Few things are as natural as the aspiration to own a home, but for too many of our constituents, the aspiration is too often out of reach. The high cost of housing is one of the most frequently raised issues at my surgery. The problem affects not only would-be first-time buyers, but many going through family breakdown. The deposit typically required for a mortgage on even a small starter home is higher than many working families’ annual income. Without parental support, raising that sort of money can be nearly impossible. The “help to buy” schemes announced last week will help to put home ownership back within the reach of hundreds of thousands of our constituents.
I am delighted that the Chancellor is extending right to buy further, so that council tenants can buy the homes in which their families live and local authorities will receive receipts from the sales, to be used to build new social housing. I am proud that, while under Conservative leadership, Dudley built some of the first new council housing in the area for a generation. Right-to-buy receipts, and the doubling of the affordable homes guarantee programme, will mean that more councils and housing associations will be able to build new social housing for local residents.
Last week’s jobs figures showed another increase in the number of people in work—the number in Halesowen and Rowley Regis is now the highest ever—but the fact remains that many people aspire more than anything else to a job that will give them more independence and create a better life for themselves and their families. I remember from I was setting up my own small businesses that nothing was more rewarding than being able to offer somebody their first job, or to offer work to a person who had been unemployed for some time. Hon. Members know that Governments cannot magically create sustainable jobs, but they have a responsibility to do everything possible to avoid putting barriers in the way of those who can. Every £1 that we add to non-wage costs represents an additional barrier to small and medium-sized businesses taking on extra employees. That is why I am pleased that the Chancellor has launched his scheme. The £2,000 employment allowance is a direct boost for new jobs. It will help to bring more people into work and open up a new set of possibilities and aspirations.
Shortly before the Budget, I attended the launch of the youth budget in Parliament with a number of other right hon. and hon. Members, including the Chancellor. Fourteen to 18-year-olds from around the country came together to discuss young people’s priorities, which were drawn up following a national vote. That generation wants to get on, and the conclusion they came to in their youth budget could not have been clearer: they want the Government to bring down the deficit more quickly.
The House spends a lot of time talking about the economic effects of unsustainable deficits. The continuing turmoil in the eurozone is a current reminder of the dangers of failing to address the deficit. However, the young people gathered together for the youth budget remind us that, as well as being economically foolish, it is morally wrong for one generation to expect the next pay for its overspending.
Members on both sides of the House will recognise that growth remains weaker than had been hoped for or expected, as it does in most other developed countries. There was much in the Budget and the Chancellor’s autumn statement that will help wealth creators to deliver the economic activity that we need to provide growth, but there is also much to help to make things that little bit easier for the millions of families who are working hard to get on and build a better life for themselves and their families. I believe that those who strive and those who aspire will see this Budget as a Budget for them.