Tom Greatrex: Indeed. My hon. Friend makes a very important point—that many of the people accessing and using food banks are the same people who are increasingly reliant on in-work benefits. They are not

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out of work or seeking to be in work, but the hourly wages they receive are not enough to heat their homes or put food on the table for their families. That is a notable feature of the economy at present.

Andrew Bridgen: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Tom Greatrex: No, I will not. I have already given way three times, and I am running out of time.

As a result of low and stagnant pay, tax receipts are more than £68 billion lower, and receipts from national insurance contributions are £27.3 billion lower, than they were expected to be five years ago. Chronic low pay only drives up the costs of welfare, and the welfare bill is £25 billion higher than it was planned to be in 2010. The problems have been exacerbated over the last five years, not solved, and that has skewed the economy towards the interests of the few rather than the many. We need a fundamental change of approach: we need an economy that is focused on ensuring that people can earn decent wages and survive. That would enable us to increase the tax take, and to reduce the benefits bill. The choice that we shall all have to make at the general election will be crucial to the future of many of our constituents.

My own constituency badly needs that change of approach. Youth unemployment is 5.7%, well above the United Kingdom average of 3.2%, and median wages last year were 10% lower than the United Kingdom average. Every week I hear from people who are concerned about the contracts under which they are employed and about their prospects, and who fear that their children will be unable to find work. To those people, the last five years have meant a Government who have failed them.

As I have said, there will be a choice to be made at the general election. The Government have demonstrated that their plan is failing. They boast of economic success, but they have created the early signs of a recovery that works only for a handful at the top. There is an alternative to a failing plan, and that is a much better plan. The economy must succeed for working families throughout Britain: it must succeed for everyone in the country. I think that, in 63 days’ time, the people of this country will succeed where the Prime Minister has failed, and will hold him to his pledge. He has failed on the economy, so they will kick him out, and it will be good riddance to a failed Government.

4.12 pm

Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): We seem to be living in two parallel universes. What the Opposition do not seem to realise is that we were facing bankruptcy as a country. We were in economic meltdown, and the markets were judging us by raising the cost of our borrowing. That is the best judgment of all: the markets know best when it comes to judging what is going on.

We have heard a great deal from the Opposition about a banking crisis. Of course there was a banking crisis—there was a worldwide banking crisis, we all know that—but the real problem with the way in which the Opposition were managing our economy was something called a structural deficit. We were spending much more on running UK plc than we were bringing in.

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Sir Edward Leigh: I am not sure that it is wise for us to go on all the time about the fact that we have cut the deficit in half. We have cut it in half, but that disguises the real crisis that we are still experiencing. We are still borrowing £90 billion a year, which means that we cannot relax for a moment. It is madness to make unfunded borrowing and spending commitments.

Mr Newmark: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why we had an emergency Budget which laid out clearly our long-term economic plan.

Let us consider our record in government since we picked up the pieces that were left by the last Government. As my hon. Friend has just said, we have halved the deficit. That is important, because it has kept interest rates low for mortgage holders and for business. Income tax has been cut for 25 million people, by about £705 per person. The personal allowance has been raised from £6,500 to £10,600, and some 3.4 million people have been taken out of tax altogether. Benefits have been capped to reward hard-working people. Employment is up, and youth unemployment is down. The Million Jobs campaign, which I put together, managed to persuade the Chancellor to abolish national insurance payments for those who hired people under 21. That has paid dividends, because it has accelerated the decline in youth unemployment. The state pension is also up by £800. Fuel duty has been frozen. Energy costs are down. Overall, wages now are rising higher than inflation; on the latest statistics, total pay is up by 2.1%, whereas inflation is only up by 0.9%.

Andrew Gwynne: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will add to his list of successes the fact that the welfare bill is up by £25 billion, as a result of increases in housing benefit costs to the Exchequer and the failure of low pay.

Mr Newmark: It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman should talk about our welfare policies as his side wants to increase spending, whereas we are trying to cap it at a reasonable state—£26,000, which is £35,000 pre-tax, which is higher than the average wage of most people.

Labour was financially reckless in government and, it seems, is even more financially reckless in opposition. Already it has £20.7 billion of unfunded spending commitments for 2015-16, which is £1,200 per household. HM Treasury estimates Labour now has £32 billion of borrowing for 2020-21 and £166 billion over the next Parliament—the next five years—or £10,000 extra per household. I hope voters are listening to that. That is £10,000 extra per household; they should remember that before they go into the ballot box. We have learned today that Labour’s new great tax policy is to increase the cost of a gun licence. So Labour’s policy going forward is, as always, tax more and borrow more.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): This motion refers to

“sensible reductions in public spending”.

Does my hon. Friend know what these reductions are and how much they might raise, because there is no mention of that whatever? They are just a blank canvas.

Mr Newmark: I know, and I suspect Labour will be going into the election with a blank canvas, and no doubt voters will make their judgment on that.

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Going forward, the Government are committed to raising the personal allowance once again—up from £10,500 to £12,500. That is a tax cut for 30 million people and removes 1 million of the lowest paid out of tax altogether. The Conservative Government are committed to balancing the books by the end of the Parliament, which the Opposition party is not, and a Conservative Government are committed to reducing Government spending to 35.2% by 2020, as the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) pointed out. I remind him that when the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) was Chancellor he had borrowing at 35.9%, so we are not talking about a huge difference between the 35.2%, which is apparently an absolute crisis, and the 35.9% in 2000.

To conclude, the Government have a track record to be proud of: reducing spending; reducing the deficit; reducing taxes; and reducing unemployment. Here are the words of Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund—although I will not say this in a French accent. She said:

“Certainly from a global perspective this is exactly the sort of result that we would like to see…More growth, less unemployment, a growth that is more”—

wait for it—

“inclusive, that is better shared, and a growth that is also sustainable and more balanced.”

These are the words of Christine Lagarde this year, on 15 January 2015, at an IMF round-table discussion in Washington.

The Government’s long-term economic plan is working, and hopefully on 7 May the British people will not give the keys back to the guys who crashed the car.

4.19 pm

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): We debated similar issues early in January, when the Government laid out their proposals for the “Charter for Budget Responsibility”. I explained in that debate that the Government had promised that they would eradicate the entire structural deficit within the five years of this Parliament. It is important to understand what the Government pledged. They specifically stated that debt would begin to fall as a share of GDP in 2014-15, that the current account would be in balance in 2015-16 and that public sector net borrowing in that year would be barely £20 billion. We now know that, on their numbers, debt will not begin to fall as a share of GDP until 2016-17 at the earliest, that the current account will not be back in the black until at least the following year and that public sector net borrowing will not be £20 billion for the forthcoming year but almost four times that amount, at £75 billion. In short, the Chancellor and the Government have failed to meet a single one of the key targets that they set for themselves. The Tory policy of a fixed-term approach to deficit reduction strangled the recovery in the early years of this Parliament, and with tens of billions in cuts and tax rises still to come, the inescapable conclusion is that austerity has failed.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman not recognise that there was a big issue, and that it was called Greece? The problems there and in the eurozone blew everything off course completely.

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Stewart Hosie: That is precisely why the Government should have taken a flexible approach to deficit consolidation, rather than a fixed-term approach. I will say more about that in a moment.

It is useful today to identify precisely what is on offer, other than the £30 billion of extra cuts that were promised by the Government in January. That is, of course, no more than a continuation of the existing failed policy of fixed-term deficit consolidation and a plan for further attacks on the welfare budget. It is a plan to balance the books on the backs of the poor, which we now understand means taking levels of public expenditure back to those of the 1930s.

Today’s motion calls for a

“different, fairer and more balanced approach”

and I agree with that. The key thing that needs to be changed is the fixed-term approach to cutting the deficit. Instead of that approach, which has self-evidently failed so far, we should have a more flexible, medium-term strategy whose first principle should be about reducing debt to a “prudent” level. It is important that the Government of the day should specify what is or is not prudent, depending on the real circumstances that they face, precisely to deal with the kind of external shocks that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) has just mentioned.

Mrs Main: I hope that the hon. Gentleman can enlighten me. What are the

“sensible reductions in public spending”

proposed in the motion, and how much will they raise? I really would like to know, given that the motion mentions them.

Stewart Hosie: It is a Labour motion, and I might not even support it. I am merely pointing out that the Tory party told us that the current account would be back in the black, but it is not. We are borrowing almost £80 billion this year. The Tories’ austerity programme has failed.

We need to reduce debt to a prudent level, with the Government of the day specifying what is or is not prudent, depending on the circumstances. A second principle should be that, once debt is reduced, the Government should maintain a balanced budget on average over the medium to long term, not in a way that would prevent them from implementing the steps they believed necessary to achieve their long-term objective, but in order to afford them the flexibility to deal with external shocks over the medium term.

A third principle is that the Government should achieve and maintain a level of net worth that provides a buffer against unforeseen factors. A fourth calls on the Government to manage fiscal risks prudently. A fifth principle is that the Government should pursue policies consistent with a reasonable degree of predictability about the level and stability of tax rates. That is incredibly important, because the tax system, tax rates and tax certainty form a vital component of fiscal stability and fiscal responsibility.

Sandra Osborne: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Stewart Hosie: I am sorry; I have given way already, and we are time-limited.

The motion also calls for a programme to get the current account into surplus and to get the national debt falling as a share of GDP as soon as possible. In principle, I agree with that, but my party wants to see an

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explicit end to austerity because, as the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) pointed out, people have suffered enough already. That is why we have set out a plan for a modest real-terms increase in departmental spending that would deliver £180 billion of investment in the next Parliament. Our plan would result in the deficit coming down, from 3.4% to 3%, 2.5% and 2.1% of GDP from 2016-17. It is a plan that would see the national debt fall as a share of GDP, albeit on a different, more shallow trajectory. It is a plan that would in the first year, 2016-17, not see £23 billion of extra Tory-Liberal cuts, but £25 billion of investment. We think that is extremely sensible, and it ties in to what the Chief Secretary said about active government and what difference that and the Government’s investment can make.

The motion also calls for

“sensible reductions in public spending”.

