I am a great believer in the Conservative philosophy being probably the simplest of those of all the political parties. We believe in freedom—freedom of the individual and freedom from the state. We believe in low taxes. We believe in hard work and a safety net for those who fall into it. Aping Labour by spending billions of pounds we cannot afford will not fool the electorate for long. The NHS has become a religion—no one dares take its name—but a radical review of health provision is crucial if we are not to pour money into a black hole; we have heard this expression used repeatedly today, but it is a bottomless pit. Without reform, this money, well intended by the Government, will disappear.
Interestingly, and soberingly, the Resolution Foundation estimates that shortly 40% of all government expenditure will be on the Department of Health and Social Care. We repeatedly talk about reform but nothing happens. I was shocked when last week, having finished the debate, I learned that 43 new executives—I think I am right in saying this—are going to be employed by the NHS, on £270,000 each. I just do not know what to say. There are already enough executives in the NHS to run it, so why do we need 43 more, on these huge salaries?
As has been said, we are aiming our fire at business with this NI rise, and we are doing so at a time when the Office for National Statistics shows good news: employment is back to pre-pandemic levels, with more than 1 million job vacancies. That is fantastic news and so this is not the time to raise taxes. Every instinct in me screams for us to lower them, because if we do that, we get more money—that is a fact. There is no doubt that social care and the NHS need more money, but with it must come reform, as I have said. As a colleague said so wisely in the Chamber last week, we will never win the “arms race” with Labour when it comes to pouring money into the NHS. Like any household budget, if we cannot borrow, we have to prioritise what we spend. We have to cut in other areas.
As I said last week, where is the Singapore-style, low-tax economy we were promised once free of the European Union? Where is the narrative on a way forward as this pandemic becomes endemic and life returns to normal? Where is the vision? I sympathise with the Government and the Front Benchers, as these are unprecedented times, but I urge them: don’t go Labour-lite on us now. With our finances in a perilous state, we need to work our way out of this mess, not tax our way out. We need to galvanise our economy. Courage is needed, not hesitancy. Throwing out a sea anchor—I am a sailor and I know what I am talking about—will only create a drag on our recovery. It will not help it.
Let me remind the House, in the few seconds I have left, that we are talking about taxpayers’ money, something that, as Conservatives, we should not squander. I made this point last time, but this is taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Those on this side of the House are responsible for people’s money or we are not Conservatives at all.