John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor’s response to the House on the Autumn Statement:

 

 Mr Speaker

 

Today’s Statement places on record the abject failure of the last six wasted years and offers little hope for the future.

 

The figures speak for themselves: growth down; wage growth down; investment down.

 

The deficit target, failed. The debt target, failed. The welfare cap, failed.

 

The verdict could not be clearer.

 

The so-called “long term economic plan” has failed.

 

As the Treasury’s own leaked paper revealed, they knew it had failed before the referendum result was announced.

 

And we now face Brexit, the greatest economic challenge of a generation, unprepared.

 

The new Chancellor acknowledged the failure himself in October, when he promised a “reset” of economic policy.

 

So today we expected a change of direction after those six wasted years.

 

Instead we’ve seen further cuts to earnings for those in work through cuts to Universal Credit and a living wage increase that is lower than expected under the previous Chancellor.

 

This is a new Conservative leadership with no answers to the challenges facing our country following Brexit and no vision to secure our future prosperity.

 

Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the European Union.

 

But the chaotic Tory handling of Brexit threatens the future prosperity of this country.

 

The Chancellor must now do the right thing for British workers and businesses.

 

He must insist on full, tariff-free access to the Single Market.

 

He and the Treasury know that’s what will give the best deal for jobs and prosperity here.

 

It may not be in the Chancellor‘s nature but in the national interest I urge him to stand up to the Prime Minister and the extreme Brexit fanatics in her Cabinet.

 

If he stands up for British businesses and jobs in fighting for Single Market access he will have our full support.

 

But after six wasted years, wages are still lower than 2008.

 

Self-employed people are on average paid less than a generation ago.

 

Six million people are earning less than the Living Wage.

 

Too many people are having to worry about buying school uniforms, affording a family holiday, or even just paying the rent or mortgage.

 

We’ve had a month of briefing from the Party opposite on those people who are called “just about managing”.

 

To the Party opposite, these people are just an electoral demographic.

 

To us, they are our friends, our neighbours, and the people we represent.

 

Let me tell you why they are “just about managing”.

 

It’s the result of Tories imposing austerity on an economy that couldn’t bear the strain.

 

We’ve seen productivity stagnate.

 

But there’s nothing in this Autumn Statement on the scale needed to overturn those six wasted years.

 

If the Chancellor really wants to make a fairer tax system, he can start by bringing back the 50p rate for the very richest.

 

And its familiar hollow rhetoric from the Tories on tax avoidance when they have cut resources at HMRC.

 

Resources available to HMRC today are around 40 per cent less than they were in 2000.

 

The Chancellor has frozen in-work benefits at a time when food prices are rising and we don’t expect wages to keep up.

 

But we need an economy that is fundamentally more prosperous and where that prosperity is shared by all.

 

The increases in the National Living Wage announced today are lower than expected and leave the lowest paid workers still earning less than they need to live on.

 

So I ask the Chancellor to adopt a Real Living Wage level, as Labour has pledged to do, and abandon his predecessor’s empty rhetoric.

 

Regrettably, the Chancellor is still going ahead with some of the cuts to Universal Credit.

 

Thanks to pressure from all sides of this House he is offering to soften the blow.

 

We don’t want the blow softened, we want it lifted altogether.

 

Today’s changes will leave a single parent on the average wage £2,300 worse off.

 

These are people working hard to deliver for their families and the Government is betraying them.

 

As for people with disabilities put through the ordeal of the discredited Work Capability Assessment, who are trying to get themselves ready to return to work ‘just about managing’, yes, they still remain in the Chancellor’s firing line, cutting £30 a week from their support.

 

Those that are “just about managing” rely upon our public services.

 

They send their children to local schools.

 

They depend on their local hospital.

 

They rely on local council services like cleaning their streets, tending to their parks, and opening their libraries.

 

But the reality is our public services are just not managing.

 

Today, the childcare that parents rely upon remains underfunded, as the Public Accounts Committee has reported.

 

I would like to also pay tribute to the Honorable Members for Swansea East and Erith and Thamesmead for their important work in bringing the issue of child burial fees to public attention.

 

I ask the government to do the right thing on child burial fees and reconsider making funding available for families in these desperate circumstances.

 

Councilors from all political parties are reporting that they are at a tipping point in the provision of social care.

 

The previous Chancellor cut nearly £5 billion from social care meaning over one million people who need care aren’t getting it.

 

They’re not even just about managing. They got little help today.

 

We called for additional support for social care.

 

But the funding being provided is only a stopgap measure.

 

Our social care system will not be secure without long-term funding.

 

Tonight, many elderly people will remain trapped in their homes, isolated, and lacking the care they need because of continuing cuts to funding.

 

You can’t cut social care without hitting the NHS.

 

The supposed £10bn funding allocated is a restatement of an earlier commitment.

