Nicola was in the House of Commons Chamber on the afternoon of Wednesday 25th November to hear the Chancellor of the, Rt Hon George Osborne MP, deliver his Autumn Statement and Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).
The Chancellor set out the state of the UK economy and the results of the CSR which detail the Government’s spending plans for the next five years. In total, the Spending Review commits £4 trillion pounds over the next five years.
George Osborne told MPs that the UK economy is predicted this year to grow by 2.4%. Growth is revised up from the Budget forecast for the next two years; to 2.4% in 2016 and 2.5% in 2017. In addition, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts debt this year to be lower at 82.5% of national income and this is predicted to fall to 71.3% by 2020-21.
As Chair of the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, Nicola has particularly welcomed the news that the Government will be increasing the science budget in real terms up to £4.7 billion over the course of this Parliament. Nicola’s Committee recently published their first report, The Science Budget, which showed how inflation had chipped away at the science budget over the last five years, causing its real world value to fall by around 6%, and warning against a ‘flat cash’ settlement. The Committee will be examining the detail of the announcement over the coming days.
In addition, the Government will be implementing the recommendations of Paul Nurse’s review of Research Councils; increasing spending on Catapult centres, and protecting the cash support given through Innovate UK. Nicola has reiterated the Committee’s call for a long-term road-map to raise public and private sector science spending to 3% of GDP, aspiring to match the higher science investment of rivals like Germany and the US.
She intervened in the debate following his statement to ask the following question:
I thank the Chancellor for listening to the Science and Technology Committee and protecting science and innovation spending, which will mean more high-value jobs, higher productivity, and more inward investment. However, does he agree with us that we will realise the full value of this settlement only with better co-ordination between capital and resource allocations so that our researchers and innovators achieve their full potential for the United Kingdom?
I thank my hon. Friend for her words of support and for the work that she has done as Chair of the Science and Technology Committee. She made exactly the same point to me in person—that as well as providing capital support for science, we had to provide resource support to make sure that the facilities were well funded and could operate throughout the year. That is why we have increased the science resource budget and made sure that it now goes up in real terms. I know that she will want to look at Paul Nurse’s report, which is about making sure that we better co-ordinate our scientific research activity across the country.
The Chancellor announced a number of reforms and protections which Nicola has welcomed. There will be no cuts to police funding; protection for the schools budget and the phasing out of the current school funding formula; planned reforms to tax credits are to be scrapped; the housing budget is to be doubled; there is extra funding for flood defences; and reforms to deliver promises on new apprenticeships.
Of course, difficult decisions are still having to be taken by the Government. Ministers must deliver on their promise to make £12 billion of welfare savings, and are having to make savings across Government departments. Nicola looks forward to hearing more on the Chancellor’s spending plans and the details of this afternoon’s announcments.
I welcome many of the measures announced by the Chancellor today, in particular his commitment to protect the science budget in real terms over the course of this Parliament. It is clear that spending on science and innovation is not a state subsidy, it is a strategic investment that creates high value jobs, boosts productivity and attracts inward investment.
All departments are having to make savings and reforms must be delivered within budgetary constraints, but I am greatly encouraged by the Chancellor’s decision to protect police funding in the wake of the Paris attacks, introduce a fairer funding formula for schools, something I have long campaigned for, and double the budget to deliver much needed new affordable homes.
I will be examining the details of his announcements and continue to liaise with Ministers to ensure local residents are fully represented.
To read the Chancellor’s statement in full, and for associated documents follow this link: Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015