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Orders of the Day — Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:20 pm on 20th April 2004.

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Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Chief Secretary, HM Treasury, The Chief Secretary to the Treasury 2:20 pm, 20th April 2004

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to point to our commitment to raise public sector efficiency and to release extra resources to the front line of our priority public services. Our ambition is to deliver some £20 billion of annual efficiency gains by 2007–08 through a 2.5 per cent. annual efficiency target for the whole of the public sector. That has been identified for us through the work taking place under Sir Peter Gershon, which will be reflected in due course in the outcome of the spending review. What we do not see is any exercise on the Conservatives' part that is comparable with the work into which we have entered in the Gershon efficiency review.

Perhaps this afternoon all will be revealed and the Conservatives will unveil their plans. [Interruption.] The shadow Chancellor says, "Wait and see." We are in for an interesting afternoon if we are to have sight of the Conservatives' spending plans. What we know is that they propose an immediate cut of £18 billion. We know what that would mean. The number of police officers would be cut. The effect on our armed forces would be devastating: a cut in defence spending of £1.5 billion is equivalent to cutting armed forces personnel by 40,000.