The Economy

Part of Council Tax Rebate – in the House of Commons at 4:17 pm on 31st March 2009.

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Photo of George Osborne George Osborne Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 4:17 pm, 31st March 2009

The person whom I agree with is the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who says of the loan guarantee scheme:

"We expect the measures to be run on a break-even basis".—[ Hansard, 14 January 2009; Vol. 486, c. 220.]

That is the Government's assessment of the cost for loan guarantees: a "break-even basis". The Economic Secretary is right in that judgment, which is also the judgment on which we rest our argument.

What we have is a Prime Minister who presides over this economic wreckage, who clings to the seat of that aeroplane, who says that he has nothing to apologise for and who really believes it. That shows how detached he is. The country faces a fiscal crisis, yet all the anchors of fiscal policy have been cut loose. There are no fiscal rules and the spending reviews have been cancelled. It is the Opposition, therefore, who have to come forward with proposals for an independent office for budget responsibility and genuine restraints on public expenditure, so that this country lives within its means.

The country faces a crisis in the institutions of banking regulation. We have a Prime Minister who refuses to accept that anything went wrong because he happens to be the person who set up the system. It is therefore the Opposition who have put forward the detailed plans to give the Bank of England more power. The country faces a crisis of growth because the economy is contracting. The narrow engines of economic prosperity upon which the Government relied for 10 years—property and finance—have disappeared, yet in the words of the director general of the CBI, the Government have

"little sense of a coherent strategy" about what to do next. It is the Opposition, therefore, to whom the country now turns to reform our education and welfare systems, wean our economy off its addiction to debt, provide support for savers, encourage low-carbon technologies, rebuild manufacturing and restore confidence in the economic prospects of our children. The truth is this: we are the future and Labour is the past. The sooner the country can vote for change, the sooner confidence will return and the recovery will begin.

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