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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:27 pm on 24th March 2011.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 2:27 pm, 24th March 2011

In the earlier part of his comments, the hon. Gentleman was right to acknowledge how important interest rates are. He is also right to say that because of the badly damaged banking system, small companies have an extreme problem with lending. That is why the Chancellor and I have been dealing with the banks to try to get them to reach an agreement, which they now have, to extend considerably the amount of lending to small and medium-sized enterprises. That was one of the earliest decisions we had to make—to focus on access to capital.

While we are dealing with the issue of what has to be cut, I would like to ask the Opposition what they would do. Mr McFadden wants us to run a bigger deficit. What would the Opposition cut? It is a question I often pose to my opposite numbers in the BIS team. They had planned a 25% cut in departmental spending, which is what I am doing. We are cutting a lot of things—very painfully—so I ask the Opposition what they would do, but we have not yet had a single suggestion about what they would do instead.

Government Members often raise that sort of question, but it is becoming obvious that the natives opposite are also getting restless. I noticed that Hazel Blearsrecently said that the Labour party needs to be

“explicit about cuts… The public expects us to at least give a broad direction—but I think they are worried that we haven’t been as clear as we ought to be”.

Another senior Labour Member of Parliament—who, perhaps wisely, remained anonymous—told the Financial Times:

“It can’t be that hard for us to say what we would cut, or at least give a few examples, for goodness’ sake.”

[Interruption.] Beneath the shouting, those are the questions that Labour Members are asking themselves, and they are absolutely right to do so.