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2015 Coalition Budget
Mr. Deputy Speaker,
I rise today to release this Government’s second budget. Last time, I came to this dispatch box and announced that austerity is dead; I promised that investing in our people would not break our backs. This government insisted that investing in our health services, police, and students was not just good for them, but good for all of us. Mr. Deputy Speaker, wages are up, unemployment is down, and we continue to thrive. Workers are taking home more money to their families, and that is something that should be celebrated across this House.
Not only are wages rising faster, but unemployment continues to fall. Two years ago, we promised the people of this country that we would be working hard for working Britons. Today, there are more Britons in work than when we took office. That means more opportunity to make a day’s wage for a hard day’s work. This too should be celebrated across this house, not for the success of the government or any single party or member, but for the success of the average citizens, far away from Westminster whose lives we impact on a day to day basis.
The Opposition have released their form of a budget and once again we are ready to respond in kind. They have made a weekend special straight from the cleaver of Thatcher herself, the promise of ￡800 per year to everyone. It’s a fantastic claim and we must give them credit. For a whole year it was nothing but deficits. It was even said by the Shadow Chancellor that it would take hundreds of years to reduce the deficit and get us back on track. Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have ended austerity, it’s time that we as a government get to work and eliminate the deficit. This budget will chop reduce the deficit from 113 billion to 88 billion, a reduction of 25 billion pounds. If we look at the deficit away from capital spending, it is even lower. We are reducing the deficit faster than the Conservative plan, and we are refusing to do it through the hope and prayer trickle down method. We are leading with investment, we are believing in Britain and Britons are benefitting.
We are not making this reduction through changes in VAT, despite what the Opposition has requested. They have promised and promised again to not raise VAT, and yet here they are, suggesting those very changes. I know that the Leader of the Opposition will get up and do two things. First, he will say that it’s only on gambling and it’s only the exemption. But a VAT rise by any other name is still an increase, and his twisting of words do not change the impact. Second, he will likely say that this government is raising such an alarm because we don’t take the dangers of gambling seriously. But as we have here, we have increased the gambling duty above Conservative figures. Rather when this government and when this coalition say we won’t touch VAT, we mean it. When we say no changes, we don’t mean exemptions or rates. We mean what we say.
Rather, we are increasing the mansion tax by another half percent in order to attack the deficit. We are also making sure that departmental expenditures are reduced by a program of rationalisation. This alone saves the government £3 billion. We have maintained our capital gains rates in order to attack the deficit and make sure that our taxation policy is fairly administered. In fact, the lowest two income tax thresholds have been increased meaning that under this government and under this budget, the British people will take home an additional thousand pounds per year.This will allow for many to continue to climb out of debt, take a well deserved holiday, or save for building their future.
We are cutting the deficit while maintaining our promises to the country. We are increasing hospital staffing numbers and beds so that wait times will continue to fall. Our NHS is the pride of our country. When the government makes good health services available for the people, the people live longer, healthier, and more prosperous lives. Also continuing is our investment in mental health. We must continue to address the mental health needs of this country, which impact not only those who have mental illness, but their friends and families as well. IT doesn’t matter if we are speaking of depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, Tourette’s, anxiety, ADD, or an eating disorder; this government is working for a healthier Britain physically and mentally.
Investure into teachers will also continue so that no student must sit in a crowded classroom with a risk of falling behind. With the vast reduction in the deficit, we are able to reduce student fees again this year, maintaining the promise we made the British people. Included in our educational spending is a free meal program for students. Child hunger continues to be a problem in this country, and this government will make sure that every student has access to good, healthy food that fuels learning. But we are also putting more money into child care as well. We do not believe it is beneficial to hard working Britons that they be forced to choose between going to work and making sure their child is taken care of. With this peace of mind single mums and dads can go to work focused on work, knowing their child is safe. We are increasing the pupil premium as well. I wholeheartedly believe that the children in this country can have and should have a brighter future. But I believe that for all of our students regardless if they come from the richest neighborhood or the poorest street; it is imperative that they have access to a high quality of education. This government is committed to continue investing in our teachers and students because a strong education is the key to end cyclical poverty. If we can help even one student end a cycle of of poverty in his family, it is absolutely worth it.
