Budget Debate

3rd March 2021

Andrew Mitchell praises the Chancellor for an “excellent Budget”.


Mr Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con)

I draw the House’s attention to my external interests as set out in the register. I have come this afternoon to praise what I think is an excellent Budget. If you listened carefully, Madam Deputy Speaker, to the two main Front-Bench speeches, it was clear that they do not in truth think that much of it is wrong.
This has been a year in which truthfully the Government have used taxpayers’ funds to protect livelihoods, help business and help the least well off, and it was additional relief today to see that unemployment was not as bad as many of us feared. The first point I want to make is that this is an excellent Budget that will contribute greatly to Britain coming out of recession and out of this crisis over the coming months.
The second point I want to make is that I listened carefully to the speech of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne). He is clearly in campaigning mode, but one of the real winners from the Budget today is the west midlands, and it is a huge tribute to Andy Street, the brilliant mayor that we have. He and I have lobbied the Chancellor together, as have many Members of Parliament in the region.
Andy Street has done a brilliant job, and what today shows is that he is brilliant at getting the Government to deliver for the west midlands. He called for apprenticeships incentives. He called for extending furlough. He called for an extension of the VAT cuts for hospitality and tourism and for cash grants for businesses reopening. There is nearly £100 million for the Black Country town and city centres—a particular issue that he championed—and £59 million for stations to be opened. I express my very strong support for the wise way in which he is delivering for the west midlands, and in particular I support his transport plan. We will of course be looking for more in future as we seek to reopen the Sutton Park line, but the Budget today is a triumph for the efforts and hard work of a brilliant mayor who is delivering for the west midlands and everyone who lives there.
My third and final point is that I was hoping the Chancellor would announce today that this was not the year to cut the 0.7% promise. We have seen vividly over recent days in Yemen what the effect of that cut will be. Launching global Britain post Brexit means it is not the year to do it. Being in the middle of a global pandemic emphasises that it is not the year, and our chairing of the G7—we are the only country in the G7 that is cutting development spending—also shows it is not the year. We would be breaking our promise to the poorest people in the world, were this cut to go ahead.
Every Member of this House was elected just a year ago on a promise to stand by 0.7%. It reflects our economic circumstances, and it has gone down so much, as it must, because the economy has contracted. That is a big enough cut. I very much hope the Government will think again. They must at least check with the House and have a vote in the House. Brexit is about giving more power to Parliament. The law of the land is 0.7% and it needs parliamentary assent for any change.