To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his policy on forecasting public spending planning totals in the proposed new budget cycle.
In the Budget last March, the Chancellor forecast a public sector borrowing requirement of £28 billion. What is the forecast today?
In last autumn's expenditure statement, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said that the net contribution of the United Kingdom to the European Community this financial year would be £2·5 billion, with slightly higher figures for the two subsequent years. Is that still the forecast or can my right hon. Friend give us any hope that there will be an alleviation of that unnecessary burden?
I have no change to announce to the published forecast. The flows vary from time to time. If my hon. Friend is saying that it is important to continue to bear down on the expenditure of the European Community, and hence on the contribution that we make, I entirely agree with him. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has been engaged upon that exercise. It was good that we negotiated an abatement at Fontainebleau, which so far has resulted in a saving to the United Kingdom of £12 billion.
Is it still the Government's policy to reduce the public sector borrowing requirement to the percentage level—3 per cent. of gross domestic product. I believe—established by the Maastricht treaty?
Yes, it is our intention to meet the criteria for convergence set out in the Maastricht treaty. Indeed, it is our intention to reduce borrowing to about zero over the medium term.