I welcome the Budget and in particular that over 70,000 more people are in work in the north-east than when Labour left office—the equivalent of every man and woman in my constituency. This Budget ensures that there will be more.
The £14 million of direct investment in the South Tees Development Corporation brings the total pledged to the site over the last year to £137 million. Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen will now be able to deliver two major new metals projects, which will create 1,500 high-quality jobs. Despite the worst efforts of the Labour party, people recognise that something special is stirring in my region and that new hope is being kindled on the banks of the Tees.
There is social justice, too. Jenny Chapman mentioned mental health in her speech and I agree with her completely that it is a major crisis for many young people. I would add that £2 billion was committed to mental health in the Budget. That is an important investment, which it is important to note.
On universal credit, a fortnight ago, I visited my local jobcentre in Loftus. The team there were passionately committed to supporting people into work. The billions committed by the Chancellor means that Torsten Bell of the Resolution Foundation was able to state unequivocally that
“the Government’s flagship welfare reform is now more generous than the benefit system that it is replacing.”
On Hallowe’en, let us put an end to the scaremongering that we keep hearing about that vital programme. As a nation, let us embrace the principle that everyone will now be better off in work than on welfare.
We also need to look to the future in other ways. Boldness and bravery must be our watchwords. On housing, the fundamental problem is Government-induced restriction on supply. Delivering demand-side policies without addressing the artificial constraints on the availability of land will serve only to increase taxes and inflate housing costs still further. Last month, in my paper for Freer, I called for us to lift the restrictions on development within half a mile of stations in the green belt.