Oral Answers to Questions — Public Expenditure

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th March 1979.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Stirlingshire West 12:00 am, 5th March 1979

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether, in his role as economic adviser to the Government, he is satisfied with current levels of public expenditure.

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Central

All Government decisions, on expenditure as on other matters, have my full support.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Stirlingshire West

Will my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that the Government will resist the pressures which are coming from Tory hatchet men and Treasury officials, who are demanding further savage cuts in essential social services in the forthcoming Budget? Does my right hon. Friend agree that an alternative strategy of increasing public expenditure by about £3 billion a year would not only help to improve essential social services but would create jobs?

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Central

I do not know that there are any hatchet men among the Civil Service, in spite of the one-sided leaks that one reads about. The Government's approach to public expenditure is based on a rather broader vision than that of the Conservative Party. I am afraid that I cannot go along with my hon. Friend in believing that it would be appropriate to procure an immediate £3 billion increase in public expenditure. I am as keen as he is to move away from the grossly excessive levels of unemployment in the Western world, including those in our own country. But I do not think that a simpliste remedy of that kind will produce the results my hon. Friend wishes.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Budgen Mr Nicholas Budgen , Wolverhampton South West

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the proposals from the Labour Party to increase public expenditure in the coming year by about £3 billion can only lead to a combination of higher taxes and higher interest rates, or else to an increase in the rate at which the money supply grows?

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Central

I am not aware of any such proposals from the Labour Party. I am aware that some of my hon. Friends are understandably anxious to increase the public services. I share their desire. It is a question of timing in relation to our economic achievement permitting increases in public expenditure.

Photo of Mr Laurie Pavitt Mr Laurie Pavitt , Brent South

Is my right hon. Friend aware that public expenditure next year in the North-West Thames regional hospital authority area will increase by £1,015 million through no decision of this House but merely by accepting the Common Market directive on nurses? Since that authority is but one of 16 such regions, may I ask my right hon. Friend to give his attention to this matter? If that kind of money is available, would it not be better for the House to decide to give it to the nurses through their pay packets rather than putting it into this scheme?

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Central

I am afraid that I am not as erudite on the details of this matter as my hon. Friend. I shall certainly look into the point he raises.