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Mr. Bruce: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I have dealt with that point of order.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Reverting to the points of order on the subject of the election on 23 October, one of the problems is that the Procedure Committee met after the last election in 1992, when there was a proposer and an amendment and the amendment in the name of the current Speaker was successful. Arising out of that, on Wednesday last, I sought the advice of the Clerk with a view to seeing whether the Procedure Committee had made any recommendations for change, because of concern at the time that at least one candidate--a previous occupant of the chair as Deputy Speaker--was not allowed to stand. It seems that the Procedure Committee has discussed the matter, but has come to no conclusion, other than that we will carry on with the current procedure. The Speaker should look into the question of how to overcome the Procedure Committee's recommendation because there is no doubt that there is a groundswell of opinion in the House that there should be a multi-choice election in which people can vote openly for their candidate.

Reference was made earlier by the Opposition to a secret ballot. We do not want secret ballots in the House of Commons. Every single vote that is cast in the House of Commons is cast in the Lobby so people know exactly how we have voted. I find it fanciful that a Tory Member is now recommending secret ballots in the House of Commons.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman's point of order. I do not think that I can

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add to the response I gave initially to the point of order. I am sure that everybody will have heard the points that have been made.

Mr. Ian Bruce: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Is it a different point of order?

Mr. Bruce: Well, it is the point--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: No. I have dealt with that point.

Mr. Bruce: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Is it a different point of order?

Mr. Bruce: It is a different point of order.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Entirely different?

Mr. Bruce: It is entirely different because it is the original point that I wished to make.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: If it is the original point, it can hardly be a separate--[Interruption.] Order. If it is the original point, it can hardly be a separate point of order. I have already dealt with the hon. Gentleman's initial point of order and I am not prepared to listen to him any further on that point.

Mr. Bruce: On a completely different point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. We must now move on to the main business.

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Public Expenditure

[Relevant document: The Minutes of Evidence taken before the Treasury Committee on 10th May (Spending Review 2000), HC 485-i.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Jamieson.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): May I advise the House that Madam Speaker has placed a time limit of 15 minutes on all Back-Bench speeches?

2.16 pm

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Andrew Smith): I commend the spending review and the White Paper to the House, but let me start on a note that I hope the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and his right hon. Friends will endorse. I doubt whether they will find much else in my speech to endorse, but anyone who has seen from the inside the phenomenal amount of work that goes into a public expenditure review will know just what a vote of thanks we all owe to the officials, who often work long hours under pressure to meet the demanding deadlines of such an extensive exercise. We see here the civil service and the Treasury at their best.

As well as policy advice, we have all the energy and dedication that goes into administration, co-ordination and information. Without it, we could not complete a spending review and Parliament and the public would be denied the quality and objectivity of information necessary for informed debate. I place on record our thanks for the high standard of that enormous effort.

The political choice, though, is ours. The Government have made our choice, built on a solid foundation of stability. We have chosen to make a prudent investment to improve key front-line services and to upgrade our infrastructure.

With Labour, people know that those who need care will get better care and that children and adults will be helped to achieve higher standards in education. We are strengthening the hand of the police in fighting crime and making our communities more secure, improving our transport system and tackling the drugs menace. So when we now commit to real average increases of 5.7 per cent. in health, 5.4 per cent. in education, 3.8 per cent. in policing and 20 per cent. in transport over the next three years, we are addressing the public's priorities for better health care, properly equipped schools, less crime in the estates and elsewhere, and better journeys to work and to shops.

We have no doubt that, building on the progress that we have already made, people want to see investment in these and other front-line services. The challenge for the Conservative party is to say where it stands. What is it that it is guaranteeing?

Not so long ago, the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer was keen on guarantees. On GMTV three months ago, he said of the tax guarantee:

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Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Given that the right hon. Gentleman has already admitted that he is this year spending £20 million on the national handover plan, and the further evidence from national health service trusts that an extra £95 million is being spent on proposed conversion to the euro, is he proud of the fact that he is plotting the abolition of our national currency with resources that would otherwise pay the annual salaries of 7,500 nurses?

Mr. Smith: With the huge investment going into information technology and computers it would be foolish not to make the alterations which have to be made. It is no change on the plans and policies that we have announced on this for the future. The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends must tell us where they will find the £16 billion of cuts. Not from that, evidently. He, the shadow Chancellor and the rest of them claim that our spending settlement is unaffordable, but they refuse to say where their cuts would fall.

The other night I had some sympathy for the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), who was left forlornly to wander the television and radio studios with no intellectually coherent argument whatever to make against the shadow Chancellor's statement. After all, it follows arithmetically that if the Tories are saying that public spending should grow at 2 per cent. instead of 3.3 per cent., they must be committed to cutting our programme by at least that £16 billion. The Tory research department has accepted that figure in this helpful document. Hon. Gentlemen must now tell us where that axe will fall.

The document takes us some way further forward. It helpfully includes at the end a table, by region, of where £16 billion of cuts, allocated in proportion to taxpayers, would come. It would be £1.8 billion in London, £3.84 billion in the south-east, £606 million in the north-east, £1.4 billion in Scotland and £714 million in Wales. Let Tory Members put on record today for all their constituents to see where they would cut health, which schools would go without and which bits of police spending they would hack back.

The Tories are frightened to do that because they know that it would be unpopular. They try to have it both ways and to con the electorate. That comes out most clearly from the model news releases and briefs, again helpfully prepared by the Conservative party research department, which suggests that hon. Gentlemen use them. I cannot see many hon. Members clutching them this afternoon, however. They are obviously embarrassed by the product of their research department.

Let me show hon. Gentlemen which one I am looking at. It is this one. It provides some further information, but it is hardly profound stuff from the party of "lower but better" spending. It says of transport:

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It says of education:

So the document goes on. Even on social security it has the nerve to say:

Mind you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it also says:

It is clear from the documents that on education, transport, law and order and the public services, the Tories do not commit to the investment that we are making. They cannot do so because, they argue, our spending plans are somehow imprudent or unsustainable. They are wrong on both counts.

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