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It is a pleasure to speak in this Budget debate. I had the same pleasure last year, and I appreciate the opportunity. I want to talk about quite a few things. The Foreign Secretary talked about global Britain, but we are in fact looking at a broken Brexit Britain. We are looking at a package of unfairness not only in the Budget, but in the austerity that the Government have followed for years. Ordinary working people have not been supported by this Government or the previous Government.
The UK Government have their head in the sand, and they have it there for two good reasons. First, they do not have the faintest idea of what Brexit will actually mean. What they do know about the outcome of Brexit is that it will be bad, so they do not want to tell us what they know. Secondly, the Government talk all the time about ordinary working people and how things will impact on the ordinary working person, but most Conservative Members—or at least too many of them—do not actually have a clue about what it is like to be an ordinary working person. They do not have a clue what it is like to push a trolley around the supermarket and feel inflation going up, as it has done over the past three months. Inflation has gone up to its highest level in ages during the past three months. People are seeing a 15% increase in the price of butter and a 6% increase in the price of tea. Those things have a real impact on families’ budgets, because they are everyday essentials which people regularly buy, so when they go up in price people are disproportionately affected. In Scotland, 48.4% of adults have less than £100 in savings. Across the UK families owe, on average, £2,770—that is the debt that families have. This is a really tight situation for people. People are struggling; they are not able to save and they have levels of debt.
People who have had a mortgage in the past eight years have never seen interest rates above 0.5%. Therefore, if the Bank of England decides to raise interest rates because of the weakness of the pound, which is not inconceivable, these people will be hit by increased mortgage costs that they did not expect, because they had never seen such increases before and so have not planned for them. This Government are doing nothing to help the budgets of these people. I spoke to some of my friends about how they feel the economy hits them. Too many of them told me, “I lie awake at night worrying because I have no savings. What if my partner gets laid off? We have no money. We have no slack in our budgets.” With rising inflation, because of Brexit, and the fact that the UK Government are not willing to take action now to combat it, people’s budgets are going to be squeezed even more tightly.
We have also seen wage stagnation as part of this package of unfairness. In 2022, average earnings will be no higher than they were in 2007. The UK Government need to take action—they need to be spending—to counter that and to make sure that people’s everyday budgets and everyday family incomes balance.