Our plan is to see a modest increase in departmental spending. Although I would most certainly accept a sensible reduction in spending on Trident and its replacement—a policy apparently supported by three quarters of Labour candidates—that is not on offer today. Sadly, what Labour appears to have proposed is no more than keeping to the Tory spending cuts, and we simply cannot support that.

I hope that tomorrow, in Scotland, Labour will take a different view, and support a real end to austerity and a real increase in public spending, because we do need to take a different approach. We need to take a different approach to economic management because if we do not, we will have set in concrete a further attack on our welfare budgets. With 22% of our children, 11% of our pensioners and 21% of our working-age adults in Scotland in poverty, launching a further attack on welfare, as this Government are planning to do, is simply wrong. We also need to change the way we manage the economy or we will be faced with a plan, set out in January by this Government, for future discretionary consolidation that changes the ratio of cuts to tax rises from 4:1 to more than 9:1—in effect, trying to balance the books on the backs of the poor. I am sure no Opposition Member would support that.

This motion also talks of the need for

“an economic plan that delivers the sustained rises in living standards needed to boost tax revenues”.

That is sensible, so I hope the Labour party and others would support the Scottish Government’s economic strategy, which was published yesterday. In particular, I hope they would support the Scottish business pledge, which is designed not just to promote economic growth, which is necessary, but to drive fairness and help tackle inequality at the same time. In return for assistance from the Scottish Government, businesses will be required to pay the living wage, commit to an innovation programme, cease using zero-hours contracts, agree to pursue international opportunities, make progress on gender balance, support youth and so on. That is the kind of initiative that should form the bedrock of any genuine long-term economic plan, and it is one that recognises not only that business growth and economic growth are essential to fund and pay for our vital public services, but that squeezing out inequality is an absolute prerequisite for a growing economy in the first place.

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I am sure that there will be more of this debate as we move towards the end of this Parliament and into the election. I am disappointed that Labour appears on its last Opposition day to have said that it will stick to the Tory spending cuts. Let us hope that the results after the election ensure that everybody can change their mind.

4.28 pm

David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con): It has been a pleasure to speak twice this week under your guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker. If this is to be my last speech in this Parliament with you in the Chair, may I say that I have had an absolutely great time under your guidance as Deputy Speaker? However, I do hope to come back, and to see you there again and we could have another life of five years together.

Today’s issue is a serious one, but I would like this speech to be in the right vein; it should deal with what this means to those watching our debate today. We are bandying figures about all over the place, but what do they actually mean to people? I can talk only about my experiences over the past five years. I was a newly elected MP and we were going through the Lobby making decisions that we knew were going to affect people’s lives. But we had to take these decisions to get the country on the right track. Over my five years as a first-term MP—after the election I hope to be in a second term, but I do not count my chickens—I have wanted to see what has happened in my community. The first thing I remember talking about was a road in my community. I am glad to say that that road, which took 70 years to build, came to fruition with my guidance and under the coalition Government. Costing £123 million, the road will join up the M6 with the port at Heysham and will increase the prosperity in the area tenfold. For every £1 spent on the road, £10 will be put back into the local economy.

We are considering building a new power station. My constituency already has two nuclear power stations, which account for 2,000 jobs in the area. Thankfully, again under this coalition Government, we have a footprint for a third nuclear power station, which will be completed in the next five to 10 years, creating a further 2,000 new jobs.

Let me turn now to schools. Without wanting to be overtly political, schools that were closed down under the previous Government have reopened under the coalition. In my constituency, a school was closed down and has now reopened. Sadly, another school, Skerton, has closed, but I am fighting to get it reopened as a free school. We can find the money to carry out all this work at a time when austerity is at its worst.

Sea wall defences have been built in my constituency, at a cost of more than £10 million. A mandate went out just before the last general election in which five out of the 10 categories of coastal protection were wiped away. Thankfully, we have put two of them back, and we have saved an area off Sunderland Point.

Mark Garnier: My hon. Friend has talked a great deal about how much money the Government have put into his area. Does he also not recognise that private sector investment, such as the £140 million of private sector investment that will be put into the Wyre Forest in the future—

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Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I have to intervene. I have allowed some leeway here, but I will not let this debate be turned into an election broadcast for all Members who wish to speak. This is about future Government spending. Obviously, the hon. Gentleman has set out a bit of a programme, but we are in danger of going around every constituency and hearing what the measures will be. That is not what today is about.

David Morris: I respectfully understand that, but I do agree with my hon. Friend on that particular point.

Under the coalition, we have had to make some very distasteful decisions, but in my area, health is on the up. We had problems in my local hospital which were put to bed yesterday in the Kirkup inquiry. Since 2010, we have had four new hospital wards at the Royal Lancaster infirmary. [Interruption.] Yes, we have had a new health centre costing £25 million in Heysham—

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. I am trying to be helpful. This debate is about future Government spending. We cannot talk about what has been spent. I have allowed some leeway in that regard. I understand that a general election is coming, but we cannot be so blatant about it. This is about future Government spending. I am sure that the Government want Members to recognise their vision for the future, and that the Opposition want to challenge the Government. I know that that is what everybody wants. If we can stick around that, I will be very grateful.

David Morris: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for indulging me. I got a bit carried away with the good news in my constituency. So, yes, where are we going in the future? The deficit has been halved. As the self-employment ambassador to the Government, I can say that one of the largest sectors in our economy is self-employment. I am sad to see that the Opposition have not recognised the importance of that sector.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab) rose—

David Morris: If the hon. Lady will let me finish, I will gladly give way. Labour’s manifesto, which we have seen on the internet, does not recognise the self-employment sector, as it sees it as a failure in the labour market, which is quite wrong. I say that respectfully to the Opposition. I was self-employed for 30 years, so I know what it is like to survive.

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con): My hon. Friend has set out very eloquently the investment that we have seen in Lancashire in transport and infrastructure, including the £15 million invested in the rail link between Darwen and Manchester—

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. Absolutely not. The hon. Gentleman should know better than to tempt fate, as the fate will not be good for either of us. This is about future Government spending. We do not need pats on the back over spending that has already been invested.

David Morris: Once again, thank you for your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The self-employment sector in this country accounts for 760,000 new businesses created since 2010, which shows that the country has an entrepreneurial spirit,

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with huge advantages for taxation. I hold out an olive branch to the Opposition and ask them to embrace it, purely and simply because it is better for us all, irrespective of political party. I believe that the country is going in the right direction—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] Thank you, I really do. Unemployment is moving towards historic low levels and the future is bright. I would like to think that the future is blue, but the electorate will have their say in about eight weeks’ time. I thank the House for the five years for which I have been a Member of Parliament, the Opposition as well as my colleagues, and I thank you, too, Mr Deputy Speaker. I hope that I shall be returned to carry on the good work for Morecambe and Lunesdale’s constituents.

4.35 pm

Gemma Doyle (West Dunbartonshire) (Lab/Co-op): I am somewhat bemused to follow the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (David Morris), who seemed to be giving us a public mulling over of his chances of re-election in May. We will leave him to consider that.

We are discussing Government spending and I am sure that Treasury Ministers will have been hard at work this morning trying to find some positive news in the briefing published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. They will have to keep looking, as the report confirms that working people are worse off now than they were in 2010.

“It’s astonishing actually that seven years later incomes are still no higher than they were pre-recession and indeed for working-age households they're still a bit below where they were pre-recession”.

Those are not my words, but those of the IFS director, Paul Johnson, who has already been quoted today. Mr Johnson might well be astonished that after five years of this Government life for working people in Britain is harder, but I am not. In West Dunbartonshire, we know what a Tory Government means: hardship, job cuts and poverty.

This Government have chosen to pursue an austerity plan that has not worked and that has hurt.

Stephen Mosley (City of Chester) (Con): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Gemma Doyle: No, I will not, because my constituents want me to make these points, not to give more time to Conservative Members.

The plan has not hurt the people with the broadest shoulders. No, this Government thought that they deserved a tax cut.

Stephen Mosley: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Gemma Doyle: I have already told the hon. Gentleman that I will not give him and his broad shoulders any more time.

The Government’s plan has hurt my constituents. It has hurt the poorest, the people who have to count every penny to pay the bills every month. What have the Government achieved? Nothing but pain. The Prime Minister promised that he would balance the books by 2015, but he has failed. Instead, borrowing for 2015-16 is set to be £75 billion and the Government will have borrowed more than £200 billion more than they planned in 2010. Their failure to balance the books is fundamentally

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linked to their failure to tackle the cost of living crisis in this country. How can we expect public finances to improve when Ministers have trapped families all over the UK in working poverty? Low pay, rising housing costs, disastrous benefit reforms, sky-high unemployment and spiralling energy costs are the marks of this five years in office and they are all driving up the cost of social security and driving down living standards.

Andrew Gwynne: My hon. Friend is making a powerful point. Is not future Government spending a question of priorities? This Government introduced the cruel and pernicious bedroom tax; a Labour Government will scrap it.

Gemma Doyle: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It would be naive of us to think that the Government were making life harder for everyone. As he points out, that is simply not the case. The rich are getting richer, bankers’ bonuses are buoyant once again and corporations are lining their pockets at the expense of families in the UK. That is absolutely unacceptable, because when big companies do not pay their taxes, the working man and woman have to pay more. It is clear that five more years of the Tories means a continuation of an economy that rewards only the most privileged while piling on the pressure for millions of families. That unbalanced and extreme approach is only going to lead to deeper spending cuts—cuts that my constituents cannot afford to live with.

The Government want us to return to public spending levels last seen in the 1930s, a time before the NHS even existed.

Stephen Mosley: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Gemma Doyle: No, I will not.

Labour Members reject this Government’s failing austerity plan for what it is: unbalanced, unfair and unjust. This election is about saving the NHS and it is about opportunities and jobs for our young people. A Labour Government would take a very different approach to balancing the books, including a bankers’ bonus tax to fund jobs for our young people, a mansion tax to fund an extra 1,000 nurses in Scotland and raising taxes so that the richest pay more.

Stephen Mosley: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Gemma Doyle: No, I will not give way.

