Building stronger families, stronger communities and a stronger nation
The Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Budget statement against the backdrop and in the shadow of the COVID pandemic, but he also did so unveiling a new era of economic optimism, as we build back better after that pandemic and secure the investment required to make sure that every part of this United Kingdom flourishes economically and every citizen has the chance to achieve their fullest potential.
(The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove)
Budget Resolutions - debated Monday 1 November 2021
"This Government were elected on a mandate to unite and level up, and for my constituents in Penistone and Stocksbridge this Budget will begin to close the gap. I am delighted that the Chancellor has awarded £50,000 to explore the opportunity to restore a passenger rail service between Stocksbridge and Sheffield that could reduce journey times significantly, and open up important opportunities for work, training, leisure and healthcare. I thank Chris Bell and the Don Valley Railway group, who have campaigned for this project for many years.
To create a productive, high-wage economy, we must focus on skills. The last census showed that fewer than 50% of adults in the Stocksbridge and Upper Don ward have a level 3 qualification. That is a significant barrier to progression in work. I am delighted that, in addition to the programmes already announced, the Government’s plan to improve adult numeracy skills with the multiply programme, will be a massive bonus to my constituency. I know that the outstanding Barnsley College and Northern College stand ready to deliver. This is also a great Budget for local businesses, with help for high streets in Penistone, Stocksbridge, Chapeltown, Ecclesfield and Dodworth through reduced and reformed business rates.
Even more importantly than delivering investment in infrastructure and skills, this Budget will level up because it recognises that the true birthplace of opportunity is the family.
Economic circumstances can create a framework for opportunities, but a child’s ability to grasp those opportunities depends for the most part on their family circumstances. It is families that offer children security, and teach them the values and virtues that they need to flourish. That is why the Chancellor rightly says that families and communities are “more important than the market or the state".
The first two years of a child’s life are crucial to their life chances. I warmly welcome the £500 million start for life offer that will roll out family hubs, improve perinatal health, and invest in the early years workforce and parenting skills. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Dame Andrea Leadsom) and my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) for their tireless efforts in advocating for babies, children and families. This investment is desperately needed. If we have learnt anything from the mistaken decision to close schools during the pandemic, we have learnt that we are living through a crisis in parenting. I am delighted that this Budget begins to put that right, and recognises the importance of strong and confident families as the building blocks of society.
This Budget levels up by addressing the causes of inequality and creating the conditions for opportunities to grow and spread. However, I do understand the concerns of those who worry that the Government are doing too much. Big state does not create the best conditions for human freedom and flourishing. There are many problems that the Government cannot solve and the Government cannot make us good.
If the UK was a proud, old Sheffield terraced house, it would be one with some rather worrying cracks in the brickwork. However financially prudent we are as homeowners, we must spend upfront to fix structural issues, otherwise we know that the costs will spiral—in fact, we may lose our house. There are some deep cracks in our nation and we must invest now to fix those problems if we are to move towards a better future.
The ambition must be to develop a new social covenant where the Government provide the framework, but where we all share the responsibility for building stronger families, stronger communities and a stronger nation.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has said that this is a Budget for an “age of optimism”, and I agree. We do not deny the challenges that we face, but we will not be distracted from our vision of Britain as a free, fair and independent country, setting a course towards a future of more equal opportunities and greater prosperity."