No one could have predicted that a problem that began with banks in America would lead to people throughout this country sitting at their kitchen tables worrying about their finances. Although the economic downturn we face is correctly described as global, its impact is local in the sense that every family in Wales has been affected.
It is right of our Government to act now to boost the economy. Whatever the doom and gloom merchants say, that means borrowing more in the short term to help keep the economy moving and to help businesses and families during these tough times. Some have argued that we should not borrow to boost the economy. They would leave it to the market, but that would mean us abandoning families and businesses in Britain who are facing difficult times—families who struggle with the loss of a job or to pay a mortgage, and the small business man or woman who has put everything into setting up the business. To stand back and do nothing to help them would have terrible consequences.
We have to learn the lessons of the past. Laissez-faire policies are not the answer, as we saw in the two recessions in the '80s and '90s. Those recessions tore into the very fabric of society, causing massive damage. In my constituency, young people leaving education had no job to go to. People who had worked all their lives in the same industry were condemned to the scrap heap, and pensioners were expected to live on £69 a week. In the south Wales valleys, the experience that some called Thatcherism we called despair.
If anything, the credit crunch has made us all realise how interdependent we all are. The very last thing that we in Wales need now is to turn in on ourselves in a narrow, nationalist sense and embrace the separatist agenda. However, I note that these days "new Plaid" has very little to say about independence, and it certainly does not mention the arc of prosperity to which it once said we should belong. Frankly, when someone is worrying about how they are going to put food on the table and whether they are going to meet this month's mortgage payment or even keep their job, the last thing they want from their political leaders is a sterile constitutional debate. I therefore hope that we can have some respite from more bids for powers for the Welsh Assembly. Now that the eminent diplomat charged with running the convention on whether or not Wales should have a referendum on more powers is busy in the Balkans, perhaps those who want to balkanise Britain will now leave it alone for a while.
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