Pre-Budget Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:16 pm on 7th January 2010.

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Photo of John McFall John McFall Chair, Treasury Committee 2:16 pm, 7th January 2010

I do recall that being mentioned, but I also recall that youth unemployment was mentioned as well. Like the pensioners, that is a really big issue for us.

The Treasury Committee also felt that the PBR did not provide enough information on how the structural deficit will be reduced. Because of that, we believe that the Government must bring forward a clearer and detailed plan. As has been mentioned, that should happen sooner rather than later, and this issue certainly needs to be tackled after the next election. We also feel that the Treasury could provide more quantitative information on the public finances. As the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury has said,

"there is a sense that the Treasury are using uncertainty to suit themselves."

The PBR gives some forecasts to as far ahead as 2015, and illustrative projections to as far ahead as 2018, despite any worries about uncertainty. It could therefore be considered arbitrary that the Treasury fails to produce projections of future expenditure, or at least of the split between departmental expenditure limits and annually managed expenditure.

The Treasury must also provide more quantitative information on the risks around its forecasts for the public finances, given the degree of uncertainty surrounding them. We realise that the Fiscal Responsibility Bill will tie the Government into a fixed time scale for managing the deficit. The fact that that will require close parliamentary monitoring makes transparency all the more important.

The Committee notes the risk, however small, of another uncovered gilt auction and yields rising. Quantitative easing is slowing, and there will still be large gilt auctions in 2010-11. However, we also note the methods now employed by the Government to reduce the risk of uncovered auctions, and welcome the fact that there have been no further uncovered auctions since our Budget 2009 report.

The Treasury Committee report, like many earlier reports, also mentions child poverty. As a Committee, we remain convinced of the continued importance of the commitment to eradicating child poverty, despite the difficult economic circumstances.

Given the recent slow-down in progress on the child poverty targets, and the likelihood that this year's target will be missed, it is vital that the Government set out a credible plan to tackle child poverty, going forward. It is vital that the Government set out the steps that they propose to take to achieve the 2010 target, and to achieve the elimination of child poverty by 2020-a very bold but also a very proud manifesto commitment in 1997.

I turn now to the question of the bank payroll tax. The Treasury Committee has been at the forefront in calling for change in the culture of banking, but estimates suggest that the Treasury now expects to receive about £3 billion or £4 billion from the tax when it originally expected only £500 million. That shows that the banking culture has not changed-that banks have simply gone ahead and paid out the bonuses. That is hugely important, because there is public anger about this matter. People are not fooled, and they realise the extent of the bank bail-out. I made that point yesterday to the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee of the Scottish Parliament, when I was giving evidence to its inquiry. It is important that we remind ourselves of that.

The Treasury purchased £37 billion of shares in RBS and the Lloyds Banking Group; it gave indemnity to the Bank of England for £200 billion of quantitative easing; it has also agreed to guarantee up to £250 billion of wholesale borrowing by banks; it provided about £40 billion of loans and other funding to Bradford & Bingley and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme; and it insured banks' assets to the tune of £280 billion. The National Audit Office, in a recent report, suggested that the net cash outlay for the purchase of shares in banks and the lending to Northern Rock will be about £117 billion, with a gross outlay of £131 billion. As a result, the Government's commitment to banks is 60 per cent. of GDP, and the value of that is 83 billion working days. The consequences for the UK are stark, but so are the consequences for the world. The International Monetary Fund says that 10 per cent. of global GDP will be lost for ever as a result of the banking crisis.

The banking crisis, which prompted the financial crisis, is at best halfway over. The IMF estimates the total non-performing assets in the world to be worth $3.4 trillion, of which only $1.7 trillion has been written down. So a second bank bail-out will not be tolerated in the United Kingdom or in other European countries. I have visited Germany, Austria and Belgium in the past few weeks, and I got that message. It will also not be tolerated in the United States, which I visited, too. Now is the time to fix the banking system, and I think that we have four to five years to change the financial architecture. That is why the Treasury Committee announced a few weeks ago that it would be undertaking an exercise on the "too big to fail" issue, which seemed to be brushed under the carpet last March, but has since been revived.

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