David Wright: Is my hon. Friend interested, as I am, in the line developed by the Liberal Democrats that the 50p rate was in place only at the end of the previous Labour Government for a very short time?
David Wright: Indeed. This is all about the choices made to bring down the deficit. We made a choice—a forward offer or plan—to use a higher top rate of income tax to bring down the deficit, and the Liberal Democrats decided to vote against that strategy.
David Wright: When the Chancellor decided to increase VAT, he must have asked Treasury officials to produce projections on its likely impact on the economy at that point. It would be interesting, would it not, to compare the projections given to him by Treasury officials with an official report, which this new clause suggests should be commissioned, to see whether the two tally up?
David Wright: Will my hon. Friend give way?
David Wright: As my hon. Friend will have noted, the new clause states that the Chancellor should produce a report within three months of the passing of the Act. I suspect that the Treasury already have these figures and could probably move more quickly. If her point about businesses is right and businesses are complaining to Members, they must also be feeding this information back to the Treasury, so I...
David Wright: Will my hon. Friend give us a bit more detail about new clause 1? I would like the study to look at the impact of VAT on the poorest people in our community, who are hit disproportionately by increases in VAT. The Conservative party has form on VAT, so the poorest people will be very concerned that it will rise again after the election.
David Wright: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that VAT is a regressive tax in principle? Can he tell us why the Government chose to use an increase in VAT as a tool for bringing down the deficit?
David Wright: I am pleased to say that Telford & Wrekin council has signed the covenant on a cross-party basis. What has the Minister done internally, within the Government, to ensure that individual Departments are delivering on the covenant? The Ministry of Defence is doing a very good job, but it is important for other Departments to commit themselves as well.
David Wright: One of the messages that this Government tried to give out at the start of this Parliament was that they would try to bring forward less legislation and deal with it comprehensively and carefully. They have clearly failed in that process because we have these motions before us tonight. When I was in the Whips Office under the previous Government, we moved a large number of Bills through this...
David Wright: What work is being done on increased demand for bus use and the development of road infrastructure in England? It is very important in towns such as Telford, which are car-reliant because of their new-town nature, that bus transport is promoted hard.
David Wright: Is it not also the case that many people who are in work are receiving benefits, and is that not a symptom of the low-wage economy? Given that we are discussing budget responsibility, is my right hon. Friend as concerned as I am about the fact that the Chancellor promised an unfunded tax cut at the Conservative party conference, but is talking about consolidation today?
David Wright: It is quite obvious how to devolve more powers to large metropolitan areas, but how do we deal with towns, such as Telford, that sit outside large metropolitan areas? Would it not be better to throw the issues about broader devolution right across England into a constitutional convention?
David Wright: I think we would all acknowledge that there has always been a problem with people and families going hungry in this country. It is nothing new, but how does the hon. Gentleman explain the huge increase in the number of people presenting at food banks in recent years?
David Wright: I echo the Minister by thanking Telford Crisis Network for the work that it does on the food bank in Telford, along with a community store. He has moved very quickly on to thanking volunteers, quite rightly, but can I take him back a step? Why does he think there has been such a significant increase in the use of food banks? That is a very simple question.
David Wright: As someone who represents a constituency in a border county on the Welsh Marches, let me say that we would like to see more support and help for young people to get them into work, and to follow some of the examples in Wales that have been getting people into work. It is important for the economies of the Welsh Marches and the border counties that Wales has a strong economy. That is why this...
David Wright: Access to start-up finance is clearly very important for small businesses, but businesses also need growth funding. They need to be able to consolidate and expand their businesses. Businesses in Telford often tell me that they want to take the next step forward but find it difficult to secure finance. What more can the Government do to support them?
David Wright: I support the point made by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Duncan Hames). Why are some of my constituents from Telford awaiting a PIP assessment being told that they will have to go to Stoke-on-Trent? It is an 80-mile round trip. One of the journey recommendations provided to one of my constituents involved sitting on a railway platform overnight waiting for a train. This is a disgrace....
David Wright: Is not careers advice therefore important in partnership with employers? The CBI has described the system of careers advice as being on life support. What will the Minister do to improve careers advice and ensure that people moving out of the baccalaureate can go forward and get employment?
David Wright: What local economic impact assessment is being undertaken on each of the bids coming in as part of the Defence Support Group sell-off?
David Wright: I agree with pretty much everything that the hon. Gentleman has said. One big problem is that many hospital trusts have gone into fairly long-term contractual arrangements with private sector car parking providers. Alongside the broader points that he makes about hospital funding and PFI, the Government should examine the structure of the parking contracts that hospital trusts have put in...