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Budget 2015: Full text of Ed Miliband’s response

18 March 2015

3:32 PM

18 March 2015

3:32 PM

Mr Deputy Speaker, never has the gap between the Chancellor’s rhetoric and the reality of people’s lives been greater than it was today.

This is a Budget people won’t believe from a government that’s not on their side.

Because of their record.

Because of their instincts.

Because of their plans for the future.

And because of a Budget, most extraordinarily, that had no mention of investment in our National Health Service and our vital public services.

It is a budget people won’t believe from a government they don’t trust and this chancellor has failed the working families of Britain.

For the first time since the 1920s people are earning less at the end of a government than they were at the beginning.

People are £1,600 a year worse off.

The next generation has seen wages plummet and tuition fees treble.

They’ve built fewer homes than at any time for nearly a hundred
years.

And it’s certainly not a truly national recovery when there are more zero hours contracts than the population of Glasgow, Leeds and Cardiff combined.

That is the reality of the lives of working people

These are the inconvenient truths of his record.

It’s a recovery for the few.

From a government of the few.

He chose to make a number of references to me today.

But let me tell him, no-one’s going to take lectures on fairness from the Trust Fund Chancellor and Bullingdon Prime Minister.

And not for the first time this is a Budget from this Chancellor that simply won’t be believed.

We support a change on the personal allowance.

But on tax he gives with one hand and takes far more away with the other.

Nobody believes this Chancellor when he says he is going to cut their taxes.

Because that’s not what’s happened.

Not only are wages down by £1,600, but taxes are up.

24 tax rises.

Families worse off as a result of his measures on average by £1,127 a year.

The equivalent of 8p on the basic rate of income tax.

That is the reality behind the Budget that can’t be believed.

And everyone knows what’s coming if they were to get back in: another VAT rise.

The tax the Tories love to raise.

In the finest Tory tradition, deny it before an election and jack it up afterwards.

On living standards, which the Chancellor made much of in his speech, he knows that on the official measure people are clearly worse off under him.

So he had a bright idea.

To invent a new measure of living standards.

But people don’t need a new measure which pretends they are better off.

They need a new government to make them better off.

This is the reality behind the Budget that can’t be believed.

What about low pay?

The Chancellor poses today as the friend of the low paid. You couldn’t make it up.

I’m bound to ask, whatever did happen to the promise of a £7 minimum wage this year? The Chancellor made much of it 18 months ago.

He was going to have a £7 minimum wage and he has broken that promise, and the idea of the Chancellor of the Exchequer boasting about a 20p rise in the minimum wage expecting low paid workers to be grateful.

That is the reality behind a budget that cannot be believed.

Of course he doesn’t just now claim to be a friend of the low paid, he claims to be a friend of the North.

On the specifics we are pleased he has adopted our policy of 100 per cent business rates, councils being able to keep it.

But I’ve got to ask: why doesn’t he do it for every council right across the country, why is he just doing one?

Ah – “He’s done two” says the Chief Secretary, helpfully there.

Isn’t it great – the Liberal Democrats locked in the boot of the Conservative Party!

Let’s talk about what he has done to the North of England, let’s really test him out on whether he is a friend of the North.

75 per cent bigger cuts to local government budgets in the North than the rest of the country.

In the North West 400,000 working families have seen their tax credits cut. That is more than any other region.

In the North East he is spending £1 on transport for every £25 he spends in London.

Now he’s spent time in his praising Northern councils.

Let’s see what the Northern Councils have to say about him…

This is what the Leader of Leeds has said. The Chancellor “fails to deliver the devolution we need. This government is no friend of the north.”

Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, says that the Chancellor has “bludgeoned Liverpool. We’ve had 58 per cent of our funding taken away. Even Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask when he robbed people.”


For the interest of balance, I would have liked to have quoted a Conservative leader of a Northern city.

But there aren’t any.

And with these two in charge, there never will be either.

On tax avoidance, the gap between what is owed and what is collected is up not down.

And no wonder.

He hasn’t acted on tax havens despite the Prime Minister’s promises.

He didn’t act on HSBC – in fact he appointed the Chairman as a Minister.

He can’t act on hedge funds, when stamp duty avoidance is costing well over £1 billion a year.

He can’t act because they bankroll the Tory party.

He can’t act because they own him, lock, stock and barrel.

And the Conservative Party is the political wing of the tax avoidance industry.

And, of course, the biggest sleight of hand is on the deficit.

I think the Chancellor was doing a bit of rewriting of history today.

Five years ago, the Prime Minister said:

“We will balance the books in five years”

No ifs, no buts, no maybes – just like the immigration pledge.

Now today the Chancellor comes along to boast that he has halved the deficit.

But that is not what the Prime Minster used to say about halving the deficit.

He said it would be ‘completely inadequate’.

So let me get this straight. It has gone from ‘completely inadequate’ to a great triumph.

I don’t think that is going to wash with people.

The only thing long-term about his plan is it will take nearly twice as long to balance the books.

And it can’t be believed, Mr Deputy Speaker, because we’ve heard it all before.

Five years of promising a recovery for all.

Five years of delivering a recovery for the few.

And now he asks us to believe it all over again.

And the most unbelievable thing of all is their claim: we are “all in it together.”

They say:

Yes to the bedroom tax, no to the mansion tax.

Food banks on the rise, bank bonuses in their billions.

