Rachel Maclean – 2017 Speech on the Budget

Below is the text of the speech made by Rachel Maclean, the Conservative MP for Redditch, in the House of Commons on 22 November 2017.

It is a great privilege to follow all hon. Members who have spoken, including the hon. Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson), although I take issue with his remarks about Derek Robinson, otherwise known as Red Robbo, who I knew from my days campaigning in Birmingham, Northfield. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that a number of ordinary voters swore to me that they would never vote Labour again after what Derek Robinson did to the British car industry in bringing it to its knees. He was instrumental in destroying it.

As a new Member, it is a great privilege to speak in a Budget debate for the first time. I welcome the Budget. Every Government needs to raise money. We, on the Government Benches, are aware that it is not the Government’s money that is being spent; it is people’s money. Taxes must be raised, and the question is how. As we just heard from the hon. Gentleman, who lauded the communist party’s plans, it is a stark choice. In his response to the Chancellor, I did not hear the Leader of the Opposition explain how he would fund any of his proposals. In contrast, our plans are well thought out. We understand businesses and what is needed to support them. That is why the Federation of Small Businesses has welcomed the Budget announcements today. We chose today to raise taxes on private jets and lower them on young families trying to buy their first house.

I was an entrepreneur for 25 years, before coming into this place. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said, he understands how difficult it is to get a small business off the ground. I, too, understand that; I have lived and breathed it. That is why I am delighted by the measures in the Budget backing entrepreneurial activity in our country. Such measures have already created about 197,000 jobs in our area since 2010, and 275 new businesses have been created in my constituency, which is testimony to the innovative spirit of the people there. I am also delighted about the 6,310 new apprenticeships that have been created—and those are good jobs. We are on the side of working people, and the Chancellor went further today by introducing a £1,075 pay rise for ordinary working people paying the basic rate of tax. That means that people will be better off after this Budget.

I think this is a Budget that advances our country. It does not recede, which is what some Opposition Members would like to do. Another great Conservative reforming Prime Minister, Robert Peel, said that we must make a choice between advancing and receding. He understood free trade, and that is the direction in which the Conservatives are going.

Corporation tax receipts have increased by £20 billion since 2010, and there are 5.5 million more small businesses. Think how many more schools and hospitals can be funded by the tax receipts that are coming into the Treasury! We have fairer business rates, and I welcome the Chancellor’s decision to remove the staircase tax and reform business rates relief. What would Labour do? It would borrow more, and it totally lacks any coherent narrative. When we came to office in 2010, borrowing stood at £73.26 billion—3.8% of GDP. Now it is down to £49 billion—2.4% of GDP—and the Chancellor has set out how it will fall further. My constituents will welcome that sensible approach to managing the economy. We know that borrowing more does not work. We have already tried that experiment. It crashed the economy, and ordinary working people, such as those in my constituency, paid the price.

I welcome the Chancellor’s focus on the midlands engine. As a midlands MP, I have seen for myself the results of the hard work that he has put into the West Midlands combined authority devolution deal, led by Andy Street, which will benefit us in Redditch. Make no mistake, however: I will be bending the Chancellor’s ear to ensure that Redditch also benefits from, for instance, an institute for technology to harness its skills and make it go further, and an express train from Redditch to Birmingham.

I recognise that there is still a productivity gap between the regions in our country, and between cities and the towns outside them—for example, Redditch. That is why I welcome the £31 billion productivity fund and the increase in research and development funding, which has also been welcomed by the Royal Society. It said:

“This budget sends a clear signal that the Government is focused on the UK’s technological future, and the crucial pipeline of skills needed to ensure that we remain at the forefront of the technological revolution”.

I am delighted that more tech businesses have been started, and that the Chancellor wants to see more still. A tech business is started every half hour. As the founder of a tech business myself, I know that, like me, my former colleagues will welcome the more generous enterprise investment scheme that the Chancellor has announced today.

I have mentioned the taxes that the Government have already raised, and will continue to raise as a result of the Budget measures. I am delighted to see that that money is going into our hospitals: there is £10 billion for the NHS. The Chancellor will not be surprised to learn that I shall be lobbying him, and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, for more money to go to Alexandra Hospital in my constituency. Some funds have already been pledged through the sustainability and transformation plan, and I am delighted that that has been underpinned today. I hope that there will be funds, for which I have been lobbying strenuously, to help the hospital to deal with winter pressures.

Young people in Redditch will welcome the housing measures. I have just received an e-mail from a constituent, Mr Andrew Ball, who is currently buying a small house in the Church Hill ward. He is due to save £280, which is very handy just before Christmas.

There are people who are absolutely delighted about these measures, and I am shocked by some of the negativity that I have heard from Opposition Members. I think that we should be positive and project an outward-looking vision of our country, beyond the four walls of the House and into the outside world.

As I listened to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor delivering his Budget, I was struck once again by the resonance of the words of Robert Peel. We face a choice between fearlessly shaping the future and retreating into the past. It is the choice between an open, innovative society and a closed, narrow one. Shall our motto be “advance” or “recede”? We on the Government Benches make our choice of a country welcoming change and welcoming the future. Therefore, I welcome this Budget.