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 economic reality
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.
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.
Productivity and investment
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.
Well, part of the reason is that investment by this government, in real terms, is nearly £18 billion below its 2010 level.
Business investment stagnated in the last quarter of 2017.
4th Industrial Revolution
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.
Shifting the deficit
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?
The Chancellor has also shifted the deficit onto the Secretary of State for Education and Head Teachers – with the first per capita cut in schools funding since the 1990s.
Today the government is even trying to deprive one million children of a decent school dinner.
I am asking the Chancellor and all Conservative MPs if they are serious about ending austerity to vote with us this afternoon to give those children the free school meal they’re entitled to?
The Chancellor has shifted the deficit onto the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary.
Crime is rising – yet he’s cut the number of police officers by 21,500 and the number of fire fighters by more than 8500.
And our prisons and probation service are in dangerous crisis.
In shifting the deficit onto the shoulders of the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government –
in reality he has forced this burden onto local councillors –
Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives alike.
I raise again the stark reality of what this means for the most vulnerable children in our society.
There has been a 40% cut in early intervention to support families.
The result is the highest number of children taken into care since the 1980s.
Children’s charities are saying this crisis could turn into a catastrophe without further funding.
And last year 400 women seeking refuge were turned away because there were no places available for them.
There are nearly 5000 of our fellow citizens sleeping rough on our streets – more than double the number in 2010.
Tragically, last week one of our homeless died – only feet away from the entrance to Parliament.
One million vulnerable older people have no access to the social care they need.
Conservative Councils are going bust.
Many will be forced to hike up Council Tax.
Councils are running out of reserves – as the National Audit Office has confirmed.
I ask the Chancellor: will he listen to Conservative Council leaders?
Like his own in Surrey? Who said – and I quote –
“we are facing the most difficult financial crisis in our history. The government cannot stand idly by while Rome burns”.
I ask him: how many more children have to come into care? How many more councils have to go bust?
And how many more have to run out of reserves before he wakes up to this crisis and acts?
Today’s statement could have been a genuine turning point but it is – depressingly – another missed opportunity.
Austerity is a political choice.
People know that austerity was a political choice – not an economic necessity.
The Conservatives chose to cut taxes for the super-rich, corporations and bankers – paid for by the rest of our society.
They even cut the levy on the bankers in last month’s Finance Act.
We were never all in this together as they claimed.
They cut investment at the very time when we should have been developing the skills and infrastructure needed to raise productivity and grasp the tech revolution with both hands.
And when they have a responsibility to meet the challenge of Brexit -we have a Chancellor who this weekend admitted he hasn’t even modelled the government’s Brexit options.
Today we have the indefensible spectacle of a Chancellor congratulating himself on marginally improved economic forecasts –
while refusing to lift a finger
as Councils go bust –
the NHS and social care are in crisis –
school budgets are cut –
homelessness has doubled –
and wages are falling.
This isn’t a Government that’s preparing our country for the future.
It’s a Government setting us up to fail.