CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

'DEFENSIVE SUMS'

Daily Telegraph – 10 August 2004

It was reassuring to see your YouGov poll showed that voters reject the Government's cuts in military manpower by two to one (News, August 2), but predictable that the Economic Secretary to the Treasury would stick to the mantra that Tories would freeze or even reduce spending on defence (News, Aug 5).

In his speech on February 16, Oliver Letwin did single out the health and education budgets for increases under the Conservatives of "around four percentage points above the trend rate of growth of GDP during the first two years". All other departmental budgets were to be subjected collectively to "zero per cent growth for the first two years".

Mr Letwin acknowledged that "there will inevitably be cases in which particular programmes, or even the expenditure of whole departments, will need to rise at a rate faster than this". Such extra funding, he pointed out, would have to be found "elsewhere within the non-NHS and non-schools departmental expenditure limits".

There is thus no "freeze" on each and every department other than health and education – only a commitment to fund any necessary additional expenditure on the part of some departments by commensurate savings in others.

Dr JULIAN LEWIS
Shadow Defence Minister
London SW1