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Orders of the Day — Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:20 pm on 20th April 2004.

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Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Chief Secretary, HM Treasury, The Chief Secretary to the Treasury 2:20 pm, 20th April 2004

The hon. Gentleman takes an interest in such matters, and will therefore remember the introduction of ISAs. He knows that a transitional period was always intended, which is precisely what has happened. His proposal is over and above the initial ISA scheme, and, although I hear his point, it does not commend itself to the Government.

The Government aim to maintain the UK's position as a low-tax environment, and that ambition is enshrined in the Finance Bill. The Bill builds on and develops the macro-economic stability that is essential for our future productivity, growth and prosperity. It supports business while ensuring fairness, which will enable this country to match its new-found economic stability with the confidence to excel in the future.

The dividing lines between the Government and the Opposition are clear, and the choice of two futures for Britain is plain: either sustained economic stability or a return to the Opposition's economic stop-go and recession; either investment and reform in health, education, transport and tackling crime, or cuts, charges and privatisation; either expansion of the new deal to build on the success of helping more than 1 million people move into work and getting unemployment to its lowest levels since 1975, or, under the Conservatives, the abolition of the new deal and a return to high unemployment; and either investment and targeted help to develop science, innovation and enterprise in our universities and in communities across Britain, or a Britain of Tory laissez-faire, where the fortunate few succeed and everyone else's potential is simply written off.

In the competitive global economy of the future, the intellectual capital of our country will drive its economic growth, and it is therefore imperative that we invest in our children's education, in adult skills and training, and in science, innovation and enterprise. Those investments will enable us to reach our potential as individuals and as a nation, and make Britain a world leader of the future global economy.

Our plans enable us to meet the needs of this country's future. The Conservative party has made its decision, which is to cut spending and privatise and run down our public services. While the Labour party will invest in skills, science and enterprise, the Conservative party would slash spending in all those areas. Conservative Members laugh, but they are committed to axing the new deal—they would weaken the economy and return us to an era of boom and bust. We will invest in those areas that will enable the UK to grow and ensure prosperity not only for some but for all, while the Conservative party would put that at risk and cut public spending by £18 billion.

The Budget laid down the measures that will enable the UK to respond to and meet the challenges of the global economy, and the Finance Bill sets them in statute.