There has been a good debate today and over the past four days. Today the debate was graced in particular by a contribution from Mr Darling, the former Chancellor, who addressed the topic of business confidence and gave the House the benefit of his experience of issues in the world economy. He might have noticed that figures today show that business confidence is rising, but it was good to hear from him in the debate, and also from Mr Field who, among many other hon. Members, made the point that it was important to hear from the Opposition what they would cut.
This year’s Budget is about reforming the nation’s economy so that we have sustainable growth and jobs in the future. As many hon. Members observed in the debate, none of this would be possible without the difficult decisions that we have already had to take to tackle the enormous budget deficit that we inherited—decisions that have secured our international credit rating and been praised by the OECD, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; decisions that have provided the firm platform that we need to build a strong, sustainable and balanced economy; and decisions that have brought about economic stability and confidence in Britain’s ability to pay its way in the world. That stability and confidence would be forfeit if we stepped back from our plan, as some have suggested. To do so would cost jobs and growth and would mean more cuts for more people for longer in the future.
The action that the Government have taken is allowing us to move from rescue to recovery, from a decade of unbalanced, unsustainable policy to the hard road back to prosperity, for this Budget confronts the problems that our predecessors chose to ignore. For the past decade Britain has been losing ground in the world’s economy. While other nations have reduced their business tax rates, ours have increased. While other countries have removed barriers to enterprise, ours have grown higher still. While our competitors have improved their education systems, reformed welfare and increased exports, we have had to endure the opposite. That is the legacy of the Labour Government.
That is why, in the Budget, we have set out the Government’s new vision for growth—a vision that has four key ambitions at its heart. First, Britain should have the most competitive tax system in the G20. Secondly, Britain should be the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business. Thirdly, Britain should be a more balanced economy by encouraging exports—