Seema in the House of Commons Chamber responding to the Budget
Seema in the House of Commons Chamber responding to the Budget

Last week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, gave the Spring Budget to inform MPs of the Treasury’s financial commitments for the next year.

This Budget was a chance for the government to unlock Britain’s promise and potential. But instead they decided to continue papering over the cracks of 13 years of economic failure – offering sticking-plaster politics rather than a long-term solution.

The first test for the Budget was whether people would be better or worse off as a result. In my speech in Parliament I said why the Chancellor has failed that first test. The Treasury’s own forecast and analysis delivers a damning verdict. Real household income is due to fall by 5.7% in the next two years – the largest two-year fall since records began in the 1950s. Living standards will continue to be lower than pre-pandemic levels even up to 2028.

The Chancellor missed the chance to end non-dom tax status, which could have funded an expansion of the NHS workforce. He pledged £200 million for potholes – which is all very well and much needed, except that the highways maintenance budget was cut in 2021 by £400 million, enough to fill 8 million potholes.

The only surprise was a handout for the richest 1% and their pension pots, costing the country £1 billion.

Labour is optimistic and ambitious for Britain, but we know we also need to rebuild our economy and restore our reputation after the devastating damage of the last 13 years, especially September’s mini-budget.

The investment that businesses undertake to develop products and services, increase productivity, and create jobs is crucial.

The challenge that we have in the UK is that business investment has been lagging for years because of 13 years of Tory failure. That was a problem before the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, and makes it much harder for us to recover from those shocks. It is a consequence of the low-growth, low-productivity and high-tax economy that Tories have created.

People in Feltham and Heston are suffering from a deeper cost of living crisis because of the continual chopping and changing of Government policies and priorities. This has made our economy less stable and has contributed to falling living standards, falling business confidence and falling consumer confidence.

The Budget was a missed opportunity. We needed to see a strong, serious industrial policy framework for the long term that businesses could trust and that could bring clarity, consistency, stability and certainty, which are even more necessary in the uncertain world that we face.

What we saw was little more than tinkering around the edges, more sticking-plaster politics and more attempts at short-term fixes. This Budget falls way short of the wider plan for green growth that our businesses and communities have also been calling for.

Roundtables I am doing in Hounslow and with small businesses across the country have shown how much green measures needs to be central to our plans for growth. We should be using economic measures like President Biden has introduced in the USA to capitalise on our world-leading aviation sector and give it help to develop Sustainable Aircraft Fuel. If we don’t invest as a nation now, that’s another race another country will win. Yet all we see from the Government is a record of failure and a lack of ambition.

What a contrast it is with Labour’s clear strategic missions for the British economy and our goal of securing the highest sustained growth in the G7 to create good jobs and productivity growth across every part of our country, as well as our Green Prosperity Plan – slashing energy bills for good and creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs, while providing global leadership in tackling the climate crisis.

Where the government has thrown in the towel, Labour will build a better Britain.

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