Finance (No. 3) Bill

Part of Industrial Relations (Voting Procedures) – in the House of Commons at 6:32 pm on 26th April 2011.

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Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury 6:32 pm, 26th April 2011

That is essentially the insight that Keynes developed from his experience as a practising economist. We ignore his insights at our peril—[ Laughter. ] Hon. Gentlemen on the Government Benches can laugh, but if we get this wrong and the economy does not grow or develop, the price will be paid through a smaller economy, fewer opportunities and lower standards of living for men and women up and down the country. That is not something that the Government or the Government parties should be making a joke of.

The great banking crisis transmitted itself to the real economy in the form of a synchronised global recession. Nothing so serious has been experienced in the advanced economies since the Wall street crash. That great crash destroyed the economic and social fabric of many societies in the interwar years, causing untold hardship and misery. Governments in the 1930s were in thrall to the same Ricardian dogmas as now hold sway in both the Government parties. They did not see a role for the state in protecting the economic and social well-being of their citizens. Their lack of vision and hands-off approach to economic policy led to the great depression and ultimately, the collapse into dictatorships and a cataclysmic world war.

Fortunately, in 2007 the previous Labour Government and economic policy makers the world over did not make the same mistake. They had absorbed the lessons of the interwar years, and they took actions to prevent the recession from turning into a global depression, but before the recovery had become securely established, the deficit hawks reasserted themselves, demanding austerity despite warnings from leading experts around the world that that would be the wrong approach.