Fiscal Responsibility Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:31 pm on 5th January 2010.

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Photo of Katy Clark Katy Clark Labour, North Ayrshire and Arran 8:31 pm, 5th January 2010

It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I suspect that many of the speeches that we have heard so far will be the kind of thing that we will be hearing in debates over the coming months as we go towards the general election.

I will not be able to support the Government in a Division on Second Reading this evening, but for very different reasons than those others have outlined. I agreed with much of what my right hon. Friend Mr. Field said. He made a powerful speech and articulated very clearly the scale of cuts that we are facing, which I do not think the British people really appreciate at the moment.

In his helpful contribution, my right hon. Friend highlighted one powerful issue that we need to be aware of: the influence of market. Mr. Redwood and a number of others on the official Opposition Benches spoke about the influence of the market on decisions that Governments will make over the coming period, but the irony, which seems to have been lost, is that the markets put us in this position-there was a failure to regulate, but a completely irresponsible approach by the free market put us in this situation. In my view, the Government had no alternative but to take the type of action that they have taken in the past two to three years. The Chancellor was correct that there was no alternative to taking banks into public ownership and bailing them out, and to the fiscal stimulus.

One problem is that there is an over-skewing of our economy in favour of the financial sector. In Britain, much of the financial stimulus has gone towards the financial sector. Our manufacturing base has not had the type of financial injection it has had in some other countries. Perhaps they did not go through some of the experiences that we had in the 1980s and 1990s, when we saw the demise of so many traditional industries and the flourishing of the City and the financial sector. Obviously, at times, that has had benefits for us. I am not in any way trying to minimise the huge financial input that the City and the financial sector have had into this country, but they have put us in difficult situations in the recent period.

I cannot support the Bill because of the scale of public sector cuts that will be required if it is implemented. I am simply not willing to vote to cut essential services for some of the poorest people in this country. We need to have a massive debate not only on why we got into this situation and how we ensure that it does not happen again, but on how we deal with the deficit that we face. In peacetime, Britain has never before faced such a deficit. We have only had to deal with such situations during times of war.

I do not defend every penny that the public sector spends. Anyone with an ounce of sense realises that the public sector does not do everything in the most efficient way, and some things could be done more cheaply, although in some cases more money needs to be spent to provide a better service.

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