Finance Bill

Part of Consolidated Fund (Apppropriation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:57 pm on 20th July 2010.

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Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Shadow Minister (Treasury) 6:57 pm, 20th July 2010

We have had an interesting debate on the Third Reading of the Finance Bill, although it has gone over a lot of old ground, with no surprising new positions taken on either side. The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury claimed again that the Budget is progressive-a claim that I shall dispute soon. Matthew Hancock, who is not in his place, set up a straw man to knock down and will come to realise that literature reviews do not translate into effective speeches. Andrew George paraded his conscience around the Chamber again but told us, unsurprisingly, that he would be supporting the Budget after all, even though he admitted that it was regressive. People will note his crocodile tears. In the usual way, the speeches made by the hon. Members for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) for Dover (Charlie Elphicke) and for Stourbridge (Margot James) supported their side of the House.

I commend the speech made by my hon. Friend Mary Creagh, who put before the House the real cost increases for women-especially those with young children-under the Finance Bill. That seemed to prompt much hilarity among Government Members, which I thought revealed more about their attitudes than about her concerns. She also mentioned the housing benefit and disability benefit changes outlined in the Red Book, and many millions of vulnerable people will be worried about those as the spending review approaches.

My hon. Friend Mr Umunna made an extremely good speech and put some facts about recent economic history on the record and my hon. Friend Toby Perkins pointed out the fallacy of private sector see-saws suddenly moving in to take over the spaces that the public sector has vacated. Such things are such an important part of the ideology of the Government. The hon. Member for Stourbridge at least did the decent thing by recognising that there had been a global recession, but she said that we were not prepared for it, although she knows that net Government debt before the credit crunch was the second lowest in the G7.

The Finance Bill puts into place a Budget strategy that is a huge gamble with the future prosperity of Britain. The Chancellor began by telling us that it was an emergency-that it was the "unavoidable Budget". He has tried throughout this process to persuade the country of two things: first, that Labour somehow created the deficit all on its own; and secondly, that the only solution is to cut it further and faster than our plan to halve it over the lifetime of this Parliament would have done.

Neither of those assertions is true, and here is why. Extraordinarily, Ministers and Government Members, from the Chancellor on down, have failed to let the words "credit crunch" so much as pass their lips during the entire proceedings on the Bill. The attempt to rewrite recent economic history is one that George Orwell's Big Brother would have recognised and admired. The fact is that the banking crisis, which started in the American sub-prime mortgage market, caused the biggest global contraction that we have experienced in the real economy since the Wall street crash in 1929 turned into the great depression and led directly to the outbreak of the second world war. Since they will never say it, let me reiterate that this crisis was not caused by the irresponsible public spending of Governments but by the greed and criminal recklessness of the banking and financial sector. Any analysis of current conditions that ignores that basic and obvious fact, even if only for the purpose of generating convenient political propaganda, risks a dangerous miscalculation of the appropriate remedy.