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The Chairman of Committees: (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, the Question is, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 123E, to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 123H, but do propose Amendment No. 123HB in lieu thereof.
"Last May we imposed a two-year spending limit and we have kept to this limit. We promised to cut public borrowing, and it has been cut by £20 billion; a fiscal tightening that will be locked-in into next year. And to meet our fiscal rules and in line with cautious and published assumptions audited by the Independent National Audit Office, we plan current surpluses for the next three years of £7 billion, £10 billion and £13 billion. And as a proportion of national income, debt will fall below 40 per cent.
"In the last economic cycle, under the previous government, the current budget deficit averaged at 1.5 per cent. of national income, the equivalent of £12 billion of extra borrowing every year. And during the 1990s national debt doubled.
"Over this economic cycle and for the first time for decades, Britain is set to have both a current budget in balance and a sustainable approach to debt--an approach that is among the most prudent of our G7 partners, and more prudent than our predecessors.
"All the allocations we make this afternoon are made within and subject to this overall financial discipline, as I set out in the Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report published last month. And through our New Deal for the unemployed, we are tackling the bills of economic failure and under the plans published today the growth in social security spending for this Parliament will be significantly lower than in the last Parliament.
"Working within this framework, the Comprehensive Spending Review has examined the most effective use of public money across and within each department and I am grateful to the Chief Secretary and to the Public Spending Committee of Cabinet for their work.
"By looking not just at what Government spend but at what Government do, the review has identified the modernisation and savings that are essential. The first innovation of the Comprehensive Spending Review is to move from the short-termism of the annual cycle and to draw up public expenditure plans not on a one-year basis but on a three-year basis.
"And the review's second conclusion is that all new resources should be conditional on the implementation of essential reforms, money but only in return for modernisation: Government moving out of areas where they need not be, and--in those areas where public service matters--Government setting clear targets for modern, efficient and effective services.
"So today we begin not, as all spending announcements for the last 30 years have traditionally done, with annual allocations but by setting out the new three-year objectives and targets for each service
"So let me set out the essential changes. First, each department has reached a public service agreement with the Treasury, effectively a contract with the Treasury for the renewal of public services. It is a contract that in each service area requires reform in return for investment. So the new contract sets down the new departmental objectives and targets that have to be met, the stages by which they will be met, how departments intend to allocate resources to achieve these targets and the process that will monitor results.
"The Prime Minister has decided that this continuous scrutiny and audit will be overseen by a Cabinet committee, continuing the work of the existing Public Spending Committee, and money will be released only if departments keep to their plans.
"Secondly, the contract will stipulate new three-year efficiency targets for the delivery of services--targets that range between 3 per cent. and 10 per cent. The terms of these will be made public. The purpose of these efficiency targets is to ensure more resources go direct to front line services--to patient care in the NHS, to classroom teaching, to fighting crime--a policy of promoting front-line services, so that by securing greater value for money, we secure more money for what we value.
"Thirdly, in addition to efficiency targets we have embarked upon a programme of radical reforms. To achieve our priorities, difficult decisions and choices have had to be made. We have already reformed student finance and begun welfare reform--matching rights with responsibilities. And as a result of the comprehensive review, further reforms will be announced in legal aid, procedures for asylum, in child benefit, youth justice and with the withdrawal of unjustified subsidies. And in defence and the Foreign Office, we have achieved the changes necessary to provide us with the defence and diplomatic capability we need while making the savings necessary--for example, in the number of warships, and with a new public/private partnership for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.
"Fourthly, for central and local government we have now agreed a programme for releasing assets we do not need to fund £11 billion of additional new investment in health, education, housing, transport and other capital projects that we urgently do need. And with a number of further announcements today our policy of promoting public/private partnerships is extended into new areas, including national science policy, urban policy and overseas development.
"So in line with the three-year allocations, the independent review bodies will now report not just to the Prime Minister but to the departmental Ministers who have to meet these public service improvement targets and who will now respond to the recommendations.
"And consistent with three-year allocations, we are announcing a further strengthening of the pay review system. Having spoken to the chairmen, the Prime Minister has confirmed that their remits--in addition to their responsibility to recruit, reward and motivate staff--and therefore their role will be strengthened with three responsibilities: their recommendations will take account of affordability (in other words, the current departmental spending limits); they will take account of the Government's inflation target of 2.5 per cent.; and they will take account of the need to achieve the Government's targets for output and efficiency.
