget, they left a deficit of £163 billion.

If we consider that 1 billion seconds is 32 and a half years, we may get an idea of what £1 billion looks like. What a massive, massive sum.

Debbie Abrahams: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Binley: I am delighted to give way.

Debbie Abrahams: The hon. Gentleman is as charming as ever and I am grateful to him for giving way. I want to correct the record. I am sure he will acknowledge

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that there was a global economic crisis in 2007-08 and that we reduced the deficit from 47% to 37% of GDP.

Mr Binley: The deficit was reduced because you spent more money—of course that would reduce the deficit.

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention, because it leads me on to the next part of my speech. You failed to mend the roof while the sun was shining. You failed to recognise the fact that there was a global storm approaching. You massively increased borrowing when every business in the land was doing just the opposite—I can tell you that as a business man. Indeed, you almost broke the country.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order.

Mr Binley: I am sorry about the “yous”, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr Deputy Speaker: I think you need to sit down for a second. Once was fine, but I think that was your fifth “you”. I am being accused of a lot of things that I know you will not want me to take responsibility for.

Mr Binley: I did apologise before you pointed that out, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I have only got a week to go so a more lax approach might be helpful.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there will not be a lax approach. I will allow him to get on with his speech without any more “yous”.

Mr Binley: I am most grateful, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will remember that.

This Government need no lessons from the Opposition, even if they had lessons to give, which I have failed to hear during this Budget debate. The Minister will not be surprised to know that I will again bang the drum for business, as I have in this place for the past 10 years. In many respects, I am sorry that this place does not have more business entrepreneurs, and often fails to appreciate their needs or the sort of economic atmosphere in which they work best. Thankfully, this Chancellor has had a plan. It is a plan that is working, and business confidence continues to rise. The Budget will frame our prosperity for the entirety of the next Parliament. I have no doubt that there will come a time when, if the Opposition ever again assume the seat of government—pray the Lord that it will never happen—they will recognise the reality of the situation, instead of talking in Shakespearian fairy tales, as the shadow Chancellor did.

The Chancellor has introduced Budget measures that business will welcome: the reduction of the rate of corporation tax to 20%; the abolition of national insurance contributions for those employing under-21s, and indeed young apprentices, which will come into effect in April next year; the extension of small business rate relief and the much welcomed employment allowance; and especially the promise of a major review of business rates. Business will be delighted by the abolition of class 2 national insurance contributions for the self-employed, which will follow in the next Parliament, and by the abolition of annual tax returns. On behalf of small businesses up and down the country and of the independent operators—it is so important for this nation that those single men and women plough their own furrow—I thank you.

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Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): You said “you” again.

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Binley: Before I give way, may I say that age brings with it forgetfulness, as I hope you will understand, Mr Deputy Speaker?

Mr Deputy Speaker: You must be very old!

Chris Heaton-Harris: It will be a great loss not to have my hon. Friend in the House after the general election, because he is a worthy champion of the wealth creators of this country. In his valedictory speech to this place, will he share with us some of his great expertise on why small businesses are the bedrock of British society, and how they employ so many people to the benefit of our tax system?

Mr Binley: I would be delighted to do so. Small businesses are the bedrock of the growth in the number of businesses overall because, first, they welcome the Government’s approach, and secondly, they have the courage to go out, put their own money on the line and add to the number of jobs available in this country. I am delighted to say that that is exactly what I did 25 years ago, and the companies I founded now employ 300 people —that is what entrepreneurialism is about—and to say that that is a part of my record and always has been.

The Chancellor has acknowledged that the success of the Budget will not be calculated by the accumulation of individual measures. I will therefore speak about the economic architecture that will help to achieve his ambitions. I want to comment on how his efforts to rebalance the economy are taking off, something which requires a bold and strong local infrastructure that supports businesses.

In particular, I want to speak about the importance of local enterprise partnerships. I am delighted to say—here is a compliment—that I understand that the Opposition have welcomed LEPs and will continue to use them. That is sensible, and we should give the Opposition credit when they agree with sensible measures. LEPs are critical to the rebalancing of a successful economy in every part of the UK. As some of my colleagues know, I am the vice-chairman of the Northamptonshire LEP. I may be the only Member of the House to be so intimately involved in an LEP. I believe that it is important for hon. Members to take an active interest in their LEPs and be associated with them with a view not to running them or overpowering their potential, but to being involved because they can be a great help. I hope that the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright)—to be fair, he is a great supporter of small business—will take that message on board.

Northamptonshire had the vision to create the Northamptonshire enterprise partnership before LEPs were mooted. I pay tribute to the leaders of the county council for their foresight. The pressures on local government funding will increasingly restrict the ability of local authorities to sustain their support for LEPs. If we are to make them work, they need to be owned by the entirety of the local economic community, and not just by one sector.

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Why has the performance of LEPs across the country been so patchy? I believe that it is because many of them, particularly many of the smaller ones, are not in receipt of the support that they need to create the sort of administration that will produce the growth that we are seeking. The original design for LEPs envisaged local businesses as the main source of income for the administrative costs. However, in areas where small businesses are the main engine of economic growth, that is an optimistic expectation. In Northamptonshire, some 94% of those working in the private sector work in SMEs. SMEs simply do not have the spare cash fully to support the LEPs in the way the Government originally envisaged.

I would like to see a system whereby a proportion of the finance that is available for the projects that LEPs handle is allocated to sustain their administration. I hope that the Economic Secretary will recognise that I am not asking for more money, but for some of the money that is devoted to local growth to be redirected to the administration of LEPs so that they can achieve the objective of growth.

This Budget must be seen as the prelude to prosperity in the next five years. Frankly, the Chancellor will need the support of LEPs after the election. That support will have to be strong and sensible. Consequently, the Government will have to give careful thought to how best to organise and manage the structure of LEPs. I appeal to the Economic Secretary to recognise that, in view of the Government’s policies that were expressed by the Chancellor, LEPs will need a little more financial help if they are to do their job correctly on behalf of the Government.

I am happy to offer an exemplar for what can be achieved by a LEP. I refer to my own LEP in Northamptonshire —there’s nothing like blowing your own trumpet! The economy in Northamptonshire is recovering well from the great recession. The food and drink sector is the largest sector in our county in terms of employment and turnover. We are building a new food and drink academy at one of the important colleges just outside Northampton. More than 40,000 people are employed in the auto sport and aerospace industry. They are grateful for the help that has been given to the industry, but they want it to continue. Our craft industry, which makes the best boots and shoes in the world, has received help from the LEP. Church’s, which is one of the best-known brands, has had help to extend its manufacturing facility. Northamptonshire’s enterprise zone has created more than 1,000 jobs.

