Ed Balls MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, responding in the House of Commons to the Spending Review statement, said:
The Chancellor spoke for over 50 minutes - but not once did he mention the real reason for this Spending Review today: his comprehensive failure on living standards, growth and on the deficit too.
Prices rising faster than wages.
Families worse off.
Long-term unemployment up.
Welfare spending soaring.
The economy flatlining.
The slowest recovery for over 100 years.
And the result of this failure?
For all the Budget boasts, borrowing last year not down but up.
Not balancing the books as he promised, but in 2015 a deficit of £96 billion.
More borrowing to pay for his economic failure.
That is why this Chancellor has been forced to come to the House today and to make more cuts to our public services.
So Mr Speaker, let me ask the Chancellor:
Does he recall what he said to this House two years ago?
He said: “We have already asked the British people for what is needed, and... we do not need to ask for more."
And isn’t his economic failure the reason why he is today coming back for more? More cuts to the police, more cuts to defence budgets, more cuts to local services.
This out of touch Chancellor has failed on living standards, growth and the deficit – and families and businesses are paying the price for his failure.
And of course, Mr Speaker, it wasn't supposed to turn out like this.
Let me ask the Chancellor:
Does he remember what he told the House three years ago in his first Budget and Spending Review?
He said the economy would grow by six per cent – but it’s grown by just one per cent.
He pledged to get the banks lending – but bank lending is down month on month on month.
He made the number one test of his economic credibility keeping the AAA credit rating – but on his watch we have been downgraded, not once but twice.
He promised living standards would rise – but they’re falling year on year.
He said we’re all in this together – but he has given a huge tax cut to millionaires.
He promised to balance the books – and that promise is in tatters.
Failed tests, broken promises.
His friends call him George, the President calls him Jeffrey... but to everyone else he’s just Bungle.
Even Zippy on the frontbench can’t stop smiling Mr Speaker. Calm down, Zippy, calm down.
And did we get an admission that his plan hasn’t worked?
That Britain needs to change course?
Did we get the Plan B for growth and jobs that we and the International Monetary Fund have called for?
Mr Speaker, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Instead of planning cuts in 2015 – two years ahead - surely the Chancellor should be taking bold action now to boost growth this year and next?
Investment that would get our economy growing and get the tax revenues coming in – more revenues which would mean our police, armed forces and public services would not face such deep cuts in 2015.
Let me ask the Chancellor:
Why didn’t he listen to the IMF and bring forward £10 billion in infrastructure investment this year?
With housebuilding at the lowest level since the 1920s, why isn’t he building 400,000 more affordable homes this year and next?
Mr Speaker, if the Chancellor continues with his failing economic plan, then it will fall to the next Labour government to turn the economy round and to take the tough decisions to get the deficit down in a fair way.
But I have to say to the Chancellor - there is no point boasting about infrastructure investment in five or seven years’ time. We need action now.
I have to say to him, he ought to brief the Prime Minister better for Prime Minister’s Questions.
Three years after his first infrastructure plan was launched – there’ve been a few - out of 576 projects announced, just seven projects completed; 80 per cent of projects haven’t even started; just one school built; and in the first three months of this year, infrastructure investment fell by 50 per cent.
We need more action now – not more empty promises for the future.
As for the idea that this Spending Review will strengthen our economy for the long-term, let me ask him:
- Where is the proper British Investment Bank that business wants?
- Where is the 2030 decarbonisation target which energy companies say they need to invest for the future?
- Where is the backstop power to break-up the banks which the Parliamentary Commission called for?
- And I have to say whatever happened to the Heseltine Plan’s much heralded £49 billion Single Pot growth fund for the regions? £2 billion is pathetic Mr Speaker.
Isn't this the truth?
Instead of action to boost growth and long-term investment, all we’ve got today is more of the same from a failing Chancellor.
And more of the same on social security and welfare spending too.
We’ve had plenty of tough talk and divisive rhetoric – but on this Chancellor’s watch, the benefits bill is soaring.
Social security spending is up £21 billion compared to their plans.
Mr Speaker, we have called for a cap on social security spending and we fully support the triple lock on the pensions, something not even in the Chancellor’s speech today.
But the fact is the Chancellor already tried to set a cap with his plans for social security spending in 2010.
And he’s over-spent it by £21 billion.
So let me ask the Chancellor, if he really wants to get the social security bill down:
- why not get young people and the long-term unemployed back to work with a compulsory jobs guarantee - paid for by a tax on bank bonuses?
- why not get our housing benefit bill down by tackling high rents and the shortage of affordable homes?
- why not stop paying the winter allowance to the richest 5 per cent of pensioners?
- and why not make work pay with a 10p tax rate paid for by a mansion tax – instead of huge tax cuts for millionaires?
Mr Speaker, this Chancellor is making the wrong choices on growth and social security.
And he is making the wrong choices on departmental spending as well.
Let me ask him:
- when thousands of frontline police officers are being cut, why is he spending more on police commissioners than the old police authorities? Why is he doing that?
- why is he wasting £3 billion on a reckless reorganisation of the NHS that the public doesn’t support?
- why is he funding new free schools in areas with enough school places, while parents in other areas cannot get their children into a local school?
Mr Speaker, we will study his departmental spending plans for 2015-16.
But there was a lot of detail that he did not provide for the House.
We look forward to see whether he is going to confirm the continuation of free national museum entry. Maybe he can tell us in his response?
So can the Chancellor set out for the country what his Spending Review really means:
- Will it mean fewer police officers in 2015-16 - on top of the 15,000 we will lose in this Parliament?
- Will it mean fewer nurses - on top of the 4,000 nurses lost so far?
- Will it mean fewer Sure Start Children’s centres – on top of the 500 that have already closed?
- And will he continue to impose deeper cuts on local authorities in areas with the greatest need – when already in this Parliament, the ten most deprived local authorities are losing six times the spending per head of the ten least deprived areas.
Mr Speaker, people up and down the country need to know the answers to these questions.
And they should be in no doubt that the scale of the cuts the Chancellor has announced today to our police, defence and local services are the direct result of his abject failure to get the economy to grow.
This Chancellor is failing on living standards – they’re falling.
He’s failing on growth – it’s flatlining.
He’s failing on the deficit.
And all we got today was more of the same.
No plan to turn the economy round.
No hope for the future.
And Britain’s families and our public services are paying the price for this Chancellor’s failure.