Autumn Statement

– in the House of Commons at on 22 November 2023.

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Before I call the Chancellor, it may help the House if I set out how proceedings on the autumn statement will unfold. Once the Chancellor has delivered his statement, copies of the resolutions relating to the statement will be made available in the Vote Office and online. I will then call the shadow Chancellor and other hon. Members to ask questions. This will follow the usual pattern for a ministerial statement. At the end of questions on the statement, the Chancellor will be called to move a motion under section 5 of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968. The question on that motion must be put without debate.

We will then proceed to a debate on the autumn statement resolutions. A Minister will move the first of the resolutions and open the debate. The debate will take place over three days, concluding on Monday. At the end of the debate on Monday, the question on the first of the resolutions will be disposed of. The questions on the remaining resolutions will then be taken formally without further debate.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer 12:35, 22 November 2023

I come today with good news: it is my wife’s birthday and, unlike me, she is looking younger every year.

I turn to the statement. After a global pandemic and energy crisis, we have taken difficult decisions to put our economy back on track. We have supported families with rising bills, cut borrowing and halved inflation. Rather than a recession, the economy has grown. Rather than falling as predicted, real incomes have risen. Our plan for the British economy is working, but the work is not done. Others proposed a more short-term approach, but we have not made unaffordable pay offers to the unions, we have not stopped new oil and gas exploration, and we have not increased borrowing by £28 billion a year. That would have pushed inflation up just when we need to bring it down. Instead, under this Prime Minister, we take decisions for the long term.

In today’s autumn statement for growth our choice is not big government, high spending and high tax, because we know that that leads to less growth, not more. Instead, we reduce debt, cut taxes and reward work. We deliver world-class education, we build domestic sustainable energy, and we back British business with 110 growth measures. Do not worry; I am not going to go through them all—[Interruption.] Well, I will if you like! In summary, they remove planning red tape, speed up access to the national grid, support entrepreneurs raising capital, get behind our fastest-growing industries, unlock foreign direct investment, boost productivity, reform welfare, level up opportunity to every corner of the country, and cut business taxes.

The Office for Budget Responsibility says that the combined impact of these measures will raise business investment, get more people into work, reduce inflation next year and increase GDP, but Conservatives also know that a dynamic economy depends on the energy and enterprise of people more than any diktats or decisions by Ministers, so today’s measures do not just remove barriers to investment; they reward effort and work. I will go through the measures in three parts. In the first, I will use updated OBR forecasts to show the progress that we are making against the Prime Minister’s economic priorities. The second part will set out growth measures to back British business. Finally, I will conclude with measures to make work pay.

Before I start with the forecasts, I want to express my horror at the murderous attack on Israeli citizens on 7 October and the subsequent loss of life on both sides. I will remember for the rest of my life, as I know many other hon. Members will, being taken to Auschwitz by the Rabbi Barry Marcus and the remarkable Holocaust Educational Trust. I am deeply concerned about the rise of antisemitism in our country, so I am announcing up to £7 million over the next three years for organisations such as the Holocaust Educational Trust to tackle antisemitism in schools and universities. I will also repeat the £3 million uplift to the Community Security Trust. When it comes to antisemitism and all forms of racism, we must never allow the clock to be turned back.

I now move on to the OBR’s economic and fiscal forecasts, and I thank Richard Hughes and his team for their sterling work in preparing them. Three of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s five pledges at the start of the year were economic: to halve inflation, grow the economy and reduce debt. Today I can report to the House that we are delivering on all three.

Let’s start with inflation. The shadow Chancellor did not mention it in her conference speech. My conference speech was before hers, so all she had to do was a bit of copying and pasting, which I have heard she is good at. But it speaks volumes that during the worst global inflation shock for a generation, it did not even get a mention. Well, if controlling inflation isn’t a priority for Labour, it is for us.

When the Prime Minister and I took office, inflation was at 11.1%; last week, it fell to 4.6%. We promised to halve inflation and we have halved it. Core inflation is now lower than in nearly half of the economies in the EU, and the OBR says that headline inflation will fall to 2.8% by the end of 2024, before falling to the 2% target in 2025. I will not take risks with inflation, and the OBR confirms that the measures I take today make inflation lower next year than it would otherwise have been. I thank the independent Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee for its crucial role in bringing inflation down, and we will continue to back it to do whatever it takes until the job is done. But as we do, we will continue to support families in difficulty, and today I add four further measures to help with the cost of living.

First, for those on the lowest incomes, I understand the concerns some have about the effect on work incentives of matching benefit increases to inflation, and I know there has been some speculation that we would increase benefits next year by the lower October figure for inflation. But cost of living pressures remain at their most acute for the poorest families, so instead the Government have decided to increase universal credit and other benefits from next April by 6.7%, in line with September’s inflation figure, an average increase of £470 for 5.5 million households next year—vital support to those on the very lowest incomes from a compassionate Conservative Government.

Secondly, because rent can constitute more than half the living costs of private renters on the lowest incomes, I have listened closely to many colleagues as well as the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Resolution Foundation, Citizens Advice UK and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who said that unfreezing the local housing allowance was an “urgent priority”. I will therefore increase the local housing allowance rate to the 30th percentile of local market rents. This will give 1.6 million households an average of £800 of support next year.

Thirdly, although I am going to increase duty on hand-rolling tobacco by an additional 10% above the tobacco duty escalator, I know that for many people going to the pub has become more expensive. I have listened closely to the persuasive arguments on alcohol duties from my hon. Friend Douglas Ross and my right hon. Friend David Mundell, fierce champions of the Scotch whisky industry. I have also listened to defenders of the great British pint such as my right hon. Friend Alun Cairns and my hon. Friend Greg Smith, to Councillor Jane Austin who is a big supporter of the Jolly Farmer pub in Bramley in my constituency, and indeed to The Sun newspaper. So as well as confirming our Brexit pubs guarantee, which means the duty on a pint is always lower than in the shops, I have decided to freeze all alcohol duty until 1 August next year; that means no increase in duty on beer, cider, wine or spirits.

Finally, pensioners. The triple lock has helped to lift 250,000 older people out of poverty since it was instituted by a Conservative Government in 2011 and has been a lifeline for many during a period of high inflation. There have been reports that we would uprate it by a lower amount, to smooth out the effect of high public sector bonuses in July, but that would have been particularly difficult for 1 million pensioners whose only income is from the state.

So instead, today we honour our commitment to the triple lock in full. From April 2024, we will increase the full new state pension by 8.5% to £221.20 a week, worth up to £900 more a year. That is one of the largest ever cash increases to the state pension, showing that a Conservative Government will always back our pensioners.

Including today’s measures, our total commitment to easing cost of living pressures has risen to £104 billion. That includes paying around half the cost of the average energy bill since last October and amounts now to an average of £3,700 per household. We are able to do that only because we reduced the deficit by 80% ahead of the pandemic, which the Labour party might reflect on, having opposed us every step of the way.

Next, I turn to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s pledge to reduce debt. Before I took difficult decisions at last year’s autumn statement, debt was predicted to rise to almost 100% of GDP by the end of the forecast. Since then, the economy has outperformed expectations and I have taken difficult decisions to reduce borrowing. As a result, headline debt is now predicted to be 94% of GDP by the end of the forecast.

The OBR today forecasts that underlying debt will be 91.6% of GDP next year, 92.7% in 2024-25 and 93.2% in 2026-27, before declining in the final two years of the forecast to 92.8% in 2028-29. That is lower in every year compared with forecasts in the spring. We therefore meet our fiscal rule to have underlying debt falling as a percentage of GDP in the final year of the forecast, with double the headroom compared with the OBR’s March forecast. We will continue to have the second lowest Government debt in the G7—lower than the United States, Canada, France, Italy or Japan.

I turn to borrowing. Rachel Reeves said that when it comes to borrowing, she “will take it up” by £28 billion a year. Indeed, she has opposed every decision we have made to reduce our borrowing. The Government will bring borrowing down, because, as the late Lord Lawson said, borrowing is just a deferred tax on future generations.

I see the Leader of the Opposition shaking his head. In fact, we have something in common: both he and I wanted to make a Jeremy Prime Minister. In fairness, his party and mine are probably equally relieved that we failed but, whereas this Jeremy is growing the economy, his Jeremy would have crashed it.

The numbers show the contrast. According to the OBR, borrowing is lower this year and next, and on average across the forecast by £0.7 billion every year compared with the spring Budget forecasts. It falls from 4.5% of GDP in 2023-24 to 3.0%, 2.7%, 2.3%, 1.6% and 1.1% in 2028-29. That means we also meet our second fiscal rule that public sector borrowing must be below 3% of GDP, not just by the final year, but in almost every year of the forecast.

Some of that improvement is from higher tax receipts from a stronger economy, but we also maintain a disciplined approach to public spending. As I set out in the spring Budget, resource spending will increase by 1% a year from 2025-26 in real terms, and we are sustaining the record 2020 increase in capital spending in cash terms until the end of the forecast. Within this, we will meet our NATO commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence—critical at a time of global threats to the international order, most notably from Putin’s evil war in Ukraine.

We also support a group of people to whom we owe our freedom: our brave veterans. I will extend national insurance relief for employers of eligible veterans for a further year, and provide £10 million to support the Veterans’ Places, Pathways and People programme. I thank our excellent Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, my right hon. Friend Johnny Mercer, for his championing of their cause.

We have shown that we are prepared to increase funding for vital public services, with record numbers of police officers, doctors, nurses and teachers. We are nearly doubling the numbers of doctors and nurses we train, having given the NHS its first ever long-term workforce plan, as I promised a year ago. We are also tackling the biggest single preventable cause of mortality that the NHS has to deal with by bringing forward plans for a smokefree generation.

