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Before I come to my main speech, I wish to refer to some comments made by my hon. Friend Leo Docherty about Marxism and sausages. During my hon. Friend’s speech, Peter Dowd, of whom I am perpetually fond, shouted from a sedentary position, “How were the sausages in Soviet Russia?” Let me tell him that they were awful—awful. They were so bad that they were made with wood chipping. It was said that the people of Soviet Russia preferred to eat sausages that had gone off because they at least knew that they had been edible at some point. That was what Marxism did to the sausage; that was what Marxism did to the people of Russia.
The truth is that it is the free market that brings prosperity to us all. There was much in this Budget to encourage and help the free market on which the prosperity of my constituency is based. We are a constituency in Essex that is built on the hard work of small and medium-sized enterprises, which will benefit greatly from measures to help entrepreneurs, the reduction of business rates by a third, and the new fund to help our high streets. This is hugely appreciated by the hard-working people of my constituency.
The Chancellor also announced some very good news that we have perhaps become too acclimatised to in this House. Employment in this country is at record levels. That is not something that we can gloss over lightly. The actions of this Government since 2010 have enabled more people to go to work and earn more money so that they can support their families, pay their taxes, and help their communities and public services to thrive. That is something of which we should be proud. The work of this Government will see the deficit reduce from over 10% to—in 2023-24—less than 1%.
Debt as a proportion of GDP is falling. One of the things that we should care about most is the legacy that we leave in the long term. When I was born, the debt-to-GDP ratio was about 35%. When the Labour party took power, it was slightly higher. By the time Labour left office, it had more than doubled. If this generation cannot reduce that figure, we are simply piling burdens on to our children and our grandchildren.