Public Services

Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 1st April 2009.

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Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Labour, Gateshead East and Washington West 11:30 am, 1st April 2009

What steps he plans to take to maintain the public services for which his Department is responsible during the recession.

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Photo of Jim Devine Jim Devine Labour, Livingston

What steps he plans to take to maintain the public services for which his Department is responsible during the recession.

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

The Government do not believe in cutting back during a downturn. That is why public net investment will rise from £30 billion in 2007 to £40 billion in 2009-10. It is why, in the Cabinet Office, we are providing extra funding to support charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises and the communities that they help.

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Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Labour, Gateshead East and Washington West

Does my right hon. Friend share my belief that the public sector needs to be more creative, more ingenious and, most importantly, greener to help us to fight our way out of the recession? If he does agree, would he consider working with Smith Electric Vehicles in my constituency in order to achieve that?

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

My hon. Friend will also know that my constituency, Birmingham, Hodge Hill, is home to LDV, which is pioneering new products in the electric vehicles market. She can rest assured that that is a mission to which I am also passionately committed.

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Photo of Jim Devine Jim Devine Labour, Livingston

As my right hon. Friend knows, during the 1980s I worked as part of a primary care psychiatric team. I watched doctors prescribing antidepressants and Valium when they could have prescribed a job—if there had been jobs, people would not have been near the health service. Will he assure me that we do not believe that high unemployment is a price worth paying and that we will invest to ensure that we will not abandon a generation to Valium, videos and vodka?

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why, in contrast to the early 1980s, when public net investment fell in real terms from about £16 billion to just £11 billion, we will take precisely the opposite course of action. One cannot cut one's way out of a recession; one can only grow one's way out of a recession. That is why this Government are committed to increasing investment, strengthening public services and doing everything possible to help those coming out of work. We do not believe that unemployment is a price worth paying, unlike the Conservative party.

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Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

As my right hon. Friend rightly defends the importance of public service, does he agree that the new guiding principle should be that no one employed from the public purse should earn more than the salary of the Prime Minister?

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

It is vital that public sector pay is constrained. That is why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has pioneered three-year pay deals, and why it is particularly important that those leaders at the top of public life show an example. The Prime Minister announced yesterday that for the senior civil service and the judiciary we will not accept the recommendations of the Senior Salaries Review Body and we will abate increases this year to 1.5 per cent. It is important for Ministers, in particular, to show restraint, which is why Ministers will not be taking a pay rise either in their ministerial pay or in their pay as Members of this House.

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