1.36 pm

Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh).

Standing here now, I realise how wise were the words of my hon. and good Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) when he, during his maiden speech, suddenly understood the significance of the occasion and said,

“nobody is looking forward to the end of my speech more than I am”.—[Official Report, 2 June 2010; Vol. 510, c. 526.]

I can assure the House that this is definitely the case for me, too.

Having said that, I am delighted to have been called in this debate following the first Conservative Budget for 19 years, as during the election economic competence was one of the key issues raised on the doorstep. I know that many of my constituents will be pleased that the Chancellor has already implemented promises made in our manifesto, especially the increase in the lower tax threshold and the introduction of 30 hours of free childcare.

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I pay tribute to my predecessor, Dan Byles. He was my local MP, so I can confidently say that he served our community with true integrity and commitment. Dan stood up resolutely for his constituents and was seen as champion, fighting for them on issues that mattered—none more so than the mitigation and compensation for those affected by HS2. I will continue to fight for that cause in the manner for which he was so respected. As a result of Dan’s hard work and that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, unemployment dropped to the lowest level ever in our constituency. Dan was rightly proud of that.

It was an outstanding achievement for Dan to win the seat in 2010, with the smallest Conservative majority of just 54 votes, although I note that, following the last election, 54 is a cushion that many colleagues would be delighted with. As his constituency chairman in 2012 and 2013, I confidently predicted that not only would he win in 2015, but I would ensure that we doubled his majority. Having now increased the majority to nearly 3,000—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!]—that may be the only target that I have been happy to get wrong by such a considerable margin. Indeed, should this career not work out, then, given that margin of error, I see a possible future as a pollster. [Laughter.] I am sure that many constituents and indeed many Members of this House will join me in thanking Dan for his work and send him and his family the very best wishes for their future.

My own route into politics was not exactly a traditional one. Until recently, I subscribed to the thoughts of the eminent historical figure Blackadder that “Wanting to be a politician should actually ban you for life from ever being one.” I grew up in the renowned Conservative heartland that is Durham city and attended the local comprehensive, Framwellgate Moor. My dad was one of 15 children and moved from Ireland in 1960s, when he met my mum in London. They moved back to her native north-east and eventually set up and built their own business, which they have now run for over 40 years, employing many local people in the process. It was from them that I learned the Conservative belief of aspiration, and that with hard work and resilience almost anything is possible. They inspired and encouraged me to start my own business at 21, and it is some testament to them, and to the tolerance of the British people, that I still ran that business until I was elected to the House just a few weeks ago. I will miss my three staff—Laura, Allison and Georgia—but I am sure that they now realise they did all the work anyway and do not really need me.

The North Warwickshire and Bedworth constituency is a wonderful mix of towns and villages, boasting a rich history of coalmining and industry. The small market town of Atherstone sits on the old Roman Watling Street, and the town centre has changed very little in 750 years, even though the traditional hatting industry has now disappeared. The town still plays an annual Shrove Tuesday ball game, a tradition that has survived for over 800 years, although given the physical nature of this game, the lifespan of competitors is significantly less.

Coleshill is a historic coaching town in the western part of North Warwickshire, lying close to the outer edge of Birmingham. It is a thriving community, which also hosts successful companies such as Sertec, BMW and a host of others at its Hams Hall estate. Incidentally, it is also famous for being the town that invented Brylcreem.

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The largest town is Bedworth. Although predominantly thought of as an ex-coalmining area, it also formed an important part of the 19th-century silk ribbon weaving industry of Coventry and North Warwickshire. One world famous ribbon maker still operates in Bedworth—Toye, Kenning and Spencer, which produces high-class medal ribbons and masonic regalia that are exported around the world. In the centre of the town is Bedworth’s hidden gem, the picturesque Nicholas Chamberlaine almshouses, managed by the Nicholas Chamberlaine Trust, which celebrates its 300th anniversary this year. Bedworth also proudly hosts the largest and most famous Armistice Day parade in Britain, which is always held at the exact hour, day and month each year.

The constituency is dotted with many smaller villages that all have their own identity, such as Fillongley, Austrey, Newton Regis, Warton, Grendon, Baddesley, Shustoke, Mancetter and—not forgetting my home for the last 15 years—Shuttington, a small village that is famous not just for the Wolferstan Arms pub, but as the birthplace of Charles Bonner, a recipient of the Victoria Cross.

Our major local issue remains HS2. The line will run through a number of areas, such as Water Orton, Kingsbury, Middleton and Polesworth. I will do all that I can to support residents in their opposition to the HS2 route, and to assist them with their mitigation and compensation cases.

The main hospital in our constituency, George Eliot, has undergone a huge transformation in recent years, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the staff there, working in partnership with the Government. It has recently achieved a good rating, and I will work with it to ensure that this excellent upward progression continues.

I am very proud of the previous Conservative record on increasing apprenticeships, and this is an area that I will continue to champion. It is important that we not only deliver high-quality qualifications that benefit local students and employers, but give pupils a real choice in the path that they take when leaving school.

Finally, we are rightly respected across the world for our outstanding military, and it is great to see many colleagues now on these Benches who previously have served their country. Although I did not serve myself, I am very proud of the nearly 10 years that my wife Karen spent in the RAF, seeing active service in the first Gulf war. In such volatile times, we must remember that the first duty of Government is to protect their citizens. Equally, we have a duty to ensure that, when we ask our brave servicemen and women to put themselves at risk for their country, we do so safe in the knowledge that we have provided them with the best possible training, equipment and resource to do so. On that, I welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to the 2% figure.

I want to finish by expressing my thanks to the people of North Warwickshire and Bedworth for electing me to be their representative in Parliament. This is a role that I do not take lightly or underestimate. I relish the challenge of making North Warwickshire and Bedworth an even better place to live over the next five years.

1.44 pm

Judith Cummins (Bradford South) (Lab): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey).

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There can be no greater privilege than becoming a Member of this House, the mother of all Parliaments, and I am particularly proud to be delivering my maiden speech as the Member for Bradford South. This great sense of pride and privilege has been possible only because the good people of Bradford South placed their trust and confidence in me. For that, I will be eternally grateful, and I promise I will never let them down. I am proud to be the first woman to represent Bradford South, and to be the first woman parliamentarian from the transformational Ruskin College.

My predecessor, Gerry Sutcliffe, served Bradford South for 22 years from 1994, following the untimely and sad death of the hugely respected Bob Cryer. With Gerry’s departure, the House has lost a generous, approachable and extremely popular Member. Many in this House, from all political parties, will have benefited from his sound advice, his sharp wit, and perhaps most importantly, his pearls of wisdom about this season’s football player transfers. Incidentally, you would get such pearls irrespective of whether you had actually asked for them.

Bradford South is one of five constituencies covering the metropolitan area of Bradford. We are renowned first and foremost for our proud industrial and cultural heritage, but we are also recognised by the discerning for other—often under-appreciated—reasons. For example, the village of Howarth was home to the great literary Bronte family, a fact known all too well by the Japanese tourists who annually pay homage. Our creativity is legendary, a fact recognised by UNESCO when it bestowed upon Bradford the prestigious UNESCO city of film status. In the world of British politics, few would be aware of the fact that it gave birth to the Independent Labour party, fighting for social justice, thus giving its chairman, Keir Hardie, his seat in this House in 1900. In the world of sport, I know that all Members will be aware of the fact that we are home to the world-famous Bradford Bulls.

I have spoken about Bradford as a place, but, as the cliché goes, a place is only as good as the people who live there, and in that regard I am most fortunate indeed. The people of Bradford South are fair-minded, good-natured and hard-working folk. In return, they rightly expect fairness and justice, security and respect in old age, a decent education for their families, affordable homes to call their own, access to free healthcare on demand and a job that pays a fair day’s wage. These fundamental needs are what all people in our country should expect. I promise to dedicate my next five years to working to ensure that these fundamental needs are respected and upheld for the people of Bradford South. Sadly, they are all too often beyond the grasp of hard-working people in my constituency, and that must change. I will campaign tirelessly for Bradford South until these fundamental needs are met to their fullest. It will be on these fundamental needs that I will hold this Conservative Government to account during this Parliament.

I am in the Chamber today to pursue the same struggle that led Keir Hardie to this House some 115 years ago—the fight for social justice. People living across Bradford deserve social justice, a phrase that is sometimes overcomplicated by academics and commentators alike. To me, it is not complicated; nor is it to the people of Bradford. By the same token, neither is injustice complicated—the upwelling of discomfort in the pit of your stomach in the face of injustice will be familiar to all.

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We see injustice on pensions. We would all agree that we need to look after the elderly, yet pensioner poverty is still a reality. Those who have worked hard all their lives and paid into the system deserve dignity and security in old age, yet far too many of our older generation are still struggling to get by. This simply cannot be right and it must change.

We see injustice in housing. As a country, we need to ensure that all our citizens have access to affordable homes—a home to raise their family and a home in which to enjoy their retirement years. We need a housing sector that delivers for the ordinary people of this country.

We see injustice in access to healthcare services. Too few people are able to access timely appointments at their local GP surgeries and NHS dentists. As a country, we need to look after our young and old, our mums and dads, our daughters and sons. Without good health, so much else becomes increasingly difficult, or even impossible—working a job, looking after our families, playing in the local park. Good healthcare services are the cornerstone of a thriving community. Our healthcare services need to support our local communities and at the moment that is simply not happening. Increased resources for those critical services must be a priority.

We also see injustice in access to further education. Too few of my constituents are able to access the courses they so desperately need. Without access, they will not be able to develop the skills critical to a prosperous career in the global market we inhabit. The reason for that is simple: insufficient investment. Education equips people for a successful and prosperous life, where they get on and are able to cope with life’s challenges. In Bradford, we are blessed with two outstanding education institutions, Bradford College and Bradford University. They have transformed the life chances of countless generations of young people in Bradford over the decades, but without sufficient resources their ability to continue to transform the lives of Bradford’s people, both young and adult learners, will be stunted. In higher education, the abolition of the student maintenance grant, announced yesterday, is a backwards step, which will limit aspiration and undermine the concept of one nation that the Government seek to champion.

We also see injustice when we look at the number of jobs that pay a fair day’s wage. Weekly pay in my constituency is significantly below the national average, and the consequences of that are stark. For example, HMRC child poverty figures reveal that in my constituency an appalling 28.3% of our children—the future of this country—are stranded in poverty. Without family incomes rising in line—and, indeed, above inflation—children are always the first to suffer. We need those children to become the scientists, the artists, the wealth creators and the inspirational leaders of tomorrow, but we condemn them to the most deplorable start in life. That must change. At first sight, yesterday’s Budget announcement on the living wage appeared to offer hope to the working poor, but closer scrutiny reveals that any benefits accrued will easily be wiped out by deep cuts to in-work benefits.

I pledge to stand up for the people of Bradford South against such cynicism, and I conclude with words of warning from Martin Luther King, who said:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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1.52 pm

Graham Evans (Weaver Vale) (Con): It is a great privilege to follow the hon. Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins)—a fine constituency and a fine city. I am sure that she will do an excellent job as the constituency’s new MP. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey), an outstanding individual who will, I am sure, do a great job for his constituents. I also pay tribute to his good lady wife for her service to Queen and country.

At a time of uncertainty abroad—be it in Greece, Russia or the middle east—the Chancellor delivered a Budget that prized economic stability at home. It was a one nation Budget that will provide security for working people in Weaver Vale, greater Cheshire and the north-west as a whole. Despite the chaos in the eurozone, Britain is still growing faster than any other major advanced economy in the world—faster than America and Germany. Our economy grew by 3% last year, a figure revised upwards from the 2.6% we expected in March. Our long-term economic plan is working. Indeed, before the election, the US President commented that the UK must be doing something right on its economy.

British businesses, backed by the Government through tax cuts and the removal of red tape, have created 2 million new jobs since 2010. I know that businesses across Weaver Vale welcomed the announcements made by the Chancellor yesterday about the extension of the employment allowance to £3,000 and the news that corporation tax will fall to 18% in 2020—from the 28% we inherited five years ago.

