Budget Resolutions - Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:24 pm on 14th March 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Gill Furniss Gill Furniss Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Steel, Postal Affairs and Consumer Protection) 6:24 pm, 14th March 2017

Thank you, Mr Speaker. This Budget is, at its heart, deeply unfair. It is full of broken promises and missed opportunities. I am a Sheffield MP. I love Sheffield. I grew up in Sheffield. I am extremely proud to represent its people in this place and that means standing up for them. Sheffield City Council has faced cuts every year for seven years, now totalling £352 million, and it will have to find another £40 million next year to balance its budget. Sheffield is a fantastic city with a strong industrial base. It is where stainless steel was invented, and I must put it on the record that Sheffield definitely drove the industrial revolution, no matter what others have said today. However, wages have fallen dramatically. In fact, shamefully, it was recently found that Sheffield is the low-pay capital of the UK. There is little in this Budget to help that.

The self-employed are the engine drivers of entrepreneurship, with many working at the cutting edge of technology. Self-employment in Sheffield has increased by 10% in recent years, showing our city’s entrepreneurial character. However, real wages among the self-employed have fallen faster than those of employees. For my constituents, the Chancellor’s £2 billion broken promise on NICs will have a serious effect on their livelihood. As I said, unfairness is at the heart of the Budget, which hits low and middle earners hardest, hurting working people in Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough. While increasing taxes for the most vulnerable in our society, and simultaneously choosing to do nothing about working standards for the self-employed, the Chancellor decided to cut taxes for the richest. Policy measures introduced by this Government since 2010 will result in over £70 billion in tax giveaways to big businesses and the super-rich over the next five years. Much has already been said about the contentious business rates revaluation, and pubs in my constituency will feel the pain of increased rates despite the headline-grabbing one-year-only discount. The British Beer and Pub Association forecasts that increases on beer duty will result in 4,000 job losses and more pub closures.

We know what to expect from this Government by now—they kick the can down the road—so the Chancellor’s speech naturally contained no mention of the industrial strategy, nothing for the struggling steel sector, and no mention of climate change. Social care is in a state of emergency due to cuts to local council budgets, with over 1 million vulnerable elderly people not receiving the care they need. The extra £2 billion for adult social care does not make up for the £4.6 billion in cuts over the last Parliament and, believe me, councils in the north are not getting the same Surrey sweetheart deal on social care. The Chancellor had the opportunity last Wednesday to properly address the funding crisis, but he did not take it. He announced no money to deal with hospitals despite the £5 billion black hole in NHS maintenance. There are not enough GPs in the NHS, and cuts to nurses’ bursaries have led to a reduction in applications for nursing courses. A&Es are in crisis, and waiting lists are soaring. Mr Speaker, forgive me if I feel that this is all too little, too late.

Ensuring a decent education for our children should be an absolute priority, not an afterthought. This Government promised to protect pupil spending but it has fallen in real terms after inflation—another broken promise. According to the National Union of Teachers, Fox Hill primary school in my constituency will be £1,003 worse off per pupil than in 2013, and Wisewood Community primary school will be £1,586 worse off per pupil over the same period. By 2019, per pupil funding will have fallen by an average of 11% from 2013 levels.

There are 1.5 million fewer adult learners than there were under the previous Labour Government, and adult skills training has been cut by 54% since 2010. Furthermore, the beleaguered further education sector has fared little better. According to the IFS, by 2020 per student spending will be only just above the level seen 30 years ago at the end of the 1980s.

It is ironic that the Budget fell on International Women’s Day. Tory cuts have disproportionately affected women and, sadly, the Budget does nothing to change that. The Budget hurts the self-employed, low earners and those on benefits while letting the richest off the hook. It is a divisive and unfair Budget, and the Conservatives are clearly not the party of the working people of Britain.

This Budget is, at its heart, deeply unfair. It is also a Budget full of broken promises and missed opportunities, and it will hurt my constituents of Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough.