Amendment of the Law

Part of Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation – in the House of Commons at 6:28 pm on 10th March 1992.

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Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell , Middlesbrough 6:28 pm, 10th March 1992

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention and for reiterating his view that the Laffer curve is alive and well. Ronald Reagan was perhaps the first to suggest that, if one reduced the rate of tax, one somehow raised more money. In reality, that theory does not stand the test. It is not possible to reduce taxation and increase the take. That has never been true, and it never will be the case.

Our criticism of the Government is that in recent years they have not adopted a proper perspective towards manufacturing and service industries. They have not had an appropriate monetary policy, other than membership of the ERM, which is the new gold standard of the Conservative party. Apart from that, the Government's only other policy has involved high interest rates. They have had no plan for the long-term unemployed. I am glad to note that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) has fully recovered his health. As he pointed out, the Chancellor did not once mention training, yet there have been great cuts in training programmes for youngsters.

The Government have no plan to stop the reduction in investment. Only an adequate policy on that front will increase output, yet the Chancellor said that it was not for the Government, but for the private sector, to lead the way and create a climate which will lead to more employment.

We see no plan to help those who have lost their jobs. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred to the 800,000 people who had lost jobs—[Interruption.] Conservative Members will not put me off my stride by yawning or making sedentary comments. Indeed, their yawns probably reflect Conservative party thinking on the Budget.

There was no reference in the Chancellor's speech to the young people in society who are growing up amid increased crime, the figures for which were announced yesterday. There is increased irresponsibility in society, yet the Government are washing their hands of all such matters. Children are growing up without any prospect of getting jobs. Society should reflect a sense of shame at that state of affairs, and I regret that nothing has been said about that by Conservative Members. After all, we bear some responsibility for the situation, in Government and in the House generally. People are growing up without the future to which they are entitled, much of that being due to years of Conservative rule.

The Chancellor said unequivocally that unemployment would continue to rise, and unfortunately we know that to be true. We were hoping for a Budget for investment rather than one that will assist consumerism and lead to another boom/bust situation. The Government are impoverished in their approach towards financial matters. They have allowed their single club policy of high interest rates to decimate the nation and our outlook on the world as a financial and exporting country.

Not long ago, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson), whose presence in the Chamber we shall miss after the election, said that the medium-term financial strategy had a monetary and fiscal component. He said that in place of a steadily declining gold standard we had a steadily declining path for monetary growth and in place of a balanced budget we had a similarly declining path for the public sector borrowing requirement until a balanced budget was once again secured.

Where is the judgment of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, as expressed in today's Budget? Where is his prudence and discretion? The only good thing that can be said about the Chancellor is that at least he has not been put in charge of forecasting our weather and he has not told us that a hurricane is not coming when one may be approaching. In the past year, he has refused to accept that we are in a recession and he has spoken about the economy using a whole set of metaphors such as, "we have turned the corner", "there is light at the end of the tunnel" and "there are the green shoots of spring". He made all kinds of suggestions that the economy was turning around, but it was not.

Why do the Government think that they can so easily dupe the British people? As Winston Churchill once asked at another time and another place, what kind of people do they think we are? Do the Government think that they can give us two recessions—first, the deepest since the war and, secondly, the longest recession, sandwiched between an economic miracle that turned out to be an economic mirage and low inflation, hard fought for by the British people? That was followed by high inflation, which also cost the British people dear, and economic mistakes that the Chancellor has freely admitted. Indeed, many Secretaries of State were queueing up on Sunday to give their version of events in 1987. They say that there was an overreaction to the stock market crash and they are happy so long as the blame rests on the right hon. Member for Blaby, who must take responsibility for those terrible events.

Now, after all those freely acknowledged mistakes, the Conservative party wants to be given another term of office. Why should the British people support this bogus prospectus of a Budget? It has no means of becoming the law of the land prior to election day but is simply a promissory note from a Government whose half-fulfilled promises are strewn back over the years like bricks on a derelict building site. Why should the British people fall for the equivalent of a three-card trick? When the time comes, they will not.

I shall come to my peroration in order to keep the Government Whip, the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-East (Mr. Lightbown), happy. He is not as polite as usual in such debates. If this is a political Budget, so be it. Some hon. Members have called it prudent and popular. The hon. Member for Wycombe said that it was a prudent Budget. I call it perturbing and petrifying. It is the Budget on which the Prime Minister wishes to hold a general election. If it is the best promissory note, bill of goods or delivery note that he has to offer, then, to paraphrase Macbeth: "If the deed were to be done, 'tis best it were done quickly."

A general election is welcome and a Labour Government will be a godsend.