"This reform offers the opportunity for public services to manage their pay and conditions more directly, but also gives departments a responsibility to ensure that pay settlements cannot be determined without regard to the demands of the service. In this way, as in every other organisation, pay decisions will now be made in relation to the overall objectives of the service.
"But perhaps the most important advantage of conducting a comprehensive spending review is the opportunity it allows for individual Secretaries of State to put in place a substantial reallocation of resources within their departments--from bureaucracy to front-line services, from dealing with the symptoms of problems to dealing with causes--and to consider a co-ordinated approach that breaks free from old departmental fragmentations and duplication.
"As a result of interdepartmental reviews, services for asylum seekers will now be managed by one department rather than five; the three departments responsible for criminal justice will work together to one set of objectives; children's services and the urban regeneration budgets and our approach to tackling fraud will be reorganised, achieving both efficiencies and savings.
"Our prudence has been for a purpose. It is because we have set tough efficiency targets, and reordered departmental budgets that our top priorities, health and education, will receive more new money than the other 19 government departments combined. To accommodate this, we have had to take a firm line with other spending programmes, and rigorously select priorities.
"Now the allocations to individual services. Here, the main conclusion of the comprehensive spending review is that it is not just a social duty for government to invest in good public services, to improve our social fabric, and to tackle poverty and deprivation by extending opportunity. Most people in Britain, apart from a small and extreme minority, also agree that it is in the economic interests of the whole country to create an infrastructure of opportunity, and invest in education, science, transport and strong communities so that individuals can contribute to the economic and social well-being of the country.
"I turn to education. Invest in the education of our children and we are investing in our future. In the old economy, it was possible to survive with an education system that advanced only the ambitions of the few. The new economy demands an education system that advances the ambitions of all. But investment will take place only in exchange for further modernisation and reform.
"The Education Secretary has agreed not just to set numeracy and literacy targets for 11 year-olds but to set government targets for nursery education, for cutting truancy, for higher attainment by teenagers, for improved standards of teaching including a qualification for head teachers, for greater efficiency in further and higher education and for the inspection of schools. In return for investment, there will also be further reforms in teacher training and in the administration of school budgets.
"At every stage, we are linking investment to reform and it is on this basis that the Education Secretary tomorrow will announce the biggest single investment in education in the history of our country. In this and in other services there will be separate announcements based on the Barnett formula for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
"In the last three years of the previous Government growth in education spending was £7 billion. For the next three years, I can announce additional education spending of £19 billion. In total, we will spend £3 billion more next year, £6 billion more in 2000 and £10 billion more in 2001. That is what we mean by education, education, education; honouring our commitment to the British people.
"In 18 years of the last Government, spending on education rose on average by 1.4 per cent. a year. Education spending will now rise in real terms by an average of 5.1 per cent. a year till the end of Parliament.
"Today, around a million children are still being taught in classrooms built before 1914. Six thousand schools are already being refurbished. On top of this, over the Parliament capital investment to re-equip our schools will double. And after our reforms in student finance, there will now be an expansion in the number
"We said that we would meet our pledge on school class sizes for five, six and seven year-olds. Under the proposals the Education Secretary will announce tomorrow our pledge will be met--as we promised.
"Investing in education is essential to secure both a fairer society and an efficient economy. And if our country is to be prepared and equipped for the competitive challenges ahead the Government also have an economic responsibility to invest in science and innovation; in the transport infrastructure, and in building safer and stronger communities.
"Net public investment will be doubled as a result of the Government's new Investing in Britain Fund, but in every area investment is conditional on reform. It is the development and application of ideas and inventions in science that hold the key to improved national competitiveness.
"As a result of a reduction in subsidies that can no longer be justified, and as a result of £400 million in support from the Wellcome Foundation, which I thank, the Government are able to announce the biggest ever government-led public/private partnership for science. A total of £1.1 billion will now be available to provide modern facilities for science research at our universities and support science teaching and research throughout the country. This innovative step-change in our approach to science will lay the foundations for putting Britain at the forefront of the next generation of scientific and industrial research.
