Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:10 pm on 8th March 2017.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham East 3:10 pm, 8th March 2017

It is always good to try to find an area of the Budget on which we can show that there is some common ground, so I want to say at the outset how much I am pleased that the Chancellor focused on the midlands engine. I will talk about that on another occasion.

I want to mention a couple of facts that particularly stand out. There is a shocking 20% cut in local authority spending from £8.2 billion in 2016-17 to £6.5 billion in the following year. A 20% drop in council funding in one year is incredibly difficult for local authorities to cope with, given the services that depend on that money. The other point, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend Rachel Reeves —I very much associate myself with her analysis of the Budget statement—is the incongruence between the £1 billion given to free schools for capital spending, and the £260 million, only a quarter of that amount, provided for the thousands of other schools that our constituents and children use. I think that is very typical of the Government’s priorities.

In the short time that I have, however, I want to talk about the two key issues that stand out for me in the Budget speech. One is the issue of the self-employed, and I will come on to that later. The other is the looming hurricane on the horizon, and the fact that the Government have decided not to veer around it, but to head straight towards it by failing to try to negotiate on our ability to stay in the single market. For a Chancellor of the Exchequer, at this point of the economic cycle, to fail even to mention Brexit—our imminent exit from the European Union—is incredible. For our potential exit from the single market not to be part of the core analysis of the economic outlook, let alone for him not to be finding ways to bolster our economy so that we are prepared for the storm, is a real betrayal of the interests of our economy and our constituents.