Budget Statement Debate

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Department: Cabinet Office
Wednesday 18th March 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Moved by
Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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That this House takes note of the economy in the light of the Budget statement.

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office and the Treasury (Lord Agnew of Oulton) (Con)
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My Lords, last Wednesday, the Chancellor laid down a Budget that backed business and innovation and gave support to public services with the aim of levelling up the entire country. But in the course of a week, the world has changed. Many of the things that I will say will appear out of date, but we need to see beyond the hopefully short-term impact of this pandemic.

To start with coronavirus, the Budget set out the initial economic response, but this has quite rightly been overshadowed by a far more substantial package announced over the last few days. The initial plan included a £30 billion plan: to support the NHS needs in staff and the search for medicines; to support workers, with expanded guarantees for statutory sick pay; and to support businesses with a comprehensive and coherent package of tax reliefs and loans.

But with the worsening situation, the Chancellor has responded with further urgent action. He has expanded the amount that businesses can borrow from the new temporary coronavirus business interruption loan scheme from £1.2 million to £5 million. For those businesses affected most by essential distancing measures in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector, including shops, cinemas, restaurants, music venues, museums, art galleries, and theatres, the Government will, for this coming year, abolish their business rates altogether.

Alongside this, the Government are increasing grants to small businesses eligible for small business rate relief from £3,000 to £10,000. To cope with cash-flow problems, the Chancellor has announced a programme of loans and guarantees to support firms through the economic emergency. In total, he will make available an initial £330 billion of guarantees, equivalent to 15% of the UK’s GDP. These are extraordinary times and the Chancellor has responded at a scale to reflect this. The plan recognises that coronavirus will have a significant impact on our economy. This is a serious and sensible effort to make sure that the impact will be temporary.

This brings me to the growth forecasts. I recognise that the OBR’s calculations were completed before the full extent of the impact of coronavirus became as clear as it is now. But, even before coronavirus hit, we were facing a slowing world economy. When combined with the political uncertainty over the last few years, the OBR had trimmed our productivity forecast over the relevant period and slightly reduced forecast GDP growth, compared with the March 2019 forecast. This makes it all the more important that the Government act bravely and take decisions now for our future prosperity. Outside the coronavirus intervention, the Government are investing an additional £175 billion over the next five years in infrastructure and innovation. At the time, the OBR said that these plans could boost growth over the next two years by 0.5 percentage points. It had expected that half a million more people would be in work by 2025 and that wages would grow in real terms in every year of the forecast period. The OBR had forecast 1.4% for this year, increasing to 1.8% next year and then, for the rest of the forecast period, remaining on or around target.

Let me turn to the fiscal forecasts. The impact of coronavirus, and the Government’s necessary response, will lead to a significant increase in borrowing. But we are equipped to manage this need. The hard work of the last 10 years has left our public finances in a strong place, with the deficit down from above 10% in 2009-10 to less than 2% last year. While borrowing will increase this year, we expect this spike to be temporary. As the OBR has said, the medium-term impact on borrowing will likely be limited. The Government were elected on a manifesto that promised to maintain fiscal prudence; we are doing everything we can to honour that while also facing down the immediate risks and planning for longer-term prosperity.

The Government’s plan for prosperity starts immediately by helping people with the cost of living. Changes to the national living wage, income tax and national insurance mean that someone working full-time on the minimum wage will be more than £5,200 a year better off than in 2010. The Chancellor also confirmed that, from January next year, there will be no VAT on any women’s sanitary products, fuel duty will remain frozen for another year, the planned rise in beer duty will be cancelled, and the Government will freeze duties for cider and wine drinkers as well. For only the second time in almost 20 years, that is every one of our alcohol duties frozen. This Government promised to cut taxes and the cost of living, and we are aiming to deliver on this.

Nothing helps more with the cost of living than putting more money into people’s pockets through a thriving private sector. The Chancellor gave his full backing to business with £130 million of new funding to extend start-up loans, £200 million for the British Business Bank to invest in scale-ups, £200 million for life sciences and £5 billion for new export loans for businesses.

This was a Budget that also showed support for business through the tax system. The research and development expenditure credit will be increased from 12% to 13%—a tax cut worth £2,400 on a typical R&D claim. The structures and buildings allowance will be increased from 2% to 3%, giving an extra £100,000 of relief for those investing in a building worth £10 million. To cut taxes on employment, the Government will increase the employment allowance by a third to £4,000. That is a tax cut, this April, for nearly half a million small businesses.

