Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. In the short time allocated, I will focus on the universal credit side of the Budget. In 2015, George Osborne made a dreadful mistake, cutting out from universal credit £3 billion per annum from the work allowance. Since my re-election in 2017, I, like my Lib Dem colleagues, have constantly been advocating for a restoration of that work allowance element, so that work really does pay—it would not do so without that. For a year and a half, the Conservative party has been constantly pushing back to say, “Work does pay. We do not need to restore the work allowance.” I am glad that finally, on Monday, the Chancellor listened to us and restored £1.7 billion, albeit not all the work allowance that George Osborne had cut.
A number of Opposition Members have discussed this, but I say to the Conservatives that rather than give a substantial tax cut for those at the top end of salaries, people like us and many others, why not put that £1.3 billion, which is the equivalent in respect of the people earning over £50,000, £60,000, £70,000 and 80,000 a year, back into the rest of the work allowance so that it restores what George Osborne catastrophically cut all those years ago? That would mean, first, that work would pay properly within UC, which the Lib Dems agree with—even Labour did years ago, when I was in coalition. Most importantly, it would mean that people earning under £15,000 a year, who were shockingly ignored by this Government in the Budget on Monday, would get some of the tax cut that would be part of the larger work allowance. I believe this House would support that. If the Government do not do that, the Lib Dems would certainly be voting against them on this. So I say to the Chancellor and to the Conservative party: fully restore the work allowance to what it originally was by not giving the extra £600 or £700 a year to the highest paid in this country. That is the right thing to do and I urge the Chancellor to listen.