My Speech on the Spring Budget

John Redwood (Wok, Con):


I am pleased that the Chancellor started by reminding the nation that, under Conservative leadership, Governments since 2010 have presided over the creation of 800 new jobs every day, every week, every month and every year, and have halved unemployment. The scourge of worklessness, which was inherited, has been banished. We now have the less worrying problem that we cannot get enough people to fill all the jobs, rather than the other way around of not having enough jobs for the people.

I am pleased that the Chancellor reminded the House that, in growth, we have outperformed all the major European nations, although I am sure he would agree with me that that is a feeble target to set ourselves; we are now free to do so much better. The question we need to ask is: why has the United States of America outperformed Europe so comprehensively for so long, and what can we learn?

The first thing we can learn from the United States is a better system of economic policy guidance and control. The requirements on the Federal Reserve Board, the US central bank, are a balanced mandate: not just 2% inflation, which is a necessary target that we share, but the promotion of growth and of growth in employment, so the board understands the trade-offs and can adjust policy accordingly. As our way of steering the economy, I would love us to get rid of fanciful, made-up figures by the OBR for five years’ time, which are always wrong, and to have two main aims: that 2% inflation target binding not merely on the Bank but on the whole Government, because Government have a big impact on prices and wages; and a 2% growth rate target, or a considerably higher growth rate than European countries have been achieving in the past decade. That is achievable if we take the right actions.

To do that, we need the Bank of England to work in sympathy with the Government’s policy. I remind the House that there is a dual mandate on the bond portfolio, the so-called APF or asset purchase facility. The Bank of England, having bought far too many bonds at ridiculously high prices on very low yields and run a very loose policy that gave us inflation, has now lurched too far the other way and is running too tight a policy, selling far too many bonds at much lower prices—prices it deliberately lowered in the market—and saddling us with losses. The Budget documents confirm that the accumulated losses paid so far, which taxpayers and the Treasury have to pay, amount to £49 billion since the thing flipped over in 2022. The last figure I saw was £34 billion, year to date—unaffordable and unnecessary, quite the wrong policy, meaning that we have less growth and a far bigger bill.

I am glad that the Government have decided to major on productivity in general, and in particular on public sector productivity. Some months ago, I stumbled across a well-concealed Office for National Statistics figure saying that in the three years since covid, we had lost 7.5% productivity in our public services. I did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation, and that is roughly £30 billion, which means that it costs £30 billion more today to produce the same level and range of public service as it did before covid, as well as the many tens of billions more on top of that we had to pay because of all the inflation. It was a £30 billion hit.

The Government now more or less agree. The Chancellor has costed the loss in his figures at 6% rather than 7.5%, but he has said that he wants to eliminate a 5% productivity shortfall out of the 6%, and he costs that at £20 billion, which is exactly the same as my £30 billion for 7.5%. That is felicitous indeed. The issue is, how will they go about doing that?

I hear that the scheme for the NHS is elaborate expenditure on wide-ranging centralised computerisation—good luck with that—but I would not rely on that alone for my productivity package for the public services. We do not actually need new investment to get ourselves back to the productivity level we were at in 2019. We do not need to use all today’s wonderful artificial intelligence; we just need to use what we already had, which we had in 2019. It is about management, personnel and giving the personnel the right tasks. We have seen a huge increase in managerial and administrative positions, but far from managing things better, they are being managed less well.

We had a shocking case in the press recently, where an awful lot of managers were presiding over a prison that had gone wrong. They were not able to do the more important day-by-day things that were needed in order to resolve the problem. If we look at the huge expansion in the civil service and other public administration during the covid period, we will see a big increase not only in numbers, but in those who have been promoted up the grades for whatever reason. We need enough people for someone to supervise, however, and we do not need all supervisors, because they are often too posh to do the work. We need to manage things better, and that is the productivity challenge before us.

I also urge the Government to abolish UK Government Investments. It is a very expensive body that has a completely dreadful track record. It presided over the Post Office and did nothing to deal with the sub-postmasters; it presided over £1.4 billion-worth of accumulated losses, bankrupting the corporation; and it presides over Network Rail, and the whole rail industry, Network rail and High Speed 2 are absorbing £33 billion of public money this year. I do not think we are getting value for money for that.

My time is up. I urge the Government to redouble efforts on productivity, to understand that it is mainly about whom we hire and what we ask them to do, and to get rid of UKGI, and I ask Ministers to take responsibility for the dreadfully badly performing nationalised industries.


  1. Bert+Young
    March 7, 2024

    Well said Sir John ; I wish you were the Chancellor . For the Sunak/Hunt relationship to follow and be guided by forecasts from the OBR and the BoE merely shows their inadequacy and also their responsibility . You have also – quite rightly , mentioned the overall inadequacy of management ; if they lose their perspective and control responsibility we all suffer the consequences . You are one of the few Conservatives I trust and now rely on .

    1. KST
      March 7, 2024

      I agree.

    2. glen cullen
      March 7, 2024

      I now believe that this tory government isn’t interested ….its a day before D-Day and we need a general with a plan and a will to act

  2. Ian wragg
    March 7, 2024

    800 jobs a day, 2000 I.mogrants a day
    Highest taxes since 1948
    Me now being taxes on my meagre pension

    Remind me again why u should vote for you

    1. Lifelogic
      March 7, 2024

      Indeed 2000+ a day net migration yet only 800 new jobs?

      JR says “it costs £30 billion more today to produce the same level and range of public service as it did before covid, as well as the many tens of billions more on top of that we had to pay because of all the inflation. It was a £30 billion hit.”

      Worse than even this, as so much of what they now do does huge positive net harm. like Net zero lunacy, road blocking, mad energy policies, injecting dangerous vaccines that injured and killed tens of thousands of people, enforcing lockdowns, pushing heat pumps, endless red tape, motorist muggings, rigging market in health care, transport, energy, education, banking…

    2. Lifelogic
      March 7, 2024

      The first thing we can learn from the United States is surely that energy at 1/3 of UK prices is rather helpful for growth as are rather lower levels of taxation.

    3. glen cullen
      March 7, 2024

      but the country needs 40,000 more nail-polishers and hand car wash workers ….and thousands of curry chefs

    4. Richard1
      March 8, 2024

      Labour would be worse

  3. miami.mode
    March 7, 2024

    Following form, the Chancellor will probably toss all your ideas into your Wok or will this be the title of your constituency after boundary changes?

    The Guardian is saying that “a string of projects devised by the co-founder of the collapsed energy supplier Bulb” for energy storage and other schemes, so that will be some more fodder for the Chancellor on which to waste our money.

  4. Bloke
    March 7, 2024

    That’s told them!

  5. Ian B
    March 7, 2024

    As others in the MsM suggested Jeremy Hunt is such an admirer of Gordon Brown, so he framed the budget as a complement to him. It was also his side way glance to Rachael Reeves and chest beating to say I am the UK’s Socialist Chancellor.
    Sunak/Hunt so hate the UK, its people its drive and enterprise they maliciously set out to destroy and poison the ‘well’ for when they are dismissed.
    If all the energy expended in petty sniping had gone into create an economy we would be way ahead.

  6. Barbara
    March 7, 2024

    Liverpool: New £450m vaccine manufacturing hub announced in Budget

    ‘AstraZeneca’s chief executive officer, Sir Pascal Soriot, said the planned investment would “enhance the UK’s pandemic preparedness and demonstrates our ongoing confidence in UK life sciences”…

    .. Dr Isabel Oliver, chief scientific officer at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “This investment will bolster the development of the UK’s vaccine capabilities and life sciences sector – critical components of the country’s resilience to future health threats.” ‘


    1. MFD
      March 7, 2024

      It will not affect my plans as I will NEVER take any more so-called vaccines

  7. glen cullen
    March 7, 2024

    I fully understand why my taxes are so high …..what I don’t understand is this governments continued policy of spending, spending big, spending on adventures, spending on foreign bodies, spending on net-zero

  8. Berkshire Alan
    March 7, 2024

    Thank you for this John, I wonder how many were in the chamber to listen, and I wonder how many actually understood what you outlined.
    Keep up the pressure, at some stage it surely must produce results !

    1. Mickey Taking
      March 8, 2024

      dream on, The lights are on but nobody is there and listening.

  9. Abigail
    March 7, 2024

    May they only listen to you and, above all, take action on your recommendations,which are eminently sensible!

  10. Nigl
    March 7, 2024

    Looks as if you have been got at. Tax going up doubled for pensioners by your government. Non Dom plus windfall tax – anti investment.

    Definition of madness, doing same thing over and over again and expecting a result. That well known oxymoron. NHS improvement. Guarantee public sector in real terms more money.

    Hunt in total denial blaming BBC for saying what we all would.

