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Mr. Howard Flight (Arundel and South Downs) (Con) rose—

Mr. Brown: I am happy to give way to the former shadow Chief Secretary. I remind the House that a few months ago he predicted that we were heading for a crisis analogous to the great crash of the 1920s.

Mr. Flight: First, I am sorry that the Chancellor misquoted what I said. I said that the effect on the stock market was as bad as in the 1920s—which it is, because it fell 20 per cent. Secondly, did the Chancellor support membership of the exchange rate mechanism, which led to the problems that this country experienced in the early 1990s?

Mr. Brown: Of course we supported membership of the ERM, but we did not choose the rate at which that Government joined it, and on which they could not deliver.

The shadow Chancellor tells us that this Government have a bad record on tax, regulation and productivity. Let us look at what the shadow Cabinet member responsible for deregulation has been telling the City. At the Techlocate conference in London on 13 October
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2004, he agreed that the single most important consideration—I hope that the shadow Chancellor is listening, because he may have to adapt his policies as a result of this—is the cost impact of government. He said:

So the shadow deregulation Minister does not describe the condition of the British economy as does the shadow Chancellor, who says that our tax rates are unacceptable, and has told an audience outside the House that tax rates are low.

The shadow deregulation Minister went on to say:

in finding jobs. Then he said:

The answer to the shadow Chancellor, who got his figures wrong on productivity and who imagines that every regulation damages business, although business often asks for things to be done, is, according to the shadow deregulation Minister:

I am grateful to him, because he has given us a verdict on the Government that we will be able to use during the election campaign. It answers in substantial detail just about every point made by the shadow Chancellor, who claims that he is responsible for the good things that the Labour Government have done.

What of the next stage: the Queen's Speech itself, and our policies? The shadow Chancellor did not mention the child benefit Bill. It will enable the Government to extend financial support to trainees who are unwaged and to 19-year-olds completing a course of non-advanced educational training. That will remove the disincentives in financial support for young people to stay on in education while at work. With the growth of education maintenance allowances, it will help many of the 100,000 who do not stay in education and training. I hope that the Opposition will support the Bill, even though the right hon. Gentleman did not mention it.

That leads me to the difference between us and the Conservatives on the other issue of training, employment and opportunities for the future. Our policy is to expand the new deal so that there is a new deal for skills as well as for jobs. In the pre-Budget report tomorrow I shall announce measures that will enable more of the unemployed and those who are inactive, including incapacity benefit claimants, to get the skills to return to work.

Our policies have created 200,000 more jobs in the UK since a year ago. Two million more people are in work than in 1997—

Mr. Flight: In the public sector.

Mr. Brown: The hon. Gentleman uses "public sector" as a term of abuse. There are 80,000 more nurses and 20,000 more doctors. Surely with its new policies, the Conservative party should welcome that. Does he not also realise that two thirds of the jobs have been created in the private sector, which he should support?
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The unemployment rate—the claimant count—in the shadow Chancellor's constituency is 0.7 per cent. He might have been better off congratulating a Labour Government on the jobs that have been created. Unemployment in the shadow Chief Secretary's constituency is 1 per cent.—a reduction of 50 per cent. under the Labour Government. Is it not therefore an outrage that when all those things have been happening to get 2 million people into jobs, the Conservative party now wants to abolish the new deal?

The shadow Chancellor says that the new deal has been an expensive failure, yet 1.2 million people have been helped by it. He said:

which suggests that it might have been doing some good—

Abolishing the new deal would cost money because the new deal for single parents, which, as an employment Minister, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions was responsible for developing and is now responsible for taking further, saves £40 million a year by getting people off benefit and into work. Abolishing it is hardly a saving. Will not the shadow Chancellor take into account what the former shadow Chancellor said:

Will he not even listen to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee—a Conservative—the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), to whom I shall be happy to give way, because I am going to quote him? He said:

I hope he still agrees with that sentiment, and therefore agrees that to abolish the new deal would be a bad thing.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): The Chancellor well knows that in attempting to run the Public Accounts Committee I try to rule by consensus, so we take a balanced view. If he is going to quote reports issued by the PAC, he should quote from the entire report. If he read the report, he would realise that we are prepared to see the good parts of the new deal, but we are also prepared to criticise it. We made a point of saying that the evidence was not clear as to how many real jobs the scheme had created.

Mr. Brown: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that, but it is a bad practice for the Chairman of a Committee to disown himself from a report. I was actually quoting what he said to the Lincolnshire Echo. I shall also quote what he said in The Birmingham Post, which shows that the Opposition are prepared to say things outside the House that they are not prepared to say inside it. The nearer they get to their constituencies, the nearer they get to some truth about what is happening. He stated:

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If that is not an acceptance on the part of the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of the importance of the new deal, I do not know what is.

Notwithstanding the fact that we are running up to a general election, we had hoped that we would have all-party consensus on the future of the new deal. It is unfortunate that both the Conservative party and the Liberal party, which is disowning the traditions of Lloyd George, who proposed a new deal to conquer unemployment, are opposing the new deal, which has done so much good.

Mr. Flight rose—

Mr. Brown: If the former shadow Chief Secretary, who has just left the Front Bench, is the only person who will intervene on behalf of the Conservatives—

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con) rose—

Mr. Brown: Ah—perhaps there is more talent on the Back Benches. I shall take both interventions.

Mr. Flight: The Chancellor has just illustrated the fact that the economy is pretty much at full capacity. Given that fact, is he concerned that our fiscal deficit is approaching £40 billion and our external current account deficit this year is likely to be in the order of £40 billion as well? Does he not feel that those imbalances present considerable risks for the future?

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