It is a great honour to follow Gavin Shuker, not least because he and I will be working together on the all-party group on polar regions, which is absolutely fabulous.
The Budget is a staging post in the mission to rescue the British economy. It is an important staging post and it signals some important messages. First, I will introduce some thoughtful points on productivity, which we have discussed from time to time in the Chamber. Increasing productivity is the way to deal with the cost of living crisis, because we need a work force who are skilled to such a level that we can enhance our capacity in manufacturing, engineering and related activities. The importance of ensuring that we have a skilled work force is embedded in our long-term economic strategy and is part of the Budget because, as I have said, it is a staging post.
In my constituency, I have promoted manufacturing and engineering through the festival of manufacturing and engineering, which is designed to ensure that young people are introduced to the advantages of working in manufacturing and the opportunities that are provided by a career in engineering. They will end up dealing with the cost of living crisis by contributing to increased productivity and an economy that blasts forward by competing powerfully not just in the EU, but in the global economic race that we are undoubtedly in.
I am pleased to welcome the changes to pensions, annuities and so forth. Encouraging people to save is a really important part of our strategy, because the savings ratio in this country has never been worse. The Chancellor has recognised that and taken steps to encourage people to save. That is what the changes to pensions and annuities are fundamentally all about. We should welcome them as a huge step in the right direction, not only in ensuring that elderly people have choice but in improving people’s overall capacity and willingness to save. They are great news.
Something else that is important and relevant to my constituency is the framework that we have already created to encourage investment in infrastructure. We really need to do that, and I could mention a lot of projects in my constituency that will need investment in the immediate future. One is a potential new bridge across the Severn to ease congestion on both the Forest of Dean side—my hon. Friend Mr Harper has made that point several times—and my side, where such a development would enhance economic growth opportunities in an area where they need to be created.
The changes to ensure that firms that are high energy users will benefit is great news for my constituency. We have a lot of companies that have a huge appetite for energy. BPI, a recycling firm, is a case in point. It has sites across the country, which will all benefit from the changes.
We have to ensure that our overall package is continued with, and that is why it is important to talk about the long-term economic plan as frequently as we do. Part of that plan is to reduce the deficit. Of course we are disappointed that the deficit is not as small now as we had hoped, but we are travelling in the right direction and can say that it will be further reduced in significant chunks. That is what the Chancellor has promised and will now deliver. That is the bedrock of our economic plan, because we cannot have sustainable growth if we are constantly threatened with high interest rates and constantly undermined by having one of the largest deficits in the western world. That part of the long-term economic plan must not be forgotten and must be promoted whenever possible. The real economy, which I have been talking about, is the key to delivering jobs, tackling the cost of living and putting Britain back into the competitive place that it should hold globally on the economy and growth.