The next part of the Government’s plan for prosperity is to invest in ideas, in brilliant scientists and in cutting-edge technologies that will shape the economies of the future. The Budget will increase investment in R&D to £22 billion a year, the fastest and largest increase in R&D spend ever. Detailed allocations of our new investment in ideas will be set out in the spending review, but the Budget gave us a flavour, including over £900 million in nuclear fusion, space and electric vehicles and at least £800 million in a new blue-skies funding agency to conceive the next world-changing technology. There is a further £800 million to establish two or more new carbon capture and storage clusters by 2030. This work will be needed to create the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future all around the country. It will also be needed to help us transition to a low-carbon economy with new green technologies.

The Budget has helped us on our journey to net zero by 2050. It will raise the climate change levy on gas, extend the climate change agreements scheme for energy-intensive industries for a further two years and introduce a new plastics packaging tax that will increase the use of recycled plastic in packaging by 40%. We are also abolishing the red diesel relief for all but a few specific sectors.

As well as taxing pollution, the Government will invest in and cut taxes on clean transport with a package of reforms to make it cheaper to buy zero or low-emissions cars, vans, motorbikes and taxis. We are providing £500 million to support the rollout of new rapid charging hubs so that drivers are never more than 30 miles from being able to charge up their car. Taken together, this Budget invests £1 billion in green transport solutions.

We are providing £640 million for a new nature for climate fund to plant around 30,000 hectares of trees—a forest larger than Birmingham—and to restore 35,000 hectares of peatland, all of which helps capture carbon. This Government intend to be the first in history to leave our natural environment in a better state than we found it, while making sure that we have the means to protect ourselves when the natural environment shows its power. The recent floods devastated homes and businesses across the country; the Budget made available £120 million immediately to repair defences damaged in the winter floods and £200 million of funding to local communities to build flood resilience, and we promised to double our investment in flood defences over the next six years to £5.2 billion.

This Government have spoken a great deal about levelling up. Last week’s Budget began to make the picture much clearer. Over the next five years, this Government will invest more than £600 billion in our economic infrastructure. Public net investment will, in real terms, be at its highest since 1955. The detail will come out at the spending review, but the Chancellor laid down a few guiding principles.

First, the Government will review the Treasury’s Green Book to make sure that economic decision-making reflects the economic geography of the country. Secondly, the Government will invest more in our nations, cities and towns. We are committing an extra £640 million for the Scottish Government, £360 million for the Welsh Government and £210 million for the Northern Ireland Executive. We are providing £242 million of funding for new city and growth deals. In addition, there will be a new devolution deal in West Yorkshire, with a directly elected mayor and a funding settlement of £4.2 billion. The Government are also investing £1.2 billion in local transport in 12 further cities, including Stoke, Preston, Derby, Nottingham and Southampton.

We are investing in broadband, railway and roads. We are committing £5 billion to get gigabit-capable broadband into the hardest-to-reach places. Work is starting on HS2. There is funding for the Manchester to Leeds leg of Northern Powerhouse Rail—the biggest ever investment in strategic roads and railway—and a new £2.5 billion pothole fund.

The Chancellor made it clear that we will boost public services, recognising them as the tools by which the Government can level up and spread opportunity. In education, the Budget provided funding for specialist 16-19 maths schools and £1.5 billion of new capital over five years to dramatically improve the condition of the FE college estate.

In housing, the Government extended the affordable homes programme with a new, multiyear settlement of £12 billion. We have confirmed nearly £650 million of funding to help rough sleepers into permanent accommodation and created a new building safety fund worth £1 billion to make sure that unsafe combustible cladding will be removed from every private and social residential building above 18 metres in height.

In health, we announced over £6 billion of new funding in this Parliament to support the NHS to deliver 50,000 more nurses, 50 million more GP surgery appointments and work to start on 40 new hospitals. We are backing all that up with extra funding for HMRC to clamp down on aggressive tax avoidance, evasion and non-compliance to make sure that we have the funds we need in the future. This all means that, by the end of the Parliament, day-to-day spending on public services will be £100 billion higher in cash terms than it is today.