In the area of transportation, we are increasing our investment in roads at the same rate of the party opposite. But we are also are refusing to eliminate HS2. It is not necessary for us to pick and choose which is more important. Both investments are necessary and benefit of the people of this country. Rail fares will only rise with inflation, while investment also rises. British commuters are getting more for their money under our investment plan.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, this budget is clearly designed to not only continue in our national and regional investments into the health, safety, and future of our nation; but also puts more money into the pockets of the average person and attacks the deficit with tact and purpose.
I refer this budget to the House.
Calvin Ward Conservative MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order, order! The Leader of the Opposition! (24 hours from when Ward posted.)
Rick the Admin - The Resident Psephologist
Admin for Cabinet, PM's Office, DPM's Office, Defence, Energy, Regions, Environment, Transport, Communities, Elections, and Advisor to Labour and the Lib Dems
Mr Deputy Speaker.
I would like to thank the Chancellor for an advanced copy of his Budget, but beyond that I must unfortunately dispense with the pleasantries and get right to the heart of this abject and apparent disaster of a budget.
As proud as the Chancellor is Mr Deputy Speaker the fact of the matter is that growth is down, despite the Government's investments, inflation is up when it was trending down, and unemployment and real wages are simply following the trends of the pre-election Conservative-led government era. In short Mr Deputy Speaker, the Government are riding the coattails of the difficult decisions that we made in office over the course of four years from Labour's economic crisis, this budget and the last combined well and truly shred those coattails meaning we're in for a rocky rocky ride.
Mr Deputy Speaker this budget is what happens when you try and apply austerity without making any of the difficult decisions that austerity entails, I'm sure that before the Conservative Party unveiled our overwhelmingly popular Shadow Budget last week the Chancellor and his boss the Deputy Prime Minister had a very different budget in mind. Mr Deputy Speaker if you act in haste you repent at leisure and this Government is going to spend an awfully long time saying sorry to the people of this country for their misguided policy priorities that yet again hurt the hard working people where it matters most, their back pockets.
Let us start Mr Deputy Speaker with the Chancellor's claim regarding Income Tax. I would like to thank him for taking the time to elucidate the benefits of the Conservative Party's plan for income tax that would leave every man and woman in this country on the average yearly salary £800 better off this year than next, sadly for the Chancellor it is here that all of his pontification comes to nought. Mr Deputy Speaker I do not believe that the Chancellor is lying to this House, but if he is shame on him, no I believe that he genuinely thinks that he is right. I believe that when the Chancellor says that his proposals will save the average worker £1000 he means what he says. Sadly Mr Deputy Speaker the Chancellor is incompetent. This Budget does not save the average worker £1000, it saves them £200. Mr Deputy Speaker this is not £200 more than the Conservatives, this is £200 as in £600 less than the Conservatives. This Chancellor does not know how our nation's income tax works and is making dodgy, misleading claims on the basis of his own ineptitude.
I would like to take a moment Mr Deputy Speaker to register my disgust at the Chancellor's continued defence of our nation's gambling shops and casinos. These people take advantage of our nation's poor, who are nearly 10% more likely to gamble, and our nation's addicted, who can lose up to tens of thousands a year, these are the people that the Chancellor is insisting that we use the great institution of the VAT exemption to protect. In the Chancellor's view VAT exemptions are essential for food, parents buying their children clothes, prescriptions, and gambling; but funnily enough he and this Government have still not engaged Brussels about abolishing the so-called tampon tax. The Chancellor is a friend of the exploitative gambling industry but he won't lift a finger to help our nation's women, our less well off, or our addicted, I think that says everything we need to know about this Chancellor and this Government Mr Deputy Speaker.
Let us consider now the Government's agenda for business. Business is of course the great backbone of our economy even if the Chancellor believes that Government can fix everything, so imagine my surprise Mr Deputy Speaker when this budget put taxes up on business. The paltry 0.5% decrease in the lower rate of corporation tax saves businesses about £300mn, which is then immediately engulfed by the £1.6bn increase in the employer rate of National Insurance contributions and further compounded because this Government refuses to allow external investment to flourish by rejecting Conservative Party plans to abolish Capital Gains Tax. This is a pro-tax, anti-business, anti-individual budget that hurts working people, hurts our entrepreneurs, and hurts our economy.
