§ Mr. Geoffrey Robinson
The first tranche of the windfall tax was paid on 1 December, in full and on time, and we are grateful to the companies for their co-operation in this matter.
§ Ms Keeble
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the £2.6 billion that has been raised is exactly what was expected? Does not that give the lie to the previous criticisms that the tax was unworkable? Will he also confirm that the amount raised already is more than the £2.2 billion that the Liberal Democrats would have raised through their 1p in the pound on income tax?
§ Mr. Robinson
My hon. Friend is correct. Now that we have the money, we can ensure that we spend it wisely. We note that the Opposition agreed with the ends, but would have denied us the means. I am pleased to tell the House that the pathfinder programmes are doing extremely well and the whole country is looking forward to the overall national deal beginning on 4 April.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
Will the Paymaster General now answer the question that was ably put by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley): when will the cost of the welfare-to-work programme reduce?
§ Mr. Robinson
It is an odd question. I heard it earlier—[HON. MEMBERS: "Well, answer."] Exactly, I will. We have not begun the national programme for welfare to work. It does not begin on a national level until 4 April, so how can anybody ask us to show results now? That programme will yield results. The Opposition should have implemented such a programme when in government instead of letting youth unemployment build up. Instead of scoffing and trying to point ridicule at a sincere programme to deliver the goods, Conservative Members should be out in their constituencies, as we are, trying to make the programme a success.