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Lord Rea: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene because the point of my remarks was not to say that more money needs to be spent on the health service; it was to say that much of the ill health in this country is due to inequalities in income. The poorer people are, the less healthy they are. The best way to improve the health of the nation is not necessarily to improve the health service but to improve the economy and to make the distribution of income more equal.
I should like to turn to one aspect of the debate which was dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, and many others. It was about public spending. At about £22 billion, public sector capital spending, which includes the PFI, will remain well above its 1980s levels, and the private finance is being mobilised on an increasing scale. We expect about £14 billion of PFI projects to have been signed up by 1998-99. That goes well beyond any reductions in public sector capital spending. There are a number of projects, of which all of your Lordships are aware, which are being financed in that way: London Underground, parts of the road network and so on.
I was interested to hear confirmed today by two noble Lords opposite what I heard on television on Sunday: Mr. John Prescott claims to be the originator of the scheme for PFI. I wish that he would tell the Labour Party in Scotland, and particularly his colleague Mr. Brian Wilson, who I believe is currently its transport spokesman, because one of the really exciting PFI projects in Scotland has been the bridge "Over the Sea to Skye". It is being constantly attacked by the Labour Party largely because the word "private" is associated with it. The noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, suggested that the new Labour Party is interested in entrepreneurs. If he were to read the Scottish papers for a few days he might think that he was talking about a different Labour Party or that his colleagues north of the Border had not yet quite picked up the message that they approved of these entrepreneurial projects.
I was going to try to be 25 minutes, but I gather that we have some time in hand so I can turn to one last aspect of the debate. That is: why cut taxes? One of the reasons we cut taxes is to encourage people. The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, talked about the importance of small businesses. When I listened to him I thought to myself: what do my friends who are small businessmen complain about when I talk to them? They complain, not about the lack of hand-outs from the Government, but because they want the Government to take their hands off them in many ways, including taxes.
There is still a fundamental difference in principle between speakers on this side, who believe that the most successful economies of the future will be low-tax countries with small public sectors and deregulated economies, and those on the Benches opposite who
I make no apology for our Budget, which leaves ordinary people with more of what they earn and save; boosts incentives; encourages enterprise; and creates wealth and employment. My only regret is that because of the recession we were unable to do it sooner.
The Budget takes three more steps towards our goal of a 20p basic rate of income tax. Basic rate has now been cut to 24 per cent., the 20 per cent. band has been widened, and there is a new 20 per cent. tax rate on income from savings. That means that one quarter of taxpayers will pay income tax at the 20p in the pound rate only. A number of other people have been taken out of taxation by the increase in personal allowances. All those things help everyone: they help the low paid, because they will be helped by the widening of the 20p tax band and the increase in the bottom limit; and they help business in particular.
Perhaps I may turn to the noble Lord, Lord Desai, who started this interesting debate. He indicated--I do not believe that anyone dissents from this--that he would like to see interest rates down by 0.75 per cent. We shall not achieve those reductions in interest rates if one seeks a high tax/high spend economy. It will just not happen. I do not believe that the party opposite has changed its view on taxation. Indeed, in the article I quoted--I should have liked to have quoted a lot more of it, but time prevents me from doing so--the noble Lord said:
This Budget will leave people with more of what they earn and more of what they save. It is a Budget which spends more on the services about which people care, while keeping public spending as a whole under the tightest control. It is a Budget which keeps public borrowing on a clear downward path and takes no risk with inflation. It is a Budget which sustains economic recovery and helps make Britain the enterprise centre of Europe.
Lord Desai: My Lords, at this late hour I do not wish to say very much. I wish to thank all noble Lords who have taken part. In particular, I wish to congratulate and welcome my noble friend Lord Chandos on his first appearance on the Front Bench. The Minister wished him well and a longer stay on the Front Bench than I had. My only advice to him is not to write any articles in any Left-wing newspapers. Your friends will not read them, but the Government will read them and quote them. That has
After the Budget debate and the Statements that we have had at some length, we move briefly to a subject which I hope will produce greater consensus. In bringing this matter to your Lordships for the second time in the same calendar year, I have two objectives in mind: first, to persuade Her Majesty's Government to take the matter seriously, and to stop sitting on the fence; and, secondly, to ensure that time to consider it properly is given in another place.
The Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret did not even start in the other place. I have had a number of conversations with Members of another place to see whether we cannot rectify that position. I have also had a great piece of fortune in that Mr. John Butterfill, the Member for Bournemouth West, who drew first place in the ballot, has decided to take this subject for his Private Member's Bill. In the event that we give the Bill a Second Reading tonight and that we pass it in due course, we can look forward to a twin-track approach to the subject in another place--twin-track is fashionable at the moment.
This is a short Bill, comprising eight lines only. The Bill differs from the Central European Time Bill, which was so ably presented by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret on 11th January, in three main aspects. The first is the title which I feel better represents the geographical area of which the UK is a part, comprising France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Benelux countries, and Switzerland. Those countries are normally considered to be part of western Europe. Secondly, it carries a clear definition in Clause 1 which explains what is intended--that is, that we would have what is normally called British summer time in winter and British double summer time in summer. Thirdly, it covers the whole of the United Kingdom. Even the most severe opponents of the proposal will agree that whatever we do the United Kingdom must remain in one time zone.
I do not believe that it is necessary to rehearse the arguments at any great length. They are set out in detail in the Second Reading debate which took place on 11th January and which noble Lords can read in Hansard at col. 243. In summary, the objectives of the Bill are supported by all outside organisations concerned with transport, road safety, tourism, sport and leisure together with industry, commerce, banking and all the financial services of the City of London which contribute so much to the national well-being.
When the matter was previously discussed in this House in January my noble friend Lord Mountgarret was fobbed off by my noble friend Lady Trumpington--she is normally a most robust Lady--with a lengthy speech which regrettably signified little. As an aside, noble Lords may be aware that my noble friend Lady Trumpington is recovering from a knee operation. I am sure that it is the wish of the whole House that she makes a speedy recovery and returns to us in her normal full vigour.
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