This speech was a masterpiece of challenging the government’s economic policies. As well as pointing out repeatedly that they are not working, Jeremy Corbyn gave clear examples of how the Labour Party would do things differently.
” Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker. The Budget the Chancellor has just delivered is actually a culmination of six years of failure. This is a recovery built on sand and a Budget built on failure. The Chancellor has failed on the budget deficit failed on debt, failed on investment, failed on productivity, failed on the trade deficit, failed on his own welfare cap and failed to tackle inequality in this country.
And today Mr Deputy Speaker, he’s announced growth is revised down. Last year, this year, every year they forecast business investment revised down, government investment revised down. It’s a very good thing the Chancellor blaming the last government he was the Chancellor under the last government.
It’s a Budget with unfairness at its very core paid for by those who can least afford it. He could not have made his priorities clearer. While over half a million people with disabilities are losing over £1 billion in personal independence payments corporations are being handed billions in tax cuts to the wealthy.
The Chancellor has to be judged on his record by the tests he set for himself. Six years ago, he promised ‘a balanced structural current budget’ by 2015, it’s 2016 and there’s still no balanced budget on the horizon.
In 2010 he and Prime Minister were claiming ‘we’re all in it together’. The Chancellor promised this House that the richest would ‘pay more than the poorest. Not just in terms of cash but as a proportion of income as well’. So how has that turned out? The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that the poorest have ‘suffered the greatest proportionate losses’.
The Prime Minister told us recently he was delivering ‘a strong economy and a sound plan’. But strong and sound for who? 80% of the Chancellor’s cuts to date have fallen on women in our society. This Budget was a chance to demonstrate a real commitment to fairness and equality to shared prosperity. The Chancellor has failed yet again.
Five years ago, the Chancellor promised ‘a Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers’ despite the resilience, ingenuity and hard work of Britain’s manufacturers, the manufacturing sector is smaller than 8 years ago.
The Chancellor told the Conservative conference last year, ‘We are the builders’. But ever since then construction has stagnated. That’s the record of a Conservative Chancellor who has failed to balance the books failed to balance out the pain and failed to rebalance the economy.
It’s no wonder, Mr Deputy Speaker, that even a member of his cabinet, the Rt Hon member for Chingford & Woodford Green, is complaining, ‘We were told for the next seven years things were looking great. Within one month of that forecast we’re now being told things are difficult’.
The gulf between what this Conservative government expects from the wealthiest and what it demands from ordinary British taxpayers couldn’t be greater the ‘mates rates’ deals with big corporations is something that will be forever remembered for. This is a Chancellor for tax dodgers not tax payers a Chancellor for hedge fund managers, more than businesses.
This is a government that stood by as the steel industry bled skills, output and thousands of very skilled jobs have been lost and communities ruined and damaged by inaction by government. The Chancellor’s £1 trillion export target will be missed by a country mile. Instead of trade fuelling growth as the Chancellor promised it is now holding back growth.
He talked of the Northern Powerhouse, we have now discovered that 97% of its senior staff of the Northern Powerhouse have indeed been outsourced to London. For all his talk of a Northern Powerhouse, the North East accounts for less than 1% of the government’s infrastructure ‘pipeline’ projects in construction. For all his rhetoric, there has been systematic under-investment in the North.
Mr Deputy Speaker, across the country local authorities, councils are facing massive problems. A 79% cut in funding. Every library that has been closed, every elderly person left without proper care, every swimming pool with reduced opening hours or closed altogether is a direct result of government underfunding our local authorities and councils. Far from presiding over good quality employment he is the chancellor that has presided over underemployment and insecurity with nearly.
Thank you Mr Speaker, security comes from knowing where your income is and knowing where your job is. If you’re one of those nearly million people on a zero hours contract you don’t know what your income is, you don’t have that security. We have the highest levels, Mr Deputy Speaker, of in-work poverty on record. The largest number without security, they need regular wages that can end poverty and can bring about real security in their lives. Logically Mr Deputy Speaker, low paid jobs don’t bring in the tax revenues that the chancellor tell us he needs to balance his books.