Our spending plans would support working people, boost living standards, protect our NHS and support the next generation. We want people in this country to do well, but we are not afraid of asking those with the broadest shoulders to contribute more. If someone has done well for themselves under this Government, the next Government or any Government, they should pay their fair share.

We need to pull together as a society, not drift further apart. We need to return to being a country that works for people, not against them, and that provides public services that families can rely on when they need them most. Unlike this Government, we are taking the important step of ensuring that we can deliver every promise we

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make. I know from talking to my constituents on the doorstep that they are fed up with being told one thing before an election only for something different to happen afterwards. There is too much of that in politics and it should stop.

The IFS has praised Labour’s approach to our spending commitments. It is a shame that this Government have not been able to make promises that they plan to keep. Our plans are simple: we will make life better for people by increasing the national minimum wage, banning exploitative zero-hours contracts, freezing energy bills, expanding child care and providing a paid job with proper training for young people who are unemployed.

I know from my conversations with people on the doorstep in West Dunbartonshire that they have had enough of the Tory austerity plan. This Government have had five years and they have failed.

Stephen Mosley: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Gemma Doyle: I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, because I have some time left.

Stephen Mosley: I thank the hon. Lady for giving way. The motion, which I am sure she will be supporting, calls for

“sensible reductions in public spending”.

Will she outline what sensible reductions in public spending Labour is planning for her constituency?

Gemma Doyle: My constituents are among the poorest in this country. The point is not to cut spending for the poorest people in this country; it is to support them. The point is that millionaires do not need a tax cut; I do not know why the hon. Gentleman thinks they do, but I certainly think they do not. We need to support people in this country who are trying to get by.

The hon. Gentleman’s Government have failed. The verdict is in: they have had five years and they have failed. We need a change of Government. The Labour party will do things differently, and I hope we get the chance to show that in May, because my constituents cannot suffer another five years of this.

4.43 pm

Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West) (Con): I am afraid this Opposition day debate proves one thing more than anything else: Labour has not changed and it never will.

I am a bit of a political anorak and occasionally I watch re-runs of previous general elections. One of my favourite moments is from the 1983 election when, in the early hours of the morning, Robin Day, with a glass of Scotch in his hand, turned to Arthur Scargill and asked him, “Well, Mr Scargill, what do you think a future Conservative Government will mean for all the voters out there?” Arthur Scargill proceeded to give a bit of a diatribe not dissimilar to the utterances of the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) on the Labour Front Bench. He said, “Public services will be smashed and the NHS will be privatised.” I half expected the four horsemen of the apocalypse to turn up at some point and also to see Mr Burns from “The Simpsons” rubbing his hands.

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The reality is that everything changes in politics, but nothing does actually change. If my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary wants guidance on where Labour is in the 21st century, he would do well to look at the soothsaying words of Arthur Scargill, because that appears to be the party’s direction of travel.

Mr Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Paul Uppal: I know I am going to regret this, but I will give way.

Mr Anderson: As a matter of historical fact, was Arthur Scargill right that the Conservative Government decimated the public service that was the National Coal Board and the coal industry, putting 200,000 miners on the dole and ending up with this country today importing coal from places such as Ukraine, where 30 men were killed yesterday because of the lousy safety record in that part of the world?

Paul Uppal: The hon. Gentleman’s words prove my point. We need to look forward to the future.

Through 13 years of government and five years of opposition, Labour has not learned from its previous mistakes—mistakes that left us with the biggest deficit in our peacetime history and took this country to the brink of bankruptcy. The Leader of the Opposition has returned to the old Labour argument that cutting spending will work and refuses to accept that the £30 billion of consolidations that we will continue to make are what is needed for the economic health of the country. Labour’s plans to spend more without higher taxes will naturally lead to increased borrowing and an ever-increasing debt burden on future generations. Our children and grandchildren will have to pick up the tab for those plans.

Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, who has already been quoted, predicts that Labour rule would mean that the national debt will climb £170 billion higher by the 2020s. The irony is that the Opposition frequently rail against banks and the bankers, but it is their policies that will mean that a higher proportion of our national income flows into banks and bankers’ pockets in debt repayments and interest charges, instead of being spent on public services. Surely the Opposition can see that the only way we can get to grips with Britain’s debt is to tackle the deficit. Thanks to the difficult decisions this Government have made, we are cutting it by half.

Let us not forget that there is some good news out there. Opposition Members seem to forget that. Our economy is growing at the fastest rate in the G7, and the only way to ensure that this continues is the Conservatives’ long-term economic stewardship. Over the past few years nearly 750,000 businesses have been created and unemployment is down by almost 2 million. In my constituency, Wolverhampton South West, unemployment has fallen by more than 1,000 since May 2010, after rising in the previous five years.

There is still much more to do, which is why Britain must stick with our long-term economic plan. Labour still believes fundamentally in more borrowing, more spending and more debt. It does not have a serious, long-term plan to fix Britain’s economy or to reduce our debt. Often when talking about public services we

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look at what is being put in, rather than the more important point of what is being achieved. Through greater efficiency and a reduction in bureaucracy and waste, we can be smarter with public money. People often say to me on the doorstep, “We want politicians to spend our money the way you would spend the money in your own pocket, your own wallet, your own purse.” We need a long-term approach from a party which has the long-term interests of the economy at its heart.

The NHS provides a good example of how less bureaucracy leads to improved services. We have rightly increased the NHS budget, but at the same time we are using public funds better. The NHS is something to be valued and protected, but we have made tough decisions to improve front-line services. Let us be under no illusion. The only thing that is a long-term threat to the NHS is Labour being in power and running our economy into the ground, because without a strong economy we cannot have good public services. If Labour is not going to borrow more to cover its spending binge, how will it pay for it? I am sure most of the country want an answer to that question.

It is my view, and that of many others, that Labour is planning a post-election corporation tax rise. The BBC has already reported that Labour will pay for some of its spending by not going ahead with our vital 1p cut in the main corporation tax. That is not just a cut in the rate of corporation tax, but simplifies the tax system. I fear that Labour will go further and instead increase corporation tax, taking Britain out of its competitive position. Such a rise would be disastrous for the UK economy and our jobs recovery. We have seen the impact that low taxes have had on the jobs market, and that move would undo the hard work that we have done to ensure that families have a guaranteed monthly pay cheque. Analysis has shown that even a 1p rise would lead to massive job losses, forcing unemployment up and increasing welfare. The Institute of Directors has described it as a

“dangerous move to risk our business-friendly environment in this way”.

The BBC has gone even further and said:

“Labour must realise that you can’t rob Peter to pay Paul.”

Our business-friendly policies have helped the UK become one of the best countries to do business in, increasing employment levels and reducing the deficit. Labour’s plans, or the lack thereof, would wreck that.

I am surprised that Labour has chosen to go down this route on its final Opposition day. It would have done better by apologising for the financial heart attack it inflicted on this country. Thank goodness that the Government have sorted it out. We might think that there are lots of smart people in this Chamber, and there are, but one lesson is absolutely crucial: never take the voters out there for fools or think that they are stupid. They can see the reality of what we have delivered over the past five years.

4.50 pm

Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): I am glad that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Paul Uppal) finished his speech by saying that this is Labour’s final Opposition day—hopefully it will be the last for a very long time. Is anyone else sick of hearing the term

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“long-term economic plan”? Government Members are not; they seem to think it is a catchy phrase. What have we had for the past four years? We have had a short-term economic scam.

The Government promised to cut the deficit in four years, but they have completely and utterly failed. They promised not to borrow, but they have borrowed £219 billion more that they said they would—enough to run the health service for two years. They have decimated public services, destroying hundreds of thousands of good-quality jobs done by people who were delivering vital public services to the people we represent. They were working hard, contributing and paying income tax and national insurance contributions.

The Government have hammered every man, woman and child in this country with a 2.5% VAT rise, and the Liberal Democrats supported it, despite saying they would not. The Government have made life desperate for those people who rely on benefits, so those who were already poor have been made poorer. They have penalised people for having the temerity to be in poverty by bringing in things like the poverty tax—I meant the bedroom tax, but actually I was right first time.

The Government have given away successful public assets such as Royal Mail. They privatised the successful side and nationalised the deficit, which was the pensions. Now even the chief executive worries that it will not be able to keep the universal service obligation. This week they privatised East Coast, the best performing railway line in the country, and now they are talking about privatising Eurostar. We all know, despite their promises, that if they are re-elected the NHS will be moving rapidly towards privatisation, whether via a transatlantic trade and investment partnership or some other route.

My council has been hammered. It now has 45% less money than it did four years ago, meaning that every man, woman and child has been robbed of £328. We have lost 1,700 high-quality people who were delivering services to the people of my town. We have lost a fire engine, and another has been lost in a different part of the constituency, and 130 firefighters had to go across Tyne and Wear. The fire chief’s advice is, “I am being forced to make 35% cuts, and if I do that lives will be lost.” Lives will be lost not only in fires, but on the A1 motorway, which goes through my constituency, the third most congested road in Britain, because firefighters will no longer be available to get people out of damaged vehicles.

There really is a long-term economic plan, and we know what it is: to continue making rich people richer—the same as it has always been with the Tories. They will not stop their friends having dodgy tax deals, because they use the dodgy tax funding for their election campaigns. They will not cut taxes for the poor, but they will for the rich—£7 billion of unfunded tax promises.

Andrew Gwynne: My hon. Friend, as an avid watcher of politics, will have seen that at last year’s Conservative party conference the Prime Minister and the Chancellor promised £7 billion of unfunded tax cuts. Is he as worried as I am that they would fund those by making more cuts to the public services that our constituents rely on?

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Mr Anderson: I rarely disagree with my hon. Friend, but I could never bring myself to watch the Tory party conference. However, I heard what they said, and it is quite clear what they would do: they would have to take £7 billion from somewhere, and it will be the public sector. They are committed to going back to the level that things were at in the 1930s, when people in this country were, quite frankly, living like slaves, working in conditions that were abhorrent and going home to houses that were a disgrace. That is why when my party came into government in 1945 we had a massive house building project. That is why we nationalised the coal industry, the rail industry and the steel industry—the Conservatives had let them run into disrepair for decades and did not care a toss about the people who worked in them and lived in conditions that were worse than we could ever imagine.

