Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:11 pm on 8th March 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie SNP Deputy Leader, Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Economy) 2:11 pm, 8th March 2017

Not at the moment.

It is worth reminding ourselves how we got to where we are today. It is not all the fault of this Chancellor, but the Tory targets on debt, deficit and borrowing that were promised in 2010 simply were not met. I shall demonstrate the scale of the failure. We were told that debt would begin to fall as a share of GDP in 2014-15, that the current account would be in balance the following year, and that public sector net borrowing would be barely £20 billion in that same year. Of course, as many of us warned it would not at the time, that did not happen. Debt will not begin to fall as a share of GDP until 2018-19, the current account will not be in the black until the same year, and public sector net borrowing in 2015-16 was not the barely £20 billion promised, but £72 billion. In short, the Scottish National party argues that the first five years of Tory austerity failed, and we have little confidence that the second five years will be any better.

I turn to the present, and then the future. Last autumn, the Chancellor told us that net debt would peak at 90% of GDP, or £1.84 trillion—that is 12 zeros. Today, he gave us the startling news about the huge progress: it will now peak at £1.83 trillion. Borrowing is down a few hundred million for 2017-18, and the current budget, due to be in surplus by £18.5 billion in 2019-20, has barely changed. The forecasts are as bad as they were promised to be in the autumn and have barely changed from last spring.

What growth there is seems to be driven in large measure by an assessment of increased business investment of around 4% over the next few years. The Office for Budget Responsibility says that there will be

“a 0.1% fall in business investment in 2017, before uncertainty begins to dissipate”.

We are about to have article 50 invoked, followed by a tortuous 18-month to two-year negotiation, and the OBR and the Treasury are telling us that the uncertainty will dissipate sometime at the back end of this year. That almost beggars belief.