Labour ‘not sticking to Conservative spending plans’, says shadow minister

A shadow Treasury minister has insisted Labour is “not sticking to Conservative spending plans”, amid fears of post-election cuts.

Darren Jones made the remark after it was put to him that the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has accused the two main parties of a “conspiracy of silence” about public spending after the election.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has said the current Government plans “imply no real growth in public spending per person over the next five years”.

Speaking during the fourth and final day of the Budget debate, Mr Jones said he is starting to “worry” about the “state of mind” of Conservative MPs.

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Labour MP Darren Jones said he is starting to ‘worry’ about the ‘state of mind’ of Conservative MPs (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

He told the Commons: “I’m not sure whether it is confusion, delusion or denial, but whatever it is I think they need an intervention from the public.”

Mr Jones said Conservative “confusion” relates to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt saying he had delivered a tax-cutting Budget, adding: “On Conservative delusion, the Chancellor called this a Budget for a long-term plan for growth, but in the middle of this recession the growth forecast per person was downgraded once again after seven quarters of previous decline.

“On Conservative denial, the worst of the three examples, the Conservative Party came out of the Budget promising to abolish national insurance contributions altogether; an irresponsible, unfunded, massive spending commitment costing £46 billion a year, and all without a plan to pay for it.”

SNP MP Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun), intervening, said: “In terms of denial, the Budget bakes in future post-election cuts of £19 billion to £20 billion and the IFS has said there’s actually a ‘conspiracy of silence’ from both the Conservatives and the Labour Party.

“The Labour Party has committed to sticking with Tory spending plans. In terms of the conspiracy of silence, is Labour going to keep the £20 billion of departmental cuts or going to raise funds to offset that?”

Treasury minister Laura Trott said the UK economy was ‘turning a corner’ (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Jones replied: “Two short answers. Firstly, we’re not sticking to Conservative spending plans and, secondly, the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) forecasts Conservative Party failure, not the success that the Labour Party will bring to this country and the economy.”

On Sunday, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said she is “under no illusions” about the scale of the public spending challenge she will face if she becomes chancellor, as she declined to rule out real-term cuts to some departments.

Opening the Budget debate on Tuesday, Treasury minister Laura Trott earlier said the UK economy is “turning a corner” before telling MPs: “Sadly, the Labour Party are putting this in jeopardy. The party opposite has no plan to cut taxes and can’t name a single one that they would cut.

“Instead, they’re trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes by pretending they’ll refinance their £28 billion-a-year plan to decarbonise. They themselves have said their pledge costs £28 billion a year and they are not, apparently, scaling their promises back.

“So, we all know what this means – more taxes for hard-working families. What the public and the House needs to know is this: which tax will they raise to pay for the plan and will they, if in government after the general election, stick to our spending plans set out in the Budget?”

The Budget debate also saw Lee Anderson take a seat on the opposition benches next to George Galloway during his first Commons appearance since joining Reform UK.

Mr Anderson, the MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire who is a former Conservative Party deputy chairman, sat on the back row of the opposition benches next to Mr Galloway, the new Workers Party of Britain MP for Rochdale.

Later in the debate, some Labour MPs urged their party to set out a bolder economic vision for the future of the UK if they were to come to power.

Liverpool Walton MP Dan Carden told the Commons: “It is vital that Labour rediscovers its own vocation as well as the virtues of vocation in the economy, and the stakes are very high indeed.”

Meanwhile, Zarah Sultana (Coventry South) compared the current economic situation to the aftermath of the Second World War, when the Attlee government came to power and “built the NHS”, urging Labour to “learn from the past to rise to the challenge”.