House of Commons
Wednesday 4 September 2019
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act
While the UK Government have not made a formal assessment of this legislation from the National Assembly for Wales, the wellbeing of future generations is already at the heart of UK Government policy.
The aim of this Act is to focus minds on the long term so that we leave things better off for the next generation than they are for us. Given the decade of austerity, the risk of a no-deal Brexit and the climate emergency we are currently in, how does the Minister think this legislation would fare in UK law judging by what we are doing to the future generations now?
If we were looking well to the future, we would say that this was the first Government of one the major industrialised countries to set a legal target for zero carbon emissions. We can look at the work being done in the north Wales growth deal to drive forward sustainable growth. Given that one of the tests for future generations is not handing them unsustainable debt, we can look at how we got on and tackled the deficit that was completely unsustainable when we inherited it in 2010.
As someone who helped to develop this law from its beginning to its end in Welsh government, I have seen what a difference it has made to our public bodies, to Welsh government, and to people’s lives in Wales in terms of long-term decision making. Will the Minister commit his Government to bringing in this future generations law for the whole of the UK?
As I said, the UK Government already have the wellbeing of our future generations at the heart of our policy. Looking at Labour Members, it would be interesting to know exactly how the provisions around handing on unsustainable debt would apply to the shadow Chancellor’s economic policy.
The best outcome for Wales and the Welsh economy is that the UK leaves the European Union in an orderly manner with a deal. We will continue to work with energy and determination to make sure that that happens. However, the UK will be leaving the European Union on 31 October.
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. I met the Farmers Union of Wales yesterday, and I will be meeting NFU Cymru quite soon. The Japanese market is a new market that opened in January. It is wholly separate from the free trade agreement that the European Union has with Japan, so there has been lots of misreporting that the hon. Gentleman fails to recognise and understand. However, his constituency voted to leave the European Union—why is he trying to stop the process?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because manufacturing is an extremely important part of the Welsh economy. Wales has the fastest growth in the manufacturing sector across the whole of the UK economy. The Welsh manufacturing sector is in good strength, and I look forward to the new opportunities after we have left the European Union.
This House has rejected the withdrawal agreement on three occasions, and it is therefore a dead letter. Given that the people of Wales voted to leave the European Union, does my right hon. Friend agree that we have a positive obligation to deliver Brexit and that that is less likely to be achieved if this House decides to pass the Bill that it will be considering later today?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I pay tribute to him for his work in this area. The Welsh and the British public want Members in this place to act on the result of the referendum, to draw a line and move on, and to focus on growing and supporting the Welsh and the UK economies for the opportunities after we have left the European Union.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the 594 pieces of legislation that this Parliament has passed in the event of a no-deal Brexit and the corresponding pieces of legislation passed in Brussels mean that the future for Wales, whether it be deal or no deal, is bright?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The UK Government are making comprehensive preparations, in the event of a deal or in the event of no deal, to best position the UK and the Welsh economy to take the new opportunities as we leave the European Union. I am determined to work with colleagues right across Whitehall to ensure that Wales is at the forefront of their thinking.
Last night, 85% of Welsh MPs voted against no deal, including some very honourable Members who braved their own Whip. No deal has no mandate from the people and no mandate from Parliament. Is the Secretary of State proud of being complicit in his Administration’s attempt at pushing through an anti-democratic, damaging version of Brexit by silencing Welsh MPs who are representing our nation’s best interests?
The right hon. Lady’s party jointly published a document, “Securing Wales’ Future”, with the Welsh Government, which said that they would honour the outcome of the referendum. The reality is that the right hon. Lady and her party are frustrating the process. People in Wales want to draw a line and move on.
Evidently the Prime Minister has a kennel of little pet dogs. As this place descends into further chaos, when the Senedd is recalled early tomorrow, Plaid Cymru will be calling for a Welsh national constitutional convention, to look at the options for Wales’s constitutional future. Can the Secretary of State confirm whether his party will get behind this national conversation, or will his seniors—the Minister for the Union and his advisers—stifle every attempt at our nation’s democracy?
The right hon. Lady claims to be the leader in Westminster of the party of Wales, but she fails to remember and to act on the instruction that came from the people of Wales to leave the European Union. She is seeking to frustrate the process. She is causing uncertainty to the Welsh economy, which is undermining business confidence.
I have listened intently to the Secretary of State’s answers, and I am struggling, because he appears to be totally out of touch with what is going on in this place and in Wales. Does he now believe that the backstop is anti-democratic and risks undermining the Good Friday agreement, as his current boss claims?
The hon. Lady did not support the withdrawal agreement—she voted against it—which has contributed to the current circumstances. Does she genuinely recognise and want to act on the instruction that came from the Welsh people, which is to leave the European Union? We need to draw a line.
That is another non-answer from the Secretary of State, among many. I thought the system here was that I ask the questions and he answers them, unless I have got it wrong or he wants to swap positions. I will ask him again: why did he vote for the backstop three times under his previous boss? Was that to curry favour and keep his job then, or is he trying to keep his job now, or both?
I am seeking to act on the democratic will of the Welsh and British people, and I am also seeking to respond to the demands that have been made in Parliament. The withdrawal agreement has been killed three times. We are working energetically and enthusiastically with our European allies in order to come back to this House with a deal, so that we can move on and focus on growing the economy and delivering on public services.
People claiming universal credit move into work faster, stay in work longer and spend more time looking to increase their earnings. The latest labour market statistics show the positive impact of universal credit, with unemployment in Wales down 10,000 on the previous quarter.
We are always having discussions across Government about how we can improve the experience for universal credit claimants. It is possible already in certain circumstances for rent to be paid directly, but part of universal credit is ensuring that benefits mimic more the experience of being in a job and encouraging people to find one.
Does the Minister agree that, thanks to the changes that his Government have introduced this year, couples forced to transfer from pension credit to universal credit will lose up to £7,000 each and every year? What is he doing to mitigate that personal economic disaster for those couples all across Wales?
I must say that I do not recognise the figures the hon. Lady has just given, but I would say that the introduction of universal credit has ended the 16-hour cliff edge that many families faced and the introduction of the national living wage has helped boost the incomes of many across Wales.
I can say that the Department for Work and Pensions has been working with Welsh Women’s Aid to deliver training for domestic abuse specialists in jobcentres. By the end of September, every jobcentre in Wales will be covered by a specialist who will further raise awareness of domestic abuse and be able to provide additional support.
Shared Prosperity Fund
I have regular discussions with my Cabinet colleagues on a range of issues, including the UK shared prosperity fund. The Government are committed to consulting widely on the design of the fund, which will provide a real opportunity to strengthen the bonds of the Union through a programme of investment to tackle inequalities between communities.
That does not really tell us very much. The Government snuck out a statement pre-recess, with no guarantees and a very vague promise of consultation. Can the Secretary of State tell me today whether Wales and Scotland will be able to set their own priorities under the shared prosperity fund, or is this just another blatant Westminster power grab?
Wales has received more than £4 billion—or almost £5 billion—over the last 17 years or more, but remains the poorest part of the UK. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change that funding, so it can be more responsive to the needs of communities, rather than perhaps centralised bureaucrats.
Like Wales, Cornwall has benefited from the European regional development fund and objective 1 funding. Can I ask what representations the Welsh Secretary is making to the Treasury to ensure that small businesses are able to bid in, because that was the big problem with the funding in the previous round?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. He talks about the engagement of the private sector and small businesses, particularly with what are currently European programmes, and the difficulty they have had. The UK shared prosperity fund will allow us to respond to the demands of businesses in my hon. Friend’s constituency and right across Wales.
I will happily work constructively with the hon. Gentleman, as I regularly do—I pay tribute to the work he has been doing to highlight the challenges and opportunities that the Ebbw Vale railway line brings—and I will meet him and our colleagues. I would highlight, however, that Cardiff Central is also important to the network in and around south Wales. The renewal of the station, which we have announced, has been well received within the region, as has the new West Wales Parkway, which will take tens of minutes off journey times between Cardiff and west Wales.
Can the Secretary of State give this House an assurance that every part of Wales—not just west Wales and the valleys, but every part of Wales, including mid-Wales—will be in a position to benefit from the funding opportunities that will arise from the UK shared prosperity fund?
May I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for highlighting and championing this cause for some time? He recognises that some of the poorest wards in Wales are outside the current European rules about where money can be spent. His constituency is one and my constituency is another, so reshaping the UK shared prosperity fund will give us an opportunity to support his most vulnerable constituents and others, wherever else they are in Wales.
Agencies, small businesses and local authorities are making post-2020 plans now. What assurances can the Secretary of State give those businesses and agencies that the money will become available, and how will they manage to access this money?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Even if we were remaining in the European Union and we had not had the referendum, there would be no clarity on his question from a European perspective. The way in which the Labour party is prolonging the Brexit debate means more uncertainty for community groups that want to benefit from the post-Brexit policies, such as the UK shared prosperity fund.
Leaving the EU: No Deal
I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues. We would prefer to leave the European Union with a deal, but if it is not possible, we will leave without a deal, and the Government are committed to preparing for this outcome.
Wales will benefit from Brexit with or without a deal. Does the Secretary of State agree that we could deliver an extra boost to the economy of south Wales by devolving air passenger duty to the Welsh Government, allowing them to cut that tax in Wales, which would put Wales on an equal footing with Scotland and Northern Ireland?
My hon. Friend has made many points. I pay tribute to the research and report that the Welsh Affairs Committee, which he chairs, has published. It has recently received a response from the Government. It highlighted that this is one aviation market. Therefore, we cannot act in a way that would benefit one part and destroy another. I fear that the Welsh Government would increase air passenger duty in Cardiff and make the airport even more uncompetitive.
I met the Farmers Union of Wales yesterday to discuss the challenges and opportunities that Brexit will bring. I plan to meet NFU Cymru shortly. We recognise that there are new markets that we need to be exploring. I have already highlighted Japan as one of those markets, but there are many more.
To continue that point, 40% of the UK’s sheepmeat is exported tariff-free to the EU. Yesterday, our shadow team met the FUW, which said that on 1 November there will be a huge lamb market in Dolgellau. If we crash out of the EU without a deal on Halloween, the lamb export market will disappear overnight. The lambs in Dolgellau will have no market value and will be culled, buried or sold off as pet food. Which of those options does the Secretary of State think is the best?
Leaving the EU: No Deal
I have regular discussions with Welsh Government Ministers on a range of issues, including preparations for leaving the EU. Within days of the Prime Minister’s appointment at the end of July, the Prime Minister and I met the First Minister in Cardiff. Naturally our departure from the EU was central to these discussions.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. There are some concerns that the devolved Administrations might not be as ready as this Government for a no-deal exit. Can he confirm that this Government are doing all they can to ensure that the entire UK is ready to leave, come what may, on 31 October?