However, alongside extra funding and support, we need to see reform. We need a more productive state, not a bigger one. That is why I want the public sector to increase productivity growth by at least half a percent. a year—the level at which the size of our state starts to reduce as a proportion of GDP. I have already announced plans to cap and reduce the size of the civil service to pre-pandemic levels. I pay tribute to the excellent former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend John Glen, who started our brilliant public sector productivity programme. That will now be pursued by his formidable successor, my hon. Friend Laura Trott, who has already been with me to meet police, fire and ambulance personnel to understand why bureaucracy is holding them back.

Through that vital work, we will ensure that, over time, the growth in public spending is lower than the growth in the economy, while always protecting the services that the public value. I will also provide His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs with the resources it needs to ensure that everyone pays the tax they owe, raising an additional £5 billion across the forecast period.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister also promised to grow the economy. Since 2010, despite inheriting what was then the worst recession since the second world war, Conservative Administrations have presided over faster growth than many of our major competitors, including Spain, Italy, France—[Interruption.] Well, the Opposition do not like to hear this, but let me tell them the list: Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Germany and Japan. We have grown faster than all of them since 2010.

However, all those countries have faced a pandemic and an energy shock. As a result, last autumn the OBR forecast a recession in which the economy would shrink by 1.4% this year. Instead, it grew—in fact, it has grown faster than the euro area. Revised numbers from the Office for National Statistics now say that the economy is 1.8% larger than it was pre-pandemic. Looking ahead, the OBR expects the economy to grow by 0.6% this year and 0.7% next year. After that, growth rises to 1.4% in 2025, then 1.9%, 2%, and 1.7% in 2028.

If we want those numbers to be higher, we need higher productivity. The private sector is more productive in countries such as the United States, Germany and France because it invests more—on average 2 percentage points more of GDP every year. The 110 measures that I take today help to close that gap by boosting business investment by £20 billion a year. They do not involve borrowing more and ramping up debt, as some advocate. Instead, they unlock investment, with supply-side reforms that back British business in the following areas.

First: skills. No economy can prosper without investing in the potential of its people. Despite strong opposition, we took the difficult decisions to reform our schools. England’s nine to 10-year-olds are now the fourth best readers in the world, and since 2015, our 15 to 16-year-olds have risen seven places in the OECD rankings for maths— not least thanks to the efforts of my brilliant right hon. Friend Nick Gibb. However, 9 million adults in England still have low basic literacy or numeracy skills, so last month the Prime Minister set out the new advanced British standard to ensure that all school leavers reach minimum standards in maths and English.

While the Labour party wants to reduce the number of apprentices, we want to increase it. Following engagement with Make UK and others, I am announcing a further £50 million of funding over the next two years to pilot ways to increase the number of apprentices in engineering and other key growth sectors where there are shortages. [Hon. Members: “Is that it?”] There are 110 of these measures, so be patient, folks.

I will move on to planning. It takes too long to approve infrastructure projects and business planning applications. Many businesses say that they would be willing to pay more if they knew their application would be approved faster. Therefore, from next year, working with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, I will reform the system to allow local authorities to recover the full costs of major business planning applications in return for being required to meet guaranteed faster timelines. If they fail, fees will be refunded automatically, with the application being processed free of charge—a prompt service or your money back, just as would be the case in the private sector.

Many planning applications are for house building. The Leader of the Opposition told us that he wanted to be a builder, not a blocker. That did not last long: just a few months later, Labour blocked reforms to the rules on nutrient neutrality, shamelessly preventing 100,000 houses from being built. Conservatives, on the other hand, are the builders, with more homes being completed in 2021-22 than in any single year of the last Labour Government.

Today, we take further decisions to unlock the building of more homes. We will invest £110 million over this year and next to deliver high-quality nutrient mitigation schemes, unlocking 40,000 homes. We will invest £32 million to bust the planning backlog and develop fantastic new housing quarters in Cambridge, London and Leeds, which will lead to many thousands of additional dwellings. We will allocate £450 million to the local authority housing fund to deliver 2,400 new homes, and we will consult on a new permitted development right to allow any house to be converted into two flats provided the exterior remains unaffected.

It is also taking too long for clean energy businesses to access the electricity grid, so after talking to businesses such as National Grid, Octopus Energy and SSE, we today publish our full response to the Winser review and the connections action plan. These measures will cut grid access delays by 90% and offer up to £10,000 off electricity bills over 10 years for those living closest to new transmission infrastructure. Taken together, those planning and grid reforms are estimated to accelerate around £90 billion of additional business investment over the next 10 years.

Next, on foreign direct investment, I am extremely grateful to Lord Harrington for his excellent report on how to increase foreign direct investment. We accept all his headline recommendations. In particular, we will put in place a concierge service for large international investors modelled on the best such services offered by our competitors, and we will increase funding for the Office for Investment to deliver it.

I now turn to reforms to pension funds that will increase the flow of capital going to our most promising growth companies in a way that also improves outcomes for savers. I will take forward my Mansion House reforms starting with measures to consolidate the industry. By 2030, the majority of workplace defined contribution savers will have their pension pots managed in schemes of over £30 billion, and by 2040 all local government pension funds will be invested in pools of £200 billion or more. I will support the establishment of investment vehicles for pension funds to use, including through the LIFTS competition—the long-term investment for technology and science competition, a new growth fund run by the British Business Bank—and by opening the Pension Protection Fund as an investment vehicle for smaller defined benefit pension schemes.

I will also consult on giving savers a legal right to require a new employer to pay pension contributions into their existing pension pot if they choose to do so, meaning that people can move to having one pension pot for life. These reforms could unlock an extra £75 billion of financing for high-growth companies by 2030 and provide an extra £1,000 a year in retirement for an average earner saving from 18. Alongside this, I am proposing further capital market reforms to boost the attractiveness of our markets and make sure the UK remains one of the most attractive places to start, grow and list a company. As part of this, I will explore options for a NatWest retail share offer in the next 12 months, subject to market conditions and achieving value for money. It’s time to get Sid investing again.

I now turn to measures to support our most innovative industries. In the last decade under the Conservatives, we have grown to become the third largest technology sector in the world—double the size of Germany and three times the size of France. We have the biggest life sciences industry in Europe, and we are Europe’s third largest generator of renewable electricity after Germany and Norway, and the eighth largest manufacturer in the world. When it comes to tech, we know that artificial intelligence will be at the heart of any future growth, and I want to make sure that our universities, scientists and start-ups can access the compute power they need. As such, building on the success of the supercomputing centres in Edinburgh and Bristol, I will invest a further £500 million over the next two years to fund further innovation centres to help make us an AI powerhouse.

Our creative industries already support Europe’s largest film and TV sector. This year’s all-Californian blockbuster “Barbie” was filmed in the constituency of my hon. Friend Dean Russell—where, of course, the sun always shines. Even more could be invested in visual effects if we increased the generosity of the film and high-end TV tax credits, so I will today launch a call for evidence on how to make that happen.

British-discovered vaccines and treatments saved more lives across the world during the pandemic than those from any other country, and I am incredibly proud of our life sciences industry. To further support research and development, I am creating a new, simplified R&D tax relief that combines the existing R&D expenditure credit and small and medium-sized enterprise schemes. I will also reduce the rate at which loss-making companies are taxed within the merged scheme from 25% to 19%, and lower the threshold for the additional support for R&D-intensive loss-making SMEs that I announced in the spring to 30%, which will benefit a further 5,000 SMEs. And because 2028 marks the centenary of the invention of penicillin by Alexander Fleming, I am giving £5 million to Imperial College and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to set up a Fleming centre to inspire the next generation of world-changing innovations.

International investors say that the biggest thing we could do for our advanced manufacturing and green energy sectors is announce a longer-term strategy for their industries, so with the Secretaries of State for Business and Trade and for Energy Security and Net Zero, I am today publishing those plans. I confirm that we will make available £4.5 billion of support over the five years to 2030 to attract investment into strategic manufacturing sectors. That includes: £2 billion of support for zero-emission investments in the automotive sector, which has been warmly welcomed by Nissan and Toyota; £975 million for aerospace, building on decades of success from firms such as Airbus and Rolls-Royce; and £520 million for life sciences, building on the strength of world-class British pharma companies such as AstraZeneca and GSK. We will also provide £960 million for the new green industries growth accelerator, focused on offshore wind; electricity networks; nuclear; carbon capture, utilisation and storage; and hydrogen. Those targeted investments will ensure that the UK remains competitive in sectors where we are already leaders, and innovative in sectors where we are not. Taken together, that support will attract an estimated £2 billion of additional investment across our fastest-growing innovation sectors every year over the next decade.

One reason why we support our manufacturing and clean energy sectors is that they help to level up growth across the United Kingdom, so I now turn to further levelling-up measures. In the spring, I announced that we would deliver 12 new investment zones—12 mini Canary Wharfs—where Government, industry and research institutes will collaborate across the UK. Since then, the Exchequer Secretary, my hon. Friend Gareth Davies, has done outstanding work across Government to bring that vision to fruition. Following tenacious representations from my hon. Friend Virginia Crosbie—no Chancellor’s speech would be complete without a mention of my hon. Friend—and from the unstoppable Mayor of Tees Valley, I have today decided to extend the financial incentives for investment zones and the tax reliefs for freeports from five years to 10 years. I will also set up a £150 million investment opportunity fund to catalyse investment into that programme.

