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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Brown 'fails' to reform services
Michael Howard
Howard: 'Public services are getting worse'
Gordon Brown has failed to bring about real reforms that would make the UK's public services work, shadow chancellor Michael Howard has told MPs.

In a scathing Commons attack on the chancellor's spending review, Mr Howard claimed Mr Brown "did not know" how to bring about real improvements to health, schools and crime figures.


More money without real reform just won't work

Michael Howard
Despite the claims to the contrary, numeracy standards in schools have fallen, crime has soared and hospital waiting lists are rising, Mr Howard argued.

But the assault, often interrupted by rowdiness on the government benches, prompted Mr Brown to retort that the reform calls were an attempt to obscure the Tories policy "for cutting public spending".

Mr Howard insisted: "Britain's schools, hospitals and other public services can and must be improved, but to do that we need real reform.

'Old promises, old failure'

"Isn't the lesson of the last five years that more money without real reform just won't work?"

The government has failed to meet its own targets in the NHS, with "more bureaucracy than beds" and has been unable to reduce violent crime.

Matthew Taylor
Taylor: Spending review was 'not reform, it's more control'

"Our public services have been getting worse," said Mr Howard, before turning to the chancellor to snipe: "The only mystery in all this is why you don't realise that."

He continued: "Isn't it abundantly clear that you and your colleagues simply don't know how to bring about real reform and the improvements in the public services that we all want to see?

"Where is the reform? Where is the modernisation? Where is the change?

Broken promises

"You are at it again. Another year. Another spending review. The same old promises, the same old failure," said Mr Howard.

Mr Howard said money alone was not the answer and Labour was failing people on the lowest incomes.


You have given them the money, now give them the freedom to do their job

Matthew Taylor, LibDems

"You like to talk about fairness but what is fair about making promises to the most vulnerable sections of society and breaking them year after year?"

Mr Howard claimed proposed reforms to council spending were a redistribution of grants "to favoured areas which the Labour party controls eventually leaving the south east of England with a 200m shortfall".

Turning to Network Rail, the reinvention of Railtrack, the shadow chancellor said: "What confidence can we have in any of your figures when you so clearly cooked the books on borrowing and debt as you have done Enron-style in the case of Network Rail?"

But, he said, the Tories backed anti-terrorism measures and associated rises in defence spending.

Serious party?

They also supported increases in the budget for international development, but the party would consider carefully other proposals.

Mr Howard said the Tories were not against spending more on education, "but we are against your plans to spend more without real reform".

"As your record shows - it just doesn't work."

Mr Brown said Labour had made more reforms in five years than the Tories had in 18.

"The question is whether the Conservatives can ever stand before the country as a serious party if they are not prepared to finance education and health and decent services in our country."

'More control freakery'

Matthew Taylor, for the Liberal Democrats, welcomed the spending increases for hospitals and schools.

But he questioned why Labour had failed to "tell the truth" about its tax plans at the general election.

The review was "not reform, it's more control" and "more control freakery" of teachers, doctors and nurses.

"You have given them the money, now give them the freedom to do their job," he said.

But the chancellor argued that while Mr Taylor supported the additional public spending, "the Liberal party wants us to spend more".

The government's plans for future spending are published on 15 July

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