Previous Section Index Home Page

Mr. Tyrie: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way-he is being extremely generous. In my remarks, I said that once we had won on amendment 2, it would
20 Jan 2010 : Column 350
have consequential implications for the targets that we in the Opposition would want to follow were we to be foolish enough to end up with this Bill on the statute book. The Minister knows very well that his point is disingenuous, and so his point about thinking seriously about voting for the amendment is nonsense.

Ian Pearson: The Opposition can decide what they want to do and whether they want to force a vote. Amendment 2 is very clear, and its implications would be that the deficit would be cut more slowly than the Government propose. That runs counter to the Opposition's policy. That is why they seem to me to be confused and muddled in their thinking and in what they are trying to achieve with their amendments.

Given the profound impact of the global financial crisis on the deficits and the national debt in all major economies, it is right to focus on reducing the deficit and stabilising debt. That is what the Government are trying to do, and it is what we are proposing to do through clause 1. The amendments are confusing and muddled, and although I do not disagree with the overall principle of wanting to get structural borrowing down-that is, of course, a right and sensible thing to do-I do not think the amendment is helpful, and I hope the hon. Member for South-West Hertfordshire will withdraw it. If he does not, I strongly advise my hon. Friends to resist it.

Mr. Gauke: This has been a useful debate, and I thank the following right hon. and hon. Friends for their contributions: my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) and my hon. Friends the Members for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) and for Stone (Mr. Cash) for their speeches, and my hon. Friends the Members for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon) and for Braintree (Mr. Newmark) for their interventions. It is also noteworthy that, clearly after the Government Whips had trawled through the Tea Rooms and the Palace in general, we have had a contribution from the Labour Back Benches. However, in the speech of the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd), his thoughtfulness, as always, got the better of him, and his remarks were hardly the ringing endorsement that the Government would have wanted. To paraphrase his argument, what he said was, "I'm not sure this Bill will ever become legislation, but it does at least give us an orderly process for discussing the matter." That is a reasonable point, but I am not sure that the big moment the Government have been waiting for was a Back-Bench Member speaking in support of the Bill in such a fashion. There have also, of course, been a number of other Back-Bench contributions questioning the Government's proposed policy, such as that from the hon. Member for Luton, North (Kelvin Hopkins).

I shall not enter into a wider debate about clause 1, as we will have opportunities to exchange selective quotations again when we move on to a future group of amendments. I shall, however, talk briefly about the Minister's remarks. I am grateful for two points that he made. First, he accepts that all political sides agree on the need for automatic stabilisers. Sometimes, Government Ministers-and in particular the Prime Minister-are less careful in their characterisation of Opposition policies than the Minister, and it is right that he said that. It is also welcome that the Minister displays a degree of honesty as to the difficult future choices the country faces; at
20 Jan 2010 : Column 351
least there was none of the "cuts versus investment" nonsense that has so characterised the Prime Minister's utterances on this matter over the last few months.

On fiscal targets, the Minister made the point that Ministers should be accountable to the House, which raises the question of why we need to put all this in legislation in the first place. It is entirely otiose-to use a word of which the Minister is fond-to do this. He also fully accepts that the structural deficit is a valuable measure, but he brings into question certainty in that regard. This Government have, of course, relied on cyclical measures for most of the time that they have been in power, and I know that that is not necessarily the strongest argument in favour of cyclical measures and targets, given how they were abused. However, the Minister did not say anything that got to the heart of amendments 1, 2 and 3, which is that, even if we accept that there is a need for a straitjacket-which we do, although we are doubtful about the need for a legislative straitjacket-it is important that we have the right straitjacket. This is the wrong straitjacket. Given that the Chancellor has said that if there was another banking crisis, he would just have to come back to the House and ignore the Bill, it does nothing for the credibility of these targets, and the Government's policy on the deficit, to have in place the wrong measure.

I remain confused about the Minister's argument that our proposal suggests cutting the deficit more slowly than the Government propose in both cases. He referred particularly to amendment 2, which relates to subsection (2). We end up with the relevant measure of borrowing by 2014 being half of what it was in 2010. I look at the numbers in the pre-Budget report, and the Government's projections show public sector net borrowing falling from 12 per cent. to 5.5 per cent. and the cyclically adjusted PSNB falling from 8 per cent. to 3.6 per cent. The ratio of those numbers in both sets is almost identical, so I do not think that that is right. It enables the Bill to take into account economic growth and the economic cycle. If economic growth turns out to be faster than the Minister anticipated, it would mean reducing borrowing by even more, and there will be scope to do so.

Clause 1 misses the main target and nothing that the Minister said today addresses that. I say to Labour Members, some of whom, I hope, will have listened to the debate, that ours is a more sensible and pragmatic approach. Let there be no doubt that we are very serious about the deficit and we think the Government are taking too long to address it.