On Monday, I confirmed that there will be a new investment zone in West Yorkshire. Today, having listened to representations from the west midlands salesman-in-chief Andy Street, as well as my hon. Friends the Members for Mansfield (Ben Bradley) and for Bury North (James Daly), I am announcing three further investment zones focused on advanced manufacturing in the west midlands, east midlands and Greater Manchester. Together, local partners expect that those investment zones will help catalyse over £3 billion of private investment and 65,000 new jobs. Having listened to my hon. Friends the Members for Wrexham (Sarah Atherton) and for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes), I can announce a second investment zone in Wales in the fantastic region of Wrexham and Flintshire, which I will visit tomorrow.

We are publishing new devolution deals with four areas, including Hull and East Yorkshire, and offering devolved powers to even more county areas. One of those areas will be the leafiest and most charming county in the country, namely Surrey, where of course the Leader of the Opposition grew up—we do not get everything right. On Monday, we saw the announcement of £1 billion of funding through round 3 of the levelling-up fund, supporting projects following the campaigning efforts of Members from Keighley, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Scunthorpe—and of course, Mr Speaker, Chorley. I can also confirm that we will proceed with over £50 million of funding for high-quality regeneration projects in communities such as Bolsover, Monmouthshire, Warrington and Eden Valley, all of which have particularly effective local MPs as their champions. Because we are proudly the Conservative and Unionist party, I am announcing £80 million for the new levelling-up partnerships in Scotland, £500,000 to support the Hay festival in Wales, and £3 million of additional funding to support the successful tackling paramilitarism programme in Northern Ireland.

I turn next to small businesses—I ran my own for 14 years, and have always known that every big business was a small business once. The Federation of Small Businesses says that the biggest thing I could do to help its members is end the scourge of late payments. We passed the Procurement Act 2023, which means that the 30-day payment terms that are already set for public sector contracts will automatically apply throughout the subcontractor supply chain, but from April 2024 I will also introduce a condition that any company bidding for large Government contracts should demonstrate that it pays its own invoices within an average of 55 days. That number will reduce progressively to 30 days.

Any small business will also say that the biggest frustration it faces is the tax it pays before making a penny of profit, not least business rates. The Government have already taken a third of properties completely out of rates through small business rates relief. We have frozen the tax rate for the last three years, at a cost of £14.5 billion; we have removed downwards caps from transitional relief; and for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, we have introduced a one-year 75% discount on business rates up to £110,000. Those measures have saved the average independent shop over £20,000. It is not possible to continue with temporary support measures forever, but while the standard multiplier—which applies to high-value properties—will rise in line with inflation, I have today decided that we will freeze the small business multiplier for a further year.

Following extensive discussions with the FSB and many colleagues in this House, I have also decided to extend the 75% business rates discount for retail, hospitality and leisure for another year. This will save the average independent pub over £12,800 next year and, at a cost of £4.3 billion, is a large tax cut that recognises the role of pubs and high street shops in our communities. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Stockton South (Matt Vickers), for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell) and for East Devon (Simon Jupp) for their tenacious campaigning on this issue.

Finally, I turn to the smallest of all businesses—those run by the self-employed. These are the people who literally kept our country running during the pandemic: the plumbers who fixed our boilers in lockdowns, the delivery drivers who brought us our shopping and the farmers who kept food on our plates. As part of our plans to grow the economy, I want to reform and simplify taxes paid by the self-employed, so today I am announcing a major reform of one of those taxes. It is one most people have not heard of, but it is a big deal for those who have to pay it.

Class 2 national insurance is a flat-rate compulsory charge, currently £3.45 a week, paid by self-employed people earning more than £12,570, which gives state pension entitlement. Today, after careful consideration and in recognition of the contribution made by self-employed people to our country, I can announce that we are abolishing class 2 national insurance all together, saving the average self-employed person £192 a year. Access to entitlements and credits will be maintained in full and those who choose to pay voluntarily will still be able to do so, but this change simplifies and cuts tax for nearly 2 million self-employed people, while protecting the interests of those on the lowest pay.

Because we value their work, I am also taking one further step for the self-employed. They also pay class 4 national insurance at 9% on all earnings between £12,570 and £50,270. Today, I have decided to cut that tax by one percentage point to 8% from April. Taken together with the abolition of the compulsory class 2 charge, these reforms will save around 2 million self-employed people an average of £350 a year from April.

We are backing small businesses by freezing their business rates, extending retail, hospitality and leisure relief, abolishing compulsory class 2 national insurance payments and reducing class 4 national insurance by one percentage point in today’s autumn statement for growth. Small businesses work so hard for us, and a Conservative Government today are working hard for them.

I turn now to my final measure to back British business. As I have said, since 2010 we have seen the second highest growth in investment of any G7 country. However, if we are to raise productivity, we need to increase business investment further. In 2021, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister introduced the super-deduction for large businesses to further stimulate business investment, and this spring I introduced full expensing for three years. This means that for every £1 million a company invests, it gets £250,000 off its tax bill in the very same year.

The CBI, Make UK, the British Chambers of Commerce, Energy UK and 200 other business leaders from companies including BT Openreach, Siemens and Bosch, have said that making this measure permanent would be the “single most transformational” thing I could do for business investment and growth. The Centre for Policy Studies says it would

“maximise business investment, boost productivity and deliver…higher levels of GDP”.

But because it costs £11 billion a year, I made it clear that I would only do so when it was affordable. Well, with inflation halved, borrowing down and debt falling, today I deliver on that promise: I will today make full expensing permanent. That is the largest business tax cut in modern British history. It means we have not just the lowest headline corporation tax rate in the G7, but its most generous capital allowances.

The OBR says this will increase annual investment by around £3 billion a year and a total of £14 billion over the forecast period. We on this side of the House know that the way to back British business is not to borrow more or subsidise more, but to increase the incentives to invest. We do that today by introducing one of the most generous tax reliefs anywhere in the world, with a huge boost to British competitiveness in an autumn statement for growth—skills, planning and infrastructure reform, pension fund reform, support for innovation industries, levelling up, backing small business and full expensing.

Under Labour, business investment was 9.3% of GDP in real terms. Since 2010, it has been 9.8% of GDP. But today we go further because, taken together, the overall impact of today’s growth measures will be to increase business investment in the UK economy by around £20 billion a year within the decade—nearly 1% of GDP at today’s level. This is the biggest ever boost for business investment in modern times, a decisive step towards closing the productivity gap with other major economies, and the most effective way we can raise wages and living standards for every family in the country.

As well as backing business, Conservatives know that you need to back the people without whose effort no businesses can succeed: the entrepreneur taking risks, the builder working weekends, the nurse working nights, and the jobseeker leaving benefits behind. I will therefore conclude with three further supply-side reforms designed to improve the incentives to work in a modern, dynamic economy.

I begin with welfare, and I want to start by thanking the outstanding Work and Pensions Secretary for his help in developing these reforms. He builds on the work of my right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who introduced universal credit. Those reforms helped reduce unemployment, which has fallen by over 1 million, but Opposition Members, to their shame, voted against them 30 times. They think compassion is about giving money; we think it is about giving opportunity.

However, post pandemic, we still have over 7 million adults of working age, excluding students, who are not working, despite there being 1 million vacancies in the economy. Many can and want to work, but our system makes that too hard. In the spring Budget, I announced 30 hours of free childcare for working parents of one and two-year-olds. That plan, still opposed by the party opposite, starts rolling out in April. It will help tens of thousands of parents return to work without having to worry about damaging their career prospects.

Today, we focus on helping those with sickness or disability and the long-term unemployed. Every year, we sign off over 100,000 people on to benefits with no requirement to look for work because of sickness or disability. That waste of potential is wrong economically and wrong morally. So with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, last week I announced our back to work plan. We will reform the fit note process so that treatment rather than time off work becomes the default, we will reform the work capability assessment to reflect greater flexibility and availability of home working after the pandemic, and we will spend £1.3 billion over the next five years to help nearly 700,000 people with health conditions find jobs. Over 180,000 more people will be helped through the universal support programme, and nearly 500,000 more people will be offered treatment for mental health conditions and employment support.

Over the forecast period, the OBR judges that these measures will more than halve the flow of people who are signed off work with no work search requirements. At the same time, we will provide a further £1.3 billion of funding to offer extra help to the 300,000 people who have been unemployed for over a year without any sickness or disability. But we will ask for something in return. If, after 18 months of intensive support, jobseekers have not found a job, we will roll out a programme requiring them to take part in mandatory work placement to increase their skills and improve their employability. If they choose not to engage with the work search process for six months, we will close their case and stop their benefits.

Taken together with the labour supply measures I announced in the spring, the OBR says we will increase the number of people in work by around 200,000 by the end of the forecast period, permanently increasing the size of the economy. I know that some on the Opposition Benches would prefer to fill those vacancies in a different way; they hanker after a more liberal immigration regime or even dream of bringing back free movement. But Conservatives say that we should unlock the potential we have right here at home. We do that with the biggest set of welfare reforms in a decade in today’s autumn statement for growth.

If we are to incentivise work, we must also tackle low pay. People who get up early, put in the hours and work hard for their families deserve to be paid fairly. Since 2010, those on the minimum wage—now the national living wage—have seen their hourly wage go up from £5.80 an hour to £10.42 an hour. That is a real-terms increase of more than 20%. Because we have also doubled the threshold at which they pay tax or national insurance, their after-tax income has gone up not by 20%, but by 25%—more than for any other income group.

Today, I confirm that we will go further and accept the Low Pay Commission’s recommendation to increase the national living wage by 9.8% to £11.44 an hour. That is the largest-ever cash increase in the national living wage, worth up to £1,800 for a full-time worker. Since the national living wage has been introduced, the proportion of people on low pay—defined as earning less than two thirds of national median hourly income—has halved, but at the new rate of £11.44 an hour it delivers our manifesto commitment to eliminate low pay altogether. That means that by next year someone working full time on the national living wage will see their real take-home, after-tax pay go up not by 25%, but by 30% compared with 2010.

