As ever, I am most grateful to you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It has been an honour to serve under you. This will be my last speech in a major debate and I am delighted that you are in the Chair.
Let me continue to be nice by telling the Economic Secretary how much I welcome this Budget for growth. It is based on five years of careful management, the provision of affordable services and the gradual reduction of a massive budget deficit. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and the Chancellor for creating this opportunity for growth, which I believe many businesses and taxpayers up and down the country will welcome enormously.
Some years ago, I said that my grandmother would have told this place, “You have only two options when you’re in financial difficulties: earn more or spend less.” Listening to the Opposition’s arguments, it seems to me that they believe that, while earning more has some merit, spending less has no merit at all. My grandmother would have said that they were foolish. I would not dare say that in this place, but I know that she would have been pleased with the Budget this Government have produced.
It does no harm to recognise the inheritance this Government were dealt by a Labour Government who had themselves inherited a golden legacy that they frittered away. [Interruption.] It certainly was a golden legacy and was said to be so by pretty much every economist in the country, except, of course, for those affiliated to the Labour party. The Labour Government engineered a growing structural deficit from 2002 onwards. That is totally irrefutable. The deficit they left was not, as has been said, £140 billion; in their last Budget, they left a deficit of £163 billion.
If we consider that 1 billion seconds is 32 and a half years, we may get an idea of what £1 billion looks like. What a massive, massive sum.