Lord Sassoon (Conservative), commercial secretary to the Treasury, opened the debate highlighting the key points made by the chancellor in his budget. He explained the government's efforts to safeguard economic stability and restore fiscal sustainability.
He argued tax reforms will 'restore competitiveness, promote business and encourage investment'. He explained the government will invest in the physical infracture and confirmed further rail developments of the Northern Hub at Manchester. He added that there are digital infrastructure investments in 10 of the UK's largest cities and increasing urban broadband in smaller cities. Also the 'government, local authorities, universities, businesses and entrepreneurs are working together to catalyse private-sector growth and innovation.'
Lord Eatwell (Labour), opposition spokesperson for the Treasury, questioned the chancellor's budget and his claims that it '"helps those looking for work", and supports growth.' He argued 'the policy impact of the budget on the prospects for growth and jobs is nil' and that last year's budget plan for economic growth was not achieved.
Concluding his opposition speech to the opening statement made by Lord Sassoon he stated: 'The coalition believes that the rich must be made richer to encourage them to work and the poor must be made poorer to encourage them to work. In the meantime, the economy stagnates, the prospects of growth retreat before our very eyes and the pain of fiscal consolidation intensifies.'
Lord Heseltine (Conservative), former deputy prime minister made his maiden speech and explained how he will 'look at aspects of the government's industrial strategy and, particularly, at the interrelationships of that strategy with other parts of the economy.' He highlighted the need for improved education, development of training and skills, and an increased priority for the private sector to generate economic growth.
Lord Sugar (Labour), entrepreneur and former enterprise tsar argued that growth is needed and small and medium-sized businesses need encouragement 'to invest, to be daring and to kick-start the economy and employ lots of people.' He suggests the government makes tangible changes that can be touched 'such as reduction in VAT, a one-year national insurance holiday for small businesses taking on extra worker, a reduction in business rates and a reduction in duty on diesel.'
Baroness Kramer (Liberal Democrat), former spokesperson for the Treasury welcomed the clarity of the budget and admitted: 'It is the first time that I have not needed six hands and a book of post-its to work out exactly what was going on.' She commented on the tax threshold, credit for small businesses, the importance of local saving banks and possibility of 'online innovative financing as an alternative to the banks.'
Other speakers included: