House of Lords
My Lords, at the time of his first Budget in June 2010, the Chancellor said:
“The most urgent task facing this country is to implement an accelerated plan to reduce the deficit”.
He committed himself to achieving a “cyclically-adjusted current budget balance”—the relevant part of that deficit standing at 4.8%—by the end of this Parliament.Instead, today, we still have a deficit of 2.8%. Of course, as a good politician, the Chancellor left himself wiggle room by talking about a “rolling five-year period” for achieving his goal. We are still rolling, but always “on target”. In last week’s Budget Statement he said that he will hit his original target three years late. He is like the runner, who, when the race is finished, gets to decideContinue reading...
I concentrate on one point: the Chancellor’s failure to meet his budgetary targets.
Growth has been revised up to 3% this year, to be followed by 2.4% 2015, 2.2% in 2016, 2.4% 2017, 2.3%, 2.3%, 2.3% 2019, and so on.
These estimates are not worth the paper they are written on, being conditional on all sorts of things unlikely to happen.
Their importance lies in the fact that they are the basis of the budget projections.
In 2010 Osborne forecast growth of 2.3% in 2010-2011, 2.8% 2011-12, 2.9% 2012-13. In fact it was 1.6% 2010-11, 2011-12, 0.7%, 2012-13 1.7%.
According to the Chancellor economy should have grown by 8.2 compounded; in fact it grew by 4.1%.
No wonder his deficit reduction plans went awry.
Agreed, that it was notContinue reading...
My Lords, a Bill on infrastructure that is mainly to do with the rearrangement of Whitehall agencies and minor improvements in planning application procedures invites the question of what the relationship is between its provisions and the promotion of investment in infrastructure.
My first point is that cutting public capital investment has been an integral part of the Government’s strategy for reducing the budget deficit—in fact, the only successful part. Gross public sector investment fell from £69 billion in 2009-10 to £45 billion in 2013-14 and has barely started to creep up. That is always how it happens. Cutting capital spending is much easier than cutting current spending. Private sector investment has not taken up the slack.Continue reading...
[Bracketed sections were omitted in the delivered speech due to time limits]
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, for introducing this important discussion. He has been rightly impressed by the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, that the state must play a key part in fostering innovation, and I agree with that. However, of course, that does not exhaust the role of the state in creating prosperity. In the last chapter of his General Theory, the economist Keynes pinpointed as,
“The outstanding faults of the … society in which we live … its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes”.
I believe that these are still the outstandingContinue reading...
| Tuesday, January 29, 2013
My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, in welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Deighton, to the Treasury Bench; I hope that he enjoyed the experience of renewed contact with the supervision of his former teacher.
When George Osborne took over the controls at the Treasury, he decided that fiscal policy would be governed not by the state of the real economy but by the state of the public finances, as measured by preset fiscal targets, particularly the rate of deficit reduction. Those targets were designed to reassure investors in government debt that the state was solvent and would remain so. Half-way through the life of this Parliament, we can say that the effects of that policy in terms of output and growth have been disastrous.Continue reading...