Earlier, the shadow Chancellor said that science and technology were not mentioned in the Budget, but the Chancellor has a fine record on such investment, including in Sci-Tech at Daresbury. The previous Labour Government took investment away from Daresbury, and when I became MP for the area in 2010 I was advised by the then Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee—he is no longer a Member, but he was a fine Chairman and I pay tribute to him—to watch like a hawk to ensure that the new Government did not take away investment from Daresbury as the previous Government had done. Instead, the Chancellor invested £150 million recently in big data, and I was proud that, just before the election, IBM signed a £130 million partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council that will secure high growth and high-tech, well-paid jobs for my constituents in the long term. That is good for my constituency and for the country, as we become an international hub for science and technology and big data.

The OBR has predicted that a further 1 million jobs will be created over the next five years, but we are the party of ambition and we want to go further. We are working towards a target of full employment—a job for everyone who wants one and a country that is open for business. In the past five years, Government-backed schemes such as the right to buy have helped 200,000 people on to the property ladder. That is vital, because home ownership is central to the aspirational country that we are building. Owning their own home means so much more to families. I was born in a council house, the youngest of four children. My family lived there for 20 years and, in 1972, Ted Heath’s Conservative Government offered us the opportunity to purchase the property, so my parents did so. My father died when

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I was a teenager and my mother had security in old age and retirement because they had invested in that house. The right to buy is central to the Conservative party’s philosophy that everyone should have a home of their own.

Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor gave Britain a pay rise. Over the course of the Parliament, the introduction of the national living wage could be worth more than £5,000 to someone working full time for the minimum wage. I need not tell the House how much that extra income will mean to hard-working families trying to get on. Not only will working people earn more, they will keep more of what they earn. Typical taxpayers will pay £905 less tax than in 2010, thanks to the increases in the personal allowance over the last five years.

Mr Betts: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has seen the analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies today, but it says that the minimum wage announcement will not go anywhere near compensating for welfare cuts in cash terms. People currently on tax credits will be significantly worse off and the reform could cost 3 million families an average of £5,000 a year. That is the IFS’s calculation.

Graham Evans: I have to confess that I have not seen those figures, but the Government’s overall mantra is “A higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare economy”, which will benefit all of our constituents. That is in contrast to the Labour party, which had a high-tax, low-wage, high-benefit culture. That is the debate we are having today: the Conservatives want high wages and low benefits and I believe that the Budget will move Britain in that direction. That will be good for the country, for my children and for our country’s future. We are a beacon in Europe, as its second biggest economy, and if we continue down the same road, in 10 to 15 years we will become the biggest economy in Europe. The whole world is watching this great country, and we are the beacon for how things can be done in difficult economic circumstances.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): I want to add to what my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) said. The IFS has said that it is “arithmetically impossible” for the Chancellor’s national living wage to offset the loss of income from tax credits. I recommend that the hon. Gentleman reads that. Will he and other Government Members who have said similar things to him today also advertise a surgery on tax credits and invite their constituents to see how they feel about it and whether they think this Budget makes things better?

Graham Evans: I am most grateful to the hon. Lady. I will indeed look into those figures. I hold surgeries every Friday, so I will see constituents about that. What I would say to her is that unemployment in Weaver Vale has dropped by 70% since 2010, and that is 80% full-time, good quality jobs.

I am not saying it is easy, but these difficult decisions have to be made. When Gordon Brown introduced working tax credits, he said the figure would be £2 billion. It is now £30 billion. The Labour party has to decide—I asked this question yesterday and did not get a reply—whether £30 billion is too much, too little or about

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right. We have to make these difficult decisions, but the hon. Lady makes an important point. I am not saying for a moment that it will be easy, but we are the party of aspiration. We are the party that always makes work pay, which is something that did not happen under 13 years of Labour.

Jeremy Quin: My hon. Friend will recognise, as those of us on the Government Benches do, that we will still be paying out tax credits in the same numbers that we were paying them out in 2007 and 2008, under the last Labour Government. What we are talking about is the sudden spike to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions referred in his speech.

Graham Evans: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Working-age benefits are something we have to tackle so that we can eradicate the deficit and start paying down the national debt. That is what I believe in. I believe that the Government are right: a higher-wage, lower-tax, lower-welfare economy. Britain is open for business. That is the future for our country.

2.1 pm

Marie Rimmer (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab): I extend my congratulations to the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) on their excellent maiden speeches today.

I am grateful to the people of St Helens South and Whiston for the faith they have placed in me to represent them here in this great Chamber. St Helens South and Whiston has a proud economic heritage and is at the heart of British industry and innovation. It is therefore only right that we continue to build on innovation and provide more and better jobs for our residents. This is a key element of my maiden speech.

First, I pay tribute to my immediate predecessor, Shaun Woodward, who had a distinguished ministerial and parliamentary career. I pay tribute in particular to his work in Northern Ireland and his support in securing the construction of the new St Helens South and Whiston hospital and the demise of the workhouse that was our hospital. I wish Shaun every happiness and success.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the genuine support given to new Members by the Commons staff. They are simply wonderful people and a credit to Westminster.

My constituency gave the world household names such as Pilkington and Beechams, as well as being home to the first railway trials, at Rainhill, when Stephenson’s Rocket became famous the world over. It is a constituency that quite literally enabled Britain to become the industrial powerhouse of the world. Britain would not be what it is today if it was not for the coalmines of Bold, Clock Face, Cronton and Sutton Manor. Over 30,000 people were once employed in my constituency in the great British industries of coal, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, all of which revolutionised the world. Sadly, these jobs are gone, replaced too often by low-paid, short-term, part-time and insecure agency employment. I have seen nothing that the Government have done to help to eradicate that. We have 8,600 children in working families that are receiving either child tax credits or child and working tax credits. I am deeply concerned about the impact of yesterday’s Budget on those families.

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However, today I want to talk about how my constituency can once again make Britain great and how it can be at the leading edge of innovation and creativity. Just last year, NGF Europe, based in my constituency, won the Queen’s award for innovation. Although I worked in the glass industry for 37 years, I will not pretend to know exactly what a small filament diameter glass cord actually does. But what I can say is how proud I am that they are made by skilled workers employed by NGF Europe, continuing our great glass-making tradition.

My constituency sits at the heart of the much talked about northern powerhouse—it was previously the northern way—as a generator of wealth and jobs. We aim to be a centre for logistics in St Helens and Whiston—a centre with connectivity and a place where industry and manufacturing can grow once again. The development of advanced manufacturing is our goal, leading to good, well paid jobs, high-level skills development, work experience and qualifications.

As hon. Members can tell, my constituency has always been at the heart of industrial change, and its heart has suffered from that change. Losing so many jobs from our economy crippled many families and tore not only the heart but the soul from their lives. My constituents literally lived through industrialisation and de-industrialisation. My hope is that they will live through further advanced manufacturing and industrialisation.

In 2008, the global financial crisis, caused by Lehman Brothers, had a devastating impact on my constituency. Quite simply, our plans were put off track. The Government of the day had to borrow to save our banks and, perhaps even more importantly, the savings of ordinary working-class people. But that was by the same Chancellor who paid off more debt than any previous Government on record. I am proud of that Chancellor.

The result of change has been the creation of a resilient people, often innovative in their own way and willing to try something new—proud people, with values underpinned by trade unionism; people who are warm and caring, with a great sense of humour. We have over 13,000 unpaid carers and over 400 recorded young carers—that is, children caring for their parents. It is estimated that there are 2,000 unrecorded young carers. As hon. Members will see, we are a strong community, compassionate and caring. We help each other. Above all else, my community has a strong heart—a resilient heart. That is why I want to see economic development that repairs the wounds of the past and gives each and every person an opportunity to shine—an opportunity to embrace new industries so that they can thrive.

In trying to grow our economy, we have great support. Our businesses are supported by a remarkable chamber of commerce—one of the largest in the country and twice awarded British chamber of the year. It is nationally recognised for its passionate approach to tackling the skills agenda for both employed and unemployed young people and for supporting business start-ups. We are also supported by a local enterprise partnership that is focused on business growth and ensuring fairness and equity in the jobs market. We connect industry, colleges and universities to nurture innovation and advanced manufacturing. My constituency shares its values with the rest of Liverpool city region, in that it is outward looking and strongly committed to helping our young people and graduates into work.

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A strong economy goes hand in hand with a strong society, and we have an excellent voluntary sector. I pay tribute to the 93 voluntary organisations and the army of volunteers. We are proud of the many volunteers who support our Willowbrook hospice, awarded the Queen’s award for volunteering. We are proud of and thankful for all the support and volunteering given to our food banks to ensure that our families do not go hungry. We are very proud of St Helens and Whiston’s new state-of-the-art hospitals, a major NHS employer that provides the highest standards of medical care and just last month was recognised for providing the best patient experience in the UK.

We have St Helens—Saints—the internationally recognised rugby league team, twice former World Club champions and current Super League holders, now at Langtree Park, our world-class new stadium, and also providing good employment opportunities. Indeed, Russell Crowe, the star of “Gladiator” and “Les Misérables”, chose to come to Langtree Park rather than appearing at the Oscars this year.

We will continue to look forward to the economic challenges, building on the strength of our excellent manufacturing base. We will continue to champion skills, transport and business growth at every opportunity. We will continue to afford all the people of my constituency the dignity of work that is respected and rewarded with fair and just conditions and pay. My constituency already plays a leading role in manufacturing and in exporting goods to Europe and the rest of the world. We are willing and able to play an even bigger role in championing the growth of advanced manufacturing and exports of the future.

My constituents and I believe that Government should encourage and support such economic growth by investing in infrastructure and incentivising the private sector to invest to do what Britain is best at—innovating, producing, and exporting—thereby reducing the trade deficit and increasing revenues so that all people may benefit. This is my focus and my firm intent during this Parliament. I will not let my constituents be let down. I will ensure that my voice is heard and that my constituents get a fair, just hearing in this great Chamber.

2.11 pm

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow the maiden speech by the hon. Member for St Helens South and Whiston (Marie Rimmer); I have a sneaking suspicion that she is going to be quite a formidable presence on the Opposition Benches during the next five years.

Britain has come a long way over the past five years. Tough decisions have been made to get the country’s deficit under control, to reform the welfare system, to make business more competitive, and to create new jobs. Unemployment in my constituency has fallen by more than 50% since 2010. In the black country, part of which I represent, there has been a significant manufacturing revival such that the region has been one of the fastest-growing of any in the United Kingdom over the past two years.

At the heart of this Budget is a recognition that we need to continue the work to rebalance the British economy away from London and the south-east, to make sure that we have a productive and balanced economy in the midlands, the west midlands and the north.

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Devolution of power, funding and decision making is absolutely fundamental if the regions of the United Kingdom, including the black country, are to reach their potential.

We need to encourage more jobs and investment in the black country, where we have a huge number of brownfield sites that can be used for development. One need only think of the industrial heritage of the black country to know that huge swathes of its land can be used for the development of industrial sites and for housing. I urge the black country’s local enterprise partnership and local authorities to identify appropriate brownfield sites for economic development to bring new jobs, taking advantage of the powers and responsibilities that the Government are offering to develop those sites. We should not go down the route of a recent idea by Dudley council to develop a huge industrial site on green-belt land just outside Halesowen. That is a very bad idea. I am the first to want to get jobs and investment into the black country, but the policy of Dudley’s LEP and local authority should be to focus first on brownfield in developing new jobs and opportunities.

At the heart of the plan to make Britain a more productive economy is further investment in skills to make sure that our young people are equipped to take advantage of the opportunities out there. That is why I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement in the Budget of a levy on larger companies to encourage further investment in quality apprenticeships. There have been 4,000 new apprenticeship starts in my constituency since 2010, but we need more and we need them to be better matched with the available opportunities in the local economy. That will build on the success of the Government’s city deal in the previous Parliament, which saw a significant level of investment, with about £1 million coming into the area for the development of a science and technology apprenticeship centre at Halesowen College.

Those are precisely the sorts of high-quality opportunities that we need in our local economy to encourage a greater focus on science and engineering—for example, to support the supply chain of Jaguar Land Rover. At the heart of this Budget, and absolutely fundamental to the future of the country and of the regions of Britain, is the continuation of the work that we started over the past five years to tackle the productivity problem by investing in high-quality skills so that people can take advantage of these opportunities.

