In the face of unprecedented global headwinds, families, pensioners, businesses, teachers, nurses and many others are worried about the future, so today we deliver a plan to tackle the cost of living crisis and rebuild our economy. Our priorities are stability, growth and public services. We also protect the vulnerable, because to be British is to be compassionate and this is a compassionate Conservative Government.
We are not alone in facing these problems, but today we respond to an international crisis with British values. We are honest about the challenges and we are fair in our solutions. Yes, we take difficult decisions to tackle inflation and keep mortgage rates down, but our plan also leads to a shallower downturn, lower energy bills, higher growth, and a stronger NHS and education system.
There are three priorities then today: stability, growth and public services. I start with stability. High inflation is the enemy of stability. It means higher mortgage rates, more expensive food and fuel bills, businesses failing and unemployment rising. It erodes savings, causes industrial unrest and cuts funding for public services. It hurts the poorest the most and eats away at the trust upon which a strong society is built.
The Office for Budget Responsibility confirms that global factors are the primary cause of current inflation. Most countries are still dealing with the fallout from a once-in-a-century pandemic. The furlough scheme, the vaccine roll-out and the response of the NHS did our country proud, but they all have to be paid for. The lasting impact on supply chains has made goods more expensive and fuelled inflation. This has been worsened by a made-in-Russia energy crisis.
Putin’s war in Ukraine has caused wholesale gas and electricity prices to rise to eight times their historic average. Inflation is high here, but higher in Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. Interest rates have risen here, but faster in the US, Canada and New Zealand. Growth forecasts have fallen here, but fallen further in Germany. The International Monetary Fund expects one third of the world’s economy to be in recession this year or next.
So the Bank of England, which has done an outstanding job since its independence, now has my wholehearted support in its mission to defeat inflation and I today confirm we will not change its remit. But we need fiscal and monetary policy to work together, and that means the Government and the Bank working in lockstep. It means, in particular, giving the world confidence in our ability to pay our debts. British families make sacrifices every day to live within their means, and so too must their Government because the United Kingdom will always pay its way.
I understand the motivation of my predecessor’s mini-Budget and he was correct to identify growth as a priority, but unfunded tax cuts are as risky as unfunded spending, which is why we reversed the planned measures quickly. As a result, Government borrowing has fallen, the pound has strengthened and the OBR says today that the lower interest rates generated by the Government’s actions are already benefiting our economy and public finances. But credibility cannot be taken for granted and yesterday’s inflation figures show we must continue a relentless fight to bring it down, including a rock solid commitment to rebuild our public finances.
Richard Hughes and his team at the OBR today lay out starkly the impact of global headwinds on the UK economy, and I am enormously grateful to him and his team for their thorough work. The OBR forecasts the UK’s inflation rate to be 9.1% this year and 7.4% next year. It confirms that our actions today help inflation to fall sharply from the middle of next year. It also judges that the UK, like other countries, is now in recession. Overall this year, the economy is still forecast to grow by 4.2%. GDP then falls in 2023 by 1.4%, before rising by 1.3%, 2.6% and 2.7% in the following three years. The OBR says higher energy prices explain the majority of the downward revision in cumulative growth since March. It also expects a rise in unemployment from 3.6% today to 4.9% in 2024, before falling to 4.1%.
Today’s decisions mean that, over the next five years, borrowing is more than halved. This year, we are forecast to borrow 7.1% of GDP, or £177 billion; next year, 5.5% of GDP, or £140 billion; then by 2027-28, it falls to 2.4% of GDP, or £69 billion. As a result, underlying debt as a percentage of GDP starts to fall from a peak of 97.6% in 2025-26 to 97.3% in 2027-28.
I also confirm two new fiscal rules. The first is that underlying debt must fall as a percentage of GDP by the fifth year of a rolling five-year period. The second is that public sector borrowing over the same period must be below 3% of GDP. The plan I am announcing today meets both rules.
Today’s statement delivers a consolidation of £55 billion, and means inflation and interest rates end up significantly lower. We achieve this in a balanced way. In the short term, as growth slows and unemployment rises, we will use fiscal policy to support the economy. The OBR confirms that, because of our plans, the recession is shallower and inflation is reduced. Unemployment is also lower, with about 70,000 jobs saved as a result of our decisions today. Then, once growth returns, we increase the pace of consolidation to get debt falling. This further reduces the pressure on the Bank to raise interest rates, because as Conservatives we do not leave our debts to the next generation.