In conclusion, I intend to press amendment 1 to a Division. Were that to be successful-on the balance of the debate in the Chamber, it should be-I shall press amendments 2 and 3. For the moment, I shall press amendment 1 to test the mood of the Committee.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided: Ayes 200, Noes 286.
Division No. 49]
[3.42 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Atkinson, Mr. Peter

Bacon, Mr. Richard
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, rh Mr. Jeffrey M.
Dorries, Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harvey, Nick
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holmes, Paul
Horwood, Martin
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howell, John
Hughes, Simon
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McCrea, Dr. William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Mulholland, Greg
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie

Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, David
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Stephen
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wright, Jeremy
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Tellers for the Ayes:

Bill Wiggin and
Mr. Stephen Crabb

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Bain, Mr. William
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, rh Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coffey, Ann
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Corbyn, Jeremy
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, rh Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Patrick
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Healey, rh John
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Hermon, Lady
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, rh Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Khan, rh Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, rh Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGuire, rh Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, rh Mr. Jim
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
O'Brien, rh Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Owen, Albert
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Price, Adam
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, John
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank

Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, rh Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Vaz, rh Keith
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Williams, Hywel
Wills, rh Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wishart, Pete
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. John Heppell and
Mark Tami
Question accordingly negatived.
20 Jan 2010 : Column 352

20 Jan 2010 : Column 353

20 Jan 2010 : Column 354

20 Jan 2010 : Column 355

The First Deputy Chairman: I have now to announce the result of the Division deferred from a previous day on the question relating to Adjournment (February). The Ayes were 248 and the Noes were 194, so the Ayes have it.

[The Division list is published at the end of today's debates.]

Mr. Jeremy Browne: I beg to move amendment 4, page 1, line 14, at end add-

'(4) The Chancellor of the Exchequer may, for the purpose of securing sound public finances, by order made by statutory instrument disapply this section in relation to any period of not more than one year beginning with the coming into force of the order.

(5) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must not make an order containing, with or without other provision, any provision disapplying this section in relation to any period unless a draft of the order has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of the House of Commons.'.

The First Deputy Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following: amendment 5, page 1, line 14, at end add-

'(4) This section shall not come in to force until the Treasury has laid before the House of Commons a review of the accuracy of the projections of public sector net borrowing contained within-

(a) The Budget 2008,

(b) The Pre-Budget Report 2008,

(c) The Budget 2009, and

(d) The Pre-Budget Report 2009.

20 Jan 2010 : Column 356

(5) A review under subsection (4) is subject to approval by resolution of the House of Commons.'.

New clause 1- Commencement-

'(1) This Act comes into force on such day as the Treasury may by order made by statutory instrument appoint.

(2) No such order may be made unless a draft of the statutory instrument containing it has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of the House of Commons.

(3) No such draft may be laid until the Treasury has conducted a consultation on the contents of this Act and laid before Parliament a report setting out a summary of responses.'.

New clause 16- Commencement-

'(1) Section 2 comes into force when the Treasury has laid before Parliament a report containing an estimate of the impact on economic growth that will result from the fulfilment of the duties set out in that section.

(2) The remaining provisions of this Act come into force on Royal Assent.'.

Mr. Browne: I and my colleagues tabled amendments 4 and 5. To follow on from the observations of the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) on the last group of amendments, there is indeed an Alice in Wonderland quality to the Bill-it is extraordinary that we are all being invited to spend a whole day discussing it.

I said in my last contribution that when I was doing a radio interview recently a Labour MP said to me, "What do you mean we don't take the deficit seriously? We are bringing in a law to deal with the deficit," as though passing legislation and having a positive set of policies and a desire to implement them were one and the same. Clearly they are not. The very same Labour MP, in the same radio debate, maintained that the principal party of opposition to the Iraq war was hers as well. The whole Labour party is now in a state of complete denial about its position in politics, and nowhere is that more true than with regard to the enormous budget deficit that it has presided over. It told us that it had abolished boom and bust, that Britain could enjoy continuous economic prosperity and growth, and that the normal economic cycle that had applied throughout history no longer applied under the current Prime Minister. That has now emphatically been proven not to be the case.

4 pm

Clause 1 has three specific duties. In an intervention a couple of hours ago on the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), I perhaps caused some confusion by mentioning the aspect of the Bill that has attracted the greatest attention-halving the deficit in what people assume will be the lifetime of the next Parliament, if it runs a typical length of time. However, there is the added inflexibility of the requirement to reduce the deficit year on year, through to 2016. There is therefore no scope for making adjustments based on exceptional circumstances. That should concern us all.

On Second Reading, I raised a matter with the Chancellor, and I am afraid that I did not get a good response. His response was evasive-I do not mean that he was disrespectful to the House, simply that he followed the logical consequences of his position. I gave two examples. First, I asked what we would do in the case of a massive additional threat to our national security. I hope that that is unlikely, but it is not impossible-we must have some sort of contingency plan and provision for an event of that magnitude.

Next Section Index Home Page