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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:46 pm on 24th March 2011.

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Photo of Ian Murray Ian Murray Labour, Edinburgh South 4:46 pm, 24th March 2011

I will carry on, if the hon. Lady does not mind, because our colleagues want to contribute to the debate and our time is restricted.

What we heard yesterday was a big Budget con. My right hon. Friend Mr McFadden, who is not in his place at the moment, said that this Budget could not be seen in isolation from the last one. It is a continued attack on the cost of living. As has been said, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said yesterday that the Chancellor is giving with one hand but taking it back not just with the other hand, but with

“lots and lots of other hands”.

Does that not show how out of touch he is? Did he not realise that people would see the Budget con?

The Government trumpeted the increase in the tax threshold, but changed the threshold increase mechanism to the consumer prices index, which will totally offset the increase. Page 42 of the Red Book shows that the Government will hand out £1.2 billion in a tax cut but take £1 billion back over time through the change to the threshold indexation. Of course, the biggest con of all is that indirect taxes will continue to rise by the retail prices index, which of course is the highest measure of inflation.

I have not even touched on the millions of families who will lose their child benefit, or the fact that every family earning less than £26,000 a year will lose their tax credits. It is a Budget con for families. The Budget confirms that although ordinary people will be thrown a little bit of corn, there is little doubt that they will be hit the hardest by this uncaring and out-of-touch Government.

The second con that I wish to examine is the fuel con. We all welcome the 1p cut on fuel. I am not a car driver, but I appreciate how much it costs to drive. My constituents constantly tell me about the pressure on small businesses that have to fill up vans and cars. However, at 7 pm on Monday, the petrol station next to my constituency office was charging £1.28 a litre. On Tuesday night it was charging £1.30 a litre, and on Wednesday night, after the 1p decrease, it was charging £1.29 a litre. The 2.5% VAT increase makes up 3.25p of that price. That is the fuel cut con—the price is 1p down due the Chancellor’s decision, but 3.25p up to due to another decision of the same Chancellor.

As has already been asked, who is to say that oil companies will not just pass the additional tax costs back to the consumer? Oil and Gas UK has said in the past 24 hours that there will be job losses and a reduction in production in the North sea as a direct result of the Government’s policies. We are left in a quandary. Do we have more job losses and less production in the North sea, which could be catastrophic for the Scottish economy, for what might be absolutely no benefit to consumers at the pumps? The IFS said yesterday of the fair fuel stabiliser:

“If oil prices stay high but volatile, this policy will do little to stabilise pump prices.”

It is a policy that does not help hard-working families fill their cars, and may cost jobs.

According to the Government’s own figures, this Budget does nothing for growth. The Chancellor needs to think again before it is too late and he sends this country into a spiral from which it may never recover.