The Government have not only failed on those levels—they have also failed to collect money because they have made people go out of wealthier jobs into low-paid jobs where they are not paying income tax or national insurance contributions. They have collected £68 billion less in income tax than they projected and lost £27 billion in national insurance contributions. You couldn’t make it up, Mr Deputy Speaker. We can see where they want to be. They want to take us back to the 1930s, when we had a low-paid, low-skill work force who were frightened to stand up to the boss, made to go to work when they did not want to, and made to work for poverty wages. That is exactly what they want to us to go back to—unless, of course, you are one of their friends who happens to be the chairman of a FTSE 100 company, and who last year, on average, had a £4.27 million salary. That is a lot of money, even for the Conservatives. Perhaps it is not as much as some of them earn, but it is a lot of money. The directors in those firms got a 21% pay rise, on average, while at the same time the Government are denying a pay rise of even a meagre 1% to nurses, firefighters and care workers—the people who keep this country running day in, day out, and contribute more in a day than some of these leeches will do in a lifetime.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): My hon. Friend is making a very powerful speech. Is it not also a disgrace that young people are being hammered in so many different directions by this Government and have seen an average 7.8% drop in their income over the past five years?

Mr Anderson: It is an absolute disgrace. One of the saddest things of my life is that I might go out of it—I hope a long time from now—and leave behind a generation who are worse off than I was, for the first time ever. We should hang our heads in shame if that is where we end up with the young people of this country, because it is clearly where we are going. During the past week, I have been approached by a young man who was an apprentice, and who became ill and had to come off work. He was not even allowed to get statutory sick pay. That is how disgraceful things are in this day and age.

Oliver Colvile rose—

Mr Anderson: I give way to my hon. Friend from Plymouth.

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Oliver Colvile: I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman has to say, but nobody has mentioned how we are going to create wealth in order to meet some of the costs that we end up having to pay.

Mr Anderson: I am glad that I gave way: thank you very much for being my straight man, Oliver. The Tories will have us believe that prosperity will trickle down. Where is it going to trickle down from? There is no proof of that. In my part of the world, 4,000 people will benefit from the income tax hand-back, but 144,000 have seen their tax credits cut at the same time. Young people and other people in my part of the world have lost £1,160 a year, so they will not be doing very much to create the wealth of this country.

In the programme that we will put forward, we will put small businesses first by lowering their taxes. We will promote a proper industrial strategy for our biggest employers, not just the high-tech firms, and work in partnership with them and the trade unions—I know that is a dirty word for Conservative Members—to create the situation where we increase the national minimum wage to a level it should be at, unlike the Conservatives, who opposed it at every step. We will reverse the cut in the top rate of tax, because that is the right thing to do. We will close the loopholes that have been exploited by the friends and funders of the Conservatives, who take the money off them to run their election campaigns.

We will freeze gas and electricity bills, because we are sick to death of these companies saying “We can’t do any more.” Now they are saying, “Leave us alone, leave us alone.” They have bled this country dry ever since they were privatised in the 1980s. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West complained about what was said in the 1980s, but what was projected then is exactly what happened. Public services were decimated and the people of this country are paying the price every time they pay an electricity bill, a gas bill or a water bill.

We will devolve power to councils and people at lower levels so they can take proper decisions on the front line and at the cutting edge, where they know what is going on in their areas. We will make work pay. We will stop exploitive zero-hours contracts, because nothing in the world will ever convince me that having people on tenterhooks, not knowing whether they will work the next day, is an absolute and utter disgrace. We will increase the minimum wage to £8 an hour. That will boost the pay of more than 76,000 people in my part of the world, which they will be really delighted about.

At the end of the day, we will end this system of despair. People have said, “We had no alternative. We had to do it this way.” They did not have to do it this way; they chose to do it this way—on the back of the most vulnerable in society.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Before I call Mr Stewart Jackson, let me say that there is now a six-minute limit on speeches.

5 pm

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): What a pathetic, facile motion the Opposition have brought forward for their last Opposition day debate during this

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Government. They could have introduced a proper costed programme. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West (Paul Uppal) has said, they could have apologised for the huge number of errors they made in government. All elections, including the one in 63 days’ time, are about hope versus fear. From them we hear fear and smear, but we have a policy of hope, because we have turned around the economy following the disastrous economic legacy left by the Labour party.

Mrs Main: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Elections should be about honesty and transparency. The Labour party has mentioned spending cuts, but it is not telling us which it will make.

Mr Jackson: Absolutely. In more than two hours, we have not heard anything, except in relation to gun licences and, of course, the recycled bankers’ bonuses.

What a contrast between the Opposition and the Labour party on the cusp of the election on 1 May 1997, when I was a candidate and lost by the not inconsiderable majority of 19,500 in Brent South. No wonder Labour MPs are depressed when they are sober and catatonic when drunk, quite frankly, because they know there is an acute contrast between that historic election and now. The Labour Government led by Tony Blair was ambitious, and their programme was thoughtful, forward looking, positive, generous and optimistic. Tony Blair is now persona non grata in the Labour party, and it now has a core vote strategy, with a mean-spirited, peevish, insular, dreary collection of bungs to special interest groups, and smears and caricatures aimed at the Conservative party.

What is more, Labour policy does not stand up to any form of scrutiny. We have heard about the utilities price freeze—a disastrous policy that has damaged the industry and, perversely, will damage the interests of consumers. Wither Labour’s cost of living crisis? Today, the IFS says that prices are being outstripped by wages for the first time since 2007. There is no more cost of living crisis because wages are growing at 2.1% against a retail prices index of 0.9%. On fuel, council tax, food, beer duty and children’s air passenger duty, the Government have made efforts to reduce the cost of living of ordinary families. We have driven up the personal allowance, and we are committed to drive it up to £12,500 in the next Parliament.

Sheila Gilmore: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Jackson: No, I will not give way at present.

As we have already heard, the 45p tax rate has raised more income for public services than was ever done by the 50p rate, which was put in place for cynical political reasons. We will not take any lectures from the party that abolished the 10p tax rate for the poorest working families. What sticks in my craw is the moral superiority of the Labour party in this debate. In 2011, 1,200 people in my constituency had been parked on out-of-work benefits—incapacity benefit or invalidity benefit—for more than 10 years during a period of economic growth. Some 5.2 million were parked on out-of-work benefits when the economy was growing quarter by quarter during the 13 years of the Labour Government. We will not take any lectures or moral indignation from the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle) and other Labour Members.

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The top 1% of taxpayers are paying 25% of income taxes. We have driven up employment levels. More women than ever are working. Some 30.9 million people are working, despite the ludicrous prognostications of people such as David Blanchflower, who told us that 5 million people would be unemployed, and the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls), who said that we could not cut expenditure and have growth in private sector jobs—complete and utter nonsense. In my constituency, unemployment has gone down by almost 60% and youth unemployment by almost 66%.

Stephen Mosley: Under the last Government, almost 1 million young people were out of work. Through apprenticeships and job opportunities, those people now have opportunities and hope for the future. They are the people who are benefiting from this Government. Does my hon. Friend agree?

Mr Jackson: I absolutely agree. My hon. Friend has put forward the strong views of his constituents in Chester for the past five years, and I expect him to be handsomely re-elected.

What I find depressing is the pernicious smear and myth that we are going back to the 1930s, when there was no NHS. That is a lie. It is disingenuous to make that point. First, the figures were not even collected until 1956. Secondly, the economy is at least 10 times bigger than it ever was in the 1930s. As I made clear in an earlier intervention, expenditure as a proportion of GDP is more or less the same as it was in 2002—the fifth year of a Labour Government.

I will not dwell on Labour’s record on the economy, other than to say that we had a record decline in manufacturing—that is for the benefit of the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr Anderson)—we had disastrous school results, youth unemployment doubled, a quarter of all public expenditure was borrowed by the end of Labour’s rule and there was a structural deficit when the economy was growing. While we are at it, inequality grew between 1997 and 2010. The gap between the poorest 10% and the richest 10% grew wider during the time of the Labour Government.

What a contrast that is to what we have done. We have capped benefits, focused on capital investment, driven up the number of apprenticeships, created 760,000 new jobs, increased the state pension and come up with a properly costed plan for our future. I am proud of the work that this Government have done, given the appalling financial inheritance they were encumbered by in May 2010.

Let us have a little humility from Labour Members. The reason they have zero credibility with electors on the deficit and the management of the economy is that they do not believe they did anything wrong. That is normal for a party that won 258 seats, even though if we had got the same number of votes, we would have got fewer than 200 seats because of the boundaries. They think, “One more heave. More spending and more borrowing is absolutely fine.”

However, the election of a Labour Government is an existential threat to the health and prospects of the economy and my constituency, and to the mortgages, jobs, pensions, savings and businesses of my constituents.

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Higher mortgage rates, higher unemployment, higher prices, more debt and borrowing, punishing middle-class earners, punishing aspiring wealth creators, same old class envy, same old spiteful prejudice, same old economic failure, same old Labour—on 7 May, the British people just won’t risk it.

5.8 pm

Andy Sawford (Corby) (Lab/Co-op): I would like to say that it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson), but he reminded me of a performance by Sir Ian Bowler at a “Stand up for Labour” event at the Labour club in my constituency, which was a caricature of a particularly unpleasant form of Conservatism in this country. I can see now how Ian Bowler was inspired. The hon. Gentleman used ugly language to portray a gross mischaracterisation of the events of recent years.

The hon. Gentleman called for some humility. He might have acknowledged that when the Government came to office, they promised to balance the books and said that we would all be in it together. They have failed on both counts, and people in his Peterborough constituency know that.

“In five years’ time, we will have balanced the books,”

the Prime Minister told the CBI in October 2010. Let us be absolutely clear: that promise has been broken. They have not balanced the books and the next Labour Government are set to inherit a large deficit as a result. The Office for Budget Responsibility says that borrowing in 2015-16 is set to be £75 billion. The Government will be borrowing over £200 billion more than they planned in 2010. It is because of their failure to deliver on debt and tackle the cost of living crisis that we so desperately need a Labour Government.

