Desperate Tory promises and why working families will pay the price – my speech in Birmingham

Thank you Jess for that introduction. Your values and passion and commitment to standing up for the working people of your city shine through everything you do.

Jess, you will be a brilliant MP for the Birmingham Yardley constituency.

And thank you to all of you for coming here today.

Just 21 days away from polling day in what is set to be the closest and the most important General Election of my lifetime.

All the party manifestos have now been published.

And there is a now clear choice for the British people in three weeks’ time.

A choice between Labour’s better plan for working people.

Or a plan from the Tories which has failed working families.

A choice between real, concrete, fully-funded pledges from Labour.

Or fantasy and unbelievable promises from the Tories.

So today, I will show how Labour’s better plan can and will be delivered because we’ve said exactly where the money is coming from for all our promises.

I will set out in detail how in marked contrast the Conservative Party manifesto contains billions of pounds of panicky promises with absolutely no idea where the money is coming from.

And I will explain how working families will end up paying the price again if the Tories win the election – because these £25 billion of unfunded promises are the equivalent of over £1400 a year for every working household in the UK.

Labour’s better plan is fully-funded

Labour’s manifesto, which Ed Miliband published on Monday, starts with a clear commitment on the first page. It says:

“Every policy in this manifesto is paid for. Not one commitment requires additional borrowing”

Three days on that Labour commitment remains unchallenged – even by the Conservative Party.

Because for every one of our manifesto promises, we have said exactly where the money is coming from:

-         On childcare, 25 hours of free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds to make work pay and help parents balance work and family life – fully paid for by raising the bank levy by £800 million;

-         Tax cuts for millions of working people on middle and low incomes through a lower 10p starting rate of income tax – including for over two million people across the West Midlands – fully paid for by scrapping the unfair marriage tax allowance which won’t help most married couples, let alone most families with children;

-         Business rates cut for 1.5 million small business properties – including 41,000 here in Birmingham and 171,000 across the West Midlands – fully paid for by not going ahead with the further cut in corporation tax for large firms;

-         A paid starter job for every young person out of work for 12 months or more, which they will have to take up – fully paid for by a one-off tax on bank bonuses;

-         Backing the next generation by cutting tuition fees to £6,000 a year and raising maintenance grants – fully paid for by restricting pensions tax relief for the highest earners and clamping down on tax avoidance;

-         A one year rail fares freeze – fully paid for by delaying road projects on the A27 and A358 for which the economic case is still uncertain;
-         1,000 extra border guards – fully paid for by a small charge on non-visa visitors to the UK;

-         And we will tackle disguised employment and scrap the shares for rights scheme so we can abolishing the unfair and hated bedroom tax. Our promise fully-funded.

-         And on the NHS, 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, cancer tests guaranteed in a week – a plan to save and transform our NHS – fully paid for by a mansion tax on properties over £2 million, a levy on the tobacco companies and closing tax loopholes. We are the only party with a fully funded plan to get extra investment into our NHS – with an extra £2.5 billion a year – and we’ll start straight away in our first Budget.

Every policy fully costed, fully funded, fully paid for with no additional borrowing.

Concrete promises which we can deliver and which we will deliver.

Tory plans don’t add up

And what a contrast to the Conservatives this week.

The Tories already have plans for extreme cuts – because they want to go beyond simply balancing the books in the next parliament.

Their plans mean deeper spending cuts in the next three years than the last five years.

They mean double the pace of spending cuts next year compared to this year.

And these numbers already include the independent Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts for economic growth under their plans.

As the OBR has said, George Osborne’s Budget plans will mean “a sharp acceleration” in cuts to public spending.

But since the Budget, the Tories have now made billions of pounds of panicky pre-election promises – with absolutely no idea where the money is coming from.

So today we are publishing an audit of the commitments made in the Conservative Party manifesto.

It’s based on costings from independent experts at the House of Commons Library, Treasury figures and figures provided by the Conservatives themselves.

It clearly shows that the Tories have made billions of pounds of commitments with no idea how to pay for them:

-         £8 billion in 2020 for the National Health Service. But the Tories haven’t said where the money is coming from. As Ed Miliband said this weekend, you cannot fund the NHS on an IOU.

-         A five year rail fares freeze which the Transport Secretary himself has admitted would cost £1.8 billion, £360m a year. But the Tories haven’t said where the money is coming from. Not a penny.

-         Three days a week of paid leave volunteering, which on a cautious basis we have assumed will have take-up of 50 per cent in the public sector and would cost £1.2 billion a year. But the Tories haven’t said where the money is coming from

-         A rise in the personal allowance to £12,500, which on the cautious assumption that it is not introduced until the last full year of the next Parliament would cost £6.5 billion a year. But the Tories haven’t said anything about where the money is coming from.

-         A rise in the higher-rate threshold to £50,000, which on the same basis would cost £3.9 billion a year. But again the Tories haven’t said where the money is coming from.