    And so the dross in terms of most ministers and most public sector/civil service management continues unsanctioned.

    Utter cr**pp

    1. a-tracy
      March 8, 2024

      How did tax double Nigl? Can you explain?

  11. Keith from Leeds
    March 7, 2024

    Hello Sir John, I have the greatest respect for you, but you are flogging a dead horse. Virtually all your suggestions for the budget have been ignored, as will today’s article. You can forget about raising Civil Service productivity while you have 530,000 Civil Servants. It just won’t happen until someone has the bottle to make at least half of them, and probably three-quarters of them, redundant.
    The NHS budget should be frozen for three years, and highly paid Chief Executives made to earn their pay. While they spend £40 million a year on DIE staff, and increasing, they have too much money.
    A wasted opportunity from a weak Chancellor and a weak PM. Personally, I don’t believe a word they say and don’t
    understand why you do! Yet I am a conservative supporter and disgusted with the weak leadership we now have.

    1. Bingle
      March 8, 2024

      I think you may find that the money spent on DIE by NHS Trusts is because of an edict by NHS England and on which the CEO’s of the Trusts are measured.

  12. outsider
    March 7, 2024

    Dear Sir John,
    As you suggest, it is outrageous that the Treasury either cannot or chooses not to tell the Bank of England to avoid trading losses on government debt holdings when that is both pointless and unnecessary. When such holdings are trading at below cost it is far more natural and financially sensible to run them to redemption. That is doubly so when Bank Rate is being raised anyway so that there is no call for fine tuning.
    Given that the Bank signally failed to fulfil its inflation mandate in the second half of 2021 and the first half of 2022, it would be a big mistake to add growth as an equal part of its mandate. It is precisely because the Bank interpreted its existing mandate in that direction that it kept Bank Rate at an emergency historic low for too long in the years before Covid, causing such damaging distortions.
    In particular the Bank halved Bank Rate immediately after the Referendum vote, when it was inconceivable that it thought that Brexit would cause the cost of living to fall.

  13. RDM
    March 7, 2024

    Is that it! That’s all you have to say?

    Obviously, not the representative of Free Market Economics, any more! Is it because, no one accepts that “Trickle Down” is a Good theory, when the truth is it’s blatantly obvious, it does not work!

    But it is worse then that; These One Nation Tory’s obviously do not support the Self Employed, Contractors, Owner Drivers, or even, Family SME’s? No Reforms? No Support?

    Do you know in places like Wales, you cannot get a Recover or Start-up loan, the rest of the UK can? What some company’s can get is Matched Funding!

    How are the Regions meant to generate their own wealth? All People can do is relay on Welsh Labour?

    Totally, dismayed with this leftwing Conservative Government!

    Not what I voted for!

    Best of Luck!


  14. acorn
    March 7, 2024

    The US has the accepted advantage of a “hire and fire” labour ideology; truely capitalistic, Europe doesn’t. The bottom line is the lowest quintile of the EU’s population, has considerably more spending power than their equivalents in the US. Similarly, for instance, the lowest quintile of the French population, has some 20% more spending power than their UK equivalents.

    Productivity. The US House of Representatives has 435 members to cover 330 million citizens. The UK has 650 to cover just 67 million citizens. If you consider Whitehall Civil Servants to represent the UK’s equivalent of the US federal government’s Civil Servants; then the UK has 8 employees for every 9 in the US.

    1. Martin in Bristol
      March 8, 2024

      America… claim has easy hire and fire.
      Have you ever worked or run a business there?
      The most complex and litigious place on Earth to engage in a contract with anyone.

      1. hefner
        March 8, 2024

        MiB, you must have had a bad experience. I worked in Canada, France, the USA and the UK and for what I remember I had more difficulties setting conditions with my successive employers as a Landed Immigrant in Canada than anywhere else. But based on my experience I would not claim that Canada is ‘the most complex and litigious place on Earth to engage in a contract with anyone’.
        Maybe you did not prepare yourself properly when trying to move your business to the USA. Might it not be good sometimes to accept responsibility for one’s own mistakes?

        See 07/09/2011 ‘Hiring and firing is a different business in the US’.
        For your next move, you might want to read 10/05/2023 ‘Moving and setting up a business in the USA from the UK’.

      2. Mickey Taking
        March 8, 2024

        what ? worse than in the EU? really?

  15. Ian Jacobs
    March 7, 2024

    in growth, we have outperformed all the major European nations,

    Considering waistlines , homelessness, poverty, cases of measles and whooping cough,

    wastage, governmental incompetence ,deceit and downright lying I think you are correct.

    What were you thinking about ?

  16. Mickey Taking
    March 7, 2024

    please put a number or rough percentage on the 800 jobs which are high skilled, and one assumes highly paid?
    Every day, every week, every month and every year.
    Any idea on how many were filled by non-immigrants?

    1. a-tracy
      March 8, 2024

      MT, 34% of households earn over £50k pa.
      Statista says the average pay of the top 10% of income in the UK in 2023 was £66,669, and the bottom 10% of earners £21,000.
      The top 5% of earners, average £87,000 + pa.
      The DWP reports 9 million earn £1000 per week or more.

      1. Mickey Taking
        March 8, 2024

        So what do you think the min wage is annually? ? And what about the zero hours workers?

  17. glen cullen
    March 7, 2024

    Hunt confirms that our government is to fund a monument for the muslim religion of peace to the tune of £1 million ….why is a stone monument in our national memorial arboretum costing £1 million

  18. Old Albion
    March 7, 2024

    Sir John. That is a load of wombling nonsense that means little to most of us. The budget was a disaster. We needed tax cuts for the least wealthy, we didn’t get any. Call the election and be gone.

  19. RDM
    March 7, 2024

    Source: Office of Budget Responsibility

    9.3 Million People unemployed!

    The number of working age People outside the jobs market. A post Covid high!

    A good measure of how well One Nation Tory-ism, or Labour, works!

    We are happy!

    1. glen cullen
      March 7, 2024

      Hunt would say that we have full employment and therefore need more immigration …thats his policy & plan

  20. Peter
    March 7, 2024


    Agreed. We need a huge drop in public sector numbers, starting with those at the very top of the chain and working downwards.

    I don’t expect it to happen though.

  21. Richard1
    March 8, 2024

    Excellent speech with many good ideas which we do not see elsewhere.

  22. David Andrews
    March 8, 2024

    Thank you for your efforts. Unfortunately, as others here have pointed out, no one seems to be listening who is in a position to do anything about it. The UK is holed below the waterline. This and previous governments of both parties have done more to enlarge the holes than seek to seal them. I have come to the conclusion neither of the main parties is capable of doing so. Neither offers a convincing route to getting the national deficit down to a sensible level or to introduce the measures needed to shrink the perennial trade deficit. Net Zero policies will bring disaster, energy policy is a shambles, the opportunities offered by Brexit have been squandered (with a few exceptions). I see a future of continued national decline under both the current and alternative Labour-driven regimes.

  23. Mickey Taking
    March 8, 2024

    Former prime minister Theresa May has said she will be standing down as an MP at the next election.
    In a statement, she said she had taken the “difficult decision” to vacate her Maidenhead seat after 27 years.
    Mrs May, prime minister from 2016 to 2019, said causes such as tackling modern slavery were taking an “increasing amount” of her time.
    But she is now one of 64 Tory MPs who have announced their decision to leave the Commons.
    They include former ministers Dominic Raab, Chris Grayling, Ben Wallace, Sajid Javid and George Eustice.
    In the statement to the Maidenhead Advertiser, she said she had “always done her best” to respond to the needs of local people.
    Mrs May, 67, became prime minister in July 2016 after the resignation of David Cameron following the Brexit referendum. She had been his home secretary for six years and was a chief architect of the so-called “hostile environment” for immigrants, which led to “go home” vans being sent into areas with large migrant communities.
    Her three years in Downing Street were dogged by the Brexit aftermath. A snap election in 2017 saw her lose her majority, but she remained at Number 10 after striking a deal with the DUP.
    Eventually, opposition to her proposed Brexit deal led to Conservative MPs holding a confidence vote in her leadership, and although she survived her authority was diminished and she announced her resignation in a tearful speech five months later.
    Time to write a book, or those memoirs, perhaps a world-wide speaking tour?

  24. Ralph Corderoy
    March 8, 2024

    ‘I ask Ministers to take responsibility for the dreadfully badly performing nationalised industries.’

    …because they are already taking the blame in the eyes of the voters.

  25. mickc
    March 8, 2024

    The Conservative party made a catastrophic mistake electing Cameron as leader on the basis of what the MSM hailed a fantastic speech, but was actually just waffle. It has been downhill ever since. He couldn’t even win an outright election victory against Brown…who was on “medication”.
    David Davis was the last opportunity the Tories had to have meaningful policies to benefit the country.

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