So this is a balanced path to stability, tackling inflation to reduce the cost of living and protect pensioner savings, while supporting the economy on a path to growth. But it means taking difficult decisions. Anyone who says there are easy answers is not being straight with the British people. Some argue for spending cuts, but that would not be compatible with high-quality public services. Others say savings should be found by increasing taxes, but Conservatives know that high-tax economies damage enterprise and erode freedom. We want low taxes and sound money, but Conservatives know that sound money has to come first, because inflation eats away at the pound in people’s pockets even more insidiously than taxes. So with just under half of the £55 billion consolidation coming from tax, and just over half from spending, this is a balanced plan for stability.
I turn first to our decisions on tax. I have tried to be fair by following two broad principles: first, we ask those with more to contribute more; and secondly, we avoid the tax rises that damage growth. Although my decisions today do lead to a substantial tax increase, we have not raised headline rates of taxation, and tax as a percentage of GDP will increase by just 1% over the next five years.
I start with personal taxes. Asking more from those who have more means that the first difficult decision I take on tax is to reduce the threshold at which the 45p rate becomes payable from £150,000 to £125,140. Those earning £150,000 or more will pay just over £1,200 more in tax every year. We are also taking difficult decisions on tax-free allowances. I am maintaining at current levels the income tax personal allowance, higher rate threshold, main national insurance thresholds and the inheritance tax thresholds for a further two years, taking us to April 2028. Even after that, we will still have the most generous set of tax-free allowances of any G7 country.
I am also reforming allowances on unearned income. The dividend allowance will be cut from £2,000 to £1,000 next year, and then to £500 from April 2024. The annual exempt amount for capital gains tax will be cut from £12,300 to £6,000 next year, and then £3,000 from April 2024. Those changes still leave us with more generous allowances than countries such as Germany, Ireland, France, and Canada.
Because the OBR forecasts that half of all new vehicles will be electric by 2025, to make our motoring tax system fairer, I have decided that from then electric vehicles will no longer be exempt from vehicle excise duty. Company car tax rates will remain lower for electric vehicles, and I have listened to industry bodies and will limit rate increases to 1 percentage point a year for three years from 2025.
The OBR expects housing activity to slow over the next two years, so the stamp duty cuts announced in the mini-Budget will remain in place but only until 31 March 2025. After that, I will sunset the measure, creating an incentive to support the housing market, and the jobs associated with it, by boosting transaction during the period when the economy most needs it.
I now turn to business taxes. Although I have decided to freeze the employers national insurance contributions threshold until April 2028, we will retain the employment allowance at its new higher level of £5,000. That means that 40% of all businesses will pay no NICs at all. The VAT threshold is already more than twice as high as the EU and OECD averages. I will maintain it at that level until March 2026.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister successfully negotiated a landmark international tax deal to make sure that multinational corporations, including big tech companies, pay the right tax in the countries where they operate. I will implement those reforms, making sure that the UK gets our fair share. Alongside further measures to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, that will raise an additional £2.8 billion by 2027-28.
I have also heard concerning reports of abuse and fraud in research and development tax relief for small and medium-sized enterprises, so I have decided today to cut the deduction rate for the SME scheme to 86% and the credit rate to 10% but increase the rate of the separate R&D expenditure credit from 13% to 20%. Despite raising revenue, the OBR has confirmed that those measures will have no detrimental impact on the level of R&D investment in the economy. Ahead of the next Budget, we will work with industry to understand what further support R&D-intensive SMEs may require.
I turn next to windfall taxes. I have no objection to windfall taxes—[Hon. Members: “Ah!”]—if they are genuinely about windfall profits caused by unexpected increases in energy prices. But—[Interruption.] I know that Opposition Members are getting excited at the talk of windfall taxes. Can I just say that any such tax should be temporary, not deter investment and recognise the cyclical nature of energy businesses? So, taking account of that, I have decided that from 1 January until March 2028 we will increase the energy profits levy from 25% to 35%. The structure of our energy market also creates windfall profits for low-carbon electricity generation, so we have decided to introduce, from 1 January, a new, temporary 45% levy on electricity generators. Together, those measures will raise £14 billion next year.
Finally, I turn to business rates. It is an important principle that bills should accurately reflect market values, so we will proceed with the revaluation of business properties from April 2023, but I will soften the blow on businesses with a nearly £14 billion tax cut over the next five years. Nearly two thirds of properties will not pay a penny more next year and thousands of pubs, restaurants and small high street shops will benefit. That will include a new Government-funded transitional relief scheme, as called for by the CBI, the British Retail Consortium, the Federation of Small Businesses and others, benefiting around 700,000 businesses.
