HC Deb 12 December 1974 vol 883 cc756-7
25. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he still adheres to the figure of 1.5 per cent. as the average rate of public expenditure expansion given in the Supplementary Financial Statement and Budget Report.

Mr. Joel Barnett

Yes, Sir. The figure refers to expenditure on goods and services only in the period up to the first half of 1975. The Government's plans for public expenditure as a whole, including transfer payments, will be published in a White Paper early next year.

Mr. Renton

Is there not a danger that because of the profligacy of the Secretary of State for Industry public expenditure will expand at a far greater rate? Will the Chief Secretary make it his aim to achieve not just cuts in defence but a cut in total public expenditure in real terms, which is what the country needs?

Mr. Barnett

The Chancellor made clear in his Budget Statement that over the next four years the growth in public expenditure in demand terms will be, on average, 2¾ per cent. a year.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Will my hon. Friend accept that the great majority of Labour Members believe that there should be considerable increases in public expenditure, apart from defence, and that we further believe that this additional expenditure should be paid for by increased taxation of the wealthy and the higher income groups?

Mr. Barnett

In different economic circumstances I would entirely agree with my hon. Friend. At present I am afraid it just is not possible.

Mr. Alison

Can the Chief Secretary now say, in relation to the figure of 1.5 per cent. growth referred to in the Question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) and the average figure of 2.75 per cent. growth to which he himself referred, when we are to move up in terms of expenditure in real terms to that much higher rate of expenditure implied by the longer-term average?

Mr. Barnett

I understand that the hon. Gentleman has another, even more complicated, Question later on the Order Paper.

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