My hon. Friend has hit the nail on the head. The devolved Administrations are invited to the exit planning committees that the UK Government hold. They are fully aware of the proactive, positive steps and measures that we have introduced in preparation for leaving the European Union. I am only disappointed that the same courtesy and invitation have not been extended by the Scottish and Welsh Governments, which would allow and give us the same confidence.
The Secretary of State talked about manufacturing and the economy. The impact of Tata’s announcement on Monday that it will close Cogent’s Orb steelworks will be keenly felt in Newport. It is devastating news for workers and their families. Will he meet me urgently to discuss what the Government will do?
Absolutely. I will meet the hon. Lady and work with her to co-ordinate our response. I recognise the priority she has placed on this operation for some time and she highlighted some of the risks and concerns she had some time ago. Yesterday, I spoke to Roy Rickhuss from Community union. I have, naturally, also spoken to Tata. We are working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in terms of challenging the issues that Tata is raising to seek to bring it to the most competitive position possible.
With reports that the British Government are stockpiling body bags as part of their no-deal Brexit preparations, what assessment has the Secretary of State undertaken of the amount of Welsh people who may die as a result of medical shortages for a no-deal Brexit?
The hon. Gentleman, by supporting the motion last night and the Bill this evening, is simply prolonging the uncertainty. The Welsh people and the British people want certainty about our exit from the European Union. We are determined to leave at the end of October. We would like to leave with a deal—that will give us the smoothest possible exit—but at least we can plan for the opportunities the future brings. [Interruption.]
Strength of the Union
This Government are a Unionist Government firmly committed to strengthening our United Kingdom. My noble Friend Lord Dunlop is conducting an independent inquiry to ensure UK Government structures are configured to strengthen the working of the Union, while respecting and supporting the current devolution settlements.
I totally agree with my hon. Friend. Seeing powers coming back to this United Kingdom and going to the devolved tier of government will help to bring our four nations closer together. That is why it is so strange that those people who call themselves nationalists actually want to take powers back so they can give them away again to Brussels.
Leaving the EU: Potential Benefits
The Welsh economy approaches EU exit from a strong position. Leaving the EU will allow us to shape our own ambitious trade and investment opportunities, putting Wales and the wider UK at the forefront of global trade and investment.
We can take great pride in how the economy has performed since the referendum took place: record levels of employment; low levels of unemployment; and inactivity levels in Wales now that are better than the rest of the UK for the first time in decades. I look forward to the opportunities being a participant in new free trade agreements right around the world will give to the Welsh economy.
I have already mentioned the positive engagement that we have with the farming and rural affairs community, and the new markets that are open to us. The hon. Gentleman, by voting last night in favour of a motion and by supporting the Bill tonight, will just prolong the uncertainty and will not allow farmers to prepare. We are determined to leave the European Union. We want to leave the European Union with a deal, but we must draw a line and move on to exciting economic opportunities thereafter.
Severn Bridge Tolls
I am delighted to say that July 2019 saw a 20% increase in traffic westbound and an 8% increase eastbound compared with July 2018. It is too early to make a detailed economic assessment, but our initial estimates were that it would boost the Welsh economy by around £100 million a year.
I am really pleased to hear of those benefits. Will the Minister have a word with the Transport Secretary—just along from him on the Government Front Bench—and get him to take notice of them and have him remove the tolls on the Mersey crossing, which the Conservative Government said that they would never levy in the first place?
RAF St Athan: School of Technical Training
The Secretary of State has regular discussions with Ministers at the Ministry of Defence on No. 4 School of Technical Training. I will be meeting Ministers at the MOD shortly to explore options not only on maintaining St Athan’s role as an important military and civilian site, but on how to enhance the wider military presence in Wales.
The commandant has said that the school will close before April 2024. What steps is the Secretary of State taking, given that it is in his constituency, to ensure that the people there will have a chance either to move to Cosford or Lyneham, or, even better, to remain in Wales with this viable school remaining where it should be?
The Prime Minister was asked—
I know that the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to PC Andrew Harper, who was killed while on duty. His death and the serious injuries sustained by PC Stuart Outten in London and PC Gareth Phillips in Birmingham are a powerful reminder of the dangers that police officers face every day to keep us safe.
This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
May I associate myself with the comments about the brave acts of the police officers?
On Brexit, the former Prime Minister’s deal was unacceptable to this House, but to leave without a deal is unthinkable, yet the Prime Minister pursues a game of brinksmanship built on the livelihoods, health and future of my constituents and our country. There is still an option to resolve this once and for all: if the Prime Minister really believes in no deal, let him put it to the people and ask our people if that is the price they want to pay.
As the hon. Lady knows very well, this Government will take this country out of the European Union on 31 October. There is only one thing that stands in our way: the surrender Bill currently being proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. I invite the Leader of the Opposition to confirm, when he stands up shortly, that if that surrender Bill is passed, he will allow the people of this country to have their view on what he is proposing to hand over in their name with an election on 15 October.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his excellent suggestion. As he knows, we currently apply the reduced 5% rate on domestic fuel and power, which is the lowest allowed under EU law, but of course when we leave the EU on 31 October, it will be open to us to change this to the benefit of the people of Harlow.
I start by paying my deepest respects to PC Andrew Harper, who died in the line of duty. It is a reminder of the risks that he faced and that police officers face all the time trying to protect communities. We send our sympathies to his family, colleagues and friends.
I also send our condolences to those affected by Hurricane Dorian, which hit the Bahamas at the weekend. I hope and am sure that the Government and the Department for International Development will do all they can to send all the help that is necessary.
Yesterday, it was revealed that the Prime Minister’s negotiating strategy was to run down the clock and that the Attorney General told him that his belief that the EU would drop the backstop was a complete fantasy. Are these reports accurate, or can the Prime Minister provide the detail of the proposals he has put forward to the EU?
Our negotiating strategy is to get a deal by the summit on 17 October, to take this country out of the EU on 31 October and to get Brexit done. The right hon. Gentleman’s surrender Bill would wreck any chances of the talks. We do not know what his strategy would be if he took over. He is asking for mobs of Momentum activists to paralyse the traffic. What are they supposed to chant? What is the slogan? “What do we want? Dither and delay. When do we want it? We don’t know.” That is his policy. Can he confirm now that he will allow the people of this country to decide on what he is giving up in their name with a general election on 15 October? Or is he frit?
My first question to the Prime Minister, and no answer given! I asked what proposals had been put to the EU. We asked yesterday—many colleagues asked—and he seems utterly incapable of answering. Any rational human being would assume therefore that none have been put and there is no answer. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues have said he is making progress. The EU’s chief negotiator, the Chancellor of Germany and the Taoiseach of Ireland say that no proposals have yet been made by the UK. If the Prime Minister thinks he has made progress, will he publish the proposals he has put forward to replace the backstop?
Let us be absolutely clear. This Government will get a deal from our friends in Brussels and we will get the backstop out. We will get an agreement that I think the House can agree with. The only thing standing in our way is the undermining of our negotiations by this surrender Bill, which would lead to more dither and delay. We delayed in March; we delayed in April; and now the right hon. Gentleman wants to delay again for absolutely no purpose whatever. What does he intend by this? The Government are spending £1 billion to put 20,000 more police officers on the streets. He wants to spend £1 billion a month—net—to keep us in the EU beyond 31 October. I will never allow that.
I really fail to see how I can be accused of undermining negotiations, because no negotiations are taking place. The right hon. Gentleman has been Prime Minister for six weeks, and he promised to get Brexit sorted. In six weeks, he has presented nothing to change the previous Prime Minister’s deal, which he twice voted against. The negotiations that he talks about are a sham. All that he is doing is running down the clock.
At the weekend, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that food prices would go up under no deal. Will the Prime Minister publish the Yellowhammer documents so that people can see which food prices will go up and by how much?
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said absolutely no such thing, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that, thanks to my right hon. Friend’s good offices and thanks to his efforts, preparations for no deal are very far advanced. I can also tell him that the surest way of getting no deal is to undermine this country’s ability to negotiate, which is what he is doing.
If this Bill is passed this afternoon—I do not want an election, and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman wants an election, but there is a petition on his own Labour website in which 57,000 people, including Carol, Nigel, Graham and Phoebe, have called for an election. I do not know whether there is a Jeremy on the list. I do know that the right hon. Gentleman is worried about free trade deals with America, but I can see only one chlorinated chicken in the House, and he is sitting on the Opposition Front Bench. Will he confirm that he will let the people decide on what he is doing to this country’s negotiating position by having a general election on 15 October?
Perhaps the Prime Minister will tell us what the negotiating position actually is.
The Prime Minister may have forgotten the question that I asked, given his rather lengthy peroration. When the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster denied that there would be shortages of fresh food, the British Retail Consortium said that that was “categorically untrue”.
I hope that no more young female staff are going to be frogmarched out of Downing Street, because there was another Government leak at the weekend, concerning disruption of our ports. The leaked documents, written by the Government in the last fortnight, show that no deal would lead to shortages on the shelves and shortages of medical supplies in hospitals. People need to prepare. So I ask the Prime Minister again: will he publish the Yellowhammer documents in full, so that people can see which foodstuffs are not going to be available, which medicines are not going to be supplied and what will happen given the shortages of vital supplies in every one of our hospitals all over the country?
What the right hon. Gentleman is recommending is yet more dither, yet more delay and yet more uncertainty for business. What we in the Government want to do is deliver on the mandate of the people. The right hon. Gentleman used to be a democrat. He used to believe in upholding the referendum result. Can he say now whether he would vote in favour of leave or remain, and can he say now whether he is in favour of a second referendum or not?
The Prime Minister failed to answer my questions about food supplies, about medicine supplies and about the problems in hospitals. He refuses to publish the Yellowhammer documents. He talks about scaremongering. Where does the information come from, other than his office in his Government? He is obviously so confident of the position that he has adopted that he is now prepared to spend £100 million of our money on an advertising campaign to try to persuade people that everything is fine. He knows it is not, and they know it is not. He is hiding the facts.
The Government have refused to publish their impact assessments on how a no-deal Brexit would affect poverty in this country. They received a request under the Freedom of Information Act from the Glasgow-based Poverty Alliance; the DWP replied that the public interest would not be served by that disclosure. Will the Prime Minister publish that analysis? If he will not, what has he got to hide?
Unlike the right hon. Member, who would squander £1 billion a month of taxpayers’ money on staying pointlessly in the EU, this Government are getting on with running a sound economy so that the poorest people in our country are seeing increases in their wages for the first time in more than a decade. I am proud to say that those on the living wage are now taking home £4,500 more every year than they were in 2010, thanks to this Conservative Government.
