The Comprehensive Spending Review – first thoughts

On Wednesday the Government set out a comprehensive plan of action to confront the bills from a decade of past failures and debt and laying the foundations for economic growth and stability for the future. Labour left Britain on the edge of an economic abyss. The Coalition Government inherited the largest structural deficit in Europe, the largest in our peacetime history.The Coalition Government was faced with tough choices and they did not shy away. We chose to prioritise the NHS, schools, security and the infrastructure to make our economy grow. To do so we have cut welfare and waste.These cuts are unavoidable. Even Labour’s March budget 2009 budget foresaw 20% average cuts across departments. Because of our decisive action on the deficit we will make cuts of 19% for unprotected departments over four years.Fairness has been at the heart of the Coalition Government. That is why we are asking those with the broadest shoulders to contribute more toward this entire fiscal consolidation. That is why we are going to extract the maximum sustainable tax revenues from the financial services, and ensure that banks adhere to the spirit, as well as the letter, of tax law.But Spending Review is not just about cuts. It heralds far reaching reforms based on fairness and securing economic growth.For the past decade we have been too reliant on public spending and rising levels of public debt. For growth to be sustainable it must be based on private sector jobs, exports, investment and enterprise. This is as well protecting our frontline public services.The Government will protect high value transport investment with over £10 billion for major road projects, including work on the M4/5 to relieve congestion and journey times. I will continue to press the Government for funding for the A30/A303 as there remains a major need to improve it.We will maintain the science budget over the term with resource spending of £4.6 billion to ensure the UK remains a world-class centre for research and development. Devon has always had a strong science base and world class climate research and expertise. The Tamar Science Park in Plymouth houses companies involved in research and development in the medical sector. The Universities of Exeter and Plymouth both have strong facilities of science and technology.Exeter University has a particular focus on climate change modelling. The University is successfully bringing together scientific expertise on climate change, amounting to 800 key people, probably the greatest concentration in the world. Under this Government their vital work can continue.Although the Government has been forced to cut welfare to deal with the deficit we are still protecting those most vulnerable in society. There will be an allocation of £2 billion a year of additional funding by 2014 to 2015 to social care.The basic State Pension will have a triple guarantee of earnings, prices or 2.5 % by 2011 to ensure that insulting increases like Labour’s 75p increase do not happen again.Ware also bringing forward the date at which the State Pension Age for men and women will start to rise to 66, from 2018 to 2020 to deal with the challenge of an ageing population.Key benefits for older and vulnerable people will be protected, including Winter Fuel Payments, free eye test, free bus passes and TV licences. Temporary increases to Cold Weather Payments will also be made permanent so eligible households receive £25 for each seven day cold spell.We have secured investment of £530 million over the spending review period to help ensure the roll out of super fast broadband across all areas of the UK.This has particular importance here in Devon. Modern business and communication is highly dpendent on the internet. The poor broadband connectivity is stunting enterprise and employment in Devon. 22% of rural businesses in Devon say their poor level of access to broadband is constraining productivity and growth. Devon would benefit hugely from broadband. It is vital for small businesses and rural businesses to compensate for weaknesses in transport infrastructure and to make Devon the hub of economic activity we know it can be.Many people were understandably disappointed when Child Benefit stopped for higher rate taxpayers. However, this Government has set out measures to stop child poverty and support families. We will offer all disadvantaged 2 year olds an extension of 15 hours per week of free early education and care from 2012.We are providing funds above indexation increases in the Child Tax Credits worth £30 in 2011/12 and £50 in 2012/13, in addition to the £150 and £60 increases at the June Budget.Labour will try and tell you that we are cutting too deep, too soon. If we took Labour’s advice to simply halve the deficit in four years we would rack up an additional £100 billion in national debt by the end of this Parliament. Labour’s failure left this country on the edge of an economic abyss. To add insult to injury they have no coherent alternative plan. For years the Labour Government sat around the Cabinet tabke trying to ignore the mounting debt surrounding them. The Old Generation of Labour Ministers got us into this mess and Ed Milliband’s New Generation has failed to form a coherent alternative economic strategy.Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton