Comprehensive Spending Review

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:31 pm on 20th October 2010.

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Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer 12:31 pm, 20th October 2010

Today is the day when Britain steps back from the brink and when we confront the bills from a decade of debt; a day of rebuilding, when we set out a four-year plan to put our public services and welfare state on a sustainable footing for the long term, so that they can do their job of providing for families, protecting the vulnerable and underpinning a competitive economy. It is a hard road, but it leads to a better future.

We are going to bring the years of ever-rising borrowing to an end. We are going to ensure, like every solvent household in the country, that what we buy we can afford, that the bills we incur we have the income to meet and that we do not saddle our children with the interest on the interest on the interest on the debts that we were not prepared ourselves to pay.

Tackling this budget deficit is unavoidable. The decisions about how we do it are not. There are choices, and today we make them. Investment in the future, rather than the bills of past failure: that is our choice. We have chosen to spend on the country's most important priorities: the health care of our people; the education of our young; our nation's security; and the infrastructure that supports our economic growth. We have chosen to cut the waste and reform the welfare system that our country can no longer afford.

This is the context of this spending review. We have, at £109 billion, the largest structural budget deficit in Europe-this at a time when the whole world is concerned about high deficits and our economic stability depends on allaying those concerns. We are paying at the rate of £120 million a day, £43 billion a year in debt interest-this at a time when we all know that the money would far better serve the needs of our own citizens than those of the foreign creditors we borrow from. We have inherited from the previous Government plans-if one can call them that-that envisaged our national debt ratio still rising in the year 2014. Not a single penny of savings had been identified. Indeed, they were plans that envisaged the Chancellor of the Exchequer standing here in 2014, presenting a spending review that still had years of cutting public spending ahead of it. That is why, last year, the International Monetary Fund warned this country that it had to accelerate the reduction in the deficit. That is why the OECD, the Governor of the Bank of England and the CBI all agreed with the IMF.

The action we have taken since May has taken Britain out of the financial danger zone. The immediate reductions to in-year spending have bought us a breathing space in the sovereign debt storm. The creation of an independent Office for Budget Responsibility has brought honesty back to official forecasts. I can confirm to the House that the OBR and its new chair, Robert Chote, have audited all the annually managed expenditure savings in today's statement.

The emergency Budget in June was the moment when fiscal credibility was restored. Our market interest rates fell to near-record lows, our country's credit rating was reaffirmed and the IMF went from issuing warnings to calling our Budget essential. Now we must implement some of the key decisions required by that Budget. To back down now and abandon our plans would be the road to economic ruin. We will stick to the course, we will secure our country's stability and we will not take Britain back to the brink of bankruptcy.

In the Budget, I set out the tax increases we were prepared to make, including on capital gains at the higher rate, pensions relief on the largest contributions and, for the first time, a permanent levy on banks. We also had to increase value added tax, where, fortunately, we were able to benefit from the preparatory work in the Treasury of the previous Government. I made it clear that spending reductions rather than tax rises needed to make up the bulk of the consolidation. That is what the leading international evidence suggests works best. So I set out spending totals for the coming years and announced some £11 billion of welfare savings that would help to achieve them. I also set out a new fiscal mandate for the public finances to eliminate the structural deficit by balancing the cyclically adjusted current Budget over five years by 2015-16. We set a target of national debt falling as a proportion of national income by that same year. We explained how, for reasons of caution, we will achieve both these objectives a year earlier, in 2014-15.

I can confirm that the spending plans I set out today achieve a balanced structural current Budget and falling national debt on the same timetable. I can further confirm that the current spending totals I set out in the Budget for each of the next four years are the same as the current spending totals I set out today. They have not changed. Next year, current expenditure will be £651 billion, then £665 billion the year after and £679 billion the year after that, before reaching £693 billion in 2014-15. The House will note that current spending is rising, not falling, over that period. That is partly because, even with the measures we take today, debt interest payments continue to grow in these years. Debt interest payments will reach £63 billion in 2014-15-it takes time to turn around the debt supertanker-but I can now report to the House that against the plans we inherited, one of the departments which suffers the greatest cut today, and at the steepest rate, is the department for debt interest. Debt interest payments will be lowered by £1 billion in 2012, then by £1.8 billion in 2013 and by £3 billion in 2014-a total of £5 billion over the course of the spending review, which is equivalent to 16 new hospitals or the annual salaries of 100,000 teachers.

At the Budget, I also set out my plans for capital spending over the next four years. I can tell the House that capital spending will be at £51 billion next year, then £49 billion, then £46 billion and at £47 billion in 2014-15. This is about £2 billion a year higher than I set out in the Budget. Given the contractual obligations we inherited from the last Government, doing anything else would have meant cutting projects that would clearly enhance the economic infrastructure of this country. This has no direct impact on whether we meet the fiscal mandate or the year in which the debt ratio starts falling. So, total public expenditure-capital and current-over the coming years will be £702 billion next year, then £713 billion, then £724 billion and £740 billion in 2014-15. In real terms, public spending will be at the same level as in 2008. Our public services and our welfare system will be put on a sustainable long-term footing and we will make sure that the financial catastrophe that happened under the previous Government never, ever happens again.

Let me now turn to the spending decisions and the three principles that we propose to apply to the choices that we have made. First, on reform, in every area where we make savings, we must leave no stone unturned in our search for waste, and we must deliver the changes necessary to make our public services fit for the modern age.

Secondly, on fairness, we are all in this together and all must make a contribution. Fairness means creating a welfare system that helps the vulnerable, supports people into work and is affordable for the working families who pay for it from their taxes. Fairness also means that, across the entire deficit reduction plan, those with the broadest shoulders will bear the greatest burden; those with the most should pay the most, and that includes our banks.

Thirdly, on growth, when money is short, we should ruthlessly prioritise those areas of public spending that are the most likely to support economic growth, including investments in our transport and green energy infrastructure, our science base and the skills and education of our citizens.

Let me explain now how those principles have guided our specific decisions. First, on reform, I believe that the public sector needs to change to support the aspirations and expectations of today's population, rather than the aspirations and expectations of the 1950s, so the spending review is underpinned by a far-reaching programme of public service reform. We saw over the last decade that more money without reform was a recipe for failure; less money without reform would be worse, and we are not prepared to accept that, so we have begun by squeezing every last penny that we can find out of waste and administration costs.

Our ambition in this review was to find £3 billion of savings from the administrative budgets of central Government Departments. With the help of the Green review and the work done by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, I can tell the House that we have gone further than we thought possible in cutting back-office costs. Quangos will be abolished; services will be integrated; assets will be sold; and the administrative budget of every main Government Department will be cut by a third. The result is this: we promised £3 billion of Whitehall savings; we will deliver £6 billion.

Of course, there is a very understandable concern about the reduction in the total public sector head count that will result from the measures in the spending review. We believe that the best estimate remains the one set out by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility. It has forecast a reduction in the head count of 490,000 over the spending review period. Now let us be clear: that is over four years, not overnight, and much of it will be achieved through natural turnover, by leaving posts unfilled as they become vacant. Estimates suggest a turnover rate of over 8% in the public sector; but, yes, there will be some redundancies, and that is up to the decisions of individual employers in the public sector. That is unavoidable when the country has run out of money.

We feel responsible for every individual who works for the Government, and we will always do everything that we can to help them to find alternative work. In fact, in the last three months alone, this economy created 178,000 jobs. So we should remember that, unless we deal with this record budget deficit decisively, many more jobs will be in danger in both the private and the public sector.

The Cabinet Office and the Treasury will oversee the programme of Whitehall savings. Both Departments will lead by example. The core Cabinet Office budget will be reduced by £55 million by 2014-15. Additional allocations will be provided to fund electoral reform, support the big society projects, establish community organisers and launch the pilots for the national citizens service, which will give young people for the first time a right of passage to citizenship. In recognition of the challenges faced by the voluntary and community sector, I am establishing a one-year £100 million transition fund to help those facing real hardship. The Treasury will see its overall budget reduce by 33%, and we will share the Department's enormously expensive private finance initiative building, which my predecessor but one signed up to, by moving part of the Cabinet Office into the same premises.

The Chancellor is also a royal trustee, and I want to say something briefly about the civil list. As I outlined in the Budget, the 10-year settlement expired this year, and no provision for a new settlement had been made when we entered office.

Her Majesty has graciously agreed to a one-year cash freeze in the civil list for next year. Going forward, she has also agreed that total royal household spending will fall by 14% in 2012-13, while grants to the household will be frozen in cash terms. In order to support the costs of the historic diamond jubilee, which the whole country is looking forward to celebrating, there will be a temporary additional facility of £1 million. After that, the royal household will receive a new sovereign support grant linked to a portion of the revenue of the Crown estate, so that my successors do not have to return to this issue as I often as I have had to.

Central to this review- [ Interruption. ]

R

The spending review documents are available at:

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/spend_sr2010_documents.htm

Submitted by Richard Taylor

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Central to this review is the reshaping of our public services. First, there needs to be a dramatic shift in the balance of power from the centre to the locality. A policy of rising burdens, regulations, targets, assessments and guidance has undermined local democracy and stifled innovation. We will completely reverse that. We will give GPs powers to buy local services, schools the freedom to reward good teachers, and communities the right to elect their police and crime commissioners.

Secondly, we should understand that all services paid for by the Government do not have to be delivered by the Government, so we will expand the use of personal budgets for special education needs, children with disabilities and long-term health conditions. We will use new payment mechanisms for prisons, probation and community health services, and we will encourage new providers in adult social care, early years and road management.

For local government, the deficit that we have inherited means an unavoidably challenging settlement. There will be overall savings of funding to councils of 7.1% a year for four years, but to help councils we propose a massive devolution of financial control. Today I confirm that the ring-fencing of all local government revenue grants will end from April next year. The only exception will be simplified schools grants and a public health grant. Outside of schools, police and the fire service, the number of separate core grants that go to local authorities will be reduced from over 90 to fewer than 10. Councils and their leaders will remain accountable, but they will no longer have to report on 4,700 local area agreement targets.

The local government settlement includes funding for next year's council tax freeze to help families when their budgets are tight. We are also introducing tax increment finance powers, allowing councils to fund key projects by borrowing against future increases in locally collected business rates.

Some in local government have concerns about the financing of social care. I can announce that grant funding for social care will be increased by an additional £1 billion by the fourth year of the spending review, and a further £1 billion for social care will be provided through the NHS to support joint working with councils, so that elderly people do not continue to fall between the cracks of two different systems. That is a total of £2 billion of additional funding for social care to protect the most vulnerable.

We will also reform our social housing system, for it is currently failing to address the needs of the country. Over 10 years, more than 500,000 social rented properties were lost. Waiting lists have shot up, families have been unable to move, and, although a generation ago only one in 10 families in social housing had no one working, this had risen to one in three by 2008-09.

We will ensure that in future social housing is more flexible. The terms for existing social tenants and their rent levels will remain unchanged. New tenants will be offered intermediate rents at about 80% of the market rent. Alongside £4.4 billion of capital resources, this will enable us to build up to 150,000 new affordable homes over the next four years. We will continue to improve the existing housing stock through the decent homes programme, and we will reform the planning system so that we put local people in charge, reduce the burdens on house builders and encourage more homes to be built, with a new homes bonus.

Within an overall resource budget for the Department for Communities and Local Government which is being reduced to £1.1 billion over the period, priority will be given to protecting the disabled facilities grant. This will go alongside a £6 billion commitment over the four years to the supporting people programme, which provides help with housing costs for thousands of the most vulnerable people in our communities. In recognition of the important service provided by the fire and rescue service, we have decided to limit its budget reductions in return for substantial operational reform.

Let me turn now to reforms in our security and defence. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out the conclusions of the strategic and defence review. He explained in detail how we will protect the British people, deliver on our international obligations and secure British influence around the world. This spending review provides the resources to do just that. The budget for the Ministry of Defence will reach £33.5 billion in 2014-15, a saving of 8% over the period. On top of this settlement, we will continue to provide out of the reserve the resources that our forces in Afghanistan require. As the Chancellor, I believe strongly that if we ask our brave servicemen and women to risk their lives on our behalf in active combat, then we will give them all the tools they need to finish the job.

Our international influence and commitment to the world are not determined only by our military capabilities; our diplomacy and development policy matter too. Savings of 24% in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office budget will be achieved over the review period by a sharp reduction in the number of Whitehall-based diplomats and back-office functions. There will be a focus on helping British companies win exports and secure jobs at home, and with the help of UKTI we will attract significant overseas investment to our shores.

