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Rather than leave a curt note on the desk of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, we have given an indication of the real situation in the UK. Again, I underline the fact that there are aspects of the coalition agreement we perhaps were not expecting-that should be understood on both sides of the House. I fear that it will remain a Labour tactic to go on about this, perhaps to try to drive a wedge into the coalition. That is dangerous, out of touch and wrong, because the nation said to us, "We don't support any one party outright", but it approves of a coalition and the leadership, and the stability that they and this Budget are providing.
My hon. and good Friend Andrew Jones made an excellent maiden speech. He mentioned Guy Fawkes wandering through his constituency, and I am sure he will make just as big a bang in this place as Guy Fawkes did. I cannot mention Harrogate without also paying tribute to Bettys Café tea rooms. Those of us who have gone there for conferences will appreciate the delicacies that Bettys provides-I only wish that could be emulated here in the House. Jon Trickett, who also is no longer in his place, made the most Marxist speech I have heard in this place for many years. I was waiting to see how long it would be before Maggie was blamed for what has happened over the past 13 years-and that is what we got from him. I was astonished.
This emergency Budget is tough but necessary, difficult but unavoidable. It is not the time for timid steps in the hope that we can tiptoe our way out of recession. We needed a bold statement of intent, mapping out a clear route to recovery and invigorating confidence in our businesses and markets. That is exactly what we got. Three main themes run through the Budget and Red Book. The first is one of responsibility in reducing the deficit over the next five years, mostly through spending cuts but also, yes, through some tax rises. That is the price we must pay for Labour's incompetence and legacy.
Economic growth is the second theme. Measures taken in the Budget are designed to support businesses and stimulate growth, which will help to generate jobs as businesses are able to expand. That will mean cutting red tape, which will free businesses, because removing red tape is the same as introducing a tax cut but without reducing public revenue. It also means preventing Labour's job tax through a rise in national insurance, reducing corporation taxes and improving our infrastructure.
The third theme is fairness. Of course, we are in a period of austerity, but every part of society must make a contribution to paying off our debts. At the same time, however, we must protect the least well-off. Listening to some of the contributions from Opposition Members, one might think that no such initiatives were part of the Budget. However, we have ensured that those earning less than £21,000 in the public sector will not be subject to the pay freeze. We will see a £1,000 increase in the personal tax allowance for low and middle-income earners; and finally we will see a re-linking of the basic state pension and earnings-well overdue and promised for years by Labour, but never acted upon. We will also see a £2 billion commitment to child tax credits for the poorest families, helping to ensure that there is no increase in measured child poverty over the next few years.
These are the tough decisions we need to take. We have to do this to secure our financial markets and ensure that credit agencies do not lose confidence in Britain. If we do not, interest rates and inflation will rise, and that is what would lead to the dreaded double-dip recession. I am glad that our triple A rating is now secured, thanks to the Budget.
I will give the Labour Government their due: they acted promptly and expeditiously when the Northern Rock issue broke. But then what happened? We have been left with one of the worst economic inheritances imaginable. They racked up one of the biggest budget deficits in Europe. If that is not shocking enough, our borrowing amounts to unheard sums of money. They continued to live beyond their means, borrowing £1 for every £4 they spent, which led to the doubling of the national debt. I well remember Labour's last Budget, in March 2010. I was sitting in this Chamber waiting for the leadership, initiative and guidance to take us out of this mess. It was the Labour Government's last opportunity before the election to get us out of the mess they created, but it was more about the political, rather than the economic, cycle. The previous Chancellor went as far as announcing £40 billion of cuts, but he did not say where the axe would fall, so he managed to ring-fence a black hole, which was a first in this House.
Significantly, the Labour party really had nothing to say yesterday. The acting leader of the Labour party was almost like a rabbit in the headlights. Labour Members rolled out the same old line, which we have heard time and again-I am sure we will hear it again in the summation today-about "the same old Tories", thereby exhibiting an insane refusal to acknowledge the scale of the economic crisis. We have seen Labour Members attempting endlessly to promote and fight a class war with the Conservatives. That is the direction in which they are now trying to take us, avoiding any notion of mea culpa or of taking responsibility for the mistakes made in the lead-up to the current crisis. That illustrates how out of touch the Labour party has become.
Labour continues to argue that we cannot rip the money out of the economy-through the cuts, the increases, and so forth-and also achieve growth, but I believe that we can. We need to give business and the private sector the space to breathe by reducing national insurance and corporation tax. Those are the measures we need to take. That is what will help us to avoid going into a double-dip recession, allowing our businesses to thrive and employment to grow. Labour's tactic-I am worried about this, because I understand that the unions bankroll Labour to the tune of 60%-is to fight the public sector cuts. That is what we will see as things move forward: these astonishing arguments why, unlike any other part of our society, the public sector should somehow be ring-fenced and not have to share some of the economic pain we are experiencing.
The unions are clearly looking for a fight. I pay tribute to the nurses, doctors, teachers, train drivers-all those who work hard-but let us look at who is now taking over some of the unions: Dave Prentis from Unison, who has pledged to fight the cuts; Christine Blower from the National Union of Teachers, who has enthusiasm for industrial action of some form, as she has made clear; and Paul Kenny from the GMB. Then there is the Unite leader, Len McCluskey-we have all seen what he has done to British Airways-who is seeking re-election. If he gets re-elected, the consequence will be strike after strike, because the public sector unions-not the members, but the unions-do not recognise that we are all in this together.
Labour's tactic is to blame the global downturn. We hear this all the time: "It's not our fault; this is because of what happened right across the world." However, as I pointed out in an intervention, yes, we are exposed-perhaps more than other countries-because of the size of our financial services sector, which is one of the biggest in the world. That is accepted, but we cannot get away from the fact that the previous Government changed the rules, making it unclear who was responsible for the City back in the late 1990s. That is why we got into the position where banks were lending money they did not have to people who did not understand the situation, and in ways that meant that they could not pay it back. That is what led to the current position.
We cannot blame Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae or the sub-prime market for the fact that, even up to about two years ago, Bradford & Bingley was offering mortgages of more than 125% to people who clearly could not pay them back. I remember when I was at university wandering into Midland bank, as it then was, and seeking a mortgage. I was told that I had to cough up one third of the price of the house. What happened to that rule? It went, and that is why we ended up with more money than houses were worth being lent to people who could not pay it back. That is a British problem, not an international one, and that is what led to the crisis we face now.
I repeat my earlier point: I think Labour are going to adopt the tactic of trying to drive a wedge between the coalition by saying, "The Lib Dems said one thing in the election and the Tories said another." The nation will get bored of it. People want direction-they want leadership and stability-not harping back to what happened prior to the election.
Let us look at the numbers. Our focus is to try to balance the books by 2016. We will cut the structural budget deficit to zero in the next six years. That deficit represents the hole in the public finances that is not expected to be repaired by the economic recovery. That is why we need to take the initiative that we have. Let us look at what the shadow Chancellor has done. I asked him in an intervention whether he supports the Office for Budget Responsibility. I am pleased to say that for the first time, he placed it on the record that he does. However, it is difficult to take anything that he or anybody else on the Labour Front Bench says seriously, given that the OBR reviewed his figures and revised his growth forecast for 2011 from 3.25% to 2.6%.
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