While the Budget recognises the need to rebalance the economy and to make our businesses more competitive by cutting business taxes and creating more jobs, there is also—this has not been mentioned so far—the welcome commitment to further substantial real-terms increases in our national health service over the next five years. The Budget is clear in its commitment that this Government will support Sir Simon Stevens’s five-year plan for the NHS to continue the work of making it one of the best health services in the world. This Government, through this Budget, are committed to those real-terms increases over the next five years.

As the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is on the Front Bench, I want to make the case—which fits into the narrative of the new Government on one nation Conservatism, supporting people and making a more resilient and productive economy—that some of the new money being allocated to the NHS should be focused on improving mental health care. I was chairman

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of the all-party group on mental health in the previous Parliament. The argument is strong, given that mental health will become the most important health challenge that we face over the next 20 to 25 years. I am pleased that the Conservative party manifesto had specific pledges on mental health in the NHS, focusing on extending the range of availability of psychological therapies across the country, that are now being translated into action in government. The previous Labour Government introduced the IAPT—improving access to psychological therapies—programme, and the coalition Government invested £500 million in developing it. Now we need to take it further to give it to anybody who needs it.

Catherine West: I support the hon. Gentleman’s comments about mental health. I hope that some of the extra funding could go towards reducing the long waiting lists for IAPT, particularly where people are on benefits such as employment and support allowance and want to get off them and back into work. I hope we can work at a cross-party level to reduce the waiting lists for those crucial counselling therapies.

James Morris: I thank the hon. Lady; she makes a very good point. The Conservative party manifesto had a commitment to extend the range and availability of psychological therapies. The Department for Work and Pensions has been running pilots on specific forms of back-to-work support for people suffering from mental health problems—for example, individual placement and support.

We need to invest further in child and adolescent mental health services because—this is why I raise the issue in the context of the Budget—it makes economic sense to do so. It fits into the thrust of the Budget, which is that we need to build a more resilient and productive economy. We have a commitment to invest in perinatal mental health. If we get the investment in mental health care right, it will lead to huge economic benefits for Britain, a more productive society, stronger families and more resilient individuals—people capable of stepping up to the plate and taking advantage of the opportunities out there.

I urge Ministers to be sympathetic to the cause of mental health in the national health service as they consider further investment in our public health system, and to continue the work of achieving the Conservative manifesto commitment to greater parity of esteem between mental and physical health in the NHS.

A more productive economy, a more competitive business environment with lower taxes and a focus on high-quality skills and further job creation in a highly competitive global economy, combined with investment in our health service and in meeting the key health challenges of the future, such as mental health care and building more individual resilience—all that is the true measure of a one nation Conservative Government. We are creating an economy that can generate millions more jobs, building on the jobs that we have already created in the last five years, and a more entrepreneurial society, in which people are prepared to take risks and invest for the future. We are building not only a more competitive economy, but a more compassionate society.

Several hon. Members rose—

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Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. The speeches are getting a little long, but I do not want to impose a time limit, especially as the next two speakers on the Opposition side will make maiden speeches. If we can keep speeches to eight minutes and interventions to an absolute minimum, we will get through everybody.

2.22 pm

Calum Kerr (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (SNP): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this magnificent Chamber. The sense of history and occasion in here is tangible. It has long been a place of high emotion and drama, from the plotting of Guy Fawkes to the second world war, when it was bombed no fewer than 14 times. Those events should remind us of the fragility of liberty and democracy—something we must never forget.

We in the SNP are invested in an open, civic, inclusive and aspirational polity that seeks a better Scotland in a better world. We have made many friends in this place already, and I hope we will continue to do so.

I represent a constituency that is one of the most beautiful and diverse in these islands. Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk is vast and varied, stretching almost from one coast to the other. Its many towns and villages are proudly independent, and each has its own identity, traditions and history. As a native, I am delighted and proud to call the Scottish borders my home. I urge anyone to visit—all my colleagues seem to have done the same, but my constituency is the first one you come to as you cross the border—and to see the many and varied attractions, from Sir Walter Scott’s home at Abbotsford to the ruined abbeys across the region. You will find no warmer welcome anywhere, I promise.

Hon. Members should know, however, that borderers have fierce pride, huge family loyalty and, if roused, fire in their hearts. For centuries, political authority was loose in my constituency. Indeed, some parts were known as the debatable lands. Cattle were moved backward and forward over the border, clan feuds were common and arguments were often settled in brutal fashion. In this Chamber, convention has it that opposing Members are separated by two sword lengths. That has never been a propriety observed in my part of the world.

Close by in Northumberland lies Flodden, where in 1513 Scotland’s finest fell in a battle that is remembered across the borders in our common ridings in places such as Hawick, Coldstream and Selkirk. Every year, the Selkirk common riding honours the single Scottish warrior who crawled back holding an English banner. The Liberal Democrats must now understand what that feels like. [Laughter.]

I want to single out one Liberal Democrat in particular—my predecessor, Michael Moore. Michael was an immensely hard-working MP, who was rightly held in great affection in the constituency. I have always found him a warm, gracious and principled adversary, as well as a highly capable politician. One of his greatest achievements was his private Member’s Bill in the last Parliament, which legally bound our Governments to allocate 0.7% of GNP to overseas aid. That is a worthy testament to an honourable career. I am sure that all Members will join me in wishing him all the best for the future.

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Our borders landscapes are not just varied and beautiful; they are a hugely important part of our economy, generating revenue and sustaining employment. We do, however, face real disadvantages. Rural Scotland, including my constituency, can feel like a forgotten land—a policy afterthought: take technology infrastructure and, in particular, mobile phone spectrum licensing, where the UK Government’s clamour for money leaves rural areas short-changed. If other countries can mandate 99% coverage and insist on rural areas being covered first, we can too.

Rural areas also suffer from poor transport links. As the argument rages over HS2, we would be happy just to get better conventional rail. Of course, our new Borders Railway opens in September. That is a welcome investment by the Scottish Government. Now, we must examine the feasibility of extending it to Hawick and Carlisle. I call on hon. Members on both sides of the Border and from all parts of the House to join me in advancing that important project.

We also need support for our Scottish farming communities. This is an area where the UK Government are wantonly failing to provide assistance. The EU’s common agricultural policy provides a lifeline for many farmers, but Scotland will end up bottom of the payments league on pillar 1 by 2019 and is already at the bottom on pillar 2. UK Ministers have cynically failed to pass on more than €220 million of convergence money that was intended for Scotland. On pillar 2, the EU’s newest member state, Croatia, already has a budget more than 20 times that awarded to Scotland. That is a remarkable abandonment. UK Ministers have been not so much sleeping on the job as comatose in the corner.

The Prime Minister promised to respect Scotland, but he and his Government continue to neglect our national interests. The Smith commission agreed that Scotland should lead on EU fisheries talks when appropriate. There was therefore an expectation that when the UK Minister was unable to attend talks some weeks ago, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary would do so. The UK Government blocked that, and instead sent an unelected Conservative peer with no involvement in fisheries. Such behaviour flies in the face of assertions by the Prime Minister and his colleagues that all parts of this United Kingdom are equal. Indeed, it presents a compelling argument for Scottish independence—and so does the behaviour we have seen from the Government in recent days. To reject every single SNP amendment to the Scotland Bill, while also suggesting that it should be amended in another place, is to laugh in the face of Scottish democracy.

Moreover, the crippling austerity Budget with which we were presented yesterday completely ignores the traditional Scottish—and, indeed, United Kingdom—values of fairness, protection of families, and decency. My hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) made an excellent speech that gave a voice to some of the vulnerable groups the Budget targets.

But there is hope. There are times when the Government’s stubbornness can be broken by the will of this House, as we have seen today with the suspension of plans for English votes for English laws. Ministers have retreated in the face of parliamentary numbers, and we have sent them homewards to think again. I welcome that, and urge them to learn their lesson and do the same more often.

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Despite the Government’s hostile actions, we have not come to this place to agitate for independence. We are here to protect and promote Scotland’s interests, and to stand with all those who will oppose austerity and work for freedom, human rights and social justice. We want to be constructive, and to fulfil our constitutional role in opposing this Tory Government—and, at times, opposing the official Opposition too. Our 56-strong SNP team were elected to this place in the most powerful affirmation of a people’s democratic will ever seen within the Union. The move towards a better, fairer, more democratic Scotland took a huge leap forward in May. This is our time. We come from an ancient nation, but we bring new thinking. I urge all Members to listen to what we have to say, for we have much to offer.

Let me end by asking Members to reflect on the words of the French philosopher Voltaire—[Hon. Members: “Ooh!”] I am sorry that it is not Robbie Burns. Voltaire famously remarked

“we look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.”

We may be the elected representatives of a highly civilised nation, but my colleagues and I come here without conceit. We know that we will not always be right, but we want to listen, make friends and forge alliances. We seek fairness and a fair hearing, and we will always sit at the right hand of those who are at hame wi’ freedom. Like all in this place, regardless of politics or party, we want to do what we can to build a better world. Let that better world be the continuing and permanent vision and aspiration of each and every one of us, and, together, let us spare no toil in making it so. [Applause.]

2.33 pm

William Wragg (Hazel Grove) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr). I wish him a long and distinguished career in the House. I hope that he and his colleagues will forgive me if I add that I hope to see his seat represented here for a long time. We are, of course, relieved to learn that the SNP is no longer agitating for independence from the House. As a Unionist, I am greatly reassured by that.

It is also a pleasure to follow the maiden speech of the hon. Member for St Helens South and Whiston (Marie Rimmer). Many people have asked what the boundaries of the northern powerhouse will be, but I can see that, in typical northern fashion, she will be boundless in pursuing the interests of her constituents. I pay tribute to her for making a characteristically warm speech. I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins).

I warmly welcome the Budget as both a strong plan for the country’s finances and an important statement containing a considerable number of measures that will affect my constituency. As many Conservative Members have already noted, the continued strength of the recovery in the economy is impressive. Our growth is outstripping that of the rest of the G7, employment continues to rise, and unemployment continues to fall.

In my constituency, substantial progress has been made over the last five years under a Conservative-led coalition Government. Since 2010, there has been a fall in the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance, and an even more impressive fall of 58% in youth unemployment. Those may sound like the dry statistics that are pronounced all too regularly in the House,

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but they are much more than that. They reflect real people. The 49% fall in unemployment in my constituency represents 713 people: 713 people with greater prospects, greater financial security and greater peace of mind when it comes to providing for themselves and their families.

It is against that background that I want to speak briefly about two specific measures in yesterday’s Budget. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s announcement of a living wage of £9.00 an hour by 2020 is to be welcomed. Tackling low pay is part of our plan to move to a higher-wage, lower-tax, lower-welfare society, building a more productive Britain and giving families the security of well-paid work. This measure will benefit 6 million workers across the country, and will boost pay for those who are currently earning the minimum wage by £5,200 a year. To see just what that means to working families on low wages, one had only to look at the expression on the face of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, such was his obvious joy at the announcement.

Beyond the euphoria of that moment, however, it is worth considering the careful balance that has been struck between the new living wage for employees and what we must do to offset the resulting cost to employers. Small businesses can be reassured by the plans to extend the employment allowance to £3,000, cutting the jobs tax for firms, so that a business will be able to employ up to four people, full time, on the new national living wage and pay no national insurance at all. Larger companies will benefit from a reduction in corporation tax from 20% to 18% between now and 2020. As part of the Government’s plan to make work pay, the announcement of an increase in the personal allowance is also significant. A further 727 people in my constituency alone will pay no tax at all, and the total number of beneficiaries will be some 34,677. Again, those are seemingly dry statistics, but there is a real, positive story behind them.

While the Chancellor was able to pull the living wage rabbit out of the hat, the nettle that he had to grasp was that of tax credits. Members will, I hope, forgive me for reminding them that tax credit expenditure trebled in real terms between 1999 and 2010 to an estimated £30 billion—a far higher level than was expected by the “prudent” Labour Chancellor of the time. Some Chancellors can be accused of robbing Peter to pay Paul, or giving with one hand and taking with the other. However, the policy of tax credits itself, created by the last Labour Government, meant that the state would, in effect, tax with one hand and “give” benefits with the other, thus creating an inefficient cycle of tax and spend. The policy succeeded in greatly inflating the size of the welfare state and bloating the system that was required to administer it, but by taking money away from people in tax only to credit it back to them later, it did little to increase their net income and standards of living. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor is now faced with the unenviable task of unpicking that knotted system, built up under 13 years of Labour rule. It is no easy task, but the Budget makes some important headway.