Mr Speaker, you do not have to go very far from the portals of this House to see real destitution: people begging and sleeping on the streets; child poverty is up compared with 2010; pensioner poverty is up; and in-work poverty is up. The Prime Minister will not give us any of the information of the assessments of increased poverty that could come from his Government’s proposals.
We are fewer than 60 days away from leaving the EU with no deal. The Prime Minister had two days in office before the summer recess and then has planned to prorogue Parliament. Yesterday, he lost one vote—his first vote in Parliament—and he now wants to dissolve Parliament. He is desperate—absolutely desperate—to avoid scrutiny. [Interruption.] In his third day in office, after five questions from me, we have not had an answer to any of them. I can see why he is desperate to avoid scrutiny: he has no plan to get a new deal—no plan, no authority and no majority. If he—[Interruption.]
Order. If we have to go on longer because people sitting on the Treasury Bench are yelling to try to disrupt, so be it, we will go on longer. Some people used to believe in good behaviour; I believe in good behaviour on both sides of the House. It had better happen or it will take a whole lot longer—very simple, very clear.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
If the Prime Minister does to the country what he has done to his party in the past 24 hours, a lot of people have a great deal to fear from his incompetence, his vacillation and his refusal to publish known facts—that are known to him—about the effects of a no-deal Brexit.
I really do not see how with a straight face the right hon. Gentleman can accuse anybody of being unwilling to stand up to scrutiny when he will not agree to submit his surrender Bill to the verdict of the people in an election. He is frit; he is frightened.
He makes a contrast between this Government and his own proposals. The contrast could not be clearer: we think that the friends of this country are to be found in Paris, in Berlin and in the White House, and he thinks that they are in the Kremlin, in Tehran and—[Interruption.] He does. And in Caracas—and I think he is “caracas”!
We are putting 20,000 police on the street, we have 20 new hospital upgrades, we are growing the economy. The right hon. Gentleman, by contrast, would put a £300 billion tax on every company in the country, he wants a tax on homes, and he is calling incessantly for a general strike. The shadow Education Secretary says that Labour’s economic policy is—and I quote, by your leave, Mr Speaker,—“shit-or-bust”; I say it is both.
What this country needs is sensible, moderate, progressive Conservative government and to take this country out of the EU on 31 October, and that is what we are going to deliver.
National Security Adviser
I hope that my right hon. Friend is not going to follow every policy adopted by his predecessor. This is one that he should not follow. The Defence Committee needs to take evidence from the National Security Adviser on the failure to anticipate the Iranians’ reaction to the British seizure of a tanker. It is hardly likely, however, that the Cabinet Secretary will come before the Defence Committee, so would it not make sense to have a full-time occupant of the post of National Security Adviser as soon as possible so that Select Committees and the National Security Committee can do our jobs properly?
I think that the role has been very well performed in recent times, but I take my right hon. Friend’s point very humbly and sincerely, and I will ensure that invitations to appear before his Committee are considered in the usual way and that he gets all the satisfaction he desires.
Last night, Parliament once again defeated this shambolic Tory Government. Today, we have seized back control from a Prime Minister who is behaving more like a dictator than a democrat. The Prime Minister must be stopped, and MPs must tonight unite across this House to take no deal off the table. We will defeat the Government again, so, when we succeed, will the Prime Minister respect the democratic vote of this House and the democratic will of the people we represent and finally act to remove the threat of a catastrophic no-deal Brexit?
I know that the right hon. Gentleman is a new boy, but may I suggest to him that we ask the questions and he is supposed to answer them? Quite simply, my colleagues and I are sent here by the people of Scotland, where we have a majority. The people of Scotland voted to remain in the European Union and we are not going to be dragged out against our will by the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister must also not be paying attention to the polls this morning. They show that the Scottish National party is polling to win a majority in Scotland once again, with the Tories in retreat, so if he wants an election, he should enable the Bill and bring it on.
It is clear for all to see that the Prime Minister is playing a game of bluff and bluster. He does not care about stopping a no-deal Brexit. His strategy, as his lead adviser put it, is a sham. This is not a Parliament versus the people; it is a Parliament standing up for the people. The people did not vote for a no-deal Brexit. This Prime Minister is robbing the people of power and handing control to the Leave campaign, the cult now running No. 10. Once again, I ask the Prime Minister: are you a dictator or a Democrat? Will he accept the legislation today so that no deal can be avoided, and will he let us vote for an election so that the people can truly decide the next steps?
I am a democrat, because I not only want to respect the will of the people in the referendum but want to have an election—or I am willing to have an election—if the terrible Bill goes through.
There is a reason why the separatists in Scotland drone on and on about breaking up and smashing the oldest and most successful political union, and that is to detract from their appalling domestic record. They are a total shambles. They have the highest taxes anywhere in Europe. Their educational standards are falling, for which they are responsible. Their signature policy—[Interruption.] This is a useful point. Their signature policy is to return Scotland to the European Union after Brexit, complete with the euro, the full panoply of EU laws and, as I never tire of saying, the surrendering of Scottish fish just when they have been taken back by this country.
I thank my hon. Friend very much. We love Telford, of course, and it is going to see even more when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announces his spending review shortly. There will be investment in the NHS, more police officers to keep our streets and the hon. Lady’s streets safe, and more money for every school in this country. Conservatives are delivering on the priorities of the British people.
Of course we are preparing for a no-deal Brexit if we absolutely must have one. I do not think that the consequences will be anything like as bad as the merchants of Project Fear have said, but the way to avoid a no-deal Brexit is to allow this Government to get on and do a deal at the summit on 17 October. The choice for this country is who they want doing that deal: this Government or that Labour party, led by Jeremy Corbyn.
Order. We do not name people in the Chamber. People must observe the rules—[Interruption.] Order. I am simply and politely informing the Prime Minister of the very long-established procedure with which everybody, including the Prime Minister, must comply. That is the position—no doubt, no argument, no contradiction—and that is the end of the matter.
I welcome the new Prime Minister to the Dispatch Box and tell him that this year we celebrate 10 years since this House passed the Autism Act, which is still the only disability-specific piece of legislation in the UK. The all-party parliamentary group on autism, made up of Members from all parts of the House, will publish next week the 10th annual review, with recommendations for the Government right across the board. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to look at the recommendations carefully and instruct his Chancellor to put more resources and more money into helping people with autism and their families receive the help and services they need?
I thank my right hon. Friend very much for everything she has done for that cause over many years, and I reassure her that, very shortly, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will outline not just more money for primary schools and secondary schools, but also a big investment in schools for special educational needs and disabilities. That is, again, delivering on the priorities of the British people.
If the hon. Gentleman wants to put that matter to the people, the best thing he can do is persuade his right hon. Friend to summon up his courage and to stop being so frit. If he is going to pass this wretched surrender Bill, at least he should submit it to the judgment of the people in the form of a general election.
If the hon. Gentleman wants to implement the will of the people of Swansea, what he should do is vote with this Government and not for the surrender Bill tonight.
As my right hon. Friend knows full well, there have been demands for the Prorogation of Parliament ahead of a Queen’s Speech from the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) and from across the House. This Session has lasted longer than any in the last 400 years, and there will be ample opportunity to debate the Brexit deal in this House after 17 October if this Government are allowed to get on and deliver a deal.
There is a great deal of preparatory work going on—particularly in the west midlands, which the hon. Gentleman represents—to make sure that automotive supply chains are indeed ready for a no-deal scenario, but we do not want a no-deal scenario. And the way to avoid it is not to vote for the absurd surrender Bill that is before the House today and to let the Government get on and negotiate a deal, because that is what we want to do.
The Scotch whisky industry is hugely important in Moray. The potential tariffs applied by the US as part of its trade war with the EU could cost hundreds or thousands of jobs across Scotland and the United Kingdom, so what representations has the Prime Minister made to President Trump? Will his Government do everything possible to avoid these tariffs being applied to the Scotch whisky industry?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on everything he does to represent that vital industry, which earns billions of pounds in revenue for this country. Tariffs on Scotch whisky would be absolutely absurd—a point we have made repeatedly to our friends in the United States—but, again, when we do free trade deals around the world, Scotch whisky is one of those many products that will have its chances boosted in growing export markets.
If the hon. Lady wants to speak for the people of Lincoln, who, after all, voted to leave —yes, they did—the best thing she can do is make sure we come out of the EU on 31 October with a deal. If she is genuinely prepared to frustrate that ambition, through the surrender deal being proposed today, will she at least have a word with her friend on the Front Bench and urge him, as she speaks of democracy, to submit his Bill to the will of the people, in the form of a general election on 15 October? Will she at least say that to him?
Many of us in this House will know the value of community hospitals in our constituencies, with none more valued than Leek Moorlands Hospital in my constituency. A consultation has recently been undertaken on the provision of healthcare in north Staffordshire, and there is understandable concern about the future of Leek Moorlands. So will the Prime Minister join my campaign to keep the hospital open in Leek, with enhanced services, for the benefit of all the people of Leek and Staffordshire Moorlands?
First, let me thank my right hon. Friend for everything she has done for the people of Northern Ireland and for rightly raising this issue in her constituency with me. Of course she will understand that decisions affecting Leek Moorlands must be led by clinicians, but I hope a solution can be found that benefits everyone in her constituency.
May I tell the hon. Gentleman that what the people of this country want to see is us come together to come out of the EU on 31 October with a deal? We are making great progress with our friends and partners in Brussels and Dublin, and even in Paris, but I am afraid those talks are currently being undermined by the absurd Bill before the House today. I urge him to reject it. If he must pass it, will he have a word with his right hon. Friend and ensure that that Bill is put to the people, in the form of a general election?
In the light of the Prime Minister’s answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Hertfordshire (Mr Gauke), could the Prime Minister please explain why it has proved impossible to find any official or Minister prepared to state that the reasons for Prorogation were to pave the way for a Queen’s Speech, in the course of the current legal proceedings in which the Government are involved? Would the Prime Minister like to reconsider the answer he has just given to the House?
I think it absolutely bizarre that a London Labour Member of Parliament should ignore the role of the present Mayor of London, who is, frankly, not a patch on the old guy. I left him £600 million and he has squandered it on press officers. Sadiq Khan has squandered it on press officers, and the faster we get rid of him and get more police officers out on the street, the better. That is the best possible argument for Shaun Bailey as Mayor of London.
Order. In the remaining minutes of this session, I appeal to colleagues to take account of the fact that we are visited by a distinguished group of Lebanese parliamentarians, at the invitation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the all-party group on Lebanon, which is chaired by the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes). We would like to set them a good example; I am not sure at the moment how impressed they will be.
I think I can comply with that advice, Mr Speaker.
I welcome the extra £14 billion that was recently announced for schools, especially in respect of South West Devon, where I understand we will have the largest increase in the country to correct historical underspending. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this cash boost will help our hard-working teachers to prepare the next generation to reach their full potential? Will it not be wonderful, when we get through Brexit, to start to talk about education, health and social care—the things our constituents are really bothered about?
