Budget Resolutions - Income Tax (Charge)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:53 pm on 1st November 2018.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 2:53 pm, 1st November 2018

The Budget is tactically clever and, indeed, wise, but it may be strategically dangerous. That is where I join Sir Vince Cable and my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke.

Of course, we all have our own priorities for Government spending. I have campaigned for the Ministry of Defence and I support the measures in the Budget for that. There have been local campaigns on potholes, particularly in a rural county such as Lincolnshire. We have been campaigning for more money for schools, and we all welcome the announcements on that.

However, by 2023-24 the Government will be spending another £30 billion a year. Indeed, by the end of the Parliament the Government will take 38% out of the economy, which is exactly what Gordon Brown took out of the economy at the end of his Chancellorship.

I might be the last Gladstonian Liberal left in this place, or indeed one of the few Thatcherites left in it, but I do believe that the way to deal with the economy and provide for everybody is to try and bring down the deficit and start to repay debt. I want to hear from the Chief Secretary when she sums up the debate that we have not reneged on our promise—the Conservative promise—to start repaying debt, and I would like to know from her when she is going to start doing it.

Whatever we spend, the Labour party will of course always promise to spend more, and I was amused that the shadow Chancellor thinks that the rich now earn just a bit more than he earns. We are never going to set the economy right, particularly in the context of Brexit, unless we fix the roof while the sun shines. We do not want that jibe turned on us; we do not want people to say in future “Yes, the economy was doing fairly well, you were creating a record number of jobs—particularly youth jobs—and all these good things were happening and all the prognoses about Brexit were not proved correct, but when the sun was shining, did you fix the roof?” So I want to be assured by the Government that they are going to get this right. Unless we do this, we could be in severe difficulties, because all economies are cyclical.

Frankly, I do not think the main problem facing the economy is Brexit. I think it will be alright on the night; we will sort it, and some deal will be achieved. We will achieve some sort of free trade area. I do not believe that the prophets of doom about Brexit will be proved correct, but I do believe that we have to get the economy right, and that in terms of health spending—I use the national health service, like everybody else—we cannot just bung ever more tens of billions of pounds into it. We have to ensure that there is competence and efficiency in our public services, so we need a good strong, free enterprise, low tax, deregulated Conservative economy.