Mr Deputy Speaker I would also like to take the time to address the other tax changes made by this Government that are, shall we say problematic? The Government has stepped up its war with business on the high street by refusing to follow Conservative Party policy and putting up small business rates. It has always been clear that only the Conservative Party will protect our high street but Labour and the Liberal Democrats have proven once and for all that that is the case. Further tax rises on our oil producers do nothing to stem our country's reliance on fossil fuels and will only serve to make it more expensive for the poorest in our society to have access to cars, as will the Government's refusal to follow our lead and freeze fuel duty. This Government is waging war on our nation's motorists while the Conservative Party wants to ensure that nobody is priced out of car ownership because they can't afford to fill the tank with petrol. Finally I would like to note the Government's continuation of the war on our Great British pub, not only have they rejected Conservative calls to reduce Beer Duty they have in fact raised it jeopardising a great British institution to make a quick quid here and there.
Mr Deputy Speaker the tax proposals in this budget are abjectly awful, actively damaging to our economy, and some of them are frankly sold on the Chancellor's own clear lack of understanding of the basic principles of the UK's tax system. Contrast this with the Conservative Party plan which makes the average worker £800 better off, would generate investment in our economy through our abolition of Capital Gains Tax, and helps business thrive by cutting taxes on businesses properly rather than through the Government's poor attempt at lip service. The Conservative record is one of competence and clarity, this Government are defined by the incompetence of two consecutive Chancellors who have failed Britain and failed this House.
Mr Deputy Speaker as we move on to the spending portion of this Government's agenda I would like to commend the Chancellor for simultaneously keeping the Pension Triple Lock and the War on Pensioners, it really is an astonishing achievement to build on the works of his predecessor who famously was fired for completely ignoring the needs of our pensioners. I look forward to reading about the Chancellor's sacking in tomorrow's papers. The fact of the matter Mr Deputy Speaker is that the war on pensions is alive and well because this Government want you to stop saving for your old age. Under Conservative Party plans if you save money for your pension pot and your old age to prevent yourself from becoming a ward of the state you will be rewarded by being allowed to keep that money tax free up to a certain point, under Labour's plans you will be able to save nearly 20% less before they tax your savings. Under Brown Labour raided your pension pots, under this Prime Minister and her inept Chancellor they are doing the same thing all over again.
Let us move on Mr Deputy Speaker to the Department for Business and Economic Affairs, it will be interesting to see how many of the Government's best guesses with regards to savings will actually hold up. If the Chancellor did the sums then one would assume that they're only out by a decreasing factor of five or so, but £200mn isn't bad per se, just far less than the Government have promised to try and get their deficit down below the deficit posted by the Conservative Party. Then of course we see the real terms cut to university funding as the £10,000 per student offered last year is not increased this year to match inflation unlike plans set forward by the Conservative Party in our Shadow Budget. Labour are clearly very happy to weaponise students for election purposes, they've clearly followed the Lib Dem example of promising students the Earth and then woefully failing to deliver especially since the Tuition Fee cut to £3000 that was promised appears to have been shelved. So much for abolishing tuition fees, isn't that right Chancellor? Transport appears equally ill-thought out Mr Deputy Speaker, rather than following the Conservative Party approach of ending London-centric transport policy the Government have doubled down on HS2, Crossrail, and ignored the needs of Scotland, Wales, the North, and every other region in the United Kingdom. But then this is a Government famed for ignoring the needs of the UK's extremities, just ask the people of Scotland how their devolution proposals are coming along.
