Spring Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:17 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Father of the House of Commons 1:17 pm, 13th March 2019

May I sincerely congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on keeping his head while all around are losing theirs? I am sure that he would have liked to have delivered a rather different statement if the vote had gone the other way last night. Does he agree that economic forecasting is difficult at all times, particularly at a time of slowing global growth, trade war, Chinese debt problems, and, above all, the uncertainty of Brexit? Does he agree that the optimistic forecasts by the OBR are based on a smooth progression to Brexit, with no new barriers to trade and investment with our most important market on the basis that we currently enjoy under the customs union of the single market.

Finally, will the Chancellor guarantee to me that he will keep his fiscal powder dry—keep his reserves, as he may need them to avoid a recession or a financial crisis; that he will resist the irresponsible approach of the Opposition, who have the idea of spending and borrowing money only as a policy platform on every issue; and that he will resist all the other understandable demands from all parts just to spend money in response to lobbies, because he has the duty of keeping the British economy intact at a time of almost unprecedented crisis and unforeseeable problems?