Autumn Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:27 pm on 22 November 2023.

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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.]