Coffee House

Full text of Ed Balls’ response to the 2013 Autumn statement

5 December 2013

1:26 PM

5 December 2013

1:26 PM

Mr Speaker,

The whole country will have seen today that, for all his boasts and utterly breathtaking complacency, the Chancellor is in complete denial about the central fact which is defining this Government’s time in office.

That under this Chancellor and this Prime Minister, for most people in our country, living standards are not rising, they are falling year on year.

So Mr Speaker, let me ask the Chancellor to demonstrate that he’s not completely out of touch with the cost of living crisis facing millions of people in our country.

Can he confirm that on average working people in our country are £1600 a year worse off than they were when he and the Prime Minister took office?

And that today’s OBR forecasts show that prices will continue to rise faster than wages this year and into next year too?

And that, as a result, people will be worse off in 2015 than they were in 2010?

Mr Speaker, isn’t this the truth – after three damaging years of flatlining, after the slowest recovery for over 100 years, from a Chancellor and a Prime Minister who said ‘we’re all in this together’ and then gave a huge tax cut to millionaires – working people aren’t better off under the Tories, they are worse off under the Tories.

And Mr Speaker, for all their complacent boasts, after three damaging and wasted years, for most people – in the constituencies of honourable members on all sides of this House – there is still no recovery at all.

So let me ask the Chancellor about the promises he made to this House on growth and living standards three years ago.

He said then that the economy would grow by more than 8.4 per cent by the end of this year.

But even after today’s welcome upward revisions, growth is set to be half of that.

And Mr Speaker, didn’t the Chancellor pledge to get the banks lending – but net lending to businesses is now over £100 billion lower than in May 2010?

Didn’t he make the number one test of his economic credibility keeping the AAA credit rating – but it has been downgraded, not once but twice?

And as for his promise to balance the books by 2015, didn’t he confirm today that, in 2015, he is not balancing the books, he is borrowing £79 billion?

For all his smoke and mirrors he is borrowing £198 billion more than he planned in 2010.

More borrowing to pay for three years of economic failure. More borrowing in just three years under this Chancellor than under the last government in 13 years.

He used to say he would balance the books in 2015. Now he expects us to congratulate him for saying he’ll do it by 2019.

With this Government it’s clearly not just the badgers that move the goalposts.


And on energy bills, after their panicked and half-baked attempt to steal Labour’s clothes, we know they’re not very good at shooting badgers…they’re not very good at shooting other people’s foxes either.

Because for three months the Leader of the Opposition has been calling for an energy price freeze.

And did the Chancellor announce an energy price freeze today? No he did not.

Can he confirm that when the energy companies have already announced price rises of £120 this year, his policy will still see energy prices rise by £70 this winter?

Mr Speaker, under this Chancellor, the only freeze this winter is the one facing millions of people who can’t afford to heat their homes.

Does he really think he can get away with tinkering around the edges? Moving the green levies that his own party introduced off the bills and onto the taxpayer and – surprise, surprise – letting the energy companies completely off the hook. They’re not paying a penny, Mr Speaker.

Doesn’t he realise that for millions of hard-pressed families, pensioners and businesses across our country, nothing less than a freeze will do?

And rather than hard-pressed taxpayers, it should be the excess profits of the energy companies that pick up the tab?

And as for the Prime Minister’s flagship policy for families of a tax break for marriage.

Why won’t the Chancellor admit the truth and tell the Prime Minister that this policy won’t even help the families he claims it will?

Because his own Treasury Minister has finally let the cat out of the bag.

I have it here in black and white. The Exchequer Secretary says “just under one-third of… married couples” will get the married couples tax allowance. And just one in six families with children will benefit.

Contrary to the Prime Minister’s claim in this House a few weeks ago, a married couple where both are paying basic rate income tax will get no benefit at all.

No wonder, Mr Speaker, his own Chancellor has this week told the Daily Telegraph that he thinks the Prime Minister’s policy is, and I quote, ‘a turkey of an idea’?

A turkey! The Chancellor thinks the Prime Minister’s flagship policy is a turkey. Merry Christmas, Prime Minister, Merry Christmas.

On this one I think the Chancellor’s right – the Prime Minister’s policy is a turkey of an idea.

I have to say, Mr Speaker, on the cost of living crisis and energy, and on supporting families, this Government just doesn’t get it.

And there’s a reason why this Prime Minister and this Chancellor are so out of touch that they believe most people are better off: it’s because the people on their Christmas card list have seen their bonuses rise and their taxes cut this year?

