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As for economic reform, we made the Bank of England independent, which the Conservatives opposed. We created the Financial Services Authority; they opposed it. We created an independent Competition Commission; they opposed it. We created the new deal of rights and responsibilities; they continue to oppose it. We will therefore not take any lectures about the conduct of economic policy from the Opposition.
On planning reforms, the Deputy Prime Minister will announce on ThursdayOpposition Members will, and should, welcome thisreforms to the planning system that will speed up planning and put more resources into making the planning system more effective. It is a tragedy that nothing was done during 18 years of Conservative government. As for housing, we are doubling the housing budget, having already doubled it. The housing reforms that we are making, which will be announced on Thursday, should be welcomed by Opposition Members as well Government Members.
Waiting lists, which the shadow Chancellor also raised, are down by 100,000 on 1997. There is no point in his trying to lecture us on the national health servicehe would cut the NHS budget. He said that all of us in positions of responsibility should be judged on our performance. He, remember, had ministerial responsibility for financial services at the start of the pensions mis-selling. He was Minister for Local Government when the poll tax was introduced. He was Employment Secretary when unemployment went up by 1 million, and was Home Secretary when crime doubled.
Mr. Brown: The question is whether the Conservatives can ever stand before the country again as a serious party if they are not prepared to finance education, health and decent public services. May I tell the shadow Chancellor that at the last election, to win his seat in Folkestone, he said that the Conservatives would spend more on education and health. He cannot face his electors with a policy of cuts in education and health. He should go back to the drawing board and think again.
Matthew Taylor (Truro and St. Austell): Watching the Conservatives today is like watching the charge of the Light Brigade. Unlike them, we welcome the spending increase for hospitals and schools. We believe that the British people will do the same, and the polls suggest that even Conservative supporters will.
After two years of cuts and five years of phoney figures, no longer the same old failures: at last Labour is admitting the truth. Public services were failing because they were starved of funds, but why then did the Chancellor cut income tax just two years ago? Why did he allow the share of national income going to education to fall in the last Parliament as a whole? Why did Labour not tell the truth about its tax plans at the general election? No wonder people do not trust Labour.
Conservatives voted against the tax rise; today they oppose the spending rises, so now we know for sure: Conservatives want fewer teachers, fewer doctors, fewer nurses. No wonder the British people do not
Matthew Taylor: On our side, the money is welcome. We had the courage to argue for it at the election. The question now is whether the Chancellor is spending it well, and there the signs are bad. There is not more reform but more control. Why is there more control from the centre, more red tape and more control freakery? What is the Chancellor afraid of? Why will he not trust local people with local school and hospital decisions, and trust communities with their hospitals and schools?
Here we have itquangos for health, quangos for social services, quangos for police. The Chancellor may be able to control his Cabinet colleagues, but he cannot control every classroom and he cannot run every hospital ward. It is time to trust the teachers with their classes, the doctors with their patients and the nurses in their wards. The Chancellor has given them the money, and now he should give them the freedom to do their job, answerable to the patients and the community, not tied up in red tape and quangos answerable only to the Chancellor.
Mr. Brown: I am surprised at the Liberal shadow Chancellor saying those things. First, we are devolving power to primary care trusts. We are devolving power to schools. We have just announced the biggest payments direct to head teachers. Equally, we are devolving power to both regions and localities in terms of housing, social services and so on. I should have thought that he would welcome the inspectorates that we have set up to ensure that there is proper public information about how various organisations are meeting the standards expected of them.
Once again, while I welcome the fact that the hon. Gentleman supports the additional public spending, the Liberal party wants us to spend more[Interruption.] Last week, the Leader of the Liberal party was standing in the House of Commons demanding that more money be spent on community care. The week before, more money was requested for other purposes. In comparison with what the Liberals promised at the last election, by 2006 we will be spending £9 billion more than they promised on education, £25 billion more than they promised on health, £6 billion more than they promised on transport, and £1 billion more than they promised on international development.
Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton): May I commend the Chancellor for a huge boost to public services? In particular, I single out the education maintenance allowances, to which the shadow Chancellor referred and which will increase the incentives for young people in disadvantaged areas to stay on in education after 16. Can the Chancellor assure me that there will be no black holes down which the money will go, and that the reforms are essential for the benefit of the economy as a whole? Does
Mr. Brown: I am grateful to the Chairman of the Treasury Committee. I think that what he says is very important. I am rather surprised that the shadow Chancellor and shadow Chief Secretary have chosen to abandon the House of Commons at this very point, when it is not only our proposals that are under scrutiny, but theirs as far as public spending is concerned.
On the point made by my hon. Friend, yes, we will extend education maintenance allowances. I believe that there should be widespread support in all parts of the House for more people being able to stay on at school and for there being no financial barrier to their doing so. The condition of the education maintenance allowancesthis relates to his point about value for moneyis that this is not money given in return for nothing; it is given in return for young people staying on at school, studying for qualifications and making a go of it in their final years at school so that they can get college and university qualifications. I look forward to visiting the Treasury Committee to talk about this and other matters.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe): I congratulate the Chancellor on his ability to use the word "prudence" at least once without an apparent blush of shame or regret, as he used to cite her more frequently. Will he confirm my understanding on two points: first, that this is the biggest rate of increase in public spending that has been announced since the early 1970s, or for 30 years, since pre-International Monetary Fund intervention days; and, secondly, that it is being announced at a time when the outlook for the real economyindeed, the global economyand its ability to create wealth and grow is probably more uncertain than it has been for a very long time?
Does the Chancellor justify that with his constant citing of the levels of national debt and the present levels of deficit, which I am sure he realises are the result of an American-led western boom that led to his under-forecasting revenues and finding that he was over-forecasting spending? Does he not agree that in three years' time, where he should be looking in prudence, debt will be higher, deficits will be growing and interest rates will probably not be as low as 4 per cent.? If we have had a period of low growth or worse, he will face tax increases or unhealthy public deficits, or both, and a difficult time for the real economy. This review is a gamble; it is spend, spend, spend. That is popular todayit always is and always was when it happened in the pastbut those of us with a concern for the national interest must have our fingers crossed that at least some of it comes off.