“Once again it is the Conservatives – and only the Conservatives – who can be trusted with taxpayers’ money.”

Rishi Sunak, Budget speech 2021

October 27, 2021

Facts

This fails to acknowledge that it was the Chancellor’s Treasury that blew £37bn on Test and Trace, in what the Commons spending watchdog described as an “eye-watering” sum of money, which did not achieve its aims. 

The report said: “NHS Test and Trace has been one of the most expensive health programmes delivered in the pandemic with an allocated an eye watering £37bn over two years, although it underspent by £8.7 billion in its first year. It has focused on delivering programmes but its outcomes have been muddled and a number of its professed aims have been overstated or not achieved. For the vast sums of money set aside for the programme, equal to nearly 20% of the 2020–21 NHS England budget, we need to see a proper long-term strategy and legacy as it moves into the new UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

In a  dramatic resignation speech on January 24th 2022 Treasury minister Lord Agnew accused the government of having "little interest in the consequences of fraud to our society", criticising government handling of fraudulent Covid business loans. He accused the government of making "schoolboy errors" by giving loans to over 1,000 companies who were not trading when Covid struck. He made his remarks in response to a question from Labour about the £4.3bn of Covid loans written off by the Treasury.

On 20th January 2022, a Department of Transport study found that £900,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on a study commissioned by Boris Johnson that found it would be too expensive to build a bridge or tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Johnson spent £2.6 million building a Downing Street briefing room that was never used for its intended purpose, though Downing Street staff did watch a James Bond film in it.

There are numerous other examples of taxpayers’ money being wasted under the Conservatives. 

Verdict 

As the Test and Trace debacle - and similar episodes - prove, Rishi Sunak’s claim that the Conservatives can be trusted with taxpayers money is nonsensical and cannot be substantiated. The Chancellor’s misleading statement remains on the Commons record in defiance of the Ministerial Code.  We gave the Chancellor the opportunity to challenge this judgement, but he did not respond.

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