HC Deb 22 July 1999 vol 335 cc1325-6
12. Ms Beverley Hughes (Stretford and Urmston)

What is the level of extra investment he has allocated to the public sector since May 1997. [91104]

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Alan Milburn)

The comprehensive spending review, in July 1998, allocated an additional £65 billion within total departmental expenditure limits over the next three years. Of that, some £40 billion is extra investment in health and education.

Ms Hughes

I thank my right hon. Friend for that information, which demonstrates that—unlike the previous Government, who tried to destroy public services—this Government are investing massively in the future of those services. Does he agree that, after those Tory years, across the public sector, we need not only new ways of doing things, but new ways of thinking—such as more responsive services, much higher quality and more creativity? How will the Government ensure that the extra investment provided will produce the radical transformation that we need?

Mr. Milburn

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. Our public services not only have a repair, maintenance and infrastructural improvement backlog but need to be modernised so that they provide the responsive and modern services which people nowadays quite rightly expect. That is why the record levels of investment that we have made available for health, education and other public services are tied to specific outcomes—and why, in our public service agreements, we have set 600 targets that we expect to be met. The end result will be not only smaller class sizes, shorter waiting lists and less congestion, but dramatically improved public services in communities across the land which people will be experiencing in the next few years.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)

In an ideal world, should the proportion of gross domestic product taken by the public sector increases or decrease?

Mr. Milburn

I know that the hon. Gentleman likes talking about ideal worlds, as that is easier than living in the real one. Nevertheless, on his question, he should have a word with his Front-Bench spokesmen—such as the shadow Chancellor, who, when we announced our record extra investment in health and education, described our spending plans as madness; or the Leader of the Opposition, who described our spending plans as reckless; or the shadow Chief Secretary, who said that they were dangerous. The Conservatives now say that they want to sign up to them—but their spending plans do not add up any more than their figures do.