The Department of Health is, for reasons unbeknown to me, exempt from efficiency savings under this Government's budget. I ask the Chancellor why the British people do not deserve the very best NHS they can get, why the Government are happy to have an effective and efficient Department for Business but not an effective Department for Health. Aside from that Mr Deputy Speaker the Government's plan for front line NHS services almost perfectly mirrors the Conservative Party plan for Health to which I say to the Right Honourable Gentleman, you're welcome. Even from the Opposition benches the Conservative Party are leading the discussions on healthcare, the budget, and even on pay with the Government matching our pay restraint commitment to a real terms' protection of staff pay. However I do note that the Government have refused to join the Conservative Party in promising the complete abolition of the Prescription Charge in the future. The Government will tax you when you work, they'll tax you when you invest, and they'll tax you when you get sick. Tax, tax, tax from cradle to the grave, that's this Government's plan for our economy and it is a vision that must be rejected.
Let us move on to the foreign affairs portion of this budget and boy oh boy are there some clangers here. This Government would pay the Armed Forces less than the Conservative Party and would fire 20,000 front line troops, about 10% of our entire front line battle-ready force. Mr Speaker I know that the Labour Party are, and have always been, weak on the defence of the realm but this really takes the biscuit. Rather than planning ahead for the withdrawal of UK forces from Afghanistan next month the Government is continuing as if they want to keep our troops there for another year, except 10% of our troops who return home from Afghanistan will find a p45 redundancy slip waiting for them on their doormat. It is a disgrace. Our soldiers deserve better, far better, from this Government after all they sacrifice for Queen and Country. This Government would put them out to pasture and then compound it all by guessing about the savings that could be achieved in the MoD with them gone. Mr Deputy Speaker I am appalled, no I am livid, at the disservice that has been done to our troops and the arrogance with which they have been tossed aside by this Government. Our troops deserve better, both in terms of pay and in terms of treatment.
The Government's plan for the Home Office appear to have been lifted out of the Conservative Party Shadow Budget verbatim Mr Deputy Speaker so I thank the Chancellor for realising his own failures last year and admitting that the Conservative Party are the best party to lead on Home Affairs. But the Government's war on young home owners looks set to continue with the Help to Buy scheme being further plundered to pay down the deficit that our young people were not responsible for. The Government really are selling students and young people short in this budget Mr Deputy Speaker with their real terms cut in per-student funding and their savage cuts to the Help to Buy programme which helps them get on the property ladder when they leave home. I'm sure that many in this House will also be shocked to learn that the Conservative Party is spending £10mn more in the Department of Environment, Energy, and Climate Change, proof positive that if you vote Blue you go Green.
Mr Deputy Speaker this budget is a disaster for Britain, pure and simple. The tax reforms alone make this budget one of the largest tax grabs on record sold on the sheer incompetence of a Chancellor who doesn't even understand how Income Tax in this country works. The deficit reduction is borne in great part by the businesses that will drive our economic growth forward into the future and by wild guesswork as to how we could reduce the spending of some departments, the Income Tax promise is a mere fabrication that needs correcting by the Chancellor either by him admitting his mistake or by raising the Personal Allowance by a further £4000 this year, if he does neither then we shall know that this was not a mistake but a conscious lie, I hope that he will rectify the mistake in line with his conscience.
Mr Deputy Speaker there is nothing more to say for now than the fact that I urge all members of this House to reject this damaging budget and send the Government a clear message that their treatment of the young, our armed forces, our addicted, our businesses, and our nation's voters is totally unacceptable.
Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire
Leader of the Opposition (2014-16)
Prime Minister (2014)
Parliamentary Experience: Novice (25)
Media Experience: Experienced (62)
Policy Experience: Novice (29)
Mr. Deputy Speaker,
When the Chancellor introduced the Government's budget, I was genuinely hopeful that it would chart a positive course for the British people and for Britain's economy. With the world recession coming to an end, Scotland voting to remain in the Union, and increasing pressure on the European Union to reform their archaic regulatory system, Britain is in a unique position to grow our economy and seize upon the momentum of a growing world economy as many of our allies around the world have done.
Unfortunately, just as they did with their budget fiasco in 2014, the Careless Coalition has released yet another budget that fails to take advantage of the opportunities presented to us, hampers business with increased taxes and regulatory burdens, and leaves the average British person worse off than they were a year ago. This is a budget that will take Britain backwards, and that is why everyone in this House has a duty to oppose it fully.
