I am glad to see the Chief Secretary to the Treasury in her seat today, as she could not get one on Monday. I wish to comment on what a number of Members have said. Mr Clarke asked, in a rather perplexed way, why the Government were spending all the headroom. The answer is: because they are up the creek. My hon. Friend Helen Hayes talked about the problems her local authority has because of the Government’s austerity plans. My hon. Friend Mr Betts spoke similarly, as did many other Members.
Charlie Elphicke said young people need to be better off; well, that is why young people are voting Labour. Rather bizarrely, Leo Docherty talked about sausages and Marxism; I hope his sausages are more sizzling than his speech was.
My hon. Friend Dan Jarvis made the case for devolution. My right hon. Friend Mr McFadden talked about how women have been most affected by austerity. [Interruption.] Conservative Members may want to laugh at that sort of thing, but we take that very seriously. My hon. Friend Sarah Champion made a similar case. The theme was there throughout the debate: austerity has not ended and will not end under a Tory Government.
When I entered Parliament, I believed that a primary role of this House was to hold the Government to account. I looked at the parliamentary website to check out my assumption, and found that it says:
“Parliament works on our behalf to try to make sure that Government decisions are…open and transparent”— that is a foreign land for this Government—
“by questioning ministers and requesting information” and
“workable and efficient”— not a concept routinely associated with this Government—
“by examining new proposals closely and suggesting improvements”.
However, the Government have systematically treated the House in the most contemptible way. All Members should be worried. First, the Government stitched up Committees with a Tory majority, even though they are a clapped-out minority Government who are not fit to govern. Secondly, they have obstructed substantive scrutiny of three Finance Bills in a row by not permitting any amendments to the law, which is unprecedented. Thirdly, behind closed doors they agreed a billion-pound deal with another minority party, without proper parliamentary scrutiny or the signatories to the deal being held to account by this place. Fourthly, without precedent they did not provide my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition with the traditional advance copy of the Budget statement. That is wrong. Fifthly, the Chancellor did not even have the courtesy to attend the House when my right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor opened the debate on Tuesday afternoon. That is simply disrespectful, not to the individuals but to the protocols of the House.
The power grab by Ministers continues in the Budget resolutions—for example, in resolution 79, which is worryingly designed to give Ministers the ability to amend key tax legislation ahead of Brexit without parliamentary oversight. That is unprecedented and wrong and we will vote against it. We will continue to raise this egregious contempt for Parliament through any means we possibly can.
“the strivers, the grafters and the carers”—[Official Report,
Vol. 648, c. 653.]
but the spectre of austerity continues to haunt the country, and will do for many years to come.