We are here to debate not just the minutiae of the Chancellor’s figures, but the consequences that will flow from it. I want to draw the House’s attention to the fact that, although the Chancellor feels able to allow another £15 billion into the economy, with an £11 billion increase in spending and a £4 billion cut in the tax take, that represents just 1.8% of the £842 billion total managed expenditure estimate for next year, a smaller percentage than the rate of inflation. This is not a game-changing sum and it is easy to be bamboozled by all the mentions of “billions” in the discourse into thinking otherwise. The majority of my constituents will not notice any significant difference in their taxes from this Budget.
Like Robin Hood in reverse, the Chancellor is rewarding the wealthiest with the bulk of the £4 billion tax cuts, while reducing the amount available via universal credit for the worst-off. It is shameful that we will not be able to vote against the raising of the higher rate threshold on tax without also voting against the lower rate threshold. It is unjust and misleading to put us in that position of having to do both at the same time.
What my constituents will notice is the effect of all the things the Chancellor is not doing. Significantly, he is not deploying the significant capital investment in our economic capabilities that Labour promised in our 2017 manifesto and that we have reiterated at every opportunity since then. Conservative Members consider themselves to be the party of business and constantly call for tax cuts rather than spending increases. But in an economy that suffers from low productivity and a lack of demand, the sensible approach is to massively increase the Government’s capital expenditure. Where is the national transformation fund that Labour promised? Instead, we get a pathetic additional £200 million for the British Business Bank—that is about £2.50 per person. Where is the green investment bank? Where is the financial support for greening the economy through investment in renewable electricity generation, through zero emissions vehicles and through insulation grants?
This is what my constituents in Ipswich will notice. They will notice that, while we are getting new trains, we are not getting all the rail infrastructure investment that would make those trains run faster, run more reliably, or, judging by my experiences on Monday, run at all. They will notice that there was no additional funding to provide the north Ipswich bypass or to improve the junctions on the A14—that is vital not only for the economy of Ipswich, but for the smooth transport of goods to the UK’s premier port at Felixstowe. They will notice that the Crown post office has been franchised out, and that the number of post offices, their convenience and location, and the range of services they are able to deliver continues to deteriorate. They will also notice that, although Suffolk is lucky enough to have won first prize in the local full fibre networks challenge fund contest—about £9 per Suffolk person—that will provide full fibre connections only to key public buildings and comes nowhere near creating ultra-fast coverage for all.
My constituents will notice that, because Amazon and other online shopping giants continue to be able to get away with paying almost no tax, the shops they trust and rely on in what used to be called our “Golden mile” in Ipswich continue to close. They will notice that councils are not being enabled to support the bus services that people need to get to work. They will notice an almost total lack of council discretionary spend, leaving projects such as Ipswich’s creative computing club, which teaches coding to disaffected pupils and which has gained recognition from Google for its outstanding achievements, struggling to find the money to provide a premises for its classes.
My constituents will notice a lack of investment in small-scale capital highways projects. Instead of inadequate roads being rebuilt, all we get is a pothole grant to fill in the gaps temporarily. They will of course notice that, while Ipswich Borough Council will continue to build as many houses as it can afford, there will be no national fund to enable the far more rapid creation of the houses so desperately needed for current and future young families. If they run their own small business, they will notice that the Chancellor has done nothing to end the scourge of late payment, which so often brings otherwise perfectly sound businesses to, or over, the brink of bankruptcy.
I believe that Ipswich will thrive in the end—I believe in my town—but I know it would thrive a whole lot sooner if we had a Government who believed in this country.