And that is the difference: the Labour party tried to reduce poverty by tinkering with benefits and tax credits—they wanted to move people from just below the poverty line to just above it—but Conservatives know that the best way to tackle poverty is through work. By reforming the welfare system, reducing the number of workless households and tackling low pay, we have helped lift 1.7 million people out of absolute poverty since 2010, because a central part of our plan for growth is to make work pay.

I move to the final supply-side measure in today’s autumn statement for growth. Because of the difficult decisions that we have taken in the last year, today’s OBR forecast shows that borrowing will be lower than forecast in the spring, debt as a proportion of GDP will be lower than forecast in the spring, inflation will continue to fall and our fiscal headroom has doubled. I said I would cut taxes when we could, but only responsibly and only in a way that did not fuel inflation. The OBR today confirms that I can deliver a package that does that.

For businesses, I have today delivered the biggest business tax cut in modern British history, with the most competitive investment allowances of any large economy. For the self-employed, I have simplified and reformed their taxes by abolishing the compulsory class 2 charge and cutting class 4 national insurance. But high employment taxes on 27 million people working in the public and private sectors also disincentivise the hard work that we should be encouraging. On top of income tax at 20%, they pay 12% national insurance on earnings between £12,570 and £50,270. That is a 32% marginal tax rate. If we want people to get up early in the morning, if we want them to work nights, and if we want an economy where people go the extra mile and work hard, we need to recognise that their hard work benefits us all.

So today I am going to cut the main 12% rate of employee national insurance. If I cut it by one percentage point to 11%, that would be an extra £225 in the pockets of the average worker every year. But instead I am going to go further and cut the main rate of employee national insurance by two percentage points, from 12% to 10%. That change will help 27 million people. It means that someone on the average salary of £35,000 will save over £450. For the average nurse, it is a saving of £520. For the typical police officer, it is a saving of £630 every single year. I would normally bring in such a measure for the start of the new tax year in April, but instead I will tomorrow introduce urgent legislation to bring it in from 6 January, so that people can see the benefit in their payslips at the start of the new year.

The OBR says that reducing a tax on work means more people in work, and it says that today’s measures on national insurance alone will lead to the equivalent of 94,000 full-time employees in our economy, because lower tax means higher growth. That is the difference between those of us on this side of the House and those on that side. In 13 years, Labour raised taxes in every single Budget, but Conservatives cut taxes when we responsibly can, and today we do just that. We cut taxes to help bigger businesses invest. We cut taxes to help smaller businesses grow. We cut taxes for the self-employed who keep our country running, and from January we cut taxes for 27 million working people whose hard work drives our economy forward.

The best universities, the cleverest scientists and the smartest entrepreneurs have given us Europe’s most innovative economy, but we can be the most prosperous too. In the face of global challenges, we have halved inflation, reduced our debt and grown our economy. As a country, we are sticking to a plan that is working. This autumn statement for growth will attract £20 billion of additional business investment a year in the next decade, bring tens of thousands of people into work and support our fastest growing industries, in a package that leaves borrowing lower, leaves debt lower and keeps inflation falling. We are delivering the biggest business tax cut in modern British history, the largest ever cut to employee and self-employed national insurance, and the biggest package of tax cuts to be implemented since the 1980s. It is an autumn statement for a country that has turned a corner; an autumn statement for growth. I commend it to the House.

Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 1:27, 22 November 2023

Today the Chancellor has lifted the lid on 13 years of economic failure. We were told that this was to be an autumn statement for growth, but the economy is now forecast to be £40 billion smaller by 2027 than the Chancellor said back in March. Growth has been revised down next year, the year after, and the year after that too. The Chancellor claims that the economy has turned a corner, yet the truth is that, under the Conservatives, growth has hit a dead end.

What has been laid bare today is the full scale of the damage that this Government have done to our economy over 13 years, and nothing that has been announced today will remotely compensate. We see mortgages rising, taxes eating into wages, inflation high, with prices still going up in the shops, public services on their knees, and too many families struggling to make ends meet. As the sun begins to set on this divided, out-of-touch, weak Government, the only conclusion that the British people will reach is this: after 13 years of the Conservatives, the economy is simply not working and, despite all the promises today, working people are still worse off.

The centrepiece of today’s autumn statement is a cut in the headline rate of national insurance. I am old enough to remember when the Prime Minister wanted to put up national insurance. As recently as January last year he said:

“We must go ahead with the” increase in the—

“health and care levy. It is progressive, in…that the burden falls most on those who can most afford it.”

Utter nonsense. It was a tax on working people, and we opposed it for that very reason. Yet again, the Prime Minister is left arguing against himself.

In response to last year’s autumn statement, I warned that the Government were pickpocketing working people through stealth taxes. I have long argued that taxes on working people are too high. Indeed, I said in my conference speech that I want them to be lower. From the Conservatives’ failure to uprate income tax or national insurance bands to their forcing councils to raise council tax, they have pushed the costs of their failure on to others. The British people will not be taken for fools—they know that what has been announced today owes more to the cynicism of a party desperate to cling on to power than to the real priorities of this high tax, low growth Conservative Government—so we can forgive taxpayers for not celebrating when they see the truth behind today’s announcements.

Going into the statement, the Government had already put in place tax increases worth the equivalent of a 10p increase in national insurance, so today’s 2p cut will not remotely compensate for the tax increases put in place by this Conservative Government. The fact is that taxes will be higher at the next election than they were at the last. This is the legacy of the Conservatives, and that is their record.

The Chancellor and the Prime Minister have spent the last two weeks marching their MPs up a hill only to march them down again on inheritance tax. Let us not forget that when they realised that they had money to spend—[Interruption.]

Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

When the Government realised that they had money to spend, their first instinct was a tax cut for millionaires. In the end, even they realised that they could not get away with it in the middle of a cost of living crisis. Will the Chancellor tell the House whether cutting inheritance tax is a decision delayed or a decision abandoned?

This autumn statement for growth is now the 11th Conservative economic growth plan from the fifth prime minister, the seventh Chancellor and the ninth Business Secretary. What do those numbers add up to? According to the most recent GDP data, a big fat zero. That is zero growth in the most recent data for the third quarter of this year. The Chancellor mentioned some countries that we are outperforming in growth, but I could not help but notice that he failed to mention any of the many advanced economies that have grown faster than the UK. Over the last 13 years of this low-growth Conservative Government, the UK languishes in the bottom third of OECD countries when it comes to growth. There are 27 OECD economies that have grown faster than us in the 13 years since 2010: the US, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Slovenia and 22 others. In fact, over the next two years, no fewer than 177 economies are forecast by the IMF to grow faster. [Interruption.]

Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Next year, we are forecast to be the slowest growing economy in the whole of the G7. When it comes to economic growth, under the Tories, we are more world-following than world-beating.

Let us look at how the Conservatives’ record on growth compares to Labour’s record on growth. Under the Conservatives, GDP growth has averaged 1.5% a year. With Labour, it grew by an average of 2% a year in the 13 years that we were last in office. Had the economy continued to grow at the rate it did under Labour, it would now be £150 billion bigger. What is the Government’s economic record? Lower growth and higher borrowing, with debt more than doubling—it is now at almost 100% of GDP. That is a product of their failures over 13 years. A Tory Government who have failed on growth, failed on debt, failed on levelling-up and failed on the cost of living, too. Now they expect the British people to believe them when they say they will turn it all around, when they are the problem, not the solution.

If we are going to grow the economy, we must get more people into work. Let me be clear: people who can work, should work. That is why we have long argued that the work capability assessment needs replacing, because right now it is discouraging people from seeking work. But there is a wider problem that yet again the Government are failing to face up to. Britain is the only country in the G7 where the employment rate still has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, with the increase in the number of people out of the workforce due to long-term health issues costing the taxpayer a staggering £15.7 billion a year. NHS waiting lists have swelled to 7.8 million—an additional half a million since the Prime Minister said he was going to cut them—and 2.6 million people are out of work due to long-term sickness.

A healthy nation is critical to a healthy economy. That is why Labour has pledged to cut hospital waiting lists, investing an additional £1.1 billion a year to deliver 2 million more appointments, scans and operations. It will be funded by abolishing the non-dom tax status and replacing it with a modern scheme for people genuinely living in the UK for short periods. But, once again, we see that that policy has been vetoed by the Prime Minister. The best way to get people back to work is to get our NHS working, but the reality is you can never trust the Tories with our NHS.

The Chancellor has made great fanfare about public sector efficiency and value for money. That is from a Government who have blown £140 million on a discredited Rwanda scheme and yet are not able to send a single asylum seeker there, £7.2 billion of money lost on fraud during the pandemic—all those cheques were signed by the former Chancellor, the current Prime Minister—and £8.7 billion on personal protective equipment that has been written off. High Speed 2 is costing £57 billion, with not a single piece of track going north of Birmingham. No one can trust the Tories with taxpayers' money.

It says it all that after 13 years of Tory Government, there are still nearly 12,000 NHS computers running on outdated software that is vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Ten years ago, when he was Health Secretary, the now Chancellor promised a paperless NHS by 2018, yet today, in 2023, 26 NHS trusts are still using fax machines. Why on earth should people who experience deteriorating public services under this Conservative Government trust them to fix that, when his six years as Health Secretary make him one of the biggest architects of failure? Mr Speaker,

“if you put your hands into people’s pockets and take money out of them, and they do not see visible improvements in the services they receive, they get very angry indeed.”—[Official Report, 14 September 2021;
Vol. 700, c. 851.]

Those are not my words but the Chancellor’s words two years ago. I agree with him. The Tories have had 13 years to improve public services and they have failed. This is too little and too late.

