As I stated in my opening remarks—as much as 30 minutes ago—following this debate, and with Parliament’s approval, the Government will inform the Council of the European Union and the European Commission of our assessment of the UK’s medium-term economic and budgetary position. That is based entirely on information and documents already presented to Parliament. Presenting that information through the submission of the UK’s convergence programme is a legal requirement under the EU’s stability and growth pact.
Let me pick up on a couple of points made by Peter Dowd. First, he made the case for greater devolution. I remind him that it is this Government who have put in place the new metro Mayors—no doubt he is spending much of his weekends and constituency Fridays campaigning for the Labour candidate for Mayor of the Liverpool city region. We also have elections in Manchester and the West Midlands. That was not created by the previous Labour Government; it was created by this Government, recognising the need for decisions to be made at local level and for real powers to be devolved to that level. I am surprised that he was so unwilling to credit the Government for what we have done on that front.
Secondly, the hon. Gentleman accused me of not mentioning productivity in my remarks, and he made comments about the Chancellor not discussing it generally. In fact, the Chancellor regularly comments on the need to improve our productivity, and in my remarks a little while ago I drew attention to the measures we are taking on schools, skills, and technology and innovation, which, as I said a few minutes ago, are at the heart of our efforts to finally address the country’s long-standing productivity challenges. It is very difficult to see how the Labour party’s policies, which would drive away business investment and discourage enterprise and innovation, would do anything other than weaken our productivity. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to fight the next few weeks on the subject of productivity, I for one would welcome that.
In the Budget, we continued to prepare this country for long-term prosperity, first and foremost by putting our economic stability first and by continuing to improve the state of our public finances, but we also set out meaningful investment in our future productivity and our current public services. This is therefore a plan that strikes the right balance between reducing our deficit, preserving fiscal flexibility and investing in Britain’s future. Those are the foundations of a stronger, fairer and better Britain. Those are the foundations of a strong and stable platform for the upcoming exit negotiations. That is the basis of the convergence programme we present to the European Union. On that basis, I am pleased to commend the motion to the House.
The House divided:
Ayes 298, Noes 191.