Conservative ministers have been full of praise for the Chancellor Rishi Sunak following his Budget Speech in the House of Commons – but not everyone was so happy.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Chancellor set out a range of measures to support businesses and members of the public through and beyond the current Coronavirus crisis. Notably, an extension to the furlough scheme and self-employed support payments were announced, new grants were announced to help businesses reopen after lockdown and many other investments were also pledged.
The Chancellor also set out some measures likely to be less popular, such as the freezing of tax-free allowances and increases in Corporation Tax for some businesses in the coming years to help fix public finances that have been hit badly by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Details of key announcements can be found here. Here’s a look at how some opposition MPs have responded to the announcements from the Budget so far…
Leader of the Opposition – Sir Keir Starmer
Responding to the Chancellor in the House of Commons, Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer criticised the Government and said “I’m sure this Budget will look better on Instagram”.
Speaking in the Commons, Sir Keir said;
“After the decisions of the last year and the decade of neglect, we needed a Budget to fix the foundations of our economy, to reward our key workers, to protect the NHS and to build a more secure and prosperous economy for the future.
“Instead, what we got was a Budget that papered over the cracks, rather than rebuilding the foundations. A Budget that shows the Government doesn’t understand what went wrong in the last decade or what’s needed in the next.
“The Chancellor may think that this is the time for a victory lap but I’m afraid this Budget won’t feel so good for the millions of key workers who are having their pay frozen, for the businesses swamped by debt and the families paying more in council tax and the millions of people who are out of work or worried about losing their job.”
In particular, Sir Keir criticised the Chancellor for not saying anything about a long-term plan to fix social care and on other issues such as housing, accused Mr Sunak of repeating old promises.
Sir Keir said that it is right that Corporation Tax is not rising this year or next but described the Government’s plans for council tax rises as ‘extraordinary’.
SNP Westminster Leader – Ian Blackford
Ian Blackford accused the Government of being ‘nostalgic’ for austerity. He argued that the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit payments should have been made permanent to give hope and certainty to those on low incomes.
Mr Blackford said that asking businesses to make increased contributions to furlough in the summer “isn’t acceptable”, saying that businesses do not have the available cash flow to make this work.
The SNP’s Westminster leader also said the Chancellor should have done more to tackle child poverty in the UK.
Green Party MP – Caroline Lucas
The Green Party’s only MP, Caroline Lucas tweeted, “Is that it, Rishi?” following the Budget Speech.
Ms Lucas said, “We needed an ambitious budget for a greener, fairer future but we got one that traps us in a broken past”. In a tweet, she called for a ‘climate and nature test for all spending decisions’, GDP growth to be replaced with measures of progress that include health and wellbeing and ‘transformational investment’ to create green jobs.
Lucas said that “The Chancellor has again failed to rise to the climate and ecological emergency” adding, “Sunak is stuck in the past but a new economy that puts people and nature first is within our reach”.
The Lib Dems have said that small businesses need ‘considerably more’ funds than announced in the Budget if they are going to survive to and beyond the end of the Coronavirus pandemic.
How did backbench Conservative MPs respond?
The Budget has gained a generally positive reaction from backbench Conservative MPs.
Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the lockdown sceptic COVID Recovery Group tweeted: “Our economy is on very thin ice with very hot water underneath. In #Budget2021, the Chancellor showed himself to be dancing on ice with great skill and talent. This is a good start to our #Road2Recovery.”
Chair of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee Jeremy Hunt tweeted: “Impressive & reassuring budget from a v.impressive Chancellor. No other Govt has offered a safety net so comprehensive during covid crisis. BUT… Little hope for social care sector bruised and demoralised after most devastating year in its history. Understand money is difficult to commit at this stage, but they desperately need to know a plan is coming.”
Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West said: “After an incredibly difficult year for so many individuals and businesses I very much welcome the announcements in the Chancellor’s Budget today of further support for those impacted by the pandemic.”