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I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Many pensioners have told me exactly that-that it was an insult-so I hope that we can move away from treating our elderly people in such a way. As I have said before in the House-I remember raising this point with the then right hon. Member for Sedgefield during Prime Minister's questions-the way in which a society treats its elderly people is a mark of that society's civilisation. I hope that we will treat our elderly people with respect.
In an excellent, sober speech, my hon. Friend John Thurso put his finger on an interesting yet under-mentioned aspect of our economic problems. It is demonstrated by the table on page 7 of the Red Book, which shows that private debt has doubled in the past 13 years. It is, of course, up to members of households to make their personal decisions, but it is also up to the Government of the day to regulate the totality of private debt. The level of private debt has become unsustainable, something on which I often chased Mr Brown in Budget debates. As the Red Book shows, the savings ratio was lower by the end of the Labour Government than at any time since the 1950s. It is incumbent on any Government of the day not only to encourage savings, but to ensure that the savings culture exists in a stable regime in which inflation is not completely out of control. If we did not take the action outlined in the Budget, interest rates would rise, thus putting inflationary pressure on the economy.
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