The BBC News website (30 June) tells us this:
‘Boris Johnson has said now is the time to be “ambitious” about the UK’s future, as he set out a post-coronavirus recovery plan. The PM vowed to “use this moment” to fix longstanding economic problems and promised a £5bn “new deal” to build homes and infrastructure. Plans set out in the Tory election manifesto would be speeded up and “intensified,” he added.’
The same source also tells us: ‘Over the last few days, the comparisons the government has sought to draw have been with former American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal.’ So Johnson certainly ‘bigged-up’ this announcement!
There is also a reference here to a BBC Reality Check article which states: ‘Boris Johnson says: “It (his announcement) sounds like a prodigious amount of government intervention. It sounds like a New Deal. All I can say is if that is so, then that is how it is meant to sound”.’
He is of course referring to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programme which was designed to help the US recover from the Great Depression in the early 1930s. The BBC Reality Check article reminds us: “Remember that the New Deal ran over several years, with spending each year between about 5% and 7% of the total output of the economy (GDP) each year. Boris Johnson’s £5bn would be less than a quarter of one per cent of GDP.”
However, I think there are easier and better comparisons to make in order to gauge the scale – the ‘ambition’ – of the Tory government’s £5bn ‘new deal’.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has recently (3 March, 2020) reported on what the Westminster government has spent on Brexit preparations. The report finds that the: “Departments spent at least £4.4 billion on EU Exit preparations between June 2016 and 31 January 2020.”
The NAO has also recently examined the price tag for the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme. It notes that in 2014 the various options for the conduct of the Programme ranged upwards from £3.5bn.
(The same NAO report tells us that: “Phase One of HS2 is now forecast to cost between 14% and 47% (£3.9 billion to £12.9 billion) more than its available funding.” i.e. the HS2 over-spend is of the same order of magnitude as Johnson’s ‘ambitious new deal’!)
So, in short, the ‘ambitious new deal’ is no such thing. And that’s before we take into account that little of this is new money but rather it’s about ‘accelerating’ what was proposed in prior spending announcements.
And this is telling!
As on 1930 hours on 30 June, the latest news on the Scotland Office website says NOTHING about the ‘ambitious new deal’. The latest news on the website of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party says NOTHING about the ‘ambitious new deal’.