Finally, Northamptonshire’s Challenge 2016 project, which aimed to achieve a massive reduction in youth unemployment, has far exceeded our expectations. Two years ago, we had more than 5,600 young people not in education, employment or training; there are now a little under 1,500. That is the success of this Government—giving people opportunity and aspiration. I say to those who tell me that young people do not have aspiration that it is amazing how aspirational young people become when they have a job.

If we are to put ourselves in the premier league of economic growth, the measures in the Budget must be combined with an effective local economic framework. I am confident that Northamptonshire will continue to provide an example of how best to drive regeneration and economic growth, but it will need more help, as will

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many LEPs across the country. I beg that you consider that factor—you being the Economic Secretary, Mr Deputy Speaker—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I call Mike Weir.

Mr Binley: You cut me off!

3.24 pm

Mr Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Northampton South (Mr Binley) who is the authentic voice of Conservatism in this place, and blue in tooth and claw. He will be sorely missed, and I wish him well in whatever he chooses to do in the future—somehow I cannot see him retiring quietly to a rocking chair.

When I listened to the Business Secretary introducing this debate, at times I wondered which Budget he was talking about since he seemed to flip between the Budget presented by the Chancellor yesterday, and the fantasy Budget presented by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury this morning, and it was a bit difficult to follow his line of thinking. In response to a question from the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), he spoke about possible changes in banking and protection for the “last bank in the village”, as he put it, but I am afraid that in many communities that ship has long since sailed.

Banks have been pulling out of rural communities for many years, and substantial communities in my constituency no longer have a bank. Indeed, the Royal Bank of Scotland recently closed a branch and when questioned about it said, “Well you can use the post office”. Unfortunately, the Post Office is also undergoing a procedure at the moment. There may no longer be closure programmes, but many post offices are “changing”—or rather closing—and business is being transferred to other local businesses. In many ways I see the logic of that from its point of view, but it means that many businesses are now running the “post office local model”, which is a much reduced service. In many communities in my constituency, including substantial communities, that is the only post office service left—a counter in another business, which is a small shop or, as in one case, a card and paper shop. That does not give confidence in the service—notwithstanding the service that such shops can provide and the extent they go to—especially for business banking, and that needs to be looked at.

If we contact any of our major banks, they will try to get us to go online and work through the computer. That is fine, but many of our elderly people cannot do that, and many people with small businesses do not want to invest in the extra equipment. To pick up the point made by the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Angie Bray), there is also a serious problem with broadband provision in many parts of our country.

In my constituency many of the towns now have a good broadband service that has been upgraded, but one does not have to go far outside the town for it to disappear altogether. Part of the reason for that is that many small exchanges that serve the country in village areas desperately need upgrading and can no longer take any more broadband lines. I have had situations where people have moved house, cancelled their broadband contract, and when they went to get a contract for their new house they were told they could not get one any more because the line they used had been allocated to someone else.

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The Budget has missed a huge opportunity to invest in that infrastructure for the future. If we are to be a successful nation and increase business, we need the infrastructure to do that. I have talked often in the House about a rural area such as mine where many businesses are taking advantage of the internet where they can. It is not always a bad thing. A business in a rural area can get a niche market, survive on the internet and have quite a good business, but it needs an internet connection, good broadband, and a good postal service to deliver the goods to the rest of the country.

Since the privatisation of Royal Mail we have seen an erosion of that service in some parts of the country. In some parts of Scotland, as I am sure is the case in other parts of the country, it has announced that it will not be picking up so often from post boxes—there might be one pick-up first thing in the morning, but nothing else for the rest of the day. That is hopeless for a business. Furthermore, many of the new post office locals do not have sufficient room for proper business mail to be left for Royal Mail to pick up. Again, that was a missed opportunity in the Budget.

Unfortunately, the real message of the Budget is that massive cuts are coming our way, which will have a terrible impact on many of our local communities and businesses. The OBR has described the coming years as a rollercoaster for public expenditure and said it will return the level of Government expenditure to that of 1964. This morning, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who presumably had a hand in writing the Budget, as well as his alternative Budget, said it would take us back to the era of “Cathy Come Home”. That film brought home to many people the extent of the housing crisis in the 1960s, but that housing crisis is coming back to haunt many of our communities.

Many Members have talked about the need to build more houses, and I entirely agree, but I was concerned that the only specific announcement about this in the Budget was the new ISA to help get younger people on the housing ladder. That is good news for those who can afford to put money into an ISA, and I am sure that well-off parents around the country will be preparing to open such accounts for their children, but it is just another variation on the bank of mum and dad and does nothing to help the many young people who can only dream of renting their own home, let alone owning one.

The only boost to local businesses is likely to be for estate agents, as this measure fuels a housing bubble in our cities and communities—houses are expensive all over the country. If we are to tackle the housing crisis, we need a boost to build new affordable homes and homes for rent. Not only would that give young people a real chance to get a home of their own without needing well-off parents to finance it, but it would give a boost to local economies by providing work for those who build the homes and the businesses supplying the needs of new home owners.

The hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) commented on why we had reached this situation. In Scotland, we are now building new homes and have removed the right to buy introduced by the last Tory Government. Whatever people thought of the policy at the time, it is no longer appropriate for the current market because it acts as a disincentive to councils to build new houses—because they might have to sell them off fairly quickly

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at reduced rates. In Scotland, new houses for rent are being built for the first time in many years. When I read the leaks of the proposed Budget, I was concerned at the suggestion that the Chancellor would introduce a new right to buy for housing associations. I think we should all be grateful that he did not do that, although it would not have applied in Scotland anyway, since we have taken a different route.

Many of the cuts, however, will make things much worse for our young people. Many people, particularly under-25s, will no longer be able to get housing benefit and will be forced to continue to live with their parents, but in many cases, either that will not be practical or for some other reason they will not be able to do it, and they will end up sofa surfing with friends and relatives. It is all very easy, as Government all too often seem to do, to announce crackdowns on welfare and go for cheap headlines in the more rabid tabloids. As we all know, however, in reality many of those in receipt of benefits are working, and the benefits are not their income but top up the income they receive from their employment. In my constituency, on the latest figures, the unemployment rate is 2.5%. On the face of it, that is excellent news, but it is also a low-wage economy, and that is the difficulty. Many people rely on benefits to top up their income and enable them to live.

Many of us will be spending more hours than is healthy over the next few weeks knocking on constituents’ doors, and I am sure that many have had the same experience as me of finding it difficult to find people in, mainly because so many work long hours, split shifts or more than one job to make ends meet. That is the reality of modern Britain, with so many people still relying on food banks to feed their families.

The assault on the welfare state has a dramatic effect on our local businesses. Those who are less well off will tend to spend their money—and to spend it in local businesses. Cuts not only attack those on benefits, but remove a substantial amount of money from local economies, hitting businesses. Is it any wonder that so many businesses on our high streets are closing?

In Scotland, the Government have made determined efforts to halt the decline in small businesses with policies such as the business bonus scheme, which has abolished or reduced business rates for many small businesses. The Chancellor announced a scheme for business rates retention, but the Scottish Government introduced such a scheme in Scotland back in 2011. These schemes help, but more needs to be done to boost local businesses.

We already know that some of the poorest in society will bear the brunt of the misery of the austerity programme. The proportion of tax cuts to tax rises has moved from 4:1 to 9:1, and this will have a dramatic effect on many households. As others have said, we do not yet know the details of the coming cuts and benefits, but this is all money being sucked out of our local economies and will impact directly on our local businesses.

Before I finish, let me say that it is not all bad news. I welcome the Government’s changes to North sea oil taxation. I called for it, the Scottish Government called for it, and there is widespread support for it across all parties. This industry is going through a downturn at the moment—not for the first time, and I dare say it will not be for the last. It is worth noting that the reduction

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in the supplementary charge will take us back to the position in 2011, when the decision to increase it, taken without consultation with the industry, was hugely damaging.

On a more positive note, the Bank of Scotland did an oil survey last week, showing that 90% of firms are optimistic about the future. Many of them were looking to diversify into such things as renewables. Here, again, however, the Government have missed the chance—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order.

3.37 pm

Mr Robert Walter (North Dorset) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Angus (Mr Weir). If he had his way, he would not be in this House to benefit from our long-term economic plan.

When I made a speech last week I said that it would probably be my last, so this one can be regarded as an encore. I am delighted to speak in support of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s Budget, which I think is superb. I shall not comment on the Liberal Democrat alternative budget that we heard this morning. After 18 years in this House, I have been elected and subsequently re-elected three times despite the Liberal Democrats. I ought to be an expert on Liberal Democrat policy, but I cannot remember ever having much of a policy debate with them during any of those elections. I do remember the slogan “Winning Here!” on every roadside poster, but I do not think that will be true in the next election either.

I shall not indulge myself for long in commenting on the two kitchens of the Leader of the Opposition. I attest that I am convinced he has only one principal family kitchen, and it is clear to me that the room in which he was photographed, adjacent to his drawing room, is his butler’s pantry. We should always remember that whenever he is connecting with the ordinary people of Britain.

This Budget has suffered once or twice from facetious comments from the Opposition about “the long-term economic plan”. We have had five years of robust policy from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and the Treasury team—I see the Economic Secretary in her place on the Front Bench—and this plan continues for another five years. I always thought that a week was a long time in politics, but 10 years certainly is. This is a long-term plan, and it is working.

The headlines in the Budget are clear. We are cutting income tax for 27 million hard-working people, cancelling the planned rise in fuel duty, and, not least, taking a penny off a pint of beer or lager and freezing the tax on wine. The new Help to Buy ISA is a superb way of tackling the problem that first-time buyers still have. I think that it is sometimes exaggerated, but it is none the less welcome that if a first-time buyer saves up to £12,000 towards a deposit on a home through an ISA, the Government will contribute an extra £3,000. The help for savers through the abolition of tax on the first £1,000 of savings will benefit some 17 million people.

The commitment to run a budget surplus and keep our debt share falling is particularly important, as is backing the business and skills that will create full employment. As the Chancellor said, we must invest throughout Britain. I know that his pet scheme, if I may call it that—the northern powerhouse—is an exemplar

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for other parts of the country, including my own in Dorset. The Budget shows our commitment—the Conservative commitment—to a long-term economic plan. Perhaps I am being partisan, but I believe that the only way in which we will deliver on that commitment is to elect a Conservative Government on 7 May, because otherwise we shall put all this at risk.

Let us look at the plan, and at how it is working. Debt as a share of the economy will start to fall in 2015-16, thus meeting our debt target. The deficit is down by more than half as a share of the economy, and is forecast to fall to 5% of GDP in 2014-15, down from 10.2% in 2009-10. The economy is growing, and the growth forecast for 2015 has been revised upwards to 2.5%. The OBR’s forecast was upgraded for the second time after Britain’s economy grew faster than any other advanced economy in 2014. That growth has been balanced, with manufacturing growing 4.5 times faster than it did in the pre-crisis decade.

Employment is going up, and unemployment is very much down. There are more people in work than ever before, and 1.9 million more than there were in 2010. In my constituency, unemployment is down to 0.7%. We heard yesterday that the year-on-year figure was down again, by a further 145, and youth unemployment is down as well. I should like to say that I could count the number of unemployed people on the fingers of two hands, but the figure is a little higher than that, and I do not know everyone who is on the register. However, I do know that we have a turnover of labour in my constituency because we have a vibrant economy, and that the big complaint from employers is that they cannot get the work force that they are looking for.

I think that the Opposition are not entirely sure what they would do differently from the Budget, but the electorate are aware of their record and the legacy that they left us five years ago. The note from the former Chief Secretary, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne), read, classically, “There is no money left”, which speaks for itself. The Government’s record, however, has been very positive. It is a positive story: of growth, the best in the G7; of employment, the best in the industrialised world and an exemplar for most of Europe; of debt, which is now falling significantly; of a deficit that is coming down; and, most importantly, of business confidence, which is up.

This contrasts with the nightmare scenario of the possibility—no more than that—of a minority Labour Government kept in office, or held to ransom, by the Scottish National party. That really would be a nightmare scenario for Britain. So the question is clear, and I believe that the answer is obvious. I only regret that I will not be here in this House to support the next Conservative Government, but I believe that the nation, and particularly the nation’s economy and finances, is very safe in our hands.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I am grateful to the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr Walter) for delivering his speech in reasonable time and for not taking the allotted 12 minutes. I am afraid that the arithmetic does not allow 12 minutes per person from now on and I must reduce the time limit to nine minutes, thereby allowing everyone who has indicated they wish to speak the opportunity to do so.

