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Spending Review

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:33 pm on 26th June 2013.

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Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer 12:33 pm, 26th June 2013

This coalition came into office with a commitment to address with firmness and resolve one of the biggest economic crises of the post-war era. The action we have taken, together with the British people, has brought the deficit down by a third, helped a record number of people into work, and taken our economy back from the brink of bankruptcy; and it allows us to say that while recovery from such a deep recession can never be straightforward, Britain is moving out of intensive care, and from rescue to recovery.

Today we announce the latest action to secure the recovery. We act on behalf of every taxpayer and every future taxpayer who wants high-quality public services at a price our country can afford. We act on behalf of everyone who knows that Britain has got to live within its means. We have applied three principles to the spending round I will set out today: reform, to get more from every pound we spend; growth, to give Britain the education, enterprise and economic infrastructure it needs to win the global race; and fairness, making sure we are all in it together by ensuring those with the broadest shoulders bear the largest burden and making sure the unfairness of the something-for-nothing culture in our welfare system is changed.

We have always understood that the greatest unfairness was loading debts on to our children that our generation did not have the courage to tackle ourselves. We have always believed, against much opposition, that it is possible to get better public services at lower cost—that you can cut bureaucracy and boost enterprise by taking burdens off the back of business. In the face of all the evidence, the opposition to these ideas has collapsed into incoherence. We have always believed that the deficit mattered—that we needed to take tough decisions to deal with our debts—and the opposition to that has collapsed into incoherence too. Today I announce the next stage of our economic plan to turn Britain around.

Let me start with the overall picture on spending. In their last year in office, the previous Government were borrowing £1 in every £4 that they spent. It was a record for a British Government in peacetime and a calamitous risk with our economic stability. As the note we saw again this week from their outgoing Chief Secretary put it,

“I’m afraid there is no money.”

So we acted immediately. Three years ago, we set out plans to make savings and to reduce our borrowing. Instead of the £157 billion the last Government were borrowing, this year we are set to borrow £108 billion pounds: that is £49 billion less in borrowing. That is virtually the entire education budget.

So we have made real progress, putting right what went so badly wrong. But while we have been acting, the challenges from abroad have grown: a eurozone in crisis, rising oil prices, and the damage from our own banking crisis worse than anyone feared. The truth is that we have to deal with the world as it is, not as we would wish it to be, so this country has to continue to make savings. I can report to the House that the biggest single saving we have made in government is the £6 billion a year less we are paying to service our debts than the previous Government budgeted for. Bear that number in mind when you hear the Opposition complaining about cuts.

The deficit has come down by a third, yet at over 7% it remains far too high, so we must continue to take action—not just because it is wrong to go on adding debts to our children’s shoulders, but because we know from the global turbulence of the last few years that the economic risks are real and the recovery has to be sustained. If we abandoned our deficit plan, Britain would be back in intensive care. So the figures today show that until 2017-18, total managed expenditure—in other words, the total amount of Government spending—will continue to fall in real terms at the same average rate as it is falling today.

The task before us today is to spell out what that means for 2015-16. Total managed expenditure will be £745 billion. To put that huge sum into context, consider this: if Government spending had been allowed to rise through this Parliament at the average rate of the last three decades, that total would have been £120 billion higher. This Government have taken—[Interruption.]

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The Chancellor must not have to shout to be heard. Members know that I will always accommodate the interests of Back Benchers on both sides in scrutinising these matters intensively, but the Chancellor and, in due course, the shadow Chancellor must be properly and fairly heard.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

This Government have taken unprecedented steps to achieve that expenditure control. Now we need to find £11.5 billion of further savings. I want to pay a personal tribute to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for the huge effort that he has put into delivering them. Finding savings on that scale has not been easy. These are difficult decisions that will affect people in our country, but there never was an easy way to bring spending under control. Reform, growth and fairness are the principles. Let me take each in turn.

I will start with reform and the obligation that we all have in this House to ensure that we get more for every pound of taxpayers’ money that we spend. With the help of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office, we have been combing through Whitehall, driving out costs, renegotiating contracts and reducing the size of government. Cutting money that the previous Government were spending on marketing and consultants, reforming Government IT and negotiating harder on behalf of the taxpayer have already saved almost £5 billion. In this spending round, we will find a further £5 billion of efficiency savings. That is nearly half of the total savings we need to achieve.

We are reforming pay in the public sector. We are holding down pay awards, and public sector pay rises will be limited to an average of up to 1% for 2015-16. However, the biggest reform that we will make on pay is to automatic progression pay. That is the practice whereby many employees not only get a pay rise every year, but automatically move up a pay grade every single year, regardless of performance. Some public sector employees see annual pay rises of 7%. Progression pay can at best be described as antiquated; at worst, it is deeply unfair to other parts of the public sector that do not get it and to the private sector that has to pay for it. So we will end automatic progression pay in the civil service by 2015-16, and we are working to remove automatic pay rises simply for time served in our schools, NHS, prisons and police. The armed forces will be excluded from those reforms.

Keeping pay awards down and ending automatic progression pay means that, for every pound we have to save in central administration, we can better limit job losses. I do not want to disguise from the House that there will be further reductions in the number of people working in the public sector. The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast that the total number of people working for the Government will fall by a further 144,000 by 2015-16. I know that for those who are affected that is difficult. That is the consequence of the country spending far beyond its means.

When I presented the spending round three years ago, I said that about half a million posts in the public sector were forecast to have to go. That is indeed what has happened, and we are saving £2 billion a year, with a civil service now smaller than at any time since the war. I also said three years ago that I was confident that job creation in the private sector would more than make up for the losses. That prediction created more controversy than almost anything else at the time, including with the Opposition. The shadow Chancellor called it “a complete fantasy”. Instead, every job lost in the public sector has been offset by three new jobs in the private sector. In the last year, five new jobs have been created for every job cut in the public sector. The central argument of those who fought against our plan is completely demolished by the ingenuity, enterprise and ambition of Britain’s businesses. I pay tribute to the hard-working people of this country who proved their pessimism wrong.

In this spending round, the Treasury will, as one would expect, lead by example. In 2015-16, our resource budget will be reduced by 10%. The Cabinet Office will also see its resource budget reduced by 10%. However, within that we will continue to fund support for social action, including the National Citizen Service. Ninety thousand places will be available for young adults in the citizen service next year, rising to 150,000 by 2016. It is a fantastic programme that teaches young people about their responsibilities as well as their rights, and we are expanding it.

Local government will have to make further savings too. My right hon. Friend the Communities and Local Government Secretary has set an example to all his colleagues in reducing the size of his Department by 60% and abolishing 12 quangos. He is a model of lean government, and has agreed to a further 10% saving in his resource budget. But we are committing to more than £3 billion capital investment in affordable housing and we will extend the troubled families programme to reach 400,000 more vulnerable families who need extra support. We are proving that it is possible to save money and create more progressive government. That is the right priority.

Here is another of the Government’s priorities: helping families with the cost of living. Because we know that times are tough, we have helped to keep mortgage rates low, increased the personal allowance, cut fuel duty and frozen council tax. That council tax freeze is due to come to an end next April. I do not want that to happen, so I can tell the House today that because of the savings we have made we can help families with their bills. We will fund councils to freeze council tax for the next two years. That is nearly £100 off the average council tax bill for families, and brings savings on these bills for families to £600 over this Parliament. That demonstrates our commitment to all those who want to work hard and get on.

There is one more thing that we can do to help with the cost of living in one part of the country. For years, Members from the south-west of England have fought on behalf of their constituents who face exceptionally high water bills. Nothing was done until we came to office. Now we have cut those water bills by £50 per household every year until 2015. My hon. Friend George Eustice and many others have campaigned to extend that rebate beyond 2015. I am happy to confirm today that we will do that. Taking money out of the cost of government and putting it in the pockets of families—that is what we mean by reform.

Local government has already taken difficult decisions to reduce staff numbers, share services and make savings. I pay tribute to Sir Merrick Cockell for all he has done in showing how this can be achieved. We were told by the scaremongers that savings in local government would decimate local services. Instead, public satisfaction with local council services has gone up under this Government. That is because, with our reforms, communities have more control over their own destiny. That is because we have devolved power and responsibility to manage budgets locally. That is because we have let councils benefit from the tax receipts that come when the local economy grows. Today, we give more freedom, including greater flexibility over assets, and we will drive greater integration of local emergency services. I thank my hon. Friend Mr Ellwood for his fresh thinking in this area, which has helped to inform us.

We are also embarking on major reforms to the way we spend money locally through the creation of the single local growth fund that Lord Heseltine proposed. This will be £2 billion per year, which is at least £10 billion over the next Parliament. Local enterprise partnerships can bid for that sum, and the details will be set out tomorrow. Our philosophy is simple: trust people to make their own decisions and they will usually make better decisions. But in return for those freedoms, we have to ask local government for the kind of sacrifices central Government are making. The local government resource budget will be reduced by 10% in 2015-16, but when all the changes affecting local government that I will set out are taken into account, including local income and other central Government funding, local government spending reduces by approximately 2%.

