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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:31 pm on 19th March 2015.

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Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills) 4:31 pm, 19th March 2015

I think you will agree, Madam Deputy Speaker, that this has been an excellent and often revealing debate on the impact of the Budget. I thank hon. Members for making excellent contributions.

The Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee rightly criticised the Chancellor’s use of the words “walking tall”, which ring hollow when people are walking to a food bank. My hon. Friend Derek Twigg reminded us of memory, particularly with regard to the Lib Dems helping to stop the education maintenance allowance and how the Government have also failed to meet their policy objectives on deficit reduction and debt, which I will return to later.

My hon. Friend Kelvin Hopkins rightly mentioned how the NHS, local government and housing are in crisis, threatened still further by the proposed sharp acceleration of cuts to public spending.

I was particularly pleased to hear the contribution of my hon. Friend Susan Elan Jones, who rightly talked about the importance of entrepreneurs and the self-employed in the British economy. She praised Alice Murray, founder of Giggles and Games. I thought that the Liberal Democrats’ yellow toytown box was by Fisher Price, but I wonder whether Giggles and Games might have produced it for that toytown and busted flush of a political party.

My hon. Friend Meg Hillier mentioned the £30 billion post-election bombshell if these plans go through. She also talked about the pressure on working families in her constituency with regard to child care, so I think she welcomes Labour’s plan to provide 25 hours of free child care for working parents of three and four-year-olds.

My parliamentary neighbours, my hon. Friends the Members for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) and for Easington (Grahame M. Morris), made excellent contributions. They rightly said that there is nothing in this Budget for people in Teesside, east Durham or, indeed, the whole of the north-east. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North mentioned the disproportionate cuts in our area—they are far worse than those in any other area—to police, fire and local government. My hon. Friend the Member for Easington said that he was underwhelmed by the Budget and talked about the pressure on his constituents. They will know that the Chancellor mentioned Agincourt more times than the north-east, but they will not be surprised, because the Government’s record shows that he has neglected the north-east for the whole of the past five years.

My hon. Friend Steve McCabe argued for his own city to be given similar freedoms on business rates to those given to Greater Manchester. I particularly liked his subtle references to Beatles songs: he quoted lyrics from two songs on “Abbey Road” when he said that the Chancellor was more like the “Sun King” than “Here Comes the Sun”. My right hon. Friend Mr Howarth mentioned the importance of manufacturing to a modern, innovative and resilient economy, and I fully agree with him.

In an at times warm speech, Chris Heaton-Harris was kind enough to mention Hartlepool United. I think he was being kind, but we are bottom of the Football League at the moment.