We have a Prime Minister and Chancellor who will stand up for the energy companies, they’ll stand up for the hedge funds, they’ll stand up for people earning over £150,000 – who get a tax cut.

But they won’t stand up for the millions of families and pensioners in our country, people struggling with rising energy bills, falling wages and higher childcare costs.

We all know and agree that rising life expectancy means we are going to have to work longer and that the Chancellor’s failure on growth and the deficit over the last three years means more tough spending decisions to come in the next Parliament.

But when the country is crying out for a government that will work with business to promote investment and wealth creation and build an economy that works for the many and not just the few does this Chancellor really think he can get away with tinkering at the edges, let the free market rip and wait for wealth to trickle down?

Mr Speaker, isn’t what the Chancellor has announced today the clearest evidence yet that they just don’t understand the scale of the challenge we face if we are to secure an investment-led recovery that works for all and not just a few – a strong recovery that’s built to last?

So let me ask the Chancellor, with housebuilding under this Government at its lowest level since the 1920s, doesn’t he see: his Help to Buy scheme to boost mortgage demand can only deliver a strong and balanced recovery if – as we and the IMF have urged – he matches it with more supply by building more affordable homes?

And can he tell the House why has infrastructure output actually fallen by 15 per cent since 2010? No wonder the CBI is upset.

On investment, why hasn’t he used the money from the planned increase in spectrum licence fees to endow a proper Business Investment Bank?

On tax avoidance, can he tell the House why has HMRC reported that the amount of uncollected tax rose last year?

And with almost one million young people now unemployed, a record number of people who want to work full-time being forced to accept part-time work, the work programme a flop, the welfare bill rising, and, as we learned today, the Universal Credit in complete and utter chaos.

No mention of Universal Credit in the statement. IDS: In Deep.. Shambles.

Isn’t the fact Mr Speaker, for all the shambles and chaos and rising welfare bills, what he has announced on youth unemployment is too little too late?

Help only for the under 21s only happening in the last weeks of this government in 2015.

Why isn’t he being more ambitious? Why won’t he repeat the successful tax on bank bonuses to pay for a compulsory job for young people – a job they’ll have to take or lose benefit?

Why won’t he remove the winter allowance from the richest 5 per cent of pensioners?

And why won’t he reverse his tax cut for hedge funds and protect disabled people in our country by scrapping the unfair and perverse bedroom tax?

Why won’t he go further on the Bank Levy to expand free childcare for working parents and make work pay?

Can he confirm that, even after what he has announced today on fuel duty and his increases in the personal allowance his VAT rise, his cuts to tax credits and cuts to child benefit mean that on average families with children are worse off because of this Chancellor’s budgets. That’s the truth Mr Speaker.

Giving with one hand, taking away much more with the other.

Mr Speaker, energy bills still rising this winter, no real action to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, no proper plan to earn our way to rising living standards for all and not just a few. Surely Britain can do better than this?

This complacent Chancellor sits there and thinks he deserves a pat on the back. I have to say, with bank bonuses rising again and millionaires enjoying a big tax cut, this is a policy which is working for a few.

But, as this Autumn Statement shows, with this out of touch Chancellor and Prime Minister, hard-working people are worse off under the Tories.

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Show comments
  • Cosmo

    Cost of living crisis, blah, blah, blah. The old saying “you get the politicians you deserve” can’t be true. What could we possibly have done to deserve this t**t.

  • Rockin Ron

    I thought it was a good response from Ed Balls. The awkward fact that the Tories cannot deny is:

    ‘….on average working people in our country are £1600 a year worse off than they were when he (Osborne) and the Prime Minister took office.’

    That’s the line that the Opposition will take over the next 17 months in the run up to the 2015 General Election. They will maintain this is a hollow recovery because so few actually benefit from it. Hard one for Osborne to bat away.

    • Makroon

      You obviously like misleading soundbites. If you had paid attention to Andrew Neil’s discussion, you would have discovered that the situation is a mite more complicated than that. Disposable income, which is what really matters, is rising.

      • Deborah Rushton

        They might like to suggest that Makroon, but it is more spin and more lies!

        I live in a fairly middle class village, not that poor and destitute (apart from myself that is) and without fail nobody is enjoying life much and nobody is spending! All are finding things harder, the older ones are trying to help their kids who really ARE struggling with rents/mortgages and utility bills that are through the roof. NONE of us is feeling any benefit from the supposed “upturn”, instead most are still feeling far worse off than they were in 2010.