Despite Tory claims that our economy is fixed—Conservative Members go around the country and we see pictures of the Chancellor in his hard hat doing a lap of honour while the public look on incredulous—wages have stagnated for many workers. Too many of the jobs that are being created are in low-paid insecure work, rather than high-productivity sectors. I have consistently called for action on zero-hours exploitation, and I introduced a private Member’s Bill on the issue. I am pleased that we have made a tiny bit of progress, and I was proud of the role I played in getting the Office for National Statistics to change the way it records figures so that we now have a more accurate reflection of the situation.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): The problem of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) is that a lot of us were in the House when the world economic situation deteriorated. He forgot to tell us that the problems started in America. Conservative Members were in their bunkers at the time and talked about doing something about regulation and so on; they never had a policy. Therefore when they talk about honesty in this debate, they should get up and admit that they suddenly discovered there was a problem after they came to power. What happened? People’s wages have been cut by 7%.

Andy Sawford: My hon. Friend is right. Conservative Members were calling for less regulation of banking in this country. Not only did they back Labour’s spending

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plans right up to the time of the global financial crash, but I remember that in my area they paraded around during the 2005 election calling for more spending and criticising the then Labour Government because we had not built enough hospitals, rebuilt enough schools, created enough Sure Start centres, or put more police on the beat. They had the cheek to call for more public spending in 2005, and now 10 years later they pretend that they were counselling caution at that time when they plainly were not.

The notion that the Labour party—the powerful Labour party that created a global financial crash that hit a Conservative-led Government in Germany and right-wing Governments in France and America—did so because we were investing in schools and hospitals is completely absurd. The public have found the Government out and they will be exposed for it at the election.

Andrew Gwynne: Let me take my hon. Friend back to what he said about low pay and its impact on the economy. Low pay is not just a tragedy for our constituents who are forced to accept low wages; it is a disaster for the economy of Britain. We have seen tax receipts drop by £68 billion, and national insurance contributions by £27.3 billion—money that could be invested in public services.

Andy Sawford: My hon. Friend is right. The effect of low and stagnant pay means that tax receipts have been much lower than expected. The Government have failed on the deficit and the cost of living crisis. Low pay is combining with higher housing costs and the failure to deliver benefit reform to drive down social security costs, which are rising under this Government. The Tory-led Government are set to spend £25 billion more on social security than they planned in 2010. We need action on the issues that our constituents are facing.

In my area it is not just zero-hours exploitation that causes insecurity, and many people are working through agencies. They come off the books of the jobcentre to work for an agency. That work might last days, weeks, or a few months if they are lucky, and sometimes they get exploited working year in, year out through an agency without holiday pay or proper terms and conditions—desperately insecure employment. Although a few agencies follow the law, when HMRC investigated agencies in my constituency they found more than 70 breaches of the law, and £120,000 owing to local workers in non-payment of the minimum wage. People were being made to pay to get their own pay through payroll companies, or they had to pay illegally for their own protective equipment. That is the real world that many people face in my constituency and across the country.

Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Andy Sawford: I have no more time. The Prime Minister said that he would name and shame those companies. A year ago he made me that promise at the Dispatch Box during Prime Minister’s questions, in front of the whole House and the country. It was on the front page of my local paper, but a year on he still has not named and shamed those local companies. The people in my area do not know which of these agencies is most likely to rip them off.

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What about the second part of the Government’s promise: that we are all in this together? They promised us that they would not balance the budget on the back of the poor. They cut the 50p rate to 45p, handing a £3 billion tax cut to the richest 1%. They handed people earning £1 million a tax cut of more than £42,000 a year, while cutting council tax support for war widows and the disabled. They imposed the deeply unfair bedroom tax, which has had the direct result of driving many people into the queues at the food banks in my constituency and across the country. I want to thank Hope church for its brilliant work, which I try to support. The people of Corby have been brilliant. The food bank ran out of stocks recently. We put out an appeal and within 24 hours it was full again. However, people in this country, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, should not have to rely on food banks. That is Tory Britain.

Since 2010, there have been 24 Tory tax rises. Ordinary families are paying £450 a year more in VAT. Figures from the IFS show that households will on average be more than £1,000 a year worse off by the time of the next general election. This is the first Government to lower living standards during their time in office. It gets worse: because of their failure and their dogma—the Tory party tried to stop the NHS being created in the first place—they are now planning to take us back to a time before the NHS existed, to a 1930s level of spending.

At the coming election, there will be a very stark choice. Under Tory plans, the state will shrink from 41% now to 35% by the end of the next Parliament. That is the lowest level since 1939, before the NHS existed and when children left school at the age of 14. That is the equivalent of cutting every penny we spend on schools, half the budget of our NHS, and more than all the Departments’ capital budgets added together, including what we spend on investment in schools, hospitals, roads, railways, housing, science and flood defences.

People in my constituency know that I have been fighting very hard to try to stop cuts to the local fire service and to keep Sure Start centres open. The children’s centre in Raunds has just closed. Our police stations are threatened: the front desk at Oundle has just closed and Corby police station is threatened with closure. We have had cuts to our ambulance services. Last week, the captain of Corby Town football club broke his leg in two places and dislocated his ankle. An ambulance was called at 8.10 pm. It came at 11.10 pm.

That is what has happened in the first five years of a Tory Government. People know what will happen in the next five years of a Tory Government. Our NHS will be completely decimated, as our social care services have been in this Parliament. People in my constituency and across the country cannot afford five more years of this rotten Tory Government.

5.17 pm

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): First, may I thank the Opposition very much indeed for securing this debate? This is one of the most important issues that we need to discuss between now and 7 May. I congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury team on controlling public expenditure and making progress on reducing the deficit. I do that not only as a Member of Parliament but

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principally as a taxpayer. I do not particularly want to see my mortgages go up because we have a Labour Government.

I first raised this issue during the 2001 general election campaign, the first of the three times that I have fought my Plymouth seat. At a meeting of the Plymouth chamber of commerce, I pointed out to then Labour MP that the then Chancellor’s Red Book clearly stipulated that the Government would be creating a structural budget deficit. My predecessor looked somewhat blankly at me and did not appear to be familiar with the Treasury’s Red Book. At the 2005 election when I talked about this again, she seemed to have become a little more familiar with the Red Book. I was told that the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) always got his sums right and that I was just scaremongering. Well, I just have to ask one question: “Oh, really?”

I would like to pay tribute to Warwick Lightfoot, a very good friend of mine and a former special adviser at the Treasury. He has provided me with the intelligence and ammunition in the past 15 years to deal with these issues. Soon after my election in 2010, with his help, I submitted a paper on my thoughts about the strategic defence and security review. I made it quite clear that while I recognised the need to control the public expenditure envelope, I named my spending priorities as defence and long-term care for the elderly. Representing a naval garrison city, I have in the past five years consistently called on the Government to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence. This could be achieved by taking the renewal of the nuclear deterrent out of the defence budget and returning it to the Treasury.

I am grateful that the seven Type 23 frigates that the previous Labour Government had proposed to send to Portsmouth have been returned to Plymouth, and I am delighted that HMS Protector has been sent from Portsmouth to Devonport. It is good to have another ship there.

Adam Afriyie: My hon. Friend is a powerful advocate for his constituents and has won some great concessions on their behalf in his time here. Does he share my concern—in a way, it is a sadness—that Labour does not seem to have learned anything in the past four or five years? It calls for more spending regardless of whether there is a budget surplus or deficit. If it continued spending as it would like, this country would be back on its knees in the blink of an eye.

Oliver Colvile: My hon. Friend talks the truth about the importance of our controlling public expenditure.

Over the past five years, I have worked closely with Plymouth university’s Ian Sherriff on long-term care for the elderly and combating dementia, which is something I know my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister takes very seriously. For those in our mid-50s and facing old age, the worry is that we will get dementia, so I pay tribute to the Government for implementing the vast majority of the Dilnot report. We have much further to go, but it is a start. Unfortunately, the previous Labour Government did not do much about implementing their royal commission.

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Another incredibly important issue in my constituency is the rebalancing of Plymouth’s low-waged, low-skilled economy. More than 38% of people working in the city are employed by the public sector, and when I was first elected, people believed that Plymouth would be badly hit by, and vulnerable to, the cuts to public expenditure, and there was the threat of the claimant count in the city going through the roof, but I am delighted to say that under this Government the count has fallen by 42%.

The city council has criticised me for voting to control public expenditure, claiming that the Government have not invested in the south-west, but it fails to recognise that they have given Plymouth and the peninsula a city deal that, in return for £10 million, will create 10,000 new jobs. It fails to acknowledge that releasing land in South Yard will deliver a marine industry campus and create 1,200 new jobs—this would be helped significantly by an enterprise zone in South Yard as well. It fails to acknowledge that they have given us the Mayflower 2020 commemorations, which will boost the local tourist industry, and the council has disregarded the £2.6 billion investment in our dockyard, which will safeguard 4,000 new jobs, and dismissed the dualling of the A303 after the next election.

The biggest threat to my city over the next few weeks would be the return of a Labour Government, because, unfortunately, a Labour Government would never think about Plymouth—they would be much more interested in looking after Scotland at Plymouth’s expense. Following the 1997 election, when Tony Blair won his landslide, Labour had only four seats in the whole of Devon and Cornwall, meaning they did not invest in transport or skills there. I fear that Labour would put this investment into Scotland at our expense and would not deliver on Mayflower 400.

We need a stronger Navy. We need to put pressure on the Government for more funds to fix our potholes, in addition to the £9.6 million the council has been given over the past five years, and we need to restore our maritime built heritage, particularly Devonport’s north corner pontoon and sea wall. If we want to ensure that Drake’s drum does not sound, we need the Prime Minister back in No. 10 and a Conservative Chancellor making the right decisions.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I am reducing the time limit to five minutes.

5.24 pm

Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): In 2010, the Conservative leader, then in opposition, promised he would be able to “balance the books” by 2015—in other words, during the term of this Parliament that is coming to an end. He failed to do so. Borrowing for 2015-16 is now set for £75 billion. It is clear that the Conservative-led Government have borrowed more than £200 billion more than was planned in 2010. The books have not been balanced, yet there has been a great deal of borrowing. Where has that money gone? I can say where it has not gone. Not much of it has gone on spending in constituencies such as mine.

