The shadow chancellor responds.
Let me thank the Chancellor for providing me with an earlier sight of his statement. I say to the Chancellor: his complacency today is astounding. We face – in every public service – a crisis on a scale we’ve never seen before. Hasn’t he listened to the doctors and nurses, the teachers, the police officers, the carers and even his own councillors? They are telling him they can’t wait for the next Budget. They’re telling him to act now. For eight years they’ve been ignored by this government. And today – they’ve been ignored again.
The Chancellor has proclaimed that there is light at the end of the tunnel. But this shows just how cut off from the real world he is. Last year growth in our economy was among the lowest in the G7 and the slowest since 2012. Wages are lower now – in real terms – than they were in 2010 – and they’re still falling. And there are 3 million people in insecure work. According to the Resolution Foundation, the changes to benefits due to come in next month will leave 11 million families worse off.
And – as always – the harshest cuts are falling on disabled people. The gap in productivity between this country and the rest of the G7 is almost the widest for a generation. UK industry is 20 to 30% less productive that in other major economies. And why? Well, part of the reason is that investment by this government, in real terms, is nearly £18 billion below its 2010 level.
And this is a government that cut R&D funding by £1 billion in real terms. Business investment stagnated in the last quarter of 2017. And despite all the promises the government continues to fail to address regional imbalances in investment: London will receive almost five times more transport investment than Yorkshire & Humber. This is a government that single-handedly destroyed our solar industry: 12,000 jobs were lost as a result of subsidy cuts. The Chancellor talks about the 4th Industrial Revolution but Britain has the lowest rate of industrial robot use in the OECD. And the government has put just £75m into its Artificial Intelligence programme – less than a tenth of the US government’s commitment.
The Chancellor has made great play this week of reaching a turning point in reducing the deficit and debt. It’s a bit rich coming from a Party that has increased the debt by over £700 billion.
This loads the equivalent of an additional £22,000 on every household in this country.
It’s worth remembering that this is the Party that promised to eliminate the deficit completely by 2015, then 2016, then 2020. Bizarrely, his predecessor – now ensconced in the Evening Standard, and Blackrock, and the Washington Speakers Bureau has been tweeting about achieving three years late a deficit target that he actually abandoned himself. The reality is that the Chancellor and his predecessor have not tackled the deficit. They have simply shifted it onto the public services his colleagues are responsible for. He’s shifted it on to the Secretary of State for Health and the shoulders of NHS managers, doctors and nurses. NHS Trusts will end this financial year £1 billion in deficit. Doctors and nurses are struggling and being asked to do more, while 100,000 NHS posts go unfilled. Does the Chancellor really believe the NHS can wait another eight months for the life-saving funds it needs? How many more people have to die while waiting for an ambulance?
We are expecting the pay offer to NHS staff shortly – forced upon him by the Labour Party’s and Trade Unions’ campaigns against the pay cap. Let me say to him: taking away a day’s holiday from those dedicated staff is mean spirited and I ask him now: will he drop this miserly demand?
So if I have this right (?), what the Chancellor is being urged to do is: reduce the deficit and increase benefits, public sector pay and investment in industry.
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