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3.46 pm

Mr George Howarth (Knowsley) (Lab): The hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr Walter) said that he was still waiting to hear what Labour’s proposals were, but if he had taken the trouble to attend the opening of the debate, he would have heard from my right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor precisely what we intend to do.

The shadow Chancellor’s opening speech contained many quotes from Shakespeare. It is a little known fact that there is a strong connection between Shakespeare and Knowsley. The sixth Earl of Derby was a patron of William Shakespeare, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was written for his wedding and performed before Elizabeth I in Knowsley hall, so I thought a quote from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” might be appropriate. Earlier today the Chief Secretary to the Treasury sought to put some distance between the Liberal Democrats and their coalition partners, and I think the quote might sum that up:

“So we grew together,

Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,

But yet an union in partition,

Two lovely berries molded on one stem”.

That perfectly sums up how the Liberal Democrats cannot realistically distance themselves from everything that has gone on over the last five years.

My hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg) made a very good speech, including a passionate plea on local government finance and how that has affected his constituents during this Government’s time in office. He made some important points that bear repetition.

Derek Twigg: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his reference to my speech and the issue of local government finance. Does he agree that the scale and viciousness of the cuts to the most deprived authorities in England beggars belief? Merseyside has suffered particularly badly.

Mr Howarth: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Knowsley has had the worst cuts in Government grant this year, and over the period of this Government the amount of Government grant per household in Knowsley will have been reduced by £1,500, yet it is one of the poorest, most deprived local authorities in the area.

The main point I want to make is to do with economic growth and the structural problems in our economy. The key point is that we have an unbalanced economy; economic growth is overly dependent on asset inflation and consumer demand. As a consequence, over recent decades the balance has shifted away from manufacturing and towards the service and retail sectors. This is well illustrated by the decline in manufacturing as a proportion of gross domestic product. In 1970, manufacturing accounted for about 30% of GDP, but in the intervening period it has declined to some 10%. For an area such as Knowsley, which has a strong manufacturing base, that is bad news.

There is of course a complex set of reasons for that, but two factors are specifically relevant, the first of which is housing policy and our national obsession with owner-occupation, which distorts any attempt to have a rational housing policy. In the north-west, between 1997 and 2013, average house prices increased from £51,000 to £109,000, yet in the same period wages increased from

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£309 a week to just £460 a week. In the same period, local authority waiting lists have grown by more than 90%. So, despite the various incentives for owner-occupiers, saving for a deposit and securing a mortgage is becoming an increasingly impossible goal.

I welcome the Chancellor’s introduction in the Budget statement of a new Help to Buy ISA, which will help people to save towards a deposit. Superficially, that is an attractive way to help them get a foot on the property ladder, but the real problem is that it will not help those on lower incomes. A first-time buyer currently needs an income of about £36,000 a year, which is way beyond what many of my constituents earn, so even with that scheme, they will not be able to get on the property ladder.

I am pleased that my party is committed to working towards a goal of building 200,000 homes a year over the next five years. Welcome though that is, it still will not make up the shortfall. Although the sale of council houses—the hon. Member for Angus (Mr Weir) referred to this; I may have misunderstood him—is a good thing from the point of view of the individual buyer, is it good public policy? The National Housing Federation has called for a review of that policy, which I support. We need to know how that policy will contribute to the building of more properties, which needs to happen if we are to bring prices down.

Mr Weir: For the avoidance of doubt, I was making the point that the right to buy caused the sale of many council houses and new ones were not being built to replace them. The removal of the right to buy in Scotland has meant that we are now building new houses for the first time in many years.

Mr Howarth: The hon. Gentleman is quite right, but my point is that, even if we are substituting those houses with new ones, we are still not building enough additional properties, net, to solve the problem.

The Chancellor sees himself as the champion of devolution and the northern powerhouse, and that is a fair claim for him to make. I am very much in favour of greater devolution and the development of city regions, and there are many problems in our city region that need to be addressed. Time forbids me to go into them all, but, for example, we need to get 42,000 more people into employment and an increase in income of about £1,700 per head if we are to close the gap between us and the UK average. The Chancellor said that in his view there is no one-size-fits-all solution to leadership for city regions, yet the evidence of Manchester suggests that there is a favoured option—an elected mayor.

The key to unlocking more resources and powers appears to involve agreeing to have an elected mayor. Regardless of my views on elected mayors, there is no consensus on this on Merseyside. I do not think it should be for the Government to insist on people having one thing before they can get another. There should be a referendum so that the people can have their say on the matter. I hope that progress on devolution to city regions will not be sacrificed purely on the basis that there is no consensus on an elected mayor for the Liverpool city region.

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3.55 pm

Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (LD): May I start by apologising for my absence during part of the debate? I am pleased to be here now to make a short contribution. I have been following Budgets for decades, because my former occupation was that of an economics teacher and I always liked to use real-world examples in my lessons. I remember the first time I sat in the House to listen to a Budget speech; it was absolutely awesome. It was such an honour and privilege to be right here listening to it after so many years of just following it on the television.

I was teaching economics on black Wednesday, 16 September 1992. In my role as a teacher, I found that day incredibly exciting, because it provided illustrations for many of the chapters of the economics textbooks. Members might remember that that was the day on which we fell out of the exchange rate mechanism in a big way and interest rates went up rapidly before our eyes, with the threat of their going up to 15% at one point. I can remember the mortgage interest rate that I had to pay in those days; it was at a staggeringly high level. My colleagues recall my being on top of the world on that day. I was terribly excited while they were all desperately worried about how they were going to manage their budgets and pay their mortgages.

This is relevant to the reason that the coalition was formed. I genuinely believed that we were on the edge of a precipice at that time, and that we faced a major decline in the financial markets. I felt that achieving financial stability was the most important thing to do. It is well known that I have had difficulties with many aspects of coalition policy, but I remain convinced that we did the right thing in this regard, and there are many aspects of this Budget that I am proud to stand up and defend. I shall touch on just a few of them.

People would probably expect a Liberal Democrat to start by commenting on the increase in the income tax allowances. That policy was on the front page of our manifesto, and I am pleased that we in the coalition have now gone beyond that amount and are proposing that the threshold should be raised even higher. It is important to take 26 million workers to the point at which they pay less tax, and to take 3 million people out of tax altogether. That clearly benefits lower earners. My hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr Walter) and I will probably benefit a little bit from the Budget as well, because pensioners will now be brought into the increased allowances. That will be really appreciated by the many constituents who have written to me to say how unfair it was that their income tax allowance was fixed.

