Comprehensive Spending Review

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:27 pm on 28th October 2010.

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Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab Conservative, Esher and Walton 3:27 pm, 28th October 2010

I commend Ministers on the spending review, because finally we have a Government who are prepared to address the big picture.

In the last four years of the previous Government, Britain dropped from third to 13th on the international rankings for economic competitiveness, partly because of rising global competition, but also because of the excessive inflation of the public sector. As a result, British productivity lags behind our major international competitors. According to EUROSTAT data, between 2000 and 2008, European Governments who spent 42% or less of GDP created 27% extra jobs. Governments who spent more than 42% had jobs growth of just 6%. In that period-before the banking crisis-Britain jumped from the high-jobs-growth camp to the low-jobs-growth camp. The amount of GDP consumed by the UK Government rose by 11% to 48%, and sure enough jobs growth was a paltry 5%. The evidence is plain: we cannot spend our way to economic growth.

There is nothing ideological about wanting to create jobs, and there is nothing socially fair about the welfare trap. I hear the calls every week from Opposition Members to soak the rich, but today the top 5% of earners in this country pay almost half the country's income tax. If that is not a fair share, fine, but where would the Opposition raise taxes, and by how much? The real risk with their strategy is that the brightest talent will flee this country, if they believe that talent and graft are punished rather than rewarded. The brain drain does nothing for social fairness. The July Budget and this deficit plan have brought Britain back from the cusp of default.

Yesterday, we saw Standard & Poor's triple A rating restored from negative to stable, and the task now is to drive economic growth and competitiveness. However, the spending review also addresses fairness at three levels. First, there is the snapshot of winners and losers that there will be in any budgetary process, and the matter of protecting the lowest-paid public sector employees from the pay freeze, the pupil premium and the triple lock on pensions. We must address the glaring unfairness in pay not only between the public and private sectors, but within the public sector. The best paramedic in this country can earn just one tenth of what the top NHS manager can earn. What does that say about our priorities? Some are bucking the trend. Sir Norman Bettison, the chief constable of West Yorkshire, described the idea that the public sector is competing with the private sector for talent as "costly and irresponsible nonsense". He proposes to address public sector pay restraint incrementally, starting with the highest paid 25%. His proposal merits close consideration.

The second dimension of fairness in the CSR relates to the intergenerational allocation of resources. According to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, a failure to tackle the deficit would leave each member of the next generation having to pay £200,000 extra in taxes just to enjoy the same level of public services that we and previous generations have enjoyed. What is fair about leaving our children with a tax bill of £200,000 each?