I do welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of additional funding to tackle antisemitism and Islamophobia to keep our communities safe, as well as the additional money for the Holocaust Educational Trust. There is no place for hate in our society, and I know that across the House we will work together to eliminate it.

The Chancellor calls this an autumn statement for growth, but it is Labour that has led the agenda on growth. Today, we see that the Conservatives have released their own poor cover version of what we have already announced. The Chancellor is talking about unlocking capital by reforming pensions, but Labour would go further, encouraging investment in British start-up and scale-up firms and introducing measures to ensure the consolidation of pension funds, so that our pensions system gets better returns for savers and for the UK economy.

On planning, the Conservatives are following Labour’s lead on taking money off bills for communities that host grid infrastructure and on speeding up planning decisions. What has taken them so long? Labour will get Britain building again, with a once-in-a-generation set of reforms to accelerate the building of our country’s national infrastructure and to build housing, too. We will fast-track battery factories, our life sciences and 5G technology, to grow our economy and provide good jobs in every part of our country.

We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement that he will make full expensing permanent—another thing that we have been calling for. But that does not make up for the years of uncertainty that businesses have faced, with taxes going up and down like a yo-yo. Small and medium businesses, which play a pivotal role in growing our economy, are left exposed to the Tories’ economic volatility. Labour’s partnership with business will get our economy firing on all cylinders. That is why this week we established a new British infrastructure council, with key investors in the UK economy focused on unlocking private investment by addressing the delivery challenges that businesses face when investing in Britain. Through Labour’s new national wealth fund, we will work alongside the private sector to back the growth of British industries, so that we can make the crucial transition to a zero-carbon economy. For every pound of public investment, we will leverage in three times as much private investment, while also getting a return for taxpayers. Labour’s plan will boost our economy, get debt falling and make working people better off.

If we listened to Members on the Government Benches, we would believe that the cost of living crisis was behind us. But inflation is still double the Bank of England’s target rate. I know the importance of low and stable inflation from my time as an economist at the Bank of England. It is welcome that the Chancellor has accepted this year’s recommendations from the Low Pay Commission—which we set up—on the minimum wage, but the reality of the Conservatives’ record is that average wages for working people have been held back. Under this Government, real average weekly wages have increased by just 3% in 13 years, compared with a 27% increase under the last Labour Government—worth an additional £120 every week for someone going out to work every day. Today is Equal Pay Day, so it is important to recognise that the living standards of working women have also been held back by a gender pay gap that I am determined to close.

The Chancellor and the Prime Minister say that the cost of living crisis has been dealt with. Everything might look a little better 10,000 feet up in a helicopter, but down here on planet Earth, people are approaching Christmas and the year ahead with worry and trepidation. The cost of living crisis has hit us harder because Tory mismanagement has left us so exposed. Some 11 million UK households do not have enough savings to cover three weeks of living expenses if they need it. Working families have been skating on thin ice for too long. As their resilience has been eroded, so has our national economy’s. Let us not forget that this Government oversaw the closure of our critical gas storage facilities, which left our country more exposed to huge fluctuations in international energy markets. The former Prime Minister—that is, four Prime Ministers ago—cut energy efficiency programmes, leading to higher bills for homeowners.

Just last year, we saw the true cost of the Conservatives when their kamikaze Budget crashed the economy, leading to market turmoil, pensions in peril and a spike in interest rates. Some 1.6 million families will see their mortgage deals end this year. Those re-mortgaging since July have seen their payments rocket by an average of £220 every month. Next year, 1.5 million families will face a similar fate. The Conservatives’ economic recklessness inflicted a Tory mortgage penalty on families across the country. In Wellingborough, families with a mortgage will be expected to find an additional £190 every single month. In Richmond, north Yorkshire, homeowners face £200 more a month on their mortgage. In the Chancellor’s own constituency—though maybe not for long—families with a mortgage will see an average increase of £420 a month because of this Conservative Government’s economic failure. Given increased costs for landlords—the Chancellor knows something about that—renters are paying a high price, too.

The truth is that working people just do not have that sort of money lying around. This is what we have come to after 13 years of Conservative Government. This is the record upon which people will judge the Conservatives at the next election. Tory economic recklessness is not a thing of the past. The British people are still paying the price. We say, never again. Last week, Labour tabled an amendment to the King’s Speech to put our fiscal lock into law. It would prevent a repeat of last year’s economic horror show, yet the Tories voted against it. It is clear that today, Labour is the party of economic and fiscal responsibility. What have the Conservatives learned? Absolutely nothing.

The country is crying out for change. A decaying Government can change their personnel but they have failed to change the direction of our country. In 13 years, we have had seven Chancellors. He would not run a business like this; he cannot run a country like it, either. The Prime Minister cannot even promise that this Chancellor will be in place at the next election. We have all heard the reports: when they first came together, it was a fairytale marriage, but one year on, the relationship has hit the rocks. The pair have grown apart, with rumours running rife that the Prime Minister already has his eyes on someone else.

Whoever this Prime Minister picks as Chancellor, the truth is that Britain is and will be worse off under the Conservatives. They have held back growth, crashed our economy, increased debt, trashed our public services, left businesses out in the cold and made life harder for working people. Our country cannot afford five more years of the Conservatives. The ravens are leaving the tower when even Saatchi & Saatchi says that the Tories are not working. The questions that people will ask at the next election, and after today’s autumn statement, are simple: do me and my family feel better off after 13 years of Conservative Government? Do our schools, hospitals and police work better after 13 years of Conservative Government? In fact, does anything in Britain work better today than when the Conservatives came into office 13 years ago? We all know that working people are worse off under the Conservatives, with growth down, mortgages up, prices up, taxes up and debt up. Their time is up. It is time for change—a changed Labour party to lead Britain and to make working people better off.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I am afraid that the shadow Chancellor has shown once again that Labour has nothing credible to say on the economy. She tells the papers this morning that she will accept these measures, as one would expect from a copy and paste shadow Chancellor. In all sincerity, I particularly welcome her conversion to supporting full expensing, which she voted against in the House; copying and pasting in the national interest is welcomed on the Government Benches. She compared growth rates under Labour and the Conservatives, but she carefully omitted one fact: Labour inherited a golden legacy from the Conservatives, and proceeded to trash the economy before handing it over.

On growth, the right hon. Lady did not like it when I reminded her that, under the Conservatives, we have grown faster than any other major European economy. She says she is now converted to Conservative supply-side reforms on welfare, so I look forward to her voting with us in the Lobby on those, but her main policy is a demand-side boost to growth, increasing borrowing by £28 billion a year, with absolutely no plans to repay it. The shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Darren Jones, does not appear to be in his place. This morning he asked for more action on inflation. Well, the first thing Labour could do is drop its damaging inflationary plan to ramp up borrowing.

On the NHS, despite our having more doctors and nurses, and more patients treated in good or outstanding hospitals, what the right hon. Lady did not mention is that the only place where NHS funding has been cut—not once but twice—is Wales, with the longest hospital waits in Britain.

Perhaps we should talk about what has happened after 13 years, when we repaired Labour’s damage: unemployment down, poverty down, crime down, low pay down, schools funding up, NHS funding up, jobs up, growth up. Conservatives know that lower tax is the path to higher growth and today we make a start.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Parliamentary Works Estimates Commission, Chair, Parliamentary Works Estimates Commission

Order. Before I call the Chairman of the Treasury Committee to ask a question, I want to make it clear to the House, because there is some confusion, that this is not the procedure we use for a Budget. This is the autumn statement; it is, therefore, a statement. Right now, we are taking questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Once that has concluded, we will go on to the debate. I have a list of people who want to make speeches—there will be some overlap and I am paying attention to that.

Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Chair, Treasury Committee, Chair, Treasury Committee, Chair, Treasury Sub-Committee on Financial Services Regulations, Chair, Treasury Sub-Committee on Financial Services Regulations

What a difference a year makes. We have seen a reduction in the rate of inflation from 11.1% this time last year down to 4.6% this month, and we heard yesterday from the Governor of the Bank of England that he expects inflation to return to its target over the course of the next year or so. I was interested to hear that there are 110 measures in the announcement today which will drive growth in the UK economy. I welcome the fact that the Office for Budget Responsibility is now forecasting that this year we will see growth in the UK economy, in contrast to its forecast this time last year of a recession. The Committee looks forward to examining the 110 growth measures in detail next week, when we hear from both the OBR and the Chancellor himself. Can the Chancellor tell the House overall how much his measures will improve growth and how much they will help to drive down inflation over the course of next year?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I thank my hon. Friend, who speaks very wisely about the economy as Chair of the Treasury Committee. The OBR is very specific about that. It says that the measures I take today will permanently increase GDP by 0.3% and that the measures I took in the spring Budget will permanently increase GDP by 0.2%. Taken together, those measures will increase GDP by 0.5%.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy)

I thank the Chancellor for advance sight of his redactions.

Madam Deputy Speaker, the Chancellor wants you to think he has pulled a rabbit out of the hat, but all he has done is pull the wool over many people’s eyes. Things are still getting worse for people. Inflation is still more than double the target, which means prices and costs for people in their homes are still going up day by day. The cost of living crisis goes on and people need help now. The economy, far from the cry of the Chancellor, is stagnating. On his watch, it is growing by nothing more than a sliver of a percentage. The Chancellor tries to take credit for things that he should be doing anyway and that the Government promised, or things they have already done and that they are now taking backwards steps on. I will come on to that in more detail.

The energy price cap goes up tomorrow and it is scheduled to go up again in January. Costs will continue to increase for people. I welcome some small measures—support for veterans, the national insurance class 2 abolition and the significant measure for business to make full expensing permanent—but the rest do not bear the scrutiny that I hope they will get from proper analysts over the next few days.