 

But the Health Select Committee described this £10bn claim as “misleading and incorrect”.

 

The real amount is less than half that claimed.

 

We have 3.9 million people on NHS waiting lists. More than ever.

 

Many of those 3.9 million people are waiting in pain, and they got no relief today.

 

Across the country, hospitals are facing losing their A&Es, losing their maternity units, losing their specialist units.

 

This Tory Government is failing patients and failing dedicated NHS staff.

 

It is the first time healthcare spending per head has declined since the NHS was created.

 

I fear there will be a crisis in funding and care over this Christmas.

 

The NHS cares for us – we should care for the NHS.

 

Members of this government have also overseen the biggest real terms cuts in education for four decades.

 

One pound in every seven has been cut from FE colleges budgets.

Conservative policy has saddled a generation of students with a lifetime of debt.

 

How can the Government seriously talk about supporting a 21st century economy when they are planning to pour tens of millions into the failed 20th century policy of grammar schools?

 

The Chancellor has announced today that he is scrapping “pay to stay” proposals and letting agents’ fees.

 

This U-turn is a victory for Labour’s campaigning against both the ‘tenant tax’ and lettings agent fees.

 

The Chancellor has spoken of the “dream of homeownership” for the young.

 

Nothing announced today is of the scale needed to suggest it will remain anything other than a dream.

 

The hard facts are these.

 

The Government of which he was a member built fewer homes than at any point since the 1920s.

 

There are now a third of a million fewer homeowners under 35.

 

The Chancellor could have delivered today the scale of investment required to build the homes we need and create a new generation of home-ownership.

He failed.

 

The Chancellor has failed to address properly this government’s most consistent shortcoming.

 

His predecessor cut public investment to the lowest it had been since the 1990s.

 

Instead of delivering the ambitious investment this economy needs, across the whole country, the Chancellor has failed to recognise the scale of the challenge.

 

He also risks repeating the mistakes from last year, with the National Flood Resilience Plan failing to provide the protection our communities need.

 

Just one in five of the projects in the investment pipeline are under construction and there are £82bn of shovel-ready projects still delayed.

 

The infrastructure gap between London and the rest remains unbridged.

 

London was scheduled to receive 12 times the public investment per head of the north east of England.

 

But the £1.1bn of investment in transport is a reannouncement.

 

The Oxford-Cambridge rail link is significantly delayed against Network Rail’s original planned completion date of March 2019.

 

No new ideas here, just a promise to deliver what they have previously failed to deliver on.

 

The “Fourth Industrial Revolution” will not be delivered on delays and old news.

 

At last, the Government has realised its mistake and now talk about an industrial strategy.

 

But it isn’t enough to change a few Ministerial titles.

 

This government and the Chancellor need to deliver.

 

But we’ve yet to see the proposed green paper on industrial strategy that was promised over the summer.

 

This same government that now talks up high tech oversaw £1bn in real terms cuts to science funding in the last Parliament.

 

The OECD recommends that developed countries should be spending 3 per cent of GDP on science.

 

On what we’ve heard today, the new spending will lift our expenditure from under 1.7 per cent of GDP, to a mere 1.8 per cent.

 

It’s the same familiar story for business.

 

The Chancellor is continuing the race to the bottom on Corporation Tax.

 

Whilst continuing the cuts to public services, the Chancellor is cutting taxes for big business.

 

We now know it’s not headline tax rates that encourage long-term investment from businesses.

 

Business investment has been revised down every year.

 

What encourages business investment is knowing they have access to skilled workers, to world-class infrastructure, and to major markets.

 

Today’s grim economic forecasts show the challenge ahead.

 

The Chancellor admitted, over the summer, that it was time for a change of course.

 

He has now had to abandon his government’s fiscal charter with its failed hard surplus target.

 

Labour warned that a hard surplus target lacked the flexibility to adapt to economic circumstances and the capacity to allow investment.

 

The Chancellor’s U-turn today demonstrates how right we were.

 

Mr Speaker

 

Only weeks ago, the new Prime Minister offered the hope of change.

 

The Chancellor offered to “reset” economic policy.

 

Today we’ve seen the very people the Prime Minister promised to champion betrayed.

 

The Chancellor has failed to break with the economic strategy of austerity.

 

The country remains unprepared and ill-equipped to meet the challenges of Brexit and secure Britain’s future as a world-leading economy.

 

After all the sacrifices that people have made over the last six years, I fear today’s Statement has laid the foundations for more wasted years.

 

Only a Labour Government will deliver on the ambition and vision to rebuild and transform our economy so no-one and no community is left behind.


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  • commented 2016-11-28 11:40:01 +0000
    Good to see clear red water lying between the Tory Fudge and Labour’s more constructive approach. Let’s make it 60p in the pound for the rich! Let’s borrow a few billions to invest in eco-friendly energy and industry jobs in the North!