I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak in this Budget debate.
Like all right hon. and hon. Members, we waited to hear the Chancellor’s proposals that would kick-start the economy, lifting it out of the despair in which it finds itself. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government opened today’s debate, outlining Government policy in the Budget for a house building programme. I appreciate that our constituents across the United Kingdom have a difficultly in getting on to the housing ladder. Having listened to my colleagues here in England, I can say that there is undoubtedly a social housing build problem, with affordable housing described as a national emergency.
Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland have a difficulty in offering proposals to resolve the housing problem, because housing is devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly. However, the Chancellor has offered some hope to homebuyers in the Budget, with interest-free loans of up to 20% of the value of a new build property. I appreciate that there is some confusion about the proposal, but I trust that homebuyers seeking to get on the housing ladder will not be lost in the midst of a policy that seems not to have been thought out before being announced.
On Budget day, my hon. Friend Sammy Wilson rightly welcomed a number of acceptable announcements. He endorsed the decision to protect Government front-line services in health and education. He also acknowledged that the Government had recognised the key role that capital infrastructure enhancement plays in stimulating economic growth. That is important not only for short-term economic growth, but for our country’s long-term prosperity. However, we face a serious problem, with little or no economic growth across the United Kingdom but, sadly, no sign of it changing in the near future. We need to stimulate our economy. The Secretary of State told the House today that we needed to give business a leg up.
To do so, we need to bring confidence back into the business community. Businesses need to be sure that the Government have a plan to take us out of the mess we are in. No one can deny that there is a lack of confidence. As a result, those who have money are not spending or making the investments in industry that we need so much in our economy.