Wednesday 8 March 2017 / 3:39 PM 2017 Press Archive / The Latest from Labour

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, responds to the Spring Budget statement in the House of Commons

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Jeremy
Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party,
replying to the Spring Budget statement
in the House of Commons, said: 

“Mr
Deputy Speaker, this was a Budget of utter complacency; about the state of our
economy, utter complacency about the crisis facing our public services and
complacency about the reality of daily life for millions of people in this
country.

Entirely out of touch with that reality of life
for millions.

This
morning over one million workers will have woken up not knowing whether they’ll
work today, tomorrow or next week.

Millions
more workers know their next pay packet will not be enough to make ends meet.

Millions
struggling to pay rent or mortgage; with private renters on average pay nearly
half their income in rent.

Yesterday
Mr Deputy Speaker, over three thousand people in this country will have queued
at food banks to feed themselves and their families.

Last
night Mr Deputy Speaker, over four thousand people will have slept rough on the
streets of this country.

And
the Chancellor made his boasts about a strong economy, but who is reaping the
rewards of this economy?

For
millions it is simply not working.

Not
working for the NHS, in its worst crisis ever, with funding being cut next
year.

Not
working for our children’s schools, where pupil funding continues to be cut.

Not
working for our neighbourhoods which have lost 20,000 police officers, leaving
the force in a “perilous state” in many parts of the country.

And
not working for our dedicated public servants and the people who work in them
nurses, firefighters, teachers, no pay rise for seven years for them.

And
for people with disabilities who are twice as likely to be living in poverty
and that this Government is denying them support that the courts say they need.

4
million children living in poverty which will rise by another million in coming
years.

Not
working for thousands of young people who can’t get anywhere to live, can’t get
on the housing ladder and cannot in many cases leave the parental home.

Parents
of grown-up children who would expect to be debt-free by now, but are having to
bail out student debt, or try and help with a deposit to get housing if they
can manage it
.

And
a million elderly people, and I will come onto this again, denied the social
care they need due to the £4.6 billion of cuts made by his government with the
support of the Lib Dems over the past five years.

Not
for pensioners for whom the security of the Triple Lock remains in doubt.

Mr
Deputy Speaker that is the reality facing Britain today. A government cutting
services and living standards of the many to fund and continue to fund the tax
cuts of the few.

There
are some people Mr Deputy Speaker, who are doing very well under the
Conservative government.

The
chief executives of big companies now paid 180 times more than the average
worker and taxed less.

The
big corporations making higher profits and being taxed less.

Speculators
making more and being taxed less and wealthiest families, taxed less due to
cuts in inheritance tax.

All
this adds up to £70 billion of tax giveaways over the next five years, to those
who need it the least.

This
government is the government with the wrong priorities let me give you three
examples:

The
pain of losing a child is unimaginable for most of us, but for those who do,
that pain is worsened by the stress of having to pay for their own child’s
funeral. I pay tribute to my friend the member for Swansea East for her
campaign to establish a Children’s Funeral Fund.

But
far from establishing such a fund, costing just £10 million a year, the
Government is instead cutting support for bereaved families, 3 in 4 bereaved
families would receive less. This is utterly heartless.

Despite
generous tax giveaways at the top end, there was no money either for the
160,000 people with disabilities that a court has ruled deserve a higher rate
of Personal Independence Payments. These are people with debilitating mental
health conditions dementia, schizophrenia and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The
Prime Minister came to office talking about “fighting burning injustices”.
Less than nine months later, she seems
to have forgotten all about them because none of them are being fought today.

Low
pay holds people back and it’s holding our country back.

We’re
the only major developed country in which economic growth has returned yet
workers are worse off. Wages are still below the 2008 level.

Inflation
rising, an urgent need to address the pressures on people’s incomes; massively
rising personal debts, rising energy bills and the cost of the weekly shop,
transport costs and housing costs all rising.

The
Chancellor
faced a series of tests
as to whether he would stand on the same side of the people or not. He could
have raised the minimum wage to the level of the living wage – the real living
wage, of £10 per hour as we Labour are pledged to do. It would pay for a pay
rise for six million people in this country, 62 percent of whom are women. He
failed to do that.

Since
2010, millions of public sector workers have endured a pay freeze and then a
pay cap, dedicated public servants who keep our services going have lost over 9
per cent of their real terms wages or will have done by 2020.

He
could have ended the public sector pay cap, as we are pledged to do and given a
pay rise to 5 million dedicated public servants who we all rely in day in day
out in our hospitals, our health service in general and our local government.
He failed to do that. It’s an insult to say they deserve falling living
standards when we all know those in the public sector are working harder than
ever covering the jobs of those that have gone. 