The Government’s failing austerity plan risks reducing the role of the state to a size not seen since the 1930s, as we have seen. Nowhere is this more evident than in

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my Preston constituency and certain other parts of Lancashire. The commitment to spending cuts is beginning to show in the quality of local health care. The number of elective operations cancelled in Lancashire has gone up by an average of 12%. Still on health care, I am particularly concerned about the decline in the North West ambulance service response times for both red 1 and red 2 emergency responses. According to the most recent data in 2014, response times within the standard eight minutes were down by 3.5%, while red 2 emergency response times were down by 5%. Those are just two examples of how the health service in my constituency has been degraded and how public services have been degraded generally—despite the extra borrowing undertaken by the Government.

The spending cuts have drastically affected front-line policing in Lancashire. Since 2010, the number of new police officers in the north-west has fallen by 28%. Since 2010, too, 291 police officers have been cut from front-line policing roles in Lancashire, accounting for 10% of the whole of the Lancashire police force. The cut in Government spending on front-line policing in Lancashire has had a direct impact on local crime. Since 2013, drug crimes have risen in Preston, and domestic burglaries have gone up by an average of nearly 6% over the last five years. Offences involving knives and other sharp objects in 2013 rose, on the most recently available statistics, by 8.4%. Hate crimes and disability hate crimes are at an all-time high in Lancashire.

We have seen cuts in child care, too. The number of early-years child care providers in Lancashire has declined by nearly 4.5% since 2012. On housing, there are currently 3,394 households on the waiting list for social housing in Preston—3,394 too many. What we are now seeing is a clear manifestation of what we call the working poor. We used to define people as poor if they were out of work and struggling. Now, however, we see the working poor paying regular visits to Preston’s food banks.

The unemployment figures might be falling, but the real picture is very different. Low pay is endemic, and there is wage stagnation. The Conservatives said that if we introduced the minimum wage, it would cost a million jobs. As we know, the introduction of the minimum wage created lots of jobs. We are seeing more zero-hours contracts, at the same time as we are seeing what I take to be sanctions placed on people—not necessarily because they are not looking for work, but because the Department for Work and Pensions has an unofficial and devolved policy of targeting sanctions on people by various officers and offices. On the “Dispatches” programme on Channel 4 the other night, we saw people dying as a result of these sanctions. Agency workers are contributing to the problem, and people are either being forced to go self-employed or forced off the register altogether.

Some 1,200 properties in Preston have to pay the bedroom tax, while we have seen cuts in local government spending and cuts in health service provision, as I said. For the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) to say that there is no cost of living crisis is incredible, when year after year since 2007 inflation has run ahead of wages. Now, because there has been a small upturn, he tries to pretend that it has never been any different. The Government are a disgrace; the quicker we can get rid of them, the better. Bring on 7 May!

4 Mar 2015 : Column 1032

5.29 pm

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con): At the heart of the motion is the idea that the Government’s economic policy is failing. It raises a scenario of a country going back to the 1930s—a country without the NHS and with mass unemployment. It was indeed a dark time, as the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr Anderson) said. I simply do not recognise that scenario, however—either for my own constituency or for the country more broadly. The motion raises the spectre of no NHS. That is absolute nonsense. The NHS budget has risen by £12.7 billion during this Parliament.

Mark Hendrick: The budget may have risen, but the delivery of front-line services, and of services more generally, has been overshadowed by the top-down reorganisation which the Government, when in opposition, said would not happen. That is where much of the money has gone. It has not been spent on the delivery of services.

Andrew Jones: I think that the hon. Gentleman is mistaken. The restructuring of the NHS has saved money, and we have more doctors and nurses as a result. Indeed, Members on both sides of the House have backed the NHS’s “Five Year Forward View”. To suggest that we are not investing in health in our country is simply mistaken. The Opposition’s suggestion that the NHS is somehow under enormous pressure is scaring people, because we all rely on the NHS.

Is our plan failing? No, it is not. The evidence simply is not there. Our economic growth is faster than that of any other developed economy, but the best evidence that the plan is succeeding is what that growth means to people, and that is the level of work. Unemployment has been falling, and a huge number of jobs are being created: 1.85 million have been created during this Parliament. In my constituency, the figures are extremely positive. At the start of this Parliament, there were 13,084 unemployed people; now there are 529. That pattern is mirrored throughout the country, and it means that more people are able to provide for themselves and their families.

The motion suggests that the economic plan is unfair. It is not. There is nothing fair about saddling future generations with debt. Of course dealing with a huge recession is a challenge. We all know that people have been under enormous pressure which has been compounded by food price and fuel inflation, although that it is passing. However, the key Government tax policy has been an enormous help. The huge increases in the personal allowance have benefited about 25 million people, and in my constituency about 4,500 people have been taken out of tax altogether. Both the Treasury and the Institute for Fiscal Studies have confirmed that the richest are making the largest contribution to reducing our deficit, as they should. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary referred to that earlier.

How does the Government’s plan compare with others? If we are failing here, how are other countries doing? I think that they are looking at our progress with some envy. The international response from the OECD, and the national response from business groups, is that the plan is working. The head of the OECD has said that Britain “needs to stick with” its long-term economic plan.

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Sir Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that there is an alternative to the Government’s long-term economic plan, namely the Labour party’s proposals, which would take this country in the direction of Greece?

Andrew Jones: I entirely agree. There is indeed an alternative, and that alternative is pretty stark. The choice to be made at the next election will be one of the most important that we have faced for a generation.

I am sure that, when the motion was drafted, the Opposition did not realise that the IFS would publish a report today highlighting the fact that average incomes have returned to pre-crisis levels. I recognise that the position is not the same for different groups in our community, and that much more needs to be done. I know that we all want to see living standards rise. I am strongly in favour of the living wage, and was pleased when it was adopted by Harrogate borough council. However, the motion is nonsense. Claims that we are heading back to the 1930s are ridiculous.

Yes, an incoming Conservative Government would see public spending fall as a percentage of our economy, from about 40% now to 35.2% at the end of the next Parliament. That is very similar to the 35.9% that we saw in 2000, and in real terms, when we allow for inflation, the level is the same as it was in 2002. However, we will then be living within our means, and the sooner we reach the point at which we are living within our means, the better it will be for our country.

Austerity has not choked jobs and growth, as the shadow Chancellor predicted. It has been a key ingredient in the progress that we have made. That is why we must continue our drive to balance the books, create the most favourable possible environment for the wealth creators in business, and not pretend that the job is done or that there is an easy way to make progress.

5.34 pm

Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): It has been a pleasure to listen to the whole of this debate and to make a contribution at this stage. It has been a revealing debate, showing the paucity of the Government and the Conservatives’ argument for re-election. It comes down to this: “We have nearly doubled the debt, we have completely broken our promise on the deficit, we have stripped growth out of the economy for the first three years, we have been the worst Government for 140 years on wages and living standards—now go on, vote for us and give us a second term.” That is it: no positive policies; no vision of how the economy can be different; no vision of how to get more people involved in work, in decent, good paying jobs; no vision of high skill, high investment, high exports. No; instead, we have just had negativity and fear and I suspect that that is what will do for this Government on 7 May.

Mark Hendrick: My hon. Friend omitted to mention the fact that voters will, on average, be £1,600 per person worse off than they were at the last general election. What sort of Government can present a spectacle of people being worse off by that amount and still expect to get re-elected?

Mr Bain: Indeed, and as the Institute for Fiscal Studies said this morning, this has been the slowest

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recovery in living standards in history. I do not think any reasonable Government would expect to be re-elected with that kind of record, and those are the facts.

What was extraordinary about the debate was the way in which the Government, having twice moved the goalposts on their deficit target, again tried to pull this extraordinary trick over the eyes of the country today. As I said in an intervention, the “Charter for Budget Responsibility”, which this House endorsed in January, made no reference to balancing the current Budget by 2017-18. It talked about a rolling five-year forecast, yet it was used today by the Financial Secretary, who is no longer in his place, to refer to a bogus sum saying that £30 billion in cuts were implied by that charter. That type of approach shows that the view of the Conservative party and this Government is, “This is as good as it gets”, and that we should have no ambition for our country of higher growth, higher skills and higher investment than that which they have been able to provide. My constituents and Opposition Members reject that completely.

Let us look at what the International Monetary Fund is saying on growth. It says that next year growth will fall compared with this year and that it will still be falling the year after. Is that really as good as it gets for Britain in this early stage of the 21st century? The next Government should follow policies that see us have higher growth, higher wages and higher skills.

It was also revealing in this debate that the Minister could not say whether he supported the Office for Budget Responsibility evaluating the fiscal plans of any other party, and small wonder because the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the one organisation that has evaluated the plans and looked at the difference between the Conservative spending plans and those that would be followed by Labour, has said that there will be more growth, more jobs, and faster rises in wages under Labour’s spending plans than under those of the Tories. So there it is: confirmation that if we want to have ambition for our country, a fairer society, better public spending and better living standards and outcomes for our constituents, seeing an end to this Government is absolutely critical.

We also need in this debate a recognition that the way the Government have tried to reduce the deficit in this Parliament has brought exceptional hardship to our constituents. Anyone who has held the hand of a disabled person, as I have, having to pay the wicked, pernicious bedroom tax, with tears in her eyes, wondering how any decent Government could ever inflict that on any of its citizens, knows that the course the country has been on for the past five years is wrong and needs to change. Anyone who has seen, as I have in my surgery, people on low incomes with family members suffering sanctions imposed through targets from the Department for Work and Pensions knows that we are a better country than that and the next Government can do better for all of its people and produce much more fairness.

It is key that we get more people into work, abolish long-term unemployment among our young people and those over the age of 25, and ensure that we have an economy with more productivity leading to rises in wages and higher living standards for all. We need an economy that is based more on exports and investment than on the racking up of public and private debt that this Government have presided over.

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I believe that there is a better way, and that the people of this country will vote for it on 7 May. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) talked about fear. As we approach this critical general election, we should remember the words of Franklin Roosevelt in his inauguration speech of 1932. He said:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

I do not believe that the British people will be fearful on 7 May. I believe that they will be purposeful in voting out this Government, in voting for change and in voting for a Labour Government.

5.40 pm

Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to wind up the debate today and to speak in favour of our Opposition motion. This gives me a chance to describe in plain terms the gulf between this Government’s spending plans and the approach that will be taken by a future Labour Government. It also gives me the opportunity to make it crystal clear that we reject the failed austerity plans that were set out in the Government’s autumn statement.

The Minister and the Chancellor were patting themselves on the back in the media this morning, congratulating themselves on their success. That just shows how out of touch the Government are. As my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) said earlier, the Chancellor told the “Today” programme this morning:

“We’ve got on top of our debts and deficits.”

My hon. Friend made it quite clear that they have not. As he and many other Labour Members made clear, this Government have failed on their own terms. In 2010, the Chancellor said that he would balance the current budget by 2014-15, but in the first nine months of this financial year, the gap was £74 billion. The Chancellor has had five years, and he has failed. We cannot afford to give him another five. That point has been made time and again this afternoon.

Let us look at some more evidence. As I have said, the Government have missed their current budget target by £74 billion. In addition, the social security bill is £25 billion more than planned, and tax credits have risen, subsidising the low-wage economy. The number of working people receiving housing benefit is up two thirds, and tax receipts are much lower than expected. The Government have failed on the deficit, on the debt and on living standards.

Some Conservative Members seemed rather excited about today’s Institute for Fiscal Studies report, but if we look at it in more detail, we can see what it actually says. It states that people are worse off today than they were in 2010. As we have heard this afternoon, the real problem is that more people are scraping by, from day to day and week to week, in poorly paid jobs or on exploitative zero-hours contracts. A number of Members have described what it is like for their constituents who have to wait for a text message on a Monday morning to tell them whether they will have any paid work that week. That is no way for them to live their lives. It does not enable them to have any sort of quality of life or to balance their household budget. There is nothing in that for the Government to be proud of.

A number of Members have eloquently argued that at the heart of the Government’s failure is their ideological obsession with shrinking the state. That seems to be

4 Mar 2015 : Column 1036

their true aim, superseding all else. From what we have heard from the Government this afternoon, it is clear that they will continue to keep chipping away at that, even as the ground crumbles beneath us.

We have heard some powerful and passionate speeches from Labour Members this afternoon. We heard from my hon. Friends the Members for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex), for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle), for Blaydon (Mr Anderson), for Corby (Andy Sawford), for Preston (Mark Hendrick) and for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain), all of whom are powerful champions for their constituents. My hon. Friends were speaking up for the people who have suffered under this Government, laying out in clear terms what the impact has been on families right across the UK and talking about their experiences of dealing with the zero-hours contracts, the low pay, being on agency work, and the impact of cuts on local government, which has affected and in some cases decimated local services. They spoke about the sense they got from their constituents that living standards simply have not improved for them; any recovery has not yet reached the kitchen table of our constituents.

My hon. Friends spoke this afternoon about the need to do more to tackle tax avoidance. They spoke about the inequities of the Government’s lack of action to tackle the tax dodgers while imposing the hated bedroom tax. Labour Members made it very clear that our constituents cannot face another five years of Tory Government and that we need a change. As for the consequences of five more years of the Tories, they are still intent on doing more damage. As my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East reminded us in his opening speech, and as hon. Members said at various points in the debate, five more years would take us back to a spending level as a percentage of national income that was last seen in the 1930s, before there was an NHS, when kids left school at 14 and when life expectancy was 60.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which has been much quoted by Government Members this afternoon, that would necessitate undeliverable and nigh unthinkable cuts of more than £50 billion. It would, as the IFS said, represent:

“Spending cuts on a colossal scale”—

which would leave—

“the role and shape of the state… changed beyond recognition.”

So let us make no mistake: this is not about fixing the economy; it is about remodelling the role of the state This Government’s plans will do real and lasting damage in the long term, wreaking havoc in public services, decimating our skills and infrastructure, and undermining our competitiveness.—[Interruption.] I hear Government Members shouting, “Rubbish”, but they clearly have not listened to the testimonies of Opposition Members, who so eloquently, passionately and powerfully laid out the impact of this Government’s policies and actions on their constituents.

Mr Newmark rose—

Cathy Jamieson: I am not going to give way because the hon. Gentleman had his opportunity earlier, and I wish to make a few more points about what has been said this afternoon.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 1037

The true scale and nature of that impact cannot be quantified, because the Government will not set out where their billions of social security cuts will fall, so we have to look at past performance as our guide. Those reliant on tax credits to make ends meet will be justly wary of another five years of the Tories; because of their tax and benefit changes, a typical household is £891 worse off this year. This Government’s right-wing, doctrinaire approach to the deficit has already done untold damage. Their trickle-down philosophy has been exposed for the sham that it is, and their true aim, as it ever was, is to pulverise the state and to protect the wealthy.

Labour has a better plan. As last year’s IFS green budget made abundantly clear, there is a huge gulf between this Government’s approach and that outlined by Labour. Our approach is not punitive; it is a common-sense approach. It is balanced and proportionate. We acknowledge and accept the need to close the deficit and reduce the debt as soon as possible in the next Parliament, and we are committed to achieving that, but we will do it fairly. That is because we think the wealthiest should shoulder the greatest burden. So we will reverse the £3 billion tax cut for those earning over £150,000, to increase tax revenues and help reduce the deficit fairly; we will introduce a mansion tax on homes worth more than £2 million and crack down on tax avoidance, investing the proceeds in our NHS; and we will tax bank bonuses to create jobs for young people and the long-term unemployed, increase the minimum wage and incentivise payment of the living wage. All our spending commitments will be fully funded. We will deal with the deficit and the debt, but we will not place our public services in jeopardy. Our plan will secure the rising living standards, higher wages and sustainable growth that are needed to fix the economy fairly in a way that benefits everyone, not just a few at the top.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East said at the outset, the stakes could not be higher, and the choice could not be starker. There is a massive gulf between this Government’s spending plans and those outlined by Labour. The Tories' austerity agenda has failed. The choice at the election is between five more years of Tory failure, wage stagnation and decimation of the state, or Labour's progressive and balanced plan for the economy that is sustainable in the long term and better for current and future generations.

5.50 pm

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Andrea Leadsom): How dare Opposition Members indulge in the sort of scaremongering that we have heard this afternoon! I am sure that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson) would like to celebrate the fact that youth unemployment in her constituency has gone down by 43% since 2010 and that overall, unemployment has gone down by 31% over the same period.

Cathy Jamieson rose—

Andrea Leadsom: I will not give way to the hon. Lady as she did not give way to my hon. Friends.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 1038

Furthermore, does the hon. Lady agree that Labour’s motion today is false? She said that the cuts we have made take us back to the 1930s. In fact, the Office for Budget Responsibility has said that

“by 2019-20, day-to-day spending on public services would be at its lowest level since 2002-03 in real terms.”

And that was when the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) was in the Government. Does she want to celebrate any of those points with me?

Cathy Jamieson: I thank the Minister for eventually giving way. Although I celebrate young people and the long-term unemployed finding work in my constituency, I hope that she will recognise that for many of them, it is zero-hours contracts, low-paid work, and jobs that are not in their chosen careers. They want more from a future Labour Government and they will get it.

Andrea Leadsom: I am sure that there is no need for me to give way to the hon. Lady again so that she can congratulate us on the fact that, on average, 75% of those new jobs are full-time employment. There are some other facts that Opposition Members might like to celebrate. I am talking about the fact that the UK was the fastest growing major economy in 2014; that more than 760,000 private sector businesses have been created over the past four years; and that employment is up by 1.85 million since the last general election—that is 1.85 million more people with the security of bringing home a regular pay packet. She might like to celebrate the fact that wages are rising significantly faster than inflation, and that total pay was up 2.1% in the three months to 2014.

The hon. Lady might like to hear the views of international commentators. Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, said:

“The sweet spot you want is low, stable predictable inflation. You’re going to get that”—

in 2015. Is the hon. Lady interested in the view of President Obama? He said:

“I would note that Great Britain and the United States are two economies that are standing out at a time when a lot of other countries are having problems. So we must be doing something right.”

Perhaps she would like to hear the views of Christine Lagarde who runs the IMF. She says:

“A few countries, only a few, are driving growth.”

The hon. Lady needs to listen to this. Christine Lagarde is talking about America and the UK. She goes on to say:

“And the UK, where clearly growth is improving, the deficit has been reduced, and where the unemployment is going down…Certainly from a global perspective this is exactly the sort of result that we would like to see.”

There is a word of warning from the OECD. It says:

“Well done so far, Chancellor. But finish the job. Britain has a long term economic plan, but it needs to stick with it.”

That is vital and it is what we intend to do.

Let me turn now to some of the very interesting comments made by colleagues across the House. In particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr Newmark) gave an excellent talk about the reality of our determination to sort out Labour’s mess. My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (David Morris) told us why the Government have been

4 Mar 2015 : Column 1039

so good for his constituency and my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West (Paul Uppal) spoke about the importance of competition for economic growth. It is absolutely vital.

My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) contrasted Labour now with Labour in 1997, when the party at least had a vision. He also talked about Labour’s spiteful prejudice against success, and that is right, Mr Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) pointed out the vital need to invest in infrastructure in his constituency and his fears that Labour would prioritise Scottish over English interests. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones) pointed out the nonsense of Labour’s motion and the need to ensure that we in this generation do not leave our debts to our children and our grandchildren.

Let me point out to Opposition Members what the IFS recently said about Labour: higher Government borrowing acts to support household incomes in the short run, but the resulting higher levels of Government debt mean that a greater proportion of public spending must be allocated to financing debt interest payments in the long run and potentially leave the UK more vulnerable to large negative shocks in future. Simply borrowing more is just not an option.