-         A housing policy which would cost £4.5 billion a year – and which some housing experts believe could cost even more than that. But the Tories have only identified funding of £100m a year.

-         And a childcare policy which costs almost £1 billion a year. But again, where the Tories have only identified £350 million of funding.

That all adds up to a total of £25 billion a year of promises which the Tories have simply not explained how they will pay for.


Working families will pay the price of the Tories’ plans

So with three weeks today until voters go to the polls, I say:

It’s time for the Tories to come clean.

It’s time for the Tories to come clean and explain:

Where is the money coming from?

How will you pay for your panicky promises?

And who will pay the price?

The Tories think they can get away with ducking these questions.
It’s no wonder David Cameron isn’t turning up to the debate tonight and has done everything he can to avoid a head-to-head debate.

But the Tories can’t just brush these questions under the carpet.

David Cameron used to say, before the last election, that no policies will be adopted until they have been properly costed”.

And he said the British people “aren’t fools” and that if you pretend as a politician you can wave some tax cuts at them and not tell them how they’re going to be funded they just won’t believe you”.

On the same day George Osborne said that if you could not explain how a tax cut was going to be paid for it was “a complete tax con, and all of us are going to have to pay with higher taxes later.”

Even as recently as January, David Cameron was saying “the real risk to the NHS is the risk of unfunded spending commitments bringing chaos to our economy”.

And just listen to what George Osborne said just three months ago:

Spending commitments are superficially attractive, they get ready applause from lobby groups, they get you headlines.

“But unfunded spending commitments are made with borrowed money and the price is paid by future taxpayers.

“Add all the spending commitments up and you get an unaffordable bill for Britain that threatens our economy”.

And that is exactly what he is now doing.

So I say to David Cameron and George Osborne:

Who will pay the price of these £25 billion of promises which the Tories can’t say how they will pay for?

David Cameron and George Osborne say ‘look at our track record’.

And their track record shows it won’t be those with the broadest shoulders who will be asked to make a bigger contribution.

Just look at how they have given a huge tax cut to millionaires, opposed Labour’s mansion tax for the NHS and refused to repeat the bank bonus tax.

And just look at how they have asked working people to pay more by raising VAT and cutting tax credits.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, £1100 a year more on average for every household.

So everyone knows it will be working families who end up paying the price again if the Tories win the election.

The Tories have now racked up £25 billion a year of promises which they refuse to explain how they will pay for.

£25 billion is the equivalent of £1,439 a year for every working household in Britain.

That’s the price working families will pay under the Tories for panicky promises made in the middle of a desperate Tory campaign.


Independent audits by the OBR

It shouldn’t be like this.

Two years ago I said the Office for Budget Responsibility should be allowed to independently audit the manifesto spending and tax commitments of the main parties.

It’s a move which I believed would have helped improve trust in politics and the quality of debate in this election campaign.

We challenged George Osborne to back this move and give the OBR the power to do this.

He repeatedly blocked this idea. And now we know why.

Because he did not want the OBR to confirm that every spending and tax commitment in Labour’s manifesto is indeed fully funded.

And he did not want his own Tory manifesto subject to independent scrutiny.

And you know, it’s also clear why the Chancellor was not able to announce any of these commitments in his Budget last month.

Because he did not want them to be scrutinised by the OBR. He did not want the OBR to say that his sums don’t add up.

So Labour will make sure that in the future this cannot happen again.

We will legislate not only to allow the OBR to independently audit the manifesto spending and tax commitments of the main parties where they want that to happen. We will legislate to require the OBR to do so.

And today I call on the other main political parties to say whether they will support this vital legislation so this cannot happen again.

But George Osborne’s failure to let the OBR audit our manifestos doesn’t mean he will escape scrutiny now.

For the next three weeks we and the British people will challenge them every day to explain:

How will you pay for your promises?

Where is the money coming from?

And how can anybody trust you will deliver on these promises when you cannot explain how they will be paid for?

Day after day Tory Cabinet Ministers have appeared on the TV and failed to answer these questions.

18 times George Osborne was asked on Sunday how he will pay for his last minute pledge on the NHS and 18 times he could not answer.

The Tories are trying to take the British people for fools.

They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

They won’t be allowed to get away with it.

And in the future we’ll make sure they can never try to pull the same trick again.


Conclusion

So at the end of this manifesto week the choice is now clearer than ever.

A choice between Labour’s better plan for working people, or a Tory approach for a few, not the many.

A choice between Labour’s concrete and fully-funded pledges which do not require any extra borrowing.

Or the Conservative Party’s desperate and unbelievable promises which the Tories won’t tell us how they will pay for.

Desperate and unbelievable Tory promises which we all know would end up with working families once again paying the price – £1400 a year for every working household in the UK.


That is why we need a Labour government.
Because our NHS and working families can’t afford five more years of the Tories.

Thank you

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Posted April 16th, 2015 by Ed