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Summer Budget 2015

Volume 599: debated on Wednesday 16 September 2015

With your permission, Mr Speaker, I congratulate the new shadow Wales team and welcome them to their places. I particularly congratulate the hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith), and wish her well in her new role.

The summer Budget was a one nation Budget to benefit the whole of the United Kingdom. It was a Budget to help to create a higher-wage, lower-tax, lower-welfare economy, and a Budget to reward hard work while protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) on her very well-deserved promotion. The Budget actually cut millions from over 200,000 working families in Wales. How can the Secretary of State justify pushing even more Welsh children into poverty?

I just do not accept the right hon. Lady’s charge. We discussed this issue at length in this place yesterday, and the measures passed with a comfortable majority. The truth is that the vast majority of people in Wales will benefit financially from all the measures we are putting in place through the Budget. I never thought I would see the day when Labour Members stood up to talk down the efforts we are making to increase pay for working people across Wales.

What happened to the level of unemployment in Wales over the lifetime of the last Parliament, and what impact does the Secretary of State think the Budget will have on employment over the lifetime of this Parliament?

My hon. Friend asks a really good question. What we have seen over the past five years, despite the scaremongering and Labour’s talking down of the Welsh economy, is unemployment continuing to fall. Today’s figures demonstrate once again that record numbers of people in Wales are going back to work—there is no reason to think that that will not continue—and we will achieve our long-term ambition of full employment.

The Prime Minister repeatedly promised before the election not to cut child tax credits, so will the Secretary of State explain to the 250,000 families in Wales who are losing an average of £1,000 a year, 90% of which will not be recouped by the rise in the minimum wage, just why his Conservative Government are breaking that promise? By reducing work incentives and hitting low-income families, any pretence they ever had to represent working people has been exposed as the sham it always was.

I am really surprised by the tone that the shadow Secretary of State adopts for her first question. As I said, we discussed this issue at length yesterday. We have just come through an election in which the people of this country gave a very strong mandate and endorsement to one party to carry on fixing the economy and reducing the deficit. We cannot get on top of that or achieve it without tackling our spiralling welfare costs. I thought during the election campaign that Labour Members seemed to be getting close to understanding that, but I now see that they have abandoned all hope.

We have a broken promise on child tax credits. The majority of the 250,000 families affected are in work, and the Government are deliberately choosing to push them into poverty. It is not only they who will lose out. These cuts will suck £200 million out of the Welsh economy, which is money that families, out of sheer necessity, spend directly in their local high streets. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the knock-on effects of that lost income on jobs in our communities across Wales?

Ahead of the summer Budget, we of course analysed how the measures taken together would affect people up and down the country. As I have said, eight out of 10 families will be better off as a result of the measures we are taking. The hon. Lady knows as well as I do that low pay has been a curse on the Welsh economy for far too long. I repeat the point that I never thought I would see the day when Labour Members stood up to talk down the efforts that we are making to drive up wage levels for people all across our country.