I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I also want to share with hon. Members the excitement in Bristol at the news today that one of Channel 4’s creative hubs will be relocating to our wonderful, creative and diverse city. We thank our Mayor, Marvin Rees, and his team for securing such a win for Bristol.
My reaction to the Budget is less positive, because it was a Budget of bad jokes and little else. It failed to recognise the biggest issues facing the economy—economic growth, Brexit, austerity and climate change—and then failed to set out what we were doing about them. On economic growth, it is a plain and simple fact that we have gone from being one of the fastest-growing major economies in the world to one of the slowest. We rely on economic growth to fund our public services, and many workers in Bristol are already taxed enough, at a time of stagnant or painfully growing salaries and a rising cost of living.
How do we grow investment in our economy and generate the growth to fund the public services that the British people expect? Private sector investment is significantly down, having been decoupled from the global investment cycle, whereas in the United States and Germany we are seeing much higher investment. In my constituency in the industrial zone of Avonmouth, I have businesses that are ready to invest in jobs and growth but unwilling to do so because of the risks facing the British economy. State-backed investment under this Government is a self-defeating spiral. They are borrowing more than £1 trillion—50% more than when Labour was in government—without having achieved any significant sustainable economic growth off the back of it.
That takes me to the next elephant in the room, which is Brexit. Never has a modern British Government implemented a strategy that has proactively sought to make us poorer and less powerful. The Treasury has already earmarked £4.2 billion to administer Brexit, and it has not secured agreement on our future relationship, which will create even more cost for businesses and workers. Our trajectory has proven the original forecasts from the Bank of England—that Brexit would make the economy 2% smaller and cost around £20 billion in available taxes to spend per year—absolutely right and nothing to do with project fear and has proven the promise of a Brexit dividend a fiction that many will not forget. That is why I and others have long supported a people’s vote. Now that the facts are becoming clear, it is right that the British people have their say on the incompetent Brexit the Government are bringing forward.
Finally, on austerity, the Prime Minister sold us a fiction, as we have heard time and again in this debate. The plain and simple truth is that austerity has not ended—it is not even on the path to ending. The Budget did nothing for police or fire services in Avon and Somerset, at a time of rising crime when many victims are being left entirely alone and without access to justice; it did nothing to help Bristol City Council to provide the statutory services that so many children, vulnerable people and older people rely on, in the face of £70 million of cuts since 2010; and it offended every single school up and down the country and in Bristol by giving them less money than they are giving for potholes so that they can buy the “extra things” they think might be nice, when we need teachers, teaching assistants and support for children with additional needs who are being failed. The NHS secured some additional funding, but it has already been shown to be a real-terms cut, funded on the punt that £13 billion of extra cash found down the back of the sofa this year will not be whipped away by the consequences of Brexit next year.
Fourteen neighbourhoods in my constituency are in the lowest 10% in the country for education, training and skills, and six of them are in the lowest 10% for employment. I come from those neighbourhoods. Week in, week out, constituents come to me facing the consequences of nearly a decade of austerity. Week in, week out, all I can say to them is that the Government are not good enough. That is why I say the Budget was a Budget of bad jokes and little else; that is why I say I am amazed at the Government’s incompetence in administering Brexit and their apparent lack of concern at its cost; that is why I say that the promise that austerity is over is a fiction that will not easily be forgotten by my constituents or the British people; and that is why I cannot support this short-sighted, incompetent, Brexit-driven, fictitious Budget that fails to recognise and deal with the challenges this country faces.