Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on sticking to his plan to reduce the Budget deficit. Far from these cuts being too much, too deep, too soon, I believe that what he has proposed is the minimum over the longest credible period that we can reasonably expect will enable us to avoid the sort of financial crisis that has hit many neighbouring countries.

    I want to address an illusion. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne), whom it is normally a privilege to follow, based his speech on it, and it permeated the speech of the Leader of the Opposition at the weekend when he addressed the large rally on cuts. It is the illusion that we can have something for nothing. We live in a world of finite resources. If we spend more on one thing, we have to spend less on another. If we spend more now, we must expect to spend less-substantially less-in future, when we repay our debts with compound interest. The Opposition do not seem to realise that. I would be more than happy to engage in debate with either of them if when they advocated the restoration of spending in one area, they simultaneously spelt out the additional cut they intended to propose in another area of spending, but they never do so and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill did not do so today. As long as hon. Members refuse to spell out alternative cuts to those that they reject, rational debate in this place is simply impossible.

    Mr Deputy Speaker, I know that you are well aware that the ancient states of the Peloponnese resolved these problems by rules of debate that required those advocating increased spending on programmes that would require extra taxation or more borrowing to stand up in the public forum on a platform and argue their case with a noose around their neck. If they succeeded in persuading their fellow citizens of the need for increased spending and taxation, the noose was removed, but if they failed, the platform was removed. I understand that this healthy discipline meant that those states remained solvent for centuries on end.