In the short time I have—five minutes is a very short time—I will just rattle through a few points.
I welcome a large part of this Budget—it is very good news. It sounds more like a Conservative Budget, which is why the press have, on the whole, welcomed it; I believe that the Chancellor was transformed into a former Prime Minister, because there was a feeling that this is, at last, what the country needs. My question to our Front-Bench team, which they can perhaps answer later, is this: why has it taken nearly three years for us to do this? I suspect that their answer will be, “Because we are in a coalition.” I am a little tired of hearing that. I want a lot more blue narrative and less coalition narrative, because that is the way forward on sorting out our economy.
I welcome the reduction in taxes. Raising the income tax threshold to £10,000 is a wonderful way to go, but we should go further; how many constituents have we heard say, “If I do a bit more work, I will lose my benefits”? Let us give them income they have earned—let them keep it. Let us keep on that path, encouraging people back to work and off welfare. That is the right direction to take.
The beer escalator has gone—hurrah! A great friend of mine, who sadly had a heart attack, used to run the Hall and Woodhouse brewery in Blandford and before he died he said to me, “Richard, when you get into the House, please try to get rid of this beer escalator because we are losing thousands of jobs across the country as a consequence.” It is now gone—well done the coalition Government. I am absolutely delighted about that, and, in addition, 1p was taken off the pint of beer so we could all celebrate a bit on the night.
I am also delighted about the freezing of fuel duty. I am not going to be partisan and say that it would be much higher if we still had a Labour Government; it is frozen and that is good. But we should go much further and cut into that vast amount of tax that the Government take off the normal man and woman in this country, who, in many cases, simply cannot afford to fill up their car—the situation is ludicrous.
On the ceramics industry, I am delighted that the levy has been removed. May I put in a small request on behalf of the aggregate industry? A constituent of mine is paying £2 a tonne to take aggregate out of the ground, which is costing him £160,000 a year. That is a tax on a small family business employing 48 people in South Dorset that cannot afford that huge burden. Dare I say it—common sense must replace green taxes when jobs will be lost.
My concern is about the Government’s planned equitable loan, or mortgage guarantee—whatever we call it, those are the two arms of the new policy. I hope it works and that more houses are built as a result, but I am concerned that taxpayers’ money is being used to guarantee mortgages. If that goes wrong, we will not want to carry it with us in the years to come.
As for solutions, as a Conservative I believe that the supply side must be boosted. We must cut taxes further. As I have mentioned, we must get more people back to work by raising the welfare threshold. I believe that that is working extremely well in Sweden, although it went much against public opinion. We are still spending more than we earn and although we lecture the Opposition about what they did, we are doing the same thing. We must live within our means. We cannot go on printing money. Billions of pounds are being printed because there is no charge on interest. That is an inflationary move and could lead in months or years to come to interest rates rising. If that happens, our constituents, businesses and councils will be bust. It is as simple as that. We must tell the country the truth. We are in a hole and we must stop spending money we simply do not have.
Lastly—how time flies—we must consider the ring-fencing of budgets. Surely austere times are not the time to ring-fence budgets. If any budget should be ring-fenced, it should be defence, in my view, but even the Ministry of Defence must be looked at. All budgets should be open to consideration and, if needs be, to being changed. On the whole, I welcome the Budget, but we have a lot further to go—and, please, may we have a lot more blue narrative in the future?