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There's no money left - but I'll put social justice first

May 18, 2010 8:54 AM
By David Laws MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury

My Labour predecessor, Liam Byrne, left me a note saying 'Dear Chief Secretary, There's no money left.' He may claim this is joke, but sadly it is all too true.

Labour have left the nation's finances in an utterly ruinous state and we face a colossal task ahead of us. That is why today the Chancellor and I announced the creation of the Office of Budget Responsibility as well as the date for the emergency budget in six weeks time on 22nd June.

It is also why over the next week I will be working to identify £6bn of wasteful government spending that we can save in order to start to pay down the disastrous deficit left to us by Labour.

In addition to this, every new spending commitment and pilot project signed off by Labour ministers since the turn of the year will be individually reviewed in a bid to find additional savings. This is simply due diligence by the new coalition government in relation to some of the irresponsible decisions we have inherited.

I would like to give you my personal guarantee that whilst the decisions ahead will be tough I will always put social justice as their heart. I have, and I will continue to reject any proposals which would damage key services or put at risk those on lower incomes.

This is not merely a coalition of competent accountants. The challenge we face is how to address the deficit while protecting the quality of key services, making this a fairer country and ensuring that those on the lowest incomes are protected as far as possible from the actions that are necessary.

This will not be easy. But there is more chance of it being achieved with Lib Dem presence in HM Treasury than without it.