Priti Patel welcomes Budget which supports aspiration, opportunity and freedom
Priti Patel congratulates the Chancellor on the Budget which supports aspiration, opportunity and freedom and in particular new capital investment in the NHS and support for house building and small businesses.
It is a real pleasure to follow the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson); this is the first time in a while that we have debated in the Chamber together.
I commend my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the Budget. From my ministerial apprenticeship at the Treasury three years ago, I recall the great efforts that the then Chancellor and the entire team made to put the Budget together, particularly as Ministers were lobbied constantly by a whole range of interests. It is, of course, a challenge to balance the needs with the responsibility to keep the public finances in good, sound, solid order. The Treasury should be commended for navigating those pressures and for continuing to put stability at the core of the Budget. Economic stability should rightly stand at the core of every Budget.
It is worth reminding Members, especially those on the Opposition Benches, of the progress that has been made in putting the public finances back in order after the appalling situation in 2010. Back then, the budget deficit exceeded £150 billion—more than our spending on health, education, policing and the armed forces. The level of public spending was financed by borrowing that was totally unsustainable. We know that the Opposition, who are chuntering away, never want to take responsibility for how they mishandled the public finances and love to point the finger of blame elsewhere, but it is a fact that before the financial crisis, the Labour Government racked up an eye-watering level of debt.
In 2010, the Conservative Government said they would eliminate the deficit by 2015. They were aware of the deficit at that stage, so why did they fail?
The obvious answer is the scale of Labour’s economic mismanagement. The hon. Gentleman will recall that his party’s 2008 Budget planned for a £43 billion deficit, which is more than all the revenues raised in excise duty. That says everything we need to know about Labour’s financial economic management.
Does my right hon. Friend not think that the Opposition have a brass neck to intervene on her in that way? They criticise the Government for not cutting the deficit faster, yet on every single occasion when they have been invited to support the deficit-cutting strategy they have voted against it.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. On many occasions since 2010, the Labour party has not only not supported the Government’s approach on deficit reduction, but failed to vote to support policies to reduce the deficit and bring sound financial economic management back into our public finances. We have come a long way on bringing the deficit down and understanding the reasons why sound financial management matters. We need money to be available to invest in our public services. We need an economy that embraces enterprise, which brings in the tax receipts to pay for hospitals, schools, police and the armed forces. Today’s Budget absolutely recognises that fundamental point.
We have heard criticism in the debate about the NHS. Our NHS is a great institution. It is right that the Chancellor has today committed more public funds— billions—to the NHS. As an Essex Member of Parliament, I am delighted to see new support and capital investment in the NHS. Frankly, for 13 years under Labour, health services in Essex went backwards and suffered from underfunding. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) is right to say that Labour Members have a brass neck criticising the work we have been doing and the investment we have made.
One great success since 2010 is the record level of job creation in our economy. Like many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I recall sitting through these debates from 2010 onwards hearing doom and gloom and scaremongering from the Labour party, with outlandish claims about unemployment and recession. As we know, those predictions proved to be completely wrong. In today’s Budget, we heard about greater investment in key sectors going forward. We know we have to think about the future of the labour market. Automation will be coming in, and we need to consider how we can invest in construction and key services.
Does the right hon. Lady not recognise that under the Labour Government the economy grew by 40% in the 10 years to 2008? The Conservative Government have doubled debt from 45% to 90% of the economy and we have the lowest growth in the G7. Surely that is not a success.
In my constituency, the claimant count has fallen by 70% from its peak under Gordon Brown, and there has been a 17% growth in small enterprises. That means more jobs for my constituents and the county of Essex. We should welcome that, rather than talk it down.
Can my right hon. Friend recall an occasion when the Labour party talked up the economy, or is it always about more spending, more borrowing, more debt and more benefits and taking the country back to the brink?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have 32 million people in work and unemployment at a record low, and Opposition Members talk our country and our economy down. They seem to have a pathological hatred of enterprise, aspiration and free markets. They call for higher taxes on businesses, which only serve their agenda to tighten controls on the free market, stifle innovation and stop businesses succeeding. As we know, that is exactly what would harm the economy in the long run.
As we have seen in the Budget today, great Conservative Budgets support aspiration, opportunity and freedom. That is why the Conservative party has always been on the side of people who work hard and want to get on in life and own their own home. The Budget makes welcome changes to stamp duty to help people get on the property ladder: 95% of first-time buyers will now benefit and 80% will pay no stamp duty at all. That is the right action to support home ownership and increase supply through the investment announced in the Budget.
I stress to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench the importance of ensuring investment in infrastructure around new housing from private as well as public sources. In Essex, we have been working assiduously to secure investment from the Government in a passing rail loop north of Witham and the upgrading of the A120—critical investments that will promote and support housebuilding in that part of Essex—and also to ensure greater private funding, including from innovative financial products, to reduce the risk to the public purse and to secure more private sector contributions to deliver critical infrastructure.
As we plan for our exit from the EU on 29 March 2019, it is right that the Budget has set us on a course to make the most of the long-term opportunities that Britain will have. Of course, that means being a global beacon for free trade, a place that welcomes investment from overseas and enterprise, and finding ways to unlock the talent in this country.
I again welcome the new investment that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced in terms of skills, critical sectors and investing in people. There are fantastic opportunities not just for the City of London but for our country, and plenty of reasons to be optimistic when it comes to trading with the rest of the world and growing our economy. We must look outwards rather than inwards. This is a Budget that will facilitate a positive international vision for Britain. That is how we will be judged in the years ahead. It stands in marked contrast to the policies of the Labour party, which wants to tax more and thereby harm our country and our economy. Most importantly, however, this Budget lays the foundations for a Britain fit for the future.