I set out today the block grants to the devolved Administrations. Because we have prioritised health and schools in England, this feeds through the Barnett formula to require resource savings of about 2% in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Scottish resource budget will be set at £25.7 billion, and Scotland will benefit from new capital borrowing powers of almost £300 million. Being part of the UK means that Scotland will see its capital spending power increase by almost 13% in real terms in 2015-16. It is rightly for the

Scottish Parliament to decide how best to use it. That is devolution within a United Kingdom delivering for Scotland.

The Welsh resource budget will be £13.6 billion, and we will shortly publish our response to the Silk commission on further devolution of taxation and borrowing. When we do so, we will be able to say more about the impressive plans to improve the M4 in south Wales that my hon. Friend Alun Cairns and others have been campaigning for. The Northern Ireland resource budget will be £9.6 billion. We have agreed to provide an additional £31 million in 2015 to help the Police Service of Northern Ireland tackle the threat posed by terrorism. Those police officers do an incredibly brave job on our behalf, and we salute them. Separately, we will make 10% savings to the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Offices.

We believe that the cultural heritage of our nations is not just an economic asset, but has intrinsic value. When times are tough, they too must make a contribution to the savings this country requires. The Department for Culture Media and Sport will make savings of 7% in its resource budget. Elite sports will be protected and the funding of community sports, arts and museums will be reduced by just 5%, but because we recognise the value of our greatest museums, galleries and English Heritage, we are giving them much greater freedom from state control, which they have long called for, applying our reforming principles across the board and empowering those on the front line who know best—what the director of the British Museum called:

“good news in a tough economic climate”.

And while we are at it, we will make sure that the site of the battle of Waterloo is restored in time for the 200th anniversary to commemorate those who died there and to celebrate a great victory of coalition forces over a discredited former regime that impoverished millions.

We still have the finest armed forces in the world, and we intend to keep it that way. The first line of national defence is sound public finances and a balanced defence budget, and my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary is helping to deliver both. He and his predecessor, my right hon. Friend Dr Fox, have filled the £38 billion black hole they inherited in the finances of the Ministry of Defence. We will continue to ensure we get maximum value for money from what will remain, which, at over 2% of our GDP, is one of the largest defence budgets in the world. The defence resource budget will be maintained in cash terms at £24 billion, while the equipment budget will be £14 billion and will grow by 1% in real terms thereafter. We will further reduce the civilian work force and their allowances; renegotiate more of the hopeless private finance initiative contracts signed in the last decade; and overhaul the way we buy equipment.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has rightly been clear throughout, however, that he is not prepared to see a reduction in Britain’s military capabilities. This spending round not only protects those capabilities, but enhances them with the latest technologies. We will not cut the number of soldiers, sailors or airmen—we need them to defend our country—and we will give them the best kit to do that job: new aircraft carriers, submarines, stealth fighters, destroyers and state-of-the art armoured vehicles. We also make a major commitment to invest in cyber. It is the new frontier of defence and a priority for the Government.

We will look after families who have lost their loved ones and those injured protecting us long after the wars they fought in are over. We previously committed to fund the military covenant for five years, and today I commit to funding the armed forces covenant permanently. We will do that with the money we have collected from the LIBOR fines, so those who represented the very worst values will support those who represent the very best of British values. Our veterans will not be forgotten.

The intelligence services are on the front line too. Silently, and often heroically, these fellow citizens protect us and our way of life, and so we will protect them in return, with a 3.4% increase in their combined resource budget. The Foreign Office is the public face of our diplomacy, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague)is quite simply the best Foreign Secretary we have had in a generation. He, too, has demonstrated how we can make our taxpayer pound go further. While making savings in his budget, he has managed to expand our network of embassies in the emerging world and focus his diplomats on British commercial interests. There will be further savings in that budget of 8% in 2015, but he is still committing to strengthen our embassy network in high-growth markets, from Shanghai to Abuja.

The Foreign Office projects our values abroad, and the Home Office protects our values here in Britain.

Photo of Chris Ruane Chris Ruane Labour, Vale of Clwyd

Is she the best Home Secretary for a generation?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Police reform is a model of what we can achieve across Government. Police forces are more accountable to the public, with modern working practices, the latest equipment and democratic oversight, and all that on a smaller—

Hon. Members:

Is she the best for a generation?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Yes, she is the best Home Secretary for a generation—and a hell of a lot better than the ones who went before.

What was the Opposition’s prediction? They said that crime would rise, and what has happened instead? Crime has fallen by more than 10%. Thanks to the hard work of police officers up and down this country, crime is at its lowest level for 30 years. What was their prediction about our borders? They said that because of cuts we would not be able to control immigration, and what has happened instead? Net immigration is down by more than one third.

This Home Secretary is demonstrating that responsible budgets and reform can deliver better services for the public. In 2015, she will work with a resource budget of £9.9 billion, which is a saving of 6%, but the police budget will be cut by less than that. There will be further savings in the central Department, police forces will be encouraged to share services and some visa fees will go up, but protecting Britain from the terrorist threat remains a top priority, so I can confirm that the police counter-terrorism budget will not be cut at all.

For the police to do their job, they need a criminal justice system that works a lot better. A case of common assault can take 240 days to pass through the courts and involves five separate sets of case papers generated on three different computer systems. In some prisons, the cost of keeping a prisoner is £40,000 a year, but in others, it is one third of that, while the cost of legal aid per head is double the European average. My right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor is reforming all these things, and by doing so will make savings of 10% in his departmental budget—and he will do that while for the first time offering probation services for those who have served short sentences to help to end the revolving door of crime and reoffending.

That is an example of the reform we are bringing in across Government, and every step of the way, every penny saved, every programme reformed, every entitlement reduced, every difficult choice taken, has been opposed by vested interests and those who got Britain into this mess in the first place. We will not let up. I will not let that happen. The reform will continue.

Government spending does not alone create sustainable growth; enterprise does, and the job of the state is to provide the schools, science, transport links and reliable energy that enable business to grow. Britain was once the place where the future was invented, from the railway to jet engine to the world wide web. We can be that country again, and today we set out how to get there. A huge amount of innovation and discovery still goes on, but successive Governments, of all colours, have put short-term pressures over long-term needs and refused to commit to capital spending plans that match the horizons of a modern economy. Today we change that. We commit now to £50 billion of capital investment in 2015. From roads to railways, bridges to broadband, science to schools, it will amount to more than £300 billion of capital spending guaranteed to the end of this decade.

Today, we raise our national game. That means that Britain will spend on average more as a percentage of its national income on capital investment in this decade, despite the fact that money is tight, than in the previous decade, when Government spending was being wasted in industrial quantities.

My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will tomorrow set out the next stage of our economic infrastructure plan, with specific plans for more than £100 billion of infrastructure projects. Here is what that will mean for the Departments. The Department for Transport will make a 9% saving in its day-to-day resource spending, bearing down on the running costs of Transport for London and on rail administration, but its capital budget will rise to £9.5 billion—the largest rise of any part of Government—and we will repeat that commitment for every year to 2020.

We are already massively expanding investment on major road schemes, but we will do more. We are announcing the largest programme of investment in our roads for half a century. We have already expanded our investment in the railways, but we will do more. We are committing to the largest investment in our railways since the Victorian age, and with the legislation before this House today, we should give the green light to HS2, which will provide a huge boost to the north of England and a transformation of the economic geography of this country.

Here in London, we are digging Crossrail, the largest urban infrastructure project in Europe, but we will do more. We are looking now at the case for Crossrail 2, linking London from north to south. We are going to give the Mayor almost £9 billion pounds of capital spending and additional financing power to the end of this decade.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Well, he’s a lot better than Ken Livingstone, that’s for sure.

Investing in our economic infrastructure also means investing in energy, so we will provide the certainty that investors are crying out for in western countries. This country is already spending more on renewables than ever before. Now we will provide future strike prices for low carbon. We are restarting our civil nuclear programme when other countries are unable to continue theirs, and now we are providing guarantees for new nuclear. Our exploitation of gas in the North sea is already second to none. Now we are making the tax and planning changes that will put Britain at the forefront of exploiting shale gas. We will provide our country with the energy of the future at a price that we can afford. Taken together, this should support over £100 billion of private sector investment in energy.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change will do this while reducing its resource budget by 8%. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will see a 10% reduction, but we will set out plans for a major commitment to new flood defences for the rest of this decade. Again, we are prioritising long-term capital through day-to-day cost savings, which is exactly the tough choice that Britain should be making.

