Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:24 pm on 23rd March 2015.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury 9:24 pm, 23rd March 2015

I commend to Conservative Members, who should have a good read of it, this very authoritative document with very carefully crafted figures:

“Source: Chief Secretary to the Treasury”.

It was a classic. My hon. Friend knows that the real Budget was in the Red Book. Shall I pass it to him? Perhaps not.

The Chancellor told us in the Budget that everything was sunshine and roses, but in coalition Britain, 900,000 people use food banks, 600,000 people are affected by the bedroom tax, the typical working person is £1,600 a year worse off and the NHS is in crisis. The Chancellor tried to find the best statistic, however obscure, to muddy the waters and deny what most working people know, which is that their wages have eroded year after year as we have experienced the longest period of prices exceeding income since the 1920s. He did that by relying on a forecast for this year, rather than real data, and by adding university and charitable income, as well as what are known as imputed rents from homes even if they are not actually rented. That was basically designed to say, “If you stand on one leg and squint a little, there you are—you’re back to 2010 levels of affluence and incomes.” Even on that statistical measure, from election date to election date—rather than the start of the calendar year, as the Chancellor tried to use—people are still worse off than they were. Of course, all that does nothing to change the burden of higher taxes and lower tax credits that have seen families worse off by more than £1,000 a year. As ever, the Chancellor may give a little with one hand, but he takes away much more with the other.

By the way, now that the Chancellor has taken the time to enter the Chamber, it would be interesting to know whether he has spotted the Prime Minister’s announcement this afternoon. I understand that the Prime Minister has indicated that he will not stand for election again after this general election. He has said tonight that he is likely to be gone in a couple of years’ time, so what will the country be voting for at the next election? I can see the poster now—“Vote Cameron, get Osborne”—and all the right-wing agenda that would go with it. A Prime Minister who did not win his first election, and had not won a second election, would be saying that he would not win a third.

Of course there were a few give-away measures in the Budget, and we welcome anything that helps those on lower and middle incomes. Why, however, does the Chancellor still stand by the biggest give-away of them all? His tax cut for the wealthiest 1%—those earning £150,000—means that someone earning £1 million each year gets an annual tax cut of £42,000. That is simply unfair and unacceptable, and that is why we will vote against those income tax plans this evening. We will vote against the Government’s Budget plans for public services and public investment, because although we must balance the books as soon as possible in the next Parliament, going so far beyond that—with cuts over the next three years that are twice as deep as those of the past three years—means extreme cuts to services on a scale not experienced for generations. [Interruption.]