Budget Resolutions - Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:40 pm on 14th March 2017.

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Photo of Julie Cooper Julie Cooper Shadow Minister (Health) (Community Health) 5:40 pm, 14th March 2017

I want to put this Budget into context for my constituents. We have a Government who have borrowed more in seven years than the last Labour Government did in 13 years. The deficit that we were told would be gone is still there. The country is just about to embark on the most important negotiations since the end of the second world war, but the Chancellor barely mentioned Brexit. The disabled who are desperately trying to gain employment are to have their incomes cut by close to a third next month. Children who are unlucky enough to be the third child in a struggling family will suffer as the withdrawal of child tax credit pushes another 600,000 children into poverty. The truth is that many families are just not managing, and all they have to look forward to is years of austerity stretching far into the 2020s.

But it is all okay: we do not need to worry—because inheritance tax is to be reduced. I wonder whether the Chancellor knows how many people in my constituency are likely to benefit from a cut in inheritance tax. I have checked: last year it would have been six people, while this year it is eight—not even into double figures. It is obscene to take from the disabled and from those struggling to make ends meet to give to the richest households in the land.

I will turn to some of the announcements made on Budget day. The first concerns the increase in national insurance for the self-employed. The changes to national insurance contributions for the self-employed, taken alongside the cut in corporation tax, tell my constituents all they need to know about this Government: increased costs for small business, and reduced costs for big business. There are over 4,000 self-employed people in my constituency, and they will all be worse off despite the fact that the 2015 Conservative manifesto promised that national insurance contributions would not be increased. There can be no justification for any of this. If the Government are serious about tackling the deficit, why are they cutting taxes for the richest? By 2022, cuts to the banking levy, capital gains tax, inheritance tax and corporation tax will have cost the taxpayer another £70 billion. I repeat: it is obscene.

The second point relates to the whole issue of social care. In light of the cost of tax cuts, no wonder there is no money for adequate social care. Depriving old people of the care they need is causing widespread misery and placing additional pressure on an already overstretched NHS. The Chancellor could have announced measures to fully fund social care and help to restore funding for local government; instead, he offered only £2 billion over the next three years. The Government are giving the care sector only half of what it actually needs, and of course we must all remember that the Government have cut £4.2 billion from social care budgets since 2010. My constituents might not have been aware of the figures, but they know what they see with their own eyes. They understand that the Government take with two hands and give back with one, and quite frankly, they are not impressed.

My third and final point is in connection with the Government’s proposal to spend millions of pounds creating new grammar schools to the detriment of the schools that already exist. Under the new school funding formula, funding is set to be cut in Burnley and Padiham by over £400 per pupil. So much for a Government who say they want all children to have a good education. In Burnley, we are already seeing increased class sizes, subjects being dropped from the curriculum, pupils with special educational needs and disabilities losing vital support and teacher and school staff vacancies being left unfilled or the posts cut altogether. The introduction of grammar schools will not help existing schools in Burnley, nor will it do anything for social mobility. In spite of the Prime Minister’s grand promises, this Budget and this Government have once again failed to deliver for my constituents.