With respect to the hon. Gentleman, that is not what I said. Employers in Hull tell me that the opportunities available to their businesses are limited because growth is so restricted, and that they therefore cannot take on apprentices. Meanwhile, providers tell me that they bring young people into the training centres, but then cannot find the apprenticeship places that would enable them to do their training.
There have been a good many academic debates today about what the Budget means—about bond markets and so forth—but in practical terms, for our constituents up and down the country, the real issues are connected with the cost of living. The rate of inflation in this country is now the highest in western Europe, people are worried about whether they will have jobs in the coming months, and there are problems with fuel duty. I am glad that the Government have been able to reduce fuel duty by 1p, but I find it rather ironic that the Conservatives are not able to challenge the European Union on VAT and derogation. Surely this is an opportunity for a party that is for ever wanting to take pot shots at the EU to do something constructive.
I believe that the deep cuts that are being made now will lead to social costs in the long term. It is dreadful that the coalition Government are targeting their cuts at communities in some of the most deprived areas, and at the most deprived and vulnerable groups in those communities. For instance, Hull city council’s early years service is being scrapped. We shall have no officers, no support for our nurseries, and no support for children in nurseries who have special educational needs, because the early intervention grant that the Government said would cover the cost of children’s centres and support for children under five does not do what it says on the tin. We shall end up with buildings that are open, with caretakers and receptionists, but with no children in them.
As I have said, the coalition Government’s cuts will store up a great many problems for the future. They utter plenty of fine words about the need for early intervention and support for families and communities, but they do not deliver the finance.
The Government strike me as a group of deficit deceivers and growth deniers who are making our country a less fair and secure place in which to live. Until 2008, the spending commitments of Mr Osborne matched those of the Labour Government across the board. Only when the banking crisis arrived did the then Opposition take a different approach. The Liberal Democrat council in Hull took the view that the Labour Government should be spending far more on Hull, but now Kingston upon Hull council is losing 9% of its budget, while Kingston upon Thames is losing 3%. That is not fair. The Chancellor may stand up and talk about a fair Budget, but this is not a fair Budget; neither is it a Budget for growth.