Belfast Telegraph

Jeremy Corbyn accuses Philip Hammond of 'utter complacency' in Budget

Jeremy Corbyn has accused the Chancellor of delivering a Budget showing "utter complacency" over the state of the economy.

The Labour leader claimed Philip Hammond failed to understand the realities of daily life for millions of people and the "crisis" facing public services.

He added the economy is not working for several areas of society.

Mr Corbyn said: "This was a Budget of utter complacency about the state of our economy.

"Utter complacency about the crisis facing our public services and complacent about the reality of daily life for millions of people in this country.

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

Mr Corbyn highlighted the plight of people struggling for work, to make ends meet, to pay their mortgage and those who have to queue at food banks to feed themselves and their families.

He added: "Last night over 4,000 people will have slept rough on the streets of this country.

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

"For millions it is simply not working."

Mr Corbyn highlighted groups of people he believed would not be helped by the Budget.

He said: "A million elderly people, and I will come on to this again, denied the social care they need due to the £4.6 billion cuts made by your 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.

"That is the reality facing Britain today."

He accused the Government of "cutting services and living standards of the many to fund and continue to fund the tax cuts of the few".

He suggested the wealthiest are in line to receive £70 billion in "tax giveaways" over the next five years as he also took aim at the Government for failing to bring forward the money needed to help people affected by changes to personal independence payments (PIP).

He said: "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."

Mr Corbyn accused the Government of failing workers, who face falling living standards, low pay and poor job security.

He said: "We are 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 pressure on people's incomes, massively rising personal debts, rising energy bills and the cost of the weekly shop, transport costs and housing costs rising."

He said it was a particular "insult" to workers in the public sector, who he said were working harder than ever to make up for cuts to staff.

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

As he left the chamber, former chancellor George Osborne could be seen tapping Mr Hammond on the shoulder and giving him a thumbs-up.

As he continued his reply, Mr Corbyn outlined the Government's failure to deliver for women in the Budget, or to address the housing crisis.

"Women's lives have been made more difficult through successive policies of this Government," said Mr Corbyn.

He highlighted cuts in social care, benefits and the gender pay gap, as well as the Waspi women campaign over the state pension age.

"If this wasn't bad enough, to cut benefits to children whose only crime is to be born third or fourth in a family," said Mr Corbyn.

"Most shamefully, 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."

On housing, Mr Corbyn cited the Chancellor's failure to allow local authorities to borrow to build more council houses, and the fact that the Treasury has taken back more than £800 million from council housing sold under the Right to Buy scheme.

He also criticised proposals to end automatic entitlement to housing benefit for some 18 to 21-year-olds.

The creation of a new generation of grammar schools was branded a "vanity project" by the Labour leader.

Mr Corbyn said: "Over the coming years the schools budget is being cut by 8%. Does the Chancellor really want fewer teachers and teaching assistants, 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 planting 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."

Treasury Select Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie said the Chancellor does not have "very much room for manoeuvre", noting he is "pretty heavily boxed in".

The Tory MP for Chichester said: "I see (Mr Hammond) nodding in agreement.

"On the spending side, three-quarters of public spending is covered by manifesto pledges and so every round of savings has to fall on a progressively smaller area, which makes it very painful for it to absorb.

"And on the tax side, he's just as constrained - I would say even more - because he's inherited the tax lock ... and a commitment to reduce corporation tax to 15%.

"That puts over 80% of revenue beyond his reach should he need to raise more money later."

He added: "All those tax-and-spend pledges of course are the fallout of an electoral bidding war; dealing with that is a matter for another day."

Labour former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie accused Mr Hammond of breaking a 2015 manifesto pledge over National Insurance contributions.

He asked Mr Tyrie: "On the point about the increase in National Insurance contributions for the self-employed, don't you think that the Chancellor needs to explain why he's breaking a manifesto promise made in the 2015 general election manifesto on that?"

Mr Tyrie said he would look at how Mr Hammond's policy is linked to the manifesto pledge.

The SNP's economic spokesman Stewart Hosie bemoaned the apparent lack of references to Brexit in Mr Hammond's Budget.

He suggested "Brexit was the word that dare not speak its name".

"The key point I wish to make is about Brexit, a hard Tory Brexit, the elephant in the room, barely mentioned by the Chancellor is approaching quickly," he said.

"It means we do revert to WTO rules with all of the tariffs and all the regulatory barriers if a better deal cannot be struck.

"I have no confidence at all in the ability of this Government to deliver that deal.

"There is no guarantee a deal will be done and if the Chancellor expects the plans today can cope with the consequence of a cliff edge Brexit which the Prime Minister plans then the whole Government are in for a very rude awakening."

Mr Hosie warned the UK is "completely unprepared" for the "economic tsunami" set to be unleashed by Brexit.

The debate adjourned and will resume on Thursday.

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