FTDAVIDDAVIS As a former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, David Davis was always likely to want to contribute from the self-imposed freedom of the backbenches to the debate about how to get the public finances under control.

And today, through an article in the FT, the former shadow home secretary addresses the question of where the Government – and therefore a future Conservative government -  could find savings.

Firstly, he tackles the Labour language of "Tory cuts" head on:

"The choice we face is not between Labour growth in public services and Tory “cuts”. It is between taking a grip of the public finances and watching our people’s economic prospects, and our ability to afford decent public services, slowly dribble away."

Mr Davis goes on to suggest some of the ways in which he would find savings; several, such as abolition of ID cards and abolition of regional government, are already party policy – but others are not and therefore act as a useful contribution to the debate on the issue of how to tighten the nation's belt:

  • A pay and recruitment freeze for the entire public sector;
  • Close all public sector pension schemes to new entrants;
  • Lower starting salaries in areas which "have really got out of line" such as doctors' pay;
  • Cancel civil service bonuses;
  • Cutbacks in MPs' expenses and cabinet ministers' pay;
  • Abolition of ID cards;
  • Abolition of other government databases such as its internet scrutiny scheme and the Contact Point children's database;
  • Renegotiate every PFI contract now;
  • Target child benefit solely on the least well off;
  • Replace "gimmicks" such as winter fuel payments and free television licences for the over-75s with targeted help for poor pensioners;
  • Abolition of regional government.

He then goes on to suggest that Conservatives should "address some of our own sacred cows". The one which he highlights this morning is Trident:

"There is no firmer advocate of nuclear deterrence than me, but even I have some difficulty seeing the justification for a wholesale upgrade of Trident. Our system was designed to maintain retaliatory capacity after a full-scale Soviet nuclear onslaught. Now our likeliest nuclear adversary will be a much smaller, less-sophisticated state. Should not the costs reflect that?"

Mr Davis concludes by reminding us that 70% of the public recognise the need to bring public spending back under control and welcomes the fact that the debate on how to save money is now being had out in the open.

And on that point, do remember to look a our Star Chamber each weekday, where you can contribute further to that very debate on where to find savings.

Jonathan Isaby

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