It is pleasure to speak in this debate—I hope it will have been worth the wait—and to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hood. I hope that we both have the opportunity to repeat the experience after
I rise to support this excellent improvement to the Bill proposed by my hon. Friends on the Front Bench, because I would like to better understand the impact of the VAT increase in my constituency. The Tory long-term economic plan is a marketing con and a rebranding of a five-year failed economic plan—five years of broken promises on borrowing, the deficit and VAT. I do not know if Government Members have been watching a new programme—on ITV down here, but on STV in my constituency—in which hypnosis is used to shift people’s perception of reality. I am not sure if that is what they are doing, although there does not seem to be anyone asleep in the Chamber. We all seem to be wide awake—certainly Labour Members are wide awake to the impact of the Government’s failure to deliver on their economic promises. Simply saying, “We’ll now call it a long-term economic plan, because it has not quite worked out in the short term”, is not going to fool anyone.
On the increase in VAT, I remember meeting with my local chamber of commerce. In East Lothian, we do not have large-scale manufacturing or large employers, apart from in the public sector, so the private sector is largely made up of small and medium-sized enterprises. When I asked them how they were coping with the changes in the economy they said that the single-biggest factor for them was the VAT increase. It had done the most damage to their businesses. Other Members have spoken about its impact on the poorest in our communities, but in East Lothian it has also had an adverse impact on entrepreneurs and businesses—the people who should be creating the jobs that could eradicate unemployment in my constituency.