Our plan for the cost of living delivers lower inflation, lower mortgage rates, a shallower downturn and lower unemployment, but it also involves public spending discipline, so I turn next to how we protect public services through a challenging period. The Prime Minister’s vision for the country has at its heart a strong NHS and world-class education. We know that a strong economy depends on strong public services, so we will protect them as much as we can as we deliver our plan for stability and growth.
We do have to take difficult decisions on public finances, so we are going to grow public spending, but we are going to grow it more slowly than growth in the economy. For the remaining two years of the spending review, we will protect the increases in departmental budgets that we have already set out in cash terms and then grow resource spending at 1% a year in real terms in the three years that follow. Although Departments will have to make efficiencies to deal with inflationary pressures in the next two years, this decision means that overall spending in public services will continue to rise in real terms for the next five years.
Before I turn to our plans for schools and the NHS, I start with two other areas of spending. The Department for Work and Pensions has a critical role in supporting people into work, and I am proud to live in a country with one of the most comprehensive safety nets anywhere in the world. But I am also concerned that we have seen a sharp increase in economically inactive working-age adults of about 630,000 people since the start of the pandemic. Employment levels have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, which is bad for businesses who cannot fill vacancies and bad for people missing out on the opportunity to do well for themselves and their families, so the Prime Minister has asked the Work and Pensions Secretary to do a thorough review of issues holding back workforce participation, to conclude early in the new year.
Alongside that, I am also committed to helping people already in work to raise their incomes, progress in work and become financially independent. So we will ask over 600,000 more people on universal credit to meet with a work coach so that they can get the support that they need to increase their hours or earnings. I have also decided to move back the managed transition of people from employment and support allowance on to universal credit to 2028, and will invest an extra £280 million in the DWP to crack down on benefit fraud and error over the next two years. The Government’s review of the state pension age will be published in early 2023.
Our security at home depends on our security overseas, so I turn next to defence and other international commitments. The privilege of being this country’s Foreign Secretary showed me first-hand the enormous respect in which this country is held, because the United Kingdom is and has always been a force for good in the world. Nothing sums that up more than the courage of our armed forces; men and women risk their lives every day in defence of our territory and our belief in freedom. Alongside them, I salute the citizens of another country right on the frontline of that fight today: the brave people of Ukraine. The United Kingdom has given them military support worth £2.3 billion since the start of Putin’s invasion, the second highest contribution in the world after the United States, which demonstrates that our commitment to democracy and open societies remains steadfast. In that context, the Prime Minister and I both recognise the need to increase defence spending. But before we make that commitment, it is necessary to revise and update the integrated review, written as it was before the Ukraine invasion. I have asked for that vital work to be completed ahead of the next Budget and today I confirm that we will continue to maintain the defence budget at at least 2% of GDP to be consistent with our NATO commitment.
Another important international commitment is to overseas aid. The OBR’s forecasts show a significant shock to public finances, so it will not be possible to return to the 0.7% target until the fiscal situation allows. We remain fully committed to that target, and the plans I have set out today assume that official development assistance spending will remain around 0.5% for the forecast period. As a percentage of GNI, we were the third highest donor in the G7 last year, and I am proud that our aid commitment has saved thousands of lives around the world. I look forward to working closely with the Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), now rightly back in his place in Cabinet, to make sure that we continue to play a leadership role in tackling global poverty.
The United Kingdom has also been a global leader on climate change, cutting emissions by more than any other G20 country. But with the existential vulnerability we face, now would be the wrong time to step back from our international climate responsibilities, so I also confirm that, despite the economic pressures, we remain fully committed to the historic Glasgow climate pact agreed at COP26, including a 68% reduction in our own emissions by 2030.
I turn to eduction. Being pro-education is being pro-growth. But providing our children with a good education is not just an economic mission, it is a moral mission, one to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has always been deeply committed. Thanks to the efforts of successive Conservative Education Ministers, in particular my right hon. Friends the Members for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) and for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Nick Gibb), we have risen nine places in the global league tables for maths and reading in the last seven years.
I still, however, have concerns that not all school leavers get the skills they need for a modern economy. But for the first time ever, this country has a Conservative Education Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan), who left school at 16 to become an apprentice, and knows first-hand why good skills matter. There are many important initiatives in place, but as Chancellor I want to know the answer to one simple question: will every young person leave the education system with the skills they would get in Japan, Germany or Switzerland? So, I have appointed Sir Michael Barber to advise me and my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary on the implementation of our skills reform programme.
