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My Lords, I am grateful to everyone who has taken part in this debate. I have heard all of the speeches, although I missed a small part of two of them. The debate has been of a very high quality indeed. In particular, I express my appreciation of the five maiden speeches delivered today. I shall not insult them by general applause, but I shall refer to each of them in my speech, when I come to the subjects to which they were devoted.
The most outstanding point to any objective observer who subsequently reads the debate will be the incredible intellectual firepower of the contributions from the Labour Benches. I say that without in any way denigrating the quality of the speeches from the Benches opposite. As regards business experience, both in manufacturing and in services, relevant academic skills, scientific qualifications, and almost every sphere that one can think of, my noble friends have today shown an outstanding command of the subject matter of the debate. I believe that anyone looking objectively at the record will confirm that point.
I propose to start with a few words about macro-economic policy, to deal with the matters raised on each of the four departmental briefs covered by the debate, and at the end I shall return to the wider aspects of macro-economic policy. My noble friend Lord Davies in his opening remarks gave the basic facts about the success of this Government in macro-economic policy, so it is not necessary for me to repeat that. However, I have participated in such debates for seven and a half years and on each occasion it has been possible for those of us at the government Dispatch Box to say how successful this Government have been and, in particular, how successful the Chancellor has been in macro-economic policy. We have told of the way in which the Government have used macro-economic policy to achieve unprecedented levels of growth—49 successive quarters of growth; how they have attacked poverty, particularly child poverty, and how they have reduced to an unprecedented level the scourge of unemployment.
On each occasion, no one on the Benches opposite has been able to find any fault with those arguments. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Newby, claims what I suppose is a new Liberal Democrat slogan for the election. First, he denigrated the Chancellor by saying that the Chancellor gloried in his success—if the noble Lord had had such success, would he not glory in it?—then he described the Chancellor's performance as patchy. That is a slogan for the Liberal Democrats to take into the election: no more patches.
This is a feeble attempt on the part of those who do not have a clue about the reasons for the success of this Government in economic policy to denigrate it and to do it down. On each occasion on which I have heard that over the past seven and a half years, what the Government have said has been proved to be right and what the critics have said has been proved to be wrong.
I shall deal with other Treasury issues. Very little was said about the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Bill. I think that only the noble Lord, Lord Newby, asked for a quick introduction. We shall have a quick introduction.
I am sorry to say that nothing was said about the child benefit Bill and the issue of social justice, on which I have fought for 30 or 40 years. A most important benefit was what we used to call educational maintenance allowances—in other words, financial support for young people of 16 to 19 to allow them to stay on at school or in full-time education. We will have a dramatic improvement with the child benefit Bill. No one on the Benches opposite thought it appropriate to refer to that.