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 George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer 1:25 pm, 3rd December 2014

With that performance, we see why the right hon. Gentleman is totally unfit to be put in charge of the nation’s finances in six months’ time. We have had an object lesson in how not to plan an autumn statement reply before hearing the autumn statement. That was what he expected to hear, as we know because he went round the TV studios over the past few weeks predicting it. He said that the deficit would go up this year. He said it last month, he said it last week, he said it on Sunday. I have his words. He said that the Chancellor is going to have to make an autumn statement where he is

“going to have to say that the economy is weakening, the deficit is getting larger”.

I have just quoted independent forecasts which show that the economy is stronger, the deficit is falling and the debt is lower in every future year. The shadow Chancellor got it completely wrong.

It is hardly surprising that his party has such low economic credibility when the shadow Chancellor repeatedly makes predictions about the British economy that turn out to be completely wrong. No more boom and bust, he said—wrong. A double-dip recession, he predicted—completely wrong. He has spent the past three months betting the entire credibility of the Labour party’s response to the autumn statement on the prediction of a massive deterioration in the public finances and the deficit going up, and he got that completely wrong. People say there is a split in the leadership of the Labour party. They are right. It is between people who get the deficit figures completely wrong and people who forget about the deficit altogether.

The Opposition have no economic credibility and they have policies that show that they are not up to the job. The shadow Chancellor mentioned his homes tax. We still do not know what the Labour party’s view is of the stamp duty reforms. I guess we will find out in the next few days. We do not have a clue what its views are on the postgraduate changes or the infrastructure investments that we have announced. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about his homes tax. This is what the Labour party thinks about his homes tax. The Chair of the Public Accounts Committee says:

“I don’t think it’s the world’s most sensible idea.”

The former Housing Minister, Mr Raynsford, says that it hits the “cash poor”. Mr Lammy says it is “a tax on London”, and Dame Tessa Jowell says:

“Let’s stop calling it a ‘mansion tax’…these are family homes”.

One of Labour’s council group leaders summed it up best when they said it was “completely bonkers”. That is the housing policy—to put taxes on housing.

The shadow Chancellor asked about our tax cut on apprentices. His jobs tax policy is to increase national insurance. He talks about pensions. His pensions policy is to tax pensions. He asked me a couple of questions about savings in the public finances.

I was hoping that he was going to give me some suggestions for savings that we can make in the public finances. I have had to do a bit of research myself about what his party’s policy is.

The Opposition have conducted what is called a zero-based review for the past year and identified two surplus assets that the Government should sell. The first is the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre. The shadow Chancellor first proposed selling that in 2001 and seems to have forgotten that it is the only bit of Government that pays us an income. The other thing they found to pay down the national debt—it is in the Labour party document—is a restaurant in St James’s park, estimated to be worth £6.7 million. That is 0.005% of the national debt, so their national economic policy is literally out to lunch.

That is the problem that we have seen in the right hon. Gentleman’s reply. He has absolutely no answers to the economic challenges that Britain faces. He has no credibility and no workable policies because Labour has no workable plan. We are five months away from a general election in which people will have to choose their Government. The most serious responsibility incumbent on anyone seeking office is to show that they can provide economic stability to the nation and protect the families who live here. The Opposition do not have a clue how to do that. They do not have a plan. Their whole response today shows that they would take Britain back to square one. Britain has pulled itself out of the economic crisis that the shadow Chancellor created, and we are not going to let him take us back there.