This is a Budget delivered in difficult times, but one which will help the country meet the challenge of the coronavirus. When this disaster is behind us, it will lay the foundation for a new decade of regeneration

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Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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My Lords, we have had an insightful debate today and I am most grateful for the many contributions that have been made. I draw some comfort that, in these difficult times, our great democracy shows itself at its best, with some innovative ideas. I hope to tease out some of those in my response.

I will come to the points raised in turn. Many of course related to the coronavirus, so it is right to quickly restate our response. Coronavirus will, in the short term, have a profound impact on this country and, as the Chancellor said yesterday, it is an economic emergency as much as a medical and health emergency. Inevitably, workers will have to leave work to recover, businesses will struggle to access some goods, and consumer spending will slow. Supply and demand will both take a hit. This is an enormous economic shock and it sets a challenge that we must all rise to.

In the Budget, the Chancellor laid down an initial £30 billion package, and this week, in response to the fast-moving situation, he went further, supplementing that package with a range of extraordinary measures, including £330 billion of loans to help firms cope with their cash-flow problems. The Budget we have debated will likely for ever be remembered as the coronavirus Budget. But it was a Budget of more besides: one that laid down a blueprint for a new decade of infrastructure and scientific investment. This will lead to an improvement in productivity, which is the soundest way to improve living standards in the long term.

I turn to some of the points raised by noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and several other noble Lords asked whether we are going far enough. Can we go further, and should we? They included the noble Lords, Lord Northbrook, Lord Stevenson and Lord Oates, and my noble friends Lord Lamont and Lady Finn. I thought it might be useful to quote some of the comments made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night, because I hope they will give some reassurance. He said:

“I want to reassure every British citizen, this government will give you all the tools you need to get through this. We will support jobs, we will support incomes, we will support businesses, and we will help you protect your loved ones. We will do whatever it takes.”

The noble Lord, Lord Oates, asked about grants for small businesses—only those that were already paying rates. Matters like this will be put under urgent consideration. It is my understanding that they will not be restricted, but I will certainly write to him to confirm that, and put a copy in the record.

The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury raised a number of issues. Perhaps the most important and relevant one, given the announcement that has come during this debate, was that of school closures. I do not have any more detail on that, other than on the one area of free school meals. I have been given a statement, which says simply that we will give schools the flexibility to provide meals or vouchers to children eligible for free school meals. Some schools already doing this, and we will reimburse the costs. I hope that that will provide some reassurance.

On the most reverend Primate’s comments regarding small towns and the decline of retail there, they have been hit particularly hard.

I think we all understand that retail has gone through the most extraordinary revolution over the last 15 years. Part of the levelling-up programme and the commitments in our Budget were to try to get out to some of these poor communities and to inject some more energy and infrastructure into them. One of the initiatives which I am personally involved in is encouraging civil servants to move out of London over the next seven to 10 years. This is an enormous opportunity, because we have a staff turnover rate of about 10% to 12%, and indeed it is higher in London, so there is a real opportunity to do this. I am also the Minister for the Government Property estate, so one of the things I have done is to ensure that break clauses are activated on London leases so that we do not have foot-drag by some departments that do not really want to move out of London. However, I can assure your Lordships that this is an important personal commitment because it is a win for everybody, and it will help some of these towns. For example, I live near Yarmouth, which is a classic example of an area of deprivation.

The noble Lord, Lord O’Neill, brought forward the most dramatic proposals today, supported by the noble Lords, Lord Razzall, Lord Bruce, Lord Adonis, and Lord Desai, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett—whether you call it “people’s QE” or “minimum basic income”. These are all dramatic ideas, and I am sure that we will hear a lot more about them over the next days and weeks. We have to acknowledge that already in this country we have moved quite a long way towards a minimum basic income, when you think of the minimum wage and what it was even 10 years ago. Indeed, I would say, to the discredit of my own party, that we objected to the introduction of the minimum wage back in 1997, but I believe it was one of the best things that the Labour Government of the day ever did. We have accelerated the increase of the minimum wage over the last few years. In particular, there will be a 6% increase in April. Therefore, that is the start of the journey towards a minimum basic income. We already have working tax credits and, while I know that universal credit is not loved in this Chamber, it is trying to give that kind of opportunity and safety net to those on lower incomes.