"Anyone who travels on our roads and railways knows that after years of neglect and under-investment Britain suffers from an overcrowded, under-financed, under-planned and under-maintained transport system. So for transport we propose a new investment strategy involving new public/private partnerships--like those for the Underground and Channel Tunnel rail link--and a commitment to integrated planning. In return for these innovations there will be £2 billion more investment. From a 25 per cent. decline in transport investment in the last Parliament, there will be a 25 per cent. increase in the next three years--for investment in public transport and meeting our environmental objectives. Full details will be set out by the Deputy Prime Minister in his transport White Paper.
"Economic success and social cohesion both depend on safer and stronger communities. That is why we will now invest more in crime prevention. And that is why today also we propose policy reforms to tackle the underlying causes of poverty.
"It is because we are announcing major modernisations that put legal aid on a fairer footing and reform youth justice that more resources will be made available for policing and for the first time substantial resources for innovative evidence-based crime prevention work. Measures to tackle drug abuse
"To build stronger communities, we need also to renew our housing stock. To cut out waste and ensure best use of resources, the Deputy Prime Minister will impose new guidelines for greater efficiency in construction and repair. And a new housing inspectorate will audit housing management in every local authority.
"With the help of these reforms we will be able not just to tackle homelessness but to renovate 1.5 million homes and to do so we will allocate, from capital receipts, £3.6 billion. Our commitment to the environment recognises the need for responsibility in the use of energy and it means that there will be a new programme for home energy efficiency.
"We are committed to a comprehensive programme of welfare reform. Since coming into office, we have introduced the New Deal, the reform in student finance, the working families tax credit and a new approach to child benefit. The Prime Minister has set up a welfare review which led to the welfare Green Paper and a long-term framework for the provision for future pensions and for the reform of disability benefits will be announced later this year.
"Last week we announced reforms in the Child Support Agency and yesterday new measures to combat social security fraud. Today I announce further changes in welfare policy. The New Deal for the unemployed is based on opportunities matched by responsibilities. It is now time to extend this approach to communities by tackling the underlying causes of poverty. For our most deprived estates, the key problems are not just poor housing but lack of employment and economic opportunity. In exchange for long-term targets for improving business start-ups, skills and educational qualifications, a total of £800 million will be allocated to the New Deal for communities. And a New Deal helping the young unemployed to become self-employed will be launched on Friday.
"A further reform will make it possible for thousands more young people to stay on in school and go on to further and higher education. To raise Britain's appallingly low staying-on rates, a new educational maintenance allowance, linked to attendance and based on parental income, will be piloted for 16 to 18 year-olds. If, as we expect, the new educational maintenance allowance succeeds in encouraging young people to stay on in education, we plan to introduce it nationally, using the money currently spent on child benefit post-16.
"As the interdepartmental review of children's services has uncovered, we spend £10 billion on young children but do so in an unco-ordinated and piecemeal way with thousands of the youngest children--those under three--missing out. Plans for a sure-start programme will be announced later this month, to bring together quality services for the under-threes and their parents--nursery, childcare
"At the heart of our review has been a determination that we fulfil our duty to the oldest members of our society. First, pensioners will benefit most from a better health service. And it has always been wrong that charges are levied on pensioners for the eye sight tests that they regularly need to preserve sight and protect against disease. So for pensioners, from next April, eye test charges will be abolished.
"Secondly, the elderly who rely heavily on public transport need a fairer deal to enable them to be more mobile. In his Transport White Paper the Deputy Prime Minister will announce plans for nationwide help with transport for the elderly.
"Thirdly, the elderly fear their winter fuel bills. As a result of the cut in VAT, our winter fuel payment and other changes, average pensioner fuel bills are up to £100 lower this year. Later this week the Social Security Secretary will announce our further plans for help with fuel bills for the rest of the Parliament. And she will also announce further financial proposals to help pensioners who need it. Here also we are prepared to make reforms that will help alleviate poverty. From next April every pensioner and pensioner couple will have a minimum income guarantee.
"We shall also set a minimum tax guarantee: that no pensioner will pay income tax unless their income rises above a specified level. The Government will also announce measures to ensure that more people receive the income that they are due. As a result of our proposals, thousands of pensioners will be relieved from poverty. A total of £2.5 billion will be set aside for this programme.
"Further reforms in other services have made possible new investments that improve the quality of our community life. As a result of cutting wasteful bureaucracy and quangos and a new targeting of resources on priorities, £290 million extra will be invested in museums, the arts and sport over the next three years, not just repairing the damage of the previous Government's cuts but a real increase of 5.5 per cent. making possible improved access to museums and galleries.