        If just ONE of the Tories or their cohorts could tell the truth! If just one was even concerned at the deaths their policies have caused, if just ONE were capable of empathy or even common sense then I might have some tolerance for them.

        As it is, I see them as evil, entirely driven by the mistaken idea that there is something to be proud of in unfettered wealth and privilege and to be ashamed of in being poor or disabled or even unemployed in a system designed by their ilk, that actually REQUIRES a large labour surplus in order to suppress wages!

        Neo-liberalism: the politics of greed, the politics of filth and the politics of REAL Victorian Values where kids starved and people lived on the streets!

        • Ronnie Strachan

          just as a carer in a home gets no credit from the family of an aged person’s family for cleaning the said old person’s body when they have made a mess – the Conservative Government never receive credit for clearing up the mess which inevitably the country is in, after Labour

        • Makroon

          The economy is growing, tax revenues are rising, the deficit is being reduced, more people are finding jobs, companies are doing better. None of that directly benefits me, but it puts the national economy in a much better place.
          What “benefits” were you expecting ? More bribes with your own taxes ?
          Your last two paragraphs are straight out of Karl Marx – you know, that drunken, skirt chaser, who was run out of Germany 160 years ago and decided to come to industrialising Britain, and write his nonsense, completely misunderstanding the industrial revolution – and that little mistake led to the death and misery of hundreds of millions !

    • Cosmo

      If you’re prepared to believe every misleading statistic Balls uses, you deserve – and will probably get – another Labour government. They can then set about digging another bloody great hole for us all.

  • Nicholas chuzzlewit

    Sixteen years of unremitting failure have included such lowlights as: failed banking regulation, co-authoring the destruction of private pension provision and a mighty contribution to a structural deficit of £180 billion. Whilst it was just a speech and thus not as devastating as his aforementioned destructiveness, this was in many ways his piece de la resistance. A wanton ignorance of economics and business blended with unparalleled arrogance and an inability to understand that debt cannot be repaid simply by creating even more debt. This was a mighty performance by an incompetent loser at the very bottom of his game. The Tories should go on their collective knees to whatever deity they favour and pray that this hopeless loser remains shadow chancellor of the exchequer.

    • HookesLaw

      The structual deficit was not 180 million. Estimates vary, but the overall deficit inherited was some 160 billion. Half of that is possibly the structural deficit.

      Back in 2010
      ‘The Treasury estimates the structural deficit will be 7.3% of GDP this year – out of a total deficit of 11.1%.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Apologies, I am sure Mr Balls could achieve that figure given the chance.

  • Neotelemachus

    In a word: Balls.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Let’s treat ourselves to two words: utter Balls.

      • Neotelemachus

        A truly shocking performance from the man who bears a great deal of responsibility for creating the mess, and has the sheer Balls to think he should be put in charge of the economy again. It saddens me that 35% of the British voting public would consider electing the shower of ineptocrats on the labtard benches.

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          You can see why Labour is so desperate to derail Gove’s education policies. It is vital that 35% is kept as ignorant as possible.

          • Neotelemachus

            But where is the fat stuttering idiot’s catamite? Surely there was enough charisma on display from his master to come here and tell us all? Tele? TELE? Where are you Idiot #1?

        • Makroon

          It was telling how, in the questions, Darling studiously distanced himself from Balls, asking a reasonable question with a measured tone, as did several other Labour MPs.

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            Excellent point. It would be an unmitigated disaster for the Tories if Miliband ‘grew a pair’ and sacked the imbecilic Balls whose only virtue is his ability to unify the entire House of Commons in an orgy of loathing.

  • RavenRandom

    Screaming, hopeless, woeful and witless. It saddens me that Miliband will probably sack him after this disastrous performance. Saddened because he’s such a gift to the Coalition.

    • Makroon

      The Labour benches were very embarrassed by this ridiculous pantomime.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Which made it even more enjoyable. Christmas has come early!

    • Swiss Bob

      Where’s our Stalinist hero to tell us what a genius Balls is?

      However, I can’t agree with your description of Balls’ performance, I really enjoyed it, it made me laugh.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Trying to absorb a difficult briefing at Labour HQ. Not easy when you have an IQ of 13 and you are trying to defend a witless, ‘shouty’, incompetent imbecile who has just delivered one of the great bravura performances of crass banality and ineptitude.

        • HookesLaw

          I have not seen it – presumably the delivery was more hysterical than the content. Which in itself was fairly banal.