The Economy

Part of Council Tax Rebate – in the House of Commons at 8:42 pm on 31st March 2009.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone 8:42 pm, 31st March 2009

I listened to the debate with great interest, but there have been moments when I felt that we were listening to an economic seminar, some of which gyrated around the learned reports that had been pouring out and the questions with which it is important for those who are super-intelligent in economic matters to grapple.

I want to deal with several matters that underpin our discussion, and concentrate on what we must do to kick-start our economy and get into a position, against the background of a likely 3 million unemployed next year, where we can ensure that the people who would otherwise be severely disadvantaged are given a genuine opportunity not only to survive but to prosper.

I should like to get one thing off my chest—it will not surprise anybody. Many of the problems we are experiencing in the current economic crisis are partly attributable to the failures of the European Union. [Laughter.] I said that would not surprise anybody. In the fiscal policy debate on 7 October, I pointed out that it was a question not only of banks, but of countries. I considered the stability and growth pact and the deficits under the Maastricht criteria and the convergence criteria. I said that I thought that some countries would go under. I leave it to others to judge whether I was right, but the bottom line is that the absurd stability and growth pact means, as I said in an article written as many as five years ago, no stability, no growth and no pact. The idea that somehow one can fine countries that get themselves out of kilter with their deficits is absurd when one considers the size of the deficits, as I said on 7 October. I mentioned the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics to the Chancellor this afternoon.

The ONS's current estimate of our public sector deficit is £2.2 trillion, which not only is triple what the Government set out in the pre-Budget report only three months ago, but excludes major financial obligations, such as public pensions, which amount to £1 trillion, and PFI schemes, which amount to about £70 billion. Including those obligations takes the total to £3 trillion—I challenge any Member on the Government Benches to say, "Oh, we're not going to pay the public sector pensions." Those sums may not be in the ONS statistics, but they are certainly financial obligations. If we add them in, we arrive at a figure of £3 trillion, which I am informed is 200 per cent. of GDP. France, Spain, Greece and Ireland have all broken the pact's rules with their rising budget deficits. Therefore, the whole thing is complete nonsense.

In addition, there are riots going on. I know that Ukraine is not part of the European Union, but there are huge riots going on in Latvia, Greece, Spain and Italy. They are grass-roots reactions. No wonder the far right is going up. That is where the problem lies. With hon. Members representing Stoke-on-Trent in the Chamber this evening, I should say that we are deeply concerned about the growth of the British National party in our area. In Stoke-on-Trent there are as many as 12 or 13 BNP councillors, and that is likely to grow as unemployment increases.

In the few minutes that are left, I want to deal with the absurdity of the direction of the response by the G20 and the Government, which is towards more Europeanisation. There have been letters in the papers today from Roland Rudd, Lord Brittan of Spennithorne and a variety of other Euro-fanatics, who are asking for more Europe and not less. The fact is that Europe is a practical failure and people need to wake up to that. I am not against co-operation or trade, but I am very much against European government and a failing system.

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