"As a result of assets sales in areas where spending is no longer needed, the Foreign Office budget will not only ensure more resources for the proper representation and promotion of Britain abroad, but also the Foreign Secretary is announcing today that our support for the BBC World Service will be raised by a total of £44 million over the next three years.
"For 20 years overseas aid has been falling as a proportion of national income. Under this Government it will rise. As a result of a decision to sell a majority stake in the Commonwealth Development Corporation, and of a new decision to target overseas development assistance on health, education and anti-poverty programmes, the Secretary of State for International Development will announce today that Britain will, during this Parliament, increase overseas aid from the low of 0.25 per cent. of national income--the budget figure we inherited last year--to 0.30 per cent. of national income. Britain will enter the millennium at the forefront in pressing for debt reduction for the poorest countries. And aid which was falling by 2 per cent. a year under the last Government will rise in each of the next three years.
"The National Health Service is compassion in action; what its founder, Aneurin Bevan, rightly called the most civilised achievement of modern government. The final conclusion of the Comprehensive Spending Review is that it is fair and efficient to provide the best health service we can on the basis of need, not the ability to pay, and that under this Government health services will never be left to the hazards of private or charitable provision. Yet half the beds in NHS hospitals are in accommodation built before the First World War. And three-quarters of ward blocks are hand-me-downs from the days of charity, voluntary, municipal and emergency wartime hospitals. Investment in the NHS is long overdue. And we will recognise the care, the responsibility and the dedication of doctors, nurses and all staff to the patients of the NHS.
"The Secretary of State for Health will announce on Thursday in this House targets that tackle inefficiencies in hospitals and cost overruns, that simplify management structures and give a new emphasis to long-term planning. On quality, all hospitals will be required to publish league tables measuring the success rates of their treatments. Over the lifetime of this Parliament over £1 billion will be saved from red tape and put into patient care, in part by scrapping the costly and time-consuming annual round of contracts.
"So on the 50th anniversary of the NHS this Government will now make the biggest ever investment in its future, giving the NHS for the first time for decades the long-term resources it needs. Under the last government the increase for the last three years was £7 billion. For the coming three years, I am announcing an increase in health service funding of a total of £21 billion.
"Health department spending rose by an average of 2.5 per cent. a year during the last Parliament. Next year it will rise by 5.7 per cent. and the year after by 4.5 per cent. For the rest of the Parliament this Labour Government will achieve yearly real growth averaging 4.7 per cent. Every hospital will benefit from the 50 per cent. increase in investment in equipment and buildings and the £5 billion fund for NHS modernisation will give us the largest hospital
"This Government have made the choices necessary to deliver stable and sustainable public finances. We have been steadfast in our priorities--the nation's priorities. As a result of prudence and a commitment to an investment in return for reform, a total of £40 billion will be invested in the nation's priorities--health and education. We are a Government whose prudence allows us to build modern public services and to renew Britain; a Government keeping our promises to the people of Britain; a Government line by line delivering on our manifesto; a Government step by step making Britain stronger. I commend this Statement to the House".
Lord Higgins: My Lords, during the high drama of the earlier debate, I was reminded of an occasion on which I had to compete in the only race which took place after Roger Bannister's first four-minute mile. There was a slight sense of anti-climax then and to some extent there is a slight sense of anti-climax in your Lordships' House now.
The major difference is that while the matter we were discussing earlier is of great importance, there cannot be the slightest doubt that the Statement we have just heard is of far greater importance both in quantitative terms and in terms of the future of our country. Therefore, I begin by thanking the Minister for his stamina in the way in which he presented and repeated the Statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Since I have been in your Lordships' House, I have been vastly impressed by the way in which the noble Lord masters his briefs. I have a number of clear and specific questions to ask him in a few moments.
The wording of the Statement is in many ways, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, will know, rather precise. I should like to pin down a number of points. However, before I do so, I wish to refer to the extraordinary way in which the contents of the Statement were leaked in the national press this morning. In more than 30 years in politics I cannot recall any similar event. As far as The Times is concerned there were specific quotes from the document itself. In the Financial Times there were statements attributed to the Prime Minister's official spokesman and I understand, although I did not hear it myself, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before appearing in another place, did a broadcast which revealed a considerable amount of what appears in the Statement. Hugh Dalton must be turning in his grave.