As we raise the skill levels of our school leavers, I want also to ensure that, even in an economic crisis, the improvement in school standards continues to accelerate. Some have suggested putting VAT on independent school fees as a way of increasing core funding for schools, which would raise about £1.7 billion. But according to certain estimates, that would result in up to 90,000 children from the independent sector switching to state schools, giving with one hand only to take away with another.
So instead of being ideological, I am going to be practical: because we want school standards to continue to rise for every single child, we are going to do more than protect the schools budget—we are going to increase it. I can announce today that next year and the year after, we will invest an extra £2.3 billion per annum in our schools. Our message to heads, teachers and classroom assistants is: thank you for your brilliant work. We need it to continue, and in difficult economic circumstances, a Conservative Government are investing more in the public service that defines all our futures.
The service we depend on more than any other is the NHS. As a former Health Secretary, I know how hard people are working on the frontline and how much they are struggling after the pandemic. The biggest issues are workforce shortages and pressures in the social care sector, so today I address them both.
On staff shortages, the former Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee put forward the case for a long-term workforce plan. He even wrote a book about it, which I have read. [Laughter.] I have listened carefully to his proposals and I believe that they have merit, so the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS will publish an independently verified plan for the number of doctors, nurses and other professionals we will need in five, 10 and 15 years’ time, taking full account of the need for better retention and productivity improvements.I have also listened to extensive representations about the challenges facing the social care sector. It did a heroic job looking after children, disabled adults and older people during the pandemic. Its 1.6 million employees work incredibly hard, but even outside the pandemic, the increasing number of over-80s is putting massive pressure on their services.
I also heard the very real concerns from local authorities, particularly about their ability to deliver the Dilnot reforms immediately, so I will delay the implementation of this important reform for two years, allocating the funding to allow local authorities to provide more care packages. I also want the social care system to help free up some of the 13,500 hospital beds that are occupied by those who should be at home, so I have decided to allocate for adult social care additional grant funding of £1 billion next year and £1.7 billion the year after. Combined with savings from the delayed Dilnot reforms and more council tax flexibilities, this means an increase in funding available for the social care sector of up to £2.8 billion next year and £4.7 billion the year after. That is a big increase.
How we look after our most vulnerable citizens is not just a practical issue but one that speaks to our values as a society, so today’s decision will allow the social care system to deliver an estimated 200,000 more care packages over the next two years—the biggest increase in funding under any Government of any colour in history.
The NHS budget has been increased to record levels to deal with the pandemic, and today I am asking the NHS to join all public services in tackling waste and inefficiency. We want Scandinavian quality alongside Singaporean efficiency, and both better outcomes for citizens and better value for taxpayers. That does not mean asking people on the frontline, often exhausted and burned out, to work harder, which would not be possible or fair, but it does mean asking challenging questions about how to reform all our public services for the better. So with respect to the NHS, I have asked the former Health Secretary and chair of the Norfolk and Waveney integrated care system, Patricia Hewitt, to help me and the Health Secretary to achieve that by advising us on how to make sure that the new integrated care boards, the local NHS bodies, operate efficiently and with appropriate autonomy and accountability. I have also had discussions with NHS England about the inflationary pressures on their budgets.
I recognise that efficiency savings alone will not be enough to deliver the services we all need, so, because of difficult decisions taken elsewhere today, I will increase the NHS budget, in each of the next two years, by £3.3 billion. The chief executive of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard, has said that this should provide sufficient funding for the NHS to fulfil its key priorities. She has said that it shows the Government are serious about their commitment to prioritise our NHS. With £3.3 billion for the NHS and £4.7 billion for social care, there is a record £8 billion package for our health and care system. That is a Conservative Government putting the NHS first.
The NHS and schools in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland face equivalent pressures, so the Barnett consequentials of today’s decisions mean an extra £1.5 billion for the Scottish Government, £1.2 billion for the Welsh Government, and £650 million for the Northern Ireland Executive. That means more resources for the schools and hospitals in our devolved nations next year, the year after and every year thereafter.
Our support for public services means that despite needing to find £55 billion in savings and tax rises, we are protecting the amount going into public services in real terms over the five-year period; but if we are to sustain our public services and avoid a doom loop of ever higher taxes and ever lower dynamism, we need economic growth, so I now turn—[Interruption.] Opposition Members have never been interested in growth, but we on this side of the House are. [Interruption.]