Supplementary billions – have another 36?

Yesterday’s Commons debate on the estimates – or more spending – was pathetic. The government fielded a clutch of junior Ministers to discuss the Business Department’s estimate, and the Transport Departments estimate. The Autumn and Spring Supplementary estimates are the way governments get Parliamentary approval to spend more than the budget figure for the year. Most of it is usually paying extra for errors and overruns, with the occasional increase for something that is worthwhile. This year the Supplementaries ran to 700 pages of detail in two volumes, totalling £36.446 billion (total net resource requirement, as HMT says). That’s a whopping supplementary. There was of course no Index to help you find the place you wanted, and often tiny items received much more explanation than the big numbers. The documents were a masterpiece of expensive obfuscation.

I discovered that there were just two large items within the wealth of detail. £20 billion was described in just 23 words “Raising the rate of sustainable growth and achieving rising prosperity and a better quality of life., with economic and employment opportunities for all”. I asked the Treasury Minister what that meant. It was clearly written in newspin, as there is no sign of growth out there, sustainable or unsustainable. The Minister either hadn’t a clue or had no intention of telling us. Further on in the bumper book of mad spending it did hint that this could have something to do with financial assistance to banks and other financial institutions, but there was no breakdown of the sums involved in a heading which also included extra spending on “honours and dignities” and the soon to be overworked Debt Management Office. I did not even find it reassuring that there was an offset, with a decline of spending of £3.7million, as this was on actions to “protect the integrity of the coinage”.

The Transport supplementary was the other large one, weighing in at £8.2 billion. I asked the Labour Chairman of the Transport Select Committee who led the debate what the large £7.55 billion item within this was for. It was called “Financial Instruments”. The detail supplied told us this was to “set up a non cash resource provision under a new Section for:Financial Instruments to reflect the opening value as at 1 April 2008 of FRS26 government guarantees….”

The lady was unable to answer, and the Minister was keeping mum about this one as well.

And so the Mother of Parliaments gladly passed £36 billion of extra spending after several hours of debate about something other than these two large estimates. All’s well with the spend more borrow more world.


  1. Ian Jones
    March 10, 2009

    Is the 36bn on top of what has already been put into the banks or is this just extra spending on the extra spending?

    Lets hope Cameron restores the power of parliament and outlaws some of the statutory instruments tacked onto laws which mean changes no longer need laws. Although having been out of the country for 2 years I am not exactly sure what is now legal as it seems we are going towards the European view that everything is illegal unless the Govt says it isnt!!!

    Reply: the documents didn’t say the Minister didn’t know if some of the £36 bn is also the save the banks money.

  2. alan jutson
    March 10, 2009

    Interesting that none of this debate, if that is what you can call it, has been reported in the Press given the vast sums of money involved.

    I have noticed in the Telegraph this morning though that RBS has a staff pension shortfall due to its collapsing share price.
    The proposed reported solution, to invest £807 million of the taxpayer bail out money into it, to make it a little better.

    Also reported RBS auditors fees up from £31.4 million to £58.8 million, seems that not spotting a problem entitles you to an 80% increase in your fees.

    Meanwhile in the real world, the taxpayer suffers the effects of the wider market on their Pension funds, and a future increase in their Tax liability to pay for all of this liability.

    John you must be getting very frustrated, and I guess by now a little angry with the current situation, where democracy and accountability just seems to be failing.
    Is there nothing that all of the opposition Parties can do to stop this nonesense of non discussion.

  3. rob terrance
    March 10, 2009

    Utterly sickening. More disingenuous lies and wastage from the most criminally incompetent government in history.

  4. chris southern
    March 10, 2009

    Surely what they are pulling nowadays must be illegal, or at least frowned upon by parliment, if so, surely there must be some legal retribution.
    this goverment are nothing more than a prince john fanclub, do we need the archbishops to take them all to task this time!

  5. brian kelly
    March 10, 2009

    When is all this going to stop? It is the politics and economics of the madhouse. There is a most strange feeling and atmosphere about – to me, a bit surreal, as though we are detached from reality – democracy totally departed, a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, waiting for something to happen It’s a bit like a ‘phony war’, the enemy massing on the borders while we try to carry on as normal but knowing that there will be an almighty axe come crashing down at any time.

  6. adam
    March 10, 2009

    Sustainable Growth is an oxymoron.
    I believe my analysis is right, that they intend to redefine economics as a measure of happiness rather than wealth, in order to hide the damage sustainable development will do to traditional economic measures. I cant see that they have another way out of it, except to admit that being green will damage the economy and the message at the moment is the exact opposite.

  7. John Finningham
    March 10, 2009

    As I have stated in the Gaurdian and Independent blogs government spending is a complete sham and I defy any politician to prove me wrong (none have dared comment).
    I work in the rail industry and we are funded by the tax payer. Just one example is the measuring tool I use in my job which cost a staggering £137. This same tool and from the same maker I found online for £7.99 and another few £ for P+P.
    All governments waste tax payers money and will continue to do so unless we have full accountability into public money. yet most MP’s do not want that as it means an end to the generous perks in the expenses fiasco. Probably an end to the lucrative pensions that we pay for while ours are unprotected and worthless.
    What do you say John; any response to this.

    Reply: I agree far too much is wasted. The Conservatives have promised much greater disclosure, fewer MPs and reductions to future MP pension arrangements.

  8. Vanessa
    March 10, 2009

    I am getting to the stage where I don’t care who gets in at the next election, it could be the “Raving Loony Party” so long as there is a modicum of competence. I am sick of being governed by children who have never run or done anything in their simple lives. With this horrendous financial fiasco please get somebody who knows what he is doing to help get us out of this mess and growing again.

  9. mike stallard
    March 11, 2009

    We all know that this government works in a language that nobody who is not a professional Labour supporter can begin to understand. So did the Russian Communists too. Remember Newspeak?
    It is an appallingly dangerous thing to do.
    If you stop all pertinent criticism, you are bound to make serious mistakes, especially if you are increasingly removed from reality.
    I have been trying desperately to find “John Redwood’s Blog: Labour division.”
    There simply isn’t one. (Unless you count the BBC).
    The most dreadful news is that Labour List which looked promising has now (go there and see) turned into a feminist tract, just at the time when the economy is being deliberately sacrificed to win the election next year.
    The Labour party have not only stopped having to think in parliament, they now have started to stop thinking on the internet.
    Unless, of course, you count John Prescott who has a LOT to say.

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