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I remind the House of the interests recorded in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
I am sorry that the shadow Chancellor is no longer with us, because a couple of elements were missing from his speech. First, any sense of humility was lacking in one of the architects of banking supervision, who started with 10 well-funded banks and ended with only five. Secondly, there was no apology for the appalling deficit that we inherited. Let us be clear: it is 10 years to the month since the Labour Government balanced a Budget. That is nothing to do with something that happened in 2007 or 2008. They made the mistake of letting the deficit grow in the good years as well as the bad.
The Budget’s most important feature is that it does not change the fiscal consolidation plan. We remain on track to balance the budget again by removing the structural deficit by 2015. The Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast is that we maintain our position on track to being able to do that.
Most of the meat of the Budget is also extremely welcome, and I am glad that Opposition Members have picked out pieces that they, too, can welcome as helping their constituencies. Simpler taxation and less regulation are the drivers of a successful economy. Businesses have enough to worry about at the moment; the Government should not be one of their worries. Reducing the weight of tax and red tape on our businesses is essential. I urge Ministers to stick to their task, regulation by regulation, tax by tax, until we can genuinely say that we have one of the most competitive economies in the west.
I also welcome the Budget’s emphasis on the longer term, backing the newer technologies, especially in energy and the environment, and taking the measures necessary to improve the employability of that huge pool that we inherited of people under 25 who are simply outside the labour market.
I am struck in my constituency by how many companies succeeded in growing even under the previous Government, without direct subsidy or specific grants. I visited three recently. The Sevenoaks energy academy, which I had the honour of opening last year, trains hundreds of engineers in renewable energies, providing courses in fitting solar panels, rainwater harvesting and so on. One of Sevenoaks’s most dynamic business women, Julie Walker, made a £1.5 million investment in that academy, and I welcome that.