Budget Resolutions

On Tuesday 12 March the Budget resolutions were debated following the Chancellor’s speech last Wednesday 6 March 2024.  I was called to speak during the debate just as  

Madame Deputy Speaker imposed a 7 minute time limit on backbench speeches: Here is my speech: 

Seven is my favourite number, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for North West Norfolk (James Wild).

It is a fact that when we speak in the Budget debate, which is the bread and butter of our work, we may not get the hearing we want. We have to live with the sad fact that the song “Murder on the Dancefloor” will be streamed more than our speeches, or maybe just my speeches. I refer hon. Members to a line from that song:

“better not steal the moves”.

However, it seems the Chancellor did, because he abolished non-dom status—a move that had been trailed for some time by the Opposition. I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I say to the residents of Walsall that, yes, we can work within the fiscal envelope, but our choices will be different. What did the Chancellor actually do to solve the problems of the country? Nothing. He said nothing about hedge fund managers having made £53 billion in profits for investors. Why is that not harnessed for society? The water companies pour effluent into our rivers. They broke the law, and awarded themselves £10 million in bonuses and £14 million in incentive payments, but they want to charge us £156 extra to plug a financial gap. What would we do? We would end self-monitoring and force companies to monitor every single outlet, so that they cannot cover up illegal sewage dumping.

The Chancellor mentioned a new tax on vaping—we have seen vape shops proliferate on the high street—and the freezing of alcohol duty, which helps pubs, but he said nothing about the high street. Those working on the high street worked during the pandemic and beyond, and they still face abuse in work, but there is nothing for them. They are on low pay or in insecure work. He could have given them the real living wage, based on the cost of living. There was nothing for the high street that would help retailers compete with online businesses.

What about local government? Schools are struggling with dilapidated, toxic buildings or a lack of staff. The staff are paid less than they would be for working for an online company, so when they leave school, they go and work for that company. Special educational needs pupils are being failed. Councils still have to bid for money. Walsall Council cannot even respond to fly-tipping, manage trees or invest in a rat-catcher. That is a public health issue and affects people’s lives. People need to know the connection: the Government cut the grants to local authorities, and the council is forced to raise council tax just to stand still. There may be a cut in national insurance, but people will have to pay for it through increased council tax.

As a lawyer and a member of the Law Society, I know that the legal system is shaky. It is the quiet and calm place where disputes are settled. It is there to keep communities safe and it is worth £60 billion. There is a dearth of duty solicitors. Legal firms are small and medium-sized enterprises, and they are struggling to attract staff. Will the Minister work with the Law Society and support firms to increase civil legal aid so that they can give people the right advice to prevent their becoming homeless, as well as giving opportunities for legal apprentices to make their way in careers in the law?

What about the NHS? The Government are only funding additional roles. NHS Facts and Stats states that England does not have a shortage of GPs, but rather a practice funding shortage, with a 20% reduction in pounds per patient since 2016. What would Labour do? The shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has said that we would deal with waste: the £1.7 billion spent on hospital beds because patients cannot be discharged; the £3.5 is paid to recruitment agencies because the Government have failed to train enough staff; the £626 million spent by the Department of Health and Social Care on management consultants. Further, £1 billion could be saved through bulk buying equipment. We have not even started on the personal protective equipment fiasco! We would work in partnership with businesses in the private sector, just as we announced yesterday for the national wealth fund, so that for every £1 the public sector spends, £1 is raised in the private sector from the green finance initiative.

From the international situation, our constituents are numb to just getting by with the cost of living. We say to them: “We believe in you. We will give you the skills and your rights at work. We will do what is needed for public services and support you with a safety net as needed. We believe in you and support you to live safe, happy, productive and secure lives.”


You can see my speech below in the video: