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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:02 pm on 24th March 2011.

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Photo of Geoffrey Robinson Geoffrey Robinson Labour, Coventry North West 3:02 pm, 24th March 2011

I shall in a moment.

It is no good the Business Secretary asking us for our plans. He now has responsibility, he chose to take it and he chose, also, to go into this coalition, having been convinced by a concerted effort by the Governor of the

Bank of England and others that the Liberal Democrats were wrong before the election—that within one week of the election campaign, everything had been turned on its head and we faced an imminent crisis, the outcome of which was that we would face interest rate rises and an inability to borrow nationally, along the lines of the situation faced by Greece and Portugal. He knows that he did not even meet the Governor for a working over, because his leader, the Deputy Prime Minister, had already been worked over. Nobody else on the Government side needed to be worked over—the Governor had worked them over before and during the election campaign. The implicit deal was, “Go along with this huge deflationary package, and I will keep monetary policy so loose that you don’t need to worry—you’ll still get growth.” I believe that that is the sort of Faustian deal to which the Business Secretary referred in his reply to the Budget debate last year.

What have we seen since? Interest rates are still low and policy has been loose. No doubt it might even continue to be loose for a period of time, but I am sure that interest rates will go up in the near future. Irrespective of that, there is still no credit for the SMEs from which, as Sir Richard Lambert pointed out, the vast majority of jobs must come if the commercial and business sector—the private sector—is to recover. However, there is still no prospect of their being able to borrow. Why does the Business Secretary say, therefore, that there is no alternative because the OECD says so? The OECD is as wrong as everyone else. We heard last night from Robert Chote that all those forecasts are a “load of rubbish”. One cannot always be right about such things; nobody ever is. One might ask what the point of them is. Certainly, to invoke the OECD, which can be as wrong as anyone else, and say, “It says that we have to go on with this strategy, so therefore we will,” in the face of all the mounting evidence that the strategy is not working is perverse and not worthy of the intellectual distinction that the Business Secretary is capable of bringing to these problems.

The only thing that could be said in favour of the Government’s policies is that they have not had enough time yet—not quite a year—to have worked, but it is obvious that they are not working.