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Mr. Portillo: The Chancellor's rules are inadequate. I will impose extra disciplines; I have set out and named five disciplines. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether he will raise Government spending faster than the growth rate of the economy for only three years, or beyond? If it is beyond, that means extra taxes and he should be honest with the British people. If it is only for three years, it is boom and bust, bad spending and a bad policy. Of course, it is a bad policy anyway, as it squeezes out the private sector. Why cannot he tell us: three years or more than three years?
Mr. Brown: The House will know that I have answered the question. The fiscal rules will be observed. We have observed them over the past three and a half years and we will do so over the next period. We are investing where it is necessary to do so, subject to a debt to GDP ratio that has fallen from 40 per cent. towards 30 per cent. Those are our two fiscal rules. Does the right hon. Gentleman believe in a balanced budget? If he cannot answer that question, everything that the Leader of the Opposition is saying about tax cuts is hollow.
Mr. Brown: The hon. Gentleman might wish to be the shadow Chancellor--and would, indeed, be more effective in that role--but the right hon. Gentleman has refused to answer our question: does he believe in a balanced budget or not? I thought that that was simple. It is simple for some Back Benchers.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I must tell the Chancellor that if no hon. Member is offering to intervene, there is little point in him sitting down for a long time. If he does so, another hon. Member will inevitably fill the gap.
Mr. Brown: I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Let us put on record that the shadow Chancellor has refused to tell us what his fiscal rule is. The Conservatives used to say that it was a balanced budget or working towards a balanced budget, but the right hon. Gentleman has refused to tell us. We know why he cannot do so. If he gives the impression that he supports a balanced budget--I believe that he probably does--he will be admitting that he cannot afford any tax cuts. That is the position. The right hon. Gentleman can now correct me by telling us whether he believes in a balanced budget, but I believe that this has already been a very illuminating occasion.
Mr. Portillo: I set out very clearly the fact that we intend to vary the Government's spending plans by £8 billion, and to give tax cuts to pensioners, savers, businesses and all the people who have been clobbered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The independent economics editor of the BBC, Evan Davis, said:
We have established two things today that will be very significant in future months. The Conservatives cannot tell us whether they believe in a balanced budget or not. They have no fiscal rules. The shadow Chancellor made a statement about the £16 billion figure, and he is unable to deny it, other than by quoting a secondary source. Given that it was he who made the statement, it would be better if he were able to deny it himself.
Mr. Brown: I shall give way to the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Sir P. Tapsell), the right hon. Member for Wokingham and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples), and then I shall make some progress.
Sir Peter Tapsell: All this time-wasting waffle with which the Chancellor has been padding out his speech is nonsense. He keeps making the absurdly over-simplistic point about there being some wonderful rule based on a balanced budget, which will be for the lifetime of the cycle. The economic community does not take that very seriously because nobody knows the length of the cycle. If only the Chancellor could grasp that. We do not know how long the cycle will last, or whether it will be one of prosperity or depression. Mr. Greenspan and all of the
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): My constituents understand that the Government have put taxes up a lot. They can see and feel that, and they are prepared to believe that this Government are spending more than the previous Government. However, what they find odd is the fact that they do not have enough policemen, teachers, doctors or nurses. They have fewer of many of them than under the previous Conservative Government. When will some of that money get through to pay the wages of the people whom we want, instead of buying an army of spin doctors and bogus advice for the Chancellor?
Mr. Brown: The right hon. Gentleman is now a supporter of public spending. That is a conversion indeed. He said at lunchtime in a speech that was issued by the Press Association that the divide in the Conservative party was not really between the mods and the rockers, because there was only one rocker, namely, the shadow Home Secretary, but between the Europhiles and the Eurosceptics. I believe that that is the position from which he comes on just about everything.
On the right hon. Gentleman's question about public spending, will he support the £5 billion extra a year that we are putting into education? Will he support the 20 per cent. rise in transport spending--our £180 billion plan for transport--that we are proposing, which the shadow Chancellor refuses to support? Will he support the extra expenditure on law and order--the 6 per cent. real terms increase a year? Will he therefore now support our public spending plans? I think that he would agree with me that it is impossible to get doctors, nurses and other people to serve in our public services unless we have the money to pay their salaries. If he agrees with that, he has become a supporter of the Government's plans and will be, once again, at odds with the shadow Chancellor.