I can also confirm that this coalition Government will be the first British Government in history, and we will be the first major country in the world, to honour the United Nations commitment on international aid. The Department for International Development's budget will rise to £11.5 billion over the next four years. Overseas development will reach 0.7% of national income in 2013; this will halve the number of deaths caused by malaria and save the lives of 50,000 women in pregnancy and of 250,000 newborn babies.

Whether working behind the counter of a charity shop, volunteering abroad or contributing taxes to our aid budget, Britons can hold their heads up high and say, "Even in these difficult times, we will honour the promise that we made to some of the poorest people in our world."

Our aid budget allows Britain to lead in the world. It may be protected from cuts, but it is not from scrutiny. I have agreed with my right hon. Friend the International Development Secretary a plan of reform that reduces administration costs to half the global donor average, ends the aid programmes that we inherited in China and Russia, focuses on conflict resolution and creates an independent commission to assess the impact of the money that we commit.

Let me now turn to security at home. Protecting the citizen is a primary duty of the Government. Our police put themselves in harm's way to make the rest of us safe, and we owe them our gratitude. But no public service can be immune from reform. Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary found in his recent report that significant savings could be made to police budgets without affecting the quality of front-line policing. Tom Winsor is leading a review of terms and conditions that will report on how the police service can manage its resources to serve the public even more cost-effectively.

Using independent forecasts for the precept, the settlement that I am proposing today will see police spending falling by 4% each year. By cutting costs and scrapping bureaucracy, we are saving hundreds of thousands of police man hours. Our aim is to avoid any reduction in the visibility and availability of police in our streets. Our new national security strategy judges terrorism to be one of the highest risks facing this country. Therefore I am prioritising counter-terrorism over the review period, both in the Home Office budget and the single intelligence account. We have been assured that this will maintain our operational capabilities against both al-Qaeda and its affiliates and against Northern Irish terrorist threats. This will enable us to meet the terrorist threat and to protect the Olympic games in 2012.

Overall, the Home Office budget will find savings of an average of 6% a year. The Ministry of Justice's budget will reach £7 billion by the end of the four-year period, with an average saving of 6% a year. A Green Paper will set out proposals to reform sentencing, intervene earlier to give treatment to mentally ill offenders and use voluntary and private providers to reduce reoffending. Some £1.3 billion of capital will also be provided over the period to maintain the existing prison estate and fund essential new-build projects, but plans for a new 1,500-place prison will be deferred.

The Law Officers' Department will reduce its budget by a total of 24% over the period, with the Crown Prosecution Service greatly reducing its inflated cost base. Reforms will also be required to streamline the criminal justice system, close underused courts and reduce the legal aid bill. We do need fair access to justice but provided at a fair cost for the taxpayer.

All the reform that I have spoken of-to Whitehall and the way services are provided, to local government and to our defence, security and justice system-will improve both value for money for taxpayers and the service provided to the public. Next month, each Government Department will publish a business plan setting out its reform plans for the next four years, so that that their priorities are clear and the public can hold them to account.

Reform is one of the guiding principles of this spending review-and so, too, is fairness. Let us be clear: there is nothing fair about running huge budget deficits and burdening future generations with the debts that we ourselves are not prepared to pay. How ironic that it was the last Labour Prime Minister himself who once observed that

"Public finances must be sustainable over the long term. If they are not then it is the poor...that will suffer most."-[ Hansard, 2 July 1997; Vol. 297, c. 304.]

Not that he is here in the Chamber today. That is why we are restoring order to our public finances before that is allowed to happen.

A fair Government deal with the deficit decisively, and that is what we are going to do. A fair Government make sure that those with the broadest shoulders bear the greatest burden. The distributional analysis published today shows that those on the highest incomes will contribute more towards this entire fiscal consolidation, not just in cash terms but also as a proportion of their income and consumption of public services combined.

I completely understand the public's anger that the banks, which were so appallingly regulated over the last decade, and whose near-collapse wrought such damage to our economy, should now be contemplating paying high bonuses. We are overhauling the system of regulation that we inherited, so that the Bank of England, with its clout and reputation, is put in charge. We have set up the Independent Commission on Banking to look at the structure of the industry, and next year we will receive its report.

Today we set out very clearly, for all to take note of, our objective in taxing the banking industry going forward. We neither want to let banks off making their fair contribution, nor do we want to drive them abroad. Many hundreds of thousands of jobs across the whole United Kingdom depend on Britain being a competitive place for financial services.

Our aim will be to extract the maximum sustainable tax revenues from financial services. We will assess what those maximum revenues could be-not just in one year, but over a period of years. We have already decided, in the face of opposition from the previous Government, to introduce a permanent levy on banks. The legislation will be published tomorrow. Once fully effective, the permanent levy will raise more net each year and every year for the Exchequer than the one-year bonus tax did last year. I note that the previous Chancellor now admits that that failed to curb behaviour and was not sustainable.

However, that is not enough. We want the banks to pay not just by the letter of the tax law, but by its spirit. A year ago, the previous Government announced in a fanfare that they would require banks to sign up to the code of practice on taxation. I have asked the Revenue how many of our leading 15 banks actually signed up. The answer is four-four out of 15. That is what happened when they were in office-all talk and no action.

I have instructed the Revenue to work with the banking sector to ensure that the remaining banks have implemented the code of practice by the end of next month. We will also address the situation under the last Government where the gap between the taxes owed and the taxes paid grew considerably. So in this spending review, while the HMRC budget will be expected to find resource savings of 15% through the better use of new technology, greater efficiency and better IT contracts, we will be spending £900 million more on targeting tax evasion and fraud. This additional £900 million is expected to help us collect a missing £7 billion in tax revenues. Nor will fraud in the welfare system be tolerated any more. We estimate that £5 billion a year is being lost in this way-£5 billion that others have to work long hours to pay in their taxes. This week we published our plans to step up the fight to catch benefit cheats and deploy uncompromising penalties when they are caught.

That brings me to the wider welfare budget. A civilised country provides for families, protects the most vulnerable, helps those who look for work, and supports those in retirement. That is why one of the first acts of this coalition Government was to re-link the basic state pension to earnings and guarantee a rise each year by earnings, inflation or 2.5%. Never again will those who worked hard all their lives be insulted with a state pension increase of just 75p. But this guarantee of a decent income in retirement has to be paid for at a time when people are living much longer than anyone predicted. We should celebrate that fact, but also confront it. Lord Turner's report on pensions, commissioned by the last Government, acknowledged that a more generous state pension had to be funded by an increase in the pension age. Even since its publication, life expectancy has risen further than it predicted.

Before the summer, we launched a review on increasing the state pension age, and that review has now concluded. As a result, I can announce today that the state pension age for men and women will reach 66 by 2020. This will involve a gradual increase in the state pension age from 65 to 66, starting in 2018, and it will mean an acceleration of the increase in the female pension age already under way since this April. From 2016, the rate of increase will be three months in every four rather than the current plan of one month in every two. Raising the state pension age is what many, many countries are now doing, and will by the end of the next Parliament save over £5 billion a year-money that will be used to provide a more generous basic state pension as we manage demographic pressures.

Earlier this month, we also received the interim report from John Hutton's public service pensions commission. I am sure that the whole House will want to thank John Hutton for his excellent and independent piece of work. I welcome his findings. I hope that it will form the basis of a new deal that balances the legitimate expectations of hard-working public servants for a decent income in retirement with the equally legitimate demands of hard-working taxpayers that they do not pay unfairly for it.

I think that the elements of this new pension deal are clear. We should accept that public service pensions continue to provide a form of defined benefit and that there is no race to the bottom of pension provision. We want public service pensions to be a gold standard. At the same time, we should accept that they must be affordable. When these public service pension schemes were established in the 1950s, taxpayers made half the contributions; today, they make up two thirds of the contributions, and the unfunded bill is set to rise to £33 billion by 2015-16.

We should accept, as John Hutton does, that there has to be an increase in employee contributions, although I also agree with him that this should be staggered and progressive. That means that the lower-paid-and those in the armed forces-are protected, and the highest-paid public servants, who get the largest benefits, pay the highest contributions. We will await the full commission report next spring before coming to any conclusions on the exact nature of the defined benefit and the progressive contribution rise. We will also launch a consultation on the fair deal policy, as he recommends, but we will now carry out, as the interim report suggests, a full public consultation on the appropriate discount rate used to set contributions to these pensions. From the perspective of filling the hole in the public finances, we will seek changes that deliver an additional £1.8 billion of savings per year in the cost of public service pensions by 2014-15, over and above the plans left to us by the last Government.

It is also clear that the current final salary pension terms for MPs are not sustainable, and we anticipate that the current scheme will have to end. We will make a further statement following the publication of Lord Hutton's findings.

The welfare system is also there to help people of working age when they lose their job, have a disability, start a family and need help with low pay. But the truth, as everyone knows, is that the welfare system is failing many millions of our fellow citizens. People find themselves trapped in an incomprehensible out-of-work benefit system for their entire lifetime because it simply does not pay to work. This robs them of their aspirations and opportunities, and it costs the rest of the country a fortune. Welfare spending now accounts for one third of all public spending. Benefit bills soared by 45% under the previous Government. In some cases, the benefit bill of a single out-of-work family has amounted to the tax bills of 16 working families put together. This is totally unsustainable and unfair. The last Government promised reform and flunked it: we will deliver.

My right hon. Friend the Work and Pensions Secretary is setting out proposals, with my support, to replace all working-age benefits and tax credits with a single, simple universal credit. The guiding rule will be this: it will always pay to work. Those who get work will be better off than those who do not. This represents the greatest reform to our welfare state for a generation. It will be introduced over the next two Parliaments at a pace that ensures that we get this right. I have set aside over this spending review more than £2 billion of resources to make this happen, and it will go alongside our new Work programme, which we are also funding today. Drawing on the skills of the voluntary sector and private providers, the Work programme will provide intensive help for those looking for work and support for those who could look for work but currently lack the confidence or the skills to try.

The Department for Work and Pensions will make savings to help to deliver these schemes by increasing the use of digital applications and reducing overheads. But we will also be seeking substantial savings from the rest of the £200 billion benefit bill, on top of those already identified in the Budget. As I said in June, the more we could save on welfare costs, the more we could continue other, more productive areas of Government spending. And in the massive public consultation we conducted over the summer, the overwhelming message we received was that the British people think it is fair to reform and reduce welfare bills in order to protect important public services.

So today I announce these further welfare savings. We will time limit contributory employment and support allowance for those in the work-related activity group to one year. This is double the length of time that applies to contributory jobseeker's allowance. We will increase the age threshold for the shared-room rate in housing benefit from 25 to 35, so that housing benefit rules reflect the housing expectations of people of a similar age not on benefits. We will give local authorities greater flexibility to manage council tax, together with direct control over council tax benefit, within an overall budget that will be reduced by 10% from April 2013.

We will align the rules for the mobility and care elements of disability living allowance paid to people in residential care, generating savings but enabling us to continue with this important benefit. We will freeze the maximum savings credit award in pension credit for four years, thereby limiting the spread of means-testing up the income distribution.

We will further control the cost of tax credits by freezing the basic and 30-hour elements for three years; we will change the working tax credit eligibility rules so that couples with children must work 24 hours per week between them; and we will return the child care element of the working tax credit to its previous 70% level. We will also introduce a new cap on benefits. No family that does not work will receive more in benefits than the average family that does go out to work. That is tough, but fair. Of course, those in receipt of disability living allowance, working tax credit or the war widow's pension will be excluded.

Taken together, all these welfare measures I have outlined will save the country £7 billion a year. But we want to ensure that low-income families with children are protected from the adverse effects of these essential savings-because this Government are committed to ending child poverty. I can announce today that I am increasing the child element of the child tax credit by a further £30 in 2011-12 and £50 in 2012-13 above indexation. This will mean annual increases of £180 and then £110 above the level promised by the last Government, and it will provide support to 4 million lower-income families. And I can confirm that using the same model we inherited, the spending review will have no measurable impact on child poverty over the next two years, while we await the conclusions of the report by Mr Field.

Let me now turn to the universal benefits. I have taken the difficult decision to remove child benefit from families with a higher rate taxpayer. I wish it were otherwise, but I simply cannot ask those watching this earning just £15,000 or £30,000 a year to go on paying the child benefit of those earning £50,000 or £100,000 a year. The debts of the last Labour Government, and the need to ensure that the better-off in society also make a fair contribution, make this choice unavoidable. It also means that no further changes to child benefit are required. Child benefit will continue to be paid in the normal way to the great majority of the population from birth until a child leaves full-time education at the age of 18 or even 19. We can afford to do that because, according to the latest independent estimates we have received from the Office for Budget Responsibility, removing child benefit from higher rate taxpayers will actually save Britain £2.5 billion a year.