Taxes up for working families, taxes cut for millionaires.

The best thing you can say about the Chancellor and the Prime Minister is that when the removal van turns up, they really will be in it together.

His failure on living standards, on tax, on the deficit are all linked.

It is because our economy is too unproductive, too unbalanced and too insecure.

There are some things he didn’t mention.

Our productivity gap with the rest of the G7 is now the worst for quarter of a century on his watch.

The rebalancing he has promised hasn’t happened.

The Chancellor’s target for exports is set to be missed by over £300 billion.

And on this Budget’s growth figures he has overseen the slowest recovery for over 100 years.

That is the reality behind the Budget that can’t be believed.

For all the window dressing today, they can’t tackle insecurity at work because they think that’s how we compete.

They can’t make work pay, because they believe low pay is the way we succeed.

They can’t build an economy for working families, because they think wealth flows from the top.

Not for the first time the Chairman of the Conservative Party perfectly summed up Tory philosophy.

In his celebrated handbook ‘Stinking Rich 3’.

I’m not sure what happened to Stinking Rich 1 and 2.

Now the Chancellor announced a number of measures on savings, and I think it is very, very important that we look at the detail of these changes.

We do want people to have more flexibility, including on annuities.

I do say to the Chancellor he talked about advice in the annuity market, it is incredibly important that advice happens quickly because we have got rip-off merchants ready to pounce.

This is a very serious issue because we know it has happened before, it happened in the 1980s, a dreadful mis-selling scandal and the Chancellor needs to get proper regulation in place on these issues.

But we will look at the changes that he has talked about.

The glaring omission from this Budget statement was the National Health Service and public spending.

It was a completely extraordinary omission.

Where was that discussion of the National Health Service and investment in public services?

I think it is time we looked at the reality of this government’s spending plans.

Because this is the budget that can’t be believed, and he doesn’t want you to know it but he had an extreme spending plan yesterday.

And he has an extreme plan today.

He didn’t say it in his statement, but he can’t hide what is in his red book.

It is here in the red book in black and white on page 69.

It shows his plan for extreme cuts in the next parliament.

Table 2.4 of the red book shows he is trying to hide big cuts between 2015/16 and 2018.

So let me tell the House what the Chancellor tried to hide.

His plan offers at least as many cuts in the next parliament as this one and actually the pace of cuts in the next few years is faster than the cuts in the last few years.

So here’s the thing, and I think it is very important the country knows this.

He came along today to try and suggest that the pain was over. But if they get back, it isn’t.

Their failure on the deficit means they are planning massive cuts in the next parliament – billions of pounds of cuts in the next parliament.

And you might ask what is the evidence for it? There is a lot of evidence.

Let’s start with what the Prime Minister said in his education speech.

The Prime Minister came along in his education speech and he said they were going to cut the early years, they were going to cut schools, they were going to cut colleges.

Cuts in education spending: short-changing education today means we cannot build a recovery for all tomorrow.

It is most worrying of all on the National Health Service.

Because of these huge cuts they’ve announced – and the Members opposite will have to go and justify this to their constituents – because of the massive cuts they’ve announced, it means there will be colossal cuts planned and I emphasise planned in defence, in policing, in local government.

But they won’t be able to deliver those cuts so they will end up cutting the National Health Service.

That is the secret plan that dare not speak its name today. You can tell they are really worried about it.

And the Chancellor didn’t tell us that his plan also continues massive cuts to social care.

We’re already seen hundreds of thousands fewer elderly people being cared for.

And what is the lesson? That if you devastate social care, you betray the elderly and you pile unsustainable pressure on our NHS.

And these two come along promising more of the same.

That’s why you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.

We won’t sit by while people are on zero-hours contracts month after month, year after year.

We will legislate for a new principle that if you do regular hours you get a regular contract.

A Labour Government will make hard work pay again.

He talked about the minimum wage in his statement.

Let’s talk about what has happened on the minimum wage.

The minimum wage has gone up by just 70p in this parliament.

A Labour government will raise it by more than double that to a minimum wage of more than £8 an hour.

We will have a real industrial policy.

The Chancellor has been a particularly malign influence in this government on climate change.

The Prime Minister used to claim that he believed in climate change.

It is extraordinary, even by his standards, to put a wind turbine on your roof and then want a moratorium on wind turbines.

I know he is a stranger to consistency but even by his standards that is going some.

We will end the dabbling with climate change denial and have a proper Green Investment Bank.

And yes a Labour government will support the young, not make them pay the price of hard times.

We will ensure that every major government contract will guarantee apprenticeships and yes, we will cut tuition fees to £6,000 to reduce the burden of debt on young people.

And let the Deputy Prime Minster defend his broken promises on the doorstep.

And all of this will be underpinned by a balanced plan that cuts the deficit every year, protects education and health and has fairer taxes.

And I do believe in a progressive tax system:

Reversing his millionaires’ tax cut.

And abolishing the vindictive unfair Bedroom Tax.

That’s a Labour Budget.

From a Labour government that knows Britain only succeeds when working families succeed.

Now we know the choice at this election.

We’ve seen five years of falling living standards, young people paying the price of hard times and an NHS going backwards.

This Budget didn’t solve the problems facing working families.

It confirmed them.

Britain needs a better plan.

A plan for working families.

Britain needs a Labour government.


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