Mr Nigel Beard: No, as I have only a short time in which to speak. The Government's strategy, in which increased resources are considered to be the key to modernising a public service, is the right one, and the vast majority of Britain knows that. That is why the Opposition, after denouncing previous plans for increased spending as reckless, have now endorsed plans for spending even more. It is a death-bed...
Mr Nigel Beard: No, I will not. The pound's strength does not reflect the relative strength of the British and continental economies, even allowing for their being at different points in the trade cycle. There could, therefore, be a sudden fall in the value of the pound which, though desirable for several reasons, would have a shock inflationary effect that would need to be counteracted. The value of the...
Mr Nigel Beard: No. If we consider the Budget on a piecemeal basis, there is a danger that we will miss the wood and only see the trees. Taken as a whole, this Budget gives concrete expression to Labour's vision of a modernised Britain of the 21st century. It moves the process of modernisation into a higher gear. Its appeal goes beyond the self-interested analysis of gainers and losers from individual tax...
Mr Nigel Beard: When my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has proposed increases in spending on the health service in previous Budgets, the Conservatives have denounced it as reckless. Now the Government propose to spend even more, the Conservatives endorse that spending.
Mr Nigel Beard: What has been the cost to the Exchequer of the BSE crisis. 
Mr Nigel Beard: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that the £4 billion, the 53 people who have died, the uncountable cost and the plight that the farming industry has been left in, are the dimensions of a major national disaster, which is an indictment of the Government who presided over it? Does he further agree that the best way to safeguard against such disasters is to have a...
Mr Nigel Beard: Can my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on health, and in particular this week's report from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence on hip replacements, which goes a long way towards fulfilling the Government's commitment to abolishing the postcode lottery? That approach could then be contrasted with the approach taken in an article by the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox),...
Mr Nigel Beard: rose—
Mr Nigel Beard: If the Government were to take note of what the right hon. Gentleman says and reduce duties to the level of those on the continent so that no such gap existed, how should they make good the loss of revenue?
Mr Nigel Beard: Is not there a paradox in the right hon. Gentleman's argument? He complains that the incidence of smoking is increasing, and especially among young people, yet Conservative policy is that the markets would somehow harmonise prices on the continent and in Britain. Is not that essentially the same as saying that we ought to harmonise taxes? However, if taxes were harmonised, the price of...
Mr Nigel Beard: rose—
Mr Nigel Beard: The hon. Gentleman claims that the efforts to stem smuggling have been ineffective. However, it was revealed in the Treasury Committee's inquiry into HM Customs and Excise that the previous Administration cut by 300 the number of officers who dealt with smugglers. The previous Administration had given up trying to control smuggling.
Mr Nigel Beard: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He says that more tax should be raised for public services. How much more? The Liberal Democrats always make the case for raising expenditure, but what is the limit? It seems to be an indefinite amount.
Mr Nigel Beard: What is the limit?
Mr Nigel Beard: What is the amount this year?
Mr Nigel Beard: Why is tax cutting such a worthy objective if it puts in jeopardy the national health service and state education for the coming generations?
Mr Nigel Beard: When the hon. Gentleman's party was in government, it pursued an economic policy of competing internationally on the lowest costs. The present Government's policy is to compete through high added value and a highly skilled population, which demands high spending on education.
Mr Nigel Beard: Can the hon. Gentleman suggest a motive for people to leave full-time employment and set up a personal service company other than tax evasion?
Mr Nigel Beard: I understand the point that people who are employed on a casual basis may have a greater reward than those who are employed on a regular basis, but that should be given in their salary or payment. Why should it be given through the tax system?
Mr Nigel Beard: Is the gist of the hon. Gentleman's case that there is a shortage of computer industry workers, some of whom have gone abroad, so we should try to attract them back by making tax dodging easier?