Valerie Speaks in the Budget Debate

The Chancellor of the Exchequer set out the Government’s  Budget on 15 March 2023. The Budget was followed by four days of debate on the Budget Resolutions. Each day of debate covers a different policy area. I made a speech to the House on Tuesday 21 March 2023. Here is my speech: 

We have had plenty of Budget debates, but this Budget has not fixed anything. The Chancellor stood here, in the middle of the strikes and the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank, and said nothing about those events in his speech—just like an avatar Chancellor. For months, the unions asked to meet, but the Government refused, hoping to break them. The unions were not moved, except to make a concession, but, like President Zelensky, their cause was right. Worst of all, as a former Secretary of State for Health, the Chancellor knows the cause of the junior doctors, because he picked a fight with them, allowing a few senior doctors to top up their pension while denying the many junior doctors a decent pay rise. We need to be able to recruit and retain our brilliant staff who take care of the country when we need it most: the public servants, like the late Ruth Perry.

I agree with the Chancellor on something—getting rid of local enterprise partnerships, which are totally unaccountable—but he is placing his faith in the Mayor, who is so far removed from my constituents. There was a press release in my inbox at 8.30 am on 14 March, the day before the Budget, crowing about the west midlands being an investment zone. I thought we had to hear about it here in the House first.

The Chancellor set out his Es. We know what happens to people who have too many Es, but this Budget was not hyperactive. It fixed nothing, not even the economic injustice of non-dom status. Nor did it impose a further windfall tax on the huge profits of energy companies while people need support with their heating bills. There is £10.4 billion on the table.

There was nothing about the problems that local authorities have faced over the years. In Conservative-controlled Walsall, we have an abandoned town hall with no one there. The former police station on Green Lane is a pile of rubble. Nothing has changed. Jack Lowe, who was 18, Bailey Atkinson and Akeem Francis-Kerr were murdered in and around the town centre. On Milton Street, there are prostitutes and drug dealing—shopkeepers are saying they are tired of seeing young people with money in their pockets. I thank the Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster and Chief Superintendent Phil Dolby for meeting me on Friday to discuss the situation.

Our Sure Starts, an important focus for families, are gone. Palfrey Sure Start was rated outstanding. There is a lack of health visitors to support families. There is no investment in schools; Blue Coat Church of England Academy is still waiting for money to fix its heating. There is no direct support for children or for those who have been excluded from school. The Chancellor talks about childcare, but his policy will not come into effect until 2024. And what about social care? There is nothing. This Budget fixes nothing. It does not invest in people.

The Chancellor wants to get people with disabilities back into work, but we cannot even get a lift to help people with disabilities or parents with pushchairs to access Bescot Stadium station. I wrote to the Minister, who told me to write to the Mayor; the Mayor told me to write to the Minister again. He said that there was no money, but he has £70 million of unspent Commonwealth games legacy funding. My constituents cannot wait until 2029 for access.

The Chancellor said that he wants us to be the best place to do business and work and the best place for research and development, but what about other research? It cannot all be about digital and computers. He truly is an avatar Chancellor. There was no explanation for the return to the Treasury of £1.6 billion that should have been allocated to Horizon Europe. Is that what is holding us back from joining Horizon? Will the Chief Secretary to the Treasury please ensure that it is paid over so our scientists can collaborate on their research?

There is a democratic deficit. I have outlined the stuff of life that keeps people in our communities going. The Chancellor missed out an E—E for excuses—but so far the country has given him an F for failure. He is failing our constituents, our communities and the country. There is an alternative. It is time for change, and only Labour can bring that change.