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Ms Keeble: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Portillo: No, I must make progress. I have been on my feet for a long time. [Hon. Members: "Are you tired?"] No, I--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The House must come to order. There have been enough sedentary interventions--consistent, organised interventions--and the shadow Chancellor should be heard with patience.

Mr. Portillo: I referred to the length of time I have been on my feet out of courtesy to right hon. and hon. Members who want to speak later in the debate.

We also propose that, in future, windfall receipts from further sales of the bandwidth spectrum should be used to endow some of our universities so that they no longer depend on a drip feed, year by year, from the state. Clearly, one effect of that would be to reduce the size of the state and the level of Government spending. Another effect would be to enable our universities to play a much more dynamic role in our economy. A university such as Stanford, in California, became the intellectual powerhouse behind Silicon valley. Some of our best universities want the same freedom to play a more dynamic role in the British economy.

When Opposition Members speak of British universities, it is to enable them to flourish. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer addresses the subject of our great universities, it is merely to attack them, playing to a gallery of envy and prejudice. The Chancellor put the proceeds of the telecom licence sales into Government bonds. We will invest the fruits of the knowledge society in the knowledge economy.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Portillo: No; I have nearly finished.

On health care, we have established a political consensus with the Labour party on providing significant additional funds for the national health service. However, Conservatives believe that that should not be the end of the discussion. Very few countries in Europe attempt, as Britain does, to bear almost the entire cost of health care on taxation alone.

Mr. Roger Casale (Wimbledon): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Portillo: If the hon. Gentleman listens, he might learn something.

Our neighbours in Europe have more mixed systems. For example, employers and trade union health care schemes play a much more significant part in the total health budget in many other countries. That has enabled

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such countries to spend significantly higher proportions of their national prosperity on health care than we do in Britain. Surely, except to the most blinkered and ideological individuals, that is a lesson that could help Britain have more doctors, nurses and hospitals.

Every week, the Prime Minister misrepresents our commitment to the national health service. However, the Government will pay the price. It is the Government who are blinkered. They are the ones who live in fear of change, wedded to an ideology suited to the 1940s and absolutely unsuited to the new century.

Mr. Casale: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He will remember that he made a speech in the House about the health service on 18 January. He described the setting up of the national health service as a historical accident, rather than the crowning achievement of the post-war Labour Government, and the public funding of the health service as a national disgrace, rather than something that has great popular consent. Two weeks later, he was made shadow Chancellor. Is it still his policy to try to privatise the health service by introducing charging and making patients pay for hip replacements, knee replacements and so on? If not, how does he propose to pay for the NHS?

Mr. Portillo: It is possible that there would be some respect for the hon. Gentleman if he did not distort what other people had said. He says that he can find the word "disgrace" in my speech. Will he get up now and tell me where I used the word "disgrace"?

Mr. Casale: I shall read the passage to the right hon. Gentleman. He said:


Mr. Portillo: Exactly. The hon. Gentleman is a disgrace because he comes to this place and distorts what others have said. No one will have any respect for the hon. Gentleman when he does that.

Mr. Casale rose--

Mr. Portillo: I will give way if the hon. Gentleman is getting up to apologise. That was a complete--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr. Casale rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. All hon. Members must sit down when I am on my feet.

Mr. Portillo: I will give way to the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Casale) only if he is going to apologise for that disgraceful misrepresentation of what I said.

Labour spent 18 years in opposition and the British people were willing to back Labour only when it committed itself to low taxes and to good value in public spending. The Government were elected to improve public services and reform the welfare state. They promised business that they

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would make Britain more prosperous. They talked the talk but could not walk the walk. In office, they have piled on taxes and regulations and Britain has slipped behind.

Labour has broken every promise. People have paid the tax but now they wait longer for operations; they have paid the tax but school classes have got bigger; they have paid the tax but there is not a policeman to be seen.

In the 1970s, the Chancellor wrote books. He ranted then against Thatcherism and the market economy. Now, as Chancellor, he remains trapped by dogma, unable to think new ideas. The Conservative party is different. Our policies are based on honesty and transparency--things for which, after three years of Labour Government, the people of this country hunger. We are not afraid to propose change. Our policies are shaped to make Britain competitive in the 21st century.

The Gracious Speech provided telling proof not of a Government who have run out of ideas, but of a party that never had any in the first place. The Labour manifesto was all spin and the Labour Government are all spin and no delivery.

5.7 pm

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown): I will speak about our economic agenda for the coming year, entrenching stability, improving employment and productivity, raising living standards for all and strengthening public investment in our services.

In his speech, the shadow Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo), could not tell us what fiscal rules a Conservative Government would operate if they were ever in government. I will happily give way now if he can tell us. Given that he does not accept our fiscal rules, does he believe in a balanced budget?

The right hon. Gentleman also outlined--I will return to this--a Conservative plan for the privatisation of the basic pension for young people, but he could not explain to the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Mr. Taylor), how much money could be lost to the national insurance fund and therefore to pensioners for present and future pensions that have to be paid. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that he planned a mixed economy for the national health service. He ruled out charges for doctors, but refused to tell us what that involved--whether it is charges for hospitals or private medical insurance, or whether it will mean moving people out of the national health service, as the shadow health spokesman proposes, by performing what he calls non-urgent operations in private hospitals.

We will take no lectures on taxation from the right hon. Gentleman, who was at the Treasury between 1992 and 1994. He was the Chief Secretary who piloted through the House value added tax on fuel, the insurance tax, the airports tax, the freezing of the personal allowance for income tax and the allowance for top rate taxation, the national insurance rises, and the fuel duty escalator. He did so after promising at the previous general election that there would be no VAT on fuel--indeed, no tax rises at all.

Mr. Bercow rose--

Mr. Brown: I will be happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but surely the shadow Chancellor should

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answer why he should be trusted on taxation when he broke every promise when he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I will give way to someone who wants to speak for him--one who is still a member of the No Turning Back group.

Mr. Bercow: That was a long-winded apologia. Why in the speech on the pre-Budget report did the right hon. Gentleman fail even to mention his 7.5 per cent. increase in the upper earnings limit on national insurance contributions, which will hit up to 1 million working people? Is he proud of the fact that, as a result of that stealth tax, 20,000 nurses, 9,000 policemen and 23,000 teachers will face a tax hike of up to £200 a year?


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