It is an honour to speak in this debate and to follow Thelma Walker.
One of the most striking things about the Chancellor’s Budget speech was the moment in history that it reflected. As the Committee will know, in 2010 the Government—the coalition Government, as then was—inherited the largest peacetime deficit in our history, yet the Chancellor was able to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that the deficit had fallen by four fifths, from just under 10% to 1.9%, and that it would be less than 1% by 2023-24. This is an extraordinary achievement, not of this House or even this Government, but of the British people, who, yes, have had to cut their cloth to make it happen. However, it has been an essential task, yet sometimes, listening to some hon. Members, we can be led to believe that it could have been wished away, that it did not matter or that it was something that the Conservative party invented.
But that is not so. The deficit is a real, serious thing. The deficit is the debt that we pass on to our children and to our children’s children. It is the debt that we have not cleared ourselves. We have a responsibility to the future. We have a responsibility to pass on a natural environment that is not polluted and we have a duty to pass an economy that is not polluted.