I should also like to comment on the savings income allowance. This represents a really important and interesting principle. It might not initially make a lot of difference financially to people, but it is not a good principle to tax someone a second time when they have saved all their life and paid tax before putting their money into savings. That is a great disincentive to saving, and the change in the rules will be an important concept in the future.

I would also particularly like to comment on the increased expenditure proposed for children’s mental health services. I have drawn the House’s attention to the fact that in Dorset we have no intensive psychiatric care units whatsoever for young women and that they have to travel afar. We have enormously long waiting

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lists for children’s mental health services and I have argued many times in this House that when, for example, a child is suffering from abuse, it is vital that they can access treatment quickly. I have made many proposals in education and children’s Bills that there should be an absolute duty to provide mental health support in such circumstances. I have never managed to achieve that legislatively, although we now have a clear policy framework in which the Department of Health and the Department for Education work together. Delivering the service needs money, however, and that is very important for our young people.

I welcome the new proposals to tackle tax avoidance and would like to refer to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary this morning. I thought that some important points were made while this House was less than attentive. Let me give two of them. First, for offshore evaders, following consultation we will introduce a new strict liability criminal offence so that people can no longer plead ignorance in an attempt to avoid criminal prosecution. Secondly, we will introduce a new offence of corporate failure to prevent tax evasion or the facilitation of tax evasion. They are very important and I personally find the idea of a tax dodging Bill very attractive for any future Government. It is important to appreciate that by raising billions in such a way we can help fight poverty in the UK and in developing countries.

In my maiden speech, I focused in particular on the underfunding of the two education authorities that I represent, Poole and Dorset, which are both in the 40 lowest-funded education authorities. I argued long and hard against the previous Government’s not tackling that and I was really pleased that this year we had some extra money to acknowledge that gross underfunding. The future Government must introduce a fair funding formula. It is all ready to run and I hope that the next Government will do that so that children in my constituency and across Dorset will get a fair deal.

My constituency is diverse. I have farmers who will benefit from yesterday's proposed change to tax. Businesses have been well supported by various measures that have been introduced. It is a constituency that, proportionately, has very little public sector employment and it is very strong in employment and business terms because it is a mixed economy. It has a sustainable future, but even so I welcome the contribution that the Dorset local enterprise partnership has made, with successful bids supporting new industries, such as the creative digital industries.

I believe that working within the coalition we have achieved a strong economy, but for me the future must be about tackling the fairness side of things. I therefore welcome the fact that the Liberal Democrats have a different approach for the future. Finally, I want to thank all the staff of the House who have been so supportive in the time that I have been here.

4.3 pm

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): It is an absolute pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke), who has represented her constituency with great distinction. She will be sadly missed.

I want to make a number of points and challenge some of the things that have been said by various Members on the Government Benches and by the Business Secretary.

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I was underwhelmed by the Budget because it makes no real or practical difference to the lives and living standards of the people I represent in the north-east and east Durham. Various figures were bandied around, but when I checked, the one I was drawn to was that over the past decade—pre-recession to current times—the richest 20% have become 64% richer than they were before the recession whereas the poorest 20% have become 57% poorer. I find it very difficult to accept Government Members’ narrative that the rich are shouldering a greater share of the burden of austerity and balancing the books, as the poor seem to be the ones who are suffering. That is certainly the case in my constituency, and the figures seem to back that up.

The Chancellor seems to have demanded more of the same, with deeper and more extreme cuts in public spending. That will certainly damage every service we value—education, policing and the NHS. No figures have been given, but I have seen suggestions that the cuts likely to fall on the police budget are of the order of 30,000 police and 6,700 community support officers. That is a colossal reduction in the number of officers, and suggesting that it will not diminish services, response times and public safety is incredible. The Chancellor’s own OBR warned that his Budget would mean

“a much sharper squeeze on real spending in 2016-17 and 2017-18 than anything seen over the past five years”.

That is a huge warning to the electorate and the general public.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) treated us to a further rendition of Shakespeare and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, making reference to the coalition and the partnership between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. I was thinking more of “Midsomer Murders”, because we know what a promise means from this Government. Much though I respect Government Members individually, let us not forget the promises that were made on tuition fees, on protecting the poorest—we then saw the introduction of the bedroom tax—on making work pay and on balancing the budget within a single Parliament. I have not got amnesia and I do not think the Chancellor will be able to erase the memory of the past five years. His claim was that he would make work pay, and the Prime Minister told the House and the nation that

“the best route out of poverty is work.”—[Official Report, 11 June 2014; Vol. 582, c. 543.]

I suggest that those words are meaningless to the two thirds of children in poverty who live in working households.

There are more than 5 million low-paid workers in the UK earning less than the living wage, which is an increase from 3.4 million in 2009. I thought it was ironic when I put the news on early this morning and saw the Chancellor in a luminous jacket visiting the port of Tilbury and extolling the virtues of the Budget, because no mention has ever been made of the insecurity of employment and the fact that 1.8 million workers are on zero-hours contracts, 1,400 of them at the port of Tilbury. Surely the right thing to do, particularly in that location, is to offer those people, who are working, in effect, full time, proper contracts on decent rates of pay. That would be an indication that the Chancellor is serious about making work pay.

I wish to say a few words about the northern powerhouse because not only have the Government hit people directly through spending cuts and tax rises, but they are failing

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to deliver the investment needed to grow our economy in the north-east. After the Business Secretary’s remarks, I was drawn to the table on page 45 of the Red Book. The section on the northern powerhouse lists 12 projects that are highlighted. The northern powerhouse does not seem to extend any further north than Leeds or Manchester, so of the 12 projects only two and a bit of them are linked to the north-east. One of them that is being trumpeted concerns the publishing of an interim report on transport. Another one—point 7—has £1 million going to the Centre for Process Innovation on the north-east chemical sector. Point 9 talks about welcoming talks—I know that this is very important for stimulating jobs and investment—to reinstate the ferry from Norway to Newcastle. That seems rather thin to me for a commitment.

In fact, the whole thing is a huge disappointment. This much vaunted northern powerhouse is just empty rhetoric for my people. Where is the definite action that we were promised? What the Government have done over the past five years is abolish our successful regional development agency and take away our voice by removing the post of Minister for the north-east.

