The shadow Chancellor has said that we would follow a different path. Continuing with the fiscal policy that the Government are pursuing will lead to a doubling of the national debt and a downgrading in growth this year and next. We need to do something different, as I hope the hon. Lady will accept when she makes her contribution.
As I was saying, HMRC has shown that in the year to last December, the amount of additional support, through the tax and benefit system provided to ordinary Scottish families with their child care costs, amounted to a miserly 1p a day extra. For this year, next year and the year after, the message from the Chancellor in the Budget was, “Not a penny more.”
Under the plans unveiled on Tuesday, households require all earners to be working and paying income tax to benefit either from the child care tax relief or the additional resource through universal credit, which will have to be found from elsewhere in the welfare budget. We see the gross unfairness of a two-earner couple with children, working part time on a combined income of £19,000 a year, receiving nothing under the plans, whereas a household with two earners on a combined income of £299,000 a year receives a tax break of £2,400 a year if they have two children. How on earth can that be fair?
The Chancellor should have brought forward more capital investment in the Budget. He should have announced a major social and affordable house building plan to begin this year. All he announced was a plan to reallocate capital spending from 2015, which will be of no help to the struggling construction sector now. He should have taken the opportunity to scrap the bedroom tax affecting nearly 90,000 households in Scotland.
The Chancellor has spent the past few months searching for escape velocity for the UK economy. Wednesday was the day when he finally crashed to earth. He will not change course because he puts his pride before this nation’s economic fall. He would rather that the living standards of millions were diminished than admit the scale of his mistake or take action to put it right. Only with a new policy to promote growth and boost investment will we generate the tax revenues to cut our debt. After this Budget, that can come only with the election of a new Government to replace this disastrous coalition.