Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:21 pm on 23rd March 2015.

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Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling Labour, Edinburgh South West 6:21 pm, 23rd March 2015

The right hon. and learned Gentleman nods. They are pretty doubtful for one of two reasons: one is that a lot can change in that time, and the other is that the person presenting them has every intention of changing them as and when we get to that time. I do not believe for one moment that the Chancellor has changed his philosophy or beliefs from when he told the House last year that he wanted to reduce public spending to the lowest share in modern times—certainly since the welfare state and the national health service were introduced. All that has changed is that that was a political embarrassment last year, so he has simply shoved up the numbers at the end of the spending profile to be able to say, “Look, I’m not going to cause you any difficulties; public spending is going to rise, not decrease.” That is nonsense; the Tory view of public spending has not changed one jot.

Where I part company with many Government Members is that I do not think public spending is almost de facto a bad thing. It is extremely helpful to an economy in education and research and development, never mind the things an advanced economy demands in relation to the welfare state and pensions. So when we look at that profile, it is not credible, and I think it also conceals what the Conservatives would really like to do.

I want to say one thing about oil. I welcome what has been proposed. It is very sensible, because the oil taxation regime had to change, but I just remark in passing—and I am sorry only one nationalist has turned up to the debate—that the OBR forecasts are 47% below what it proposed just a year ago. North sea oil revenues are a 10th of what the nationalists told us they would have if they had an independent Scotland. This is another example of where pooling and sharing resources across the United Kingdom makes a massive difference. If Scotland had been independent today, it would have been faced with cuts that would make the austerity that is now being visited on the economy look like a Sunday afternoon tea party. They would have been substantial and damaging to the people of Scotland. That is why the nationalists have nothing to say about this; they have no one to blame for this problem but themselves.