Gillian said: "We can change many things in this House. We can pass and change many laws, but the laws we cannot change are those of arithmetic. No matter how big the abacus, no responsible person can ignore the size of our country’s debt and the deficit we inherited. Our debt as a percentage of GDP was roughly 30% to 40% for decades, yet now, courtesy of the last Labour Government, compounded by a global recession, that debt is above 80% of GDP. Those figures alone should make it clear that borrowing more at this stage would be completely irresponsible.
How much does that debt cost us in interest payments? Currently we spend £48 billion servicing our debt. That is dead money. What else could we spend it on? There are many areas where we could use that extra cash. It is nearly half the NHS budget; that is a lot of doctors and nurses. It is more than our whole education budget; that is a hefty pay rise for teachers and more school facilities, with plenty of spare change.
I understand that many years of trying to live within our means is hard. However, the short-term happiness of spending will have dreadful consequences for our country’s finances and make things even harder. It would be the height of irresponsibility to mortgage our future, and there is no moral case for bingeing on the nation’s credit card, least of all when we are forcing others to pay the bill—namely, our children and grandchildren. As anybody who has ever got themselves into credit card debt will understand, it is impossible to pay back the original debt when all your cash is taken paying off the interest payments alone.
That would set us back just at the point when all our leading indicators are heading in the right direction: we have seen a significant reduction in the deficit, which is down by two thirds; unemployment is the lowest it has been for 40 years; the minimum wage is up by 26%; pensions are protected; 1 million new businesses have been created since 2010; and we continue to invest more in our NHS and schools. Those are signs not of a country living under austerity but a nation starting to prosper, despite the dreadful debt burden handed to us by the last Government"