I commend my Rt. Hon friend the Leader of the Opposition for his speech in opposition to this disastrous budget. He makes a very good point, Mr. Deputy Speaker: what the Chancellor promises the budget will do, and what the budget will actually do, are two very different things indeed.
The Chancellor says that the British taxpayer will be £1000 better off than they were last year, but in reality the budget provides only a measly £200 of savings in income tax, savings that will quickly be eaten up by rising costs incurred as a result of this budget's tax increases elsewhere. The Chancellor swears this is a good budget for British business, yet in reality it levies a £1.6 billion increase in NI contributions for employers. And the Chancellor guarantees that this budget protects those who sacrifice everything to serve in Her Majesty's armed forces, while simultaneously abandoning those soldiers returning home from Afghanistan.
What the Chancellor says this budget is, and what it truly is, could not be farther from the truth Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The Leader of the Opposition has made short work of the Government's budget, and laid bare for the British people the damage it will truly do to the economy. Behind the points he's made, there are a few additional areas of importance to address.
The Government's budget is a disaster for commuters, shipping companies, and truly anyone that uses our country's roads. Under the Government's budget it's now more expensive to drive a vehicle, more expensive to pay for fuel, and more expensive to fly. Not only does that make it harder for the average Britain to travel, but it puts an undue burden on companies trying to ship their goods to consumers across the United Kingdom. A burden that will make it harder for small companies to stay in business, and a burden that will result in many businesses being forced to pass the cost off to the consumer by means of higher prices.
The Government's budget also increases taxes on both gas and electricity use. At a time when many in our country are still struggling, and families are just trying to get back on their feet, this Government has decided to knock them right back down. The Government is making it harder for families to heat and light their homes, an affront to Britons everywhere that no MP should be willing to stand for. If there was any indicator of how truly out of touch this Coalition is with the lives of everyday Britons, this is it.
And finally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Government has moved once again to slash the Help To Buy scheme. H2B has been critical for thousands of families across Britain in making it possible for them to finally own their own home. To own property, to have a real stake in this country's future, and to have a guaranteed source of value that they can pass on to their children. Homeownership is a corner stone of life in Britain, it is a fundamental part of life in a property owning democracy, and year after year the Government ramps up their attempts to undermine it. The Careless Coalition may be comfortable with a future where only the well-off can afford to own their own home, but I know I speak for the entire Opposition when I say we are not. Every Briton deserves the opportunity to work hard, to save responsibly, and to achieve their goal of owning their own home. That is becoming increasingly impossible under the Government, and it's because of their refusal to support Britons' desire to become homeowners.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, put simply, this budget takes Britain backwards. I cannot stand for it, no one in this House should be willing to stand for it, and that is why it deserves the House's full and total opposition.
Member of Parliament for Bracknell
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Chief Whip of the Conservative party
Mr Deputy Speaker,
I am, again, disappointed by the tone of doom-mongering and fear-mongering that the Conservative Party’s leadership has chosen to adopt in its debate on these policy proposals. Mr Deputy Speaker, I urge the party opposite to tone down the rhetoric and remember that a moment of softly spoken constructive scrutiny is far more productive for this nation than just lobbing insults. So, Mr Deputy Speaker, allow me to start my speech by correcting a few misconceptions and misinterpretations of the budget being spread by the party opposite.
The Conservatives say we are letting students down. This, from a party that might well have tried to abolish the cap on student fees altogether and might have slowly dragged us towards an onerous and inequitable US-style system of student debt. This government is reducing tuition fees while increasing research funding, and is on course to deliver a considerable increase in per-student funding by the end of parliament.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the suggestion that we are not producing efficiency savings in the NHS is not true. Contracting and procurement reforms that are being implemented in a cross-government basis, as well as this government’s expansion of the Invest to Save programme, will deliver efficiencies in the NHS and will create more effective and more efficient use of NHS funds. It is an act of laziness, I think, to suggest otherwise. Certain savings, targeted savings, found in departments such as BECC and MoD have been earmarked for deficit reduction - we are not, of course, adopting the same policy with the NHS, where savings of such a kind are being reinvested. The party opposite should know this.
