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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. May I say to the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra) that that is the second time his phone has gone off in the Chamber? As far as I am concerned, that is one of the most serious crimes that an hon. Member can commit.

Mr. Boateng: Voluntary organisations are out there, working with local authorities and community groups, to deliver a better quality of service to some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of our society. We are about making sure that such organisations have at their disposal the means to deliver and take forward their plans, thus empowering and enabling local communities to take responsibility for the vulnerable, the disabled and the disadvantaged in ways that enable better delivery of public services than has hitherto been provided.

Public services exist to serve the public. When they are underfunded, as they were under the Conservatives, the people are the poorer. When they underperform, as they

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do when management is weak and the right systems are not in place, the people are let down. High performance must be rewarded with more responsibility and more resources. Failure cannot and will not be tolerated, so in the present review, for the first time, Departments are to introduce effective sanctions against failing institutions—not withdrawing resources and so punishing the public, but bringing about that attitudinal, cultural and systematic shift to focus attention on performance and deliver against targets of continual improvement.

That is not something to be rubbished or decried. Failing schools, education authorities, colleges, social services, local authorities, police forces and prisons—all will be enabled and empowered to deliver, but all will understand that if they fail to do so, there will be consequences. We cannot allow resources to be wasted.

We have set out a framework for progress—a framework in which resources are tied to reform in order to deliver results. It is a vision for public services that has at its heart the concrete steps that it is necessary to take to enhance opportunity and security for all in this changing world. Above all, it is about bringing together people in partnership for change—[Hon. Members: "No!"] The Conservatives do not like the notion of partnership—they do not accept that there needs to be a change in the way in which we deliver services. They do not accept that because they do not trust the people and they were never prepared to make the resources available. They do not accept that because, fundamentally, they do not like public services.

We believe in public services. We believe in the values and ethos of public service. Only the Labour Government can be trusted to protect that and take it forward. That is why we are sitting over here, and the Conservatives are condemned to remain over there.

6.29 pm

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe): Unlike the Chief Secretary, who took eight minutes—almost a quarter of his speech—before he got round to the spending review, I want to talk about the review. Last week, the Chancellor had the opportunity to signal real improvements in public services to end the crisis in the national health service, to bring order to classrooms where, too often, disruptive children prevent standards from rising for all and to get the police back on the streets fighting crime. Our public services can and must be improved, but to improve them requires vision, leadership and real reform. These things the Government have constantly promised, but last Monday the Chancellor once again failed to deliver them. Today, despite the fact that he has taken personal charge of delivery in this area, he has not even come to the Dispatch Box to defend the Government's record.

Perhaps that is no surprise. Last week—

James Purnell (Stalybridge and Hyde): Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howard: No. The hon. Gentleman will have to wait.

Last week was not the Chancellor's first spending review, but his third. The country can be forgiven for a sense of deja vu because his recipe is always the same. First, he announces record amounts of money. We have his word for that. In 1998, the extra money was said to

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be the biggest ever investment in health and education. In 2000, it was record investment. Last Monday, it was more of the same.

Then comes the spin. With the Chancellor, not everything is what it seems. [Interruption.] It is no good the Chancellor chuntering away like a man possessed on the Government Front Bench. He should listen.

The Chancellor refuses to update his growth forecasts, even though most commentators think that they are optimistic. However, he is quick to take credit for changes in forecasts of unemployment and interest rates. If new forecasts help his presentation of public finances, he does not hesitate to use them. If they do not, he ignores them. Why did the Chief Secretary not explain why the Chancellor has ducked repeated requests to say whether he envisages yet further tax rises, even in this Parliament? He avoided the question six times on "Today" and he did so again last week in response to questions from my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow). Despite repeated questions, he did so yet again before the Treasury Select Committee. Why cannot the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary come clean on that?

Secondly, there are questions about the way in which the public debt is classified. Both the National Audit Office and the Statistics Commission have queried the way in which the Chancellor proposes to deal with the £21 billion borrowing of Network Rail. Why are not the Government including that borrowing in their accounts? Why is it being taken off-balance sheet? Is that not a classic case of Enron-style accounting?

The third ingredient in the Chancellor's recipe, after more money and more spin, is that he flunks real reform. Real reform means allowing teachers to restore discipline in the classroom, police officers to get back on the streets to fight crime, and doctors to treat patients without constant diktats from Whitehall. It means trusting professionals to get on with their jobs. It also means being willing to learn from success in other countries. Measured against those benchmarks, real reform of our public services has not taken place, is not taking place, and never will take place under this Government.

Mr. Tom Harris (Glasgow, Cathcart): The right hon. and learned Gentleman rightly says that reform is key. Does he agree that new funding is key? Will he commit himself to matching the extra funding that has been provided by the Government?

Mr. Howard: We will not be bound by the spending commitments that derive from policies that are failing. In due course, we shall bring forward our own spending commitments, which will derive from our policies, which will succeed. That is the difference.

David Wright (Telford): Since 1996–97, spending per pupil in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's constituency has risen by 18.9 per cent. Will he be writing to every head teacher in his constituency to say that that cash will disappear?

Mr. Howard: The hon. Gentleman may have overlooked this, but we are talking about the Chancellor's

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spending review and his plans for the future, not about what has happened since 1996–97. We are concerned with the future, rather than the past.

The truth is that Ministers want to improve public services. Of course they do. I understand that and I give them credit for it, but they simply do not know how to. As a result, they can only spend more money each year. However, more money without real reform will not work.

The Chancellor's substitute for reform is targets, about which the Chief Secretary waxed—I cannot say that he did so eloquently, but he waxed. Last week, the Chancellor gave us a new batch of public service agreements, and they are worth looking at in a little detail. For the past four years, we have been told that they lie at the heart of the Chancellor's strategy, that they are central to his drive to improve public services, and that they form the very bedrock of his agenda. He announced them in his very first spending review in a fanfare of publicity, saying that they were an "essential change", helping to ensure that the Government would do what they did "to the highest standard".

What has happened since? One independent analysis found that no fewer than 44 per cent. of the targets set by the Chancellor had not been met by the required deadline.

Four years ago, the Chancellor placed particular emphasis on targets for efficiency improvements. The purpose of these, he said, was to

If the Chancellor places such great emphasis on these targets, why was he unable to tell me last week why the 3 per cent. health efficiency target was first failed and then cut? Will not that lead to £890 million less in resources for patient care in the health service?

What about the Chancellor's own target for efficiency gains? The Treasury efficiency target has itself been dropped altogether. The reason given is that the Treasury could not measure its own output. Was it not possible for the Chancellor to think about that before setting the target in the first place? How can he lecture other Departments about meeting efficiency targets when he cannot meet his own?

The efficiency targets are not the only targets to be dropped or cut as a result of the Government's failure to deliver. The Home Office target on the removal of failed asylum seekers has been cut. The measurable target on fear of crime has been dropped. Instead, the Home Office will aim to increase to 1.2 million the number of crimes for which offenders are brought to justice. Presumably, the latest rise in crime will help the Home Office to achieve that goal.

In education, the failed targets on truancy have been cut, and so has the national vocational qualification target for 19-year-olds. The Government say that both were subject to "slippage" or "increased room for catch-up", as, according to the Chancellor's advisers, that should now be known.

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