James slammed the Government's Budget in a debate in Parliament this week, defining it as a Budget of austerity, Brexit and calamity.
Read James's speech below.
An assessment of this Budget is as easy as a, b, c—austerity, Brexit and calamity. We have had seven years of bad luck for Britain from austerity, the Tories’ self-inflicted Brexit wounds and a calamitous Government with no distinction or record of leadership. There has been reboot after reboot for the Prime Minister, who has no control of her Cabinet. This is a Budget for the driverless car from a driverless Government. Our economy is staring, and yet stalling, at a crossroads. Forecasts have been revised down for five more years. Productivity is down, and real wages are down. Employment is strong, but in-work poverty is the child of this Government’s failed economic approach. The Budget sees the deficit revised up, with no easing of austerity, and inflation picks the pockets of hard-working families. Seven years in, all the pain is for nothing, and into a second scorned decade we go.
There is nothing in the Budget for business concerned by the Government’s no deal Brexit rhetoric; nothing for students plunged into debt; nothing for schools in the next two years, while they await the jam-tomorrow national funding formula; nothing for local authorities, such as mine in Bury, which has faced 70% cuts since 2010; nothing for social care or carers; nothing for the rise in crime or to cover for police pay rises; and nothing for mental health. Nothing has changed—nothing!
The bits the Chancellor did get right were the result of learned behaviour, although they were all nicked from the Labour party in a desperate attempt to pick the pieces out of their arrogant early election. To give some perspective, London’s Elizabeth line will cost £15 billion, but this Budget allocates just £1.7 billion to the English regions, including Greater Manchester.
We needed a Budget for Brexit, but this does not come close. The Chancellor shows no appreciation of the fact that the prism through which Brexit and this Budget play out for the rest of the country is increasing daily uncertainty, a thirst for vision and a practical guide to the future. We have a country mixed with impatience from leavers and anxiety from remainers, and the country is in need of unity. The Chancellor is not even out of first gear in demonstrating the threat that Brexit poses, and this Budget is insufficient in dealing with that task. On the referendum, this Government took a public result and shrouded their work to deliver it in secrecy, wasting all the time they have had since the result. We needed a Brexit Budget; instead, the Government published a UK industrial strategy yesterday, but they still refuse to publish in full their assessment of the UK sectors facing Brexit.
There is a promise to build infrastructure and to build 5G networks, but in some areas of Bury it is more Bee Gee than 3G.
The future of our economy relies not on Tory rhetoric from those on the Government Benches, but on brilliant businesses such as mine in Bury—for example, Milliken, which makes 80% of the airbags fitted to all cars in production; or Dream Agility, which is making possible Silicon Rammy in Ramsbottom. We have a Government who say little about what they want to achieve, and who have a tin ear about life away from Westminster. At its heart, Brexit for many of those who voted for it was, from the start, about kicking the status quo and giving a voice to the people left behind. For too many, this Budget still says nothing of their experiences of life, work and business in Bury or across Britain.