McDonnell sets three tests for Tory budget on austerity, poverty and climate

Elliot Chappell
© UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

John McDonnell is planning to set out three tests against which Labour will judge the first budget of this Conservative government.

The Shadow Chancellor will comment on how the opposition will assess the statement, due to be delivered by Rishi Sunak in parliament on March 11th, during a debate on Tuesday.

The three tests will relate to whether the budget firstly ends and reverses austerity, secondly lifts people out of poverty, and thirdly adequately responds to the threat of climate change.

McDonnell is expected to say that over the next few days Labour will set out the issues that the government needs to address to tackle “the social and climate emergencies”.

The Shadow Chancellor will say: “At present, we have a government that has proved to be incapable of caring for our people, housing our people, feeding them or providing the work that will lift them and their families out of poverty.

“These will be the key tests of the forthcoming budget: Will it really end and reverse the decade of austerity cuts imposed upon our communities by the Tories? Will it ensure that our people are properly cared for, housed, fed and have secure employment that will help lift them out of poverty?

“And yes, of course alongside all this, in a week where we have again seen the Prime Minister’s failure to respond to flooding that has damaged so many of our people’s lives, the overriding test is: will it tackle the existential threat of climate change?”

Last week, Jeremy Corbyn criticised Boris Johnson over his response to flooding caused by Storm Dennis, and in particular his failure to visit affected communities.

McDonnell will add: “The forthcoming budget will be a test of whether the Tory Party has turned a page. From the evidence so far it is looking like more Johnsonian bluster.

“Nothing on the scale needed to even address in any serious way the damage Conservative governments over the last decade have inflicted on our communities. And certainly nothing on the scale needed to tackle the climate crisis.

“We await to see whether in this budget the government will at long last confront effectively the scandal of tax avoidance and evasion. I am not holding my breath.”

The 2019 Tory manifesto pledge of an increase in the threshold at which people pay national insurance contributions is expected to be included in the budget.

The government also committed to tackling the crisis in social care by promising an additional £1bn of funding for local authorities in the Queen’s speech.

Pre-budget analysis from the Resolution Foundation has suggested that the government could increase spending to allow it to rise above £1tn by 2024.

However the think tank has said that this would likely require additional tax increases, unless the budget rules drawn up by Sajid Javid are to be broken.

Javid was replaced by Rishi Sunak during the last cabinet reshuffle. He resigned as Chancellor when told to sack all of his advisors by the Prime Minister.

The comments from McDonnell about the budget are expected to be made during a debate in the House of Commons on tax avoidance and evasion.

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