This is a matter of great concern. The tactic is very simple. You release the good and the bad news beforehand, you put your spin on the good news, and the bad news is dead news by the time Parliament has an opportunity to comment on it. That is serious. In another place Madam Speaker has stressed that Statements should, in the first instance, be made to Parliament. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, in his role as Leader of this House, will support Madam
I turn to the proposals. We have to recognise that the Statement reflects a major reversal of policy. The policy set out by the present Prime Minister before the last election was very clear in statement after statement, in broadcasts, and so on. It was that priority would be given to certain areas, notably health and education, and that was to be financed by savings as far as the social security budget was concerned. That was the policy, clearly stated. But it is equally clear that that has been reversed. It is quite true, and certainly one must welcome this, that there are to be substantial increases in both health and education. But it is certainly not the case that the Government's programme of welfare reform has been operated in such a way that the total of public expenditure on it has been cut. Of course, there are careful words in the Statement saying that the rate of growth has been reduced but that was not what the policy was. The policy was that there should be cuts. Instead, in the Statement and the detailed supporting documents, we find an increase. The amount spent on social security is to go up from £95 billion in 1998-99 to over £108 billion by the end of the planned period. So the whole strategy has changed. That obviously has important implications as far as the management of the economy is concerned--implications for taxation, borrowing, inflation, interest rates and so on.
Before I go into the details, perhaps I may stress another point. To a large extent there is what I think the Americans would call a question of "smoke and mirrors" as far as the presentation is concerned. In order to give the impression that there have been reductions in social security spending, the working families tax credit has been taken out of the public expenditure figures and something like £5 billion has been allocated to what is called an accounting adjustment.
I come to my first question for the Minister. Is it not the case that the Office for National Statistics is opposed to this reclassification? Clearly, as far as part of the working families tax credit is concerned, it is a hand-out and cannot conceivably be regarded as a reduction in taxation. It clearly is a hand-out. If we look at all the total for the so-called accounting adjustments, we find that something like £15 billion has been stuffed into this rather convenient receptacle making the prudence of the operation look a great deal better than it might have done.
There are other aspects that give one cause for concern. It is rather extraordinary that when the previous government were dealing with social security fraud, the previous opposition said that it was exaggerated at £2 billion. Only a little while ago it was said to be £4 billion. Suddenly it has grown to £7 billion and apparently this is to be part of the savings that the Government are to make. I ask the Minister why is it that these estimates of social security fraud have more than doubled in quite a short period of time?
I turn to a broader issue raised by the Statement. In the Budget Red Book as short a time ago as last March we were told that by the year 2000 there would be a budget surplus in each year to the end of the planned period. I ask the Minister not to look at the carefully-worded Statement. Can we have a straight answer? Is that any longer true? Secondly, we were told that there was to be a reduction in the national debt. Again, I ask the Minister not to look at the Statement. If we compare it with the Red Book is that any longer true? Thirdly we were told that there would be a reduction in the percentage of national income taken by the state. Is that statement made in the Red Book any longer true? I hope that we can have a clear answer from the Minister.
I turn to some of the individual items. As far as education is concerned, there is certainly a substantial increase. Earlier in the afternoon we were debating whether £2 million or--a debateable figure-- £27 million could be afforded. Apparently, there is to be an increase in educational spending, which of course in many ways is welcome, of £8.5 billion. How is it that the Minister could have stood earlier at the Dispatch Box, when the Government are proposing an increase of that size, arguing the point as to whether the amendment cost £2 million or £27 million? I think that some question of priorities inevitably arises.
Perhaps I may also raise a matter we debated earlier on the Social Security Bill and the promise made in the Chancellor's Budget that he would raise tax thresholds for individuals at a cost of £1.3 billion. It will be in the recollection of your Lordships that we were told that that was something which would happen sometime later, although the impression was given that it would be immediate. Has that £1.3 billion been taken into account in the review we are considering this afternoon?
There are a number of difficult issues involved in the review, especially as far as concerns pensions. That also is to be welcomed. However, the move towards a guaranteed minimum pension inevitably suggests that the Government are moving towards means testing the national insurance pension. That is implicit in what is now proposed, I think it would be true to say. I am glad to see that I have some support from nods on the other side of the House. Despite all the protestations to pensioners of "Do not worry. Regardless of your income level we will not means test the national insurance pension", once you go for a guaranteed minimum pension in the way now proposed, it seems to me that that proposal, that basis of the national insurance scheme, is in danger of being undermined.
