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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:54 pm on 24th March 2014.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 8:54 pm, 24th March 2014

The hon. Gentleman has made a reasonable point. It would be a very strange Budget if all its measures were objectionable to the Opposition. My purpose is to flag up the areas of disagreement, and the areas that I believe will pose serious problems to the economy in the future.

The reality for my working constituents is that they are earning less, and earning less in jobs that are less secure. As their real wages have fallen, they have had to rely all the more on housing benefit. That is why the welfare bill under this Government is rising rather than falling. More people are having to claim housing benefit because their wages have simply failed to keep pace with inflation. No wonder the Government are spending £13 billion more on welfare than the Labour Government did in 2010, and no wonder they are spending £30 billion more than the Chancellor himself predicted in 2010. Is it not incredible that a coalition Government who came to power saying that borrowing was the problem have borrowed more in three years than the Labour Government did in the 13 years during which they were in office?

People do not forget that it was this Government and this Chancellor who said that they would balance the books by 2015. Now, in the Budget, the Chancellor has had to admit that in 2015 there will be a £75 billion deficit, and that, in addition, he will be borrowing £190 billion more than the amount promised in 2010.

The Government need to answer the single question that should be asked about all Budgets. Cui bono? Who benefits? We are asking about more than mere distribution. We are asking about fairness, about equality and about justice. On that question, the Government have failed.