Mr Deputy Speaker, another health policy-related misconception is that we somehow copied the Conservative budget. Mr Deputy Speaker, the Conservative party plan for health was a largely status quo based plan, following the trajectories that this government set in the last budget. If the Conservative party plan for health is to adhere to the investment and hiring targets that this government has always stood on - well, allow me to say to the party opposite that you’re welcome. And we have increased NHS funding - especially in areas such as research, mental health, and public health and prevention, essential long-term investments - by more than the party opposite.
Mr Deputy Speaker, attaching the rate of pension tax relief to the higher rate of income tax provides a fairer and more sustainable model for this sort of tax relief in the future. It is no longer an arbitrary amount and will actually be more impervious to any inflationary pressures going forward.
Mr Deputy Speaker - again, it is INACCURATE, utterly inaccurate, for the Conservative Party to say that they have somehow set the tone on the debate when it comes to Home Office funding. Mr Deputy Speaker, the Conservative Party has, like with health, stuck with spending decisions made by the coalition government. Mr Deputy Speaker, the Conservative Party is right to recognise that the decisions we made in the last budget were the correct ones. For them to pass it off as their own initiative is deeply inaccurate. Now, there is one new policy initiative that the Conservatives introduced when it comes to Home Office funding - an aggressive hike in the cost of passport applications. That is an attack on those with families abroad, those who need to undertake business abroad, families trying to scrape together the savings for a holiday.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the claim that the Conservatives are spending more on the Department of Business, Energy and Climate Change neglects that, in reality, due to this government’s green stimulus and capital spending investments, we are investing far more in this vital area of government expenditure than the Conservatives would have. And it neglects, Mr Deputy Speaker, that we are not cutting front-line services and actual investments under this department. We are just being more ambitious with efficiency and administrative savings than the party opposite.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Help to Buy was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues facing our housing market. We need to concentrate our efforts on increasing supply, not on increasing demand and driving up house prices, as Help to Buy does.
Now that I have corrected those inaccuracies, Mr Deputy Speaker, allow me to talk about some of the brilliant policy ideas that this budget does contain. Let us begin with taxation. Mr Deputy Speaker, we are raising the personal tax allowance - giving hard-working Britons more tax-free income and lifting even more out of income tax altogether - and continuing our commitment to reduce the business tax rate for small businesses.
And we do this, Mr Deputy Speaker, by maintaining our commitment to spread out the burden of taxation, by prioritising the closing of loopholes and the fixing of poor incentives, by being precise and surgical in our changes instead of unimaginative and blunt. Mr Deputy Speaker, substantial savings continue to be generated by this government’s no-nonsense approach to tax dodgers and tax cheats that previously were met with relative lenience. The taxpayer has been saved approximately £11.5 billion as a result of the measures pioneered in the last budget. The Conservative Party have preserved these changes - recognising the government's accomplishment here. In this budget, we save over £3.4 billion in clarifying and improving tax rules, closing opportunities for abuse, and continuing to rid our tax system of loopholes. Mr Deputy Speaker, this money is being used to keep the tax system fair, to bring down our deficit, to keep public services well-funded and invest in our future.
Much like how, Mr Deputy Speaker, we are bringing down government spending as a share of GDP by over 1% in this budget. We do this, Mr Deputy Speaker, with administrative savings, by revolutionising the way government works using the Invest to Save funding pool, by reforming procurement and contracting spending.
And because of this, Mr Deputy Speaker, this government delivers a substantial decrease in the deficit, beyond the proposals of the opposition. The total deficit is reduced by almost £25 billion. The deficit excluding capital spending - the day-to-day budget balancing that should concern us most, as the more accurate indicator of our fiscal health - is reduced by nearly £13 billion. Debt as a share of GDP, by that metric, falls by almost 1%, from 4.35% to 3.45%. That is excellent progress.