I am not going to take any lectures from anybody in the Labour party about how to run a party. Theirs is a party in which good, hard-working MPs are daily hounded out by antisemitic mobs. Let us be absolutely clear: if the hon. Gentleman is interested in democracy, I hope he has been listening to what I have been saying today. In an anti-democratic way, the Bill that will come before the House today would hand over this country’s right to decide how long to remain in the EU, and it would hand it over to the EU itself. That is what the Bill involves. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that is a good idea, let him submit it to the judgment of the British people in an election.
I am sure that you, Mr Speaker, will know that tomorrow is the ninth annual Watford jobs fair. I am taking particular interest in the 1,000 or so vacancies this year, and I feel that other Members on both sides of the House might be interested as well. I thank Victoria Lynch and Anna Cox for organising it. We have 1,000 vacancies in more than 60 companies. If the Prime Minister has any spare time tomorrow—there is not much going on here—perhaps he could pop up to Watford, where he would be very welcome.
I thank my hon. Friend, who has been a wonderful champion for Watford and for conservative values. I have been to campaign for him in Watford and seen how popular he is. There are now 20,000 job vacancies in the police, if he or anybody in Watford wishes to take up that role, and there are many more in nursing. As my hon. Friend knows, in Watford and throughout the country, unemployment is at a record low and employment is at record highs, because of the sound economic policies that this Government have followed.
Again, that is a bit rich from a member of a party whose shadow Chancellor says that business is the enemy—[Interruption.] Where is he? He has gone. The hon. Lady should listen to the people of her constituency who voted to leave the EU and implement their wishes, and that is what this Government are going to do.
Much has been made about provision for EU nationals resident in the United Kingdom post Brexit. Much less comfort has been offered to those 1.5 million United Kingdom nationals resident throughout the rest of the European Union. Is the Prime Minister in a position to confirm not on a piecemeal, but on a pan-European basis that all pensions will be paid in full, that exportable benefits will continue to be paid in full, that healthcare will be covered in full, and that rights of domicile and freedom of movement will be protected? There are frightened people who need an answer.
I thank my right hon. Friend and I can assure him that that matter is, of course, at the top of our concerns with all our EU friends and partners. We have made it absolutely clear that the very, very generous offer that this country has rightly made to the 3.4 million EU citizens here in this country must be reciprocated symmetrically and in full by our friends in the way that he has described.
I must correct the hon. Gentleman because, in fact, unemployment is well down in his constituency, employment is up and health outcomes are up. When I made those remarks, which was many, many years ago, it was, I am afraid, when his constituency had the sad misfortune to have a Labour Government in power. That is no longer the case.
I know that, like me, my right hon. Friend has deep concerns about the unfair retrospective loan charge. It is tearing families apart, driving people to despair and reportedly some to suicide. With more than 8.000 people signing my petition saying that we cannot go on like this, can he advise the House on what urgent action his Government will be taking to address this?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question because this is an issue that my own constituents have raised with me, and I know that many of my hon. Friends have also had this issue raised with them. I am sure that Members on all sides of the House have met people who have taken out loan charges in the expectation that they can reduce their tax exposure. It is a very, very difficult issue and I have undertaken to have a thoroughgoing review of the matter. Of course, I will make sure that my hon. Friend has every opportunity to have further discussions with the Treasury about how to redress the situation and about the gravity of the situation.
If the hon. Gentleman took the trouble to read the article in question, he would see that it was a strong liberal defence of—as he began his question by saying—everybody’s right to wear whatever they want in this country. I speak as somebody who is proud not only to have Muslim ancestors, but to be related to Sikhs like him. I am also proud to say that, under this Government, we have the most diverse Cabinet in the history of this country. We truly reflect modern Britain. We have yet to hear from anywhere in the Labour party any hint of apology for the virus of antisemitism that is now rampant in its ranks. I would like to hear that from the hon. Gentleman.
The great lady, whom I am sure you and I both revere, Mr Speaker, once said, “Advisers advise, Ministers decide.” Can I ask the Prime Minister to bear that statement closely in mind in relation to his own chief adviser, Dominic Cummings? [Applause.]
Order. The reply must be heard. If the House were to want as a matter of course to allow clapping, by decision of the House, so be it, but it should not otherwise become a regular practice. We have heard the question, pungently expressed. Let us hear the answer from the Prime Minister.
I am used to breasting applause from Labour audiences, particularly since, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, we are actually devoted to delivering on the mandate of those Labour constituencies and we are going to take the UK out of the EU on 31 October. As for the excellent question that my hon. Friend asked, be in no doubt that we are deciding on a policy to take this country forward, not backwards, as the Leader of the Opposition would do.
The Prime Minister’s response to the hon. Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) was appalling. An apology was required, rather than some kind of justification that there is ever any acceptable context for remarks such as the Prime Minister made in that column. He is the Prime Minister of our country. His words carry weight and he has to be more careful with what he says. My constituent Kristin is afraid because her mum, a European citizen, has been struggling to get settled status after 45 years in this country. Our friends, colleagues and neighbours deserve better than his failures and carelessness with language.
Her constituent Kristin—if she has indeed been here for 45 years, and I am sure she has—should be automatically eligible for settled status. Clearly, it is a difficult case, but the answer is for the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) to bring it to the Home Secretary, and I am sure we can sort it out.
Spending Round 2019
Let me start by saying a few words about the circumstances surrounding today’s statement. We are in uncharted waters. I understand the strong feelings around the House on these important questions, but it cannot be right for a proud, sovereign democracy to ignore the will of the people. If the House votes for the Bill this afternoon, all we will be doing is delaying what the people have entrusted to us to do, and creating even more uncertainty for our democracy and our economy through a general election that nobody wants. We cannot allow that uncertainty to distract us from delivering on the people’s priorities, so today, to give certainty where we can, I announce our spending plans for Britain’s first year outside the European Union.
After a decade of recovery from Labour’s great recession, we are turning the page on austerity and beginning a new decade of renewal. A new economic era needs a new economic plan, and today we lay the foundations with the fastest increase in day-to-day spending for 15 years. The plans I announce today mean that we will be able to build a safer Britain where our streets are more secure; a healthier Britain where we can care for people throughout their lives; and a better educated Britain where every child and young person has the opportunity to succeed, no matter where they come from or who their parents are. We will build a global Britain where we walk tall in the world with more, not less, of a presence on the international stage; a modern Britain where we embrace diversity as a strength; an enterprising Britain where we are proud of our scientists, our inventors and our entrepreneurs; and a prosperous Britain where we live within our means and growth comes from every corner of this nation. Today we lay the foundations for a stronger, fairer and more prosperous future for our great country.
It has been three years and three months since the British people gave us their instruction to leave the European Union. If people are going to have faith in the ballot box again, we absolutely have to follow through on that instruction. That is why we have set a deadline of 31 October—just 57 days away. The Government still believe that the best outcome would be to leave with a deal, and we could not be more serious about negotiating for such an outcome. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has set out our position, and our central ask is clear: to remove the anti-democratic backstop from the withdrawal agreement. But without the ability and willingness to walk away with no deal, we will not get a good deal.
I know that some businesses and households are concerned about what a no-deal outcome would mean for them. I recognise that, and I understand that the uncertainty around Brexit is challenging, but this is ultimately a question of trust in our democracy. In the end, a strong economy can only be built on the foundation of a successful democracy.
Points of order ordinarily follow statements, as I know the Father of House is well aware. The Chancellor’s opening remarks were, frankly, out of order. That is the reality of the matter. [Interruption.] Order. I do not need any help from anybody chuntering from a sedentary position. With the very greatest of respect, I will provide the rulings from the Chair. I hope everybody is very clear that that is the way it works in this place. The opening remarks from the Chancellor were out of order and I exercised a degree of latitude, but the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) is right that the statement should be focused on and exclusively concerning the spending round. As it is, the Chancellor consulted me yesterday because he was concerned about the length of the statement. It should not be longer as a result of remarks that do not relate to that subject. That is all I need to say; it is very straightforward, and I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will comply with that simple stricture.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Let me reassure people of this: if we leave with no deal, we will be ready. Within my first few days as Chancellor, I provided £2.1 billion of extra funding for Brexit and no-deal preparedness, and today I can announce that we will provide a further £2 billion for Brexit delivery next year as well. That means more Border Force staff, better transport infrastructure at our ports and more support for business readiness. I have tasked the Treasury with preparing a comprehensive economic response to support the economy if needed, and will work closely with the independent Bank of England to co-ordinate fiscal and monetary policy.
Sensible economic policy means that we should plan for both outcomes, and we are doing so, but we should be careful not to let our focus on planning and preparedness distract us from the opportunities that lie ahead. Brexit will allow us to reshape the British economy and reaffirm our place as a world-leading economic power. We will have the opportunity to design smarter, more flexible regulation and to cut red tape that stifles innovation. We will be able to replace inefficient EU programmes with better, home-grown alternatives. Even if we leave with no deal, I am confident that we will be able to secure a deep, best-in-class free trade agreement with the EU and pursue a genuinely independent free trade policy with the rest of the world. Deal or no deal, I am confident that our best days lie ahead.
Although the immediate outcome of the talks is uncertain, there are some things that we can be certain about when it comes to the economy and our ability to set out what we can afford to spend. As we look towards our future outside the EU, we can build on some extraordinary economic strengths. At its heart, this country is an open, outward-looking trading nation. We are at our best when we look out to the world beyond our shores. That is not just a slogan. We are the No. 1 destination in Europe for inward investment. Our language, our location, our legal system and, most of all, our people make the UK a global hub for business. We are the home of world-class businesses. A stream of ideas and innovations flows from our brilliant universities and research institutes, making the UK second only to the United States in the all-time rankings of Nobel prize winners. We also have an economic landscape that has been watched over by long-standing, well respected institutions. All that will continue as we forge a new economic relationship with the EU.
But the vision of an open free-market enterprising economy is under threat, and if that threat transpires, it will have a direct impact on our spending power. It is under threat not from the people on the other side of the channel, but from the people on the other side of the Chamber. Let us be in no doubt about the biggest threat to the UK economy. The No. 1 concern raised by businesses and international investors is not the form of our exit from the EU; the real “Project Fear” is the agenda of the Labour party. If the Opposition had their way, whole sectors of the economy—
Order. This really is very unseemly, and I am sorry to have to say that to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has always been unfailingly courteous in his personal dealings with me and probably with everybody else. I say what I say with a heavy heart and not without reflection. There is a very long-established procedure to statements of this kind, and it bothers me greatly that the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of a statement, seems to be veering into matters outwith—not even tangential to, but unrelated to—the spending round upon which he is focused, and I know that I say what I do with the vigorous concurrence of people who have been in this House a great deal longer than he or I. I must therefore ask the Chancellor, who I am sure is fleet of foot, so to adjust his remarks from his prepared text in order that he focuses upon that which he should focus on and not upon that which is immaterial to the statement. I am setting out the position and no one, be he ever so high, is going to tell me what the procedures in the Chamber of the House of Commons are.