It is not enough to have roads, power stations and flood defences. That is just the physical infrastructure we need to compete in the 21st century. We need the intellectual capital, too. This country needs to invent, pioneer and export around the world. That means backing the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which helps us to do that. And it means taking tough decisions about what we should support. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has agreed to a reduction of 6% in the cost of the Department. That means that we are making savings to student maintenance, keeping grants but not increasing them, and the cost of the central Department will also be cut further. That means that, within the reduced budget, we can put more money into apprenticeships and continue with the dramatic increase in support that we have provided to exporters through UK Trade & Investment.

We are not going to shift medical training and research out of that Department, because they are working well where they are. And in that Department too, we can shift from day-to-day spending to a huge 9% increase in capital investment. That includes a huge investment in science. Scientific discovery is first and foremost an expression of the relentless human search to know more about our world, but it is also an enormous strength for a modern economy. From synthetic biology to graphene,

Britain is very good at it and we are going to keep it that way. Today, I am committing to maintaining the resource budget for science at £4.6 billion, to increasing the capital budget for science in real terms to £1.1 billion, and to maintaining that real increase to the end of this decade. Investment in science is an investment in our future. So yes, from the next generation of jet engines to cutting-edge supercomputers, we say: keep inventing, keep delivering; this country will back you all the way.

We have infrastructure and we have science, but we still need an educated work force to make it happen. Because of our ongoing reforms to our universities, they are now better funded than before—[Hon. Members: “What?”] Well, Mr Speaker, people will remember that the reforms to higher education were bitterly contested in the House. We remember the scaremongering about fees, and the claims that they would destroy social mobility and put off students from poorer communities applying. And what has happened since? We now have the highest ever proportion of students from the most deprived neighbourhoods applying to universities. We should all welcome that.

There is no greater long-term investment a country can make than in the education and skills of its children. Because of the tough decisions that we have taken elsewhere, we have been able to invest in education and accelerate school reform. When we took office, our country’s education system was falling behind other parts of the world. Now, thanks to the brilliant programme of reform by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and the Minister for Schools, my right hon. Friend Mr Laws, we are once again leading the way.

We have applied our reform principles in education too, freeing schools and teachers to concentrate on teaching and turning the majority of secondary schools into academies. In this spending round, that momentum of reform will grow. The Department for Education’s overall budget will increase to £53 billion and schools spending will be protected in real terms, fulfilling the pledge we made at the beginning of this Parliament, for all of this Parliament. We will transfer power and money from town halls and central bureaucracy to schools, so that more of the money for education is spent on education. So, while grants to councils and spending on central agencies are reduced, the cash going to schools will go up.

I can announce today that schools spending will be allocated in a fairer way than ever before. School funding across the country is not equally distributed; it is distributed on a historical basis with no logical reason. The result is that some schools get much more than others in the same circumstances. That is unfair and we are going to put it right. Many MPs on both sides of the House have campaigned for that. My hon. Friend Mr Walker has been a particular champion in this Parliament. Now, the lowest-funded local authorities in this country will at last receive an increase in their per-pupil funding as we introduce a national funding formula to ensure that no child in any part of our country is discriminated against. We will consult on all the details so that we get this historic reform right. The pupil premium that we have introduced also ensures that we are fair to children from low income backgrounds. It will be protected in real terms, so that every poor child will have more cash spent on their future than ever before. The capital budget will be set at £4.6 billion in 2015-16, with over £21 billion of investment over the next Parliament.

We will also tackle the backlog of maintenance in existing schools and we will invest in new school places. We will fund 20 new studio schools as well as 20 new university technical colleges, as they are outstanding new vocational institutions. Free schools are giving parents the opportunity to aspire to a better education for their children. The Opposition have said that they want no more of them, but we will not allow such an attack on aspiration to happen. Instead, we must accelerate the programme and bring more hope to more children. That is why I can announce that we will fund an unprecedented increase in the number of free schools. We will provide for 180 great new free schools in 2015-16.

The schools budget will be protected, there will be fairer funding across the nation, the pupil premium will be extended to more students than ever before and there will be a transformation in the free school programme. We will not make our children pay for the mistakes of the past. We will give them every chance for the future, because that is the single best investment we can make.

Our education settlement is also consistent with the third and final principle of this spending round—fairness. It is not possible to reduce a deficit of this size without asking all sections of the population to play their part, but those with the broadest shoulders should bear the greatest burden. The Treasury’s distributional analysis shows that the top fifth of the population lose the most after this spending round, and the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies is unequivocal that the richest 10% have paid the most. In every year of this Parliament, the rich will pay a greater proportion of income tax revenues than they did in any one of 13 years under the last Labour Government.

When it comes to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, despite the fact that this Department will see a 5% reduction in its resource budget, we are committed to extra resources to tackle tax evasion. The result is that we expect to raise over £1 billion more in tax revenues from those who try and avoid paying their fair share.

Fairness also means refusing to balance the budget on the backs of the world’s poorest. I know that not everyone believes we should fulfil our commitment to spend 0.7% of our national income on development—but I do. I am proud to support a Government who are the first in our history to meet our pledge and meet it not only this year, but next year and the year after that. Of course, overseas development is about more than just the Department for International Development budget, and we comply with internationally policed rules. The DFID budget is, however, the lion’s share, and it will be set at £11.1 billion in 2015-16. Even in these tough times, the decisions we make mean we keep to our commitments.

That includes our commitment to the national health service—an institution that is the very embodiment of fairness in our society. The NHS is much more than the Government’s priority; it is the people’s priority. When we came to office, the health budget was £96 billion; in 2015-16, it will be £110 billion—and capital spending will rise to £4.7 billion. New medical treatments and an ageing population mean that the demand for NHS services is rising, so we have not spared in also demanding reform and value for money in this service. This will not insulate the health service from tough choices; there are already 7,000 fewer managers, and the NHS will continue to make efficiency savings. Those savings will, however, enable new investment in mental health and funding for new treatments for cancers such as prostate and breast cancer. Let me respond directly to the breast cancer research campaign in which so many have taken part. We will continue to back the charity research support fund and look into making it easier for these organisations to benefit from gift aid.

Many older people do not just use the NHS; they also use the social care system. If we are honest, they often fall between the cracks of the two systems, being pushed from pillar to post, not getting the care they should. None of us here would want that for our parents or grandparents, and in a compassionate society, no one should endure it. It is a failure that also costs us billions of pounds: Britain can do better.

We said in the 2010 spending review that the NHS would make available around £1 billion a year to support the health needs of people in social care. It worked, and saved hundreds of millions in the process. Last year, these improvements meant almost 50,000 fewer bed days were lost to the NHS. So today, I can announce that I will bring together a significant chunk of the health and social care budgets. I want to make sure that everyone gets a properly joined-up service where they will not have to worry about whether a service is coming from the NHS or the local council.

Let us stop the tragedy of people being dropped in A and E on a Friday night to spend the weekend in hospital because we cannot look after them properly in social care. By 2015-16, over £3 billion will be spent on services that are commissioned jointly and seamlessly by the local NHS and local councils working together. It is a huge and historic commitment of resources to social care, tied to real reform on the ground, to help end the scandal of older people trapped in hospitals because they cannot get a social care bed. This will help relieve pressures on A and E, help local government to deliver on its obligations and will save the NHS at least £1 billion. This is integrated health and social care—no longer a vague aspiration, but a concrete reality transforming the way we look after people who need our care most.

So these are the three principles that guide the spending round: reform, growth and fairness. Nowhere could these principles be more clearly applied than in our approach to welfare. Two groups of people need to be satisfied with our welfare system: those who need it who are old, vulnerable, disabled or have lost their job, whom we as a compassionate society want to support. Then there is a second group: the people who pay for this welfare system who go out to work, pay their taxes and expect it to be fair on them, too.

So we have taken huge steps to reform welfare: changing working age benefits with universal credit so that work always pays; removing child benefit from the better off; capping benefits so that no family out of work gets more than the average family gets in work. And we have been making sure that benefit payments do not rise faster than wages. The steps we have taken will save £18 billion a year—and every single one of them was opposed by the welfare party on the Opposition Benches.

Now we propose to do three further welfare reforms. First, as I said in the Budget, we are going to introduce a new welfare cap to control the overall costs of the benefits bill. We have already capped the benefits of individuals, and now we cap the system as a whole. Under the system we inherited, welfare spending was put into a category called annually managed expenditure, but the problem was that it was not managed at all. The cost of welfare went up by a staggering 50%—even before the crash. Our welfare cap will stop that happening again. The cap will be set each year at the Budget for four years. It will apply from April 2015 and will reflect forecast inflation, but it will be set in cash terms. In future, when a Government look to breach the cap because they are failing to control welfare, the Office for Budget Responsibility will issue a public warning. The Government will then be forced to take action to cut welfare costs or publicly to breach the cap and explain it to Parliament.

We will exclude a small number of the most cyclical benefits that directly rise and fall with the unemployment rate to preserve the automatic stabilisers: housing benefit, tax credits, disability benefits and pensioner benefits will all be included—but the state pension will not. I have had representations that we should include the basic state pension in the welfare cap. That would mean that a future Government could offset a rise in working age benefits by cutting the pensions of older people. That penalises those who have worked hard all their lives. Cutting pensions to pay for working age benefits is a choice this Government are certainly not prepared to make. It is unfair; we will not do it and we reject those representations completely.

