Orders of the Day — Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:17 pm on 30th April 2002.

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Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Spokesperson (Defence) 9:17 pm, 30th April 2002

I am pleased to be able to contribute to the debate. I shall follow on from the comments made by the Chairman of the Treasury Committee on the Committee's Budget 2000 report, which was released today. I commend Mr. McFall for his measured and sensible comments about the contents of the report, which contrasted with the unusually intemperate comments of Dr. Palmer, who I am pleased to see back in his place.

The hon. Member for Broxtowe gave a rather unfair description of the activities of the Treasury Committee yesterday when it drew up the report. He gave the impression that the Opposition members had been on the rampage yesterday in Committee Room 6, forcing into the report all sorts of bizarre and overtly political conclusions that were not warranted by the Committee's deliberations.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman has had a chance to reflect on those comments, especially as he is usually an extremely temperate and moderate member of the Committee, and I hope that when he reflects on the report, he will study carefully the conclusions set out at the back of the report. In particular, I hope that he will study conclusion (s) on the redistributive nature of the Budget, conclusion (j) on the trend rate of growth, and conclusion (h) on the stability and growth pact.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reflect on the fact that, in all those areas, amendments were tabled during the Committee hearings that altered the draft report in a way that was more sympathetic to the Government. I expected some praise from the hon. Gentleman for having proposed two of those amendments myself, including one which, surprisingly, won the support of Conservative members and is now being echoed from the Government Back Benches—that is, the amendment that appears in conclusion (s), which states:

"We welcome the fact that, within the context of a tax raising Budget, the budget measures are broadly redistributive from those on higher incomes to those on low incomes".

Not only did we get surprising support from Conservative Members, but we have now even managed to encourage Labour Members to use the word "redistributive".

How can it possibly be the case that the Opposition Members who serve on the Treasury Committee were making irresponsible additions to the report, given that they forced in such amendments—more Labour than the hon. Member for Broxtowe himself—and that they voted to include amendments such as that which now appears as conclusion (k)? That conclusion states:

"We share the Government's view that the Stability and Growth Pact should be reformed to take account of issues such as"— the precise issues that appear in the Budget documents are then listed. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reflect carefully on those issues and perhaps now withdraw his earlier comments, and I give him the opportunity to do so.