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Amendment of the Law

Part of Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation – in the House of Commons at 6:41 pm on 21st March 2000.

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Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North 6:41 pm, 21st March 2000

The hon. Gentleman proves my point. When one talks about increased spending on the national health service, one must explain to the public how that increase will be achieved. I heard most of the speech of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague). It was extremely amusing, but it did not deal with any of the issues that face my constituents and are of major concern to them.

The Conservatives have now welcomed the minimum wage, but they have not accepted the other side of the equation—the working families tax credit, which will ensure that families have not just the minimum wage but a decent living wage. Conservatives have rejected virtually all our measures to combat child poverty, but they talk to us about the moral duty of Government to cut taxes.

Conservative Members have not shown any understanding of the measures that this Government have taken to help women. I understand from today's announcement that women on maternity pay will be able to receive the working families tax credit, and that is a substantial benefit to women who wonder what they will do when their maternity pay tapers off and fear that they will have to return to work because they cannot afford to live on statutory maternity pay. I am pleased about that provision, but the Opposition do not seem to understand such measures.

Conservative Members do not seem to be prepared to admit that they still believe in a minimalist role for Government and that the Government's purpose is to create the right conditions for some sections of the economy, such as the south-east service sector, but not for all. Everything else will be left to trickle down. After 18 years of Conservative Government, the public know that trickle-down does not work: they want the much more responsible approach that this Government are showing. They want a dynamic economy and public services. That is why the sense of social justice shown by the Government and, in particular, by the Budget will be so important and will resonate so well with the public.

The public will enthusiastically support policies that progressively lift out of poverty the 4.4 million children whom the Tories left in poverty when they left office. The public will support the short-term measures for pensioners—and see them for the real gains that they are—and long-term restructuring.

The Tories have shown no understanding whatever of what it means to bring up a family in middle England when one earns only £12,000 or £13,000 a year. The public will fully support the Government's strength of commitment, as shown in the Budget, to provide a stable economy so that families can plan securely for the future; to provide low interest rates so that people can pay their mortgage; and to provide incentives for small business men to enable them to build up their business and plan for the future so that they can be part of a growing, dynamic economy.

The public will respond extremely well to the Government's commitment, which is particularly evident in this Budget, to high-quality public services, which support people at every stage of their family life, in school, in hospital and, through their pension, in retirement. In the Budget, the Government have demonstrated their commitment to building a strong, dynamic economy and to supporting the highest-quality public services, and it will be welcomed by the country at large.