As I have said, I welcome my right hon. Friend’s Budget. I believe that, by allowing people to earn more and, most importantly, to keep more of what they earn, it will raise the living standards, prosperity and wealth of the country as a whole and my constituents in Hazel Grove in particular, and I commend it to the House.

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2.38 pm

Dr Paul Monaghan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (SNP): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me an opportunity to contribute to the Budget debate.

As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr), history is important. We can learn much by studying the social and economic conditions of the past, and my constituency holds many lessons that are relevant today, for I represent the part of Scotland that endured the clearances. Indeed, it would be remiss of me if I did not begin my speech by paying tribute to the remarkable families, and the crofters, who lost their livelihoods, their homes and their lives during that shameful period of history.

The clearances were perpetrated during the 18th and 19th centuries when highlanders were forced from land they had held for generations. The clearances shifted land use from farming to sheep raising because sheep were considered more valuable than people. In the process, a way of life was exterminated to further the financial ambitions of aristocratic landowners. The evictions that took place are remembered for their brutality and for the abruptness of the social change that they prompted. At the time this Parliament compounded the inequity by implementing legislation to prohibit the use of the Gaelic language, the playing of bagpipes and even the wearing of tartan. The cumulative effect devastated the cultural landscape of the counties that I represent and the resulting impact destroyed much of Scotland’s Gaelic culture.

This Parliament’s policy ultimately failed, although I suspect that the Chagos islanders would recognise this account. In those dark days the cries and pleas of innocent families were ignored. If they were lucky, those families were dragged screaming from their homes, evicted and left to face destitution. If they were unlucky, their homes were simply set alight as they sat within them. The clearances forced the migration of highlanders to the sea coast, the Scottish lowlands, and further afield to the new worlds of north America and Australasia. Today more descendants of highlanders are found in those diaspora nations than in Scotland itself. These dispossessed highlanders travelled the world and applied their creativity and resource in ways that have benefited all of humankind. The economic and social contribution of the ancestors of people from my constituency stand today as a shining example of why the free movement of people is something no Government should hesitate to encourage.

As we debate the Government’s Budget, it is unfortunate that the cries and pleas of many people in my constituency continue to be ignored. Whereas in history the people of the highlands were burned out of their homes so that others could profit from sheep, the beneficiary of this Budget will be the financial markets that continue to take precedence over people. The impact will be that vulnerable people will face impoverishment owing to lack of economic opportunity, low wages, Europe’s lowest pensions, further experimentation with the failed system that we know as universal credit, the erosion of working tax credits and, frankly, the stifling lack of imagination that is self-evident in the austerity these measures promote, and that has raised the UK to be the fourth most unequal society in the developed world in terms of wealth inequality. For many in my constituency,

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past and present, the hardship, misery and impoverishment that accompany this inequality are the only consequences of the Government’s long-term economic plan that has been over 300 years in the making.

While some here today speak of economic laws, I choose to highlight the fact that many of our fellows are starving. It is time we recognised that economic laws are made not by nature, but by human beings. These laws are chosen for implementation by human beings and their effect will be felt by human beings. A further £12 billion of cuts, accompanied by a punitive sanctions regime, will do nothing except ensure that the jeely piece, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South (Stewart McDonald) spoke in his maiden speech, will remain a significant feature of childhood for far too many of our children.

Until 8 May my constituency was a Liberal stronghold. As long ago as 1918 the seat of Caithness and Sutherland was held by Sir Robert Leicester Harmsworth, Baronet of Moray Lodge in the Royal Borough of Kensington. I don’t think he was a local. Later the seat was held for many years by Robert Maclennan, who sits now as Baron Maclennan of Rogart just a short walk away, and more recently by the 3rd Viscount Thurso, John Archibald Sinclair, the fifth generation of the Sinclair family to represent Caithness in this Parliament. I pay tribute to Lord Thurso. In the past few weeks I have learned that he was a popular member of the establishment here at Westminster and I wish him well for the future.

I have lived in the highlands of Scotland for the greater part of my life and I can confirm that Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross is one of the very largest parliamentary constituencies by area and, despite what many of my colleagues will claim, it is easily the most beautiful—spectacularly so. It is a great honour for me to represent a highland seat in this Parliament. It seems clear that in my constituency at least, few ordinary people have had that privilege.

Beautiful as my constituency is, it is subject to great acts of vandalism. Cape Wrath is the only site in Europe where live 1,000 lb bombs are dropped. The bombing is enormously destructive to fragile wildlife and excludes communities from the proximity for up to 120 days each year. Similarly, Scotland’s oldest royal burgh, Tain, is tormented by fast jets flying as low as 150 feet to drop 1,000 lb concrete bombs just a few miles from housing estates and primary schools. It is instructive that while many of my constituents work tirelessly to protect our marine animals, our rivers, our wildlife and our environment, this Government consider it acceptable to bomb the land that we consider precious. I say instructive because this seems to be the manifestation of the one nation ideal that my hon. Friends and I are expected to be impressed by, but from which communities in my constituency derive only disadvantage.

I have spent much of my adult life in the voluntary sector, working with those cruelly challenged by the UK Government’s long-term economic plan. Like others, my family and I pay the punitive electricity charges and excessive carriage charges that this Government impose. We are exposed to the reform of rural fuel duties that has brought a new and vital meaning to the word “failure”. My communities prepare for the disastrous repercussions of the recent announcement of the closure of three Royal Bank of Scotland branches in our rural areas, and our businesses endure the iniquitous transmission

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charging regime maintained by this Government, which acts as the main obstacle to securing energy supplies and wealth for Scotland.

We are used to empty promises, but in the early days of this Parliament, Scotland has chosen to watch as the promises of something

“as close to a federal state as possible”,

where

“all the options of devolution are there and are possible,”

are publicly erased from the Scotland Bill. The Government know that for many, this Budget visits hardship on disadvantage.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Inverclyde (Ronnie Cowan), I grew up fascinated and inspired not just by the technological achievements of Project Apollo, but by the social achievements of the civil rights movement. As a child I learned of the bravery of Rosa Parks and how she changed the world, and as an adult I learned of the personal challenges met and overcome by, and of the uncommon political imagination of, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In those individuals I found examples not only of bravery but of imagination: the imagination to perceive the benefit of change in a world that aspires to achieve, not receive.

Many of those who supported me on 7 May did so in the belief that it is now time to achieve, and their uncommon political imagination sits around me today. Our aim is to achieve the right to build a fairer Scotland; we aim to establish a state of affairs where our old, our disadvantaged and our vulnerable are valued, and where our poor are protected not punished.

I made the decision to stand for election to this Parliament knowing, as Mrs Parks did, that

“I had the strength of my ancestors with me”,

and I know, as you do, Madam Deputy Speaker, that “all are equal”. Indeed, I stand here today knowing, as Mr Roosevelt did, that the

“test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little”.

In that task we will not be found wanting for, like Roosevelt:

“We are going to make a country in which no one is left out.”

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. Before I call the next speaker, we are getting tight on time and now that the maiden speeches are over I will be a bit stricter. I do not want to impose a time limit, but if we can keep speeches to about seven or eight minutes—that is a maximum; Members should not feel that they must use all that time—we will get everybody in.

2.51 pm

Lucy Frazer (South East Cambridgeshire) (Con): It is an honour to speak after the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr), who spoke eloquently. I was particularly interested to hear how his constituency is similar to mine and faces many of the same issues—it is a rural constituency where rural broadband and transport are key issues. I was also interested and honoured to speak after the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Dr Monaghan) who made an equally passionate speech. I look forward to hearing many more speeches from him on similar subjects in the future.

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This Conservative Budget is a Budget of core Conservative values—financial security, national security, and making work pay—and I wish to identify three different areas that I think should have cross-party support. The first is preparing our young people and getting them into work. It is about apprenticeships and the first step for our young adults to make their way in life. There can be little criticism of a scheme that helps to provide the foundations of the highly skilled workforce that we need for a competitive British economy. Through the apprenticeship levy, businesses are encouraged to take on and train our next generation, which will benefit from in-work training. We created 2 million apprenticeships in the last Parliament, and are committed to creating 3 million more—an ambition that surely must be welcomed.

The second point is about ensuring that for those in work, work pays, and that is achieved through the introduction of a national living wage. The concept of a living wage has had support from many quarters, including small and large businesses, parties across the political spectrum, and consumers across the country. The previous Government increased work opportunities across the country, and those in work must be paid fairly for the work they do, and be able to support themselves and their families from their own income. The new living wage starts to address that issue.

The living wage will also make headway in closing the gender pay gap. Historically, women have suffered more from low pay than men, and that has been a key factor in the gender pay gap. By increasing the minimum wage to a living wage, women stand to benefit and we take another step towards wage equality. Some have said that the amount the living wage is set at may not go far enough quickly enough. I note, however, that the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) called for an £8 minimum wage by 2020. The Chancellor has given us a £9 wage by the same date.

Thirdly, and critically, we must live within our means as a country. We cannot leave unnecessary debts to the next generation. In 2010 many said that it was not the right time to reduce the deficit. We had one of the highest deficits in the western world and we were coming out of recession with high unemployment. However, those who did not support the deficit reduction in 2010 must surely support it now. This year, the economy is predicted to grow by 2.4%, making us the fastest-growing western economy. We have the most competitive corporation tax in the G20. Our businesses have created 2 million more jobs since 2010, and the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that 1 million more will be created in the next five years. If now is the not the time to cut the deficit, when is?

The question must not be whether to cut the deficit to bring the country back to a surplus, but how. A Budget that makes efficiency savings, reduces tax avoidance and ensures we have a welfare system that rewards work must be, and is, the fairest way to achieve a stable recovery for all.

George Kerevan (East Lothian) (SNP): The hon. and learned Lady and many others on the Government Benches have referred to the cut in corporation tax and the low and competitive rate of corporation tax in this country as an aid to economic development. I appreciate that we need to maintain competitiveness on corporation tax, but I put it to her that all that has happened in the past eight or nine years is that British companies have

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used that tax cut to build up something in the region of £550 billion of cash reserves that they are not investing. The weakness in the Budget yesterday is that it did nothing to encourage those companies to invest and raise productivity.

Lucy Frazer: In a global economy, where companies can invest in any country they choose and base their operations anywhere around the globe, it is absolutely essential that we get companies to invest in our country. We are ensuring that that happens by setting a competitive rate of corporation tax.

Jeremy Quin: Does my hon. Friend, like me, welcome the OBR’s confirmation that business investment grew by 8% last year? It expects business investment to grow this year and next year. I think my hon. Friend has quite a lot of ammunition with which to respond to the hon. Member for East Lothian (George Kerevan).

Lucy Frazer: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. Investment in our country is growing, which is why we have an increase in revenues.

For all three reasons, this is a Conservative Budget that is a Budget for all. It is founded on principles that should command cross-party support.

2.57 pm

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab): I pay tribute to those who have made maiden speeches. The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Dr Monaghan) spoke passionately about inequality and the disadvantaged. I think many of us will share those sentiments. I have been to his constituency and it is very beautiful. I am pleased that I can still go there on holiday without having to go abroad. The hon. Gentleman was generous to his predecessor. John Thurso chaired the Finance and Services Committee in this House and did an excellent job of putting the internal finances of this House into good shape. He should be congratulated on that. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) mentioned her predecessor, Gerry Sutcliffe. I would have to say, with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, that Gerry has certainly left a big hole in the defence of the parliamentary football team, but I will move on.

The Budget has certainly received big headlines, but I will try to focus on one or two details that probably do not make quite such good reading for Government Members. The Chancellor is coming back in the autumn with his forecast for cuts to departmental spending. Local authorities in the previous Parliament had £10 billion of the £27 billion of Government grant cut—nearly 40%. That has disproportionately affected poorer authorities in the north. The forecast is for another £9.5 billion of cuts in this Parliament on top of that. Local authorities have done very well to be as efficient and effective as possible with the spending they are left with. They simply cannot carry on delivering the services that our constituents want from them if those £9.5 billion cuts follow on from the cuts in the previous Parliament. Why has local government been disproportionately singled out for cuts compared with other services? That is the question the Government have to answer.

