Autumn Statement

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 1:25 pm on 3rd December 2014.

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 1:25 pm, 3rd December 2014

I am trying to establish the facts about the deficit from the Chancellor. He told the House that the deficit for this fiscal year is now expected to be £91.3 billion, but he did not set out in detail how much worse things are since the Budget. Will he tell the House by how much borrowing this year has been revised up compared with his Budget forecast?

Back in 2010, the Chancellor and the Prime Minister pledged to balance the budget by the end of this Parliament and that we would see the national debt falling this year. The Prime Minister said in 2010:

“In five years’ time, we will have balanced the books.”

Today the Chancellor has, I believe, announced that the deficit next year is forecast to be £75.9 billion. Will he confirm that number and the fact that the national debt next year is forecast not to fall, but to rise? While he has clearly missed his targets, he did not tell us the scale by which he has missed them. How much more will he have borrowed in this Parliament than he planned back in 2010?

Wages, income and borrowing have been hit so hard because productivity growth has been so weak. Today the Chancellor announced that he is forecasting that growth will not accelerate but—[Interruption.] The Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary will be interested to know that the Chancellor forecasts that growth next year will slow down. I know that the Chancellor wants to blame poor growth performance and poor productivity growth on the eurozone. I share the concerns about the eurozone—we need a plan for stronger growth in Germany and across the continent—but the weakness of the eurozone cannot explain why, despite the notable successes of a number of our companies, our export performance has been so poor, and so much worse than that of other eurozone countries. Since 2010, our export performance has been 16th in the G20. In the EU, we have been 22nd out of 28 countries; three quarters of EU countries have done better than us.

Business investment, which has also lagged behind that of our competitors, fell in the last quarter. Bank lending to small businesses is falling. The number of apprenticeships for young people is falling this year. House building under this Government is at its lowest level since the ’20s. On infrastructure, for all the Chancellor’s preheated re-announcements, barely a fifth of projects are in construction, and infrastructure output is down over 11% since 2010.

On business rates, the research and development tax credit and air passenger duty, we welcome the action that the Chancellor has taken. We will support what he has proposed on APD, but let me ask him—[Interruption.]