Mr Speaker, you will recall that when I first took my seat as the Member of Parliament for Bromsgrove, the economy was in a very difficult and different position. Since then we have had to work hard to restore the nation’s finances, and it is precisely because we have restored the nation’s finances that we can have the spending commitments that I am about to make today. I have to—if I may, Mr Speaker—set out the context of the situation then and how we got out of it, so that we can focus on how we can generate the spending power that we are able to deploy today.
Back then, our budget deficit was 10% of GDP. We borrowed £150 billion in Labour’s last year in office. It was the highest deficit in our peacetime history. We were borrowing £1 in every £4 that was spent. The Labour party lost control of the nation’s finances, as it always does, and it fell to the Conservatives to pick up the mess.
My two immediate predecessors took the difficult decisions that we needed to bring the deficit under control, allowing us to have the spending that I am setting out today. They did that not for ideological reasons, but because running an enormous deficit meant that our debt was rising at an unsustainable rate, making our economy vulnerable to shocks and passing on a huge burden to the next generation. The deficit is now 1.1% of GDP. For the first time in a generation, public sector debt is falling sustainably as a share of our national income, and we have boosted our credibility around the world and built confidence in the UK economy again. Labour left behind a bankrupt Britain, and we have fixed it.
Thanks to those difficult decisions and the hard work of the British people, we can now afford to turn the page on austerity and move forward from a decade of recovery to a decade of renewal. Our careful management of the public finances means that we can now afford to spend more on vital public services, so today I am deciding to set the real increase in day-to-day spending next year at £13.8 billion, delivering on the people’s priorities across the NHS, education and police, and giving certainty to all Departments about their budgets for next year—clearing the decks for a Government who are delivering Brexit.
I have always believed in the importance of living within our means, and—unlike the Labour party—I will not squander the hard work of the last nine years, so even with the extra spending, we are still meeting the current fiscal rules. While the biggest challenge a decade ago was getting the deficit down, our biggest challenge today is getting our long-term economic growth back to where it was before Labour’s great recession. If we can do that, we can ensure that there can be future spending increases that can also be sustainable, boosting wages and raising living standards, which have stagnated for too long, levelling up across the regions and nations.
We need to improve our productivity—the amount that is produced every hour worked. That is not just a technical term. Slower productivity means lower wages and uneven growth across the country. If productivity had continued to grow at its pre-crisis levels, then average annual wages would be £5,000 higher. That pressure on people’s pay packets speaks to a wider sense of disillusion and unfairness, especially in so many towns and cities outside London and the south-east. Even as the economy has grown, and people have worked hard, not everyone feels they have benefited. There is a real sense of anxiety that has emerged over the years: a sense that politicians are not listening and that the system is not working; that the free market model is not living up to its promise. We are seeing divisions emerge throughout society between regions and communities, rich and poor, rural and urban, young and old. Addressing those concerns will be a serious effort, and that is what will be shown in these spending plans today. We will develop a new economic plan for the years ahead—a plan that moves beyond the last decade of economic recovery and looks forward to a decade of renewal; a plan that invests more in the future growth of this country.
We can afford to invest more because our economy is growing and our public finances are strong. We are also deciding on our fiscal approach at a time when the cost of Government borrowing is at record lows. Interest rates have been low for many years, and in recent weeks the cost of Government borrowing has fallen below 1% across all maturities. In the years after the financial crisis, many expected interest rates to swiftly rise to pre-crisis levels, but structural factors have kept interest rates low, not just in the UK but across the developed world, increasing our confidence that we will be able to continue to see low rates for a number of years. So it is my judgment today that with a strong fiscal position and record low cost of borrowing, we can invest more in our growing economy.
That does not mean that we can borrow more for ever and ever. The sustainability of our public finances depends on wider factors, not just the cost of borrowing: our population is ageing; the global economy is slowing; the challenge of decarbonisation is real. So we will not be writing blank cheques, unlike Labour. We will not be able to afford everything, and we will need to prioritise investment in policies that deliver real productivity gains and boost economic growth in the long term. We will still need to make difficult choices about our national priorities, within a clear set of rules, to anchor our fiscal policy and keep control of our national debt. So today I can announce that ahead of the Budget later this year I will review our fiscal framework to ensure that it meets the economic priorities of today, not of a decade ago.
The first priority of our new economic plan will be to rebuild our national infrastructure. High-quality and reliable infrastructure is essential to how we live, work and travel, but the truth is that across many decades Governments of all colours have under-invested in infrastructure. The quality of our infrastructure means that we have fallen behind our competitors. We are the fifth largest economy in the world. It is not good enough that we are so far behind on infrastructure. It is not good enough that so many commuters spend their morning staring at a “Delayed” sign at their train platform. It is not good enough that our small business owners waste so much time because of slow internet speeds and poor mobile communications. We are going to change that. We want faster broadband for everyone in the country, quicker mobile connections and better signal coverage, cleaner energy, greener transport, and more affordable fuel bills for our homes and offices. We want more trains and buses to connect the great cities of the north. We want to build world-class schools and hospitals. We want to push the frontiers of science and technology and turbocharge our ambition on research and development. We want to build and invest in every region and every nation of this great United Kingdom. From the motor highway to the information highway, we will settle for nothing less than an infrastructure revolution.
To keep spending under control, we will of course set a high bar for funding projects. They will have to show real value for money with credible delivery plans and budgets, starting with the Government’s rapid review of HS2. We will target that investment at national priorities like regional growth and decarbonisation. Let me take this opportunity to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) for her tireless work as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on infrastructure. So yes, we will use the Government’s resources to kickstart the infrastructure revolution, but we will also do more to give private investors the confidence to back these projects too. We want all this to be underpinned by strong, independent institutions. We set up the National Infrastructure Commission in 2015, and we will continue to rely on its expert advice as we look carefully at other institutional reforms that might be needed. So our infrastructure revolution will be strategic and carefully planned.
Speaking of revolutionaries, let us contrast that with Labour’s approach. I will invest in new infrastructure that will grow the economy, and Labour will borrow hundreds of millions to renationalise unproductive assets and then run them into the ground. The choice for the country is clear, between a wasteful ideological Opposition with outdated ideas and a Government who will kick- start a decade of renewal for this country.
Today we lay the foundations of a new economic plan. We are turning the page on a decade of necessary work to fix the public finances and writing a new chapter in our public services. Health and Education are not just the names of Departments; they are lifelines of opportunities, just as they were for me when I was growing up: the teachers and lecturers who persuaded me to study economics in the first place—[Interruption.]
Health and education are lifelines of opportunities, just as they were for me when I was growing up: the teachers and lecturers who persuaded me to study economics in the first place; the police officers who kept us safe when the street I grew up in became a centre for drug dealers; the NHS that cared for my dad in his final days. These are not just numbers on a spreadsheet; these are the beating heart of our country, and we invest to support them today.
As I turn to the details of today’s announcement—[Hon. Members: “Hooray!”] Wait—it is coming. Let me first thank the dedicated officials in the Treasury for all their hard work delivering what I am told is the fastest SR in history. Let me particularly thank the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak), who takes the approach to spending you would expect from an adopted Yorkshireman. He has displayed his typical mix of energy, courtesy and rigour. Let me just say that there is no productivity problem in the Chief Secretary’s office.
Next year, I will add £13.4 billion to the plans for total public spending, including £1.7 billion pounds added to capital spending. These extra funds take the real increase in day-to-day spending to £13.8 billion pounds, or 4.1%. That means I am delivering the fastest increase in day-to-day spending for 15 years. That funding allows us to start a new chapter for our public services and to fund the people’s priorities. Our decisions today have been guided by our ambition to build a safer Britain, a healthier Britain, a better educated Britain and a more global Britain.
My family grew up on a road in Bristol that a national newspaper described back then as Britain’s most dangerous street, but to us it was just home. After we left, my brother became a policeman and has been in the force for over 25 years. I have seen the impact the job has on the lives of those who are courageous enough to do it. So today I pay tribute to the bravery, courage and dedication of our hard-working police officers. As Home Secretary, I saw first-hand how the demands on our police forces are changing and increasing. Yes, traditional crime is down by a third since 2010, but the threats from terrorism have escalated and evolved. The internet is changing how criminals operate and break the law, and we have seen too many horrifying stabbings on Britain’s streets. With our frontline officers reporting that they are overstretched, it is clearly time to act and do more.
Today I can announce a 6.3% real-terms increase in Home Office spending—the biggest increase in 15 years. That means £750 million to fund the first year of our plan to recruit 20,000 new police officers, with an extra £45 million this year, so that recruitment can start immediately, getting the first 2,000 officers in place by the end of March. Let me thank my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) and my hon. Friends the Members for Isle of Wight (Mr Seely), for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) and for Telford (Lucy Allan) for championing the police and police resourcing,
The threats facing our police officers are evolving too, so the way we resource them will have to evolve in three areas. First, serious and organised crime is the most deadly national threat faced by the UK, costing the nation at least £37 billion a year. The scale and complexity of this threat means that we need to do more to develop our response, so I am announcing today a formal review to identify the powers, capabilities, governance and funding needed ahead of a full spending review next year.
Secondly, this year sadly has seen more attacks on places of worship, including mosques and synagogues. That is unacceptable in a diverse, open, tolerant society like ours. To protect our religious and minority communities, I am announcing today that I will double the places of worship fund next year. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Hendon (Dr Offord) and for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) for their tireless work in combating hate crime. I am also today announcing £30 million of new funding to tackle the scourge of online child sexual exploitation.
A better resourced police force will deliver better outcomes for the British people, and it will increase the demands on our already overstretched criminal justice system. So today we invest more in our criminal justice system to manage that increasing demand, with a 5% real-terms increase in the resource budget for the Ministry of Justice, an increase in its capital budget to £620 million next year and an extra £80 million for the Crown Prosecution Service. Taken together, today’s spending round will dramatically improve the functioning of the criminal justice system, with more prosecutors, a reformed probation system, better security in prisons and funding to begin delivery of 10,000 new prison places.
The spending round is delivering on the people’s priorities, and there is no higher priority than the NHS. Last year, we increased NHS spending by an extra £34 billion a year by 2023-24. That was the single largest cash increase in our public services for more than 70 years. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to the NHS with a £6.2 billion increase in NHS funding next year. We are investing more in training and professional development for our doctors and nurses, and over £2 billion of new capital funding, starting with an upgrade of 20 hospitals this year, and £250 million for groundbreaking new artificial intelligence technologies to help solve some of healthcare’s biggest challenges today, such as easier cancer detection, discovering new treatments and relieving the workload on doctors and nurses.
We cannot have an effective health system without an effective social care system too. The Prime Minister has committed to a clear plan to fix social care and give every older person the dignity and security that they deserve. I can announce today that councils will have access to new funding of £1.5 billion for social care next year. Alongside the largest increase in local government spending power since 2010, and on top of the existing £2.5 billion of social care grants, that is a solid foundation to protect the stability of the system next year and a down payment on the more fundamental reforms that the Prime Minister will set out in due course.
But that is not the only action I am taking today to support vulnerable people. On any given night, there are too many people sleeping rough on our streets. The human cost is too high. Today we do more, with £54 million of new funding to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping, taking total funding to £422 million next year. That is a real-terms increase of 13%. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) for his tireless work in fighting homelessness.
A healthy environment is a precondition for a healthy population, and that is why we have set out an ambitious 25-year plan for the UK’s natural environment. Today we go further. Leaving the EU provides an opportunity to set world-leading environmental standards, and we are giving the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs £432 million of funding to do so. We are providing £30 million of new money to tackle the crisis in our air quality and another £30 million for biodiversity, including the expansion of our Blue Belt programme—a vital part of our campaign to protect precious marine species such as turtles, whales and seabirds. We are stepping up our leadership on climate change, with new funding for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to develop new programmes to help meet our net zero commitment by 2050, and we will set out further details of our plans for decarbonisation in the infrastructure strategy later this year, keeping our promise to be the first Government in history to leave our environment in a better condition than we found it.
Alongside providing for the health of our population, the most important task of a Government is to educate the next generation. Education and skills are at the heart of our vision for national renewal. The economy is not just about GDP or PSNB—there are many broader tests that matter too. Are children growing up to be better off than their parents? Do hard work and talent matter more than where you are born? A good school and inspirational teachers are the most effective engine for social mobility. That is why today we are delivering on our pledge to increase school spending by £7.1 billion by 2022-23, compared with this year.
Next year, we will make sure that day-to-day funding for every school can rise at least in line with inflation and rising pupil numbers, with the schools that have been historically underfunded benefiting the most. Every secondary school will be allocated a minimum of £5,000 for every pupil next year, and every primary school will be allocated at least £3,750 per pupil, on track to reach £4,000 per pupil the following year. This funding will mean that teachers’ starting salaries can rise to £30,000 by 2022-23, so that we can attract more of the best graduates into teaching. We have allocated nearly £1.5 billion per year to contribute to teachers’ pensions, and we are providing over £700 million to give more support to children and young people with special educational needs—an 11% increase compared with last year.
The funding for nearly every other Department I am announcing today will be for just one year, but we recognise the importance of schools being able to plan, so we are announcing today a full three-year resource settlement for schools, levelling up education, improving standards and giving every young person the same opportunities in life wherever they live in our great country. Let me particularly thank my hon. Friends the Members for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) and for St Albans (Mrs Main) for championing schools.
The education system is about more than just schools. For too long, further education has been a forgotten sector. Over 1 million young people continue their education beyond the age of 16 at colleges or sixth-forms—and I know because I was one of them. I went to my local FE college. If I had not had the teachers and the lecturers that I did, I would not be standing here today as Chancellor. Further education transformed my life, and today we start transforming further education, with a £400 million increase in 16-to-19 education funding next year. The base rate will increase to £4,188, a faster rate of growth than in core school funding. Let me congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) and my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Neil O’Brien) on their representations on further education.
The Government will also increase early years spending by £66 million to increase the hourly rate that is being paid at maintained nursery schools and other childcare providers that deliver the Government’s free childcare offer. I want to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) for raising this issue with me.
Our young people deserve high-quality services and support even after the school day is over. Earlier this year, following a recommendation from my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith), I visited the fantastic OnSide youth zone in Barking. It was a brilliant example of how much Britain’s network of youth centres adds to their local communities, getting young people off the streets and changing lives for the better. Today, I am asking the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to develop proposals for a new youth investment fund, and to set out plans to build more youth centres, refurbish existing centres and deliver high-quality services to young people across the country.
Better schools, higher pay for teachers, more youth centres—that is how this Government will improve social justice and create opportunity for all, but our ambitions for a truly national renewal do not stop there. We are a one nation party and this is a one nation Government, so at the heart of our new economic plan is the need to level up across this country. Every region and nation in the United Kingdom will benefit from the new funding I am providing today for the police, schools, health and social care, and much more. Today, we confirm funding of £3.6 billion for the new towns fund, providing a wave of investment to our regions and places, and better transport links across the country will be a crucial part of levelling up across the nation. We have already allocated a total of £13 billion for better transport across the north. We will fund the Manchester to Leeds route of Northern Powerhouse Rail, and we will set out more details—far more details—in the autumn on our new infrastructure strategy.
Mr Speaker, you may not know this, but my dad was a bus driver. Having watched him work, I know that local buses can be a lifeline for many communities. Today, we put the wheels back on the great British bus, with more than £200 million to transform bus services across the country. We are funding ultra low emissions buses, and we will trial new on-demand services to respond to passenger needs in real time. We will set out more details of our new buses in due course—once my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has finished painting models of them.
Our new economic plan will not stop at the borders of England; it will be a plan for all the nations of the United Kingdom. In Scotland, decisions taken in today’s spending round will provide over £1.2 billion of extra funding for next year. We are taking a further step today to support Scottish farmers. In 2013, when the UK Government allocated common agricultural policy funding within the UK, Scottish farmers lost out. Today, we correct that decision, making available an extra £160 million for Scottish farmers—something I know my hon. Friends from Scotland on the Conservative Benches will be pleased to hear. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank my friend Ruth Davidson for everything she has done for that great nation.
In Wales, today’s spending round means an extra £600 million of funding for the Welsh Government. In Northern Ireland, we are providing an extra £400 million from today’s announcements. I welcome the case that has been made by the DUP for improved hospice care and for support for those who have been tragically wronged in the contaminated blood scandal. Those are rightly devolved matters, but I sincerely hope that the Northern Ireland Administration will use some of the new funding that we are providing today to address those issues. Taken together, today’s announcements will give the devolved Administrations the biggest spending settlement for a decade.
Throughout our history, Britain has always been at its best when we are open, global and outward looking. Trading with the world beyond our shores has always been key to Britain’s economic prosperity. As we seize the opportunities of Brexit, we can establish new partnerships and trade relationships across the globe. For too long, we have let those trading relationships wither. As my right hon. Friend the International Trade Secretary would be the first to acknowledge, this is a disgrace. Today, we invest in securing Britain’s influence in the world. We support diplomacy, with £90 million of funding for 1,000 new diplomats and overseas staff, and 14 new and upgraded diplomatic posts. We will boost trade with £60 million to extend the GREAT campaign for next year.
If hon. Members are in any doubt about Britain’s important role on the world stage, they should just look at the bonanza of international festivals and events that I am funding today. In December, we will welcome the NATO leaders meeting. Next year, we will host the COP 26 discussions, if our bid is successful, thanks to the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry). In 2021, we will host the G7, and in 2022, we will host the Commonwealth games in Birmingham. Today, I can confirm the Government’s total commitment to this celebration of sport will be over half a billion pounds. The games will be a huge boost for the west midlands, and I would like to congratulate Andy Street on the leadership he has shown in that region.
One of my personal highlights of the summer was meeting the England cricket team in the Downing Street gardens. That world cup winning side showed us the importance not just of talent and hard work, but of diversity—a skipper from Ireland, a bowler from Barbados and an all-rounder from New Zealand. As with our cricket team, so with our country: we are the most successful multi-ethnic democracy in the world. I am proud to live in a country where someone with my background can be Chancellor of the Exchequer. This spending round embraces modern Britain in all its diversity. We make available today an additional £10 million to continue the integration areas programme that I first announced in 2018 as Communities Secretary. That fund will continue to support thousands of the estimated 1 million adults in the UK who do not speak English well or at all.
Openness to talent from around the world matters for our economy, too. Once we have left the EU, we will be able to create a points-based immigration system that meets the needs of the UK economy and the British people. We have already dropped arbitrary immigration targets. We have recently announced a new, highly flexible fast-track visa for scientists. Today, I am putting funding in place to give victims of the Windrush scandal the compensation that they deserve. This is all part of confirming, once and for all, that Britain will always be open to the world’s brightest and best talent.
Nowhere are our values of openness and tolerance better expressed than in international aid. The UK aid logo can be seen around the world—on health clinics, school books, emergency food suppliers. Today, we protect our commitment to spending 0.7% of our national income on aid.
Global Britain is about projecting our values into the world, but we know that hard power matters, too. Britain already spends more on our defence and national security than any other country in Europe. We are one of only seven countries to meet the 2% commitment to NATO. Today, we go further still, with an additional £2.2 billion of funding for the Ministry of Defence—a real-terms increase of 2.6% for the budget next year—increasing again the share of our national income we spend on defence and national security.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings. We pay tribute to the sacrifices of the extraordinary generation of British soldiers who fought and died during that campaign. Today, I can announce £7 million of funding for the Normandy Memorial Trust to complete its memorial overlooking Gold beach, where so many troops came ashore. We will also support the veterans of today’s wars, as we confirm the funding today for the new Office for Veterans’ Affairs. I congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer) on his tireless work in championing veterans.
I have set out today a big increase in public spending that will pay for more police and safer prisons, more nurses and better hospitals, and more money for schools and further education. I now turn to the remaining Departments across Whitehall, those that have not been protected over the last decade. Investing in the people’s priorities inevitably means difficult decisions elsewhere. Every spending review presented to this House over the past 15 years has had to find cuts from those Departments. This party has never shied away from taking the difficult decisions to make sure that we live within our means. Those decisions were tough, but they have paid off, so I can announce today that no Department will be cut next year. Every single Department has had its budget for day-to-day spending increased at least in line with inflation. That is what I mean by the end of austerity: Britain’s hard work paying off, and our country living within its means and able to spend more on the things that matter.
I am delivering today’s spending round in unusual circumstances. Understandably, much of our attention and the attention of the country is focused on the important matters before the House later today, but we must not forget that Brexit is not all that matters to the British people; it is not the only topic at the dinner table. Today’s spending round ensures that if you fall ill, you can get the care and support that you need; that when you drop off your child at the school gates, you can trust that they will get the best possible education; and that when you walk down the street, you can feel safe and secure. Today, we move from a decade of recovery to a decade of renewal. Yes, we will keep control of the public finances, but we will invest, too, in the long-term growth of this country.
