Government Economic Policies

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 7:55 pm on 20th January 1987.

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Photo of Mr William Clark Mr William Clark , Croydon South 7:55 pm, 20th January 1987

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) seemed full of bluster but short on policy when he opened the debate. I would have thought that it would have been better if the Labour party had not selected the economy for debate. Labour Members postponed it last week, probably because they had cold feet as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested. I suppose that they attack the economy in order to play down their lack of a defence policy.

The Opposition have a cool cheek to attack the economy, considering their record. It is irresponsible for any Opposition Front Bench spokesman to talk down the British economy. I shall return to the gloom and doom of a balance of payments crisis around the corner, of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. Their remedy is to tax initiative—we saw them do that when they were in office—and to borrow more. I remind Opposition Members that it is easy to borrow and spend, but difficult to repay. Considering that it costs between £17 billion and £18 billion to pay the interest on the national debt, it would be gross folly to increase it by any more than it is being increased at present.

Another plank of Labour policy is centralisation. Labour Members want to centralise control in local authorities and to tell local authorities to employ more people. They do not tell us what productivity figure we shall achieve from that. Any Government can cure unemployment by employing people in non-jobs and that is no doubt precisely what local authorities will do under a Labour Government. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) said, that will return more authority to the trade union movement—we all saw what happened there—and centralise power in Whitehall. We have been through all that before and seen the folly of it, yet the Labour party tells us the same old story.

We have heard a great deal about the divided nation. We should bear in mind that the trade union movement has a certain responsibility for some of our industries in the north. I remind hon. Members—they will probably remember—of the month-long strike in the shipbuilding industry caused by a demarcation dispute whether a wood or metal worker should put a rivet through a piece of metal and wood. It is small wonder that we lost orders.