Finally, I should like to say a word or two about the implications of the change in policy which I referred to at the beginning of my remarks. The reality is that there is a huge increase in expenditure with no corresponding savings of the kind which the Government clearly intended to make. Perhaps I may ask the Minister a very simple question. As a result of the proposals set out in the Statement, does he think that the pressure on interest rates will be upwards or downwards?
Given the overall approach of the Statement, it seems very clear that the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England is likely to be very concerned about the situation which will follow. We are seeing an overall increase in public expenditure at a point where, if we are not actually at the peak of the cycle, we are certainly approaching very close to it. Indeed, it is a very strange policy in many ways designed to ensure that we have a sensible economic policy--a policy which the Chancellor says is prudent. If one looks at the Statement, it does not seem that the Chancellor's claims of prudence can really be justified.
Therefore, although there are clearly many things in the Statement which will be welcomed--indeed, anything which increases public expenditure for this or that individual on a massive scale is likely to get a welcome--the long-term proposals will go a long way towards undermining what the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has previously been; in fact, this is a reversal of it. I believe that the claims for prudence are now very difficult to justify. I fear that, as a result, we are heading back to what may still appropriately be called "stagflation".
Lord Taverne: My Lords, the Statement is one about long-term strategy. I should like to begin by making some general observations. It would be a tragedy if our society became one of ever lower taxation and declining public services. A high quality society requires high standards in education, in health, in public transport and in a number of other public services. By their original pledge to keep public spending within the limits set by the previous government--certainly for the first two years--it appeared as if the Government were opting for the American rather than the more civilised European model. We on these Benches are not asking for the average European levels of state pensions in this country or for European levels of income tax. However, we have always accepted that there may be a need from time to time to increase taxation, or charges, if a civilised level of public services is to be maintained.
Now the Government have relented from their very rigid control of public expenditure. In the Statement there are unexpectedly large increases in spending on education and on hospitals. The latter have to be seen in perspective. The average increase in spending over the lifetime of this Parliament is not that enormous in the case of health expenditure. It has been announced that there will be an average increase of 4.7 per cent. in real terms for the next three years. By my calculations that means that over a period of five years, the full length of a parliament, the average increase in spending on the health service will be about 3.6 per cent. On figures I have obtained from the Library of the House, in the period from 1989-90 to 1996-97 the average increase under the previous government was some 3.3 per cent. Therefore, it is a very welcome and sizeable increase, but it is not an enormous one. There may need to be
As for education, there is to be an increase of 5.1 per cent. for the last three years of the Parliament. Again, looking at the very low levels of the first two years, that means that the average will be 3.5 per cent. That is substantial and very much better than was obtained under the previous government. Therefore, all in all, I believe that these increases are to be warmly welcomed but they must be seen in perspective. I shall not go into other items, except to mention in passing that I greatly welcome the extra spending on science and the increase in the allocation to the World Service of the BBC.
As for the techniques of securing greater value for money, I must declare a certain scepticism. Since I was a Treasury Minister over 30 years ago, I have noticed that every new administration always claims that it will have a wonderful new weapon for extracting better value for money out of its public expenditure. Sometimes one sees that improvements are made, but the claims are always vastly exaggerated. I hope that the Chancellor of Exchequer will not count on too many savings.
However, if one looks at the overall scheme, there is no doubt that it depends on inflation being kept low. Indeed, if inflation goes higher, the plans cannot be maintained. They rely very heavily indeed on a rigid control of public sector pay. Do the Government not realise that this may be a very weak part of the strategy? Do they not realise that you cannot, indefinitely, keep public sector pay below private sector pay? That is not only grossly unfair for teachers and nurses and not only conflicts with trying to get the best value out of public services; but, also, it will not hold. It is demoralising and, in time, it will not be possible to recruit people to perform the services that we need. Have the Government not looked back and realised from history that our experience has been that this kind of policy of trying to keep public sector pay increases below those in the private sector cannot be maintained?
