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The Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Deborah Carpenter, gave a speech at Mansion House in London, outlining the Conservative Party's Alternative Budget (permission from Sinan). She then took questions from the press (taking place on Discord).
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the election, my Conservative colleagues and I warned of the dangers of allowing Labour back into the Exchequer. The chaos we have seen has proved our warnings right severalfold, and in a more haphazard and incompetent way than I had ever dared to even fear.
The hard-left forces driving this Labour-led Government began seeking to returning the Exchequer to the policies of tax, borrow and spend; the recipe that led to the deepest recession since the Second World War. The supposedly responsible force of the Liberal Democrats have instead been found asleep at the wheel; allowing Labour, unconstrained, to charge full steam ahead with tax increases on entrepreneurs, sapping investment, a hike in the Bank Levy, taking direct aim at one of the key sectors of the British economy, and spending at a rate that threatens to undo the hard work of bringing down the deficit. This then devolved into utter bedlam, as an incompetent Chancellor mangled these bad policies so horrifically that it led to his firing by a reluctant Prime Minister, seeking to free her Government from the wreckage.
It is clear, ladies and gentlemen, that what is required at this time is sober thought, rational action and a long-term economic plan. Therefore, I am pleased to reveal the Conservative Party's Alternative Budget. Our alternative plan shows how responsible government should be shepherding the public finances to reduce the deficit, cut taxes and deliver stronger public services. As a Conservative budget, it of course continues to pay down the deficit, on a schedule that would see the deficit eliminated by 2018, just as promised. You can only have strong and effective public services if the public finances are under control, and that is what the Conservatives deliver. Thanks to the work of the last four years, the effort to bring down the deficit means that we can present an Alternative Budget that focuses on investment: in business, in infrastructure, in education, in healthcare and in the green economy.
We understand that in order for Britain to succeed, our nation's businesses must succeed. That is why our Alternative Budget invests in business. By cutting taxes on businesses, and rejecting the Government's tax rises, we are creating the space and freeing the funds to allow businesses to invest, to grow our economy and to create jobs. We would cut Corporation Tax on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, as promised in our manifesto, and reject the Government's Capital Gains Tax hike. Similarly, we would reject the Government's Bank Levy increase. Now is not the time to apply a brake to a major sector of the British economy, an important employer, vital provider of tax revenues and a net exporter. The City of London is recognised global as a powerhouse of financial services, and to jeopardise that status for partisan populist political ends is downright dangerous for the nation's economic prospects.
We understand that in order for Britain to succeed, we must have the infrastructure to facilitate it. That is why our Alternative Budget invests in transport links, communications and housing. In our increasingly global and ever-smaller world, internet access is simply vital in modern society. Rural areas often suffer from poor internet connections, and risk being cut off from the advances our globalised future provides. The Conservatives would establish a Universal Broadband Guarantee fund, providing £750m to ensure that no person in this country is left behind by the technological revolution. While internet connectivity is important, there we always be a need for transport. Whether to dispatch freight, conduct meetings or simply to visit friends or relatives, this country needs a properly functioning transport infrastructure. In many rural areas, the car is the only option, and so the Conservatives would boost investment in roads by 10% in real terms. Public transport is also vital, however, so we would also boost investment our railways. This investment would be especially targeted towards the North of England, where rail development is in particular need. The Trans-Pennine electrification will benefit rail passengers in Liverpool, Manchester and into Yorkshire, to Leeds, York and Hull. The “Electric Spine” will go down through the country, from Sheffield, through the East and West Midlands, Derby, Nottingham and Coventry, down via Oxford to the Port of Southampton on the south coast. These investments will give railway users faster, longer, more frequent and more reliable services. Furthermore, the Conservatives would freeze rail fares this year, to provide respite to Britain's commuters.
We understand that in order for Britain to succeed, we need an education system that prepares young people with the knowledge and skills that they need to enter the world of work. That is why our Alternative Budget invests in education at all levels. A 10% real terms boost means more funding for the children most in need of a helping hand through their education and for their schools. For academic students, a freeze in tuition fees will help manage the cost of a Higher education, while increased grants ensure that universities get the funding they need. And, to support the less academically inclined but more practically-minded students, an 10% increase in apprentice numbers, on the way to delivering our manifesto promise of 3 million more apprentices in 5 years of Conservative Government.
We understand that in order for Britain to succeed, we need the people of Britain to live healthy lives. That is why our Alternative Budget invests in our National Health Service. Labour tells a lot of stories about our time in government, but the fact of the matter is that health spending rose in real terms right across our time in office. Our Alternative Budget continues that investment. We would make a £3bn investment this year, which would put us ahead of our target to invest £10bn in the NHS by 2017. Primary Care is the bedrock of the NHS, being the entry point into the health service for the vast, vast majority of patients in need of treatment. The Government's budget ignored Primary Care, but the Conservatives will not. We would invest £400m more than the Government this year alone into improving GP services, expanding clinics and updating equipment. Hospitals will also receive a real terms boost to their funding, with more beds, improved equipment and an expended mental health budget. Unlike Labour, who would leave the health service with 2,000 too few nurses, the Conservatives would make sure that new hospitals have the staffing they need to operate. Conservative stewardship of the economy means that we are able to invest in public services in this way without risking the country's financial future.
We understand that in order for Britain to succeed, we need an environment that sustains us and the globe. That is why our Alternative Budget invests in the green economy. It invests in energy efficiency schemes to help individuals and businesses get the most out of the energy they use. That cuts down on emissions from energy generation and brings down people's bills. It invests in the Green Investment Bank, which provides funding for both expanding established forms of renewable energy and also supporting innovative new methods of generating, storing, distributing and using energy. And, it invests in international climate credits, which subsidise emission reduction projects in developing nations. Climate change is a global problem, and so requires global solutions. Taking steps at home while providing support elsewhere is the right approach to tackling climate change.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Conservative Party's Alternative Budget is a competent and responsible plan for Britain's economic future. It balances the need to pay down our debts, not leaving our children saddled with debt, with the need to invest to grow our economy, create jobs and run effective public services. Our Alternative Budget invests in business, in infrastructure, in education, in healthcare and in the green economy, and keeps the sort of control of the public finances that allow us to pay our way in the world. Now, more than ever, we need clear thought and clear action, following a clear plan for Britain's future. The Conservative Party's Alternative Budget is that plan.
Sir Geoffrey Birch | Conservative Party
MP for Bexhill & Battle (2001-present)
Former MP for Northampton South (1983-1997)
Parliamentary experience: Novice (28)
Media experience: Novice (22)
Policy experience: Unknown (12)
Formerly: Deborah Carpenter, Conservative, MP for Hertford & Stortford, Former Chancellor of the Exchequer
This is an excellent speech and your answers in your press conference were well done. You get positive write-ups in most of the press (well, apart from the usual suspects). There is a bit of discussion in the press about how much your Budget really represents a departure from the previous government's policy - and therefore how electorally viable it is. But in contrast to the Budget shambles from the government, there really isn't much competition anyway.