The speech made by Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield, in the House of Commons on 23 February 2021.
I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Member’s Financial Interests.
The background to today’s debate is that no other Government in the western world have given such trenchant taxpayer support to their citizens. I read, as I am sure my colleagues did, the relaunch speech by the Leader of the Opposition, but it seemed to me that his guiding theme merely followed the defining levelling-up agenda of this Conservative Government.
I have no doubt that many speakers today will look at the last five years of this Government, but I would like to look at the first five years referred to in the motion, from 2010. When the coalition assembled in 2010, one in every three pounds of public expenditure was borrowed, and as a result of that difficult and dangerous financial position, tough decisions were taken about reductions in expenditure. Incidentally, the same fiscal tightening took place in Britain as took place in Obama’s America. As a result of those courageous decisions, six things happened, many of which were down to the skilful stewardship of George Osborne.
First, the UK had the strongest recovery among the G7 countries. More British jobs were created than under any other Government in history. By 2015, we had the fastest income growth among the lowest-paid 20% in the country. We had the most sustained and consistent fall in our deficit among the G7, and we introduced the national living wage. Meanwhile, the NHS performed more operations than ever before and crime fell in every year. The UK was the No. 1 recipient of inward investment in the G20.
Like many of us, but especially me, I am incredibly proud to have served in a Government who, in spite of the economic difficulties, refused to balance the books on the backs of the poorest people in the world and implemented our 0.7% promise on international development. I am proud it was a Conservative Government who finally implemented the promise to the world’s poorest to spend 0.7% of our gross national income on international development. I know that the Government are considering breaking this promise, a manifesto commitment that all of us entered into just over a year ago, but I urge them not to do so. We would be the only G7 country to take this action, while America is increasing its development spending by $15 million. Although it is £4 billion, which is a great deal of money, it is just 1% of what we have borrowed in the last year. It will result in hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths, mainly among children, and it will destroy a key and respected aspect of post-Brexit global Britain. I urge the Government, on this point, to think again.