However, we also have to remember that all this has to be paid for, as the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, said. We already have the top 1% of earners paying something like 29% of all income tax, and we just have to square the circle. Therefore, while I very much recommend and encourage the debate that the noble Lord, Lord O’Neill, suggests, we have to work out how it will work. Maybe, as he suggests, it will be for a few weeks, so that people have that certainty—but, again, one of my other concerns is the hoarding of the cash.

Lord O'Neill of Gatley Portrait Lord O’Neill of Gatley
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I apologise—I am not sure of the appropriate convention. We do not have weeks to have this debate; we need to act now.

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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It is worth reassuring the noble Lord that we have acted pretty quickly. When you think where we have come over the last six or seven days, I do not believe there is any example in the history of modern government where a Government have reacted as quickly as we have. However, I take on board the challenge, and the noble Lord knows his way around the Treasury better than I do, so I am sure he will use his influence.

My noble friend Lord Lamont quite rightly makes the point that our borrowing costs are again at a 300-year low and that this provides opportunities. Indeed, with the current rate of inflation, we are borrowing at a cost below inflation, which provides some palliative to the very difficult situation that we face. That has partly reassured the Chancellor in his recent announcements. What will happen? The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, thinks that we could end up—

Baroness Kramer Portrait Baroness Kramer
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I should have said this when I spoke, so I apologise. While we have very low interest rates, because of QE a heck of a lot of that debt is being held by the Bank of England, so in a sense it is almost circular. It is not quite as benign as it looks on the surface.

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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I do not like debt at all, so I accept what the noble Baroness says. We have also not had a proper drains-up on the impact of the original QE 10 or 12 years ago. It seems to have enriched the rich—those with assets—but what did those at the bottom end of society get out of it? Also, the question no one has ever been able to answer is: what happened to all the money? Did it stay in the British economy? One figure I was given is that at least a third of it just disappeared completely. So I am certainly not in favour of another one of those kinds of QE.

Turning to the noble Lord, Lord Hain, I am afraid that there is not a lot I can agree with in his statements. He seems to think that there is a magic money tree, and seems to have forgotten that we inherited a budget deficit of 10% in 2010. As a huge Europhile, he seems to forget that the EU has a 3% ceiling on its budget deficit levels. We have had to bring that down, and it is one of the reasons why we have more flexibility in the current days to do some of the dramatic things that have been announced by the Chancellor.

Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain
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I do not believe in a magic money tree. I believe in Keynesian, investment-driven economics, which is what we should have been doing for the past 10 years instead of this needless, destructive austerity.

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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I disagree that we have had needless, destructive austerity. For example, we have created some 3.5 million jobs over the past 10 years, and until this crisis hit us in the last few days we have seen steady growth in earnings over the last year to 18 months. We are probably never going to agree, I am afraid, but let us at least put our points of view on the record.

The noble Lord, Lord Leigh, asked for faster action. I think some of the points he made on liquidity and the relaxing of insolvency laws were well made. I will certainly take those back to the Treasury. If he has any more information on that, I would certainly be interested to learn about it.

In relation to entrepreneurs’ relief, the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finn, were disappointed that we had increased the tax rate. But it is worth pointing out that the capital gains rate is 20% and it was reduced from 28% in 2016. It is hardly a rapacious rate of tax. I would be surprised if that put entrepreneurs off. We all have to pay our share of tax.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said we were tinkering around the edges. But to announce within four days 15% of GDP as a bailout to the economy—I just do not accept that that is tinkering around the edges. As I said when I quoted the Chancellor at the beginning, we will continue to do more. This is a very fast-moving story and we are not going to sit idly by.

It was a rare moment of sunshine to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Bates. I share some of his optimism. Perhaps I am foolish and your Lordships will be able to berate me in six months’ time, but I think we will come through this as a stronger society. I think that sometimes an event such as this gives people pause for consideration about how things work. I am not as gloomy as many noble Lords were in the debate today. Indeed, just as I sat down earlier, I had a text from someone who says that there is already a possible vaccine being tested in Japan. I have no idea, but I think we have a good chance of finding a vaccine sooner than in previous outbreaks because the science has moved on so quickly. I read two weeks ago that they had already decoded the DNA of this virus within a few weeks of it becoming known in China. Last time with SARS and so on, this took months. I am probably putting my credibility on the line here, but a little bit of sunshine cannot go amiss.

The noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Adonis, were worried about the EU. I gently and quietly remind them that we had a general election which put this absolutely fair and square to the electorate and, against the wishes of the vast majority of this House, and indeed many in the Commons, they gave a resounding thumbs up to what we were trying to do. What is going to happen now, I have no idea. But I do not think it should be used as an excuse to try to get us back into the EU.

The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, also asked about international co-operation. Of course, this will be extremely important. I hope he is reassured by our changes to the emergency government structure, which were announced yesterday. We have created four strands: health and social care; public services; economic; and international. We are very aware that this needs international co-operation. We have to be realistic, though, that in the next few weeks countries are going to be looking out for themselves. That is the brutal reality when supply chains have been broken and we are not able to get the things we want because other countries will want to keep them. Likewise with the closing of borders—that is an extraordinary thing for the EU to have done. That goes against all its principles, but it has reacted in a perfectly rational way. We have to accept that that is going to be the case over the next few weeks, but I think there will be a mammoth effort to come up with a vaccine and that will be a worldwide endeavour so I remain optimistic that it will prevail.

The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, worried about prudent levels of debt and—like the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky—that there is no free lunch. The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, raised this at the end when summing up. We will just have to see what happens. I am not trying to duck the question. As a person about half my age said to me a few years ago—

Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai
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There is this obsession with debt levels and the ratio of debt to GDP, which is a mistake because debt is a stock and income is a flow. The thing to do is to compare income with the cost of servicing the debt. If the cost of servicing the debt is reasonable, we should borrow. Everybody who holds a mortgage knows that it is a large proportion of their income, but if you can service the mortgage you are all right.

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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I do not fully agree with the noble Lord. Most people who have a mortgage do not increase the amount of the mortgage every year when they get a pay rise. A country needs to be mindful of that and not do the same.

A number of noble Lords, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, the noble Lord, Lord Razzall, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, are worrying about social care. It is perhaps worth just summarising some of the things we have done over the last year or so. Over the last three years, between 2017-18 and 2019-20, we have cumulatively given councils access to up to £10 billion of dedicated additional funding for adult social care; we are increasing the funding of that next year.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, talked about the bailout of the banks in 2008 and 2010 as though we should not have done it. It is worth just putting it back on the record that if we had not done it, the whole system would have ground to a halt. We would have been plunged back into the dark ages, which would have been great for our carbon but not for the millions of people who rely on a functioning economy.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle
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For clarification—perhaps I was not clear—I said that we should not have made the people, particularly the disabled, poor and young, pay for the bailout of the banks.

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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To reassure the noble Baroness, most of that burden will have fallen on the higher-income taxpayers, as I alluded to earlier. Something like the bottom 60% of taxpayers receive more in services from the state than they pay in tax, so I do not feel that they took an unfair level of the cost of that bailout. Of course, the banks continue to pay an additional levy over and above corporation tax to try to bring about the fairness she alludes to.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finn, is keen—I was not aware of this—on a tidal power solution. We live at opposite ends of the country; I am on the east and she is on the west. If the numbers work, I—wearing my Treasury hat—would be very interested. I have a farm that runs down to the sea; I would love to create a tidal power system there, but I do not think the numbers work. To reassure our Green Members, what is happening in offshore wind is, frankly, extraordinary. There was a contract for difference auction about a month ago—they do them every two years—and the bidding price for the offshore-generated electricity was 32% lower than two years ago. It is the most incredible development. That is why I do not accept the gloom that says that we are not embracing the green economy and decarbonising. We are now creating offshore wind at a price virtually without the need for subsidy. If the noble Baroness can do that with her tidal—

Lord Maude of Horsham Portrait Lord Maude of Horsham
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At the risk of prolonging this, does my noble friend accept that one of the reasons the cost of offshore wind has fallen so much is that there was a subsidy that enabled the unit cost of installing it to fall? Something similar could happen with tidal power. This country is uniquely equipped with the natural resource to develop something capable of being exported very widely and generating a UK-based technology that could be of enormous value, as well as a renewable resource.

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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My Lords, I am a huge fan of pump-priming. If there is a credible business case, I think it is worth taking the matter back to the Treasury, so I agree with the noble Lord. I am conscious that I am running out of time.

