It is a pleasure to speak for the SNP on the final day of debating the 2018 Budget and to follow Mr Clarke, who is always a hard act to follow. I hope I might be able to provide some detail on the caution that he was unable to deal with in the time available to him.
Today, we focus on families and communities. Where better to start in that regard than by detangling the Chancellor’s spun lines on family budgets. Pay growth is continuing to falter. We have had the worst decade of wage growth in 210 years, making it easy for the Chancellor to say that a modest rise in regular pay rates is the highest in 10 years. Even if that level were to be sustained—and that is unlikely unless there is a significant change regarding the UK’s productivity crisis—it is unlikely that pay rates will return to pre-crisis levels until the middle of the next decade. No wonder we have growing rates of in-work poverty. This Government are failing to make work pay.
Just take the announcement on universal credit, by which I am bitterly disappointed. It did not live up to anyone’s expectations. It did not match the ambition set by the hon. Members for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen) and for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer) on work allowances alone. Like me, they wanted work allowances to be fully restored to pre-2015 levels. The Chancellor failed to do that and failed to tackle the other ways in which universal credit is failing utterly. He reinstated just half the cuts to just one part of the cash cow that is universal credit, which the Treasury has milked dry. Indeed, even Mr Davis yesterday welcomed the investment but quickly said that more will need to follow. I agree: very much more will need to follow.