I turn now to my other reservation; namely, that what may turn out to plague the Government and undermine these splendid plans is the failure of the first two Budgets effectively to attack consumption. The Government have announced a tough fiscal policy. However, it is not quite as tough as it was. Their policy has been tough on companies, but it has not been tough on consumption. In that respect, it does not compare favourably with the policies followed after the 1992 devaluation by Chancellor Lamont and, in his earlier days, by Chancellor Clarke. It means that the Government are relying too much on interest rates to keep down inflation. That may lead to a recession and, if there is a recession, the three-year plan will have to be modified as a result. So there is a weakness here. I do not know whether there will be a recession, and I am not saying that there will be one because I do not
The Government have accomplished many good things, quite apart from this change of tack over public spending. The methods of controlling the latter are, on the whole, to be welcomed. The Statement which was made on public accounts the other day was also most welcome, as indeed is the long-term approach of today's Statement. I very much hope that the Government will achieve their aims. However, there are many uncertainties and some weaknesses in the Government's strategies. I have in mind their failure to tackle consumption and perhaps their excessive reliance on restraining public sector pay. I hope that those weaknesses do not lead to disappointment.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey; My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for the way they responded to the Statement. It is interesting to note that whereas public attention will be very largely focused, I believe, on the spending plans as regards health and education, and so on, both noble Lords, being highly intellectual persons, have chosen to focus on the issues of economic management in general rather than on the spending plans. In a way I welcome that approach, because it is appropriate for this House.
The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, started by saying that he had to run in the race after the four-minute mile. I lived in Iffley Road at the time of the four-minute mile, but, after I had seen the record being broken, I have to say that I went away and did not see the noble Lord running. It is a matter which has not been of regret to me for the past 44 years, but no doubt it will be for the rest of my life.
The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, said that he regretted the leaks in the press. Of course, the Government regret any speculation in the press. In particular the Government regret it when the lobby briefing which is given as normal by the Prime Minister's official spokesman is then quoted in the press against all the rules on those briefings. The Chancellor spoke on the radio this morning but my understanding is that he spoke entirely in generalities and certainly did not give any market sensitive information and gave no significant leaks of what was contained in the Statement. As regards the quality of the speculation in the press, we have only to look at the totally opposing views in the Guardian and the Independent on what is proposed for public sector pay to realise that what we are talking about are not leaks or any breach of parliamentary privilege but simply legitimate and sometimes rather inaccurate speculation.
The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, spoke about our approach to savings in the social security budget. He mentioned Labour Party statements made both before and after the election and said that we would have to make savings to pay for the improvements we propose in health and education. The noble Lord ought to
The noble Lord made an interesting, difficult and technical point about the classification of the working families tax credit in the Government accounts and the views of the Office for National Statistics on the reclassification of those accounts. We have taken into account the views of the Office for National Statistics on this matter. The accounting adjustments referred to in the White Paper are in line with its definitions of national accounts. I hope that that will satisfy the noble Lord, but if he is not satisfied we can engage in correspondence about it.
The noble Lord referred to social security fraud. It is true that when we were in opposition we were not convinced of the value of the estimates made by the then Conservative government of social security fraud. When we were in opposition we did not know as much as we do now. I believe that my honourable friends in the social security department are now being realistic in their estimates of social security fraud without in any way saying that this will not continue to be an intractable problem in many ways.
The noble Lord asked me to confirm what is being said in the Red Book rather than in the Statement. Clearly, there is a difficulty here for opposition spokesmen who have a short time to read these documents. However, there is a real difference between the way in which we present public expenditure now and the way in which it was presented in Red Books in the past. All Red Books right up until March of this year have talked in traditional terms of a control total and then various non-control items. What we are doing now is rather different. We are distinguishing between departmental expenditure limits, annually managed expenditure and total managed expenditure which is the addition of those two items. It may help noble Lords to think of them as three children: Del, Amy and Tim. What we are doing in this redefinition of public expenditure is to distinguish between those items which can and should be controlled by departments in the way in which they set their targets and the way in which they spend money to achieve those targets--and will be held to account for that--and those items, such as the vast bulk of social security expenditure, which are demand led and therefore are annually managed expenditure items. They are both brought together in total managed expenditure and the comparisons are not quite as direct as the noble Lord would perhaps wish.
As regards the noble Lord's specific questions on the Red Book, I can confirm that we still expect a £30 billion surplus cumulatively over the next three years in accordance with the golden rule forecast. We expect a reduction in the national debt of 4 per cent. over that period. We expect public expenditure as a
The noble Lord asked about the means testing of what he called the national insurance pension. We have said in the Statement that there will be a guaranteed minimum income for all pensioners and that there will be a guaranteed maximum tax take from all pensioners. I think that gives pensioners the assurance they want, even if it does not satisfy the noble Lord.
