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18 Nov 2002 : Column 400continued
Mr. Howard: We have made this absolutely clear. I shall say it again for the hon. Gentleman and the Chancellor, and I hope that, this time, it will register with them. Our commitments on public spending will not come from the failing policies of this Government; they will come from our policies, which we believe will succeed and provide the country with the public services that it needs and deserves.
Mr. Howard: I have said this a hundred times before, too: no, it is not. When that statement was made, the proportion of GDP that was taken in tax in this country was 36 per cent., so that was not really as radical or dramatic a policy as the hon. Gentleman makes out. Since then, however, the burden has increased substantially, and we shall have to deal with the situation as we find it when we return to office, and not with the situation as it was in 1997.
Although, understandably, Labour Members do not want to talk about their record on public services, that is what I want to talk about now. The Chancellor's recipe for reform could be found in his public service agreements. In his first spending review, he said that they were an Xessential change", helping to ensure that Government would do what they did Xto the highest standard". But what has happened? The Government have failed, or are on course to fail, to meet nearly 40 per cent. of the targets that they set in 1998 and 75 per cent. of those that they set in 2000and that is if we accept their own assessment, and their own interpretation of success or failure, at face value.
Rolled forward: Not the Lotto jackpot, but a way of keeping a target going past its sell-by date, rather than admitting it has been missed
Not met: As near as ministers come to saying 'failed' or 'broken'; this passes for strong language
Baseline not verified: Baffling term; basically means a target the terms of which are so unclear that it cannot be measured
Not yet assessed: Crops up frequently, a way of keeping a difficult target going indefinitely
Ongoing: A bit like 'rolled forward', only not so specific. Rolled forward carries a slight admission of failure; ongoing is target speak for 'we never said this would ever be finished'
On course: 'Stop asking so many awkward questions, we'll let you know when we're ready'
Measure changed: Admission that the original target has never been completely revised
Cannot assess: The Treasury's admission that a target is too baffling to make sense of
Non-smart: A target that was never meant to be assessed, has no set timetable and no set definition."
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): Does my right hon. and learned Friend recall that, in 2000, the Government set a target to improve palliative care? They put #50 million behind it, but, two years on, a ministerial written answer to me given only this week says that it is disappointing that not a penny has yet been delivered to hospices to meet that target.
Mr. Howard: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me of that shameful statistic. In fact, this would all be laughable were it not so serious. Those targets are at the heart of the Government's attempts to deliver on our public services, and they are the particular brainchild of the Chancellor. They are well on the way to making him a laughing stock.
Meanwhile, the Government continue to pour moneytaxpayers' moneyinto those unreformed public services. This Government are taking #115 billion more every year from the taxpayers of this country, which is nearly #40 a week for every man, woman and child. That is before next April's national insurance contributions risethe Brown tax on incomes and the Brown tax on jobs. Under this Chancellor, next April's tax rises will not be the last, because the Government's failure to modernise the public services means that their only answer is higher and higher spending and higher and higher taxes. Despite that extra spending, we are not seeing the improvements in our public services that we all want.
Laura Moffatt (Crawley): My constituents are still completely confused by the right hon. and learned Gentleman's view, and it is not surprising that they say to me, as a former nurse, XAll this criticism is coming at the Labour Government, who are putting so much more money into public services, but there is a given statement from the Conservatives that we would have to pay for particular services in the health service." What services are they? He needs to tell my constituents clearly what health services they would have to pay for under a Conservative Government.
Mr. Howard: I am sorry to say that confusion in the hon. Lady's constituency is obviously contagious and it is hardly surprising, given her state of mental confusion, that it has been transmitted, as she suggests, to her constituents.
The truth is that all we see under this Government is more and more money being taken out of people's pockets and the slow but inexorable undermining of the competitive advantage of British business on which everything depends. The problems in the UK economy have been building for some time. Of course it is true, as the Chancellor says, that all countries are affected by events such as 11 September, but the causes for concern in the UK economy run deeper. It is five and a half years since Labour took office, so it is time to test the Government, not merely against the much-hyped forecasts for growth and public spending this year,
As part of the new industrial policy, the Chancellor promised that Government must implement a co-ordinated programme of manufacturing investment. However, manufacturing investment in the last four quarters was 13 per cent. lower than in the last four quarters before Labour came to office. Business investment as a whole has fallen for six quarters in a row. We do not have to look far to see the root cause of many of those failures. For five years, the engine of wealth creation in this country has been over-taxed and almost run into the ground. It can take no more.