Skip to main content

Public Sector Debt

Volume 565: debated on Tuesday 25 June 2013

9. What his Department’s estimate is of the likely level of public sector net debt as a share of GDP in 2015-16. (161226)

Public sector net debt is forecast to be 85% of GDP in 2015-16, compared with 94% of GDP and accelerating had the policies of the previous Government continued to be pursued.

Let us hope that that estimate proves more reliable than previous efforts. In the interests of transparency, and given tomorrow’s comprehensive spending review, is the Minister now ready to admit that the national debt has risen from £828.7 billion to £1.19 trillion under his watch? If we eliminate the Royal Mail pension fund, as we have been advised to do, and the Bank of England gilts from quantitative easing, is it not true that borrowing in 2012-13 is up, and not down as the Chancellor told this Chamber?

Like you, Mr Speaker, I take a great interest in the hon. Gentleman’s speeches in this House, and I know that he is deeply interested in fiscal policy. Since the beginning of the year, he has spoken 102 times on the subject of public spending cuts, but in each and every intervention he has opposed spending cuts. To cut the debt, we have to cut spending. He should learn that, and the Labour party should as well.

Does the Minister agree that one reason why our debt is such an issue is that the previous Government ran budget deficits in the good times as well as the bad and that the only way to reduce debt is to get the deficit down?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We know that between 2001 and the time they left office, the previous Government trebled the national debt, yet when the shadow Chancellor was asked whether they were too profligate and had too much national debt, he said no. Labour’s new policy is the old policy: more spending, more borrowing, more debt. It is time they learned.

The Prime Minister assured us that by 2015 the books would be balanced. Is it not a fact that as a consequence of the Chancellor’s abject economic failure we are now looking at the deficit reaching £96 billion by 2015? What does the Financial Secretary have to say about that?

I have followed the hon. Gentleman’s interventions over time and he should be familiar, as we all are, with the study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that made it very clear that if the policies of his party had continued, the debt would be £200 billion higher.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we look across the channel to countries such as Italy, we see what can easily happen if a Government lose control of public spending?

The channel is not very far from my hon. Friend’s constituency, so it is possible to look across. He will know that the UK cut its structural deficit by more than any other G7 country over the past three years, whereas Labour racked up the largest structural deficit in the G7. The shadow Chancellor confirmed on Sunday that he would borrow more money in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Labour says it has a new policy, but it is the old policy—to borrow more and to go further into debt.