For every £1 spent in the north-east, the Chancellor spends £24.33 in London. How can we create a northern powerhouse when the Chancellor inflicts disproportionate cuts on northern councils? Durham county council, my local authority, has had cuts of £250 million. In response, the council produced an ambitious programme to deliver jobs and growth, but it was rejected by the Government and the Planning Inspectorate.

In what scenario does the Chancellor believe that the decisions announced in the Budget will rebalance the economy and promote growth in the north-east? What does the northern powerhouse mean when there is a lack major infrastructure projects of national importance in our region? High Speed 2, for example, does not include our region, as it stops at Leeds. To benefit my constituents, Network Rail has suggested a cut in journey times from Durham to London of 11 minutes by 2033, at the potential cost of direct services to London and slower journey times to major cities in Scotland.

I cannot think of a policy that costs so much, with estimates ranging from £50 billion to £80 billion, but that delivers so little to my communities. I would like priority to be given to improving our connectivity to major lines, and to increasing rail services as we continue to work towards a new rail stop at Horden, on the Seaview estate. I want the Government to show some commitment, and a sense of urgency, to my constituency and get behind these plans, which are a tiny fraction of the cost of some of the major commitments that have been made.

The Budget delivered nothing for east Durham except more of the same policies of austerity and more damaging cuts for our communities. The simple question that everyone should ask is: can they afford another five years of policies crafted in Witney and Tatton?

4.12 pm

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): It is a privilege to speak in this debate not just because it follows a sensible and wise Budget but because I have been able

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to benefit from the wisdom of a number of retiring Members. I am talking about my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr Walter), my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke), my hon. Friends the Members for Dudley South (Chris Kelly), for North Warwickshire (Dan Byles) and, not least, for Northampton South (Mr Binley). It is a true privilege to follow some great speeches with some very wise words. Indeed, the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris) also delivered a great speech. I would love to disagree with him on every single point that he raised, and probably will do in my speech, but he is such a nice man that it is very difficult to do that.

It is also good to see Front Benchers wearing their team colours. The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) and my next door neighbour, is adorned with a jacket that is the Northampton Saints strip. I know that the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright), would be wearing his Hartlepool kit if he had the opportunity. I have heard him speak before, so I know it would not be as the mascot.

I listened to the speeches from the shadow Chancellor and others, and I really wanted to follow a Labour Member I did not like, because there is a brilliant Shakespearian insult that I wanted to use:

“O, he is as tedious

As a tired horse, a railing wife;

Worse than a smoky house: I had rather live

With cheese and garlic in a windmill”.

But unfortunately I followed the hon. Member for Easington, so I could not use any of that.

It is a pleasure to stand here today, only a week before Dissolution, and reflect upon the Chancellor’s remarkable economic achievement in picking Britain’s economy up off its knees after it was left in tatters by the Labour party. I would like to focus today on the businesses up and down the county without which this economic recovery would not have been possible. They are the meat on the bone of our long-term economic plan. It is they who have helped to get record numbers of people into employment, they who have helped grow our economy by 2.6% in the past year alone, and they who have taken the risks to help Britain succeed, now and in the future.

The economic news is good not only at a national level, but in my constituency of Daventry. Unemployment there is now running at the extraordinarily low rate of around 1%, with only 600 constituents on jobseeker’s allowance, which is down 42% since a year ago. Youth unemployment is down 40% since 2010, and long-term unemployment has been halved. Those figures are quite miraculous. They are a testament both to those who work in the jobcentre and help find work for my unemployed constituents and to the businesses in my constituency that created the jobs in the first place.

In fact, the midlands are having quite an economic renaissance. We are seeing a job created there every 10 minutes, with employment rising faster there over the past than even in London. Those are amazing statistics, especially when we consider that 80% of the jobs being created are full time and in high-skilled occupations. Over the past two years, Daventry has seen 1,700 people begin apprenticeships. I am proud of the legacy that we will be able to look back on in that area. The Prime

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Minister has outlined his ambition to see 3 million apprenticeships in the next Parliament, and I know that in only a few weeks’ time that ambition will start to become a reality when the British people rightly vote Conservative across the country and deliver a Conservative Government.

Another proud achievement of this Government has been the creation of and support for university technical colleges, one of which is in my constituency. There are now 40 UTCs thanks to this Government, and there are more to come. Daventry university technical college, under the wise stewardship of Dave Edmondson, is performing great things. With the Daventry international rail freight terminal in my constituency, the UTC focuses on sustainable and related new technologies in engineering, construction and environmental sustainability. That reflects the growing demand for well-qualified technical specialists in my constituency. It is now building the skills sets of students going through the UTC so that they can walk into jobs that are right on their doorstep.

There are many good points that got only a brief mention in the Budget statement. I echo yesterday’s statement from the Federation of Small Businesses, which said that giving stand-alone guidance for research and development tax credits for small businesses will

“drive further investment by innovative companies”.

In fact, I recently met a representative of an accounting firm who works with small businesses in order to discuss tax credits. Jane Ollis, managing director of RIFT, pointed out that in 2013 only 13,000 of the millions of small businesses in the UK claimed back the cash they were entitled to from the Government under research and development tax credits, so there is a lot of work to be done in that area. If a business has spent time and resources carrying out new product development, or if it is working on some innovative solutions, it should be able to reduce its tax bill or secure a cash injection of up to 25% of what it has spent. RIFT has identified that the average R and D tax refund claimed back from HMRC is £55,000, which is an invaluable injection of cash for any small business.

We have also taken 360,000 small businesses out of business rates over this Parliament by extending small business rate relief. We have thrown our weight behind businesses by cutting corporation tax, which in two weeks’ time will fall to 20%, the joint lowest rate in the G20 and a far cry from the legacy of the previous Labour Government—it stood at 28% in 2010. Now, we will go further. Realising that business rates have not kept pace with the needs of the modern economy, the Chancellor has announced a review of the structure of this system. That is welcomed by everybody in business.

We have argued in this place about whether people are feeling the benefits of the economic recovery. The IFS said today:

“Average household incomes have just about regained their pre-recession levels. They are finally rising and probably will be higher in 2015 than they were in 2010, and possibly higher than their 2009 peak.”

Families are, on average, about £900 a year better off under this Government.