It was just six weeks ago today that this new Administration took office. The Prime Minister promised that we would not wait until Brexit day to deliver on the people’s priorities, and today we meet that promise with a new chapter for our public services, a new plan for our economy and a new beginning for this country. I commend this statement to the House.
I welcome the Chancellor to his new job, although, after that, I am beginning to miss the old one. I believe the Chancellor may be the first person to hold that role whose father—like my own—was a bus driver. I would like to welcome him to his new job. I also hope that what they say is true: you wait ages for one son of a bus driver to become Chancellor of the Exchequer, only for them to be followed soon after by another.
I am afraid that that is probably the end of what the Chancellor and I have in common. I thank him for abiding by the convention of providing me with a copy of his statement. It was a compendium of meaningless platitudes. I ask him to take a message back to the person who obviously drafted the statement. Could he tell Mr Cummings, the man who cancels the Chancellor’s own speeches, sacks his staff without telling him and then has them—
Mr Speaker, I believe that the right hon. Member for Uxbridge is shouting at me. The last time he was shouting at someone, they had to call the police. I do not think we need to go as far as that. Mr Cummings, who had the member of staff escorted—[Interruption.]. You might need to call the police.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The member of staff was escorted off the premises by an armed police officer. Can I just say that that is no way to treat a member of staff? I ask the Chancellor to tell Mr Cummings, on the spending review: do not insult the intelligence of the British people. The people will see today’s statement as the grubby electioneering that it is.
This is not a spending review as we know it. This is straight out of the Lynton Crosby handbook of opinion-poll politics. The Tories have checked what the top three or four issues in the polls are and they have cynically judged how little money they have to throw around to try to neutralise those issues and the concerns of people. To come here and try to fool us with references to people’s priorities is beyond irony.
When did this extremist, right-wing Tory group ever put the people first—ever? Were they putting the people first when they froze child benefit year after year or when they introduced universal credit, a brutal regime? The result this summer, according to the Childhood Trust, was children scavenging for food in bins because they did not have free school meals in the summer holidays. Were they putting people first when they cut council budgets, and prevented 1 million elderly and disabled people from getting the social care they needed? Were they putting people first when they cut social services budgets so much that we now have record numbers of children coming into care and 155 women a day turned away from refuges?
We are expected to believe that these Tories, who for years have voted for harsh, brutal austerity, have had some form of damascene conversion. I tell you, they treat our people with contempt. Announcements have been dripped out over the last week or so, all designed to give the impression of a spending spree—announcements dictated by No. 10 and meekly accepted by a Chancellor too weak to conduct a full multi-year spending review as he should, even before the Government’s majority disappeared yesterday.
We have seen the so-called headroom, which the Chancellor’s predecessor had claimed was needed to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, spent instead on preparing for a general election. We all know that the Chancellor may not be in his job very long and maybe that is why he felt he needed to rush a spending round based on figures from March, rather than wait for the Office for Budget Responsibility to tell him officially what the rest of us have known for some time: that the economy, after nine years of Tory austerity, is in bad shape and, yes, is getting worse, stagnating.
A full fiscal event would have meant new economic forecasts and the need for a fiscal framework to give Departments security over the Parliament, allowing them to plan ahead after years of cuts. Instead we get this sham of a spending review. The Tories are claiming to be against austerity after years of voting for it. They are claiming to be using headroom, which the Chancellor knows has largely disappeared, yet they are still failing to deliver a real end to austerity.
Let us take a look at some of the announcements that the Chancellor has confirmed today. For schools, the Chancellor announced new spending of £1.8 billion next year. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has previously estimated that it would cost £3.8 billion this year alone to reverse the cuts that have been made. Was the Chancellor aware, when drawing up his spending plans, that the Department for Education budget as a whole has been slashed by almost £10 billion in real terms since 2010? The reality is this, is it not: heads will still be sending out begging letters and teachers will still be buying basic materials for their classes?
The Government have some front to mention childcare after hundreds of Sure Start centres closed on their watch, undermining the start in life for our children. They mention that £700 million was announced for children with special educational needs and disabilities. Does the Chancellor know that the Local Government Association found that councils already face a funding shortfall for SEN children of £1.2 billion by 2021? The reality is that these children will still be left vulnerable and in need, with their futures in jeopardy. That is what it means today.
Further education colleges are getting a one-off £400 million. Does the Chancellor really think that they should be grateful when he has cut £3.3 billion from them since 2010? The reality is that the economy will continue to desperately need skills and training, and our young people will still be denied them.
On the NHS, the announcement of £1.8 billion spending for the NHS has already been exposed as largely a reannouncement of existing money. There is no mention, is there, of the £6 billion backlog in the maintenance we need in our hospitals? Our hospitals are still using buckets to catch water coming through leaking roofs. Operating theatres are closed because of the lack of maintenance over the past nine years of austerity. The Government mention GP waiting times. Any announcement on GP waiting times is likely to turn out to be totally undeliverable. Why? Because we have just lost 600 full-time equivalent GPs over the past year. They are just not there because of nine years of lack of investment.
On local government, any new money for local government today will be a drop in the ocean compared with the 60% funding cuts that councils have suffered in recent years. What effect does the Chancellor estimate his announcement today will have, for example, on the crisis in children’s services that we have highlighted at every spending review and budget over the past two years? There has been a 29% drop in Government funding after eight years and as a result vulnerable children are left at risk.
On homelessness, the Chancellor mentioned £54 million of additional spending to tackle homelessness. There has been a 160% increase in people sleeping rough. In the past two years, people have died near the doors of Parliament. The LGA says that there is a £100 million spending gap just to get by. The most vulnerable in our society have been put at risk as a result of the Government’s austerity over nine years, and he expects us to celebrate an inadequate attempt to plaster over the problems we have.
On bus services, the Chancellor mentions £200 million allocated to them. That is a third of the £645 million that has been cut from bus services since 2010.
The Government seem to forget that they cut 20,000 police officers. The Chancellor expects us to celebrate what he has announced today, when we now know that at best there will be only 13,000 on the streets. Can he tell us how many will be frontline? We will support him in the investment to protect religious establishments and communities, and we will support him in tackling the problem of protecting young children from online abuse—of course we will—but the real protection comes from the safer neighbourhood teams that we constructed under Labour and that we had in every one of our wards, with a sergeant, police officers and police support officers, all of whom have been wiped out. [Interruption.] An hon. Member shouts, “Not true.” He needs to go out into the community and talk about the increase in violent crime in our communities as a result of what has happened.
The Chancellor spoke of money to create another 10,000 prison places. Can he just tell us: are they the same 10,000 prison places promised by previous Justice Secretaries in 2016, 2017 and yet again in 2018? Can he answer how many suicides and how many assaults on staff have taken place because of the Government’s cuts to prison staff over the past nine years? Will he, or someone in the Government, ever apologise to the Prison Officers Association for ignoring its warnings about the effect of staff cuts on safety in our prisons?
Those are just some of the announcements we heard today, but there are many that we have heard very little about. What about those who have been effectively forgotten in the Chancellor’s opportunist, one-year spending round? What about real structural reform to address the social care crisis, which we have been waiting for, for how many years—three, four? All we have now is a sticking plaster of £1 billion, which will leave this sector in the same sorry state as it is in now. What does that mean in real terms? It means 1.4 million people not getting the care they need and 87 people a day dying before they get the social care they need to support them.
I understand that the Chancellor’s mates, the bankers, were pushing the other day for more tax cuts and less regulation. I suppose they think they have a soft touch in No. 10 and No. 11. I hope he sent them packing. When we compare how much has been cut from the basic social services that we and vulnerable people need for support, with what is calculated to be, by the end of the next couple of years, £110 billion given out in tax cuts to corporations, we can see why people do not believe the Government have any concept of social justice or equality. Does the Chancellor have any words for the thousands suffering—[Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) said, “Pathetic.” I’ll tell you what develops real pathos. Many of us in our constituency surgeries are having to deal with people who are dependent on universal credit. Yet the Chancellor did not have any words for the thousands who are suffering from the brutal roll-out of universal credit—the people we represent who are now queueing up at food banks as a result of the cuts. Traditionally, the spending review concentrates on departmental expenditure limits, rather than social security. I appreciate that. But there was no reason why the Chancellor could not have signalled the Government’s intent at least to end the misery and hardship that their policy is causing and to end the roll-out of universal credit as it now is.
Most shockingly, the Chancellor has given no sign that he understands the scale of the climate emergency facing us and the urgency of the significant Government response that is needed. He mentions the climate but allocates minuscule amounts of funding to address an existential threat to our society. I hope that in the next few weeks Members will remember those who got no comfort from today’s announcements, if the Government push ahead with their plans for tax cuts that mainly benefit the wealthy, as is widely rumoured. I hope that Members will remember all those individuals and services that were deemed too unimportant by the Chancellor to address today. I tell him that whenever that election comes—in any election campaign—he can be sure that the Labour party will remind those people and the voters what nine years of austerity have done to them, and of today’s failure to act. The opportunity was there today really to end austerity—to start reversing austerity—and to give people some hope. What a missed opportunity.
We remember when we were told that there was no alternative, and that there was no money. We all know the lines—we have heard them enough times. They were not true then and they are not true now. The majority of economists have always agreed that there was another approach that the Government could have taken, rather than austerity, and we always argued—and we were right—that austerity was a political choice, not an economic necessity. As recently as March, the Conservatives ploughed on, saying that there was no alternative. Look at them now suddenly proclaiming an end to austerity—after 125,000 excess deaths as a result, after £100 billion has been taken out of the economy, and after the worst decade for wage growth since the 19th century—just because there may be an election around the corner. After all that, to deliver a pathetic sum to spending Departments, who are on their knees at the moment, is just adding insult to injury.
This is a Government who are not just callous and uncaring, but hypocritical. This is not a Government—it is a racket. They pretend to end austerity when they do nothing of the sort. They pretend to plan ahead while they plot a no-deal Brexit that would devastate parts of our economy. They are a Chancellor and a Prime Minister, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) said yesterday, with no mandate, no morals and no majority. They are trying to distract us from the crumbling public services and stagnating wages that they have created after a decade in charge. It is almost as if they forget they have been in government for nine years. They seek to fool the British public with fantasy promises of a Brexit deal that they knew they could not deliver and they were not even trying to negotiate. This short-lived Government will go down in history for its unique combination of right-wing extremism and bumbling incompetence. This is a Government that betrays the people it is meant to serve—a Government that will never be forgiven, but will soon be forgotten.
At least the shadow Chancellor did not try to throw a little red book at me this time. He attacks the decisions that were made over the last decade to restore the nation’s finances. He attacks the same free enterprise system that has delivered the prosperity that our nation enjoys. He refuses to understand that a strong economy is absolutely necessary to pay for public services.
