Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Budget Resolutions - Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:58 pm on 13th March 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords) 7:58 pm, 13th March 2017

I am talking about putting more money into infrastructure, things that actually create jobs, and research and development. What we have seen in the UK is pitiful productivity. In Scotland, we are beginning to counter that, as our productivity has grown much faster than the level in the rest of the UK. That is partly because of the fiscal stimulus given by the infrastructure packages we have put in place, which has allowed us to make a difference to productivity. If the UK Government intend to take us out of the single market and to make it more difficult for us to have trading relationships and to export, they will need to make sure that they are increasing productivity to counter that, otherwise we will face a real issue on the lack of wage growth.

The Chancellor stood up and said, “It is fabulous what we are doing for the oil and gas industry. We are going to make it easier for oil and gas companies to transfer late-life assets.” This is really important, because the oil and gas industry will continue to take oil out of the ground for a very long time to come. Some fields are nearing maturity and may be operated by one of the big operators, and we need to make it easier for those assets to be transferred to some of the newer, smaller operators so that they can “sweat” them: get the maximum economic recovery out of those assets. My problem with what the UK Government announced is that they announced it last year and did not do it; they announced this exact thing on late-life assets last year and it has not been done, so I hope they will forgive me for not dancing around in excitement at the fact that there is now going to be a panel of experts to look at this thing that the Government announced last year—it would have been nice if they had actually done it back then.

I want to mention the £350 million of extra money that is going to Scotland. It was kind of the Chancellor to stand up and say, “We are giving £350 million of extra money to Scotland”, but this is rubbish—it is not what is happening at all. Because of how the Barnett formula works, they are spending more money in England and Wales, and it just so happens that Scotland gets an extra slice as a result. The Chancellor cannot pretend that he is giving lots of money to Scotland while asking Departments to make 6% cuts and in the face of continuing austerity. He cannot stand up and say that the Government are giving Scotland all this money, given that we have had a £2.9 billion real-terms cut over the decade from 2010. It is ridiculous that we are in this situation.

I wish to touch on a couple of things that the Foreign Secretary said. In response to an intervention, he talked about falling back on the WTO rules and how it would be “perfectly okay”. I am interested to see the analysis that he has done on that, because I do not think it would be perfectly okay. I think he is guessing, imagining, inventing—[Interruption.] He is hoping with his fingers crossed, as my hon. Friend Brendan O'Hara says. I say that because falling back on WTO rules and most favoured nation status is a harsh reality for our exporters, particularly for our small and medium-sized enterprises.

On SMEs, the Foreign Secretary said that people on my side of the House were mocking entrepreneurial spirit. He is from the party that has made changes to the national insurance contributions of the self-employed and he is accusing us of mocking entrepreneurial spirit! We are supporting entrepreneurs. We are supporting those people in small businesses, particularly the incredible numbers of women and people on lower incomes who have started businesses and taken on the mantle of self-employment. This is really important. These people have decided to become self-employed and now this Government are taxing that aspiration.

This Budget has dodged far too many of the important issues. It has not spoken about the real fallout from Brexit. The Government are unwilling to give the OBR any real information, and the improper forecasts that they have therefore been provided with have allowed them to dodge those issues. Despite all the comments in the run-up to it, this Budget has been shambolic. It has dodged the issues, taxed aspiration and done absolutely nothing for the oil and gas industry beyond what was promised last year. This is not a Budget that is promising for Scotland. It has increased the package of unfairness and consigned ordinary working people to a long-term lack of prosperity.