25 JUNE 1994, Page 22

Cut and cover

THE ACTION now shifts to the Chancel- lor's end of town. The seasonal cries of ministers protecting their budgets tell us (hat it is public spending time again, with the Cabinet struggling to make up its mind for another year. In his Budget, Mr Clarke set out to bridge his fast-flowing deficit. On the near bank (as I said at the time) he built a solid structure of tax revenues. No one could doubt their reality, though some, like Sir Norman Fowler, could regret it. On the far bank, though, all those cuts in pub- lic spending — were they real? Or were they just an architect's impression? What, in all this cutting, had been cut out? Did the plans depend on shortening the shop- ping list or on assuming lower prices? Good news on inflation would help, and low pay settlements were crucial. The far bank still looks fuzzy to me. Government spending now takes 45 per cent of the nation's total output of goods and services. Mr Clarke has now set himself what he calls `a medi- um-term aim' of getting that down to 40 per cent. How long is the Medium term? If Mr Clarke is to get the sustained economy he forecasts, he will have to move the Gov- ernment out of its way.