Guest column: More borrowing just means more debt later

Sir Edward Leigh
Sir Edward Leigh

I welcome the Chancellor’s new budget but I do think we should be doing more to bring down borrowing.

We have the eighth highest national debt (as percentage of GDP) in the European Union and our debt is much higher than comparable developed European countries.

Because interest rates are so low there’s a temptation to borrow now while the going is good, so to speak.

It’s entirely wrong, however, to burden future generations with an unsustainable level of debt.

Far better to tighten our belts now and lay proper and firm foundations for future prosperity than to irresponsibly pass the parcel on to the young.

Borrowing means you have to pay it back some day, and worrying though it may be interest rights are unlikely to go anywhere but up.

We are now spending more on paying the interest on our government debt than we spend on defence.

In the last financial year we managed to add £68.1 billion to the national debt.

That’s £5.7 billion per month, and £186 million per day.

That’s also the equivalent of 10 Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers per year.

We’ve managed to run Government surpluses in recent memory.

Most significantly it was achieved from 1998 to 2002 while Labour was keeping to spending plans crafted under the Conservatives.

Once those plans were abandoned, spending went through the roof.

By 2010, the Government was borrowing £300,000 per minute under Labour.

Happily, this is set to fall to £49,000 per minute by 2022-23, but that’s still rather a lot.

While Jeremy Corbyn howls at the devastating levels of austerity there are still savings to be made.

Very recently the NHS was spending £432 million on management consultants, while the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges claimed that £2 billion per year was being wasted through overtreatment of patients.

Also, 534 employees of NHS quangos were receiving total annual remuneration in excess of £100,000.

We continue to debate the European Union Withdrawal Bill, and there are various minutiae which are being submitted to the intense gaze of the House of Commons.

I prefer to focus on the bigger picture.

The important thing is that the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.

We are taking back control of our laws and how they are made.

For example, we will be creating a new system of agricultural subsidies that will be finely tuned to the needs of the English countryside, not decided in back rooms in Brussels.

Many have written to me about animal sentience and I was glad it was pointed out in the Commons that the UK was responsible for making this a Europe-wide issue.

I can confirm that animals will still be recognised as sentient beings after we leave the EU when we will have greater powers to ensure animal welfare standards are improved.

The Government are currently considering how best to do this once we are given greater legal freedom to do so.