The date of what inevitably became known as the mini-Budget was set for Sept 23. In hindsight, perhaps we could have delayed it for a few days. However, much longer than that would have meant not sticking to our commitments.
There were concerns in some quarters that the announcement would not be accompanied by forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). However, the OBR’s core purpose is to produce twice-yearly forecasts on whether the Government is on track to meet its fiscal targets. Commissioning a report at that juncture would not have been appropriate, given that the forecast would have been unable to take into consideration the future spending decisions we planned to outline in the Medium Term Fiscal Plan a few weeks later.
It’s also worth recalling that no OBR forecast has accompanied many other fiscal announcements, not least the Covid-19 furlough scheme, which cost £70 billion.
As I had spelled out during the leadership campaign, I wanted to go for growth by reversing the proposed rises to corporation tax and National Insurance and implementing a programme of economic reform in order to prevent recession and stagnation and put the UK on a positive path.
But this was not in line with the instinctive views of the Treasury or the wider orthodox economic ecosystem.
I saw first-hand during my two years as chief secretary to the Treasury that pessimism and scepticism about the growth potential of the British economy are sadly endemic at the Treasury: serious planning reform was dismissed as not politically deliverable; discussing monetary policy was a taboo; deregulation of financial services and other industries was viewed as undermining the prospects of a deal with the EU; and Brexit was seen as a damage-limitation exercise rather than a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
Instead, the focus from the Treasury was on micro, top-down tinkering such as productivity initiatives trying to encourage firms to become more efficient, along with government intervention.
Our Plan for Growth was a conscious break from this orthodoxy – focused instead on stimulating competition and economic freedom with incentives from the ground up. The plan comprised the energy package, reversing the tax rises, some additional tax simplification measures, and a package of economic reforms to help grow the economy and build long-term gains in its growth potential.