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There are two areas where I think there is a particular problem. I support the principle of the Government’s devolution proposals if they are not simply a mechanism for passing on more cuts for local authorities to deliver. We have to have some concerns about that. I would say, however, that, given that they are primarily about trying to rebalance the economy and with the talk of the northern powerhouse, we should look at what has happened to local authority spending on planning and economic activity. Local Government Association figures show a massive 55.4% cut in spending on planning and economic development in high-cut authorities in the last five years, and even in medium-cut authorities that figure is 47%. Those sorts of figures will not support the economic regeneration and development in the north that the Government and everybody else want, which is a matter of particular concern.

We have a real problem in social care. The NHS has had some protection, but 300,000 fewer elderly people are getting social care from local authorities now than in 2010, because authorities now offer it only to those in the greatest need. Age UK says that more than 1 million people needing care are not getting it, which puts pressure on the NHS and accident and emergency units and results in beds being occupied by people who should be in their own homes being properly looked after; and this year, there will be a further cut of more than £1 billion to those services.

We cannot carry on like this. If we are going to have proper joined-up health and social care, social care needs some protection as well. I raised this point with the Secretary of State. Social care has some of the lowest paid employees of any sector in local government or any other service. If the living wage is applied at £9 per hour to everyone in the social care sector, it will cost local authorities about £1.5 billion by 2020. Local authorities cannot find that money on top of the cuts they have to make anyway. They simply cannot do it. This is an added burden that the Treasury must bear by giving that money back to local authorities. Instead of showing in the Red Book, as it does, a £1.5 billion saving in the welfare budget, the Treasury has to give this money back to local authorities to compensate them—and that does not include the cost of paying other workers in a similar way.

I hoped the Budget would boost house building in this country, but let us look at the hidden effects. The cap on local authority borrowing has not been lifted, but the rents that housing associations and local authorities can charge have been reduced from the commitment by the previous Housing Minister, the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr Prisk), who promised rent increases of CPI plus 1% over 10 years, to a 1% reduction per year. The Chancellor said yesterday that it would come from efficiency savings. No, it will not. Housing associations and local authorities cannot cover 4% a year less in rents through efficiency savings. The LGA has said that it will reduce the ability of local authorities and housing associations to invest in new homes and improve existing ones, while the National Housing Federation said today that, on a conservative estimate, it would reduce the amount of money available for development by £3.9 billion and mean 27,000 fewer social homes being built. That did not appear in any of the Budget headlines. I repeat, some 27,000 fewer social houses will be built because of the Budget and there will be a £50 million loss to the housing account in my own

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city of Sheffield. Those are figures that the Chancellor did not crow about yesterday, but they are there in the bottom lines of the Red Book.

There are additional problems, particularly for housing associations and local authorities, arising from the impact of welfare reforms, rising rent arrears, extra collection costs and the uncertainty of the right to buy scheme. These are all issues that will affect the ability of associations to borrow more money. They have already borrowed on the strength of the forecast rent increases, and now those increases have been taken away from them. No one can run a business like that, with the Government constantly chopping and changing the forecast revenue streams.

There is this idea of extra rents for higher-paid social housing tenants. Outside London, I think it is £30,000 a year. That is not particularly high pay for a family. Why should families who have been social housing tenants for years and have suddenly started earning £30,000 be penalised? It does not happen to owner-occupiers. What sort of system will be set up to do this? Will local authorities and housing associations have to means-test their tenants to identify those who earn more than £30,000 a year? Otherwise, how are we going to do it? When someone starts to earn £30,000, will their rent suddenly jump up overnight, or will there be a system of tapers? It is just another system where, as people earn more, the state takes more back. How does that make work pay? How is it consistent with the rest of the Budget? There are some questions that the Government simply have to answer.

Does the rent increase apply to supported housing with care? Housing association and local authority arrangements mean that wages form about 80% of the cost of those packages and it is not possible to get out of them. If the rent revenue to fund them suddenly drops, those care supported packages and that particular sort of specialist accommodation will no longer be viable. Have the Government thought that through or will they exempt rents in care and supported-package housing?

Finally, I want to address the issue of 18 to 21-year-olds not having an automatic entitlement to housing benefit. A lot of these people are very vulnerable indeed. The Albert Kennedy Trust told me the other day that 24% of people who go to Crisis and Centrepoint are from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. They are often very frightened and very worried. They have probably just come out to their parents and are frightened to go home because they are not welcome there. Are they now going to be excluded from entitlement to housing benefit? What will the exceptions be? How will the Government set them down, and will they consult on them so that they are actually meaningful?

A lot of the detail in the Budget did not come out in yesterday’s headlines. I am really worried about the effect of the impact of cuts on local authorities—will the Government fund the living wage?—and about the impact on the development of badly needed social housing, which will be drastically cut by the Budget.

3.6 pm

Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con): It is a delight to follow those who have already spoken, including the hon. Members for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Dr Monaghan) and for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr), who made their maiden speeches.

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It was interesting to hear the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross talk about the clearances in a dark period of history. That took me back to learning the history of my own church, where I was baptised and confirmed, in Plympton on the outskirts of Plymouth. It was desecrated by troops loyal to Cromwell in reprisal partly for its support of the royalist cause in the civil war. It is interesting to see the statute that stands outside it today. I enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk. We have had the UK and US versions of “House of Cards”, and given the content of his speech, we know he could write the Holyrood version.

I welcome the Budget outlined by the Chancellor yesterday and the many steps it sets out. I am particularly interested in the investment plan for the south-west of England. The description that has been given of infrastructure in the southern part of Scotland reminded me of last night’s Adjournment debate on infrastructure in the south-west, for which there is a £7.2 billion investment plan. That is about not just the big ticket projects, such as the Stonehenge tunnel, which will open up the A303 into the south-west, but the smaller projects, such as creating the new station in Edginswell in my constituency; the south Devon link road, which will open at the end of this year after a nearly 60-year wait; and the investment towards opening the Whiterock business park, which will create new opportunities for high-skilled, high-paid jobs in an area that perhaps for too long has been reliant on more seasonal employment and lower-paid trades.

The living wage is also welcome. The work of many of the social care staff in the bay has been undervalued for too long. Obviously, there needs to be a discussion about what will happen with local government funding, but it is right that their work is being valued more than perhaps has been the case in the past.

On investing in productivity and the future of our economy, I am pleased about some of the investment that has already gone into my constituency, including the coastal communities fund, which is delivering improvements. Gooch & Housego has used the regional growth fund to expand its production facility in Torquay, and, as we speak, the coastal communities fund is being used to help bring more shops to our high street. There is also support for the future electronics and photonics innovation centre, which, although it will serve Torbay, is about 100 metres over the border in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston). Its work with South Devon College will provide real opportunities for local companies and local students.

I also welcome the news about the increase in the tax allowance, which will take more of my constituents out of income tax altogether. This will combine with the impact of another year’s welcome freezing of the fuel duty so that people can see the real benefits stemming from the result of the general election on 7 May, as well as from the performance of the Government before that.

The debate on the living wage is interesting. Last year, I become the first Conservative candidate or MP in 102 years to attend a meeting of the Torbay TUC, when I was invited along to discuss its living wage campaign. Afterwards, it pointed out that I had just broken that particular record. I have certainly been pushing my local council—sadly, not a living wage employer—to look at picking this up, and I am pleased that compulsion will now apply from a national level.

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It would be remiss of me not to reflect on the support offered to our NHS. Torbay has many attributes, and one is that we have an older than average population. One ward in my constituency has 9% of the entire population aged over 85 and it is soon to become 10%, which presents a range of challenges for managing chronic illnesses and care conditions, along with other elements that follow from that type of demographic. In Paignton, too, the number of over-60s is expected to be 30% above the average, so I welcome the continuing support for the NHS and hope that we can work closely at the local level to deliver an integrated care package for local people to ensure they get the best available services.

In reflecting on some of the proposed changes to benefits, it has been interesting to hear some of the protests over the last 24 hours. We should recall that back in October 2013, Labour’s spokesperson on this subject claimed that Labour would be “tougher on benefits” than the Tories. It is interesting to hear all the vitriol coming one way without hearing any proposals to clarify what Labour means. Yesterday, the acting leader of the Labour party, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), mentioned that some benefit cuts would have been inevitable, so let us hear some of them outlined. We understand that other Labour Members oppose that and want to put up taxes instead, but it is somewhat hypocritical for them to come here and criticise every policy without putting up their own. The visionary aspect comes from the fact that we are outlining our policy today, knowing that it will be Labour’s policy tomorrow.

I very much welcome the continuance of the £90 million coastal communities fund. Comments have been made today by a couple of London colleagues about aviation infrastructure. My appeal would be to make the debate about aviation for the whole country and how best to service the whole country rather than how to provide an extra runway for the south-east. Many routes to key markets in the south-west inevitably pass through Heathrow, but we need a wider aviation debate, not just one—probably for the third time in this place—about whether there should be an extra runway at Heathrow or Gatwick. That debate becomes too narrow for me as an MP representing a constituency in the south-west of England.

It is a pleasure to welcome the Budget. As a practising Christian, it would be remiss of me not to say that I have some concerns about the proposals on Sunday trading. For me, Sunday—certainly at St Matthias in Torquay, which I currently attend—is a joyous and fun day. It is a day when people can come to church as a family, but its value is not attained only when people come to church—often people spend time with their families and enjoy a day that is different and special by comparison with the other six days of the week. There is nothing missing if there are 18 hours during which people cannot visit a large Tesco or Sainsbury. I respect the fact that other Members take a different view, but for me there is something special about Sunday, so any changes made must be appropriate. I am not sure how productive it would be to have a shop in Torbay opening until 5 pm while one in Teignbridge can open only until 4.30. I await with interest the detailed proposals that the Government will bring forward.

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Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point, and many Labour Members agree with him on this issue. However, if one area agrees to extended opening, as many no doubt would, is not the reality that the neighbouring areas will have to do so as well, so the devolution issue is a bit of a red herring?

Kevin Foster: I would not necessarily agree with the right hon. Gentleman. There were issues involving local licensing authorities, going back to before the reforms that were brought in a decade ago, which meant that some authorities would permit later closing than others. That had worked for some years. There might be a challenge for local planning authorities, however, in that if slightly later opening were permitted, there could be pressure for development on the edge of their area to get around restrictions in neighbouring communities. I understand the difference that the proposals would make for consumers. At the moment, we all know that large supermarkets tend to open between 10 o’clock and 4 o’clock on Sundays, although some of them exploit the ability to have browsing time beforehand.

This is a positive Budget. It is one that we can take pride in, and it will take the country forward. It is notable that it has been based on policies that were agreed and supported by the electorate. The policies were endorsed by 51 of the 55 MPs in the south-west, and I am pleased to be able to support them today.

3.15 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I should like to start by congratulating all those who have made their maiden speeches this afternoon. I pay particular tribute to the excellent speeches by my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) and for St Helens South and Whiston (Marie Rimmer).

It will be easy for me, as a Hull MP, to keep my remarks about the Budget fairly brief. That is because the words “Hull” and “Humber” did not appear once in the Chancellor’s speech, or in the Red Book, despite the northern powerhouse being a key policy for the Government and Hull being an important city in the north. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown) said, we all want to broaden, deepen and strengthen the economy in the north, but it looks as though the northern powerhouse has now become the northern power cut, particularly in regard to investment in rail improvements.

Just a few days ago, the Minister with responsibility for the northern powerhouse, the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Stockton South (James Wharton), appeared not to know where the north was, so I shall help him by saying that we are the ones who had our rail investment paused, unlike those in the south, where no such pause has taken place. But never mind—we have been offered a plastic Oyster card to make up for the cancellation of the electrification of the TransPennine Express route and the lack of any new rolling stock.

I also want to talk about renewables. The Humber area is working hard to be the UK’s renewable energy estuary, in the interests of energy security, of fighting fuel poverty and climate change and of growing this important area of our economy for the nation. It is therefore unhelpful to keep getting so much hostility to renewable energy from those on the Government Benches.