We will also keep the universal benefits for pensioners, in recognition of the fact that many have worked hard and saved hard all their lives. Free eye tests, free prescription charges, free bus passes, free TV licences for the over-75s and winter fuel payments will remain exactly as budgeted for by the previous Government, as promised. I am also turning the temporary increase in the cold weather payments introduced by the last Government into a permanent increase. In my view, higher cold weather payments should be for life, not just for general elections.

So, too, are the promises that we make on the national health service. The NHS is an intrinsic part of the fabric of our country. It is the embodiment of a fair society. This coalition Government made a commitment to protect the NHS and increase health spending every year. Today we honour that commitment in full. Total health spending will rise each year over and above inflation. This year we are spending £104 billion on health care, capital and current combined. By the end of four years we will be spending £114 billion. We can afford that, in part because of the decisions on welfare that I have just announced, and also because we have made tough decisions in other parts of the Government budget. But to govern is to choose, and we have chosen the national health service.

That does not mean that we are letting the Department of Health off the need to drive real reform and savings from waste and inefficiency. Productivity in the health service fell steadily over the past 10 years, and that must not continue. By 2014 we are aiming to save up to £20 billion a year by demanding better value for money-but the money we save will be reinvested in our nation's health care.

As the independent forecasts we published in the Budget show, we need to make those savings to deal with our ageing population and the rising costs of new medical treatments, but there are also new services we can offer. A new cancer drug fund will be provided, spending on health research will be protected, and we will prioritise work on the treatment of dementia. We will expand access to psychological therapies for the young, the elderly and those with mental illness. We will fund new hospital schemes, including the St Helier, the Royal Oldham and the West Cumberland.

For health spending, as for other spending announcements, there will be consequential allocations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Barnett formula will be applied in the usual way, which means that the increase in health spending and the relative protection of education spending will feed through to the devolved resource budget. It means that all three nations will actually see cash rises in their budget, although rises below the rate of inflation. For Scotland the resource budget will rise to £25.4 billion in 2014-15. For Wales it will rise to £13.5 billion, and for Northern Ireland to £9.5 billion. In Scotland we are proceeding with the implementation of the Calman reforms. In Wales we will consider with the Assembly Government the proposals in the final Holtham report, consistent with the Calman work being undertaken in Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, the collapse of the Presbyterian Mutual Society has caused great hardship, and people have been left without their money for far too long. I confirm today that we will provide the Northern Ireland Executive with £25 million in cash and a £175 million loan to help those who have lost their life savings.

We will also help those across the United Kingdom who have lost money as a result of the collapse of Equitable Life. For 10 years the Equitable Life policyholders have fought for justice. For 10 years the last Government dithered, delayed and denied them that justice. It is time to right the wrong done to many thousands of people who did the right thing, saved for their future and tried not to depend on the state, and then were the innocent victims of a terrible failure of regulation.

So let me make it clear: I accept the findings of the parliamentary ombudsman in full. I have read the advice of Sir John Chadwick and I thank him for it, but I do not agree with the level of compensation that his analysis suggested. I agree with the ombudsman that the relative loss suffered is the difference between what policyholders actually received from their policies and what they would have received elsewhere. The parliamentary ombudsman herself recognised that a balance had to be struck between being fair to policyholders and being fair to taxpayers, particularly when many budgets and benefits are being cut. But money that we pay out has to come from general public expenditure. I have decided that the fair amount to pay out in total is in the region of £1.5 billion, two thirds of which will be found in this spending review period. Those who had with-profits annuities were particularly hard hit, as they were retired and were unable to move their savings elsewhere. As a result, the Government will cover the cost of the total relative loss suffered by those deserving people. The scheme will start making payments next year.

Those measures, and our welfare reforms, mean that it will always pay to work; the benefits savings will help us protect key public services such as the national health service; and there is help for those who have saved and lost everything. These are fair decisions, consistent with the second principle of this spending review.

The third and final principle centres on growth and promoting a private sector recovery. By restoring macro-economic stability we have brought certainty to business, and by cutting business taxes we are giving businesses the freedom to compete. Today's review builds on those steps, because even when money is short we should prioritise the areas of public spending that are most likely to support economic growth. That is what we are doing with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Administration will be cut by £400 million, 24 quangos will go, lower-priority programmes such as Train to Gain will be abolished, and adult learners and employers will to have contribute more to further education. But that means that today I can announce the largest ever financial investment in adult apprenticeships-an increase of more than 50% on the previous Government's provision, helping 75,000 new apprentices a year by the end of this spending review period.

We will maintain and invest in the post office network and protect community post offices. We will come forward with our detailed response to Lord Browne's report on higher education funding and student finance, including our plans to provide financial support to encourage those from the poorest households to stay in education. Our universities are the jewels in our economic crown, and it is clear that if we want to keep our place near the top of the world league tables, we need to reform our system of funding and reject-as, to be fair, many Opposition Members do-the unworkable idea of a pure graduate tax. Clearly, better-off graduates will have to pay more, which will enable us to reduce considerably the contribution that general taxpayers have to make to the education of those who will probably end up earning much more than them.

Overall, annual savings of 7.1% will be found from the budget of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills-the minimum it was asked to find. Within those savings, however, the Secretary of State and I have decided to protect the science budget. Britain is a world leader in scientific research, and that is vital to our future economic success. That is why I am proposing that we do not cut the cash going to the science budget. It will be protected at £4.6 billion a year. Building on the Wakeham review of science spending, we have found that within the science budget, significant savings of £324 million can be found through efficiency. If they are implemented, with this relatively protected settlement I am confident that our country's scientific output can increase over the next four years.

We will also invest £220 million in the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation at St Pancras, and fund the molecular biology lab in Cambridge, the Institute for Animal Health in Pirbright and the diamond synchrotron in Oxford.

Research and technological innovation will help us with one of the greatest scientific challenges of our times-climate change-and support new jobs in low- carbon industries. So today, even in these straitened times, we commit public capital funding of up to £1 billion to one of the world's first commercial scale carbon capture and storage demonstration projects. We will also invest more than £200 million in developing offshore wind technology at port sites.

Yesterday protesters scaled the Treasury, urging us to proceed with their idea for a green investment bank. That is the first time anyone has protested in favour of a bank-but we will go ahead. I have set aside in the spending review £1 billion of funding for that bank, but I hope that much more will be raised from the private sector and the proceeds of future Government asset sales.

The aim of all those investments is for Britain to be a leader of the new green economy, creating jobs, saving energy costs and reducing carbon emissions. We will also introduce incentives to help families reduce their bills. We will introduce a funded renewable heat incentive, and our green deal will encourage home energy efficiency at no up-front cost to homeowners, allowing us to phase out the Warm Front programme.

Overall, the total resource settlement for the Department of Energy and Climate Change will fall by an average 5% a year, but there will be a large increase in capital spending, partly to meet the unavoidable commitments that we have been left on nuclear decommissioning.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will deliver resource savings of an average 8% a year, but we will fund a major improvement in our flood defences and coastal erosion management that will provide better protection for 145,000 homes.

Britain's arts, heritage and sport all have enormous value in their own right, but our rich and varied cultural life is also one of our country's greatest economic assets. The resource budget for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will come down to £1.1 billion by 2014-15. Administrative costs are being reduced by 41% and 19 quangos will be abolished or reformed. All that is being done so that we can limit four-year reductions to 15% in core programmes such as our national museums, the front-line funding provided to our arts and Sport England's whole sport plans. We will complete the new world-class building extensions for the Tate Gallery and the British Museum. The Secretary of State will provide details of further projects shortly. I can also announce today that, in order for our nation's culture and heritage to remain available to all, we will continue to fund free entry to museums and galleries. There is also ongoing provision of the £9.3 billion of public funding for a safe and successful Olympic and Paralympic games in London in 2012.

We have approached the BBC to ensure that it, too, makes its contribution, as a publicly funded organisation, to savings during the spending review. I am pleased to confirm that this week we have struck a deal. The BBC will take from the Government the responsibility for funding the BBC World Service and BBC Monitor, as well as part-funding S4C. That amounts to some £340 million of savings a year for the Exchequer by 2014-15.

To ensure that the cost of those new obligations is not passed on to the licence fee payer, the BBC has agreed a funding deal for the full duration of its charter review. The licence fee will be frozen for the next six years. That deal helps almost every family, and is equivalent to a 16% saving in the BBC budget over the period, similar to the savings in other major cultural institutions.

The BBC has also agreed to reduce its online spend and make no further encroachments into local media markets in order to protect local newspapers and independent local radio and TV. It will contribute to the £530 million that we will spend over the next four years in bringing superfast broadband to rural parts of our country that the private sector will take longer to reach. Pilots will go ahead in the Highlands and Islands, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Herefordshire. All that will help encourage the growth of our creative industries as a key part of the new economy that we are seeking to build.

After our defence requirements are met, the Department for Transport will receive the largest capital settlement. Over the next four years we will invest more than £30 billion in transport projects-more than was invested during the past four years. Of that, £14 billion will fund maintenance and investment in our railways. Direct bus subsidies will be reduced, but statutory concessionary fares will remain.

The cap on regulated rail fares will rise to RPI plus 3% for the three years from 2012, but that will help this country afford new rolling stock as well as improve passenger conditions. The Secretary of State will set out how more of the transport money will be allocated next week.

However, I want to tell the House today about some of the projects that will go ahead. For let us remember that, even after the tough spending settlements, the country will still be spending more than £700 billion a year. In Yorkshire and Humber, capacity on the M62 will be expanded, £90 million will be spent on improving rail platforms across various towns and cities, and we will also improve line speeds across the Pennines. In the north-east £500 million will be spent on refurbishing the Tyne and Wear metro and the Tees valley bus network. In the north-west we will invest in rail electrification between Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and Blackpool, and we will provide funding for a new suspension bridge over the Mersey at Runcorn.

Rail and roads in Scotland are devolved to the Scottish Executive, and roads in Wales are also devolved, but I can tell the House that major rail investments around Cardiff, Barry and Newport will go ahead.

In the east midlands the M1 and the A46 will be improved. In the west midlands we will extend the Midland metro and completely redevelop Birmingham New Street station. In the south-west we will fund improvements on the M5 and the M4, and the new transport scheme for Weymouth. In the east of England, colleagues will be delighted to know, the A11 to Norwich will be upgraded. Around London, we will widen the M25 between 10 different junctions and complete improvements to the A3 at Hindhead.

In London, on top of the Olympics, a major investment in our capital city's transport infrastructure will take place. Crossrail will go ahead and key tube lines will be upgraded for the 21st century.

That is nothing like the complete list, because next week, we will set out more details. So, yes, we are saving money and putting the state on a more sustainable footing, but even then, we will spend tens of billions of pounds on Britain's future infrastructure. Next week the Secretary of State will also set out our national infrastructure plan, so that private money is put to work in building for this country the economic infrastructure that our businesses need. Our regional growth fund will also help us do that. As promised, £1 billion has been found for the fund over the next two years-money designed to lever in private investment in areas of our country where it has been too absent over the past decade. I can announce today that I am providing close to half a billion pounds extra in the third year for the regional growth fund.

Long-term investment in the capacity of our transport, our science and our green energy will all help move Britain from its decade-long dependence on one sector of the economy in one part of the country, and the ruin to which that has led.

The most important ingredient of a 21st-century economy is well-educated children, who believe in themselves and aspire to a better life, whatever their background or disadvantages. In June, after the Budget, when the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and I turned our attention to how to allocate spending between Departments, we set ourselves a goal. We wanted to see if it was possible, even when spending was being cut, to find more resources for our schools and for the early years education of our children. I can tell the House that we have succeeded. It has meant other Departments taking bigger cuts, but I believe strongly that that is the right choice for our country's future.

There will be a real increase in the money for schools, not just next year or the year after, as the previous Government once promised, but for each of the next four years. The schools budget will rise from £35 billion to £39 billion. Even as pupil numbers greatly increase, we will ensure that the cash funding per pupil does not fall. We will also sweep away all the different ways in which money is ring-fenced so that schools can decide how to spend their money as they think best.

We will also introduce a new £2.5 billion pupil premium, which supports the education of disadvantaged children and will provide a real incentive for good schools to take pupils from poorer backgrounds. That pupil premium is at the heart of the coalition agreement, and at the heart of our commitment to reform, fairness and economic growth.

Parents, teachers and community groups will be supported if they wish to establish free schools. We will fund an increase in places for 16 to 19-year-olds, and raise the participation age to 18 by the end of the Parliament. That enables us to replace education maintenance allowances with more targeted support.

We will also provide support for the early years of our children. The increased entitlement to 15 hours a week free education for all three and four-year-olds that was introduced under this Government will continue. Sure Start services will be protected in cash terms and the programme will be focused on its original purpose. We will help them further by introducing for the very first time 15 free hours of early education and care for all disadvantaged two-year-olds, so that those children have a chance in life and are ready like the rest of their classmates for school.

Overall, the Department for Education will be required to find resource savings of only 1% a year. Central administration will be cut by a third and five quangos will go. The capital budget will, as we know, have to bear its share of the reductions, but as the House knows, we have had to phase out the hopelessly inefficient and over-committed Building Schools for the Future programme. However, £15.8 billion will be spent to maintain the school estate and to rebuild and refurbish 600 schools. I repeat: the resource money for schools-the money that goes into the classroom-on the broadest definition, including all the main grants, will go up in real terms every year. That is a real investment in the future of our children and in the future growth of our economy too.

Let me conclude. The decisions we have taken today bring sanity to our public finances and stability to our economy. We have dealt decisively with the largest budget deficit this House of Commons has ever had to face outside of wartime. We have had to make choices-choices about the things we support-and today I have announced real increases in the NHS budget and the resources of schools, as well as new investment in the infrastructure of our economy. I have announced real reductions in waste and reforms to welfare and although that will reshape public services to meet the challenges of this time, I think it is the right choice.

I have one final observation. During the process of this spending review, I have received many submissions, including one from the Labour party. It said that the average cut for unprotected Departments should be set at 20% over the coming four years, rather than the 25% that I anticipated in my June Budget. I have examined that proposal carefully and consulted the published documents of my predecessor, Mr Darling, and because of our tough but fair decisions to reform welfare and the savings that we have made on debt interest, I am pleased to tell the House that that has been possible. The average savings in departmental budgets will be lower than the previous Government implied in their March Budget. Instead of cuts of 20%, there will be cuts of 19% over the four years, so I thank the Opposition for their support and input and look forward to their votes.

This coalition Government faced the worst economic inheritance in modern history. The debts we were left with threatened every job and public service in the country, but we have put the national interest first. We have made the tough choices. We have protected health and schools and investment in growth, and we have reformed welfare and cut waste. We have made sure that we are all in this together, and we have taken our country back from the brink of bankruptcy. A stronger Britain starts here, and I commend this statement to the House. [ Interruption. ]

Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Mr Speaker, we remember well the cheers at the end of the emergency Budget in June, when the Chancellor finished on a peroration about his Budget being progressive and fair. It took the Institute for Fiscal Studies only 48 hours to show that it was totally unfair, and that the burden of the emergency Budget fell two and half times more on the poorest than on the richest. We have seen today hon. Members cheering the deepest cuts to public spending in living memory. For some Government Members, that is their ideological objective- [ Interruption. ] Not all of them, but for many, that is what they came into politics for- [ Interruption. ]

Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Today is the day that abstract figures and spreadsheets turn into people's futures, people's jobs, people's pensions, people's services and their prospects for the future, and the day when the statistics that were nestling comfortably in the lap of the Chief Secretary yesterday actually become the uncomfortable truth for many people and families throughout this country.

We hear the chant on every occasion, but Government Members are deficit deceivers. They have peddled a whole series of myths to the British public. The most incredible myth of all is that the biggest global economic crisis since the great depression is the fault of the previous Government- [ Interruption. ] You see? The strings are pulled and away they go.

The Chancellor said that the Government have brought Britain back from the brink of bankruptcy. Perhaps he will confirm three facts. Fact No. 1: when the global crisis hit, the UK had the second-lowest debt of any G7 country. Fact No. 2: the previous Government inherited a debt interest level of 10p in every £1 of tax received, and even after a world recession, we bequeathed a figure that was 15% lower. Fact No. 3: the interest rates that the UK pays on its debt have been falling since the beginning of the year. Perhaps the Chancellor, in the interests of accuracy, can confirm those statistics.

When the last comprehensive spending review took place in 2007, the Chancellor was the shadow Chancellor. Was he calling for reduced public spending? Read the Hansard. Was he calling for regulation of the banking industry? I have two things to say about 2007. I have read his contribution to the debate. First, instead of arguing for reduced public spending, he argued that we were spending too little. He complained that we were slowing the growth in health and education expenditure. Indeed, the Conservative party supported every penny of our spending plans until well after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in America, which set off the disastrous chain reaction that caused the global recession.

In 2007, far from calling for regulation of the banks, the Conservatives were calling for deregulation of the banks. Mr Redwood produced a report on behalf of the then Leader of the Opposition who had called for greater regulation of the banking industry. We need to get the facts right.

The Chancellor described his emergency Budget in June as being unavoidable and fair. We know that it was unfair, because the IFS produced the statistics with devastating and forensic accuracy a few hours later, and we also know that it was avoidable. The deficit has to be paid down-[Hon. Members: "Ah!"] Here they go again. The Chief Whip's spreadsheet tells them when to stand up and what to say. Where is he? He does not need to move to have influence on his Back Benchers. So we do need to bring the deficit down.

Today's reckless gamble with people's livelihoods runs the risk of stifling the fragile recovery. The ridiculous analogy with credit card debts insults the intelligence of the British public. If countries around the world had not run up debts-that is what the fiscal deficit is, by the way-to sustain their economies, people would have lost not their credit cards, but lost their jobs, lost their houses and lost their savings. The Liberal Democrats know that, and they argued that when seeking the support of the electorate. The Deputy Prime Minister argued that, and then he discovered Greece. In the period between the ballot box closing and his ministerial car door opening, the Deputy Prime Minister discovered a different approach.

Like us, the Liberal Democrats-every single one of them-were elected to this House on a platform that said, in the context of reducing the deficit, that speed kills. The Chancellor repeats a long list of those who support his swift cuts; he mentions it all the time. Curiously, he failed to mention the other countries in the United Kingdom-Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland-which do not support these measures. Perhaps that is why he calls himself a one-nation Tory. Here is another supportive quotation that he missed out, and he can take this down and use it in future briefings:

"The measures we have taken have been commended by international bodies such as the European Central Bank, the European Commission, the IMF and the OECD. They have also won the approval of the international markets."

That was the Irish Minister of Finance last December, when he told the Irish Parliament that his austerity plan meant that they had turned the corner. Four months later, they slid back into recession.

The concerns of those watching this announcement today went beyond the misrepresentation of figures and the clever Punch and Judy stuff in which we all engage-including myself at times. They will be interested in whether they will stay in work, whether they will stay in their homes and whether they will stay safe on the streets. We are told that the expected job losses from this spending review-and the Chancellor confirmed it-will be some 490,000. PricewaterhouseCoopers reported last week that 1 million jobs were at stake because the impact on the private sector is just as severe. Is it not the case that at the same time as the Government are throwing people out of work, they are reducing the support to help people return to the workplace?

I applaud the ideas and the efforts of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to do what we were seeking to do and make work pay- [ Interruption. ] He often gives credit to what we did when we were in government. The fact is, however, that today's proposals will make it harder for people to return to work because of the changes to working tax credit; because of the changes to support for working parents; and because of the huge increase in fares for those who have to travel to get the jobs. The Secretary of State has had his job made harder by today's announcement.

On housing, the Chancellor has announced the retreat of central Government from any role in building new affordable homes. Can he tell the House how many jobs will be lost in the construction sector as a result of his decision to all but end capital funding for house building? Crime has fallen dramatically in the last 13 years. I heard what the Chancellor said about the report from Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary, but the Home Office is not a protected Department. As it deals with counter-terrorism and policing, the public will be worried that they will lose more police on the streets.

Spending has to be reduced- [ Interruption. ] Yes, spending has to be reduced, but the front-line services on which people rely must be protected. We support moves to ring-fence the health budget-[Hon. Members: "Ah!"] The point about the health service is not that its budgets will be protected, it is the taking of £2 billion to £3 billion out of those budgets to pay for a top-down structural reorganisation that the Conservatives told the public in their manifesto would not happen. This is the top-down reorganisation to end all top-down reorganisations, and we are already seeing the loss of jobs in the NHS as a result.

On education, the Chancellor mentioned that the pupil premium would be funded. There are stories already about teachers and teaching assistants losing their jobs as a result of today's announcement. We will have to look at the statistics carefully, including the small print, before we can see what is happening on education. The Chancellor said that they will keep a version of education maintenance allowance. That is good, because it has been the biggest single contributor to lifting the number of children from poorer homes who stay in education-and it was introduced by the Labour Government. He told us that it will be introduced in some form, but he did not say how. Nor did he say what effect the removal of ring fences will have on Sure Start, which is crucially important to ensuring that we have a more progressive society.

On the NHS, we believe that the real-terms increase will be more than swallowed by the cost of the reorganisation. It would be good if the Chancellor could confirm that the baseline for the NHS will exactly reflect its actual budget this year. It seems to us from the statistics that there may be some smoke and mirrors.

Without growth, the job of getting the deficit down becomes impossible. A rising dole queue means a bigger welfare bill and less tax coming in-a cost of at least half a billion pounds for every 100,000 people thrown out of work by the Government's approach. To get the deficit down, the starting point must be jobs, jobs, jobs. That remains the core of the difference between us and the Government. We were told that the Ministry of Justice will see 14,000 jobs cut. Does the Chancellor agree with the Department's assessment that the vast majority of those-11,000-will be from the front line? Can he confirm that £230 million of taxpayers' funds have been earmarked for redundancy costs in that Department alone? What is the total scale of redundancies expected across the public sector? What will the total redundancy bill be? Thanks to the Chief Secretary's gaffe yesterday, we know that the Treasury has provided the Chancellor with estimates: he should share them with the House. Can the Chancellor confirm that the poorest will still bear a greater burden than the richest, with the middle squeezed even further, and that women will shoulder three quarters of the cuts? Does he still claim that these measures are progressive and fair?

There is an alternative approach. The Chancellor finished by suggesting that their cuts were the same as ours-[Hon. Members: "Less."] Less than ours? That is even more utter and complete nonsense, for two reasons. First, the Conservatives calculated the 20% figure by some very dodgy formulae that stretched the limit of credibility for the protected Departments. Secondly, the Chancellor has not caught up with the fact that we have listed a series of measures with which we agree-for instance, the increase in capital gains tax and the changes to welfare. The Chancellor has not caught up with the statements that we have made about the welfare bill. We will look at the further measures that the Chancellor has announced today, but if we take the statements that we have made into account, we came into this debate with departmental cuts half the level of those that the Government are proposing.

This spending review is not about economic necessity; it is about political choices. The Chancellor argues that Labour would have done nothing about the deficit; he goes on to say that his cuts are no worse than ours. He cannot have it both ways. He cannot be right in both arguments, although he does manage to be wrong on both counts. The difference between us is that the Government are removing almost twice as much from Department budgets, while we were looking for a much more gradual, much slower reduction, which would not stifle the very low levels of growth in our economy. It is our firm belief that the rush to cut the deficit endangers the recovery and reduces the prospects for employment in the short term and for prosperity in the longer term. We believe that we can and should sustain a more gradual reduction, securing growth. I do not believe that the Chancellor or the Prime Minister sufficiently understands the worries and concerns of families up and down this country. Those worries will have multiplied considerably as a result of the Chancellor's statement today.

S

In the debate Johnson said:
"When the last comprehensive spending review took place in 2007, the Chancellor was the shadow Chancellor. Was he calling for reduced public spending? Read the Hansard. Was he calling for regulation of the banking industry? I have two things to say about 2007. I have read his contribution to the debate. First, instead of arguing for reduced public spending, he argued that we were spending too little. He complained that we were slowing the growth in health and education expenditure. Indeed, the Conservative party supported every penny of our spending plans until well after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in America, which set off the disastrous chain reaction that caused the global recession."

Here's the what Osborne actually said:

I might try that again: where has all the money gone in health? Why does not the Chancellor be honest with the public about what this health settlement means? The growth of health spending is set almost to halve in the next three years, so a health service that is already seeing maternity wards closing, accident and emergency wings shutting and staggered pay awards for nurses will now have to make do with a much slower rate of spending growth. It would have been able to cope better if the recent spending boom had been matched by reform.


He does seem to be calling for more public spending, not less

Submitted by Sean Dodson

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

He's a nice guy, but he's in the wrong job. The truth is this: frankly, either member of the Balls family would have done a lot better than that, and they might even have asked me a question or two, but let me try to respond to what he said.

The right hon. Gentleman keeps talking about a plan B, but he has not even got a plan A. There was a complete denial of the fact that this country has the largest budget deficit in the G20. He made no acknowledgement of the fact that the credit rating agencies were looking at this country when he was in the Cabinet and no acknowledgement of the fact that our market interest rates were the same as Spain rather than others. Frankly, he spent half his statement defending the economic policy of the last Labour Prime Minister-who perhaps could have turned up to hear it-but that is totally irrelevant to the questions put before the House today and the proposals that we have set out.

The right hon. Gentleman kept saying, "We want to reduce the deficit." As far as I could tell, he did not agree with a single measure that I set out. He did not propose a single saving. He is a deficit denier, and the truth is this. We have been told for a whole year that we would get Labour's deficit reduction plan. Before the election, let us remember, we were told in the debates, "Don't worry, it'll come after the election." During the leadership contest, we were told that it would come after the leadership contest. After the leadership contest, we were told that it would come before the spending review, and then this morning, a member of the shadow Cabinet said on the radio, "We are not going to do an alternative to the spending review." I then got this message in the Chamber that said that at eight minutes past 1 this afternoon, when the shadow Chancellor was actually in the Chamber, he sent an e-mail to members of the public saying:

"I'm going to be honest with you, being in opposition does mean" we have to set out "a clear alternative", and he then said, "Please share your thoughts with us". Labour Members were in government until six months ago. They sat round the Cabinet table as the deficit increased. Six months later, they have not put forward a single idea for reducing the budget deficit. It is absolutely pathetic.

Despite the fact that the right hon. Gentleman says that he is relatively new to the subject, he dismisses, with a sweep of the hand, the verdict of the IMF, the OECD, the CBI, the chambers of commerce, the European Commission and everyone else who has looked at the British economy. I do not know whether he saw the letter from 35 leading employers in this country, but they included people such as the leaders of Asda and Microsoft-I know that the business community of this country is totally irrelevant to Labour now-and the person who founded the Carphone Warehouse, who I think used to be a supporter of the Labour party. All those people wrote to the national newspapers saying:

"Addressing the debt problem in a decisive way will improve business and consumer confidence."

If the right hon. Gentleman wants to ignore all those people, what about Tony Blair? There is total silence on the Labour Benches, for the man who won Labour three general elections. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was in the Cabinet when Tony Blair was Prime Minister, and he has said:

"The danger now is this: if governments don't tackle deficits, the bill is footed by taxpayers, who fear that big deficits now mean big taxes in the future, the prospect of which reduces confidence, investment and purchasing power. This then increases the risk of prolonged slump".

The right hon. Gentleman used to be a Blairite- [ Interruption. ] Well, at least Ed Balls has been fighting Tony Blair all his career and says he is wrong, but the shadow Chancellor used to be a supporter.

The right hon. Gentleman has dismissed all the leading businesses of Britain, all the international organisations and Tony Blair, but let me answer a couple of his specific questions- [ Interruption. ] Well, to be fair, in the space of about 10 minutes he asked three, so I will answer them. First, he asked about police numbers. Of course this is a challenge for the Home Office, but we believe that with the advice from the inspectorate of constabulary and Tom Winsor's report, there will be no reduction in the availability and visibility of policing. However, the right hon. Gentleman was asked during the election- [ Interruption. ] He was the Home Secretary. [ Interruption. ] The new Leader of the Opposition asks- [ Interruption. ] This is what the man who was Home Secretary before the election said in the election, when he was asked a question on the "Daily Politics" show:

"Can you guarantee if you form...the next government that police numbers won't fall?

Johnson: No".

So what is the basis on which he makes his argument?

The right hon. Gentleman talks about the national health service, and he said that he agreed with our decision to ring-fence it. Presumably this is the same shadow Chancellor who said recently, "There is no logic, sense or rationality to this policy". He has done a complete U-turn.

The right hon. Gentleman says that he rejects the minus 20% definition of the Labour cuts. At the same time, he began his statement by praising the Institute for Fiscal Studies, but that number comes from the IFS. He suggests that I have not paid attention to the announcements that he has been making this week. Well, it is true that I have been quite busy, but I have paid attention to what he has said. I understand that not many people got a chance to question him about his policies, but he said that taxes needed to be increased. However, when he was asked which taxes, he said that he was open-minded about it. That is a polite way of saying he hasn't got a clue.

The right hon. Gentleman was once the great force of modernisation in the Labour party, and he has now ended up reading out the policies dreamed up by the new Leader of the Opposition. He said in that press conference earlier this week that being in opposition was not about "pretending to be in government." Now we know how right he was.

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Chair, Treasury Sub-Committee, Chair, Treasury Committee, Chair, Treasury Committee

This is undoubtedly one of the most radical and-I think most people in all parts of the House would agree-necessary shake-ups of the public sector, whatever the scale of shake-up people wanted. Personally, I particularly welcome the cull of quangos, the re-examination of the private finance initiative, the efficiency drive in Whitehall, and the announcements on Equitable Life and the BBC. The Select Committee on Treasury will be looking in far greater detail than in the past at the Treasury's decisions, and particularly at the way that it has prioritised between Departments and at the ring-fencing. We will also examine them for fairness. The Chancellor's analysis in the June Budget presented that Budget as progressive. I would be grateful if he could confirm that this CSR is also progressive. I would also be grateful if he could say something about his plans to denationalise the banks.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

First, let me thank my hon. Friend for the welcome that he gave-to repeat what I said -to what I implied about PFI, the contribution that the BBC will make and the very difficult choice that we all have to make in this Parliament about what is a fair settlement on Equitable Life. In particular, helping the trapped annuitants is an absolute priority and it is a good thing and, as I said, we found three times as much money as John Chadwick recommended.

My hon. Friend raised two particular points. First, he mentioned ring fences, and although we call them ring fences, in the end they are about priorities. We have made a choice. As a coalition Government, we have chosen certain things that we are going to cut-obviously we have made some difficult decisions on welfare-but we have also chosen to spend more money on health care and the resources going into schools. Those are choices, and in the end that is what politics in a democratic country is about. We have made those choices, so I would not regard them particularly as ring fences, more as democratic choices.

Finally, on the distributional impact, we have published distributional analyses in the book that I have published today-my hon. Friend will know that we are the first Government to attempt to do this-and I will very much welcome the Treasury Committee's inquiry on the spending review, which I know he will conduct. We have used the methodology that is used in many other countries to try to allocate the benefit in kind of public expenditure, as well as the direct income effect of some of the benefit changes. We believe that that shows this is broadly progressive, in that the top quintile pays the most and it is broadly flat across the other quintiles. The same is true of some of the annually managed expenditure decisions as well, on which we have also published tables.

I very much welcome the Treasury Select Committee's inquiry and its work on this matter. As I have said, this is the first time the British Treasury has attempted to do this, and we very much welcome the Committee's input.

Several hon. Members:

rose -

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Order. A very large number of right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye, and I would like to accommodate as many of them as possible. I therefore issue my usual exhortation to brevity with particular force. Single supplementary questions, please, and economical replies from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Labour, Oldham West and Royton

In cutting the deficit, why did the Chancellor ignore the economic growth dividend, which could yield at least £60 billion in extra Government tax revenues over the next five years? Why did he not tax at all the 1% super-rich, whose wealth has quadrupled over the past decade? And why did he not introduce a major public sector, as well as private sector, jobs and growth programme, which could most effectively cut benefit payments and increase tax revenues?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The first thing I would say to the right hon. Gentleman is that we believe strongly, as do the major employers in this country and the people internationally who look at this economy, that dealing with the deficit is essential for sustainable growth. That is what this is all about: putting the British economy and our public finances on a sustainable footing so that we can create jobs in the future and so that the economy can grow.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about taxes on the top 1%. We introduced an increase in capital gains tax, and the truth is that not everyone in my party was particularly happy about it, but Labour had 13 years and all those Budgets in which to do that. The shadow Chancellor now rather lamely says that Labour supports the capital gains tax increase, but I would love to know, when the Cabinet minutes are published in 20 or 30 years' time, whether he ever raised this matter in Cabinet. We took a decision to increase capital gains tax to the higher rate, and last week I published proposals for increasing tax on the very highest pension contributions. That is a £4 billion tax; it was not an easy thing to do, but we have done it. We have also accepted and lived with the previous Government's decision to increase tax to 50%-of course, they introduced that in the last month they were in office. Again, that was not an easy decision. I am not instinctively in favour of higher marginal tax rates, but it is necessary at a time like this. I am determined that all parts of the income distribution should make a contribution, but that the people at the top of the income distribution should make the most.

Finally, on the disposal of the banks, at the moment we are not in a position to do that, but of course we monitor the situation the whole time and, as and when we can dispose of them, we will. I am very keen to create a more competitive banking sector at the end of this process, which is one of the reasons why we set up the independent commission.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley Conservative, Staffordshire Moorlands

Areas such as Staffordshire Moorlands were neglected by the previous Government. Will the Chancellor tell the House how areas that have been let down by policies such as regionalisation will be helped by the measures announced by this Government?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We have much more focused local area partnerships that are going to help areas such as Staffordshire Moorlands, which I suspect were rather neglected by the regional development agency. I assume that such areas were not where the action was in the west midlands, and that the emphasis would have been on the big metropolitan centres. Her town of Leek and the surrounding countryside would, I suspect, have been ignored by the RDA. One of the advantages of local enterprise partnerships-and, indeed, the regional growth fund-is that we can focus on particular areas where we want to get more private sector involvement and create jobs.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

I witnessed the misery and devastation that occurred in my black country constituency and elsewhere during the Tory years, and all the indications that the Chancellor has given today are that there will be a repeat of that, and that, despite what he has said, the people who will suffer the most will be those on the lowest incomes. This will be a day of tragedy for the British people.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The hon. Gentleman is not known for overstatement, but I would say to him that we inherited a situation of rising unemployment, the biggest fall in output in a generation, the biggest banking crisis-thanks to the way in which the previous Government had regulated the banks-and a huge budget deficit. In the next hour-or however long you allow for questions, Mr Speaker-every single Labour Member who gets up should propose an alternative plan. It is very difficult to make choices, but they can attack this plan only if they have an alternative.

Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester

I welcome the Government's commitment to end child poverty-during this Parliament, we hope-which Labour failed miserably to do, but may I draw the Chancellor's attention to what the coalition programme says about rented housing? Hundreds of thousands of families will be adversely affected by the removal or cutting of housing benefit. Will he confirm that local authorities have a statutory duty to house homeless families, and that the cost of bed-and-breakfast accommodation is considerably greater than that of housing benefit?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The housing benefit budget has been rising at a very rapid pace and, frankly, anyone doing my job would have to address that bill. We have sought to do that in a way that is fair and that balances the needs of the taxpayer with the needs of those in receipt of housing benefit. There has been a lot of speculation about social tenants, but we are not changing the social tenancy agreements of people in existing social tenancies-[Hon. Members: "Yes you are!"] That is what we are not doing. We are saying that for new tenants we will have to have something more like the market rent. I have to say that that was the policy of the previous Government-

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but it was the stated policy of the previous Government to increase social rents over time to approach the level of market rents- [ Interruption. ] That was the policy of the previous Government. As I have said, we have tried to do this in a way that protects existing social tenants. It will help to build more social housing, and in the end the Opposition have to ask themselves why they failed so miserably on building social housing.

Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie SNP Chief Whip, SNP Deputy Leader, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

The Chancellor has announced 500,000 job losses and cuts of £81 billion-that is just the cuts, not the tax increases-while giving no detail of how that will be achieved. This will cause huge anxiety among those in the public sector and those who depend on their services, and in the private sector firms that are dependent on public sector contracts. I believe that this is reckless: it cuts too fast and too deep. I have one question today: how can the Chancellor possibly imagine that, after his statement, a real-terms, direct cut to the Scottish block of around £4 billion can do anything other than weaken the ability of Scotland to recover in these difficult economic times?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

First, we have preserved the Barnett funding arrangements. Secondly, the decisions that we have taken on the national health service and schools budgets in England will help the funding settlement for Scotland. What we are seeking to do, north and south of the border, is to put the United Kingdom's economy on a strong and sustainable footing so that there can be growth in Scotland and in the rest of the country. My final observation is that people are pretty clear, in the House and in Scotland, that if Scotland had been independent over the past three years, given the scale of the banking crisis, it would now look like Iceland.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Conservative, Harlow

My constituents will welcome this Robin Hood public spending statement, particularly the resources that are going into cold weather payments, apprenticeships and help for young children. Does the Chancellor agree that people would rather have lower taxes and more spending on public services than spend £120 million a day paying off the debt?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend is right. This country is spending £120 million a day on debt interest. So all the pet projects that Labour has suddenly discovered- [ Interruption. ] Well, the truth is that the previous Labour Government inherited a golden economic legacy from the Conservatives, but we have been left the worst economic inheritance that any peacetime Government in this country have ever faced. Unfortunately, we have to deal with it, but we are doing that as two parties working together to clean up the mess that one party created. The goal that I have in sight is a more prosperous, sustainable economy and a public finance situation that is deliverable and affordable for the people of Harlow.

Photo of Teresa Pearce Teresa Pearce Labour, Erith and Thamesmead

The Chancellor has told us that we can expect 490,000 public sector jobs to go in the next five years, while PricewaterhouseCoopers has made an expert estimate that another half a million private sector jobs will go. How does putting out of work 1 million people, who will no longer pay tax and will add to the jobseeker's allowance and housing benefit budgets, cut the deficit and add to growth?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I shall make a couple of observations. First, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility-the hon. Lady is, after all, quoting its forecast, so I presume that she would accept its whole forecast-has predicted that unemployment will fall and that more private sector jobs will be created. Secondly, she must accept-even the deficit deniers in the Labour party must accept it, and they admitted it during the general election-that there would have been a reduction in the public sector head count if there had been a Labour Government. I do not know whether the hon. Lady agrees with that-she can shake her head, nod or whatever-but that is the truth. We have had to make some decisions, but there is a high turnover in the public sector anyway, so we hope that much of this can be accommodated by posts not being filled. There will be redundancies-I think the Labour party has accepted that there would have been redundancies under its plan-but we are going to do everything we can to deal with that situation and help those people to find work. In the end, however, the current size of the budget deficit means that we have to deal with this situation, or many, many more jobs would be at risk. Let us remember that this Government came into office with unemployment rising, and that is what we have had to deal with.

Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi Conservative, Stratford-on-Avon

The shadow Chancellor, although very good at the jokes, demonstrated in his response his confusion about the difference between fiscal and structural deficit. I wondered whether the Chancellor could help by explaining that difference to him.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Labour, Blackburn

The Chancellor of the Exchequer failed to answer the question put by my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson about the extraordinary 11,000 reduction in the number of front-line probation and prison staff in the Ministry of Justice. Will the Chancellor confirm that this runs completely counter to what the Prime Minister said on 2 May about protecting front-line services, and that, even worse, it can only be a grave gamble with the security and safety of the British public and will eat away at the very successful fight against crime?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Obviously, I do not agree with right hon. Gentleman. All Government Departments have had to make savings. Is he really telling me that if his party had been re-elected and he had been in the Cabinet, the Ministry of Justice would somehow have been protected from any reductions?

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Labour, Blackburn

Not on this scale, George. You know that.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Let me explain a couple of things to the right hon. Gentleman. First, as a member of the Cabinet, he fought the general election on protecting part of the health service, not the whole of it, if I remember correctly. He talked about two years of real increases in school funding, but we are going with four. I think he also made a promise on police numbers, but the then Home Secretary ditched the promise in the middle of the general election. The Ministry of Justice has to make a contribution. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Not on this scale", but over the next four years, the actual reduction in non-protected Departments would have been greater under his Government than under ours because of the decisions we have taken on welfare. The Institute for Fiscal Studies calculated a figure of minus 20%,; it is minus 19% in our figures. The Ministry of Justice is, of course, part of one of those non-protected areas.

Photo of James Morris James Morris Conservative, Halesowen and Rowley Regis

I welcome the Chancellor's statement, and I know that many hard-working people in my constituency will support the welfare reforms he has announced. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the welfare reform proposals made today are vital because the decisions were ducked by the previous Government?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. These decisions are absolutely vital to provide economic stability and to make sure that Britain does not go back to the brink of bankruptcy. What I would say to my hon. Friend and his constituents, many of whom work extremely hard and for long hours to pay their taxes, is that it is not acceptable for those taxes to go into the debt interest that we pay to foreign creditors when we really want the money spent here at home. That is what this is all about-trying to reduce our debt bills and bring some economic stability by reforming a welfare state that, frankly, grew out of control. We have taken the decisions today. If people have alternatives, they can put them on the table.

Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee

With regard to the new rents at 80% of market rent levels for social housing tenants, when a tenant is out of work will the rent be covered totally by housing benefit? In that case, is there no new money to pay for social housing? When a tenant is in work or seeking it, will not these new higher rents provide a disincentive to going out to work? Will the rents apply to existing tenants who seek to move home, which would be a disincentive to mobility?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We have had to take some difficult decisions on housing benefit, but I think they are fair and we have sought to protect the most vulnerable. Of course, the universal credit we are introducing means that it will always pay to work-that is the basic principle and housing benefit is part of it. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will set out the reforms in detail. The principles are set out in the document, which the hon. Gentleman can look at. As I said, existing social tenants will be protected through their rent agreements.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats

The Government have rightly taken decisions to deal with the deficit left by the international recession, the banks and the outgoing Labour Government. Can the Chancellor confirm that the policy behind the statement is not just that those with the broadest shoulders should carry the biggest burden, but that as well as children, pensioners and households on the lowest incomes will be protected most, which will be supported by the assessment of the impact of the Budget and the statement he has made and presented today?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The poorest suffer when a country loses control of its public finances. That, indeed, was the assessment of Mr Brown, and it was one of the few things he said that I agreed with. Constituents on the lowest incomes benefit from a Government trying to deal with this economic problem. The structural deficit-someone asked me about it-is the bit that does not go away when the economy grows. Labour Members seem to be suggesting that in four years' time, a Chancellor of the Exchequer will stand up to announce the next four-year programme of cuts, which would not do this country much good.

Specifically on pensioners, we have of course taken the big decision to link the basic state pension to earnings, and we have protected the pension credit. Yes, there have been some difficult decisions on welfare, but I have sought to protect the most vulnerable, and I believe that our overall welfare reforms will help to provide incentives to many in our country who do not currently have them to seek employment.

Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Chair, Transport Committee, Chair, Transport Committee

It is very disturbing that this statement simply does not disclose the extent of the cuts being made to transport, although it is clear that there will be a massive increase in both train and bus fares. How can that help economic recovery, including people's ability to get to work?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We are spending more on transport projects over the next four years than was spent during the last four years. I have made every effort to prioritise transport spending, which has led to other questions coming down the line. Given that the hon. Lady is a Liverpool MP, I thought she might at least welcome the Mersey Gateway project. I am an MP for the north-west, as is Mr Straw, and we have been talking about the Mersey Gateway project for an awful long time. It is going ahead.

Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Conservative, Watford

Will my right hon. Friend confirm to me and my constituents that the purpose of today's announcement is to take public expenditure back to 2008 levels, not 1888 levels as some Opposition Members have implied?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend is absolutely right.

Photo of Naomi Long Naomi Long Alliance, Belfast East

Given that Northern Ireland has a great reliance on the public sector, which means that these cuts will hit it pretty hard, when do the Government intend to bring forward their promised proposals to look at rebalancing the economy in Northern Ireland, along with the Northern Ireland Executive?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Of course there are difficult decisions today, but because of the decisions we have taken on the English health service and the English education system, Northern Ireland gets a relatively favourable settlement in comparison with some other parts of the country. We have also made the decision today on the Presbyterian Mutual Society and we want to work with the devolved Administration to ensure that people who have had no certainty for a long time can now get it and get some money for the savings they have lost. I promise the hon. Lady that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland regularly raises with me issues about growth and investment in Northern Ireland. As I am sure the hon. Lady knows, he has lots of ideas for stimulating economic activity, and I believe he is going to bring forward his proposals later this year. We will all be able to participate in the debate about them at that time.

Photo of Louise Mensch Louise Mensch Conservative, Corby

Does my right hon. Friend share my joy at the shadow Chancellor's admission that the deficit must be reduced, and my mystification that he is apparently so bereft of ideas that today he sent an e-mail asking for "Answers on a postcard, please"?

Photo of Liz Kendall Liz Kendall Shadow Minister (Health)

Cutting funds for local councils by 28.4% over four years will decimate services in Leicester West, and allowing councils to borrow against business rates will further widen inequalities, as areas with more private businesses can borrow more to improve services. Can the Chancellor explain to me, and to my constituents, how that is fair?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I am sorry that the hon. Lady is opposed to more freedom for local government- [Interruption.] Well, that is what my increment financing proposal means. Along with our other decisions about grants, it means more freedom for local government. As I have said, this is a challenging settlement for local government. [Interruption.] Let me repeat that the Labour party created the budget deficit, and if the Labour party does not have a plan, it is in no position to criticise those who are trying to sort out this mess.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Do not an increase in the number of adult apprenticeships, commitment to the digital economy through the rolling out of universal super-fast broadband, investment in the green investment bank, protection for the science budget and the encouragement of green-collar jobs demonstrate the coalition Government's belief, with every fibre of our being, that the only way forward for the country is a private sector-led recovery which will generate real wealth and real, new jobs for the 21st century?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Of course I agree with my hon. Friend. We made every effort to protect the science budget-that was one of the things that we strained to achieve-and if the efficiency proposals in the Wakeham report are implemented, that will lead to a real increase in scientific output. We have also been able to confirm the synchrotron project in Oxfordshire. Although Oxfordshire is extremely well-represented in the Cabinet, it is unfortunately not one of the counties that will benefit from a super-fast broadband pilot, but I hope that if the pilots are successful we will be able to roll them out in other rural parts of England, including the Banbury constituency.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford and Eccles

According to the independent organisation New Philanthropy Capital, the massive cuts of nearly 30% in local councils' budgets over the next four years will mean cuts of between £3.2 billion and £5.1 billion in charitable and voluntary bodies which provide essential services for many of the most vulnerable people in our communities. What action will the Chancellor take to ensure that the Prime Minister's much-vaunted big society does not end up smaller and weaker, and leave thousands of the most vulnerable citizens at risk?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

As I mentioned early in my speech, we have provided some additional resources for the voluntary sector through the transition fund. As for the local government settlement, I said that it was challenging. The right hon. Lady, who used to be a member of the Cabinet, is well aware that some difficult decisions were required to reduce the deficit. If there are other areas of Government spending that she would have preferred me to cut more, she can tell me what they are, but she did not volunteer any in her question.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Conservative, Hereford and South Herefordshire

May I say, on behalf of not merely the people of Herefordshire but people in rural counties everywhere, how thrilled I am about the new super-fast broadband pilot? That is magnificent news. May I also ask the Chancellor whether it made a difference that the previous fundamental savings review had not been implemented when he came to see the problem face to face?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

It did make a difference, and I found in the Treasury absolutely no plans to reduce the budget deficit. They were pencilled into the March Budget, which Labour Members all cheered at the time, but absolutely no plans were put in place.

I am delighted that we have been able to help Herefordshire in this way. It is one of the most rural parts of England, and I think that super-fast broadband is key to the future of the rural economy.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

We understand the economic mess that the coalition Government have inherited and the problems that it presents, but the spending review represents a huge gamble with people's jobs, with economic growth and with public welfare. I suppose we all hope that it pays off.

How does the fact that capital expenditure will fall by 40% over the next four years in an already fragile Northern Ireland economy sit with the promise from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland only last week that the investment programme would be protected? What assessment has the Chancellor made of the impact on his desire, and that of the Northern Ireland Executive, to rebalance the Northern Ireland economy?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Let me say first that the biggest gamble that the country could have taken in the current world environment would have been not to set out a credible plan to reduce the budget deficit. If we had not set out that plan and made our decisions, we really would have been in the firing line. Secondly, the capital spending cuts that I have-unfortunately-announced today are less than those proposed in the Labour Government's plan, because of the increase in the capital envelope that I announced. That does make them particularly easy, but I have sought to prioritise infrastructure investments, and if there are good projects in Northern Ireland we can work on them with the devolved Administration. This is, of course, an area of devolved responsibility.

Finally, let me say that one of the absolute priorities of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, after security, is enabling the economy to grow and a private sector recovery to take place in Northern Ireland. I am sure it will be possible to arrange, some time later this year, an opportunity for us all to get together-the representatives in Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State and I-to discuss what we can do to help Northern Ireland see that private sector job growth.

Photo of Nick de Bois Nick de Bois Conservative, Enfield North

While I greatly welcome today's announcement, my constituents-particularly my younger constituents, who live in an area where there is one of the highest levels of youth unemployment-would be keen to know what specific measures will be taken to support apprenticeships, thus enhancing their chances for the future.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We have already announced a record investment in apprenticeships, and many tens of thousands of additional apprenticeships. That is because of the difficult decisions that we made elsewhere in the Budget, and I think it shows that we are investing in the skills that our economy needs for the future.

Photo of Andrew Love Andrew Love Labour, Edmonton

The Chancellor has announced the loss of 490,000 jobs in the public sector, and has not challenged the forecast by PricewaterhouseCoopers that 500,000 jobs will be lost in the private sector as a consequence. What estimate has he made of the number of jobs that will be lost in the construction sector, in view of what was said by my hon. Friend Mr Betts about cuts in funds for social housing? Given the accepted sluggishness of the private sector recovery in the economy, will we not see significant increases in overall unemployment in the next year?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The hon. Gentleman, who is a member of the Treasury Committee, knows that the budget deficit was threatening the economic stability of the country. He also knows that his party proposed to eliminate the structural deficit over a slightly longer period than we propose. That, however, would not have reduced the scale of the cuts; it would merely have prolonged them. A structural deficit is a deficit that does not return when the economy grows. That is the definition of a structural deficit.

We are investing in road projects, and in housing projects: we are providing 150,000 new homes. The hon. Gentleman probably has not had time to study the document, but the capital cuts that have been set out today are less than the capital cuts in the March Budget presented by the Labour party.

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson Conservative, South Staffordshire

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that, unlike the Labour party, which abandoned Prudence after two years of government and pursued the policies of economic recklessness, he will continue to hold Prudence close to his heart to ensure that we have long-term stability and growth?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I can assure my hon. Friend that I am planning a long-term relationship with Prudence.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Treasury)

Can the Chancellor assure us that the green investment bank will be active and accessible to all regions, including Northern Ireland, and that relevant projects will not be disqualified by virtue of having a cross-border character? That would be entirely appropriate, given our market and environmental context.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

In my statement, I set aside £1 billion of direct Government funding for the green investment bank. That will, I hope, be the minimum sum. I also want to dispose of certain Government assets and put the money from those sales into the bank, but I wanted to provide a minimum of £1 billion in case those asset sales took longer to realise than we hoped. I also want to lever in private sector investment so that the bank is a very successful vehicle for helping all parts of the United Kingdom invest in green energy. I am very happy to consider the case for cross-border projects because, obviously, the economies of Ireland and Northern Ireland are very closely linked, and I will come back to the hon. Gentleman on that specific point.

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton Conservative, Truro and Falmouth

We have inherited a social care funding system that is just not fit for purpose and that lets down tens of thousands of the most vulnerable people in our society. I greatly welcome the extra £2 billion of funding while we establish a new and reformed system. When will details of the extra funds be made available?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

There are details in the book we have published today, and we will set out more details in the coming days. Also, we are, of course, waiting for Andrew Dilnot's report into social care. We have tried to address a long-established problem that we are all aware of in our constituencies: the wall that is sometimes there between the health service and the local authority. Given the challenging nature of the settlement, I was conscious that social care might be affected, which is why I found the additional £2 billion for it.

Photo of Phil Wilson Phil Wilson Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons)

The Chancellor said in his statement that he would like the country to be able to afford new rolling stock. Can he say what that means for the intercity express programme, considering both that if it does go ahead it will create hundreds of jobs in my constituency and thousands more in the north-east of England, and that no public sector money will be required until after the next election?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I am very aware of that project. If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, the Secretary of State for Transport will make an announcement on it shortly.

Photo of Stephen Williams Stephen Williams Liberal Democrat, Bristol West

The Chancellor said that fairness was one of the objectives of his statement. I grew up in poverty-in fact, I was on free school meals-and one of my ideological objectives in politics is to deliver social mobility, so will the Chancellor confirm that the £7.5 billion of extra investment he has announced today is the biggest part of the CSR and will help unlock potential in some of the poorest families in the country?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend brings a life experience to bear on this debate. The two biggest settlements have been for health and education. In education, we have particularly prioritised disadvantaged children, primarily those on free school meals. At the heart of the coalition agreement was the commitment to a £2.5 billion pupil premium. We have found that money on top of the flat cash settlement per pupil, even when pupil numbers are rising. It leads to a real increase in resource in schools-over four years, rather than the two years that the Labour party was offering at the general election. We are also offering for the first time 15 hours of free education for all disadvantaged two-year-olds, which will of course include those on free school meals. That offers a real chance to ensure that other people on free school meals have as successful a career as my hon. Friend.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford

The Chancellor said that he will replace the education maintenance allowance with more targeted support. Can he tell me and the thousands of families in Lewisham who will be affected what could be more targeted than £30 into the pocket of a family who are bearing the extra burden of keeping a teenager at school?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We looked very carefully at this programme, and it has a very high dead weight. We are raising the compulsory participation age to 18 and funding that-one of the policy's original stated purposes was to get people to stay on after 16-and we will introduce a more targeted scheme, so there will be help. I have to say that we conducted a public consultation over the summer, and we received 100,000 responses, many from parents and children in receipt of EMA. It was one of the most prominent issues raised, and the overwhelming view of the responses was that it was not a well targeted support. That has certainly been my experience from those in some of the schools that I have visited. We are looking for a more targeted payment that actually helps those whom this financial incentive would really encourage to stay on in education.

Photo of Rob Wilson Rob Wilson Conservative, Reading East

I welcome the Chancellor's commitment to protecting the science budget and his comments on Lord Browne's review of university and student funding, but does he agree with me-and, apparently, the new shadow Chancellor-that the problem with a graduate tax is that the money goes straight to the Treasury and not to the universities?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and he has considerable experience in this area. The problem with the graduate tax, which we honestly looked at and honestly considered- [Interruption.] Actually, an enormous amount of work was done in looking at the feasibility of the graduate tax, some of it by the previous Government: the shadow Chancellor was the higher education Minister who ruled out a graduate tax, and under the previous Government the education Department published a paper about why it would not work. As I have said, we looked at this idea carefully-we approached it in a genuinely open-minded way-but there were many disadvantages to it. One of them was that it would represent a massive centralisation of the university system with, basically, the Treasury controlling, almost to the last pound, how much different universities would get. That is why, as I understand it, the Russell group of universities-for a start-are completely against it.

Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell Labour, Middlesbrough

On the Prime Minister's statement which the Chancellor confirmed, the House will welcome the facts that the science budget is safeguarded, that the adult apprenticeship scheme will be advanced, and that £500 million will go into the Tyne and Wear metro and the Tees valley bus network.

Following on from the questions of my hon. Friends the Members for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) and for Leicester West (Liz Kendall), since the Chancellor places so much emphasis on fairness, how can it be fair to make 490,000 people unemployed in the public sector and a putative further 500,000 in the private sector? How can that be a sensible policy for growth?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

That is, quite frankly, a deliberate misrepresentation of the number, which was produced independently. The number is for the reduction in the public sector head-count over four years. As I have said, there will be redundancies, but there will also be posts that go unfilled. The plan set forward by the Labour party also involved a reduction in the head-count of hundreds of thousands; the Leader of the Opposition admitted that on a number of occasions during both the general election and his party's leadership contest. We have all got to face up to this challenge, but I should point out that the same organisation that produced the number that Sir Stuart Bell cites-the Office for Budget Responsibility-also forecasts falling unemployment through to 2014.

Photo of Andrew Percy Andrew Percy Conservative, Brigg and Goole

I welcome the commitment to infrastructure funding for Yorkshire and Humber, which follows the announcement on the review of the Humber bridge tolls two weeks ago. I also welcome the commitment to offshore wind energy. Just last week in North Lincolnshire, Labour and Conservative councillors voted through an offshore wind development at the South Humber gateway, which has the potential to bring 5,000 jobs to the region. However, that is now in jeopardy because Natural England is requesting that it be called in for a public inquiry, with the risk that the jobs will go to mainland Europe. Given the commitment to offshore wind, will the Chancellor have a quiet word with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and encourage him to reject that application for a public inquiry?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I think that I would get myself into a lot of legal hot water if I were to do that, but let me make a couple of observations. First, all involved in planning decisions, whether at local, area or national level, should take into account the need for the economic investment that the British economy must have over the coming years and give that due consideration. Secondly, we have found additional money for offshore wind technology investment, including manufacturing at port sites, which was one of the issues the trade unions raised with me as a particular priority. Finally, both my hon. Friend and our hon. Friend Mr Stuart have been very persistent in asking for a Treasury review of the Humber bridge tolls-in which no doubt the shadow Chancellor takes an interest, too-and there will be a Treasury-led review of the tolls, but I am not going to prejudge its outcome.

Photo of Michael McCann Michael McCann Labour, East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow

The Department for International Development operates within my constituency, and many people will welcome today's commitment by the Government to spend 0.7% of GDP on international development. However, can the Chancellor tell me how much of that budget will be assigned to works previously delivered and paid for by other Government Departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

There is a very substantial increase, of about 37%, in DFID's budget. There are parts of international development work that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office carries out too-conflict stabilisation and the like. It is, of course, perfectly within the rules set on the UN commitment, which are internationally policed and so we cannot fudge them, and perfectly reasonable to count that expenditure towards the 0.7% target. However, the large bulk will be delivered through DFID, whose budget has a substantial increase. I suggest that it is a task for this House-all parties-to ensure that that development aid is well spent on the poorest people and on conflict prevention.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Conservative, North West Leicestershire

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the reason why the previous Labour Government failed to hold a spending review was because they bottled their responsibilities? Does he also agree that Labour Members are still running away from those now and that the cuts that we are seeing are no more than the butcher's bill for 13 years of Labour profligacy and waste?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. It is striking that in all the responses and everything that we have heard today from Labour Front Benchers and Back Benchers there has not been a single positive proposal as to how to reduce the deficit that they all sat there and allowed to grow.

Photo of Simon Danczuk Simon Danczuk Labour, Rochdale

What will the increase in train fares do to get people out of their cars and on to the trains?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

What I would say to the hon. Gentleman is that, again, we have to take a realistic decision about investment in our railways. We are going to invest £14 billion in them and we also want to invest in new rolling stock, on which I was asked a question by Phil Wilson, who has now left his place. That has required a tough decision on rail fares, but I hope that passengers will at least understand that if we want investment in rail stock we have to be able to afford it, and the people who use the rail stock should make a contribution to that.

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid Conservative, Bromsgrove

I welcome the bold and powerful statement that my right hon. Friend has made today and, in particular, the efforts to protect the most vulnerable. Does he agree that the biggest risk to our economy would have been to have done nothing at all, as advocated by most Labour Members, and that the action that he has taken today will do the most to restore economic confidence to our economy?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I agree with my hon. Friend. Whoever won the general election-whoever formed the Government-was going to have to come to the House of Commons to set out a plan for reducing the highest budget deficit in our peacetime history; the deficit is considerably higher than it was when Denis Healey had to go to the International Monetary Fund. We have set out those proposals, and I believe that they will deliver certainty and stability going forward. The market interest rates for British businesses and British families are already lower as a result of the decisions that we have taken since coming into office. As for the decisions that we have announced today, I have noted that not a single Labour Member has asked me about the increase in the child tax credit, which will help 4 million families.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party

I am not sure how the Government can claim to be the greenest ever when it is estimated that Department of Energy and Climate Change and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs funding combined will reduce by 47% in real terms over the next four years. However, my question is this: should the Chancellor not do more than just hope that the private sector will fill the huge gap between the £1 billion he has set aside for the green investment bank and the £4 billion to £6 billion that Ernst and Young says is the minimum required? He said that he would try to find a bit more through the sale of assets, but how much does he imagine that will fund as well?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

There is commitment, even in these difficult times, to a carbon capture and storage demonstration, to the development of offshore wind technology and manufacturing at port sites, and to a renewable heat incentive. On the green investment bank, it would have been easy to say, in my position, "Let's wait to see whether we can get some Government asset sales and some private sector money; just create the body and hope it gets the funding." I wanted to provide a back-stop and I have done so today by making available £1 billion from general Government expenditure. However, I also want to see substantial Government asset sales go into the green investment bank and to lever in some private sector money, so that it is a multi-billion pound force for investment in our country.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I congratulate the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on this spending review. Delivering investment in 21st century infrastructure will be welcomed by my constituents, as will the spending to protect the post office network and, most importantly for us, to deal with coastal erosion. Does he agree that it is the coalition Government who are making the difficult and politically courageous spending decisions? That has also been reflected today in the European Parliament, where Conservative MEPs voted to reduce the European Union budget, unlike Labour MEPs, who did not take that opportunity and instead also voted for tax-raising powers for the EU.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend tells me something that I did not know, which is that the behaviour of Labour MEPs is completely inconsistent with the message from their party that it is serious about trying to reduce Britain's budget deficit. The money that we have found for flood and coastal defences totals about £2 billion and will help 145,000 households. Obviously, the relevant Secretary of State will make the announcements about the different tranches that will now go ahead, and I wish Suffolk Coastal every success.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

This is further to the question asked by my hon. Friend Mr McCann and refers to the Chancellor's use of the words "conflict resolution", which strangely were also used several times by the Prime Minister yesterday in the context of a statement on defence expenditure. It also recalls the episode of the Pergau dam. Can the Chancellor give us an absolute assurance that ring-fenced funding for overseas aid will not find its way into defence commitments and will be used for the purposes outlined in the millennium development goals?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Let me say to the right hon. Gentleman that, first, the 0.7% target is internationally monitored and so, having said we are going to hit it, we obviously do not want to find the international bodies saying that we have badged overseas aid in the wrong way. [Interruption.] May I say to Barry Gardiner that we have increased the international aid budget by almost £4 billion today? I understand that lots of Labour Members, and indeed Members on this side of the House, want to ask questions about specific difficult decisions that we have taken, but to quibble about the massive 37% increase in DFID's budget is a little unfair. We have made a decision as a House of Commons to hit the 0.7% target, as internationally observed-all parties were committed to this in the general election-which we have to understand has consequences in Government budgets elsewhere. That involves a substantial increase in the international development budget. We are funding very specific projects on malaria, maternal health and the like, and as a country we should be proud and tell the world about our commitment, rather than suggest that the rules will be fudged when they cannot be because they are internationally policed.

Photo of Aidan Burley Aidan Burley Conservative, Cannock Chase

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to nail, once and for all, the lie perpetuated by many Labour Members that the international banking crisis is in some way completely responsible for the budget deficit, given that, in reality, the figures show that just £40 billion of the total £667 billion spent by Government last year went to prop up the banks?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

If my hon. Friend has not yet had the opportunity to do so, he should look at chart 1.1 in the book produced by the Treasury, which shows that a structural deficit was emerging throughout the past decade and that that made Britain particularly ill-prepared for what happened in our banks. Of course, the poor regulation of our banking system meant that this country was probably affected more than any other, except for Iceland and perhaps Ireland. We are trying to sort that out, by addressing not only the public finances, but the regulation of the banks. As I say, if we had fixed the roof when the sun was shining, we would have been in a better condition to deal with the storms.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

The Chancellor will be aware that housing is the biggest and most serious problem facing people in my constituency, because of overcrowding and a shortage of social housing. His proposals in July to cap housing benefit render at risk the lives of many people living in private rented accommodation, where the rent is paid by housing benefit, and his proposals now to have two tiers of council tenure do not sit very well, because one tenant will be living in secure accommodation on a fixed rent of about £100 a week whereas their next-door neighbour, because of an accident of dates, will be paying at least twice that in rent and will have no security of tenure. How does that fit with the notion that we are all in it together?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

There is a problem in social housing, but frankly the party that the hon. Gentleman supported in this House-on and off-for 13 years did absolutely nothing to address it. We are trying to reform social housing provision so that more homes are built and so that there is more availability of socially rented properties, unlike the fall that we have seen recently. He talks about his constituents and he must ask himself-I certainly confronted this-whether it was fair to ask the people of his constituency who go out to work to fund housing benefit bills of £50,000, £60,000 or £70,000 a year. That is totally unaffordable to the working people of Islington. We have introduced what I think is a perfectly reasonable rule that the average family out of work should not get more in benefits than the average family earns in work. I find it difficult to see how people could object to that.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Conservative, South Northamptonshire

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in this country the key to our economic recovery will be the development and growth of new small and medium-sized enterprises? More people are employed in SMEs in this country than in any other sector. Does he also agree that in order to get SMEs up and running, it will be key that they have better funding, and that we remove barriers to entry for new providers to get funding to new SMEs?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I did not mention in my speech that we are funding the enterprise finance guarantee scheme to help small businesses get access to credit. In the Budget I also stopped the increase in the small companies tax rate that was going to take place under the previous Government. We want to help the small businesses and medium-sized enterprises that are the engine room of our private sector economy. I hope that some of the transport infrastructure, which is something that businesses often raise with us, set out today will help.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Natascha Engel Natascha Engel Chair, Backbench Business Committee, Chair, Backbench Business Committee

The Chancellor has announced a cut of 490,000 jobs in the public sector. Whichever way he slices it, that still means that even after four years and even if it is down to natural wastage there will be 490,000 jobs in the public sector that are lost to the economy. He also wants to move people off benefit and into work to save on the welfare budget. How does he make this add up? Where are the jobs coming from that the people who are now on welfare-

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

First, to put it in context, close to 200,000 jobs have been created in the last three months. Secondly, the Labour party's plans involved a head-count reduction of more than 400,000. It was accepted by Labour politicians during the election that there would be a head-count reduction and that there would be redundancies. This is what happens when a country loses control of its public finances. If we had been better managed over recent years-if the people doing my job before me had managed to avoid this record budget deficit, which is the largest in the G20- [ Interruption. ] Opposition Members keep saying that this is all to do with the international situation. They have not yet managed to explain to me why we were the worst affected in that international situation. We have to take some difficult decisions, but it will help if private sector recovery helps to create jobs. The number that the hon. Lady keeps using is a number from an independent body-the Office for Budget Responsibility-that she presumably regards as credible, since she is quoting it, but the OBR also forecast falling unemployment over the period. She cannot really use one forecast from the body and not the other.

Photo of Mary Macleod Mary Macleod Conservative, Brentford and Isleworth

When my right hon. Friend met the IMF and World Bank officials in Washington recently, did they agree with his approach on reform, fairness and growth, which he has presented today, or did they suggest something else, like the Opposition have?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

They said very clearly in their article IV assessment of the British economy that the measures we had taken were essential for fiscal sustainability. They do not always say that kind of thing about economies-last year, they criticised the previous Government's economic plans. To be honest with my hon. Friend, I did not share all my detailed budget plans with the IMF; I thought I would share them with the House of Commons first.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport)

In the statement, the Chancellor did not mention additions to tax credits at any stage. One of the anomalies before the statement was made was, I understand, that people on an income of £45,000 would be penalised in their tax credits whereas those who had two incomes coming into their house, perhaps totalling £80,000, would not be penalised. That money is not cappuccino and cupcake money-it is for education and clothing for their children and for the mortgage. What steps will the Chancellor take to help those people?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I think the hon. Gentleman is referring to child benefit, and it has clearly been a difficult decision to remove child benefit from families where there is a higher rate taxpayer. It raises £2.5 billion. It is interesting to note that, although it was the first issue raised by the Leader of the Opposition at Prime Minister's questions last week, not a single Labour MP has mentioned it. I think they are beginning to realise that making this their priority for public spending is probably a mistake. I understand that it is a difficult decision, but I have to try to make this fair. These higher rate taxpayers represent the top 20% of earners and the decisions that I have taken have tried to make this fair across the income distribution.

Photo of Paul Uppal Paul Uppal Conservative, Wolverhampton South West

It is often said of the last Labour Government that although talk is cheap, the consequences of their actions were very expensive. Does the Chancellor agree that the sentiment of the spending review is not about cuts but about responsibility and the financial responsibility that we bequeath to our children and our grandchildren?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. We have talked a lot about fairness and about fairness across the income distribution, but there is also a fairness between generations. If we do not deal with these debts and do not have a credible plan, it will be our children and grandchildren who are saddled with the debts that we were not prepared to pay. I think that is very unfair.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Labour, Tottenham

The Chancellor describes the cuts to local government as challenging, but will he clarify whether cuts to the area cost adjustment and to specific grants mean that cuts to local authorities could be up to 35%? Both those grants are based on deprivation. How does he reconcile that with his obligations on child poverty?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The right hon. Gentleman is obviously-I do not hold this against him-a centraliser rather than a localiser. He would like all these decisions to be taken by people doing my job and directed to elected local councils through grants. We take a different approach. We are sweeping away a lot of these grants. I have to say however-I am sure that this will be of interest to people in his constituency, as I know something of the nature of it-that the increase in the child tax credit will help. We have also, at the insistence of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, put a great deal of resources into the Supporting People programme, which is particularly important in areas such as that represented by the right hon. Gentleman.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Conservative, Macclesfield

Does the Chancellor agree that the investments spelled out today in the regional growth fund will go a long way to help underpin growth and private sector jobs in the north-west, which we both represent?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

As my hon. Friend is my local MP, I had better agree with him. His predecessor-people will remember the former Member for Macclesfield-was passionate about supporting manufacturing and I am glad that the torch has been passed to a new generation there. My hon. Friend is right. We need to see a private sector recovery and we need to see growth and investment in the north-west of England. We want to get away from the economy that we have seen over the past 10 years, where all the growth was focused on one sector and where, from memory, for every 10 jobs created in the south-east of England by the private sector one job was created in the midlands and the north. That is not a sustainable economic model.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Shadow Minister (Health)

I was grateful to hear the announcement from the Chancellor about the Mersey gateway, which has all-party support. However, he knows that it must have funding to ensure that it can go ahead. Will he set out today, given that he is a local MP, what funding is allocated for the Mersey gateway project?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I do not have the exact number to hand, but I shall give it to the hon. Gentleman this afternoon. We are funding the project as it was set out. I know the chief executive of Halton borough council because he used to be the chief executive of my local borough council. I have discussed it with him and I hope to have further discussions to ensure that the bridge is built and that the private investment linked to the bridge comes in. I shall give the hon. Gentleman the exact number later today.

Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell

May I thank the Chancellor for taking the decision to give to Equitable Life more than three times the amount that was recommended in the Chadwick report? Will he describe to the House and to my constituents what settlement he thinks that the Equitable Life policyholders might have got if the Opposition were still in government?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

We know the answer to that because they had 13 years to address the problem and gave absolutely nothing. They then set up Sir John Chadwick's report and, although I thank him for it, I do not agree with its conclusions. I strongly suspect that if Labour had won the election, they would have agreed with his conclusions, which would have meant just a third of the money that I have set out today for Equitable Life policyholders. We are helping policyholders across the piece, but our particular priority has been the trapped annuitants, whom we will fully compensate.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons)

The Chancellor has confirmed that almost half a million public sector jobs will go under his plan, and PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that another half a million will go in the private sector. Will he explain how adding a million people to the dole so that they are paying no taxes will bring down the deficit and help our economy to grow?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Let me explain it to the hon. Lady. This country has the largest Budget deficit in the G20. If we do not address that, there will be economic ruin for this country, so we are addressing it. The reduction in the public sector head-count will take place over four years. This economy created 200,000 jobs in the last three months and part of the head-count reduction will happen through turnover. The last time I checked, Labour were still committed to eliminating the structural deficit-they just would have taken longer over it-so the job losses and the head-count reduction would have been prolonged. I do not think that is right for this country.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Conservative, South Swindon

As a fellow one-nation Conservative, does my right hon. Friend agree that today's announcement has been driven not by some ideological crusade, as the Labour party has suggested, but by a genuine desire to spend more Government revenue on public services and less on servicing Labour's debt?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course, we have made choices today. First, we have chosen to seek to reduce debt interest by going faster than the Labour party would have done. I think it is better to spend the money here rather than to give it to our foreign creditors. Secondly, we have chosen to put particular emphasis on trying to reduce the welfare bills. That has enabled us to increase investment in the NHS, schools and early-years provision, which we were discussing earlier. That is true to the values of one-nation conservatism and to the values of this coalition.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Labour, Brent North

I welcome the Chancellor's decision to honour the previous Government's commitment to contribute 0.7% of gross domestic product to international development, but I would like absolute transparency on this. How much of the money that was previously allocated in the Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Office budgets is now going to be covered by the Department for International Development's budget?

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Let me make two points. First, there is an increase of almost £4 billion in the DFID budget. Secondly, having a tri-departmental fund for DFID, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office will help with conflict and supporting post-conflict stabilisation. It will grow from £229 million this year to £309 million in 2014-15-a growth of just short of £100 million. That will help us to avoid having to come into emergency situations, but it is, of course, pretty small given the scale of the increase that I have just announced in DFID's budget.

Several hon. Members:

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