Budget Resolutions - Income Tax (Charge)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:14 pm on 31st October 2018.

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Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland) 6:14 pm, 31st October 2018

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Darren Jones and to share in his delight that Glasgow is to be the home of the other Channel 4 creative hub—a great triumph for a city that has built an incredible reputation for communications and broadcasting over the past 50 years, as the home of BBC Scotland and STV. I am sure it will help to bring a far greater breadth of expression to public service broadcasting, particularly from working-class voices, which are too often shut out of mainstream media in this country. That is a great opportunity for us all.

I reflect on the past 10 years—I started university in 2008, the same year that Northern Rock collapsed and the banking crisis erupted on this country—and the impact that that had on my generation, in our formative years. I think of the efforts that the British Government made at that time to command the global response, to ensure that the G20 responded with a counter-cyclical growth strategy, and to introduce stimulus that returned the UK economy to growth in record time. That was the picture when the Labour Government left office in 2010, to be succeeded by a Tory-led coalition, which rapidly imposed a programme of austerity on this country, claiming that there was no alternative.

Well, the alternative has proven to have failed, and this Budget is testimony to that failure. It has failed our public finances. The Tories have missed every target they set themselves for fiscal recovery. They were meant to eliminate the deficit by 2015, but the Office for Budget Responsibility described achieving that by 2025 as a “challenging” objective. If they succeed, it will be by shifting the deficit on to the balance sheets of our underfunded schools, hospitals, local councils, police forces and other public services across the country. The Tories will have handed out £110 billion in corporate tax giveaways by the end of this Parliament. Choosing tax giveaways for the few over public services for the many is unjust, and certainly irresponsible.

Austerity has failed our economy. Average growth between 1945 and 2009 was 2.4%; between 2010 and 2016 it was just 2% and it is not forecast to rise above 1.6% for any of the next five years. That is a failure in the growth opportunity of this country, and it is a failure of my generation, who have been betrayed by the economically illiterate policy of austerity that has been visited on this country.

Think of the lost opportunity, Mr Deputy Speaker. Millions of young people across this country have been betrayed by that lost opportunity. For the first time, we expect my generation to be poorer than our own parents. That is simply a shameful indictment of this Government’s failure to deliver investment in this country. Indeed, real wage growth between 1946 and 2010 was 2.4% every year, on average, but between 2010 and 2018 pay has actually fallen in this country, by 3%. That means that 6 million people earn less than the real living wage. When this Government boast of record employment levels in this country, we have to reflect that, actually, coming up to half of the workers in this country are on less than £13,000 a year. That is a low-wage economy of penury, imposed by this Government, who have utterly failed to deliver for working-class people. It is shameful.

The UK is the only major economy in which investment is falling. UK business investment is the lowest in the G7, and public sector investment is over £18 billion lower today than in 2010. That is the root cause of the problem. We are using low wages to subsidise industry, not investing in high productivity that will deliver the real economic benefits for everyone in this country. That is why British productivity remains 15% lower than that of the other major economies. There is a vicious cycle of economic decline under this Government. By contrast, our party’s policies propose a virtuous cycle of recovery that will improve lives for everyone. We were on that growth trajectory when we left office last time.

I would particularly like to reflect on the impact in Scotland. We have heard about £959 million in Barnett consequentials, but that is a drop in the ocean relative to what is necessary to truly transform the Scottish economy. It is a drop in the ocean relative to the £33 billion budget that the Scottish Government manage. It also pales into insignificance beside the £70 billion programme of investment that Labour proposes to bring about in Scotland over the next 10 years. That would be the radical transformation that is really required in the Scottish economy. We have seen efforts to invest in Belfast, with attempts to regenerate the city in the wake of a devastating fire, yet nothing from this Government after the devastating Glasgow School of Art fire.

Universal credit is about to roll out in my constituency, where I will have the highest number of universal credit claimants in Scotland—over 16,000. We have seen no effort to address the huge shortfall of over £7 billion of welfare cuts that this Government have made. That is the reality of Tory austerity in this country.