The burden is still high for people. The tax burden in the UK is still the highest it has been for seven years. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies has pointed out, even after the Chancellor’s measures, tax is higher than it was three years ago. In reality, the measures go nowhere near covering the cost of living crisis faced by people across the nations of the UK who are struggling with mortgages and rents, food bills and energy bills. We asked for mortgage interest tax relief to help those seeing their monthly bills go up and for measures to help renters. Why has the Chancellor ignored those people who are struggling? On food bills, we asked for action to help people at the checkout and reduce their costs, as France, Canada and Greece have done. Why has he chosen not to intervene on food and help people? We asked for a range of measures this winter to help people who will be facing even higher bills than they had last year, such as a £400 energy bill rebate, a lower price cap and a social tariff. Why has he chosen not to help those who will not be able to afford to heat their homes this winter? Will he at least rule out the planned increase in the cap in January?

We asked the Chancellor to commit to increasing working-age benefits in line with inflation next year. Will he commit to doing that? Once again he has chosen to punish the most vulnerable with his welfare changes. The nasty party is back in business for good. Not supporting people is a choice and we all know what that choice is for this Government. This Government are on the record as working to the principle, “Let people die”. We wanted to hear about VAT cuts for tourism and hospitality, and how to get skilled workers to fill our vacancies, but he has chosen to ignore those stresses on our sectors. We asked him to lay off the Scotch whisky industry, and it is good that he has frozen the duty, but—enormous pause—he has frozen it at the rate he already increased it to, so the Scotch whisky industry is still paying 75% in tax under this Tory UK Government. Isn’t it funny how Scotland is always told it is too poor until the Government need to raise money from our exports and natural resources? Then, miraculously, riches are found!

We asked the Chancellor to invest in net zero. He made some announcements, but when we work down all his green investment plans and what he calls “green energy” we will find most of the money going into nuclear, the white elephant of the energy sector. [Interruption.] As my hon. Friend Alan Brown says, it is an absolute shambles. We asked the Chancellor to match the £500 million energy transition fund for the north-east of Scotland, but he has chosen to ignore those opportunities, highlighting again why we need the full powers of independence in Scotland.

We asked the Chancellor to deliver, across the UK, additional funding for public services to allow us to help councils, the NHS and more, and he has chosen to ignore that call. As I have said, he has chosen not to help people who are struggling with the cost of living crisis. He could have helped mortgage and rent payers, he could have helped those who are struggling to pay for food, and he could have helped people with their energy bills.

In the Scottish National party, our values lead us to want to alleviate poverty and strive to get rid of it altogether. We seek measures—now and in the future—to help people, and we are acting now, freezing council tax, investing in childcare and saying no to tuition fees. We are using limited powers to mitigate this nasty Tory Government’s cruel policies, such as the rape clause and the bedroom tax. We are keeping our water, our rail services and our NHS in public hands. We are not, like the Tories and Labour, holding the door open for private companies to rush in. We have previously stepped in where Westminster has failed to boost broadband coverage, to increase our renewables, and to champion the just transition.

We choose to put our people first. Those are our values—values that build a fairer, more prosperous Scotland. The Scottish Government have taken the steps that they can take to help to alleviate the worst impacts of poverty, offering people a degree of stability through the council tax freeze and a cap on rent increases. We would do more, but the fiscal powers that are needed are currently in the Chancellor’s hands. We would choose to help. Today the Chancellor had the power to help people, to lift a finger to right some of the wrongs of this Government that he has inflicted on them, but people are not this Government’s priority. We know who goes through their priority lanes.

Why are this UK Government fixated on tents when they should be worried about rents? They have little to offer Scotland. Our route out of the chaos that Westminster has created, and the perma-austerity of the cost of living nightmare that people are having to endure, is through independence and rejoining the EU. We must have that choice.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I think the hon. Gentleman prepared his comments for the autumn statement that he wanted me to deliver, rather than the one that I actually delivered. For example, he complained about the tax burden being the highest for seven years, but what he did not say was that in Westminster we have taken difficult decisions and cut taxes, whereas in Scotland the SNP ran out of money and had to raise them. He talked about punishing the most vulnerable, but just look at the measures that we have taken. He talked about renters, but did not mention the fact that we have increased the local housing allowance, which will mean £800 of help for 1.6 million of our poorest people. He did not mention the fact that we have increased benefits by 6.7%, which is double next year’s expected inflation, and have increased the state pension through the triple lock by 8.5%, nearly three times next year’s predicted inflation.

Here is the most uncomfortable truth for the SNP. They have been in power in Edinburgh for longer than the Conservatives have been in power in Westminster, but Scottish GDP is still lower, Scottish employment is still lower, and Scottish inactivity is still higher. The reason is for that is very simple. They focus on separation, while we focus on growth. I know what is better for families in Scotland, who will today see us getting growth going, cutting taxes, and backing Scottish business.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Father of the House of Commons

The Citizens Advice office covering my constituency will be grateful for that fact that the local housing allowance has been changed. The people who supply drink, and drinkers, will be pleased that alcohol duty is being frozen, at least for the time being. That will help drinkers, and will also not increase inflation.

I am glad that the Chancellor pointed out to the shadow Chancellor that the only time the Labour Government did really well was when they obeyed the Conservative rules between 1998 and 1999, before they let go of the valves and drove the economy to the point at which, when we took over, they were spending £4 for every £3 of Government revenue.

May I now ask the Chancellor to respond, not today but in time, to an injustice done to 500,000 pensioners overseas? Anne Puckridge, who was born five years before the Chancellor’s father, served in intelligence in the Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force during the war, and retired to Calgary on a pension of £72 a week. It is still £72, instead of £156. That is an injustice which needs attention, and I hope Anne Puckridge will get it and we will have proposals that will enable us to change this bad situation.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I thank the Father of the House for his comments, and I will look into the issue of overseas pensioners as he requested. If I may, I will write to him, but I am also happy to talk to him about it. May I also thank him for his comments about what happened in 1997? Then as now, the Labour party was trying to say that its economic policies were basically the same as those of the Conservatives, but the reality was quite different. Because Labour did not fix the roof when the sun was shining, the recession after the financial crisis was much worse.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

The Chancellor did not mention the freezing of tax thresholds, which is due to rake in £52 billion in the next six years. Was that an omission, or is he leaving the freeze in place?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I have never hidden the fact that we took difficult decisions a year ago, such as freezing the thresholds, in order to get borrowing under control and in order to tackle inflation. However, because the economy since then has outperformed the expectations of nearly every independent body, we are able this time to reduce the tax burden, and I choose to reduce the things that will boost growth.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Let me first declare my business interests.

I welcome the measures to promote more investment and more growth, which is vital. We have lost about 800,000 self-employed people since February 2020. The national insurance measure will help a bit, but will my right hon. Friend look again at the way in which IR35 prevents them from expanding their businesses and getting contracts? The measures to promote the growth of small businesses are also welcome, but the VAT threshold acts as a strong disincentive to expand a business when it reaches a certain point.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I thank my right hon. Friend. I had extensive discussions with him in the run-up to the statement, including many discussions about the self-employed. Indeed, it was partly his advocacy of the role of the self-employed that made me so enthusiastic about making the national insurance changes that I was able to make.

I hear what my right hon. Friend says about IR35. We took our decision partly because of concerns about avoidance, but I am happy to look at that again. As for the VAT threshold, many other colleagues have made the same point. We do have the highest threshold in any major European country, and, indeed, any G7 country, but there is always this issue of the cliff edge, and my right hon. Friend is right to draw my attention to it.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

Can the Chancellor confirm that living standards will drop by 3% in the next year?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

What I can confirm to the hon. Lady is that a year ago they were predicted to fall by 3.7%, and now the OBR says that they will increase this year by 2.5%.

Photo of Alberto Costa Alberto Costa Conservative, South Leicestershire

The people of Blaby and Glen Parva were listening attentively to the Chancellor’s welcome statement. They will go to the polls on 21 December for two by-elections, a county council and a ward by-election. What positive message has the Chancellor for the residents, the businesses, the pensioners and all the people of working age in Blaby and Glen Parva about his welcome financial statement?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

What I would say to the businesses in Blaby and Glen Prva is that for every single small business we have frozen business rates, and we are rolling over a 75% discount on business rates for every pub, restaurant and high-street shop for another year. We want to do everything possible to back small businesses, because they are the lifeblood of our communities.

Photo of Sarah Olney Sarah Olney Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury)

This statement is a deception from the Chancellor after years of unfair tax hikes. Under this Conservative Government, economic growth is flatlining and public services are on their knees. This year, 400,000 people are still on NHS waiting lists, having been on them when the Chancellor made last year’s autumn statement. These people have been cruelly let down. In his statement last year, the Chancellor said:

“you do not need to choose either a strong economy or good public services.”—[Official Report, 17 November 2022;
Vol. 722, c. 856.]