Household borrowing is once again being relied on to drive growth. Risky unsecured lending is growing at its fastest rate since for the last 8 years, and is clearly not sustainable. The renewables industry – is vital to the future of our economy and our planet, indeed our whole existence – it’s been targeted with cuts with thousands of jobs lost in solar panel production industry. The Prime Minister promised the greenest government ever. Here again their record is an abject failure. Science spending also down £1 billion compared with 2010.
Home ownership is down under this Conservative government a whole generation is locked out from any prospect of owning their own home. And this is a Chancellor who believes a starter home costing £450,000 is affordable. It might be for some of his friends, it might be for some members opposite, it isn’t for people struggling to save for a deposit because they can’t get any other kind of house.
We’ve heard promises of Garden cities before. Two years ago, the Chancellor pledged a Garden City of 15,000 homes at Ebbsfleet. Since then ministers have made 30 Ebbsfleet announcements but only built 368 homes. That’s 12 homes for every press release. We need a vast increase in press releases to get any homes built in Ebsfleet, or indeed anywhere else.
And whilst we welcome the money that’s going to be put forward to tackle homelessness, it is the product of under-investment, underfunding of local authorities, not building enough council housing, not regulating the private rented sector, that has led to this crisis. We need to tackle the issue of homelessness by saying that everybody in our society deserves a safe roof over their heads.
Mr Deputy Speaker, child poverty is forecast to rise every year of this Parliament. What a damning indictment of this Conservative government and what a contrast with the last Labour government that lifted nearly a million children out of poverty. 81% of the Chancellor’s tax increases and benefit cuts are falling on women and the scandalous 19% gender pay gap persists despite the protestations of the chancellor, it is a serious indictment that women are generally paid less than men for doing broadly similar work. It will require a Labour government to address this.
The government’s own social mobility commissioner says there is ‘a growing sense that Britain’s best days are behind us rather than ahead’ as the next generation expects to be worse off than the last. The chancellor might have said a great deal about young people, he failed to say anything about the debt levels that so many former students have. The high rent that people have to pay, the lower levels of wages that young people get. The sense of injustice and insecurity that so many young people in this country face and feel every day. It will again require a Labour government to harnesses the enthusiasm and talents of young people of this country.
Mr Deputy Speaker, investing in public services is vital to people’s well-being, I think we’re all agreed on that – at least I hope we are yet every time the Chancellor fails, he cuts jobs, sells assets and further privatises.
That was very clear, when we were looking at floods at the end of last year flood defences were cut by 27% people’s homes in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria ruined because of this government’s neglect of river management and flood defences that are so necessary. Obviously we welcome any money that is now going into flood defences. But, Mr Deputy Speaker I hope that money will also be accompanied by reversing the cuts in the fire service, which makes it so difficult for our brilliant firefighters to protect people in their homes. Reverse the cuts in the environment agency which makes it so hard for our engineers to protect our towns and cities. And for local government workers who performed so brilliantly during the crisis of December and January in the areas that were flooded.
Our education service invests in people it is a vital motor of wealth of this country in the future so I ask, why have we have seen a 35% drop in the adult skills budget. People surely need the opportunity to learn. Not have to go into debt in order to develop skills from which we as a community entirely benefit.
On the Chancellor’s announcement yesterday, there is not a shred of evidence that turning schools into academies boosts performance and there’s nothing in the Budget to tackle the teacher shortage, the school place crisis, or ballooning class sizes.
He spoke at some length on the issue of ill health among young children and the way in which sugar is consumed at such grotesque levels within our society and I agree with him about that. I’m sure he’ll join with me in welcoming the work done by many members of this house, including my friend, the member for Leicester East in his work and Jamie Oliver in his work, in helping to deal with the dreadful situation of children’s health. If we as a society cannot protect our children from high levels of sugar and all that goes with it with the later crisis of health cancer and diabetes then as a house we’ve failed the nation. I support his proposals on sugar as I hope all members of this house will.
