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EU Budget: UK Contribution 2017-18

Volume 616: debated on Tuesday 25 October 2016

The Office for Budget Responsibility is responsible for forecasting contributions to the European Union. It will update its forecast in this year’s autumn statement, but the forecast for the UK’s gross contribution in 2017-18 was £12.6 billion at the time of the Budget.

Notwithstanding all the spending pledges that have been made today and recently, hospitals, schools, police and roads in my constituency certainly need a spending boost. Does the Minister agree that the sooner we leave the European Union, the sooner that money will be available to them?

The amount of any money saved will depend on the overall fiscal situation and the broader economic environment. Decisions on spending will be made in the round in autumn statements and Budgets, but while we remain members of the European Union, we must of course comply with the requirements to pay into it.

May I press the Chief Secretary on this point? On the day of the referendum, I met an NHS worker who had voted to leave the European Union precisely because she thought that more money would be available for the NHS, thanks to the “£350 million a week” that was emblazoned on the Vote Leave bus. When we leave the European Union, will we get that money?

It is certainly not for me to justify or explain the pledges that were made by the leave campaign, but I will say that public spending decisions must be made in the context of the economic and fiscal situation.

I appreciate that getting back some of our EU contribution was a factor in the decision to leave the European Union, but will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government are, at least at this stage, open to the idea of making some contribution in the future if we are to secure some sort of access to the single market for financial services, or, indeed, making some contribution in relation to passporting and equivalence?

What is important is for the United Kingdom to secure the best possible deal in our negotiations with the European Union. I do not think that it makes sense to bind our hands and close down options at this point; nor do I think it right for us to provide a running commentary on the matter.

Wales will continue to receive convergence funding while we are in the EU, but will the Treasury nevertheless honour the Prime Minister’s pledge to electrify the Great Western Railway line all the way to Swansea in order to make it part of the pan-European network and stimulate manufacturing and exports?

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, but, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made clear, the Government are committed to improving our infrastructure.