The new welfare cap is proof that Britain is serious about living within its means: controlling spending, protecting the taxpayer and being fundamentally fair. Today we are introducing a limit on the nation’s credit card. The principles enshrined in the cap apply to our second reform today. We will act to ensure that we stop the cost of paying the winter fuel payments made to those who live abroad from rising in a way that no one ever intended. EU law now says that people living in the European economic area can claim winter fuel payments from us, even if they did not get them before they left the UK. Paying out even more money to people from all nationalities who might have worked in this country years ago, but no longer live here is not a fair use of the nation’s cash. So from the autumn of 2015, we will link the winter fuel payment to a temperature test; people in hot countries will no longer get it. It is, after all, a payment for winter fuel.

The third welfare reform I announce today is about making sure we do everything to help people get into work. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has changed the national debate about welfare, and has comprehensively won the argument. He has committed himself to finding a further 9.5% of savings in his Department’s running costs. That will require a difficult drive for efficiency, and a hard-headed assessment of underperforming programmes.

However, welfare reform is about much more than saving money, vital though that is. It is about reducing dependency and changing people’s lives for the better. I am determined to go further to reduce worklessness with all its social consequences. Where is the fairness in condemning people to a life on benefits because the system will not help them to get back into work?

Today we are introducing Upfront Work Search. We are going to make sure that people turn up with a CV, register for online job search, and start looking for work. Only then will they receive their benefits. Thanks to this Government, lone parents who are out of work can now receive free child care for all their three and four-year-olds, so it is reasonable to ask that they start regularly attending jobcentres and preparing to return to work.

We are announcing further changes today. Half all jobseekers need more help with looking for work, so we will require them to go to the jobcentre every week rather than once a fortnight. We will give people more time with jobcentre advisers, and proper progress reviews every three months. We will also introduce a new seven-day wait before people can claim their benefits. Those first few days should be spent looking for work, not looking to sign on. We are doing those things because we know that they help people to stay off benefits, and help those who are on benefits to get back into work faster.

Here is a further change. From now on, if claimants do not speak English, they will have to attend language courses until they do. That is a reasonable requirement in this country. It will help people to find work, but if they are not prepared to learn English, their benefits will be cut.

As a whole, this new contract with people on benefits will save more than £350 million a year, and all that money will enable us to afford extra support to help people to get into work. Help to work, incentives to work, and an expectation that people should do everything that they can to find work: that is fair to people who are out of work, and it is fair to those in work who pay for them. Together, these reforms bring the total additional welfare savings in 2015 up to £4 billion.

Step by step, this reforming Government are making sure that Britain lives within its means. The decisions that we make today are not easy, and these are difficult times; but with this statement, we make more progress towards an economy that prospers, a state that we can afford, a deficit coming down, and a Britain on the rise. I commend our economic plan to the country.

Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 1:22 pm, 26th June 2013

The Chancellor spoke for more than 50 minutes, but not once did he mention the real reason for today’s spending review: his comprehensive failure on living standards, growth and the deficit. We have seen prices rising faster than wages, families worse off, long-term unemployment up, welfare spending soaring, a flatlining economy, and the slowest recovery for more than 100 years. As a result of that failure, for all the Budget boasts, borrowing last year was not down but up. The Chancellor has not balanced the books, as he promised to do, and in 2015 we will see a deficit of £96 billion. There has been more borrowing to pay for the Chancellor’s economic failure, which is why he has been forced to come to the House today to make more cuts in our public services.

Does the Chancellor recall what he said to the House two years ago? He said:

“we have already asked the British people for what is needed, and…we do not need to ask for more.”—[Hansard, 23 March 2011; Vol. 525, c. 951.]

We do not need to ask for more! Is not the Chancellor’s economic failure the reason why he is back here today asking for more? More cuts in the police, more cuts in our defence budgets, more cuts in our local services: this out-of-touch Chancellor has failed on living standards, growth and the deficit, and families and businesses are paying the price for his failure.

Of course, it was not supposed to turn out like this. Does the Chancellor remember what he told the House three years ago, in his first Budget and spending review? He said that the economy would grow by 6%, but it has grown by just 1%. He pledged to get the banks lending, but bank lending is down month on month on month. He made the number one test of his economic credibility keeping the triple A credit rating, but on his watch we have been downgraded not once but twice. He promised that living standards would rise, but they are falling year on year on year. He said “We’re all in this together”, but then he gave a huge tax cut to millionaires. He promised to balance the books, and that promise is in tatters.

We see failed tests and broken promises. The Chancellor’s friends call him George, the US President calls him Jeffrey, but to everyone else he is just Bungle—and I see that even Zippy on the Front Bench cannot stop smiling. Calm down, Zippy, calm down.

Did we get an admission from the Chancellor that his plan has not worked, and that Britain needs to change course? Did we get the plan B for growth and jobs that we and the International Monetary Fund have called for? It does not have to be this way. Surely, rather than planning for cuts in 2015, two years ahead, the Chancellor should be taking bold action now to boost growth this year and next. Investment would get our economy growing and bring in the additional tax revenues that would mean that our police, armed forces and public services would not face such deep cuts in 2015. Why did the Chancellor not listen to the IMF, and provide £10 billion in infrastructure investment this year? Given that house building is at its lowest level since the 1920s, why is he not building 400,000 more affordable homes this year and next? If the Chancellor continues with his failing economic plan, it will be for the next Labour Government to turn the economy around and make the tough decisions that will get the deficit down in a fair way.

I have to say to the Chancellor that there is no point in boasting about infrastructure investment in five or seven years’ time; we need action now. I must also say to him that he ought to brief the Prime Minister better for Prime Minister’s questions, because three years after the infrastructure plan was launched, just seven of the 576 projects that were announced have been completed. More than 80% have not even been started, just one school has been provided, and in the first three months of this year, infrastructure investment fell by 50%. On infrastructure, we need bold action now, not just more empty promises for the future.

As for the idea that this spending review will strengthen our economy for the long term, let me ask the Chancellor some questions. Where is the proper British investment bank that business wants? Where is the 2030 decarbonisation target that the energy companies say that they need if they are to be able to invest for the future? Where is the backstop power to break up the banks if there is no reform, which the Parliamentary

Commission on Banking Standards called for? And whatever happened to the Heseltine plan’s much-heralded £49 billion single pot growth fund for the regions? A mere £2 billion is pathetic.

Is this not the truth? Instead of action to boost growth and long-term investment, all we got today was more of the same from a failing Chancellor, and we got more of the same on social security and welfare spending too.

We have had plenty of tough talk and divisive rhetoric from the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, but on their watch the benefits bill is soaring. Social security spending is up £21 billion compared with their plans. We have called for a cap on social security, and we fully support the triple lock on the pension—something not even mentioned in the Chancellor’s statement—but the fact is that in 2010 the Chancellor tried to set a cap on social security spending and he has overspent his cap by £21 billion.

If the Chancellor really wants to get social security bills down, why not get young people and the unemployed back to work with a compulsory jobs guarantee paid for by a tax on bank bonuses? Why not get our housing benefit bill down by tackling high rents and the shortage of affordable homes? Why not stop paying the winter fuel allowance to the richest 5% of pensioners? And why not make work pay with a 10p tax band paid for by a mansion tax, instead of huge tax cuts for millionaires?

The Chancellor is making the wrong choices on growth and social security spending, and he is making the wrong choices on departmental spending as well. Let me ask him: when thousands of front-line police officers are being cut, why is he spending more on police commissioners than the old police authorities? Why is he wasting £3 billion on a reckless reorganisation of the NHS that the public do not support? Why is he funding new free schools in areas with enough school places, while parents in other areas cannot get their children into a local school?

We will study the Chancellor’s departmental spending plans for 2015-16. There is a lot of detail that he did not provide for the House. We look forward to seeing whether he will confirm the continuation of free national museum entry—maybe he can tell us in his response—but I have to say to the Chancellor that the country needs to know the detail, so let me ask him: will this spending review mean fewer police officers in 2015-16, on top of the 15,000 we will lose in this Parliament? Will it mean fewer nurses in 2015, on top of the 4,000 we have lost so far? Will it mean fewer Sure Start children’s centres, on top of the 500 that have already closed? And will he continue to impose deeper cuts on local authorities in areas with the greatest need, when already in this Parliament the 10 most deprived local authorities are losing six times the spending per head of the 10 least deprived areas? People up and down the country want to know the answers to these questions, and they should be in no doubt that the scale of the extra cuts the Chancellor has announced today to our police, defence and local services are the direct result of his abject failure to get the economy to grow.

