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Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak in this debate. I will keep my remarks brief, because I know that a number of colleagues wish to speak.
Specific reforms announced in the Budget should be discussed in the context of the new deal announced by the Chancellor. The problem is that some Members of the House want to pick and choose the elements of that new deal, welcoming the extra spending but never endorsing any of the difficult decisions that the Government have had to take. The current situation is this: Britain is home to 1% of the world’s population, generates 4% of the world’s income, but pays out 7% of the world’s welfare spending. We are currently spending more on family benefits than Germany, France or Sweden.
This Government were elected six months ago with a mandate—an instruction—to balance our books and to reform welfare, as stated in our manifesto. I have listened to Opposition Members, but we have to seek to avoid the mistakes of the past. Spending on tax credits more than trebled under Labour in 10 years, while in-work poverty rose by 20%. In 2010, 90% of families were eligible for tax credits—a disproportionate amount. After these budgetary changes, that will be reduced to five in 10, a much more sustainable number. Ultimately, these changes will return tax credit spending to pre-crisis levels—the level under the Labour Government in 2007-08—and deliver £4.4 billion of savings in 2016. That money can be invested in our national health service.