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Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:39 am on 19th March 2015.

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Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons 11:39 am, 19th March 2015

I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s touching remarks. As last week, I will not join her in making fun of the Liberal Democrats; I pointed out that I am going to wait a little while for that. I have spent a lifetime making fun of the Liberal Democrats, but I have had a five-year interregnum, and I am looking forward to it coming to an end. Since I will be released from this place anyway, I will be able to join in, but they are deeply valued colleagues—for another few days anyway—and I very much meant the tribute I paid to my right hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House.

The hon. Lady asked about various matters including referring again—we have debated this before—to the Chief Whip and his experiences in toilets. I have explained that it is an essential part of the duties of a Chief Whip to know who is lurking in there at any one time.

I want to take the hon. Lady up on what she said about this Session of Parliament, because I believe when we come to the end of it next week a great deal will have been achieved: the Infrastructure Act that provides a nearly £4 billion boost to the economy; the small business Bill that will help businesses get credit from banks and ensure they can expand; the Pension Schemes Act that gives people freedom and security in retirement; the Criminal Justice and Courts Act that allows us to properly punish serious offenders; the Modern Slavery Bill, which will be a landmark piece of legislation; and the Childcare Payments Act that helps more parents with the cost of child care. These are all from this Session of Parliament. That is not a zombie Session of Parliament; that is real, constructive legislation that is of immense assistance to many people in this country.

I have all the great respect for the hon. Lady that I spoke of earlier, but I think she may have written part of her remarks before the Budget, because she said people would be worse off at the end of the Parliament than they were at the beginning of it, but as we now know from the Office for Budget Responsibility one of the achievements of this coalition—Conservatives and Liberal Democrats—will be that on average households will be £900 better off in 2015 than they were in 2010. So the script will have to be changed, albeit at the very end of the Parliament.

Talking of the northern powerhouse, I am very proud that, as the Chancellor pointed out yesterday, more jobs are being created in Yorkshire than in the whole of France. That is not remotely a surprise to those of us from Yorkshire, but it is part of the achievement of this Government that employment is at its highest rate since records began, and that 1,000 more jobs have been created every day under this Government. One particularly striking aspect of yesterday’s figures is that the rise in youth employment in the last year has been higher than in the whole of the rest of the European Union put together. It is very rare for a Government at the end of a Parliament to be able to say that—very rare indeed—and the Opposition, who voted for the charter for budget responsibility but are now unwilling to maintain any spending discipline, have to explain where the tax rises are going to come from in their programme. There will be a great deal of suspicion that there will be large hidden tax rises from a Leader of the Opposition who has that large hidden kitchen he did not want to speak about.

Such issues will be debated in the Budget debate, continuing until Monday, and in the general election campaign. We will do everything we can in the meantime to bring the business of the House next week to an orderly conclusion.