Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:13 pm on 30th March 2010.

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Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory Conservative, Wells 7:13 pm, 30th March 2010

I am pleased to follow Frank Dobson, although I cannot accept his prescription for growth, which consisted of little more than more public expenditure-or "investment", as he called it-which is what got us into this trouble in the first place. His criticism of auditors had some traction, but they had far less to do with the problem than the failings of the tripartite system of banking regulation, which was set up by the Bank of England Act 1998, and which spectacularly failed when the banking crisis occurred.

I am also pleased to follow my hon. Friend Sir Patrick Cormack and my right hon. Friend Miss Widdecombe, both of whom made fine valedictory speeches. We will miss them both in the next Parliament, which I hope to be part of. We will long remember their speeches, particularly the sense of history and tradition brought by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire, which was a hallmark of his years here, and the passionate defence that my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald made of the family and her support for it. She will long be remembered for those causes as well.

It is a shattering commentary on the Government and their Budget that borrowing this year will be only £167 billion, which is slightly less than the £178 billion predicted by the Chancellor last year. Whatever figure is right, we are now in the premier league for debt, which will dominate the next Parliament and probably the one after it. We are entering a decade of debt, and even on the Government's own figures, the national debt will rise during the next Parliament to £1.4 trillion. A trillion sounds a lot, and it is. That is perhaps best illustrated this way. If we were to repay debt at £1 a second, we would repay £1 million of debt after 12 days. It would take much longer to repay £1 billion. At the same rate of repayment, it would take 32 years to repay £1 billion. To repay £1 trillion at the rate of £1 a second would take 32,000 years, and that is just £1 trillion, because the Government are increasing the debt to nearly £1.5 trillion. The task before us is therefore truly awesome. There is also an intergenerational problem and a question of fairness. Are we really going to hand on to our children a debt that we have incurred? It is already the case that a baby born in Britain today arrives with a debt around its neck. That is not a sure start; it is a debt start, and it is up to us- [ Interruption. ]