I totally sympathise with those on the Front Bench and I have huge respect for the Treasury Minister who is in his place, but I am concerned, as a Conservative, at the direction of travel. As we have heard, taxes are at their highest for 60 or 70 years—and this under a Conservative Government. For me, and I think for many of us and people around the country too, the alarm bells are ringing. I do not like being bounced into this decision. I think someone mentioned sleepless nights. Well, we will not have any because the decision is being made tonight, having been told about it only 48 hours earlier, and we still need to hear a lot more from the Government about how this is all going to work.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) talked about the lack of money as our population gets older and the continual demands on the public sector increase. He is absolutely right. We cannot go on just spending the taxpayer’s money willy-nilly. This is not our money. It is money earned by people working their socks off to provide for their family, their friends, their employees and for the health and prosperity of this country, and we cannot abuse that.
I entirely support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) said, in a superb speech, when he referred to a Trojan horse. If I can paraphrase, we, as Conservatives, are introducing a new tax that will never, ever be withdrawn because, come election time, we would have to say, “Okay, remember everybody—that was a one-off tax, so it is now going and billions of pounds are being withdrawn from the national health service.” I think I can see where the Opposition will go with that and what will appear on their literature in 2024.
With regard to promises made in manifestos, can we not think just a little more carefully about what we say? No one could have predicted the pandemic—I am deeply sympathetic to the Government on that point, because of course we could not. But perhaps we should say that we aim to do something rather than that we promise to do something, because circumstances change, and when one Government take over from another they change the whole thing anyway, and then, if we win again, we have to change it once more.
Throwing money into the national health service black hole is not the solution. The sad fact is that parties of all colours over many years have failed to tackle the NHS issue. We need radical reform both of the NHS and, of course, social care. I am not saying that we should change the care free at the point of delivery—not at all; I am saying that there is plenty of room for reform. Most of those I have spoken to who work in it absolutely agree. It is a matter of political courage to actually get on and do it.
We are Conservatives. A pandemic, appalling though it is, creates opportunities. Where is the vision of the Singapore-style, low-tax economy attracting the world’s best to this country to generate the wealth and prosperity that we need? To generate the revenue we need, we lower taxes—that is proven. We do not raise them, because if we do, all we do is damage our economy and have less money to spend on the things we need, like social care and the NHS.