Will he look the British people in the eye and admit that he has given them neither?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I think that the hon. Lady should be careful with her language when she is saying things like that. I am very clear when it comes to growth. We have grown faster than any major European economy since 2010. Yes, while interest rates are higher—as they need to be, because we are bringing down inflation—growth is more subdued, but if the hon. Lady listens to, for example, those in the International Monetary Fund, who are independent commentators, she will hear them say that when we have got inflation back down to target, we will have higher growth than France, Italy and Germany. When it comes to the NHS, we put an extra £3.3 billion into the NHS budget in the autumn statement last year. With doctors’ strikes happening in most of the period since then, it has been difficult to make progress on waiting lists, and I hope that the hon. Lady will address her comments to those doctors if she is going to be consistent.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Conservative, Hereford and South Herefordshire

It is a pleasure to speak from the Back Benches for the first time in a while. I massively welcome the statement, and particularly the emphasis that the Chancellor has given to skills and the superb work that has been done by the Department for Education at the same time. In Herefordshire, we worry about the pollution in our River Wye. Will he consider talking further with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about whether some package could be put in place to support the long-term improvement of that river?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his sterling work as a Minister. When it comes to pollution in the River Wye, he will know that the Government have made changes requiring the water companies to invest more than £50 billion in the years ahead, but he, like me, wants to see faster progress and I will happily give him any support I can.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement on benefit uprating. It is not, as he claimed, a mark of compassion but it is at least delivering the essential minimum, and I congratulate the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on achieving that. For the past three years, the household support fund has enabled local councils to provide an important safety net for families facing the greatest hardship. Will there be a household support fund next year?

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

That answer was quicker than I expected! My right hon. Friend proposes a whole series of planning reforms. One of the problems for local authorities up and down the country is a lack of planning officers to determine those planning applications, and it will clearly take time to recruit and train new people. There is also a risk that the premium service for large-scale developments will mean planning officers switching to those roles rather than determining the day-to-day planning applications. Does my right hon. Friend understand that we will need to recruit more people? Does this need legislation, and what is the timeframe for him to introduce these changes?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend asks an important question. I want to assure him that I have had extensive discussions with the Communities Secretary to ensure that we implement these reforms in a way that does not lead to unintended consequences. The most important thing is that by allowing the biggest applications to have full cost recovery with respect to local councils, we can start to get more resources, which will mean that we can train up more planning officers and avoid delays not just for the bigger applications but for all of them.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Minister (Women's Health and Mental Health)

Does the Chancellor agree that the Prime Minister was wrong last year to try to increase national insurance?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

What the Prime Minister wanted to do then is what he has delivered as Prime Minister, which was to find a way to deliver extra funding to the NHS. What we as Conservatives believe is that taxing the economy more lightly will lead to higher growth, meaning that we can fund our public services better.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, The Cotswolds

I am sure that the people of the Cotswolds will welcome enormously many of the measures in this statement, but can I just mention one subject that is dear to my heart, the tourist tax? There was no mention in my right hon. Friend’s excellent statement of the tourist tax. British tourists going abroad spend billions of pounds, benefiting those countries, yet the figures show that we actively discourage high-spending tourists from coming from abroad to benefit our shops and hospitality venues.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I reassure my hon. Friend that we want to do everything possible to make our tourism and retail industry competitive. We want to encourage international visitors. We changed policy on this issue a year ago because it cost around £2.5 billion a year and we did not think we could afford to continue it, but we are looking again at the numbers in the light of the most recent data and we can see what has happened to comparative shops in Paris and Milan. We will review this to see if it is still that expensive, and I hope that it is not.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

Many of the measures in the statement today will have spending consequences that will apply to England and Wales. I welcome many of them, because they are growth measures, such as getting the long-term unemployed and long-term sick into work, helping the creative industries and supporting business rates. Will the Chancellor confirm that those measures will be subject to Barnett consequential payments, and if they are, will the freeze on Barnett consequential payments to Northern Ireland apply?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I can confirm that for reserved matters there obviously would not be Barnett consequentials, but where matters are not reserved, there would be consequentials. Our priority in funding for Northern Ireland remains the restoration and return of a locally elected and accountable Executive, but in the meantime we will continue to support the Province in every way we can.

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Conservative, North East Somerset

Has my right hon. Friend given any consideration to, and has the Treasury carried out any analysis of, the effect on economic policy of mistaken forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I thought my right hon. Friend might ask a question of that ilk. I would gently say to him that not just the OBR found that its forecasts were wrong; nearly every commentator as well as the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund did too. I am pleased to say that, in every single case, they have found the British economy has outperformed their expectations.

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth

I also welcome the increase in social security uprating by September’s inflation rate, but I agree with the Chair of the Select Committee, my right hon. Friend Sir Stephen Timms, that it is the bare minimum. I am incredibly concerned about the proposals for a workfare approach. The Chancellor will be aware that Errol Graham weighed four and a half stone when he was found in his flat, having starved to death. That was because there had been no contact from Department for Work and Pensions officers and he had not been able to respond, so they just stopped his support. Given this, and given that so many Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions have said that we do not have a statutory safeguarding duty, what is the estimate of the number of social security claimants who will die as a consequence of these measures?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I know that the hon. Lady would not ask me to comment on an individual case, but I say to her that what we are introducing is not workfare; it is support to help people into work. We are spending £2.5 billion over the next five years to help more than 1 million people. We think that that is the route out of poverty and away from dependency.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

I welcome the Chancellor’s comment that a world-class education is essential for economic growth, and there are many measures to welcome, including the extra funding for the Holocaust Educational Trust, the £50 million for apprenticeships and the tax cuts of more than £600 for teachers. Of course, many people working in education will also welcome the nearly 10% increase in the national living wage, but it will put great pressure on schools employing teaching assistants and on our nurseries, which we are so keen to expand and support. Can I urge the Chancellor to engage closely with the sector and with the Department for Education to make sure that we can meet those pressures when it comes to funding high needs in our schools and to growing the early years sector?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend is a big expert on education and I always listen to what he says. He is right to say that the average teacher will see an increase of £630 in their take-home pay next year because of the 2% cut in national insurance contributions. When it comes to the national living wage, I absolutely hear what he says, but for many schools and nurseries the issue is recruitment—finding people to fill the roles. This change will make that much easier.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

The Chancellor mentioned support for carbon capture and storage and for hydrogen, and the Prime Minister earlier spoke of support for the oil and gas sector. The Chancellor will be all too aware of this morning’s announcement of the intended closure of the Grangemouth oil refinery, which represents a huge 4% of Scottish GDP and provides hundreds of jobs. What discussions has he had with the Energy Secretary, with Petroineos or with the Scottish Government with the aim of trying to stop this closure before its disastrous impact can come to pass?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We are obviously monitoring the situation extremely carefully, but it is our priority to support the oil and gas and refinery industries. We have made some big changes to do that, and we would welcome support from both sides of the House in doing so.

Photo of John Baron John Baron Conservative, Basildon and Billericay

I commend the Chancellor for the compassion and enterprise incentives that shine through his statement. I thank him for the UK retail disclosure framework, although I have not seen the detail, and for the promise of a statutory instrument to resolve the legislative issues with cost disclosure for investment companies. Can he assure me that that will correct the over-zealous regulation that is making investment companies look unduly expensive and thereby restricting investment?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I have had many discussions with my hon. Friend on this issue and he is absolutely right. There is a danger with over-zealous regulation that people are focused more on cost than on performance. Like him, I want to resolve the issue.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

The Chancellor talked about the creative industries but then announced only that he would look at improving film and high-end TV tax credits. The cultural tax reliefs continue to help our orchestras, theatres, museums and galleries to survive, and they protect jobs. At the 2023 Budget, he extended the uplifted rate of relief until March 2024, after which it will taper, but sadly he also introduced changes to limit what cultural organisations can claim for. Orchestra tax relief is a critical source of income; without it, some orchestras say they could fold, with musicians losing their jobs. Will he look not just at film and high-end TV tax credits but at all the cultural tax reliefs and how they can continue to support jobs in our creative industries?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Having only just delivered the autumn statement I do not want to pre-empt what might be in the spring Budget, but there will be another fiscal event before the end of the financial year in which all these things will be looked at. With respect to orchestras, which are fantastically important to our cultural landscape, I will just say that the typical person playing in an orchestra will get a £450 increase in post-tax pay next year, and that will help them greatly.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement, which will make a significant difference to investment levels, employment and living costs, recognising that it is all in the context of the cost of covid and the energy shock brought about by the conflict in Ukraine—that is something we often forget. May I pass on to him the appreciation of the beer and pub sector? The freeze in duty and continuation of the reduction in business rates is exactly what the sector asked for, and it is an early Christmas present to the many of us who want to celebrate in great style as we approach the festive season. Will my right hon. Friend please continue to engage with those in the sector and listen to what they have to say, so that they can share their investment ambitions?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I commit to my right hon. Friend that I will not just continue to engage with the sector, but continue to enjoy the odd glass of Penderyn, which is my favourite whisky.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

Can the Chancellor confirm that, after today’s tax cuts, we will still have the highest tax burden for 70 years—up £4,000 per household on pre-pandemic levels—when we go into the next general election?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

What I can confirm is that after today’s measures we will have the lowest income tax burden for someone on average pay in the G7—lower than Japan, America, France, Germany, Italy and Canada.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

Our economy is growing rather than receding due to investment, innovation and millions of hard-working individuals across the country, as well as a Government who have focused on tackling inflation. Does the Chancellor agree that, on this side of the House, we get it that no country can spend its way to prosperity?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. High inflation is destabilising for an economy: it stops businesses investing, it stops families spending, and it causes misery to people who see the cost of their weekly shop go through the roof. That is why it has been our No. 1 priority. It would be great if it were Labour’s, too.

Photo of Keir Mather Keir Mather Labour, Selby and Ainsty

It is frankly embarrassing that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have spent this afternoon celebrating inflation staying 2% above target, while families in Selby and Ainsty face 10% food inflation every time they use the supermarket. What message does the Chancellor think his celebrations send to those hard-working families?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

It is not celebrating that has halved inflation from 11.1% a year ago; it is hard work and difficult decisions, which unfortunately were mainly opposed by Labour.

