Welcoming today’s Autumn Statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which Northern Ireland received an additional £142 million, the Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said:
Today’s Autumn Statement has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to protect our country through the global debt storm, to show that we can live within our means to protect confidence in our economy and keep interest rates low.
Central to that is the deficit reduction plan. The previous government left this country with the biggest deficit in its peacetime history. Today, the Office for Budget Responsibility re-affirmed that the government will meet its targets to bring down the deficit. At the time of the election our long-term interest rates were higher than in Italy; they are now at German levels.
That helps every business and family in Northern Ireland by keeping interest rates lower for longer. Every 1% rise in interest rates would add £10 billion a year to households’ mortgage interest payments. So tackling the deficit remains essential for our recovery.
Northern Ireland will also benefit from a number of other announcements that the Chancellor made today.
As a result of government spending announcements the Northern Ireland executive will also receive an additional £142 million, the vast majority of which is for capital expenditure over the spending review period. While it is for the executive to decide how this money is spent, it should come as welcome news for our construction industry in these tough times.
Hard pressed families will be helped by the decision to cancel fuel duty increases planned by the previous government to come into effect after the last election. As a result fuel duty will be 10p a litre less than would have been the case under Labour.
Pensioners will see a rise in the basic state pension of £5.30 to £107.45, the largest ever cash rise; the pension credit will be uprated by £5.35. We will also uprate working age benefits in line with September’s inflation figure of 5.2 per cent.
This amounts to a significant boost to the incomes of many of the poorest in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland smaller and medium sized businesses will have access to the £20 billion National Loan Guarantee Scheme, helping to lower the cost of bank loans.
Belfast is included in the £100 million urban broadband fund that will create ten super connected cities across the United Kingdom, essential to promoting economic growth in the regions.
Those who oppose the government’s plans only ever put forward one alternative - more borrowing and more spending. Yet that is precisely the something for nothing economics that got our country into this mess in the first place. You cannot tackle a debt crisis by adding more debt.
By contrast this government will do whatever it takes to protect the UK from the debt storm, while doing all we can to build the foundation for future growth.