Andrew Marr: Good morning, this is the Andrew Marr Show. On today's programme:
- The Budget is coming in on 22 November and we have Treasury Secretary Sajid Javid to give us a preview of what the Government is planning for the economy in the next fiscal year.
- Is Keir Starmer an effective enough SDLP Leader? New polling shows the Social Democrats behind by nearly 8 points, and a lost election in 2017 could spur a leadership spill in 2018. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry is in to say if she does or does not support Sir Keir in his current position.
- Is the Government sacrificing security for taking in migrants from Dromund Kaas? After the terror attack this fall in Piccadilly Circus, is the Government not doing enough to keep Britain safe?
All that and more on the Andrew Marr programme.
AM: First, we know that the Budget is coming up so the Exchequer has sent out allies to set the groundwork for expectation on the budget. I'm pleased to welcome Sajid Javid, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and former Chancellor of the Exchequer. Welcome to the programme, Chief Secretary.
Sajid Javid: Happy to be here, Andrew.
AM: The Budget is set to be handed down from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, in about 17 or so days. Is there anything that we should be looking for in the economy that the Government will be moving towards?
SJ: Well, first I'd like to say that as you know, I can't say what's in the Budget until it has been handed down by the Chancellor. What I can say is that there's a lot of good ideas bouncing around the Treasury and Cabinet, and we will be looking to continue the Government's programme of creating a Britain that works for everyone. That means we'll be backing British business, improving British infrastructure, and giving our children and workforce the education it needs to meet the demands of the 21st century.
AM: The biggest criticism that the Government has faced is that wages have been growing slower than at historical levels in Britain. What will you do to solve that problem?
SJ: Well, what I can say is that we have the highest amount of people in work in our peacetime history. We have more people making more money than ever before. Average wages are at £50,200 now, the highest its ever been. We have the strongest currency in the European Union, with many more people investing in government bonds on the LSE. We are a powerhouse economy, and the Government simply wants to ensure a steady hand is at the helm making the investments to magnify the effect of this time for our children and grandchildren. That includes the National Broadband Network, which has now been in effect for two years now and has seen internet speeds and access boom across the United Kingdom...
AM: But what about those who feel they are stuck at the bottom of the wage ladder?
SJ: Andrew, let me finish. We are investing in the infrastructure needed to continue to have good, high paying jobs for everyone in the United Kingdom. That's the goal of this Government. So I'd respond to that claim with evidence that we are building economically sound policies that will bring greater economic stability and growth for the future and that the growth of the country will lift wages naturally.
AM: But the bottom 10% are at £19,400 annually and the richest 10% start at £112,600 and are concentrated mostly in the south east. Surely, those people who want wealth to spread and prosperity to spread will be upset that you haven't made many investments north of London since coming into power.
SJ: I disagree with that claim, Andrew...
AM: Then what would you tell the people who think that way?
SJ: The Government has put in the Universal Credit to help people out of poverty with the freedom to invest in whatever they like. We've heard people have used it to buy groceries at the supermarket or as a down payment on their first home or a new car. That is what welfare is intended to do, Andrew. Lift people out of poverty and give them the tools to better their lives. We've paid for it through closing income and corporation tax loopholes on the biggest businesses and the highest income earners.
AM: Universal credit is means tested though, meaning that as people earn more, they get less. That kind of squeeze on people's incomes surely is not something that will help the bottom percentages of British income earners.
SJ: No, that's not our policy at all. Yes, the Universal Credit is means tested, but that also allows us to guarantee a basic rate of £1,000 to every household income under £30,000 a year. We are a One Nation conservative Government that wants to give people the means to get on in life without endless interference of the state. As such, we definitely subscribe to the way that the Universal Credit has been settled.
AM: The Office for National Statistics has said that the UK loses nearly £15 billion annually due to lack of proper infrastructure, particularly in transportation. The Government has built the expansion on London Stansted and Gatwick, giving London 3 major airports. High Speed 2 has been completed, with High Speed 3 spurs continuing to Edinburgh via Leeds-Newcastle and Dublin-Glasgow via Blackpool estimated to be completed next year and High Speed 4 to Cardiff wrapping up in 2020. All of these projects put together has cost nearly £150 billion over the course of the 15 years of their construction, starting from the previous SDLP Government. Many would rather see a widening of existing railways under National Rail, something that the Transport Secretary could do today...and also the expansion of motorways, particularly around major cities in Britain.
SJ: Why not do all of it? The Government is committed to, over the course of the next 10 years, £120 billion in projects jointly funded by the Government and by the UK Infrastructure Bank, established under this Government. It is right to tackle all 3, and at £12 billion annually, it is the right thing to do to make sure we have transportation infrastructure to not only get goods to port, but also to get people across the country to greater economic opportunity, greater cultural opportunity.
AM: Most of the time, the Liberal Governments of the past would be cutting taxes, traditional Tory pledges to reduce public spending. Adding that £12 billion there, promises to increase NHS spending by £2 biillion, defence spending at nearly £390 billion annually....will you be spending more or less than the £1.5 trillion target you have set for yourself as a Government on budgets?
SJ: I cannot say anything about that due to market sensitivity, but we will make sure that the Government lives within its means and that we do not saddle the future of our country with great big heaps of debt. We want to get to 40% of GDP by 2020, and the Government will do everything it can to meet that target.
AM: Like what?
SJ: Prudent fiscal responsibility.
AM: So higher taxes or cutting public services and spending?
SJ: Andrew, I have already said I cannot comment. What I can say is that the Government will show its record on prudent fiscal responsibility to be accurate and we will continue to find economies where we can without sacrificing the world-class public services that the United Kingdom is known for like the National Health Service.
AM: I do think we're out of time. Thank you...Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Sajid Javid.
SJ: Thank you, Andrew.