There
is a crisis too Mr Deputy Speaker in job security. Millions of workers don’t
know whether or not they’ll be working from day to day, millions of workers who
don’t know how many hours they’ll be working this week or next week, just
imagine what it’s like to try and plan your life if you don’t know what your
income is going to be from one week to the other. Because Mr Deputy Speaker
that is the reality
.

Thank
you Mr Deputy Speaker, there is nothing funny about being one of 900,000
workers on zero hours contracts, 55 percent of them women.

He
could have announced  a ban of zero hours contracts – we are pledged to
do. Again he failed.

But
zero hours contracts Mr Deputy Speaker are only the tip of the iceberg, of
4.5 million workers in Britain in insecure work, 2.3 million working variable
shift patterns, 1.1 million on temporary contracts.

We
have long argued for a clampdown on bogus self-employment but today the
Chancellor seems to have put the burden on self-employed workers instead
.

There
has to be a something for something deal, so I hope the Chancellor will bring
forward extra social security in return? One policy that Labour backs is
extending statutory maternity pay to self-employed women which is likely to
cost just £10 million per year.

Low
pay and insecure work have consequences for us all. Mr Deputy Speaker in
reality we all pay for low pay.

There
are a million working households having to claim housing benefit, just get that
figure a million working households claiming housing benefit because their
wages aren’t enough to pay the rent.  And there are 3 million working
families who simply rely on tax credits to make ends meet. This is modern
Britain.

The
most effective way of boosting wages and increasing job security as all studies
show is actually to improve collective bargaining through a trade union. Words
that the Chancellor did not use in his speech. But instead the Trade Union Act
we have will further shackle unions and perpetuate chronic low pay which
actually costs us all a lot of money through in-work benefits.  We will
promote collective bargaining and repeal the Trade Union Act.

This
is a Chancellor and a Government not on the side of the workers, not on the
side of taxpayers who pick up the bill for low pay and insecure work.

Mr
Deputy Speaker, on International Women’s Day did the Chancellor deliver a
budget that works for women?

According
to House of Commons Library analysis commissioned by my friend the member for
Rotherham, who is doing a brilliant job speaking up for women from our front
benches, 86 per cent of the savings to the Treasury has made from tax and benefit
changes have fallen on women.

Women’s
lives have been made more difficult through successive policies of this
Government.

  • Women
    struggling with more caring responsibilities due to the state of emergency in
    social care.

  • The
    WASPI women born in the 1950s who with little notice are having to face a
    crisis in retirement, they could not possibly have predicted.

  • 54,000
    women a year who are forced out of their jobs through maternity discrimination
    . They can’t afford this Government’s extortionate fees to take their employer
    to a tribunal in search of justice.

  • Women
    up and down the country who will have to wait another 60 years before the
    gender pay gap is closed.

  • The
    hundreds, hundreds of women being turned away from domestic violence shelters
    every year through lack of space or appropriate services or because they’ve
    simply been closed.

  • Mothers
    struggling, put under more pressure through cuts to universal credit and to tax
    credits.

And
as if it wasn’t bad enough to cut benefits to children whose only crime is to
be born third or fourth in a family, most shamefully Mr Deputy Speaker, as of
next month women will have to prove their third child is a product of rape if
they wish to qualify for child tax credits for that child.

I
pay tribute to my friend the member for Rotherham and the honourable member for
Glasgow Central for their campaigning on this issue . I hope the Chancellor
will reverse this cut.

There
is Mr Deputy Speaker, a housing crisis in this country – a crisis of supply and
of affordability.

Since
2010, housebuilding has fallen to its lowest rate in peacetime since the 1920s.
The building of social homes for rent is at its lowest level for a quarter of a
century.

Did
he empower councils to tackle the housing crisis by allowing them to borrow to
build council housing as we are pledged to do? No.

Have
they replaced council houses sold under right-to-buy as they promised? No, just
one-in-six have been replaced.

And
was there any commitment to return to councils the £800 million right-to-buy
proceeds the Treasury has taken back, which would build  twelve thousand
homes? No.

Did
he scrap the unfair bedroom tax as we are pledged to do? No.

Did
he reverse housing benefit cuts that would take support away from ten thousand
young people? Despite opposition from Shelter, Crisis and Centrepoint, which
even the honourable member for Enfield Southgate correctly described as
“catastrophic”.

Last
week the Institute for Government said there were “clear warning signs” of the
damaging impact of the Government’s cuts on schools, prisons, health and social
care.

This
government has taken a sledgehammer to public services in recent years, the
Chancellor now expects praise for patching up a small part of the damage.

The
Budget didn’t provide the funding necessary now for the crisis in our NHS –
which the BMA reckons needs an extra £10 billion.

It
didn’t provide the funding necessary to end the state of emergency in social
care now which needs £2 billion a year just to plug the gaps according to the
King’s Fund.

