Labour urges Government to ditch economic target after Brexit


Labour is urging the Government to repeal a legally-binding commitment to get the country's books into surplus by the end of this Parliament.

Before becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May said she was ready to ditch the surplus target if it was necessary to avoid tax rises.

And in one of his last acts as Chancellor, George Osborne abandoned the goal, admitting it was no longer realistic in the face of the economic downturn expected after last month's Brexit vote.

Now shadow chancellor John McDonnell is calling on the Government to tear up the Charter for Budget Responsibility, passed by Parliament in October, which requires it to hit surplus by 2019/20 and maintain it every year after that "in normal times".

Labour is using an Opposition Day debate in the House of Commons to call on new Chancellor Philip Hammond to drop the "discredited" Charter, which Mr McDonnell warned would mean cuts in public investment if it stays in place.

Mr McDonnell said: "The Tories want to pretend to the British people that just because they had a change of Chancellor that they have had a change of policy, but the truth is that George Osborne's failed economic plan is carrying on under Philip Hammond.

"If this is not the case, then he can join with Labour in voting against the planned cuts to investment spending and in-work benefits that his predecessor announced in the Budget built on failure back in March.

"Phillip Hammond cannot keep saying he is waiting till the end of the year because the Government he was part of didn't plan for the fallout of Brexit from a referendum that they called.

"Britain is being placed on hold by the Tories, as there are families and businesses around our country who are planning ahead now, who cannot wait for the Chancellor to finally make up his mind."

Labour's motion calls on Mr Hammond to ditch October's Charter and bring forward an alternative "which provides the basis for stabilising our economy and provide long-term investment for growth".