Finance (No. 2) Bill

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 2:12 pm on 1st April 2014.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury 2:12 pm, 1st April 2014

No, because the Bill could be significantly improved. I have given a number of ways in which it should be doing more for small businesses, for fairness in society and for the hon. Gentleman’s constituents. I think he will pay the price when the election arrives. He is under the impression that fiscal contraction is how growth materialises, but he needs to realise that growth is coming despite, not because of, the Government. I am afraid that they have still not learned that lesson.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are desperate for people not to spot their broken promise on borrowing and the deficit. Three years of economic stagnation will leave the next Government with a budget deficit of £75 billion. It is astonishing that in his Budget speech, the Chancellor had the nerve to stand there and say:

“as a nation we are getting on top of our debts”—[Hansard, 19 March 2014; Vol. 577, c. 781.]

The Government have added a third to the national debt, which now stands at £1.2 trillion. What a nerve the Chancellor showed! He promised to stop adding to the national debt, but has borrowed more in the past four years than the last Government did in 13 years.

The Bill is bereft of the measures that we need to make sure that the recovery is sustained and shared by all. It has nothing new to tackle long-term youth unemployment, nothing to secure an energy price freeze and nothing to bring forward real help now for working parents who need extended child care. It has nothing new on infrastructure investment, which is still lagging behind, and nothing to address the wages crisis that leaves the typical person £1,600 worse off than in 2010. The Bill is not just a missed opportunity; it is so wide of the mark that it misses the point altogether. It is designed to help Ministers limp from here to election day. It falls short and is not good enough.

We would urge Ministers to go back to the drawing board, but it is increasingly clear that they do not even have a drawing board. I urge my hon. Friends to support the reasoned amendment. We will try our hardest to secure improvements to the Bill in Committee. This is a minor Finance Bill from a Government out of ideas. They delayed the Queen’s Speech because they do not have enough to put in it. The Bill should address the cost of living pressures faced by the majority and it should set a long-term ambition for a recovery built to last and felt by all. The country deserves a better Finance Bill than this.