Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:07 pm on 25th March 2013.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Commission 7:07 pm, 25th March 2013

I hope that Naomi Long will forgive me if I do not follow on from what she said, but she spoke a lot of sense about air passenger duty and I agree with her.

One of the most powerful points made by Hilary Benn, who led for the Opposition, was when he mentioned somebody who visited his constituency surgery only last week who, after serving in a job for 30 years, had been made unemployed. As it happens, I had a similar case of somebody who had served for 30 years but who had now, through no fault of her own, been made unemployed, could not find a job and was in negative equity. That brings home to all of us the human nature of what we are dealing with. Although we may bandy statistics across the House, we are dealing with a desperate situation—for which, by the way, I do not blame the Chancellor—and we should put at the forefront of our minds the appalling human tragedy of ordinary people who are being put out of work and who cannot find work.

In my view, the best way to recreate the conditions in which people can find work is to create a balanced economy that can recreate confidence. Unfortunately, our public spending is unbalanced: half of our £730 billion or £750 billion budget is taken up by health and welfare, which are ring-fenced, and that puts enormous stresses and strains on all other budgets.

Despite the attempt by Mr Hain, with characteristic chutzpah, to rewrite history, I am not sure that it is possible to argue that austerity has caused this recession when, in fact, we are spending more than ever before—despite the fact that the figures were manipulated for this Budget—and borrowing more than ever before. The central thrust of the Labour party’s argument, which is that the problems have been caused by this Government, does not add up and the British people do not think that it adds up. They want more positive suggestions from the Labour party that show what it would do better in the face of the desperate international situation.