David Cameron was on combative form as he responded to Gordon Brown's
statement in the Commons this afternoon on the publication of Building Britain's Future.
Here are excerpts of the Conservative leader's response from the Despatch Box:
He talks for instance about housing. Let me just give him one figure.
Housebuilding today is at the lowest level since 1947. People are
entitled to ask simply what world he is living in. Mr Speaker, I
expect, like me, you will be thinking you have heard a lot of that
statement before. And that's not just because the Prime Minister
ignored your injunction and leaked most of it in advance. It's because
we have heard most of it before. How many times has the country been
told to expect the Prime Minister's vision? How many times has it been
told to expect a string of policy announcements that was going to be
Every single re-launch collapses. And today didn't it happen more
quickly than usual? At 7.50am, Peter Mandelson took to the airwaves and
promptly sunk the whole thing by cancelling the Government's spending
review. So isn't what we have today a package without a price tag? It
is just a combination of rehashed initiatives, ideas taken from the
Opposition, and some timid and bureaucratic top-down tinkering.
Much of the rest of this programme is just rehashed from previous
years. The simplification of our immigration rules. That was
announced in last year's programme. The Floods Bill. That was
recommended in 2007, announced in 2008, and re-announced again this
morning in 2009. One-to-one tuition. The NHS check-ups. Both
announced last year. The Constitutional Renewal Bill. That is back for
the third time in a row. This time apparently it's going to include
Lords reform. But the Prime Minister hasn't been reforming the Lords;
he's been stuffing it with his cronies. It's the one area of employment
in Britain that's rising.
Isn't the real renewal our country needs not just another Bill but a
General Election? Where's the Heritage Protection Bill, announced last
year? Where are the regulatory budgets that the Prime Minister
announced as a way of cutting red tape on business? And what's
happening – not a word about the Royal Mail. This was going to be the
great virility test of the Prime Minister's reforming zeal. Where is
it? Stuck in the post? We were promised Second Reading before the
summer recess. Where is it?
Lord Mandelson said in today's FT he was finding himself "jostled" out
of the programme. I can't believe Lord Mandelson of Upgrade has ever
been jostled out of anything. But let me make the Prime Minister an
offer. If he hasn't got time in his packed Parliamentary schedule to
get his Royal Mail reforms though, would he like to have our Opposition
Day Debate to have the Second Reading next week? Would he welcome that?
So much for all the Prime Minister's talk about tough decisions. He has bottled it once again."
"To listen to his statement you would think the Treasury was rolling in
money. When is someone going to tell him it has run out? Let me read
out what the OECD said just this morning. They say the Government has
got to be more 'ambitious' and more 'explicit' about the need for
spending cuts. The OECD is joining a growing list – from the IFS to the
Governor of the Bank of England and frankly half his Cabinet in private
– who admit he has got to be straight with people on spending.
So let me just ask the Prime Minister this very simple question. Will
there be a spending review before the General Election? This morning
the First Secretary said there wouldn't, and then the Treasury said
there might be. Who speaks for the Government? Any household or company
faced with this level of debt would start to get it under control.
Isn't it essential to start reviewing spending now?
If the first big failure of today's announcement is the lack of honesty
on spending, the second failure is surely a lack of real reform of our
public services. I suppose we should be grateful for one thing. Year after year this Government and this Prime Minister has promoted
and defended its targets culture. Today, they have finally admitted
they were wrong all along. But make no mistake: these proposals are
about top-down bureaucratic tinkering, not real freedom.
On schools, the Prime Minister talks about putting power in parents'
hands. So why is he replacing the raw data of school league tables with
manufactured report cards? On the police, why is the Prime Minister
just talking about empowering citizens rather than giving them the
chance to vote for their elected representatives? On health, why is he
restricting the choices people have, rather than letting them and their
GPs choose where they get treated?
Then there's the addiction to the initiative. Just take one – Parenting
Orders. This is the big new idea apparently on school discipline. It
was actually announced in September 2004. And in the past five years,
how many pupils have been disciplined in this way? A big fat zero. That
is the truth behind the Government's announcement.
The truth about today's statement is it only serves to highlight the
decline of this Government. Their money has run out. Their political
capital has run out. And now their time is running out too."
"What we've got today is yet another re-launch – a re-launch without a
price-tag. And isn't it clear to the whole country that the only way to
sort out our finances; to get real reform of our public services; and
the only way to build Britain's future is to change this wretched