The Chancellor is failing on living standards; they are falling. He is failing on growth; it is flatlining. He is failing on the deficit, and all we got was more of the same: no plan to turn our economy around, no hope for the future, and Britain’s families and our public services are paying the price for this Chancellor’s failure.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

One thing is for certain after that performance: the right hon. Gentleman is the worst shadow Chancellor for a generation, and we want to keep him right where he is. What is amazing is that he spoke for 11 minutes and never said Labour wants to borrow more. Did anyone hear that in his comments? That is his argument: he wants to borrow more. Why does he not have the courage to get up and make his economic argument at the Dispatch Box? He finds himself in a situation where the entire argument he has been advancing for the last three years has completely collapsed. Where was the reference to the temporary VAT cut? Abandoned. Where was the reference to the five-point plan? Abandoned. He complains about all the cuts; here is a very simple question. We shall spend £745 billion in 2015; what will he spend? Does he match those plans or not? Hands up on the Labour Benches from those who want to match our spending plans. On Saturday, the Labour leader—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. May I just say—[Interruption.] No help from Jason McCartney is required; he would not have the foggiest idea where to start. Let me just say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there is a way in which these matters are handled, and it is not by the Minister responding to questions posing a series of questions. That is in breach of parliamentary protocol, it is not proper, and it must stop right away—and others, including at the very highest level, ought to take note of that for future weeks. Let’s be clear about it.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I will leave it to the country to ask these questions. I make this point. In this spending plan I have set out total managed expenditure of £745 billion, and it is up to all Members of this House to decide whether they support that. We do not know the position of the Opposition, because on Saturday the Labour leader said there would be no more borrowing, but on Sunday the shadow Chancellor said “yes, of course” there would be, so we will see what the position of the Opposition is on this.

The shadow Chancellor mentions what has been said in this House before. Well, let us be clear about what he said in this House before, and how we have responded to it in this spending plan. On 6 June 2011 he said there would be a return to mass unemployment. We have set out welfare plans that help people get back into work. Does he support those or not? That is the question the public will ask of him. He said in October 2010 that we were taking a huge risk with crime. Crime is down 10% or more. He said in July that year that the university reforms would shut out those from disadvantaged backgrounds from university, but actually a record proportion of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds applied to go to university. He said, in his own words, that the cuts to the border agency would mean we would be unable to enforce our immigration policy. That was wrong, too. Every previous prediction he has made, including the prediction that there would be no more boom and bust, has proved to be completely wrong, so why would anyone believe a word he has got to say about this at all?

The simple point is this: we have set out our plans—we have set out our economic strategy, we have set out our spending plans—and those who disagree with them should advance an alternative or retreat from the battlefield, because the shadow Chancellor finds himself in no man’s land. He has abandoned his economic argument but stuck with a disastrous economic policy of borrowing more, and in the end, if we want to know why, we only need to hear what he said this month:

“Do I think the last Labour government was profligate, spent too much, had too much national debt? No, I don’t think there’s any evidence for that.”

All people want Labour to say is, “We’re sorry, we got it wrong, we borrowed too much and we spent too much, and we won’t do it again.”

To answer the specific question that the shadow Chancellor asked me, yes we will have free museum charges—so that people can go to our museums and see the antiquated economic policy advanced by the Opposition, which brought this country to its knees and gave us the worst economic crisis for a generation, and they can learn how this Government cleared up that mess.

These reductions and the control of public expenditure are absolutely essential. That will bolster the credibility of fiscal policy in the markets and it creates room for the private sector to lead the recovery and create the jobs we need, particularly in small businesses in our constituencies, who are desperately trying to find the funding to expand.

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Chair, Treasury Sub-Committee, Chair, Treasury Committee

Behind all the noise, most Members actually do agree that both the deficit and public spending are much too high and have to come down, and we should be under no illusions at all among ourselves just how tough and remorseless a task that is. Those reductions and that control of public expenditure are absolutely essential. They will bolster the credibility of fiscal policy in the markets and create room for the private sector to lead the recovery and create the jobs we need, particularly in small businesses in our constituencies, some of which are desperately trying to find the funding to expand. Sustaining public expenditure control over this period, and now being able to set out plans for the years ahead, is a great achievement by the Chancellor, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the coalition.

I want to draw attention to and ask a question about a particular proposal. The cap on nominal welfare spending will need careful scrutiny; it may well be an essential measure to give teeth to controlling annually managed expenditure, which frankly has not been well managed and is threatening to get out of control. Will the Chancellor publish today all the necessary detail to enable Parliament and the Treasury Committee to examine this extremely important proposal?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I thank my hon. Friend for his support for the difficult steps we needed to take. Our trying to set out these spending plans further in advance, so that Departments have time to make the necessary adjustments, is a good innovation in fiscal policy. The certainty we now have for 2015 will, I think, mean better public policy.

We have set out some of the details of the welfare cap in my speech today, but in the document we publish, we have set its parameters, how it will be set in cash terms, the period over which it will be set and when it will be set—at the Budget. However, it is absolutely my intention to listen to the Treasury Committee, which I hope will take an interest in this issue, and to examine best practice and make sure we get the final details absolutely right. If we want to change the Office for Budget Responsibility charter, we will have to legislate, but that is something we need to examine. We absolutely should work on the details, but the principles and the principal components of the cap have been established.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling Labour, Edinburgh South West

I was interested in the Chancellor’s claim to have rescued the economy. I think I am right in saying that in 2010, the economy was actually growing, whereas unfortunately, in 2011 it stopped growing. That is why he is borrowing more than he intended and why his target to reduce national debt has been moved well into the next Parliament.

On the new growth items the Chancellor announced today, particularly those relating to transport, how much of that is public money and how much is expected to be raised from the private sector? Can he also give us some idea of how much additional growth he expects to see in the economy as a result of the measures he has announced, most of which, I think I am right in saying, will not take effect until the next Parliament? Given the delay in delivery of these projects—a problem that has dogged successive Governments—it may be some considerable time before we actually see their economic benefit.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The right hon. Gentleman and I have, I hope, a cordial relationship, but I will just disagree on one point. The idea that he handed me a golden economic legacy and an easy set of books, and that somehow it was all fantastically booming after a 6% contraction in the economy, is something that will turn out, if I check his memoirs, not to have been the case.

To answer the right hon. Gentleman’s specific points, the transport money we set out is public investment; of course, there are opportunities to lever in additional private investment. He was gracious enough to acknowledge that all Governments have had the challenge of how to deliver infrastructure projects, given the planning system we have and so forth. We are reforming planning and will set out this week changes to infrastructure delivery in Whitehall to try to accelerate the delivery of projects—something that has bedevilled the British Government for decades, and we shall do our best to put it right.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I fully support the Chancellor’s wish to reduce the growth rate of public spending in cash terms; it is a very necessary thing to do to get the deficit under control as economic growth picks up, as I think it is now doing. On the welfare reforms, will he look at the idea that any non-British citizen coming to our country should have to work for a period and pay taxes before being eligible for any welfare benefits?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I am certainly prepared to look at any ideas that my right hon. Friend puts forward on welfare. Of course, one of our challenges—one of the debates in this country and in other European countries—concerns the eligibility for benefits of people who move here. In that regard, we are hemmed in by European law, but there may be opportunities within it to make some adjustments, and we are looking closely at those.

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Chair, Public Accounts Committee

The Chancellor said that one of the objectives of his statement today was to stimulate growth, and he announced £50 billion of investment in 2015-16. In 2009-10, this country spent £48.4 billion in cash terms. Will he now accept that that 2015-16 figure represents a real-terms cut in investment?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I inherited from the last Chancellor a plan greatly to reduce capital spending—to cut it by 50%. In the 2010 review, we increased it from the plans we inherited. We increased it in the years since, and now we are maintaining it in the years going forward and setting it out for the rest of the decade. So the big reduction in capital spending that the right hon. Lady refers to is one I guess she must have supported, because she was a Minister of that Government.

Photo of Stephen Williams Stephen Williams Liberal Democrat, Bristol West

We all know that if we try to live a £40,000 lifestyle on a £30,000 salary, it soon leads to misery unless corrective action is taken. That was the legacy, at a national level, that we were left by the last Government. Despite that tough backdrop, have not this coalition Government secured funding for the national health service and for schools, including more money for children on free school meals, and today announced a massive boost to infrastructure spending and scientific research in order to smooth the way to sustainable economic growth?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend is right and in the end, this is about choices. I say to all the Labour Members getting ready to ask questions that, given that the Labour leader says that he will take these resource plans as a starting point, if they complain about any cut, they have to suggest what else they would cut. We have made choices as a Government. We have committed to protecting the NHS, committed to schools, committed to the pupil premium—we have done these things because we want a fairer society, and we also believe that investing in infrastructure and growth enhances our country’s economic performance. Those are our choices: if people have an alternative plan, we have not heard of it.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Labour, Neath

Why does the Chancellor think he is so right, and Keynes wrong?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We have drawn on the best economic evidence that the recovery from a banking crisis of the severity that we went through is long and protracted, but we have to de-lever as an economy and try to fix our banking system. That is what I set out at the Mansion House. We also have to have a credible fiscal policy in order to allow monetary policy to be loose. I think that is the best economic approach.

Photo of Brian Binley Brian Binley Conservative, Northampton South

My grandmother taught me that there are only two things people can do when they are in serious financial difficulty: cut spending, and earn more. The Chancellor’s record on cutting spending has been commendable, but more needs to be done on earning more. What will he do to enhance productivity to help this country earn more?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that Britain has got to earn its way in the world, and that is about increasing our earnings as well as dealing with our expenditure. In the Budget, we set out a number of tax changes, such as the new employment allowance, which I know he strongly supports and which will help small firms by wiping out the first £2,000 of national insurance, taking a third of those firms out of national insurance. We have made a series of other tax changes to promote investment, and where we had to make tough spending choices, I have chosen in this spending round to prioritise things that will help businesses to create jobs.

Photo of Geoffrey Robinson Geoffrey Robinson Labour, Coventry North West

Is the Chancellor not aware that he has been in post for three years now, that he owns these policies and that their failure is his responsibility? All the empty rhetorical questions directed at the Opposition and the shadow Chancellor will not airbrush away the failings on growth, living standards and borrowings. Is it not time he faced up to that and changed the policies that have failed so far?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I tell you what has happened while this Government have been in office. First, borrowing has come down—[Interruption.] The shadow Chancellor says it has gone up, but the problem is that if this really is his maths, the country would be in very serious trouble if he ever got himself back into Downing street. We were borrowing £157 billion a year under Labour and now we are set to borrow £108 billion in the coming year—£118 billion if we remove the asset purchase facility transfer. So borrowing has come down.

Secondly, more than 1 million jobs have been created. Thirdly, we can look around the world and see that this country is seen to have got its act together and is making the big reforms we need to education, welfare and the like. That is why we are absolutely determined to win the global race and people see us as a country capable of winning that race.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Conservative, South Northamptonshire

I sincerely congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement. Not that he needs any advice from me, but he should stick to his guns because he is on the right track. I find myself agreeing violently with my neighbour, my hon. Friend Mr Binley, that this is about earning. In particular, I congratulate the Chancellor on his policies on education and apprenticeships to get young people better educated and in work. May I bring to his attention the fact that I have just recruited a new apprentice for my parliamentary office from Magdalen college school in Brackley? Will he join me in urging all colleagues to look into the apprenticeship scheme and how it might help them in their work?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I thank my hon. Friend for her support and kind words. We are absolutely going to stick to this economic plan—that is what is taking Britain out of rescue into recovery. If we abandon that plan and if we listen to the advice of the Labour party—although the shadow Chancellor did not mention it in his statement, Labour’s plan is to borrow more—we would be back in intensive care. She is right also to highlight the success of apprenticeships, as there are over 1 million more of them. We are committing to the funding of apprenticeships in this programme. A significant part of my statement was also about school reform, and when people look at it they will see that it is one of the most important parts of the statement.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Labour, Oldham West and Royton

As the Chancellor’s private sector infrastructure proposals will take years to gain traction, if they ever do, why does he not use public investment to kick-start the economy now, as the only effective means to do so quickly, without any increase in public borrowing at all? He could do that through a further tranche of quantitative easing, specifically targeted on industrial investment; by instructing the state-owned banks to lend to industry at the scale required; or, most obviously, given that he talks about fairness, by taxing the super-rich, who have made massive gains since the crash, in the last five years.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

First, we are committing to public investment as well as seeking to secure private investment. The first of the right hon. Gentleman’s ideas is about printing money to spend it on things. That has been tried by a number of countries but it does not always have a happy ending. Secondly, he has this plan to take over full control of the banks and run the banking system as a nationalised banking system. I do not think that would be a sensible approach; it would make the problems in our banking system worse rather than better.

Thirdly, the right hon. Gentleman talks about taxes. I recall, as I was an MP on the Opposition Benches at the time, that he was a Minister when his Government had a 40% tax rate, whereas we have a 45% rate. I do not remember him getting up at this Dispatch Box and complaining all the time that his Government were not increasing taxes on the rich. I seem to remember his good friend Peter Mandelson saying that they were all

“intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”.

Under this Government—I hope the right hon. Gentleman would support this—the richest are paying a greater percentage of our tax than under his Government.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Conservative, Enfield, Southgate

My constituents will welcome a fair review of welfare, schools and health. Will the Chancellor take the opportunity to renew his and our party’s vow to recognise marriage in the tax system and ensure that it is implemented as soon as possible within this Parliament?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I can give my hon. Friend the absolutely clear commitment that we will bring forward the proposals to recognise marriage in the tax system—the proposals we set out in our manifesto that are provided for in the coalition agreement—in due course.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

The Chancellor has told us today that he is going to bring forward infrastructure spending, but of course we have heard it all before. We reflect on a record of complete failure on infrastructure spending, whereby the money he announces does not actually get delivered. Why should we have any more confidence that what we have heard today will be any more successful than what he has brought to us the previous times he has stood at that Dispatch Box?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Because the road schemes that we committed to at this Dispatch Box got their planning permission, or are getting it, and the construction is starting. Some of those road schemes have been completed. The same is true with the schools and all the other pieces of infrastructure. One of our big problems was the complete absence when we came into office of a bunch of plans that were ready to go and had planning permission. We have had to do all that. I am all for speeding up Whitehall and the planning process, but I seem to remember that the Labour party voted against the planning reforms. So when we try to make those changes, which the former Chancellor was good enough to acknowledge are needed because of all the problems that previous Governments have had, actually he has opposed them.

Photo of Julian Huppert Julian Huppert Liberal Democrat, Cambridge

I was delighted to hear confirmation that the unfair schools funding formula will finally change. Schools in Cambridgeshire have been underfunded for decades and pupils there now get the least of pupils anywhere in the country—they get £600 less than the average. I am very grateful for this money, as all the pupils in Cambridgeshire and other counties will be. When will that extra money start to arrive in our schools, which so desperately need it?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The Education Secretary and the Minister for Schools, Mr Laws, will set out details of how the formula will work. It is certainly our intention to introduce it in this Parliament, but we shall consult on it. Obviously it is a complex reform, but we have set out the ambition and the principles today, and the Department for Education will now take it forward.

Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie SNP Chief Whip, SNP Deputy Leader, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

The Budget previously told us that discretionary consolidation for 2015-16 would be £130 billion rising to £155 billion. The Chancellor announced another £11.5 billion today and the pace of the cuts will go on until 2018. That still represents stripping consumption out of the economy equivalent to 8% of GDP, so why does he think that will deliver growth at all? He has told us previously that the ratio of cuts to tax rises would be 4:1, and nothing today changes that. He is still planning to balance the books on the back of the poor.

On the funding for Departments and, in this case, for Scotland, we face another £40 million revenue cut, on top of the £103 million revenue cut announced in the Budget and the 6.5% cut in the last comprehensive spending review, combined with a 25% cut to capital in the last CSR. This plan A has failed. What makes the Chancellor think that making the same mistakes all over again will deliver a different result this time around?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

First, all parts of the United Kingdom have to make savings, but because of the application of the Barnett formula the savings in Scotland are 2%. I am not saying that will be easy, but it is not as difficult as the tasks that some English Departments face. We are also providing more borrowing powers for the Scottish Parliament to make its own decisions. We believe that is the right approach—devolution, with Scotland not only having the benefit of being in the United Kingdom and able to make its own decisions about the investments it makes, but benefiting from the very low interest rates that our credible fiscal policy delivers for all parts of the Union. It is pretty clear that if Scotland were independent, borrowing would be more expensive for the Scottish people.

Photo of Brooks Newmark Brooks Newmark Conservative, Braintree

Most of my constituents care about two things: whether they have a job, and what level of interest they pay on the mortgage or their business. More than 1.3 million new jobs have been created in the private sector, over a quarter of a million new businesses have been created and we have record low interest on mortgages and on businesses. Does my right hon. Friend feel, like me, that that would be jeopardised if we followed the shadow Chancellor’s borrowing plans?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I fear that it would be jeopardised and this country would be back in intensive care. It is remarkable that the shadow Chancellor did not have the courage at that Dispatch Box to say that Labour would borrow more. Labour did say that for three years and now it has completely gone silent.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

What I am talking about is that the Labour leader said on Saturday that Labour would not borrow more and the shadow Chancellor said on Sunday that it would. Because there are two alternative Labour economic policies out there, I would quite like to know which one is which.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

Bankers’ bonuses are going up 64% this year because bankers have moved their income from a 50p tax year to a 45p tax year. Will the Chancellor act to reverse that tax evasion, which he caused?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Bank bonuses are down 85% since the previous Government left office. We have curbed irresponsibility in our City, which was rife when the shadow Chancellor was City Minister. In all the years for which the hon. Gentleman was a Member of Parliament for Croydon and sat on the Government Benches, I do not remember him getting up and saying, “I want a higher top rate of tax, Gordon Brown”—sorry, I mean the right hon. Member for Fife. We did not hear that. The truth is that the tax rate for rich people is higher under this Government than it was when the hon. Gentleman represented the good people of Croydon.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker Conservative, Wycombe

The Bank of England’s Andy Haldane recently told the Treasury Committee:

“Let’s be clear, we have intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history.”

