Economy, Pensions and Welfare

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 7:27 pm on 15th December 2008.

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Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 7:27 pm, 15th December 2008

It would be useful for Scotland to be independent as soon as people want it to be. I will not be too distracted by the hon. Gentleman's question—but given that Scotland has had an average surplus for the past 30 years, while the UK is building up a £1 trillion debt, there is much merit in his argument, and I shall certainly look at it in more detail in the future.

A further criticism of the Government is that when the banking crisis was at its peak, Ireland moved decisively to guarantee all deposits in its banking system, yet they delayed and dithered, which weakened the position further and brought HBOS and RBS to their knees. More stark than that, however, was the Government's failure to have on the statute book a proper system for dealing with failing banks, even though they began to look at this issue in October 2007, when the Northern Rock failure commenced. Since then, we have had the recapitalisation of the banks, the facilitated takeover of Bradford & Bingley, a massive expansion in liquidity provision, an increase in deposit protection, and the Government standing behind inter-bank lending. I welcome much of this, but we did not have the appropriate provisions in place at the time.

Even the Banking Bill, which introduces a process for dealing with failed and failing banks, is not new. It was in the Queen's Speech, and will receive its Third Reading on Wednesday, but it will not be on the statute book until 2009. Given that we have a problem that started in the middle of 2007, yet we will not have a law to deal with it until 2009, the one criticism that we cannot level at the Government is that they have acted decisively.

There is a paucity of any real economic measures in the Queen's Speech. One thing that struck me during the Chancellor's pre-Budget report speech, and again during his comments today, was that he said that we needed to improve the system of regulation and supervision. It is therefore extraordinary that he also said that he would not have the relevant proposals reported to him until spring 2009. A Bill will be introduced two years after the problems began to emerge and became widely known, and the regulations or changes that it contains might not come into effect until 2010.

The fiscal stimulus in the emergency package has been widely discussed today, and we welcomed many of the measures in the pre-Budget report. However, the Government have said time and again that they were taking the lead and acting decisively—

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