The total Ministry of Defence near cash budget was £26.8 billion in 2002-03 and £27.9 billion in 2003-04-an increase of more than £1 billion. Those are the only directly comparable figures, because the MOD did not have a non-cash Treasury departmental expenditure limit in 2002-03.
Does the Secretary of State agree that it is always a case of lies, damn lies and statistics, and that it is a matter of great regret that, since the Prime Minister lost his way on defence statistics, it has done nobody any good that we cannot trust the Government on their defence statistics? Does the Secretary of State agree that we really have to stop that, and that we have to have a perfectly straightforward, simple way, on which everyone can agree, of deciding exactly how much a Department is spending?
I do agree, but I do not believe that it helps when issues are blown out of all proportion, sometimes deliberately, to disguise the overall situation. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman, knowing him as I do, would sit there and deny that there has been a substantial increase in the defence budget throughout the life of the Labour Government. He knows that to be true, and I do not think that he should try to suggest that the case is otherwise.