What contingency plans have the Government made to cope with that bond market bubble bursting?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

First, let me say that I stand corrected, Mr Speaker, although I think that Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath is in the Kingdom of Fife. Yesterday we issued a 55-year bond so we are clearly able to borrow money for the long term. Our economic policy, the further stage of which we set out today, commands the confidence of the world.

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

The Chancellor is presiding over a situation in which an extra 200,000 children will be living in poverty while at the same time cutting taxes for millionaires. Does he think the parents of those children will think that is fair?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Child poverty went up by 300,000 during the recession of the previous Government, and the hon. Lady was a Government MP at the time. We have taken a number of actions today, such as that on the pupil premium, to help the poorest kids, and there is also the troubled families initiative. That means 400 families helped by our plans. The distributional analysis, as I showed, shows that the richest quintile in our society are paying the most as a result of the collection of these measures. We are demonstrating that it is possible to have progressive policies while living with sane public finances.

Photo of James Morris James Morris Conservative, Halesowen and Rowley Regis

In my constituency, 2,500 more people are in work than at the time of the general election. That employment growth is largely a result of Government investment in apprenticeships and skills. Does the Chancellor agree that we need to invest more in apprenticeships and skills and to give local areas more control over how they invest in skills?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. It is good to hear that the businesses of the west midlands and Halesowen and Rowley Regis are taking the opportunity to grow, expand and take people on. We are committed to the apprenticeship programme and are also committing to more local involvement in how money is spent through the Heseltine local growth pot, which will be £10 billion over the rest of the decade. Through some of our apprenticeship reforms set out in the Richard review, we will give the businesses my hon. Friend represents much greater influence over the kinds of skills that are taught locally.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I welcome the protection of the counter-terrorism budget, although I do not think the Chancellor’s claim that the Home Secretary is the best in a generation would necessarily win the vote among the police service. The Home Office budget as a whole will be cut by 7% and earlier this year the UK Border Agency was abolished by the Prime Minister. How will we get the backlog of more than 250,000 cases down if the budget is to be cut and mandarins at the Home Office still receive bonuses of several millions of pounds?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The Home Office saving is 6.1%, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has demonstrated that she can live with a tough budget—which is true of all Government Departments at the moment—while delivering real reforms and improving the service we get at the end of it. Crime has come down to a 30-year low and immigration has already come down by a third. If the House has to choose between public services that are completely unaffordable and bust the country and public services that do not deliver a good service, that is no choice at all. We are delivering good public services that the country can afford.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I am keen if at all possible to accommodate all remaining colleagues, but also to start the next business, the Second Reading of the Bill, by 2.30 pm. There is therefore a premium on brevity.

Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester

Previous defence cuts mean that our Army is heading towards being smaller than it was at the battle of Waterloo, so that is hardly a triumph. Will the Chancellor confirm that there is now no need, based on his statement, for any cuts to any Army bands and will he also give a statement about why the family housing lived in by our brave soldiers is not being modernised?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We did win the battle of Waterloo with that Army, so we were not doing that badly. We are trying to make the choice to have a modern, deployable Army, fully equipped with the latest technology. To address the hon. Gentleman’s specific points, no reduction is required to the uniformed services. I would assume that that would include military bands, but that is for the Defence Secretary to set out. On housing, the Defence Secretary has set out a multi-billion pound plan to improve the housing stock for our brave soldiers and their families.

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

Half a million people in our country accessed emergency food aid in the past year. The main reason people give for having to go to a food bank is delays in receiving the support to which they are entitled, whether they are in or out of work. How does the Chancellor believe that that situation will improve as a result of the announcements he has made today?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Food bank use went up tenfold under the previous Labour Government. We have advertised the services of food banks, which are great local community projects, through the jobcentres. I know that I am not allowed to ask questions, so let me pose a rhetorical question. Labour Members complain about the use of food banks, but can they explain why their use went up tenfold under the previous Government?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton Conservative, Truro and Falmouth

I so welcome the step change in joining health and care services around people who need care. That is most welcome, as is the extra £3 billion spending to allow that vital integration. Will my right hon. Friend let the House know when the details of this vital reform will be published, so that we can all plan ahead?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I know that my hon. Friend has been a campaigner on social care issues. This is probably one of the most transformative announcements in the statement. The Health Secretary and the Local Government Secretary will set out shortly how it will work, but it will involve the local commissioning of social care services jointly by the NHS and local government to try to end the divide between the two services that people fall into. I am sure that my hon. Friend’s expertise will be drawn on, because she knows a lot about the subject.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Treasury)

The Chancellor outlined a new annually managed expenditure regime. Will he colour that in a little, particularly as regards Northern Ireland? Does he intend Northern Ireland to have its own separate welfare cap? How is it to be fixed? Will it take account of the higher rates of disability and long-term conditions in Northern Ireland or will the cap be used to try to taper Northern Ireland’s higher spending on those benefits?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The welfare cap will be for the United Kingdom, as we have a UK welfare system. It certainly will not be used to target Northern Ireland in particular. We want to ensure that more people in Northern Ireland have the opportunity to work and to get off benefits and although the subject has not featured in these questions, some of the changes we have announced to the jobcentre regime will help in this regard. We will ensure that they are suitably applied in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Conservative, Harlow

With the increased investment in nursery education, the pupil premium, apprenticeships, NHS social care and pensions, is this not a Government who help people from cradle to grave rather than saddling future generations with debt?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We are doing everything we can to help people get a job, get on in life and aspire to better things, whether that means helping the poorest pupils in schools through the pupil premium, helping troubled families rather than abandoning them, or ensuring that our elderly get help from our social care system. Across someone’s life, we are stepping in to help rather than, as my hon. Friend points out, burdening the next generation with debt that this generation does not have the courage to tackle.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. There are still a lot of colleagues standing. May I please ask colleagues now to put a single-sentence question, without preamble—in other words, a genuine short question, which I know will be accommodated by the Chancellor with a short reply?

Photo of Julie Hilling Julie Hilling Opposition Whip (Commons)

With 300,000 more children in absolute poverty, how many more will be in poverty by 2015?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Child poverty projections are made independently, but I say to the hon. Lady that we are doing everything we can to give children from poorer backgrounds the very best start in life, with measures such as the pupil premium.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire

Will the Chancellor confirm that there will be a cap on benefits and not on the state pension in future?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Yes, absolutely. We received representations to include the state pension. We are not going to do so, but of course that will ultimately be decided at a general election.

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This is in line with the "no change" in respect of the 'frozen pensioners" policy who the government in their...

Submitted by George Morley Continue reading (and 1 more annotation)

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth

Given the 5% cut in the grant to museums and the increase in operational freedoms the Chancellor has announced, when does he expect charges to be introduced and how much does he think the average cost will be?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

There will be no museum charges; free entry will remain. What we are doing in the museums sector is introducing radical new freedoms, which have been welcomed across the sector. I think that is the right reform, which is to give more freedom to the front line.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

As so little has been done about problems of tax avoidance over the past decade, can the Chancellor confirm that HMRC will have the resources and the cultural enthusiasm it needs to tackle tax avoidance? Does he also agree—

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The short answer is yes, and the Exchequer Secretary is doing an excellent job in changing that culture, with the Department.

Photo of Chris Williamson Chris Williamson Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

The Chancellor talked about rail investment in his statement. How many jobs is he creating in Dusseldorf, now that his Government have finalised their plans to spend £1.6 billion building the Thameslink trains in Germany, rather than in Derby? Is that a sensible use of taxpayers’ money?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Well, we were operating under the procurement rules of the previous Government.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Conservative, Harrogate and Knaresborough

May I welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement of an increase in transport capital and his indication that it will be invested in our rail network? The boost in capacity and services will be welcomed by rail travellers.

Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

The Chancellor knows that the north-east is already suffering disproportionately from his Government’s cuts, so can he tell the House what percentage of infrastructure spending will come to the north-east, and by when?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary will set out the regional breakdown tomorrow.

Photo of Dan Rogerson Dan Rogerson Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall

In his continuing discussions with the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department of Health and the Home Office, will the Chancellor urge them to follow the example of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Schools in ensuring that money is spent fairly across the whole country?

