Ways and Means — Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:33 am on 20th March 2015.

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Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle 10:33 am, 20th March 2015

On Wednesday, the Chancellor delivered a Budget for a country on the rise: cutting income tax, helping savers, starting to reduce our debt and investing across the UK to secure a better future for all our constituents. Despite the Opposition being as much in denial about the growth now surging through our country as they were about the chaos and damage they wreaked in the economy while they were in government, Wednesday’s Budget shows that the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan is working. With the deficit down, growth up, jobs up, living standards rising at last and debt starting to fall as a share of the economy, we are seeing the success that people have worked very hard for in the past five years. Against the odds and the Opposition, Britain is walking tall again, meaning more financial security and peace of mind for our families. In less than 50 days, we face a choice between sticking to the economic plan that is delivering for Britain or returning to the chaos of the past. With this Budget, I am certain that, when it comes to it, Britain will choose the future, not the past.

It is particularly extraordinary that despite the difficult decisions the Government have had to take on spending over the past four years and the cuts we have had to make to fix Labour’s deficit, there has been genuine investment in infrastructure up and down the country, including in my constituency. Ironically, there was a pledge for investment in transport infrastructure for 13 years under Labour, but we did not see a penny of it. Having made that promise during the 2001 election campaign, immediately the election was over it scrapped the Hastings bypass and then spent 10 years failing to come up with any workable alternative, but now, in a matter of months, the Hastings and Bexhill link road will open in my constituency, thanks entirely to investment in our local economy under this coalition Government that will create jobs, relieve traffic congestion and create the 21st century infrastructure that an area such as east Sussex needs. This is just a small example of how the Government are investing for the future while making the tough financial choices to get us back on the path to recovery.

The Bexhill link road is not the only example. The A21 to the north of my constituency is one of the worst roads in Britain, with very little dual carriageway, despite being the main link from Hastings—one of the most deprived towns on the south coast—up to the M25. Now we are seeing a long-term plan for road improvements, and we can already see the dualling taking place at Tonbridge and Pembury. Furthermore, it is not just the roads being improved; we now have the very real prospect of Bexhill gaining high-speed rail, potentially delivering a service to St Pancras in 78 minutes, allowing us to take advantage of High Speed 1 to Ashford. This is extraordinary.

It is a tribute to the Government that theirs has not been a knee-jerk reaction to the shameless funnelling of funding and investment to just one part of the country that we saw for 13 years under Labour. We are actually seeing a balanced recovery. We have seen genuine equity and fairness in the allocation of national resources to where they are needed, where there is genuine demand and where they can be best put to use. We are seeing a truly national investment plan, as part of the long-term economic plan, and a truly national recovery.

One of the things I am proudest of the Government for is the long-overdue vision for a northern powerhouse. For that, we have to pay tribute to the Chancellor, because he owns it more than anyone else and has done more than anyone to articulate it and make it a reality. Before being elected in Sussex, I fought a seat in Greater Manchester, in Eccles, Salford. I am a southerner and I do not claim to know the north well, but it gave me a glimpse, back in 1997, of just how far the north was lagging behind the rest of the country and of the urgent need not just for new infrastructure but for a new vision. It is ironic that it had to wait for a new Conservative Government, after 13 years of Labour, to come up with a compelling vision for the 21st century, to create not another pool of subsidy—not unsustainable subsidy-fuelled growth—but a vision for a new global powerhouse and city in the north, with equal weight to London. That is the other encouraging thing about the overall economic picture emerging from the rubble of Labour’s great recession. We are seeing a more balanced Britain and a more balanced economy, and one with increased confidence, not just in London.