HC Deb 27 June 1996 vol 280 cc460-1
12. Mr. Colvin

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his latest percentage target for cuts in overall Government spending for the financial year 1997–98. [33417]

Mr. Waldegrave

Our plans are to hold overall public expenditure in 1997–98 at the same level in real terms as it was in 1995–96. The Government's target is to reduce general Government expenditure as a share of national income to below 40 per cent., and to reduce it further if possible.

Mr. Colvin

Will my right hon. Friend note that defence expenditure is a lower proportion of general expenditure than it has been previously? Has he studied the defence White Paper which shows that, in real terms, expenditure on defence for the three years from now will remain more or less constant? Those figures are based on an underspend last year of £500 million and, therefore, represent cuts. Can my right hon. Friend assure us that the Treasury regards the defence of the realm as the first duty of any Government? Will he ensure that funds are made available to our overstretched armed forces to improve recruiting and to give them the equipment they require to carry out their extremely difficult task?

Mr. Waldegrave

I pay tribute to the way in which the armed forces and my right hon. Friends in the Ministry of Defence have reshaped the forces after the end of the cold war to ensure that that first duty is properly met. I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that no Conservative Government will take risks in that area.

Mr. Soley

What estimate has the Minister made of the increased spending required for bovine spongiform encephalopathy payments?

Mr. Waldegrave

The best estimate that I can give the hon. Gentleman on BSE is that additional spending this year will be around £1 billion, gross spending over the next three years might be around £2.5 billion, or around £2 billion net of predictable receipts from the European Union.

Back to