Friday, 16 January 2015

Speech on budget responsibility, manufacturing, unemployment figures and labour tax plans

On Tuesday I gave a short speech in the House of Commons on balancing the books, and support for manufacturing and the growth of apprentices. Time was limited but I hope I made a few good points.

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con):
I support the charter for budget responsibility. I think it is a good thing and a vital part of the long-term economic plan. For four and a half years we have been faced with a Labour Opposition who have opposed every single budget reduction, and I have no faith in Labour choosing fiscal discipline in future years. As various Members have eloquently explained, the Labour party is effectively France in all but name. It wishes to have a socialist Government with higher taxes, and all the financial and economic consequences that that would bring.

This coalition Government have turned around manufacturing—we have seen tremendous increases in manufacturing, particularly in the north-east. We have infrastructure support, city deals, regional devolution on a scale not seen before, support for apprenticeships, fuel duty frozen, increases to the fairer funding formula on education, and reductions in unemployment in every constituency across the north-east, including by 50% in my constituency. We should be proud of that genuinely good record.
The consequences need to be addressed, too. The shadow Chancellor, as usual, did not answer my question. I put it to him that the north-east has the fastest rate of growth of private sector business in the autumn quarter and the highest growth in the value of exports, and it is the No. 1 exporter, with a positive balance of payments.

Gordon Birtwistle (Burnley) (LD):
My hon. Friend mentions manufacturing. Has he heard anything from the Opposition about how they intend to expand manufacturing? He will remember that they managed to reduce it from 22% of GDP to 11%. Has he heard anything about how they plan to reverse that trend, if they come to power?
Guy Opperman:
Absolutely nothing whatever. My hon. Friend and I are leading lights in the all-party apprenticeships group, which has seen fantastic work. I should probably make a declaration that I am the first MP to hire, train and then retain an apprentice as an office manager—not as an MP, I hasten to add—because she was doing a fantastic job.
On what the Opposition intend to do, we have to address the deficit. The Chancellor eloquently put it that the Leader of the Opposition is practising Basil Fawlty politics by not mentioning the deficit at every opportunity. We also have to look at fiscal consolidation. We all heard what the shadow Chancellor said today, but what did the Leader of the Opposition say only on Sunday on “The Andrew Marr Show”? He said that
“if we…cut our way to getting rid of this deficit, it won’t work”.

So there goes fiscal tightening in any way whatever.
To the clarification put to Miliband by Marr that:
“that requires a £30 billion fiscal tightening”,
he replied, “I don’t accept that.”

Whatever the Opposition say today, the reality will always be that the Labour party will introduce greater taxes and greater borrowing, and greater difficulties for our children.

On attempts to address the deficit, other Members have made the point, including my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), that raising the tax rate to 50% will not
increase the tax take by any margin and will actually disincrease investment. On the minimum wage, tax credits from the coalition have already addressed that in a very successful form and we intend to raise it. I heard on the BBC “Daily Politics” today the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) proposing that his plan for addressing the deficit was an increase in gun licences. That may be laudable, I do not know, and I am sure he has fiscally costed this matter in great detail, but if that is his plan to address the entirety of the deficit, we really are in more trouble than we thought.

We were indeed fortunate to hear from the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless). It is always a pleasure to comment on his speech. I will not cast aspersions on his honour, but I will attack his memory and grasp of economics. He supported the coalition as we did the tough work from 2010.
Steve Baker:
Will my hon. Friend give way?
Guy Opperman:
I will not. I am so sorry, but I have zero time. Mr Reckless supported us then, but he does not support us now.