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Comprehensive Spending Review

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 1 November 2006

1. What work he has undertaken on Government policy with regard to the 2007 comprehensive spending review. (98410)

This is the fifth spending review undertaken by the Government and the second comprehensive one. Since 1997, 2.4 million jobs have been created and the UK economy is enjoying the longest period of sustained economic growth for 200 years, which the International Monetary Fund says is a remarkable and enviable record. The present comprehensive spending review is based on an assessment of the long-term challenges facing the UK in the decade from 2007. It will enable us to sustain the momentum of improvements in public services and release the resources needed to meet the challenges of the decade ahead. I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, Cabinet colleagues and others about how to meet the changes.

How does the Deputy Prime Minister think that the next comprehensive spending review can avoid a repeat of the prison places crisis and the tax credit fiasco?

The spending reviews of the past 10 years show the most enviable economic record, as I have just said, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is our intention to maintain that. The IMF has endorsed that policy, which has not always been the case with Labour Governments or even Tory Administrations. To that extent, it is a bit much for the hon. Gentleman to talk about what he might do about public expenditure—[Interruption.] The implication is clear—what they would do rather than how we deal with public expenditure. Ours is a successful record, which we will continue.

The interim report of the comprehensive spending review in July stated that pay settlements across the public sector should be based on the Government’s inflation target of 2 per cent. Does that target apply to public quangos and, if so, will the Deputy Prime Minister explain how, in Northern Ireland, the Police Ombudsman and the chief executive of the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment and many other public bodies could receive pay increases of nearly 10 times that target?

The comprehensive spending review applies to all public sector payments. I am not up to speed on what exactly has happened in Northern Ireland, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the review will apply to all.

Given the demanding level of future housing that the Deputy Prime Minister has willed on the south-east of England, in the course of his discussions on the comprehensive spending review, what representations has he made to the Chancellor to increase the woefully lacking infrastructure in the south-east?

When the Chancellor makes his statement, he will make clear how much of the resources will be available for infrastructure expenditure. But let me be absolutely clear: houses are needed in the south-east, as people in the region make clear, and we shall provide the necessary infrastructure.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister tell us how much money will be set aside in the comprehensive spending review to fund his own new Department? Does he think it right that while 20,000 jobs are being lost from the NHS the Government are having to spend millions setting up a new office for a Minister who has been stripped of all his departmental responsibilities?

As usual, the right hon. Gentleman is not up to speed with the facts. His hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) said that 20,000 jobs had been lost in the NHS, but it was made clear by the Secretary of State for Health and, indeed, the Prime Minister not just that the figure is only 900 but that it should be seen against the increase of more than 100,000 jobs in the health service, so the figure was just untrue and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take this opportunity to withdraw that obvious untruth.