On my next point, I should declare an interest. I do not receive any payment but I am the chairman of two regional theatres and a cinema. Arts, heritage and sport have received a great deal of money from this Government

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—£300 million extra in the past four years, compared with the preceding four years, because the Government changed the funding formula with the lottery. This is opposed by the Labour party, which has still not decided whether it would go back to the funding system that it previously operated, meaning a huge cut for the arts. I hope the hon. Member for Hartlepool will pick up this point and say how arts would be funded in the future.

We must never forget Labour’s great recession, its mismanagement of the economy and its economic illiteracy. The Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Chancellor fail to disguise their disdain for business, trotting out the same tired lines and failed policies, such as rent controls, threatening businessmen who criticise their policies, proposing punitive taxes on wealth creators and refusing to commit to deregulation. I have numerous photographs of many Opposition Members, including the one who is, I believe, next to speak, standing next to a huge ice cube, trumpeting their proposed energy price freeze, only to abandon it as energy prices are decreased by market forces. This literal political meltdown shows their utter incompetence. They have no economic plan, let alone a long-term one like the Conservative party and this Government.

4.22 pm

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): I will deal with the closing remarks of the hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) later in my speech.

The rhetoric from both parties in the Government has been breathtaking. It certainly has not matched the reality for my constituents in Oldham East and Saddleworth and for constituents across the country. For them, all is not rosy. As we have already heard, most working people on average earnings are £1,600 a year worse off than they were in 2010. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, families are on average £1,100 worse off if we take into account tax and benefit changes. That is important to consider. We know that our NHS is at breaking point, with A and E targets and cancer targets all being missed on this Government’s watch. Trying to get access to a GP is a challenge, and frail older people have to fend for themselves after being isolated and left alone because of the £2.7 billion cuts to social care.

The sick and disabled are vilified for needing support from the state, and are made to go through dehumanising assessments and told to take up their bed and walk, as this Government will have cut £24 billion in support for them by 2018. Food banks provide subsistence to people left poverty-stricken through benefits sanctions and from just being in a low-paid job. Young people feel as though they have been thrown on the scrapheap even before their working lives have started. This is just as I remember it in the 1980s, when my first job was with community groups and I worked specifically with unemployed young people. Small businesses struggling with late payments from contractors and cash-flow issues are being driven to the brink, with the Government doing little to help them. This is Britain in the 21st century, the sixth wealthiest country in the world, under this Tory and Liberal Democrat Government.

After what has been said by Government Members crowing about their economic performance, let me take them back to an economy that was growing at the end of 2010. It then flatlined for three years, and, yes, we

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have seen a little bit of growth, and every bit is welcome, but we know from the International Monetary Fund that it is all going downhill from now, despite what the Government have said. We have had the worst recovery in 100 years, and they have squandered the growth that was given to them at the end of 2010. We have the second lowest level of productivity in the G7 and we are 19th lowest in terms of average productivity—the worst figure since 1992. The total annual value of UK exports decreased by 3.9% in the year ending 2014. As we have heard, the Government are borrowing £219 billion more than they estimated in 2010. How about that for economic incompetence? Just this year, they will be borrowing £91 billion as opposed to the £37 billion they said they would be borrowing.

On unemployment, the jobseeker’s allowance figures look positive, but evidence from eminent academics has shown the effects of benefit sanctions on JSA claimants. One in five JSA claimants will be sanctioned, and 43% of them will leave JSA, 80% without getting a job. What is being reported in official statistics is not reflected in what is really going on. We have had the biggest rise in self-employment in 40 years—an increase of 15%. For many, that is a positive thing and a good way of working, but the average income of self-employed people is £10,000. We have already heard about zero-hours contracts and the levels of under-employment. The picture is not all rosy.

On the inequalities that this Tory and Liberal Democrat Government have presided over, according to the IFS, families on low incomes, particularly families with children, have lost proportionately more of their income than any other group as a result of tax and benefit changes. There is clear evidence that parental income affects a child’s cognitive and social development as well as their health. This Government are condemning another generation before they have even got started. House of Commons Library figures show that after housing costs have been taken into account, 4.1 million children are living in absolute poverty—half a million more than in 2010, a figure that will increase to about 1.1 million by 2020, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The net effect of the Government’s fiscal policies has been to favour the rich at the expense of the poor. It does not stop at family incomes. Shockingly, as many hon. Members have said, the evidence shows that the link between public spending and life expectancy is not being recognised, and the Government have decided to cut resources allocated to the public sector in the most deprived areas. One can only draw the conclusion that the Chancellor is on some kind of evangelical mission. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions wants to restrict child benefit to the first two children in a family to instigate what he calls behaviour change, which is code for wanting poor families to have just two children, and perhaps the Chancellor is of a similar mind.

We are already seeing the effects of these cuts in the dire circumstances that people are finding themselves in. We have seen a surge in the number of food banks, with nearly 1 million food parcels delivered last year. In my home town of Oldham, we never had a food bank until 2012. Last year, it delivered meals to 5,000 people, including 1,500 children. We have a level of malnutrition that we have not seen since the ’30s, as well as increases

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in rickets and scurvy—and this is 2015. After decades of decline, suicide rates are going up, with more than 4,500 male suicides in the UK in 2012—three and half times the figure for women. Again, this is exactly what happened in the 1980s.

At the same time, we have more billionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world. The wealth of five families is equivalent to that of the poorest 20%—in other words, 13 million people—and boardroom pay has rocketed. According to the High Pay Commission, FTSE 100 chief executive officers earn 185 times the salary of their average employee, and that does not reflect performance. As I have said, incomes have fallen by £1,600. In my own town, one in three people are paid below the living wage.

The Government have done nothing about those damaging inequalities. I am sure that some Government Members still believe the discredited theory that inequalities are good for motivation, but that and the theory of trickle-down economics have been disproved. Overwhelming evidence now shows how bad inequality is for the economy and for society as a whole. The IMF has come out in support of Joseph Stiglitz’s analysis that inequality is a drag on growth and can also make growth more volatile. The OECD has also rejected trickle-down economics and said that the resulting inequality has slowed growth, not increased it, through negative effects on human capital. The Equality Trust estimates that the UK loses £39 billion a year as a result of inequalities, and the work of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett has described how reducing the gap between rich and poor can increase not only life expectancy, but social mobility, educational attainment and happiness, while reducing crime.

4.31 pm

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): I think you will agree, Madam Deputy Speaker, that this has been an excellent and often revealing debate on the impact of the Budget. I thank hon. Members for making excellent contributions.

The Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee rightly criticised the Chancellor’s use of the words “walking tall”, which ring hollow when people are walking to a food bank. My hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg) reminded us of memory, particularly with regard to the Lib Dems helping to stop the education maintenance allowance and how the Government have also failed to meet their policy objectives on deficit reduction and debt, which I will return to later.

My hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) rightly mentioned how the NHS, local government and housing are in crisis, threatened still further by the proposed sharp acceleration of cuts to public spending.

I was particularly pleased to hear the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones), who rightly talked about the importance of entrepreneurs and the self-employed in the British economy. She praised Alice Murray, founder of Giggles and Games. I thought that the Liberal Democrats’ yellow toytown box was by Fisher Price, but I wonder whether Giggles and Games might have produced it for that toytown and busted flush of a political party.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) mentioned the £30 billion post-election bombshell if these plans go through. She also talked about the pressure on working families in her constituency with regard to child care, so I think she welcomes Labour’s plan to provide 25 hours of free child care for working parents of three and four-year-olds.

My parliamentary neighbours, my hon. Friends the Members for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) and for Easington (Grahame M. Morris), made excellent contributions. They rightly said that there is nothing in this Budget for people in Teesside, east Durham or, indeed, the whole of the north-east. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North mentioned the disproportionate cuts in our area—they are far worse than those in any other area—to police, fire and local government. My hon. Friend the Member for Easington said that he was underwhelmed by the Budget and talked about the pressure on his constituents. They will know that the Chancellor mentioned Agincourt more times than the north-east, but they will not be surprised, because the Government’s record shows that he has neglected the north-east for the whole of the past five years.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) argued for his own city to be given similar freedoms on business rates to those given to Greater Manchester. I particularly liked his subtle references to Beatles songs: he quoted lyrics from two songs on “Abbey Road” when he said that the Chancellor was more like the “Sun King” than “Here Comes the Sun”. My right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) mentioned the importance of manufacturing to a modern, innovative and resilient economy, and I fully agree with him.

In an at times warm speech, the hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) was kind enough to mention Hartlepool United. I think he was being kind, but we are bottom of the Football League at the moment.

Ed Balls: The only way is up.

Mr Wright: As the shadow Chancellor says, the only way is up. We have just won two games on the trot, which is unusual for us. We are only four points away from the next team up, so we have everything to play for.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) told us that this Government’s tax and benefit changes mean that families are on average £1,127 a year worse off. She has been a fantastic champion of the NHS, and she mentioned how A and E and the rest of the NHS is at breaking point. She said that Oldham never had a food bank until 2012, which is very similar to my experience in Hartlepool and to the experience elsewhere around the country. I particularly pay tribute to her for being a champion in tackling late payments to contractors, which can be a blight on small businesses trying to pay their way in the economy.

Several hon. Members who spoke are leaving the House voluntarily; I imagine that several others will leave involuntarily. I pay tribute to the hon. Members for Dudley South (Chris Kelly) and for North Warwickshire (Dan Byles). I am genuinely sorry that they have decided not to stand again, but I look forward to welcoming the excellent Natasha Millward to the House, and to Mike

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O’Brien coming back. I also pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke), who has been a fantastic champion for park homes, on which we have worked closely together.

I want to single out the hon. Member for Northampton South (Mr Binley), who has just walked into the Chamber. I consider him a real friend to me and to business in this country, as he is very knowledgeable. Before he leaves this place, I hope that we can have a pint and celebrate the great work that he has done, and the great work he will continue to do.

Mr Binley: Monday night.

Mr Wright: It’s a date—and perhaps I can bring along the hon. Gentleman’s successor in his seat, Kevin McKeever.

The hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr Walter) made a weak joke, frankly, about how the Leader of the Opposition’s kitchen must be a butler’s pantry. That was particularly welcome from the hon. Gentleman, who I know has serious and relevant credentials for talking about the experiences of ordinary working families in this country. As an alumnus of Warminster boarding school, a former international banker and a freeman of the City of London, his comments were very relevant.

The Chancellor should have focused on the country’s long-term prosperity and competitiveness, using the Budget to do more to strengthen productivity, investment and trade, yet that did not happen. Today’s Financial Times stated:

“This was a Budget that offered little to business”.

It was revealing that the Chancellor did not once utter the word “productivity” in his statement, but tackling the productivity gap is the single biggest means by which Britain can improve competitiveness, raise living standards for all and ensure that the deficit is brought down. UK output per hour has fallen to 17% below the rest of the G7, the largest gap since 1991. It takes British workers until the end of Friday to produce what a German or American worker has produced by Thursday. The OBR reports that actual growth in productivity per hour has again been weaker than expected, with a fall in the final quarter of 2014. It states that productivity growth

“remains the most important and uncertain judgement in our forecast”.

Failing to act on productivity during the next Parliament will make the difference between the austerity well into the future that the Conservatives will provide and the better plan for business and rising living standards that Labour is preparing. We need to restore the link between economic growth and higher living standards for all. To do that, our economy needs more high-skill, high-pay jobs in the high-productivity sectors in which Britain has an advantage. That will require a proper, co-ordinated and focused industrial strategy, but Ernst and Young said yesterday that the Chancellor’s “scatter-gun approach” to UK industry will not help to deliver a proper industrial strategy, or to achieve the 300,000 additional jobs that a sector-focused strategy could produce.

Higher productivity would be boosted by higher investment, but spending on infrastructure has fallen by a third under this Government. The Red Book shows that there will be a planned reduction in capital spending

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over the five years to 2019-20. The OBR has said that business investment fell by 1.4% in the last quarter of 2014, following a fall of 1.2% in the third quarter. The failure of the Chancellor to announce future plans for the annual investment allowance disappointed business, has increased uncertainty and delay, and almost certainly postponed investment in new equipment and jobs.

Why did the Government not set up an independent national infrastructure commission to stop long-term decisions about the performance of our economy being kicked into the long grass? Why did the Chancellor not announce a boost to the investment in low-carbon technologies? Why did he not ensure that Britain is a world leader in green technology? The Business Secretary mentioned in passing, almost in embarrassment, changes to the green investment bank. Will the Economic Secretary put a little more meat on the bones of that proposal? The Chancellor put in place measures that will increase the demand for homes, but there was nothing to help the construction industry and the supply of new homes—things that are vital for the future of this country. Why did he not introduce a long-term innovation strategy for science and research, with a stable and secure funding framework, to improve the UK’s record on R and D?

Throughout his time in office, the Chancellor has made much of an export-led recovery. He said yesterday: