That is slightly unworthy of a former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, who at least would remain, if in solitary glory.
A related illusion that the Opposition purvey is the call, frequently made by the Leader of the Opposition, for the Government to prepare a plan B in case the economic road gets rocky—a plan B would, by implication, involve higher spending and borrowing. Of course it is a bit rich for the Leader of the Opposition to ask for a plan B, given that he has not yet spelt out a plan A, but the reality is that if we abandon the plan set out by the Chancellor, we will get a plan B, but it will not come from the Opposition or from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor—it will come from the savers and pension funds whose money we would need to borrow to finance that increased borrowing. If we did bottle out of what we have proposed, they would demand deeper cuts over a shorter period and they would require us to pay a higher rate of interest. The net result would not just be deeper cuts in the public sector, as we have seen the markets impose on Portugal, Greece and Ireland; those higher interest rates would kill off and abort the recovery in the private sector on which we depend to create the jobs to take up the people not employed in the public sector. So it would be a disaster for this country if we were to go down that route.
The third illusion that some Labour Members purvey—perhaps the more honest elements among them—is the belief that we could avoid public spending cuts if we were prepared to put up taxation. But who would pay those higher taxes? Ultimately, taxes are always paid by individuals and if the squeezed middle are not going to pay them—they have been precluded from bearing a higher burden of taxation by the Leader of the Opposition —either the poor or the rich must do so. I would not put it beyond a party that sought to double the burden of taxation on the lowest paid by removing the 10p tax rate to seek extra revenues from the very poor, but that would not yield much money so Labour must look to the very rich for it. I just remind Labour Members that if they read the Red Book, they will see that the top 1% of income tax payers in the coming year are expected to pay no less than a quarter of the entire revenues of income tax—last year, the top 5% paid more than half of all income tax. We are reaching the point at which any further burden of taxation on those people would kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. In the words of my old friend, the sadly now deceased Lord Harris of High Cross, punitive taxes beyond a certain point do not redistribute income, they redistribute people. We have reached that point and we would go beyond it if we accepted the advice of the Opposition.
I urge my hon. Friends to support the Chancellor and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in what he is doing at the Department for Work and Pensions and to ignore the blandishments and illusions of the other side.