Orders of the Day — Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:11 pm on 2nd June 1992.

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Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek , Wrexham 7:11 pm, 2nd June 1992

I would give way, but I am afraid that the Government Front Bench spokesman wants me to get on.

In a nutshell, we have a high PSBR of at least £30 billion this year, rising to about £40 billion, which will represent 6 per cent. of GDP—twice the maximum level in the Maastricht treaty; we have a contracting GDP, which is 0·6 per cent. down this quarter, the seventh quarter in succession in which it has gone down, making this one of the worst recessions ever; we have a serious balance of payments problem, and we cannot get out of it by devaluation; and imports outstrip exports at the slightest hint of an upturn.

There is no doubt that a major cause of the present lamentable or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) would say, "Lamontable," situation is the Government's neglect of industry. One of the most depressing facts is that the United Kingdom is the only EC country where manufacturing investment is lower now than it was in 1979. But, there we are, the Government must take responsibility and answer to the people. They cannot continue to do nothing or scramble about trying to get another 0·5 per cent. cut in interest rates. That will not be enough. Unless the Government act now, our position will continue to worsen when compared with other EC countries.

It is possible that we could get out of these problems by strong world economic growth. However, that will not happen. Only yesterday the Centre for Economic Forecasting said that world growth "will be slight". If the Government do not act, unemployment will continue to rise to even higher, morally unacceptable levels. There will no doubt be painful cuts in the public expenditure round in the autumn and £19 billion will suddenly become a great sum. Our housing crisis will continue to worsen, training programmes will continue to be underfunded, school classes will be too large, the NHS will continue to lose beds and British Rail, the most crowded and least punctual service in western Europe, will continue to be badly funded. All that will continue with taxation higher now than it was in 1979.

The comparison with Canary Wharf is instructive. The building is about 42·8 per cent. full, and Olympia and York has too great a borrowing requirement, with the result that work on the project has stopped. That is what is likely to happen to the economy, and it is certainly similar to driving a car using only a rear mirror. Blind faith in Thatcherite policies has led to the present sorry mess at Canary Wharf. It is an ugly and intrusive building that nobody wants in an area that nobody can get to. It is a development hungry for more public money.

The Opposition believe that, although the scheme should now succeed, public money should have been better spent. Industry needs to be looked after to produce goods made in this country. Unemployment is a social evil and should not be traded off against keeping inflation down when there are other policies available that would keep both down. We believe that our infrastructure needs public finance and should be as good as elsewhere in the Community. We need a society in which those who need help get it from those who can give it for the benefit of the community as a whole.

The Finance Bill does none of those things. Hon. Members can look in vain for the slightest iota of something to help the economy, help us get out of recession, help the unemployed, those who do not have a house in which to live and those whose children are being educated in over-large classes. They will find nothing on any of those matters and it is for that reason that I urge my hon. Friends to vote against the Bill.