George Osborne’s Budget was a “culmination of six years of failures”, Jeremy Corbyn said today.
Speaking from the despatch box immediately after the Chancellor had given his speech, the Labour leader attacked the Tories over their failure to deliver for the NHS, housing and young people – leading to an economic recovery “built on sand”.
“The Budget the Chancellor has just delivered is actually a culmination of six years of his failures,” Corbyn said, during a punchy response.
“Failed on the budget deficit,” he said. “Failed on debt. Failed on investment. Failed on productivity. Failed on the trade deficit. Failed on the welfare cap. Failed on tackling inequality in this country.”
Corbyn also took hold of Osborne’s new mantra – the “next generation” – and co-opted it into his rebuttal, telling the Chancellor that “the next generation expects to be worse off than the last”.
“Let us harness the optimism, the enthusiasm, the hope and the energy of young people, not burden them with debts and unaffordable housing low wage jobs and zero hours contracts,” he said.
There were expectations that Osborne would seek to address the £22bn NHS budget deficit, and Corbyn picked up on the absence of an attempt to deal with the problem. “I didn’t detect much in this Budget that’s going to do much to resolve that crisis”, Corbyn understatedly told the Commons.
“The deficit has widened to its highest level on record, waiting times are up; the NHS is in a critical condition. Hospital after hospital is facing serious financial problems and is working out what to sell to balance its books. Our NHS should have the resources to concentrate on the health needs of the people, not having to get rid of resources in order to survive.”
Rather than delve into close detail in his response, Corbyn laid out a more general critique of the Government’s economic policies, saying that “the continuation of austerity announced today… is a political choice, not an economic necessity, and locks us into a continued cycle of economic failure and personal misery.”
And he said that Labour “will not stand by while more poverty and inequality blight our country. We will oppose those damaging choices and make the case for an economy in which prosperity is shared by all.”
Speaking after the Budget speeches this afternoon, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said that Osborne’s “economic credibility now is completely shot through.”
“At the core of the Budget is unfairness,” McDonnell said. “I think that is demonstrated through cuts to Capital Gains Tax… gains for the wealthy, paid for by cuts for people with disabilities.” He said that Labour would reverse cuts to disability benefits by restoring Capital Gains Tax to 28 per cent.