There is an issue that faces the NHS. The deficit has widened to its highest level on record waiting times are up the NHS is in a critical condition. Hospital after hospital faces serious financial problems and is working out what to sell in order to balance it books. Our NHS should have the resources to concentrate on the health needs of the people, not having to get rid of resources in order to survive.
The Public Accounts Committee reported only yesterday that NHS finances have ‘deteriorated at a severe and rapid pace’ I didn’t detect much in this budget that’s going to do much to resolve that crisis. He’s also cut public health budgets, mental health budgets, and adult social care.
Earlier this month the Government forced through a £30 per week cut to disabled ESA claimants last week we learned over half a million people will lose up to £150 per week due to cuts to Personal Independence Payments. I ask the Chancellor, ‘If he can finance giveaways that he’s put in his budget to different sectors, why can he not fund dignity for disabled people of this country?’
Mr Deputy Speaker, the Chancellor said — in the Autumn Statement — that he had protected police budgets. Yet Sir Andrew Dilnot confirms that there has been a decrease in the police grant. While 18,000 police officers have lost their jobs, few police on the streets and my friend from Brent Central pointed out in her question to the Prime Minister, to cut down on dangerous crime against vulnerable individuals we need community policing and we need community police officers. 18 thousand losing their jobs doesn’t help. This is a government who is failing on the police, failing on the NHS, failure on social care, housing and education.
Public investment lays the foundations for future growth as the OECD recognises as the IMF recognises as the G20 recognises. Both the CBI and TUC are crying out for more infrastructure investment. Labour will invest in the future in a high technology, high skill, high wage economy.
The investment commitments the Chancellor made today are welcome, belatedly but are nowhere near the scale our country needs. People will rightly fear this is going to be just another press release given his hopeless record on delivery of crucial projects. The chronic under-investment presided over by this Chancellor, public and private, means the productivity gap between Britain and the rest of the G7 is the widest it has been for a generation.
Without productivity growth, revised down further today, we cannot hope to improve living standards. Our party, the Labour Party backs a strategic state that understands that businesses, public services, innovators, and workers all combine together to create wealth to drive sustainable growth.
The Chancellor adopted a counter-productive fiscal rule. The Treasury Select Committee’s response was that it was ‘not convinced that the surplus rule is credible’. They are right. Mr Deputy Speaker, the Chancellor is locking Britain into an even deeper cycle of low investment, low productivity and low ambition.
We’ll be making the case for Britain to remain as a positive case within the European Union and all the solidarity that can bring. But Mr Deputy Speaker, Over the past six years, this Chancellor has set targets on the deficit on the debt on productivity on manufacturing and construction on exports. He has failed them all and is failing Britain.
There are huge opportunities for our country to build on the talent and efforts of everyone. But the Chancellor is more concerned about protecting vested interests. The price of failure is being borne by some of the most vulnerable in our society. The disabled are being robbed of up to £150 a week by this Chancellor. These are not the actions of a responsible statesman. They are the cruel and callous actions of a Chancellor who sides with the wrong people and who bullies the vulnerable and poorest within our society. He was defeated when he tried to cut tax credit cuts next month by this house opposing it and by Labour members and cross-benchers in the Lords.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the continuation of austerity announced today, particularly in the area of local government spending is a political choice, not an economic necessity, and locks us into a continued cycle of economic failure and personal misery. This party, Mr Deputy Speaker will not stand by while more poverty and inequality blight our country. We will oppose those damaging choices and make the case for an economy in which prosperity is shared by all.
Let us harness the optimism, the enthusiasm, the hope, the energy of young people, not burden them with debts and unaffordable housing, low wage jobs and zero-hours contracts. But instead act in an intergenerational way, to give young people the opportunity and the chances they want to build a better, freer, more equal, more content Britain than this chancellor of the exchequer has proved he is utterly incapable doing with his budget today.”