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Amendment of the Law

Part of Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation – in the House of Commons at 5:02 pm on 21st March 2000.

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Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones Labour, Alyn and Deeside 5:02 pm, 21st March 2000

I am glad to support the Budget, which is clever, cautious and compassionate. I am glad to follow the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy), the leader of the Liberal Democrats, and the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, who both made a good fist of their speeches following a tour de force by the Chancellor.

I liked the fact that the Chancellor referred to the work ethic, that he declared that he wants to see the renewal of British civic society, that he wants to reward enterprise, that he has obtained the lowest corporate tax rates and that he wants to boost employee shareholding. I welcome also the maternity grant, the big boost in child benefit and all the measures to attack and end child poverty.

The Chancellor's talk of a shared pursuit of the common good was more than inspiring, and a Budget that aims for that has to be more than good. I appreciated the measures for pensioners and the £4 billion injection for public services. The Chancellor ended by saying that this is a Budget to unite the nation. Surely that must be true.

I welcome the tax cut and the aim to get more people than ever off benefit and into work. I welcome the reinforcing of the schools service and of the national health service. That will build on the success of the minimum wage and the working families tax credit.

I shall try to summarise by saying that this is a popular Budget and a genuine Labour Budget. It will help those in genuine need. I know that it cares for children and invests in the fabric of the welfare state, chiefly our schools and hospitals. It surely reaches out to help the underprivileged.

I have a question to put to Ministers: will the sign-posted new moneys for the schools service mean more teachers at the chalk face? I know that the millions of parents at the school gate want, above all, more teachers in the school. They want the money itemised by the Chancellor translated urgently into extra teachers. I understand that one part of the money will be paid directly to head teachers, and that it will avoid the dead hand—the aldermanic grip—that can sometimes prevent moneys going into schools.

Will the new moneys for the health service cut waiting lists? How soon should they do so? We are endowing the health service with national treasure in the form of billions of pounds. I wonder whether the dragon in the path to progress is the existence of too much bureaucracy in the service. Why is progress in slashing the waiting lists so maddeningly slow? I support the Chancellor's proposal that if he is to pump billions into the service, there must be reform in the organisation of the service.