There is much to welcome in the Budget for my constituents, not least the raising of tax thresholds, the freezing of fuel duty, the business rates announcement, the freezing of beer duty, and other announcements, all of which are to be welcomed and will help my constituents.
I wish to sound a note of caution to Ministers—that we should use the words “the end of austerity” with care. I am afraid I do not agree that austerity has ended in the technical sense, because we have a debt of £1.8 trillion, and we have debt interest to pay of nearly £50 billion per year—and all that before the country takes one pace forward. To say that austerity is ending could be slightly misleading, suggesting that we can turn on the taps and spray money around to all the many good causes when, in effect, we cannot. I think we must accept, in all parts of the House, that the United Kingdom has spent more money than she can afford for many years, under all Governments, and it is time now to live within our means. That is the way any household proceeds—it lives within its means.
To do that, and to raise the money that we need, there is only one source of income that we can generate. Here in the House, we cannot generate income. As MPs, we only create the infrastructure for the income to be generated. Who generates income? It is business: men and women, the entrepreneurs in all our constituencies. It is they who risk their home, their future, their livelihood, their children’s future, all to generate wealth and prosperity for this country, the taxes from which pay for all the public services into which everyone in this House, on whichever side we sit, wants to put more money. So to tax those business people heavily—to punish them—in an attempt to raise the money that we all need, will not succeed, and in the worst case we will end up in the position that the Leader of the Opposition exemplifies as his ideal—that of Venezuela. [Hon. Members: “Oh.”] It is a fact! The Opposition groan, but that is what happens if you follow Marxism and punish the wealth creators—people leave the country. [Interruption.] It is a fact.
We need to prioritise what money we have, and then decide how we spend it. Let us take overseas aid, for example—0.7% of GDP. Yes, we should help those who are not well-off around the world, but to have a target and to keep to it I think is wrong. We should give the developing world and those who need our help what we can afford to give them—just like any household budget. Then we would have more money for all the causes that we want to support. Charity starts at home.
In the short time that I have left, I shall touch on one or two items. I again advise Ministers that it is reform, reform, reform, not necessarily cash, that the NHS desperately needs. On the police, as I have said many times, there is no doubt that we want more officers on the beat. On welfare—[Interruption.] I entirely back my right hon. Friend Mr Davis in his view on welfare. We need tax to be radically simplified; we need lower taxation. The corporation tax take has increased because the level has been lowered. That is a statistical fact.
On education, we do a lot of work with the f40 campaign group—all credit to them—and at a recent meeting we heard that there is a gap between education funding, which has risen in real terms, and what schools have to pay to teachers and pensions. That is where the gap is. I say to the Front Bench that more money is definitely needed for education, particularly in places such as South Dorset which have been at the bottom of the scale for far too long.
As a former soldier, I entirely concur with what an Opposition Member said about defence: £1 billion is welcome, but it is not enough. I accept that we spend the second largest amount on defence, but defence is an insurance policy we cannot afford to short-change.