The noble Lord's final question concerned whether this public expenditure programme would produce pressure on interest rates. The public expenditure programme in total does not arise from this Statement but results from the Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report last month. It was that report and that announcement in Parliament which set out the global figure expected for public expenditure over the next three years. The Monetary Policy Committee has met since that figure was made public and has not seen fit to propose an increase in interest rates. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will to some extent be reassured on that, although of course the Monetary Policy Committee does not control interest rates around the world.
The noble Lord, Lord Taverne, had an interesting approach to the Statement. He quite rightly said that there are two ways of looking at the balance between taxation and services. You can have what he described as the American model of low tax and low services, or you can have what he presumably applauds as an alternative; namely, a high tax, high spend model. We did not win the election on a high tax, high spend model of the economy. We won it on a fair tax and protection of public services model which is not quite the same thing.
If we have tried to achieve anything in our past two announcements it is that public services can and will be protected but will be protected at least as much through improvements in efficiency and targeting as through increases in taxation. The noble Lord is, of course, quite right to take the three year figures we have presented today and recalculate them to cover the whole five years of this Parliament, including the two years for which we accepted the public spending plans we inherited from the previous government. I do not apologise for that. In the light of the effective work that has been done on public expenditure over the past 15 months, it was clearly the right decision to tackle the issue in that way. The benefits and rewards are apparent in the Statement I have repeated.
The noble Lord talked about the dangers of a rigid control of public expenditure. He went on to specify public sector pay as being, as it were, the leading edge of that criticism. The Statement is inevitably elliptical. What we mean to say about public sector pay is that there will be an extension of the remit of the public sector pay review bodies; that they will be responsible for recommendations to government about the level of public sector pay in the light of our requirement on each
Lord Barnett: My Lords, I know the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, to be characteristically not as churlish as he was made to sound this afternoon. He is basically quite a nice fellow. However, he must feel, because he is speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, that he has to behave in the way that he has. I wish to make it clear that I warmly welcome the Statement. Listening to it, I thought that we were going to have a general election next week!
I wish to ask a few specific questions. First, it was previously stated by the Chancellor that there was a "golden rule" that current revenue would always exceed current expenditure, which we are now told will be 2¼ per cent. a year. Indeed, even with public capital investment, public expenditure is expected to grow from only 39 per cent. to 41 per cent. of GDP. Given the Bank of England's current role of considering inflation first and everything else second, including government economic policy and presumably including the Chancellor's Statement today, we shall not know what the revenue is to be over the next three years.
I am not suggesting, as the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, seemed to do, or implying that the Monetary Policy Committee will be obliged to increase interest rates arising out of this. Fortunately, no one from the Monetary Policy Committee is likely to be listening to him. The Bank of England and its Monetary Policy Committee do not know what is going to happen in regard to inflation or anything else this month, let alone over a three-year period.
Never mind whether there is to be a hard landing, a recession or whatever, if economic growth and revenue are nothing like as high as is assumed in the Chancellor's Statement, have departments been warned that there may be a need for cuts in their departmental expenditure? That consideration is not unimportant and I assume that it may well happen, despite the reserves that are built into these matters.
There is to be a new Cabinet committee to oversee departmental expenditure. Am I to take it that that is the first announcement of a reshuffle--namely, there will no longer be a need for a Chief Secretary to the Treasury? If that is not the case, will my noble friend say what the Chief Secretary will do in future?
Finally, I note from the Chancellor's Statement that the Government are to retain the Barnett formula. I should be flattered--at least so far as Wales is concerned. However, so far as Scotland is concerned, I am not flattered. I have made clear that in my view the Barnett formula should not be continued as it is, and certainly not for three years, given the state of income per head in other parts of the UK including the north of England by comparison with Scotland. There is clearly a need for a review. I know that the Government are very fond of reviews; they have just announced another one. I should have liked to hear, and perhaps my noble friend will confirm, that there is at least to be some review of the Barnett formula as I have suggested, in order--not to do away with the name, because I have grown very fond of it--but to have a Barnett formula mark II. That certainly needs to be done, and perhaps my noble friend will tell me that that is the Government's intention.
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