Social and Economic Policies

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 5:44 pm on 6th April 1987.

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Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle 5:44 pm, 6th April 1987

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Sometimes it is difficult to resist the provocation.

There will be a Labour Government, who will deal with the problems of unemployment by reflating the economy in a way that does not suck in imported goods. We shall enable areas such as Merseyside to benefit from private and public expenditure—the latter on hospitals, schools, social services, increasing the number of people in the caring professions and building council houses to solve the housing crisis in Bootle and Merseyside and to nut construction workers back to work.

Of course, if we have a Labour Government, with a decisive overall majority, we must answer the question, "Can we afford it?" British people say, "We agree with the Labour party's policies, but can we afford them?" Let no Conservative Member tell us that we cannot afford our policies of providing jobs, homes, a decent environment and decent health services for our people, when £96 billion has gone abroad to be invested in jobs overseas since the Tories came to power. That is our money. We should not forget the £25 billion that has been invested overseas in portfolio investments.

During their period of office the Tories have received £53 billion in North sea oil revenue, which has certainly not gone towards re-equipping and modernising British industry or investing in the British economy. Last year the Government received £11·5 billion from the North sea, yet they have cut public spending and denied the consequences. They pretend to have both policies at the same time — increasing expenditure on the Health Service and cutting public expenditure. They have cut housing, education and science research. Public spending on housing has been cut by about 60 per cent. The social security budget has increased by 33·7 per cent. as unemployment has increased. The Government plan to raise £4·7 billion from selling public assets during the next 12 months, if there is no general election. Unemployment costs the Government £20 billion a year in higher benefits and lost taxes, yet they say that we cannot put the unemployed back to work because we cannot afford it. The increase in unemployment since 1979 has cost the Government £12·5 billion each year.

We cannot afford not to put people back to work. We cannot afford not to have people creating goods and services and paying tax. We cannot afford to have so many people consuming without creating or producing. That is the Labour party's policy, which is sensible, logical and sound. The Government say that, to provide all those services, a Labour Government would have to borrow more. The average owner-occupied household knows the benefit of borrowing to provide capital assets. One borrows to buy or build a house, and as long as the money owed on the capital asset is less than the value of the asset, one is quids in.

The Government are not borrowing to build capital assets in manufacturing industry, housing or hospitals. They are borrowing to pay the weekly food bills—the unemployment and social security bills. They have had a large public sector borrowing requirement since they came to power. Labour would borrow to implement its job creation and social policies, to create capital assets, to put Britain back to work and to get rid of the scourge of unemployment, crime and deprivation that exists in areas such as Merseyside.