Photo of Scott Benton Scott Benton Independent, Blackpool South

I commend the Chancellor for his statement, which delivers for the people of Blackpool. Five thousand of my constituents will benefit from a boost to the national living wage and 12,000 pensioners in my constituency will be £900 per year better off, while those in work will be £450 better off as a result of the cut to national insurance. Does he agree that this is only possible because of the difficult long-term decisions that this Government have taken—an approach that stands in stark contrast to the tax, borrowing and spending offered by the Opposition?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The shadow Chancellor cannot hear these things too many times. She loves copying and pasting our policies, and there is another that she could merrily get copying and pasting. Here is the reason why my hon. Friend is absolutely right—[Interruption.] Let me tell the shadow Chancellor the reason—it is very straightforward. We had an economic crisis thanks to the energy shock and the pandemic; Labour had an economic crisis because of what happened in the financial markets. The difference is that we took tough decisions to bring back fiscal responsibility and they ducked every single one.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Labour/Co-operative, York Central

The biggest disparity in local housing allowance comes from the geography of broad rental market areas. In York, given the way these things are calculated, LHA is £650 but there is a £983 cost on top of that for a property. It is not working, so will the Chancellor review the BRMA?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I am happy to discuss that matter with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. I recognise that the hon. Lady has campaigned on the issue sincerely for some time. I will say, though, that the decision to increase local housing allowance to the 30th percentile will help 1.6 million families with an extra £800. I hope she recognises that that will make a difference.

Photo of Greg Smith Greg Smith Conservative, Buckingham

From tax cuts for 27 million workers to incentives for business to grow, support for pensioners and a continued lifeline for our great British pubs and pints, I warmly welcome the good start that my right hon. Friend has made on reducing the tax burden as we recover from the pandemic and the energy shock. I thank him in particular for the recognition he has shown to the self-employed, not just by reforming class 2 and class 4 national insurance contributions to make them fairer, but by sending the signal that, just as the self-employed were an integral part of our recovery from the time the Labour party crashed the economy when they were last in government, we now need as many people as possible to take the step to start their own enterprise and help this country grow.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. The whole purpose of our approach is to make it easier for people who are prepared to take risks to work hard, and no one exemplifies those values better than the self-employed. I thank him for being one of this country’s greatest defenders of the great British pint.

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Labour, Battersea

It really is a scandal that disabled people are being punished yet again for this Government’s economic failures, with today’s announcements of more cruel and callous cuts, and the announcement that they will be forced to work from home. Evidence shows that sanctions do not incentivise people to work but are harmful and counterproductive. The Chancellor’s plan will only further erode the social security safety net, following 13 years of austerity, the war waged against disabled people and the hostile environment. Does he not understand that his plan will only punish disabled people, pushing them further away from the labour market and leading to poorer health outcomes?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

With the greatest respect to the hon. Lady, let me say that we introduced a plan to help disabled people to get back into work, as many of them say they would like to do, and in just four years it has got 1.4 million disabled people back into jobs.

Photo of Ben Bradley Ben Bradley Conservative, Mansfield

I welcome an autumn statement from the Chancellor that cuts taxes, invests in growth, seeks to shrink the size of the state and reforms welfare. It will go down well with the vast majority of my constituents who voted for a Conservative Government in 2019, and I very much welcome it too. I particularly thank him for his continued commitment to our east midlands investment zone and freeport, where he has listened to stakeholders in extending the time for and adding more investment to our major growth plans. Will he continue to work with us in the region to ensure that, alongside our development company and our new east midlands combined authority, we are able to properly harness these tools to deliver an amazing regional growth strategy and all the growth and investment that he wants to see?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I thank my hon. Friend for his role in the transformation of the east midlands, through his other responsibilities in the councils there. Levelling up will work only if we harness the enterprise and ideas of local civic leaders, and he is a fantastic example of that.

Photo of Wendy Chamberlain Wendy Chamberlain Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

Today is Equal Pay Day, which means, because of the gender pay gap, it is the day on which women, based on their average earnings, stop being paid compared with men, who continue to be paid to the end of the year. More concerning is the pension gap, which is 35% and means female pensioners stop being paid on 26 August. That is often because older women have chosen, and sacrificed their earning potential, to care for loved ones. When will the Government consider reforming carer’s allowance, which is currently an active disincentive to carers going into work? When we will start addressing this cliff edge, rather than making it shorter and sharper?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I am always happy to engage with any hon. Members if they have concerns about the way the benefits system operates in terms of disincentivising people who would like to work but cannot do so. Caring responsibilities are an area that she has raised and I am happy to engage with her on that outside this House.

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Transport)

Cumulatively, Manchester City Council’s and Trafford Council’s cuts since 2010 have been £443 million and £288 million respectively. The Local Government Association says that the funding gap will be £4 billion in the next two years. Was there anything in this statement that will stop the continuing crumbling of our local services?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The hon. Gentleman is omitting the fact that in the autumn statement a year ago, when I was having to make big cuts in public spending going forward, I found an increase of £4.7 billion from next year for adult social care, which will make an enormous difference to every council in the country.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance, North Down

Further to the Chancellor’s answer on Northern Ireland and Barnett consequentials, he will be aware that Northern Ireland is facing an unprecedented budget crisis. Will he therefore confirm that he is open to discussions on a fiscal floor and an invest-to-save transformation package for any potential restored power sharing Executive?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The UK Government will continue to do everything we can to support the restoration of power sharing in the Province. All I will say is that the Treasury is actively involved in all those discussions.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Independent, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

In recognition of the impact of electricity pylon development on properties, the Chancellor announced compensation of £1,000 per property per year for 10 years. Does the policy apply in Wales? If it does not, will the Welsh Government receive funding for developments where they have competence, such as the one in the Tywi valley in my constituency? Regardless of that, he knows that the fall in property values will be far more than the compensation, so would it not be better to remove detriment by cable ploughing, at a comparative cost to traditional pylon development?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My understanding is that this will apply to Wales in exactly the same way as it applies to the rest of the UK. As for how we do this, we need to work out the most sensible, proportionate and balanced way of solving the problem of having to double our electricity generation between now and 2050. We are going to have to do things differently as a result.

Photo of Imran Hussain Imran Hussain Labour, Bradford East

We are in the worst cost of living crisis that we have ever seen. The key takeaway from the just four measures the Chancellor announced to tackle the crisis is not investing in deprived communities, ensuring the richest pay their fair share or spreading economic growth across the whole country, but a commitment to stop a pint getting more expensive. Just what is that supposed to do for my constituents, who face crippling mortgage payments, who are paying 30% more for food, whose wages are stagnating and whose homes have been unaffordable to heat?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I think the hon. Gentleman has looked at the statement selectively, because our support for people struggling with cost of living pressures has risen, as a result of my decisions, to £104 billion. Let me just go through this: pensioners are going to get an increase next year that is three times the rate of inflation; people on benefits are going to get an increase in their benefits that is double inflation; people who are renting and on low incomes are going to see an £800 increase, on average, through the local housing allowance; and anyone on the lowest legally payable wage, where they are working full-time, could see an extra £1,800 from increases in the national living wage.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

As a so-called “prudent Chancellor”, he cancelled HS2 to Manchester because of the spiralling costs of that project. Yet despite the cost of the likes of Hinkley Point C rising from £18 billion to £33 billion, and the fact that there is no successful EPR—European pressurised reactor—project in the world, he has today confirmed yet again a blank cheque for the nuclear industry. Sizewell C is likely to cost £40 billion and he has a taxpayer 20% stake in it. If it is good enough for HS2, why does he not scrap Sizewell C and save us from that nuclear financial disaster?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Because if we want to get to net zero, we are going to have to have more renewable energy and, unfortunately for the hon. Gentleman and for me, there are days when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow.

Photo of Sam Tarry Sam Tarry Labour, Ilford South

We have the lowest investment in the G7; on the Government’s own figures, it has fallen further and further. Currently, public sector investment is scheduled to fall by £14 billion in real terms over the next five years. Without serious investment in public services, we cannot hope to improve productivity, which the Chancellor spoke about today. We cannot just demand that people go back to work, and work harder and harder to compensate for this. We need £10 billion to match the OECD’s average public investment annual spend as a share of GDP. I would like to hear from the Chancellor why he has not taken the opportunity today to align ourselves with the rest of the G7?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Let me gently remind the hon. Gentleman that business investment has grown by more since 2010 than it grew under the Labour Government; we have the second highest growth in the G7, with ours faster than any country’s except America.

Photo of Claudia Webbe Claudia Webbe Independent, Leicester East

The unionised manufacturing base of my constituency has long been diminished, having been replaced not by technology, innovation and good decent, modern jobs, but by fast fashion, sweatshops and unscrupulous employers. This is all exploited by brands like Boohoo and retailers who are in a race to the bottom for ever-increasing profits, all while their supply chains fail to pay the minimum wage. What action will be taken to regulate to ensure that brands and retailers are held to account for the sustainable outcomes of their products in their supply chains and for wage justice for the people who make their goods? What action will be taken to tackle those British brands and retailers who threaten to seek cheaper labour overseas in order to avoid paying the new minimum wage that the Chancellor has just announced?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

If the hon. Lady has any examples of people not paying the national living wage who are legally obliged to do so, she should tell the authorities and we will sort it out. I just say to her that we have just overtaken France to become the eighth largest manufacturer in the world. We are making progress in the right direction, and the measures announced today will mean that we go even further.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (COP26), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Commons Business)

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Chancellor announced £960 million for a new green industries growth accelerator focused on offshore wind; electricity networks; nuclear; carbon capture, usage and storage; and hydrogen. But there was no mention of reliable, clean, cheaper energy sources such as tidal or pump storage hydro. Why not?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We are always open to investing in new technologies, and in this country we are extremely good at developing them. We will continue to look at all new opportunities, including things like tidal.