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I would thank the hon. Lady for that contribution, but it flies in the face of the lived experience of my constituents, who are on low-wage jobs, cannot make ends meet and find themselves attacked by this Chancellor’s Budget. The Chancellor has failed to deliver for working people. His failure to raise productivity has been trumped in the past few days, in media terms at least, by his failure to deliver a Budget that lasts 48 hours.
The 1,443 PIP claimants in Newcastle will, like me, be pleased at least that that cut proved an ideological attack too far, but it is undoubtedly the case that by demonising and attacking all benefits claimants, the Chancellor hoped to create an atmosphere in which it was acceptable to enrich the better-off on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable among us. It will be some compensation for them that members of the Government are now attacking and reviling each other almost to the same extent as they have attacked and undermined benefits claimants.
I do not want to focus on the 48 hours following the Budget as experienced by the Chancellor. Instead, I want to give three examples of events that I attended in those
48 hours that highlighted the huge gap at the centre of the Budget, which was a failure to address our future economy and the future of the next generation, as he put it. On Thursday I visited the Big Bang fair organised by EngineeringUK with engineering professional bodies and businesses from across the country, where 70,000 young people discovered or rediscovered the excitement offered by a career in science, technology, engineering and maths. Those are the jobs of the future, the ones I want for my constituents, high-paid—not minimum wage, minimum skill—jobs.
But where were such jobs mentioned in the Budget? Where was the investment in the future to help create those jobs? There were, it is true, tax breaks for those hiring out their assets in the digital economy, but there was nothing for manufacturing or technology. There was no investment in digital infrastructure. There was no more detail on apprenticeships, which we need to ensure that we have the skills of the future. This was a Budget that left behind the technology that we need for our future.
That evening I visited the Creative Newcastle Get Digital summit, celebrating one of the fastest-growing sectors in the north-east, only hundreds of yards from where Stephenson’s Rocket was built. That was the real northern powerhouse, powering our economy into the future. But the Budget offered a few hundred million pounds for investment in north-east transport, against the tens of billions of investment in transport in London. This Budget did not offer any investment in digital infrastructure, and we stand to lose the millions of investment from the European Union, thanks to the referendum and the chaos on the Government Benches over that.
Finally, on Friday morning I visited St Paul’s primary school, where 10 and 11-year-olds were taking on the Pioneer challenge with employers and other schools across the region to promote STEM and entrepreneurship. Those children are the future basis for our economy in the north-east. They are proud Geordies, yet what the Budget did for them was to force the academisation of their school, taking it out of the local authority and the community that it seeks to support and atomising it—in effect, privatising it and taking away responsibility from the local parents and putting it on a desk in Whitehall, which is also where the northern powerhouse is found.
This Budget offered nothing for the future of our young people, for the north-east economy or for our country.