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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:52 pm on 19th March 2015.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 12:52 pm, 19th March 2015

The hon. Gentleman is right. I do not think that the shadow Chancellor mentioned the word “employment”, which is interesting because when we first entered office we heard nothing other than the threat of mass unemployment.

Let me pursue the argument about how we will deal with the deficit in the future. It is perfectly right to say that the parties could debate our actual priorities. To be fair to my Conservative colleagues, they are quite explicit about how they wish to deal with the deficit by relying on reductions in public spending. They recognise, as we do, that there is still a significant problem left. This morning, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary set out a different way of achieving the same objective. We all have a responsibility to deal with the problem, and we suggest going about it through a different mixture of taxation and spending. The Conservative approach is to deal with it through spending cuts, and given where they come from politically, that is perfectly understandable. Our approach is different: it is a mixed approach, with a ratio of 55% spending increases to 45% tax increases.

With that different balance, we could do more for the NHS. We have talked to Simon Stevens about the finances required to sustain services, including the extra £8 billion and the commitment on mental health. As far as my Department and its work in supporting growth is concerned, I can say—I do not know what my shadow can say, because he is not in the Chamber—that, on such a trajectory, we could sustain spending on the Budget headings that support growth. Those headings cover the industrial strategy and business support; financial interventions, such as the business bank, the green investment bank and the regional growth fund; innovation, which we need to double by the end of this decade if we are to be competitive internationally; science and research, which we plan to grow in real terms, and which the Chancellor has shown a particular interest in and whose budget he supports; adult skills, further education colleges and apprenticeships; and higher education teaching, research and student support. Those are my priorities, and I am very interested to hear what the Opposition’s are. I think their priority is tuition fees, and I will make a little analysis of how that will be done in a moment.