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Labour, Brent North

Because 67% of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s budget is ring-fenced for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the Chancellor’s 8% cut actually equates to a 35% cut when the Department has to deliver an infrastructure plan which, at £200 billion, is the largest this country has ever seen. How is it going to be able to do that?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about infrastructure capacity in Whitehall, and we will set out changes to infrastructure delivery tomorrow. The Department of Energy and Climate Change is part of that. Not only is the Energy Secretary on the case, but the new permanent secretary, Stephen Lovegrove, is too, and they are confident that they can deliver this within the budget.

Photo of Mary Macleod Mary Macleod Conservative, Brentford and Isleworth

There is a record number of apprenticeships in my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the new announcement on apprenticeships means cross-sector and cross-industry support, as well as an increase in the number of girls going into science and engineering?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

It is certainly our intention to increase the number of girls going into science and engineering and, indeed, to increase the number of people doing science and engineering subjects, both as schoolchildren and young adults. Our support for skills will help to deliver that.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

Some 10% of the capital funding for Northern Ireland will be in the form of financial transactions money, which requires the identification of private sector loan or equity investment-type arrangements. Can the Chancellor assure us that, with local Administrations, he will look for the greatest possible flexibility in the choice of those and in the timing of that spend?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I am happy to look at both the flexibility and the timing, and to make sure that my Department works closely with the devolved Administration in Belfast.

Photo of Stephen Mosley Stephen Mosley Conservative, City of Chester

Will the Chancellor do his utmost to ensure that all local authorities take advantage of the council tax freeze, which he has generously extended today?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I hope that all local authorities take it up, but ultimately that is a matter for them—that is local democracy.

Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

From 2006, the Conservative and Liberal Democrats who used to run Newcastle borough council spent all of our £50 million reserves. In dictating a further indiscriminate 10% cut across the board to local government, how carefully has the Chancellor considered its impact, council by council, on their ability to provide decent basic public services and to give discretionary support to valued community groups and organisations?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We are giving local councils more freedom, including some more flexibility in the use of assets, particularly where they want to spend to save. The broader point is that if all the changes in local government and social care I announced are taken into account, the change for local government is more like minus 2%—still difficult, but I think that good local councils can continue to deliver excellent local services.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

I welcome the commitment the Chancellor made today to renew the water bill rebate for South West Water customers, which has been a vital respite for some 700,000 households in the west country. Does he agree with me that it would be wrong of any future Government to reverse that commitment for this spending review period?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I commend my hon. Friend for the campaign he has run. He has represented not only the people of his constituency but people across the south-west of England. Water bills are abnormally high because of the money that needs to be spent on cleaning up beaches and the like, and we have stepped in to help. It is this Government who have done that, after years of campaigns, and we have made the commitment to extend it. As for whether a Labour Government would remove it—well, they never introduced it when they were in office, so I suspect they would.

Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee

Does the Chancellor accept that, since the beginning of this Parliament, the cut in central Government grant to local authorities has been twice as great as the cut in funding for central Government Departments? With that in mind, will he take seriously the comments of the chair of the Conservative party that local councils can manage the cuts announced today without any reduction in front-line services?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I think good local councils can manage the ask we are making of them. If the hon. Gentleman is complaining, the Labour party has not made it clear whether or not it supports this total mandatory expenditure, so the Opposition cannot really complain about individual cuts unless they tell us whether they would make other cuts, and so far I have not heard of any.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Conservative, Macclesfield

Is not the main message from today’s statement that more can be done for less? Do we not need to move forward on that because of the mess left by Labour?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend is right: one of the central principles is that we can deliver more for less. Ultimately, we should not have to choose between public services we can afford and public services that deliver for people. We need both.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Labour, Feltham and Heston

Is it true that, according to figures on page 11 of the spending review document, the Chancellor is cutting capital infrastructure spending by 1.7% in 2015-16 compared with 2014-15?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We are maintaining capital investment at £50 billion.

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson Conservative, North Swindon

The decision to introduce a fairer national education funding formula is vital for my local schools. How much did Labour’s formula short-change schools in Swindon?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The people of Swindon were short-changed in many ways by the Labour Government. Under the excellent leadership provided by my hon. Friend and his colleague, our hon. Friend Mr Buckland, not only is Swindon’s voice heard in Parliament, but the changes this Government are making will help families in Swindon, including those with children at school.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

Given the news this week that the Government’s flagship green deal is failing in terms of both the planned jobs and its environmental targets, why will the Chancellor not introduce a big, bold investment in green infrastructure and home insulation in particular, to get people into jobs, get tax revenues up, reduce benefits and give hope to the millions of young people around the country today?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We have introduced investment. We have increased investment in renewable energy, so that a record amount is now going in. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will set out the strike prices this week, which will give long-term investors the certainty needed to increase renewable energy investment.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

Why is the Chancellor not big enough to admit that he was wrong to claim that borrowing fell last year?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

When I became Chancellor we were borrowing £157 billion a year. We are forecast to borrow £108 billion a year, which is a reduction in borrowing.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

There is a specific issue around borrowing powers and the M4 corridor through Newport. That has to be done in partnership with the Government in London, but we are very aware of the benefits of that scheme. The Welsh Assembly and the people of Wales will welcome what we are proposing to do on the devolution of further tax and borrowing powers. We will set that out shortly.

Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Housing)

With the Government’s own figures showing that, despite all the promises, house building is down, construction is down, homelessness is up, rents are up, and housing waiting lists are at a record level, does the Chancellor accept that it is the legacy of his actions, including the catastrophic decision to cut £4 billion in affordable housing investment in 2010, that brings him to the Chamber today, and that he is responsible for three wasted years?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

No, I do not accept that at all. The last Labour Government had a shocking record on house building, especially affordable house building. If the hon. Gentleman turns up in the Chamber tomorrow, he will hear some positive announcements about affordable house building.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Lord Heseltine’s plan for localising regeneration funding in a single pot would have cost £49 billion. The announcement today is for just £2 billion. Lord Heseltine said that such a figure would be a slap in the face for local areas. Does the Chancellor agree, and why did he not stand up to the Lib Dem Business Secretary, who opposed that idea?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

It is £2 billion a year, making £10 billion. For the first time, local enterprise partnerships will be able to put in multi-year bids on the basis of a competitive tender that will enable investment in skills, transport and housing locally. It is a revolution in how the money is spent, rather than the situation that we inherited, in which all the spending decisions were made by the people doing my kind of job.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights)

I thank the Chancellor for his commitment and his comments. He referred to extra money for the police in Northern Ireland to combat dissident republicans. Will he confirm that within that money sufficient funding will be available for the recruitment and training of new officers to combat the dissident republican threat?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We have provided just over £30 million to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. I am confident that within that resource the PSNI can undertake the recruitment and training that it requires to police Northern Ireland effectively for all communities.

Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Opposition Whip (Commons)

Given that 16 to 18-year-olds attend schools as well as colleges, does the Chancellor’s unequivocal commitment to protect school funding in real terms extend to the funding of 16 to 18-year-olds?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We set out the school commitment in the direct school grant and the pupil premium. We have invested in the education of young people as well as the education of young adults.

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Opposition Whip (Commons)

Does the Chancellor believe that since he came to office the average British family is better off after inflation, yes or no?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I think that they have better economic prospects than they did under the previous Government.

Photo of Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East

The best way to reduce the housing benefit bill is to tackle the structural reasons for the rise in spending. What steps in the statement has the Chancellor taken to ensure that that happens—not by building houses at 80% of market rent, I suggest?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I agree with the hon. Lady, as one of the things that we need to do is build more homes, and that is what we have set out to do. The housing benefit budget ballooned under the Labour Government, and we have taken action to curb it. If she is against any of our housing benefit reforms she can always let us know. As far as I can see, the Labour party has not made a commitment to reverse any of them at the moment, but who knows, that might change.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (Wales)

Confidence to invest long term in industry has been severely damaged by the Government’s creation of uncertainty over the EU, their failure to set 2030 decarbonisation targets, and their failure to control excessively high energy prices. The steel industry faces a crisis in demand. How many of the Chancellor’s mythical lists of infrastructure projects will actually begin this year?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

As I said, we are spending more as a percentage of national income on infrastructure in this decade than in the previous decade. What I would say to the hon. Lady about energy-intensive industries such as steel is that there is support, which the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is going to extend as a result of the statement to help them to cope with their high energy costs.

Photo of Gemma Doyle Gemma Doyle Shadow Minister (Defence)

Living standards have fallen in every year of the Chancellor’s Government. When is he going to get the message that his strategy is not working?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

As I said, the economic plan is taking Britain from rescue to recovery. I do not know if the hon. Lady knows any more about what the Labour party’s economic policy is. We did not hear from the shadow Chancellor the simple fact that he wants to borrow more. He has abandoned his argument but tragically he has stuck with the policy.

Photo of William Bain William Bain Shadow Minister (Scotland)

The £50 billion figure cited by the Chancellor for capital investment for 2015-16 is gross. Will he say whether net capital investment in 2015-16 will be higher or lower than the year before?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

As I said, we are maintaining capital investment in the way that I set out in the statement.