Budget Resolutions - Income Tax (Charge)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:01 pm on 31st October 2018.

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Photo of Chris Ruane Chris Ruane Shadow Minister (Wales) 4:01 pm, 31st October 2018

One of the most eye-catching and long overdue announcements on Monday was the £420 million to tackle potholes. Although I welcome that, the reason we have so many unfilled potholes around the country is the total lack of funding for local government. My hon. Friend Dan Carden reminded us that his local authority has had a 64% cut in funding. The Tory leader of the Local Government Association has said that he expects local government cuts of 80%. That is nothing more and nothing less than the dismantling of the state.

I was elected in 1997 on a platform of “Education, education, education”, but now we have £420 million for potholes and £400 million for education. That is a slap in the face for hard-working teachers, who are stressed and overworked, and who are leaving the profession in their thousands. There is a dire need for further investment in education.

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark opened this afternoon’s debate by talking about marine technology. I speak as a North Walian MP who wishes to develop tidal power off the coast of north Wales, from Prestatyn all the way to Conwy, and I saw nothing of encouragement—there was no funding—in this Budget for marine or tidal technology to help develop these new ideas. Wales and the UK have a chance to be world leaders in this technology, and there was nothing in the Budget.

I do not want to be seen as a curmudgeon. I do welcome the £2 billion for mental health. I ask whether it will be ring-fenced, because when extra money has been given in the past it has been spent on physical illness, and not on mental illness and human flourishing. As the Labour chair of the all-party group on mindfulness, I ask that a proportion of that funding be set aside to promote mindfulness in the NHS. It has been freely available since 2004 and the take-up has been minimal. I suggest that some of the £400 million the Government are going to raise from a digital tax—from Facebook and Google—should be ring-fenced for mental health. Facebook admitted in July that its product is having a detrimental impact on the mental health of children and young people all around the world, so this is a fair way of allocating that funding.

Several Members, especially on the Opposition Benches, have mentioned policing, because there is nothing for the police in the Budget. Since 2009, there has been a 90% increase in violent crime in north Wales, and 108 police officers have lost their jobs. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, there was a 28% increase in violent crime in north Wales. The police are trying hard. They have to deal with new issues, such as county lines. We have criminals from Liverpool and Manchester coming along the north Wales coast and into our market towns to sell their vile products and corrupt children and young people.

Many of my colleagues from north Wales have mentioned the north Wales growth fund. As my right hon. Friend David Hanson said, we were expecting £340 million but have been promised £120 million—far less than we expected. According to the Red Book, of that £120 million, the allocation for the next three years is respectively £5 million, £40 million and £40 million, not just for north Wales but for three other areas of the UK. Will the Minister say how much north Wales will actually get? I pursued the matter with staff in the Library, but even they are confused. I want some clarity on the funding for the north Wales growth fund. We want the specifics.

In conclusion, many Members present, especially on the Opposition Benches, have said that this is not the end of austerity. Let me misquote Churchill: now is not the end of austerity. It is not even the beginning of the end of austerity. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning of austerity. The only thing that will truly end these eight years of austerity is a Labour Government.