Orders of the Day — Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:43 pm on 7th July 1997.

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Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Chief Secretary to the Treasury 9:43 pm, 7th July 1997

Not at the moment. Perhaps I shall allow the hon. Gentleman to intervene when I take up the points that he raised.

Improved company performance will be reflected in long-term share prices. We believe that the changes that we have made are justified.

I shall refer briefly to the windfall tax. I think that I should, because the shadow Chief Secretary did not mention it once. After all, it was the feature of the Budget that the Conservatives were to complain about for the next few months, yet there was not a word about it save for the contributions of a few Opposition Back-Bench Members. The Conservatives are the only people who will not accept that privatised utilities enjoyed excess profits that they were not investing in the infrastructure, as they promised. Most people believe that our proposal to implement the windfall tax, and to use that money to get people back into work, providing them with the training, skills and education that will mark out the United Kingdom as a place to invest in for the future, is entirely right. That is why we were supported at the recent general election, when we made our policy clear.

I have no doubt that the Liberal Democrats have had some fun over the weekend with their Sunday-for-Monday press release on the Government's spending proposals. I do not shrink from the fact that we have had to make some hard decisions on public spending. We said that we would take those decisions, and we are doing so. Despite that, we have enabled local authorities, their local education authorities and the health authorities to plan better next year, by announcing that we would allocate them £1 billion and £1.2 billion for their spending next year.

The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) at least had the courtesy to admit, when I asked him about the matter earlier, that in real terms, health spending would go up by 2¼ per cent. and spending on schools would go up by 2.7 per cent., which is not what he was telling the newspapers over the weekend.

Spending is increasing. The Liberal Democrats wanted only £500 million; we have allocated £1 billion.