Finance (No. 2) Bill

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 1:36 pm on 1st April 2014.

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Photo of Danny Alexander Danny Alexander The Chief Secretary to the Treasury 1:36 pm, 1st April 2014

The hon. Gentleman is wilfully misinterpreting what the welfare cap is about. If he had listened to my speech summing up the debate on the welfare cap last week, he would have discovered that the cap was a means of ensuring transparency and accountability to the House in relation to increases in welfare expenditure. In the past, welfare increases were smuggled through the forecasts without proper transparency and scrutiny. The reforms will ensure that, when expenditure is forecast to breach the cap, the Minister responsible will have to come to the House and explain why the breach is happening and what he or she intends to do about it. That could include introducing measures to reduce expenditure; it could also include an increase in the cap, if that is regarded desirable. Given that the hon. Gentleman’s party seems to believe that, under independence, it would be possible for taxes to fall and for expenditure to rise without the chickens coming home to roost, it is not surprising that it should oppose measures to increase accountability to this House on expenditure. The result of the vote last week showed, however, that the House as a whole welcomes the opportunity to hold the Government to greater account for expenditure increases in that area.