The hon. Members for Corby (Andy Sawford) and for Preston (Mark Hendrick) both accused this Government of having done nothing for the NHS, but perhaps they would like to celebrate with me the fact that the health budget has increased in real terms every year during this Parliament, that total health spending has increased by £12.7 billion during this Parliament and that on top of that in the autumn statement the Chancellor announced an additional £2 billion for front-line NHS services in England in 2015-16. The vital point about the NHS is that we cannot have a strong NHS without a strong economy.

Since today we have had a very interesting living standards report from the IFS, I want to give hon. Members some other things to celebrate. The IFS has assessed that average household incomes are now restored to around pre-crisis levels. That is something to celebrate. Wages are up 4.1% in real terms for those in continuous employment. That is fantastic. Inflation is at 0.3%, helping family budgets to stretch further. Let us look at inequality, which is lower than when this Government came to power with, as the IFS has said, pensioner poverty at near record low levels. That is vital in our economy. This Government support fairness and have also ensured, as the IFS has today confirmed, that the richest households have paid the most, with

“larger proportional falls in income for higher-income households.”

That is absolutely vital. Inequality has fallen and the biggest burden has been borne by those with the broadest shoulders.

It is vital that members of the public who have to choose very soon who they want to run the Government for the next five years know that they have the choice between a Government who have been determined to ensure fairness and an Opposition who are completely incoherent and whose lack of facts and plans lead them simply to resort to scaremongering in the hope they can persuade people to accept a non-coherent plan from their Front-Benchers. This Government believe in a fairer society and a fairer society is created by helping the weak get stronger, not by making the strong weaker.

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We can only have a fair society on the back of a healthy, well-functioning economy and we can only have a healthy, well-functioning economy on the back of sustainable public finances.

The Government’s long-term economic plan is making public finances sustainable for the first time in a great many years. It is delivering economic growth and as the IFS confirmed today it is raising the standards of living across the country. That is vital. We are finally on the right track and now would be the worst time to change direction. Let us keep going, let us finish the job and let us give the people of this country the fair, strong, healthy and vibrant economy that they deserve.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 216, Noes 298.

Division No. 168]


5.59 pm


Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Kevin

Bayley, Sir Hugh

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Champion, Sarah

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Denham, rh Mr John

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Maria

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Dame Tessa

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Long, Naomi

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McGovern, Alison

McGuire, rh Dame Anne

McInnes, Liz

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Stephen Doughty


Graham Jones


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Sir David

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Steve

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, rh Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, rh Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, rh Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Farron, Tim

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Sir Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lamb, rh Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Sir Peter

Lumley, Karen

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, rh Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, rh Sir Richard

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Randall, rh Sir John

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, rh Sir Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Simmonds, rh Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thornton, Mike

Thurso, rh John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, rh Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

Whittaker, Craig

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, rh Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, rh Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Damian Hinds


Mel Stride

Question accordingly negatived.

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4 Mar 2015 : Column 1042

4 Mar 2015 : Column 1043

4 Mar 2015 : Column 1044

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Mr Speaker: The Clerk at the Table is looking around anxiously. He is generously suggesting to me that I might suggest that, with the leave of the House, we take motions 6 to 15 together. [Interruption.] I hear a helpful “Hear, hear” from one well-disposed hon. Member. I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his helpful sedentary chunter.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Environmental Protection

That the draft Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 17 December 2014, be approved.

Proceeds of Crime

That the draft Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Investigations: Code of Practice) (England and Wales) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 17 December 2014, be approved.

That the draft Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Search, Seizure and Detention of Property: Code of Practice) (England and Wales) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 17 December 2014, be approved.

That the draft Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cash Searches: Code of Practice) (England and Wales and Scotland) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 17 December 2014, be approved.

That the draft Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Investigative Powers of Prosecutors: Code of Practice) (England and Wales) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 21 January, be approved.


That the draft Police and Crime Commissioner Elections Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 15 January, be approved.

Representation of the People

That the draft Representation of the People (Ballot Paper) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 13 January, be approved.

That the draft Representation of the People (Combination of Polls) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 15 January, be approved.

Financial Services and Markets

That the draft Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Banking Reform) (Pensions) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 21 January, be approved.


That the draft Occupational Pensions Schemes (Charges and Governance) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 4 February, be approved.—(John Penrose.)

Question agreed to.

Business of the House


That, at the sitting on Tuesday 10 March, the provisions of Standing Orders No. 16 (Proceedings under an Act or on European Union documents) and No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motions in the name of Secretary Theresa May relating to the draft Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015

4 Mar 2015 : Column 1045

(Authority to Carry Scheme) Regulations 2015, the draft Authority to Carry Scheme (Civil Penalties) Regulations 2015, the draft Passenger, Crew and Service Information (Civil Penalties) Regulations 2015, the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Code of Practice for Examining Officers and Review Officers) Order 2015 and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Code of Practice for Officers exercising functions under Schedule 1) Regulations 2015 and the Motion in the name of Secretary Patrick McLoughlin relating to the draft Aviation Security Act 1982 (Civil Penalties) Regulations 2015; the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of those Motions not later than three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the first of those Motions; and proceedings on those Motions may continue, though opposed, after the moment of interruption.

—(John Penrose.)


Development of Middleton St George

6.15 pm

Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab): This petition is on behalf of 1,109 residents of the village of Middleton St George in my constituency who are concerned about the unsustainable housing developments potentially taking place in the village.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of the Sedgefield constituency,

Declares that the Petitioners object to the over-development of the village of Middleton St George and further declares that the Petitioners believe that the current planning applications are not sustainable and will have a catastrophic impact on the infrastructure of the village.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reassess the planning applications for the development of Middleton St George.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Treatment for Morquio Syndrome

6.16 pm

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): The petition states:

The Petition of residents of the Alyn and Deeside constituency,

Declares that Morquio syndrome (also known as MPS IV) is a rare genetic disease; further that Elosulfase, a drug to treat the syndrome, has recently been approved by the European Medicines Agency following positive results in the final stages of clinical trials; further that the drug (in the form of weekly enzyme replacement treatment) improves sufferers’ energy levels and stamina and therefore increases their independence, further that the effects of the drug are hugely beneficial not only to the individuals who have Morquio syndrome but also to their families; further that funding for the newly licensed enzyme replacement therapy to treat Morquio syndrome is unlikely to be approved due to cost saving; and further that the Petitioners believe that the consequences of patients, including children, such as Gracie in Buckley, not receiving this drug are unbearable.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Department of Health to ensure that individuals who have Morquio syndrome are given free access at home to enzyme replacement therapy for the treatment of the syndrome.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


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Extension of the Tyne and Wear Metro

6.18 pm

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab): I am pleased to be able to present this petition asking the House to urge the Government to examine the feasibility of extending the Tyne and Wear metro to Washington and bringing the Leamside railway back into use. The petitioners and I believe that doing so would boost jobs and growth in Washington and, indeed, the wider region. The petition is along the same lines as the one that I submitted in May 2014. As of today, this new petition on my website has been signed by a further 1,736 people. The petition states:

The Petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the extension of the Tyne and Wear Metro to Washington is a vital, yet missing, part of the region’s transport system, and further that such an extension would make a significant contribution to the economic development of the town.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Transport to seriously explore the feasibility of extending the Tyne and Wear Metro to the town of Washington, utilising the old Leamside railway line.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Closure of the Seven Stars public house in Sedgley

6.19 pm

Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): I rise to present a petition opposing the closure of the Seven Stars pub in Sedgley. It is a popular, profitable and well run pub at the heart of community life, but Morrisons want to buy it from Marston’s to turn it into a supermarket. Led by Jon Hurst, Neil and Kate Shorthouse, Sid and Joy Bills, Zoe Huddlestone and Donna Bremner, residents have established a brilliant campaign. It has already succeeded in getting the pub listed as an asset of community value, and it has gathered the names of more than 2,500 local people who do not wish it to close. We want the Government to consider the petition, and bring forward stronger measures to ensure that planning law and other regulations offer such community pubs more protection.

The petition states:

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage Marston’s PLC to reconsider the closure of the Seven Stars public house, Gospel End Road, Sedgley.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Petition of residents of the Dudley North constituency,

Declares that the Petitioners are opposed to the proposal to close the Seven Stars public house on Gospel End Road in Sedgley and are opposed to the retail development plans for the site.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage Marston’s PLC to reconsider the closure of the Seven Stars public house, Gospel End Road, Sedgley.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.]


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Financial Services Industry

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(John Penrose.)

6.20 pm

Douglas Carswell (Clacton) (UKIP): I am grateful to the Minister for taking part in this debate, following the previous long and onerous one.

This issue is desperately important: the need for more competition in financial services is urgent. Choice and competition are always and everywhere a good thing. They drive up standards, force innovation and always manage to give customers better value. In many areas of our lives, we take choice and competition for granted—we assume that they happen naturally—but I simply do not think that there is enough choice and competition when it comes to financial services. In fact, financial services in this country have in many respects become something of a cartel, in which the different provider interests do not have any incentive to give the customer what they want, or to innovate and do better.

Historically, there has been a great loss of diversity in the financial industry in this country. We have a handful of banks in the UK today, but my researcher tells me that there are 417 savings banks in Germany. There has been a steady process of centralisation over the past few generations. Within living memory, cities such as Leeds and Norwich were financial centres in their own right; today, London predominates. We used to have many more types of governance structure in banks and financial institutions, with many more credit unions, partnership banks, friendly societies and old-style building societies. Banking is now dominated by big corporate plcs, which is a model that detaches management from ownership. Today, 77% of the current account market is dominated by the big four banks.

It is interesting to ask whether that is a natural process that has happened because of market-driven consolidation. I think it is a consequence of a regulatory system that has created and enforced homogeneity not just of providers but of products. It is has led to a system in which compliance is elevated above the need for customer service. I cannot help noticing that growth in many financial institutions and businesses has happened through acquisition, rather than through increasing the number of happy customers.

It is worth asking whether regulation has proved to be a barrier to entry in financial services. We commonly hear the complaint that people with money to invest are looking for a way to save it with a good rate of interest, and at the same time it is often said that businesses complain that they cannot get credit. In a normal market, the former would be put together with the latter and those who want to lend at a competitive rate of return would lend to those who want to borrow. Might it be that something about the regulatory system in this country is preventing that from happening?