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The Budget introduces a change to the climate change levy, which will now also apply to companies that use renewable energy. That will effectively be a charge of £490 million for companies that have switched to renewable energy, and it will discourage firms from using renewable energy in the future. By 2020, the cut will amount to £910 million a year, which will discourage investment in renewable energy sources.

The Chancellor claims that this is a Budget for “working people”. The centrepiece is the pledge of a living wage of £9 an hour by 2020 for those over 25. Younger workers get no such pledge. That is not the living wage. Of course we welcome the increase in the minimum wage—we called for it in our manifesto—but what the Government have announced will not be a living wage because the rate will be too low by 2020. Outside London, the living wage needs to be over £10, not £9, to be worthy of the name. Also, the rate proposed for 2020 is lower than the current London living wage, which is £9.15.

Worse still, the proposals do not compensate for cuts in tax credits. This lunchtime, Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that

“there is simply not enough money going into the new minimum wage to anywhere near compensate…people on tax credits”.

We should be cutting the need for tax credits rather than the tax credits themselves. It is a fact that 75% of children in Hull North live in households that depend on tax credits. They will be worse off overall, just as they were at the end of the 2010 Parliament. One of my constituents, Maureen Craven, will also be worse off even though she is doing the right thing. She told me:

“I have had my grandson living with me since he was four months old. He is now seven years old and I rely on my child tax credit to buy shoes and school uniform.”

Such families, who are doing the right thing, will be affected by this policy.

It is also difficult to take the Tories seriously on the living wage when they have failed to enforce the legal national minimum wage. There have been only two prosecutions for minimum wage non-payment since 2010, and the number of inspections for compliance is falling. Will the Government get tough with big businesses to enforce a living wage? Will they help small businesses that have genuine fears about being able to afford the living wage? Will lower-paid local government workers, who will have years more of 1% pay increases, be paid at the living wage level? Will councils be funded for the costs they have faced—in the light of the cuts—over the past five years? As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) said, there are already growing concerns about the care sector and how it will cope with an additional cut of £1.5 billion that will have to be borne by local authorities.

When it comes to motivating the richest to increase productivity, it means, in the Tories’ view, boosting their income, including unearned income. There is no austerity for them. That is because the Tories have always thought that all wealth creation comes from those at the top of the income scale. For the poorest workers, and everyone in the public services, it involves cutting real incomes and redefining child poverty to cover up the deed. Their welfare to work is really welfare to charity, as we will see, I am sure, at Hull’s food banks. It is the food banks that will need the longer Sunday opening hours, and not local shops, as the Chancellor announced in the Budget.

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This was a Budget of selective austerity. It will leave people in a more complex poverty trap. They will have more debt and their work will not pay. After the millionaire tax cut, children of millionaires now get to inherit more unearned income to fund—in the Chancellor’s own words—“their lifestyles”. Meanwhile, aspiring youngsters from working families in Hull trying to get the qualifications for skilled jobs that we want in the city see student maintenance grants axed and turned into loans, and the cap for tuition fees removed.

Let me raise very quickly my concerns about limiting support to two children. It is a particularly ill-thought through policy and will lead to more and more children living in poverty. I am appalled—I use that word advisedly; I do not normally speak like this—by what the SNP spokesperson highlighted yesterday. She spoke about the proposal that a woman who had been raped and conceived a child would, if it was a third child, have to go to the DWP and provide evidence of the rape, and about the stigma that could be attached to the child. It is a disgraceful policy that the Government have brought forward.

As Jonathan Freedland stated today in the media, the rabbit that was pulled out of the hat was very thin. Under close scrutiny, things do not stand up. We will see falling incomes, especially in places like Hull and especially for lower paid women workers. The Chancellor talked about trying to improve wages for people in this country, but that will not be reflected in what this Budget actually delivers.

3.23 pm

Maria Caulfield (Lewes) (Con): I congratulate all those who have made their maiden speeches today, including the hon. Members for St Helens South and Whiston (Marie Rimmer), for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr), for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Dr Monaghan) and for Bradford South (Judith Cummins), as well as my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey). They all made excellent speeches.

I welcome the Budget, as it ensures security for working people by putting the public finances in order, and sets out a plan for a more productive and balanced economy. I was particularly pleased to see a number of measures that will make a real difference to my constituents in Lewes. The first was the announcement on transport. The freezing of fuel duty for another year is to be welcomed. My constituency, like many, is rural—many residents are heavily reliant on cars, as the area has little or no public transport. Many businesses are reliant on farm vehicles and heavy goods vehicles.

Any increase in fuel duty would have had a significant impact on the amount of money in the local economy, so the freeze is very welcome, as is the announcement on ring-fencing vehicle excise duty and making the owners of more expensive cars pay more. The money raised will be ring-fenced for the English strategic road network. That is welcome news for my constituents, as more money will be used to repair existing roads and to pay for improvements to roads such as the A27, for which the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) pledged that he would cut funding if Labour was elected. The A27 in my constituency is a busy and congested road, and this year alone there have been a number of deaths from accidents. The investment in that road is very welcome.

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In addition, investment in rail infrastructure is very welcome indeed. Yesterday, I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on the issues we face locally in dealing with Southern rail. A number of MPs from Sussex, Surrey and London and from both sides of the House were there to raise issues about trains being consistently late, consistently cancelled and consistently overcrowded. I am sure that many hon. Members who came here by train today, the day of the tube strike, know exactly what I mean.

Our line from the Sussex coast up to London is at capacity. I was pleased to read in the Budget that the Government will extend the scope of the Lewes to Uckfield study, which is taking place this summer, to consider improving the line between London and the south coast and to re-examine the Department for Transport’s feasibility study of the Brighton main line, too. That is a real way to get a second rail main line from the Sussex coast to London. This work cannot come soon enough for the residents of Sussex.

As a nurse, I very much welcome the extra £8 billion to be invested in the NHS to provide a seven-day-a-week service. Owing to the changes made locally by hospital management, which I raised in Health questions this week, patients from areas of my constituency such as Seaford, Polegate and Alfriston now have to travel to Hastings for basic services. The extra £8 billion will go towards more local services and making services available at weekends and evenings, so that local people can obtain the care that they need every day of the week.

Housing is a huge issue in my constituency—not just the availability of housing, but its affordability for those who want to buy or rent. I am pleased that the rent-a-room relief will increase from £4,250 to £7,500 next April. I am also pleased that a level playing field between buy-to-let landlords and homeowners will be created by addressing mortgage tax relief for landlords. In my constituency, family homes are increasingly being bought for student lets and used as houses in multiple occupation. This change will free up family housing for local people in my constituency.

Finally, I welcome the welfare changes announced yesterday. As someone from a working-class background, I am only too aware how much of a struggle life can be on a low income. I am pleased that the Budget supports low-paid workers by increasing the tax threshold from £10,600 to £11,000 now and to £12,500 by 2020. I am also pleased about the announcement on the living wage. We have heard much debate about that this afternoon, but it is definitely welcome.

A report last year by the Scottish Public Health Observatory found that changes to tax and benefits could do more to impact on health inequalities than changes to health care itself. It found that the implementation of a living wage is among one of the most effective interventions to reduce inequality and improve health. According to Public Health England, there is currently a seven-year difference in life expectancy between those who receive benefits and those who do not. Anything we can do to get people off benefits and into work must surely be welcome, and the living wage is one way to do that. Introducing the living wage is a massive step forward.

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I welcome the Budget, which moves Britain from being a low-wage, high-tax, high-welfare economy to being a high-wage, low-tax, low-welfare society, and I congratulate the Chancellor on it.

3.29 pm

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): Yesterday, the Chancellor trumpeted one nation. If one nation means anything, it is that Britain cannot succeed through London and the south-east alone. Building on Labour’s great devolution legacy in Scotland, Wales and London, we are pleased to see the devolution agenda for England moving forward, but we in the west midlands were surprised that there was but a throwaway reference by the Chancellor yesterday to the midlands powerhouse. Little wonder that the Birmingham chambers of commerce accuse the Chancellor of hot air and say it is time that he backed the midlands engine.

Julian Knight (Solihull) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the midlands engine and the devolution we are undertaking in this country are supposed to take a bottom-up approach, rather than a top-down approach? It is up to the authorities in the west midlands to come to the Chancellor with their proposals, rather than for the Chancellor to dictate to them.

Jack Dromey: On this issue, we are as one. We are working together in the west midlands to construct the midlands powerhouse and realise the full potential of the midlands. What was surprising yesterday was that the Chancellor waxed lyrical about the remarkable Greater Manchester, mentioned the northern powerhouse in considerable detail and referred to just about every other part of Britain, and at the end of his remarks made a throwaway reference to the midlands powerhouse. That has not gone down well in the midlands.

Crucially, at the next stages what the Chancellor cannot do is empower but impoverish. One of the great problems with this Government is that everything they do is characterised by a fundamental unfairness of approach. Some £700 million has been cut from the budget of Birmingham City Council—£2,000 for every household—yet in the Chancellor’s own constituency there has been an increase in spending power of 2.6%. Likewise, the West Midlands police have been treated unfairly. If they were treated fairly, they would be entitled to £43 million more—enough for 500 police officers back on the beat.

We will never be one nation while the Chancellor and the Government continue to demonise and divide, with their talk of shirkers or strivers, work or benefits. I was born in poverty—my father a navvy, my mother training to be a nurse; they worked hard to get on. I have always believed that those who can work should work, but I object to wicked caricatures of the sort we heard yesterday in relation to the young homeless—“they come out of school, they go on benefits, then they want to get a flat”.

Three years ago, I hosted in the House of Commons the Homeless Young People’s Parliament in Parliament—quintessentially middle England, middle Scotland, middle Wales young people, the best of Britain, who had ended up homeless, overwhelmingly through no fault of their own. Last Friday, I was at Orchard Village, which serves

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young homeless people in my constituency. It is substantially dependent on housing benefit for its income and now faces closure.

If we are to be one nation, the Chancellor cannot continue to play politics with the United Kingdom, posing one nation against the other. EVEL—if ever there was an accurate acronym, that is it.

As for the Tories being the party of working people, they introduced in the Budget a tax on aspiration, saying to working families in social housing, “If you get on, you have to pay much more or move out.” The party of working people? On Sunday trading, I agree with what was just said. One of Labour’s greatest achievements, the weekend, is now threatened by this Conservative Government, who would compel seven-day working, in reality forcing millions of retail workers, particularly women, to work on Sunday and putting at risk thousands of small stores all over the country.

The party of working people, with the so-called living wage? Yesterday, when the Chancellor spoke about this, he grinned like a Cheshire cat and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions punched the air, as if England had scored the winning goal in the World cup. The living wage? Twelve years ago, I was a founder member of the drive for the living wage, working through the former Transport and General Workers Union, with the East London Citizens Organisation and London Citizens, to organise, for example, thousands of cleaners in Canary Wharf and the City of London and the first-ever strike in the history of the House of Commons to win the living wage. This is not the living wage or a “new contract” with the British people, as the Chancellor called it this morning; this is a con trick by a cunning Chancellor, who gives with one hand and takes away with the other.

In the west midlands, 56% of families are on tax credits and 300,000 children depend on tax credits. Yet a family with two children and one full-time earner on £20,000-plus now faces losing £2,000: for every £1 they get from a higher living wage, they will lose £2 in tax credits. What is the Government’s answer? They say, “Ah, the £9”. That is £9 in 2020, but they are cutting tax credits in the here and now.

Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP): The hon. Gentleman is making an excellent speech. Does he agree that there has been a further attack on working people in that public sector workers have been told there will be a 1% pay rise every year?

Jack Dromey: The hon. Gentleman and I both come from a trade union background. I feel for public servants such as the firefighters, the police officers, the nurses. All those who do excellent work for the communities we serve, who have already been squeezed for five years, now face a 1% increase for the next four years. Effectively, that means a substantial cut in the living standards of millions of public servants.