Why have we made these decisions over the last decade that get us to where we are now, where we can properly end austerity for good? Labour trashed the economy the last time it was in power, like it always does. The shadow Chancellor talked about cuts that were made to public services over the last decade. Let us just remember what we inherited—the absolute mess that we inherited—in 2010: a deficit that was 10% of GDP, with £150 billion in borrowing in that year. It was the biggest budget deficit in our peacetime history and the biggest budget deficit of any large industrialised nation. Labour was borrowing £5,000 a second. There was the deepest recession that we had seen in almost 100 years. The shadow Chancellor talked about the bankers. Which Government gave us the biggest banking bailout in global history? It was the last Labour Government. That was our inheritance.
It was absolutely clear that had that unsustainable rate of spending continued, with no link between what was coming in and what was going out, the country would have gone bankrupt, just like it did with Labour in the past, when we had to go cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund. That is the legacy of every Labour Government. It took Conservatives to clear up Labour’s mess, bringing the deficit under control, bringing debt under control—having it falling for the first time in a generation in terms of the proportion of national income—reducing taxes for 40 million people and backing millions of businesses. And we have had a jobs miracle, with more people employed today in Britain than at any other time in our history and the lowest unemployment rate since 1975.
The shadow Chancellor talked about the impact of our policies on economic growth. Let me tell him about the impact on economic growth: since 2010, since the Conservatives were back in office, our economy has grown by 18.7%—faster than the economies of France, Italy and Japan. I will tell him about the risk to the economy—the only risk to the economy is from the shadow Chancellor, his policies and the entire Labour party. They have a tax hike for everyone. They have a tax hike if you happen to own a garden, if you want to give a gift to someone, if you want to go on holiday, if you own a home—whoever you are, they have a tax hike for you. They want to raid private pensions. Just this week, we learned more about their plans. They want to confiscate 10% of almost all our large companies. That is £300 billion that they want to confiscate from pensioners’ private plans. They also want to renationalise industries—is it seven, eight or nine? I do not know how many industries they want to renationalise—
Order. Please resume your seat, Chancellor of the Exchequer. I gently point out that there is a difference—long understood and observed—between a debate, in which there is a free play of arguments, ideas and commentary on policies, and a statement. The Chancellor, with a little encouragement from me, delivered a statement and he has been questioned on the statement. To the questions, he is supposed to provide replies. This is not an occasion for a general political debate—[Interruption.] No, I know exactly what the situation is and I have very much more experience of these matters than some of the people who think that they can criticise, so I do know what I am doing. The answer is to provide the answers to the questions—[Interruption.] Order. Provide the answers to the questions and then other colleagues will have the opportunity to question the Chancellor. It requires just a little versatility on one’s feet.
I have to say, Mr Speaker, I did not detect many questions, so I will finish very quickly to give an opportunity for Members to ask proper questions.
The simple truth is that Labour is unfit to govern. It would not deliver Brexit. It would wreck our economy over again. Hard-working families will pay the price and we will not let it happen.
I genuinely welcome my right hon. Friend to his appointment and congratulate him on it, and I sincerely wish him every success in carrying out his extremely important duties. I also welcome the many spending announcements he made. In particular, I single out further education, to which successive Governments have been trying to give better priority for the last 30 or 40 years. I hope that it shows in effect. Will he reassure me that the announcements that he has made are consistent with the fiscal rules of his predecessors, that we are still subject to the same limits on the deficit that were laid down, and that he is still aiming to achieve year-by-year reductions in debt as a proportion of GDP? If he can give me those assurances, it demonstrates what he has just said: that he is able to make these welcome announcements because austerity has been brought to an end by the achievements of his two predecessors over the last nine years.
I welcome the warm words of my right hon. and learned Friend. I remember all the excellent work he did when he held this position and I hope that I can learn from the way in which he performed his duties as Chancellor.
My right hon. and learned Friend asks me a specific question about the fiscal rules. This spending round is within the current fiscal rules. According to our forecasts, we expect to meet both the key rules of borrowing staying inside 2% of GDP and seeing a further fall in debt as a proportion of GDP. I would, however, point him to some of the other comments I made in my statement about looking again at the fiscal rules, particularly with an eye to taking advantage of record low interest rates and investing more—credibly—in an infrastructure revolution.
I thank the Chancellor for advance sight of the statement.
The gimmicks and gems the Chancellor has presented today are nothing more than an effort to distract us from the crippling crisis that the Government are dragging us into. If that was meant to be a pre-election Budget, if I was a Back-Bench Tory I would be quaking in my boots right now. In less than two months, we could face a no-deal Brexit, unless that threat is removed today by the House of Commons supporting the cross-party Bill to secure an extension. The threat cannot be underestimated. We are standing here facing increased uncertainty due to Brexit. The outlook for our economy and for public finances remains extremely uncertain. The economy has already taken a hit, as we saw GDP contract 0.2% in the second quarter of 2019. As Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies put it in The Guardian,
“Making big fiscal announcements in a period of great economic uncertainty means we will have little idea how sustainable or costly decisions made this week will be. The risks are exacerbated by not having up-to-date forecasts from the OBR.”
While the Chancellor has announced increased spending today, this will not help to end austerity; it will only pause some of the hardship in the short term. Meanwhile, Brexit will bring lasting and long-term damage to our economy, and to our citizens’ livelihoods.
With the economy already faltering, the Chancellor’s predecessor has warned that a disruptive no-deal Brexit could have a £90 billion hit on the Exchequer and suggested there would be no money available. A no-deal Brexit would be devastating for Scotland, with the potential to destroy 100,000 Scottish jobs and cost every person the equivalent of £2,300 a year. Brexit caused UK manufacturing activity to contract in August for the fourth consecutive month to the lowest level since 2012. According to the BBC, sterling fell below $1.20 on 3 September to its lowest since October 2016. The Chancellor pretends his Government are putting people first, when in reality they are putting the cult of leave campaigners and their Brexit obsession before the interests of the economy and citizens.
Yesterday in Scotland the First Minister announced our programme for government, putting tackling climate change, protecting our economy and reducing inequality at the heart of our policy-making agenda. Here we are talking about food and medicine shortages, reducing opportunities for our young people and complete Brexit chaos. For the people of Scotland, this is a tale of two Governments, and only the SNP Scottish Government are acting in our interests.
The IFS is clear that pre-election bribes do not mean an end to austerity—that decade of austerity that cumulatively cut the Scottish block grant by more than £12 billion in real terms, left people having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children and reduced social security payments for disabled people four times faster than the cuts for others.
If the Tories seriously wanted to make life better for citizens, they would give Scotland its fair share. This means the Chancellor should repay the £140 million of VAT owed to Police Scotland in refunds. We have been arguing for years for the convergence uplift moneys to be returned. There are 50 mentions of it in Hansard, 45 of them from the SNP, and most of the others in response to SNP questions. I am pleased with the pressure that we and our colleagues in the Scottish Government have brought to bear on this Government. It also means that Scotland must get its £3.4 billion share of the DUP’s dirty deal Brexit bung. Will the Chancellor rule out any new confidence and supply agreement with the DUP that would give them more money before we get the £3.4 billion we are owed?
Furthermore, it would appear that the Chancellor will overshoot his Government’s borrowing targets. Will he confirm that, and will he tell the House what borrowing rule changes he will introduce in the Budget? Will he guarantee that Scotland will not lose any of the EU funding it currently receives? The UK Government must, at the very least, match the compensation scheme already put in place by the EU and the Irish Government for the beef and suckler sectors in Ireland.
Finally, the Government must scrap the proposed £30,000 salary limit on foreign nationals entering the UK. Scottish Government analysis has found the average EU citizen in Scotland adds £10,400 to Government revenue and £34,400 to GDP each year. The proposed £30,000 salary limit on foreign nationals to the UK has been shown to be unworkable and should be scrapped. While the Tories balance the books on the backs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, the SNP Scottish Government are leading the way to deliver a fairer Scotland.
The hon. Lady complains about the settlement with respect to Scotland. I remind her that, under the Barnett block grant, Scotland will see an increase of £1.2 billion in its spending power next year. On top of that, it will receive an additional £160 million for Scottish farmers, thanks to the representations of Scottish Tory MPs, who seem to actually care about Scottish farmers. Despite that, she complains.
The hon. Lady talked about uncertainty. I would have thought, therefore, that she would have welcomed today’s statement. I think she referred to it as a Budget. First, there is a spending round, which is focused only on spending, not taxes or capital investment, and designed to give certainty to all Departments across Government on funding for the next year. Without it, they would not have that certainty. She claimed that Brexit uncertainty was damaging the economy. Need I remind her that, since the referendum, we have had record growth in British businesses, record growth in jobs—almost 1,000 new jobs created a day, with more people employed today than ever before—and record inward investment? If she wants to end uncertainty, she should support this spending round and make sure we leave the EU on 31 October.
Order. There is extensive interest in the Chancellor’s statement, but I remind the House that there is a ten-minute rule motion to follow and other important business that must come onstream absolutely no later than 3 o’clock, and that therefore there is a premium on brevity from Back and Front Benches alike. I also make the obvious point that realistically lots of people who want to contribute will not have the opportunity to do so.
Wokingham and West Berkshire Councils need money for social care and schools. The current funding is not adequate. I am grateful to the Chancellor. This is very welcome. Does he agree that, at a time of world slowdown, led by a manufacturing recession in several leading countries, a boost to the economy is much needed here and that this is part of that boost?
The Chancellor claims that this is a boom in public spending, but we all know how big the bust has been, and nowhere has it been bigger than in DWP spending. Its spending will see a real-terms rise of 1.9%, which is welcome, but I ask the Chancellor: taking into account increases in the state pension and population increases, will he commit to no further cuts within that budget to working-age benefits?
The hon. Lady will know that this spending round covers day-to-day departmental spending and that the vast majority of DWP spending is not covered by day-to-day spending. So, when we get to a Budget, we can say much more about DWP spending. She will also recognise that this spending round will help more vulnerable people by protecting our economy and making sure it continues to grow and to generate jobs, which is the best way out of poverty.
I welcome the increase in defence spending, which is well justified by the increase in the threats that the country faces. However, can my right hon. Friend reassure the House that any revision of the fiscal rules will never make the Government vulnerable to the charges of fudged targets, reference periods and spending classifications that characterised the last Labour Government?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his support for the increase in defence spending and I can give him that assurance. When the fiscal rules are looked at in time for the next Budget, that will be done openly, transparently and clearly, which is exactly what is needed to maintain market confidence.
I welcome the Chancellor to his post, but is it not the case that headteachers, chief constables and NHS managers simply cannot rely on his fantasy figures if Britain crashes out of the EU?
The independent watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, said just two months ago that a no-deal-Brexit would add £30 billion a year to public borrowing for the next four years. What insurance has the Chancellor taken out against that massive risk to his spending plans? Is this not just a con?