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Before I start, may I say what a pleasure it is to see Hilary Benn replying to the debate? The House had an opportunity last week to express its great affection for his father. But no matter how distinguished or old a person is when they depart, to lose a parent, as those of us who have lost a parent understand, is a bitter blow. I just wanted the right hon. Gentleman to know that we express our deep condolences to him and his family at this very difficult time, and we wish him very well.
By sticking to our long-term economic plan, we have brought the deficit down by a third, we have helped a record number of people into work and we are continuing to boost Britain’s resilient economic growth. This is a Budget that literally places new pounds in the pockets of taxpayers. It is creating opportunity and putting Britain on a path to a secure future, and it will reward pensioners, savers and hard-working families. It has drawn a clear distinction between a coalition Government doing everything in their power to bolster Britain’s recovery, and a Labour party that just offers more borrowing, more debt, more taxes, and ducking the major challenge.
We want to see a fair and fast recovery across the country. This can only be achieved by galvanising all forms of growth—whether inside a local enterprise zone or on a building site—and by firing up businesses and home builders, getting them investing, exporting and creating jobs. Local economies are providing the solid foundation for a national recovery. The economy is stronger and more resilient, and is rewarding the hard-working British public.
The Budget has recognised those who were so badly affected by such poor winter weather. Some £300 million has already been announced to support the individuals, businesses and councils that were hardest hit by the flooding and storms. The Chancellor has made available an additional £140 million—money that will go towards immediate repairs to, and maintenance of, damaged flood defences across Britain. The £200 million pothole challenge fund will fill holes in the road that have already been a blight to road users.
Getting these communities back on their feet after such a devastating period of weather remains a high priority across government.