The Chancellor says that the £7.20 rate will start next April, but the real living wage—I repeat, the real living wage—is already £7.85, or £9.15 in London; that is not based on cutting tax credits. As for the Chancellor being the workers’ friend, I did not come down with the last rainfall, and neither did the country. It is not a living wage if people cannot live on it. As the reality dawns and millions feel the pain of what the Chancellor

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has done, the last 24 hours of triumphalism on the part of the Conservative party will give way to the grim reality as Government Members go back to their constituencies and explain why they are inflicting cuts in living standards on the hundreds or potentially thousands of families they represent. The IFS’s verdict today is absolutely damning: for 13 million families, the living wage will not compensate for the tax credit cuts, and the poorest will be hit much harder.

When it comes to the Tories as the party of working people, let us not forget that this was certainly not a Budget for young working people. The crucial test of any Government is how they treat the next generation. Young people need the basics in life to get on—a decent job or education, and a roof over their heads. The Budget fails on all those points. It locks young people out of the living wage, makes higher education increasingly a luxury and cuts housing benefit for thousands who would otherwise end up homeless.

At this defining moment for our country, we must ask ourselves about what kind of country, economy and society we want. For me, it is an economy with a real living wage, not a phoney one. Crucially, as I have argued throughout my trade union life, it is the high-pay, high-quality, high-productivity culture of the kind that can be seen in the Jaguar factory in my constituency. We need a serious long-term economic plan if we are to promote such a high-pay, high-quality, high-productivity culture throughout our country, but the Budget failed lamentably on the fundamentals of productivity, skills, homes, rail and road. Ultimately, this country will never succeed and working people will certainly never succeed if we proceed on the basis of a low-waged, low-productivity economy.

What kind of country do we want? It has to be one in which our citizens are safe where they live and work, their children are protected and we are protected from terrorism. It is therefore fundamental folly for the Government, having cut 17,000 police officers, to continue down the path of cutting 17,000 more police officers. What kind of society do we want? Before the Budget, the OECD was right to warn against measures that would slow recovery and harm the poor, but that is exactly what will now happen.

Rick was a lifelong Tory and an ex-sergeant-major in the British Army, but he has joined my local Labour party. He told me, “I was a lifelong Tory, but I have joined the Labour party because I believe in both aspiration and support for the vulnerable.” He is in sharp contrast to a cunning Chancellor who gives hubris a bad name and is ambitious not so much for the country as for himself. After the last 24 hours—and the last century—now and in the future, the simple reality is that the party for the working people always was and always will be the Labour party.

3.40 pm

Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), and we have also heard five excellent maiden speeches this afternoon. Between them, they covered Walter Scott, the Brontës, George Eliot, Roosevelt and Voltaire. I do not want to sow any dissension within the ranks of the Scottish National party, but I will leave it to the hon. Members for Caithness, Sutherland

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and Easter Ross (Dr Monaghan) and for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr) to sort out between themselves who has the more beautiful constituency, to which they both laid claim. All five maiden speakers exhibited the great passion with which I am sure they will defend their constituents in the future. I hope that they would all agree that in setting any budget—for a household, a company or a country—it is best to start with reality.

The reality that we face is a deficit of £90 billion a year and a national debt of 80% of GDP. That should have a sobering effect on all our considerations and, clearly, the former Chancellor Alistair Darling is well aware of it, given his remarks this morning. I hope that where he leads the official Opposition will follow. It is the easiest thing in the world to run up a deficit, and a Government can become very popular in doing so. As the House knows, it is very painful to get it back under control.

The Budget can be commended on many grounds, but its most important characteristic is that it means we can anticipate our national finances returning to surplus during the lifetime of this Parliament—and a healthy and growing surplus at that. To have eliminated a deficit of £150 billion is a historic achievement.

Stephen Timms: Of course, the Chancellor actually announced that he was postponing achieving a surplus for a year, which he said he would achieve by 2018-19. Does the hon. Gentleman welcome that deferral?

Jeremy Quin: I am delighted that the Chancellor set out a clear, smooth plan that will get us to a surplus of £10 billion—a larger surplus than was anticipated previously—by the end of this Parliament, and it will grow from there. I recognise the point the right hon. Gentleman makes, but I am proud of what the Chancellor has managed to achieve. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would accept that the elimination of a deficit of £150 billion is no mean feat.

As we all know, the best way to eliminate a deficit is to achieve growth in the economy. The best news, which I am sure we would all endorse, is the forecast from the OBR of continuing growth in our economy. It is a solid basis on which to build. I especially welcome the extra 8% investment from business in 2014, and the fact that that is expected to grow this year and next will be an important part of our recovery programme. It is great that we are achieving that growth notwithstanding the external headwinds. The shadow Chancellor was a little ungenerous in criticising us for having fewer exports to the eurozone: we are growing as an economy, but the eurozone is in a sorry state and it is no wonder that our exporters are suffering at the moment.

All economic forecasts, however, including those of the wise men and women of the OBR, are of course vulnerable. We only need to look at China and Greece at the moment to realise that no one with any credibility would ever claim that we can abolish boom and bust. I therefore welcome the Chancellor’s publication of the new rules of the fiscal charter. This Government, once they have returned the country to surplus within this Parliament, will still be looking to the future. The fiscal charter will help this Parliament and, in particular,

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future Parliaments to hold the Government to account, to ensure that in normal times they continue to pay down our national debt and restore our national fortunes. Without sound and sustainable public finances, there is no economic security for working people. With sound and sustainable public finances, we will ensure that by the 2030s Britain is the most prosperous major economy in the world.

The whole House would recognise that that prosperity, while welcome, is not a goal in itself. It would be a hollow success if that prosperity was not widely shared among all our citizens. That is why I welcome the Chancellor’s creation of the national living wage and the raising of the basic tax threshold to £11,000. I am delighted that it is a one nation Conservative Government who are seeking to take the lowest paid out of income tax altogether. I went on record supporting the principle of a living wage during the election campaign. It seems to me a positive step in ensuring that work pays for all those who undertake it. The principle that we have a society in which everyone has access to work and is fairly paid for it is surely a good one. Higher wages and lower taxes must be a principle that surely Members on both sides of the House would endorse. The natural corollary of that is that in good times there will be lower welfare expenditure.

I welcome the progress on corporation tax, making the UK an enormously fiscally attractive place in which to operate a business. Combined with the employment allowance, this will ensure that the costs for business of meeting the new national living wage are offset. Similarly, I note what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said earlier about tax credits. The original system cost just over £1 billion but has risen to £30 billion, which is not sustainable. It needs to be addressed, and I note that we will still maintain expenditure on tax credits in real terms at around the level spent in the 2007-08 fiscal year, under the last Labour Government.

Lastly—I recognise that time is short, Madam Deputy Speaker—I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement on the road fund and the increased expenditure on the NHS to meet the NHS’s own five-year plan, as recognised earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris). My constituency of Horsham has had to accept significant additional house building. That is a concern for many residents. Those concerns will not be eradicated, but they can be mitigated if we all know that there will be enhanced infrastructure to meet the needs of an expanding population. That is especially the case with healthcare, and I look forward to taking up specific issues with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. I welcome the additional expenditure on the NHS as a positive recognition that, while we cannot have increased NHS spending without a growing economy, a growing economy may also place increased and different demands on the NHS. I congratulate the Chancellor on an excellent Budget.

3.48 pm

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): First, may I congratulate all the Members who have made their maiden speeches today? It has been fascinating to hear what they had to say and about their constituencies, which are very different from my constituency of Luton North.

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The Budget has given me a tax cut that I do not need, which has been paid for by young people, students, the poor and public sector workers. Social justice would require the opposite of that, so I do not buy the idea that the Chancellor has somehow inched towards the centre ground of politics. He is still a right winger, concerned primarily with helping and protecting the wealthy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) has recorded today, the IFS calculates that 13 million UK families will lose an average of £260 a year, while those with estates of £1 million will not have to pay any inheritance tax, so we know where the Chancellor’s heart really lies.

Much more interesting than the Budget, which is a typical Tory Budget really, is the OBR’s report “Economic and fiscal outlook”, published at the same time. There are indeed myths about the economy that have to be dispelled. Britain’s economy is not healthy; indeed, the opposite is the case. Britain is a low-wage, low-investment, low-productivity economy. Indeed, the productivity of Germany and France are 25% greater than Britain’s and we are sixth in the G7, with only the ailing Japan behind us—so there are problems, and the Budget will not make much difference to that fact.

Over several decades, Britain’s manufacturing sector has shrunk drastically, and it is now far too small to sustain what we need ourselves. As a result, our trade balance, especially with the rest of the EU, is in enormous and chronic deficit. In his Budget statement, the Chancellor made very little reference to the wider macroeconomic environment—which the hon. Member for Horsham (Jeremy Quin) touched on—and that is very worrying indeed.

The Government chant their mantras about the Government deficit and public finances while private debt is surging once again. An asset price bubble continues to grow that will inevitably burst, with drastic consequences for households and the economy as a whole. One million of our people are now dependent on food banks—a number that will be dwarfed when the crash comes. I use the word “crash” because that is what we face, with inept and misguided economic policies at home and global factors again driving us towards recession. China’s economy is decelerating and is now in a share price crisis; Japan’s economic weakness continues, with no end in sight; the eurozone is a basket case; and the USA has seen a false economic dawn, with another asset price bubble driven by corrupt share buy-back schemes, among other factors.

“Demand is slowing, share prices will be devastated, and recession is coming, with downturns that will be remembered in 100 years.” Those are not my predictions but the words of Crispin Odey, one of London’s leading hedge fund managers, who tends to get his predictions right, including on the 2008 crisis. My own conclusion is simply that globalisation—neo-liberalism—does not work and that leaving the financial markets and the global corporations free to do what they like, with no effective economic borders to constrain them, has caused one disaster and another is coming.

The Government’s claimed economic success since 2010 is a mirage. After 2010, they first tried savage cuts in public spending, in theory to reduce the public finance deficit, but by 2012 they realised that this was simply driving the country into recession, so they reduced their pressure on the economic brake and tried a bit of

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quantitative easing. Asset prices began to rise, notably in housing, and consumer spending edged upwards, producing a modest rise in economic growth. However, we still have low productivity—a chronic disease in Britain’s economy—and we still bump along, sustained only by low wages and income from asset sales to foreigners: another version of selling the family silver, as Harold Macmillan so famously put it.

The one advantage that Britain does have is its own currency, able to flex to appropriate parities with other currencies. After the 2008 crisis, sterling depreciated against the euro by 27% and against the dollar by 31%, offering a degree of protection against the worst ravages of the crisis. But even that example has been wasted, with sterling surging against the euro from €1.02 to €1.40, increasing our export prices and decreasing import prices by over a third, and driving Britain’s ongoing and gigantic trade deficit with the rest of the EU. That deficit—over £1 billion a week—is equivalent to exporting at least 1 million jobs to the continent. Page 71 of the OBR report shows a gigantic current account deficit of some 6% of GDP—about £100 billion, or £1,600 for every person in Britain.

There are sensible alternatives to all this economic nonsense, and with much more time I would have been pleased to spell them out. In the short term, however, we must not be fooled into believing that the Government and their predecessor coalition have got things right when all the elements are present for another economic crisis. The Government are doing nothing to protect our economy from the next crisis, and they must not be allowed to escape the blame when it comes.

Before I conclude, I must again emphasise my concern about the sterling exchange rate. Some Members may remember that I raised my concerns about sterling’s over-valuation with Gordon Brown during his time as Chancellor. He responded sotto voce that it was not Government policy to target the exchange rate. In more recent times, I have raised the same issue in this Chamber with the Prime Minister and this Chancellor, with similar measured, if negative, responses. In my very last oral question before Dissolution, I again asked the same question of the now-departed Business Secretary, Vince Cable. He responded, astonishingly, by suggesting that there was no evidence that the exchange rate was a significant factor in the economy’s performance. Only a few days later, it was reported that manufacturing was suffering from the high euro exchange rate and that the economy was being sustained only by domestic consumer demand, with the main risks coming from the eurozone.

Much has been made of Britain’s greatly improved automotive sector, which I applaud. It is true that we make excellent-quality vehicles, including the Vauxhall Vivaro, made in Luton, but it remains the case that we import twice as many cars from the rest of the EU as we export to it. Had I had an opportunity to do so, I would have reminded Vince Cable of the big depreciation after 2008; the rapid recovery from the 1992 exchange rate mechanism debacle, driven by a large exchange rate reduction; and even the 1931 departure from the gold standard, which laid the foundation for the economic recovery from the inter-war depression.