Baroness Finn Portrait Baroness Finn
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My intervention is about the Green Book methodology. The very outdated methodology in the Treasury was mentioned by my noble friend in his opening speech, and I referred to it in mine. I am hoping that it will rebalance some of this.

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Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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That is excellent news. I do not want anyone to think that I am not in favour of it. We as a country have an enormous opportunity to lead the green energy revolution.

I was grateful for the calm comments of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and some profound questions about the value of growth itself. The problem is that growth is really the only way to improve the quality of lives of most of our population; the only other way is probably productivity. There is no doubt that this will give us the opportunity to reflect on such things as international supply chains, which have perhaps got too wide and impersonal over the last 30 years. These are the sort of moments when we should reflect on that. He asked specifically about the RPI link on the fuel escalator. The Government are nervous about putting up fuel prices because it is a very regressive tax and hits the less well-off hardest. There is a sensitivity to that; I am sure that it will be kept under review.

The noble Lord, Lord Maude, urged us that the money that we spend should be spent well. My title is Minister for Efficiency so I guess it will land on my lap if we do not spend it well. As other noble Lords have said, the key thing is to get the money out as quickly as possible. He asked about insurance. I think I have something on that which can give clarification. The Chancellor made clear in his Statement that for those businesses that have an appropriate policy that covers pandemics, the Government’s action is sufficient to allow businesses to make a claim against their insurance policy.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, asked about the strength of the balance sheets for the insurance sector. It is worth remembering that they came through the 2008-10 crash very well, other than AIG, which was not really an insurance company. I would be cautiously optimistic at this stage. She seems to know about the financial sector; it has two layers above it: reinsurance and retrocession insurance above that. At this stage I would be reasonably confident but, again, this is a fast-moving picture.

The noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, if I heard him correctly, asked a question about the difference between the £451 billion and the £600 billion. The difference is depreciation; the net investment is the £451 billion. If he needs more information, he can by all means let me know. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, asked about a commitment for the charitable sector. I entirely agree that charities are often the hidden battalions helping some of the most vulnerable people. If he feels that they are not being given the focus that they should be, again, I hope he will let me know.

The noble Lord, Lord Livermore, asked about the distributional impact of the Budget. He claimed that the poorest came off worst but, in the spending round of 2019, we announced the fastest planned increase in day-to-day departmental spending for 15 years. Of course, it is those at the bottom of our society who benefit the most from our public services.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked about the national infrastructure strategy. Yes, I am afraid it will be delayed. I do not know whether I am allowed to say this—it will definitely not happen now, anyway—but we were going to try to slot it in the middle, between last week’s Budget and the spending review, probably in July.

It is perhaps worth pointing out that, in the Budget, we put some more beef under the IPA—the Infrastructure and Projects Authority—which is the key organisation in ensuring that, we hope, a lot of the spending on infrastructure is done in a controlled and effective way. I think I am running out of time.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis
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I want to ask the noble Lord something about the key issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, and me. Could the £330 billion of coronavirus-related loans to keep companies going be made conditional on employment being maintained?

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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That is an extremely good idea. I will certainly take it back to the Treasury, where we will investigate it.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
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If the Minister is going to write to individuals, will he copy in all noble Lords who participated in the debate?

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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Yes, of course. I am afraid I have not had time to answer various noble Lords’ specific questions, so I will ensure that they are all copied in to my replies.

To sum up, there have been many calls today for the Government to move faster—not just by putting more money into the system but by being ever more restrictive of people’s liberty and way of life. Indeed, I was at a meeting with the Prime Minister last night. He said to the assembled group, “Even in the war, we didn’t stop people going to the pub.” We have to try to bring the country with us as we do some of the most profound things to happen in our lifetime.

I want to finish on a slightly more positive note. For those noble Lords interested in history, it is worth remembering that it was in difficult times like this that the Education Act 1944 was introduced for its Second Reading that January, nearly five months before D-day and nearly 18 months before the war was won. Parliament had the vision then to introduce legislation that would change the lives of young people in peacetime well before we had any sense that we had achieved peace. I hope we will be able to look back on this Budget in 18 months’ time and say something similar, but for the whole economy and everyone who lives in Britain.

Motion agreed.