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Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:01 pm on 22nd March 2016.

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Photo of John McNally John McNally Scottish National Party, Falkirk 5:01 pm, 22nd March 2016

I thank my hon. Friend for that very valuable point. I hope Conservative Members will think deeply about what he has said.

I want to take this opportunity to welcome the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to his new position. I urge him to use his portfolio to protect, support, enable and empower the most vulnerable in society, and return to them some peace of mind. The Chancellor did not provide an answer earlier today when he was asked about the plans for welfare cuts. To my mind, he succeeded only in causing the disabled more stress than they are already experiencing.

Not only have the Government managed to fail on the economic and productivity targets they set themselves, but we can clearly see that the deficit, the debt and the level of borrowing are worse than was promised last autumn. In contrast, the Scottish National party has set out a sensible alternative to austerity, which would return the public finances to a sustainable path, while continuing to invest in public services.

It is worth noting that, after much debate, wrangling and negativity, the UK Government have, in my opinion, seen sense and agreed to introduce a graduated sugar tax on soft drinks in 2018. Let us hope that we see some corporate responsibility among manufacturers and that they will willingly announce reductions in the sugar content of their products.

Health is a subject about which I have been deeply concerned for some time. I spoke during the sugar tax debate in November, when I gave my support to Jamie Oliver, the celebrity who has been mentioned today, and the other MPs present that day who have fought hard to bring this issue into the public domain and bring about change. I met Jamie at a House of Commons debate on diabetes, and I agreed with his aim of offering the public clear and reliable information about the sugar that we all consume—indeed, the planned confusion on some labelling reminds me of the Budget that we are discussing. I am grateful for the Government’s U-turn from their position before the debate in November, when they stated that they had

“no plans to introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages”.