We do not do this, unlike the party opposite, by violating manifesto pledges to protect certain areas of spending. Let us not forget that the Conservatives promised to invest in Crossrail, ringfence international development spending, and freeze rail fares. All promises broken. I’m not sure why the Conservatives chose to break those promises. After all, this government managed to protect investment in Crossrail, continue expanding and improving our investment in fighting international challenges and delivering a fairer world, and keep rail fare increases in line with inflation. We did this while decreasing the deficit and increasing investment more than the Conservatives would have done.
Mr Deputy Speaker, we are investing in transport, across the country, by increasing spending on bus services and providing extra capital investment for new and improve public transit facilities. We are increasing investment in the Regional Growth Fund, helping diversify more local economies and bolster more local communities. We are increasing investment in mental health, prevention, and research. We are increasing investment in environmental protection. We are increasing investment in rural infrastructure and rural economies. Mr Deputy Speaker, there is much to be proud of in this budget. I join the Chancellor in commending it to the House.
Graham Adiputera (Lib Dem - Sutton and Cheam)
Deputy Prime Minister
Liberal Democrat Leader
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Climate Change
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Technology
Parliamentary - 36
Media - 53
Policy - 48
Well, the Government's budget presentation is a mess. To anyone who has listened to Tom Lehrer, it appears that the Chancellor would be served well by the unpublished sequel to "New Math" where he discusses fractions. The result is an utter shambles, where Labour very loudly proclaimed a tax cut that proves to be 1/5 the advertised size. I understand that there was no intent to mislead the House, so from the perspective of parliamentary decorum I guess the government can be content to say "Oops".
The same, sadly, cannot be said for those workers who might have been mentally spending the money Labour was purporting to offer them. That £800-per-person error, or £1600 in a two-income household, is more than a good summer holiday in Spain for that average worker. That error is a fantastic season of Christmas presents. That error is two and a half months' rent for the average one-bedroom flat for a couple, or close to it for two individuals sharing a two-bedroom flat. I draw these comparisons to highlight the recklessness of the Chancellor's pronouncements in the press in pronouncing things to working class workers and families that are not forthcoming. But I guess for a bunch of champagne socialists used to living in Central London on a Parliamentary salary, tied up with the Liberals, a screwup like that is just a little "Oops" for them that doesn't even merit checking their bank balance.
For businesses, likewise, if we are being polite there is at best give and take. The Government proposes to nudge the Small Business Rate of Corporation Tax down. That's fine. However, it is paired with a hike to the Employer Contribution to National Insurance. In capital-intensive businesses this may work out to the company's benefit; in personnel-intensive fields, such as restaurants and the like, this swap will likely come out to the company's detriment. The Government is giving with one hand and taking with the other.
On HS2, the Government talks in terms of alternatives. Mr. Speaker, the issue with HS2 is that it is simply a bad project in terms of who it serves and what it costs. Just because money is theoretically available in the budget that does not mean that it should be spent without regard to the value of the underlying projects. We do not oppose HS2 because of questions of austerity or because of opposition to passenger trains. [b]We oppose HS2 because, in terms of value for money, HS2 is simply a bad project.[/b]
The Government touts its deficit reduction efforts. The fact of the matter is that the government was able to roughly hit a very large target that this side of the House set out for them. Bravo, I am glad to see that they can hit the broad side of a barn when the target is held up in front of them.
I might actually applaud this if not for the fact that they did so on the backs of reckless, wide-swinging Defense cuts, major cuts to pension allowances, and botching their much-touted tax cuts...and, of course, a compulsive need to mislead the public about our comparative proposals.
Fundamentally, we have an exercise in contrasts between the two budgets, and I think the British people can see which budget will do what for them: The Government offers the average worker roughly a quarter of the tax cut that the Conservatives do. The Government offers major, dangerous cuts to Defense; the Conservatives offer our military the support it deserves. The Government offers higher taxes and more regulations to businesses, while the Conservatives offer lower taxes, more open markets, and ultimately a stronger economy for all.
Mr. Speaker, the current government is distracted, unfocused, and confused. This budget does wonders to draw attention to that. I would encourage that this House reject this budget as proposed, and reject the Government with it.
Steven Andrews, MP for Croydon South
34 Policy/18 Media/23 Parliamentary