That
is not met by £2 billion over three years. The money is needed now. More than a
million people, mainly older people, desperate for social care still can’t get
it. The money ought to be made available now.

Because
this government ducks really tough choices, like asking corporations to pay a
little bit more in tax.

Not
every local authority can just text Nick and get the deal they want.

And
other council services are suffering as well:

Our
communities are stronger when we have good libraries, and they are evaluable
obviously to children but for the entire community. 67 closed last year because
of local government underfunding.

700
Sure Start centres closed because of lack of funding for local authorities.
Denying the life chances that a Labour government delivered to them with the
opening of Sure Start centres in the 90’s. And 600 youth centres have closed as
well.

These
painful decisions being taken by councils not because they want to do it, but
just because they don’t have enough money even to keep essential services
running because of the slashing of their budgets, year on year. And it goes on,
it affects our communities and our lives in so many ways.

Last
year councils proposed to sell-off of school playing fields the equivalent of
500 football pitches. 500 pitches not available for young people to indulge in
sport. It’s our duty as a community surely, to ensure all our young people
wherever they live have a decent chance to grow up with a library, with a
playing field, with a Sure Start centre. It’s not a lot to ask.

The
Chancellor boasts Mr Deputy Speaker of a strong economy. but abandoned the
targets of the previous Chancellor so let’s give a more realistic context to
today’s figures: the deficit that was going to be eradicated in 2015 – you’ll
remember the “long term economic plan”. The debt that was going to peak at 80%
of GDP and then start falling.

Our
economy is not prepared for Brexit. We still have an economy suffering from
underinvestment and an over-reliance on consumer spending and wholly
unsustainable levels of personal and household debt.

Investment
must be evenly spread around our country and despite the announcements today,
London continues to receive six times as much investment as the North East.

And
so that’s why Labour is backing a ‘fair funding formula for investment’ so that
every area gets it’s fair share of capital spending. What’s been announced
today doesn’t achieve that. You can’t build a ‘Northern powerhouse’ or a
‘Midlands Engine’ if investment does not follow the sound-bites.

Our
country currently spends 1.7% on Research & Development which is  well
below the OECD average. The strongest economies spend over 3%.

In
the immediate term, and the Chancellor didn’t have much to say about this, he
must also focus his attentions on the precarious future of skilled workers jobs
at Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port and Luton Ellesmere and at Ford in Bridgend.

It
would give export businesses more confidence if the government clearly
committed to negotiating for tariff- and impediment-free access to the single
market and dropped this reckless threat of turning Britain into a tax haven on
the shores of Europe.

One
of the biggest challenges facing our country Mr Deputy Speaker, is
environmental; it’s climate change. This Government is failing to lead, failing
to drive a mission-led industrial strategy as our own Business Select Committee
has recommended.

The
Chancellor failed to make energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority.
No commitment to establishing a zero carbon standards on new buildings. And
unclear about investments in public transport that will definitely reduce
pollution.  The poor air quality is appalling.  It’s killing
thousands of people in this country. Its taking away the life chances of many
children growing up alongside polluted roads. The good work being done by
Labour’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the good work being done by the Welsh Labour
Government has rightly recognised this as an ‘urgent public health crisis’,
particularly for children. We have to deal with this crises and deal with it
urgently.

There
cannot be Mr Deputy Speaker, an industrial strategy or productivity gains
unless there’s serious investment in skills.

Adult
skills training cut by 54 per cent, further education budget by 14 per cent the
small amounts committed today are long overdue but woefully insufficient. Over
the coming years the schools budget is being cut by 8 per cent. Does the
Chancellor really want fewer teachers and teaching assistants, even larger
classes , shorter school days? Which is it?

I
agree with the Prime minister that every child deserves a decent education.
Every community deserves decent schools. You do it by working with those
communities to provide those schools, not plonking into them selective schools
which are not being demanded by those communities.

The
money announced by the Prime Minister yesterday for new grammar schools is
frankly a vanity project. Cancel this gimmick, reject selection and segregation
and why not honour their own 2015 manifesto pledge to protect per pupil funding
which is clearly not happening.

This
is a Budget that lacks ambition for Britain and lacks fairness.

It
demonstrates again the appalling priorities of this Government, another year of
tax breaks for the few, public service cuts for the many.

When
she took office, the Prime Minister said “If you’re one of those families, if
you’re just managing, I want to address you directly”.

This
Budget did not address them; it failed them.

This
Budget has done nothing to tackle low pay; nothing to solve the state of
emergency that persists for so many people demanding and needing health and
social care now; and nothing to make a fair economy that truly works for
everyone.

It’s
built on unfairness and it’s built on failure to tackle unfairness in our
society.

Ends