An appropriate exchange rate is not a sufficient condition for economic success, but it is a vital one. Had Britain been stuck in the euro, at a parity perhaps as high as €1.50 to the pound, the economy would have been

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utterly wrecked, with Britain almost certainly crashing out of the euro, probably bringing down the whole euro edifice in the process.

The Government are riding for a fall if nothing is done to bring down Britain’s bloated exchange rate, and soon. Writing recently in The Guardian, Larry Elliott said that the Government were sitting on an economic time bomb. That is surely the case, and the priority must be to bring down sterling’s exchange rate with the euro. The Budget must be seen in that wider context and the Chancellor’s mind should be focused on those wider international dangers, or we will all be in trouble.

3.55pm

Julian Knight (Solihull) (Con): I congratulate all those who have made their maiden speeches today. I remember making mine only a few weeks ago. I was glad just to get it over with, to be frank.

What we heard in this place yesterday was one of the great set-piece Budgets—a resetting Budget—along the lines of Lord Howe’s in 1981, Lord Lawson’s in 1986 and, in a less positive way, Gordon Brown’s Budgets of the early 2000s, when he decided to do away with the careful fiscal management he inherited from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) in favour of a massive expansion of the welfare state and the hyping up of supposed golden rules, which seemed to change according to his whim or to disguise unsupportable Government expenditure.

The Budget contained many measures that will be welcome in my constituency, in particular the extra money for the national health service. Solihull has an ageing population with particular health challenges, so that money will go a long way there. The higher personal allowance, which I will return to in detail, is a fantastic move for the population of Solihull, as it is a hard-working town. I am delighted to report that its unemployment rate is 1.6%. That is because it is the hard-working engine of the west midlands.

The Chancellor has effectively reset how the state interacts with the economy and the individual, subtly, cautiously and over time. In the Opposition debate on tax credits, I acknowledged the important role that tax credits play in many of my constituents’ finances. They help them to get over humps in the road in their lives and can be very helpful. I am pleased that the Chancellor recognised that, as I knew he would, and that the overwhelming majority of people who receive help through the tax credits system will continue to do so.

In the same debate, many of my hon. Friends made the point that tax credits were propping up low pay and effectively trapping many people in welfare dependency, and that many people on salaries far higher than the national average were receiving state help when, frankly, they should not be. Over the past decade or so, many of our fellow citizens have moved into a relationship with the state that, over the long term, is unhealthy for their career ambitions, business more widely and the nation’s finances.

The Chancellor has pressed the reset button on that situation. We will see a freeze in working-age benefits and a narrowing of the people who can claim tax credits. To ease the transition away from tax credits for some people, there is a raising of the personal allowances,

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which cuts out the middle man by letting people keep more of their own cash, rather than having to go through a complex tax credits system. There is an expansion of childcare provision; the introduction of the living wage, which will rise to £9 by 2020; and support for business, as part of this transfer, through lower corporation tax—something that was opposed by the Labour party in its manifesto—and the ongoing reduction in national insurance contributions for new employees.

The Government are moving from being a nanny who keeps individuals wedded and chained to a fiendishly complex system prone to substantial fraud and endemic overpayment to being a facilitator. Good Governments should be there to create the correct environment for individuals and businesses to flourish. If that is brought to fruition, it will mark the end of Brown economics, and not before time.

That is all big-picture stuff from the Chancellor, as we would expect, but I should like to say something about the smaller bits of the Budget, and the good news that we have received. I was delighted that he accepted Budget submissions from me and from my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile). We asked him to raise the rent-a-room scheme allowance, which had been languishing at just £4,250 a year since 1996. By raising it to £7,500, he has made up for nearly 20 years of inflation, and will help thousands of home owners who want to let a room to make ends meet, or even just to have some extra company at home. The measure should also increase the availability of rooms to rent in the private sector, which will be particularly helpful to young people who want to strike out on their own in the world.

Another welcome step was the decision to up the compensation for Equitable Life members by an estimated £80 million. There are many former members of Equitable Life in my constituency. It is a black mark on the Labour Government that they first allowed the development of a regulatory regime which effectively allowed the world’s oldest mutual to collapse, and then, when its administration was found wanting by the parliamentary ombudsman, wriggled like mad to avoid paying what was due to people who had seen their life savings largely disappear. When the country had the money with which to compensate the members of Equitable Life, the Labour party chose not to use it.

I believe that it is great credit to the Chancellor and to my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury that they have not forgotten about those wronged individuals, but—despite the global recession, and despite having inherited the worst public finances since the war—have sought to help. The compensation is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but the Government, like the coalition before them, are doing their best within the confines of the current fiscal position.

There are many other highlights in the Budget. The apprenticeship levy, for instance, will help to secure fairness in the apprenticeship system, and the best employers will be rewarded. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster), I am no fan of trading on the Sabbath, but I welcome the Chancellor’s indication that it should be up to local mayors to set Sunday trading hours. Should we have an elected mayor in the “midlands engine”, I shall welcome the opportunity to lobby for a sensitive approach, along with my friends in local church groups. That is real devolution.

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Finally, there will be a great deal of cheer over the freezing of fuel duty, which means that it is 18p lower than it would have been if Labour’s anti-motorist plans had been implemented.

That is what this Budget is all about. We are on the side of normal people who want to get their kids into work, keep more of their cash, and interact with the state in the right way. It is about a hand up, not a handout. The Budget sends a loud and clear message: we are the workers’ party now.

4.3 pm

Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): I congratulate Members who have made their maiden speeches today. I will not list them all, as some of the Scottish constituencies in particular are quite lengthy, but they all spoke with great passion about the areas that they represent. I especially welcome my hon. Friend the Member for St Helens South and Whiston (Marie Rimmer), who has served in local government for a long time, and has been a great public servant. I am sure that she will repeat that role in the House.

I believe that in the Budget the Chancellor has put rhetoric above reality. He has talked about a northern powerhouse, but at the same time he has put key transport projects at risk. He has offered nothing positive to constituents such as mine, not least because he has been unable to establish whether my constituency is part of the northern powerhouse. As for the living wage, about which I shall say more shortly, it is nothing of the sort. Perhaps the clearest example of rhetoric over reality, however, was the Chancellor’s statement that this was a Budget for one nation. This is not a one nation Budget; it is divisive. It is a Budget that says, “If you lose your job, if you are sick, if you have what the Chancellor deems to be too many children, if you get disabled, if you’re young, if you’re disadvantaged—you’re on your own.” This is not a one nation Budget; it is a two generational Budget.

It is clear that the Government have taken a cynical decision to attack young people, presumably on the basis that they are less likely to vote. If there is anything that will motivate young people to vote, I believe it is this Budget. Let us look first at the so-called living wage. I see no reason to limit it to people over the age of 25. Are people not adults at 24, 23 or 22? Is their contribution any less deserving at that age? I am worried that employers will, in effect, be incentivised to sack people when they reach the age of 25. What a fantastic 25th birthday present that will be.

Many others, including the Living Wage Foundation, have commented that next year we will not see an above-average increase in the living wage: we will see an increase in the minimum wage, and that is what we should go on calling it. It is not only a rate far lower than that proposed by the independent Living Wage Foundation and already paid by living wage employers, but when we consider the tax credit cuts, it represents a huge reduction in income for the many who will receive it.

What about those good employers who already pay the living wage rate of £7.85 an hour? What message does the Budget send out to them? Whatever the headlines proclaim, the details tell a very different story. A single parent in my constituency on the minimum wage stands

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to lose around £1,500 a year under these proposals. A couple could lose around £2,000 a year. For both of them, it is about 10% of their annual income. I agree that subsidising low pay with tax credits is not the way ahead for this country, but for five years this Government and the Chancellor have made no attempt to tackle in-work poverty. The focus has been on the low-wage insecure economy that we still see today. They cannot take away tax credits without putting in place a proper system to replace them.

Rebranding the minimum wage is not a proper system to tackle low pay. This Budget is an attack on the family. Penalising the third-born and denying families access to tax credits is not a humane approach and will only increase child poverty. I have heard it said that the state should not support more than two children. Are the Government trying to prevent the third child from attending school or accessing the NHS or other public services? Of course not. That would be ridiculous, but the cost of a child’s education far outweighs the cost to the taxpayer in tax credits. That exposes this proposal as a cheap, cynical and calculated attempt at division.

A further attack on young people is the replacement of student maintenance grants with loans. I recall Government Minister after Government Minister speaking out in favour of the £9,000-a-year tuition fee system on the basis that the least well off would be supported by grants. That did not last very long, did it? How many will now decide that what they will have to repay is so prohibitive that they cannot even contemplate higher education? Starting a working life with debts of over £50,000 is surely a daunting prospect for anyone, and we already know that the loan system is unsustainable because of the low levels of repayment. The new system will increase debt and decrease opportunity.

One of the big challenges that we face is in relation to housing benefit costs. I note that the Budget proposes a modest reduction in social housing rents, but it seems completely to ignore the spiralling cost of private rents, which make up the bulk of the increase in the housing benefit bill. One serious consequence of the measures in the Budget is that the reduction in income for housing associations and council housing revenue accounts will reduce further the amount of social housing that is built. It has been estimated that around 27,000 homes a year will be lost as a result of these measures. That will put more pressure on the private housing market, increasing the housing benefit bill further. What we need is meaningful action to reduce private sector rent levels, but we have heard nothing from the Government about that.

Another worrying measure is the removal of housing benefit from those under 21. It means that if people are young, work hard, move out of the family home and are then unlucky enough to lose their job, they will lose their home as well. What kind of message does that send out to children who want to get on?

The proposal that households with higher incomes should pay more rent will penalise young people in work. Those who are living with their parents but are saving up for a home of their own will be penalised. Already a constituent in this situation has told me that the money they were putting aside for a deposit will now be used to pay the increased rent that their parents will have to pay. How is that going to create more homes for everyone?

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As for the northern powerhouse, I could not get an answer yesterday, but I think we are getting closer to finding out where it is. I note that in the Red Book there is something called “Transport for the North” which will be established as a statutory body with statutory duties. That will help us to identify where the northern powerhouse is. I see that an interim partnership board already has representatives from Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, the north-east, Hull and Humberside, but there is no mention of Lancashire or Cheshire. About half the north-west does not appear to be in the northern powerhouse at all. There is nothing in the Budget for my constituency, and across the country there is nothing to tackle chronic insecurity in the workplace, or to encourage the transition from part-time to full-time work. There is nothing about job creation, improving public transport, or creating a sustainable and fair economy.

It can be no coincidence that the Budget projects personal borrowing to increase significantly over the next few years, because what we have is a conjuring trick of the Chancellor giving with one hand and taking back with both hands. He is taking more than he is giving, and people will discover that reality in the next few months once the headlines have faded. Members of the House will have to deal with the reality of a con trick.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I am reluctant to introduce a formal time limit at this stage, but if all Members take six minutes then everyone will have the chance to speak. I hope that I will not have to require a time limit and that Members will behave courteously towards other Members.


4.11 pm

Dawn Butler (Brent Central) (Lab): I congratulate all those who have made their wonderful maiden speeches today.

I received a tweet from a constituent that said: “I’m seriously scratching my head to that bit.” Members might ask, “What bit?”, because we were scratching our heads to quite a few bits of the Chancellor’s Budget speech. My constituent was referring to the bit about the minimum wage, or the “living wage” as the Chancellor likes to call it. I fully support the increase to £7.20 an hour, rising to £9 by 2020, but that is an increase in the minimum wage; it is not a living wage, however many times Government Members like to say it is. As I have said previously, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time”, yet I fear that is what they are trying to do.

The Living Wage Foundation currently considers that to achieve a minimal acceptable standard of living someone must be paid £7.85 outside London, and £9.15 in inner London. That is the living wage. If the Chancellor needs some help, perhaps he could congratulate Brent council on its work in championing the £9.15 living wage, and on incentivising employers to pay it. The Opposition need to humanise the Government’s policies as they seem not to know many of the people whom their policies adversely affect. The living wage calculation is also based on tax credits that have helped to boost low wages, but if those are removed, the living wage would be £11.65 an hour—that is how much someone would need to be paid if tax credits are removed.