I am glad to follow Mr Bain, who talked about bad economics, which will be the central theme of my speech. He also asked why there has not been growth. I refer him to the report “Thinking the Unthinkable”, which has the unfortunate subtitle “Project Armageddon—the final report” by Tullett Prebon. It explains that three of the UK’s eight largest industries—real estate, financial services and construction—accounting for 39% of the economy, are incapable of growth now that net private borrowing has evaporated.
The report goes on to say that another three of the top sectors—health, education and public administration, plus defence—account for a further 19% and cannot expand now that growth in public spending is a thing of the past. That means that 58% of the economy is ex growth, a figure that could rise to 70% if, as seems probable, growth in retailing is precluded by falling real consumer incomes. That is why there is no growth, and it is important to understand properly why we are in this mess.
The Budget was one of two halves. I certainly welcome all the tax cuts—the £10,000 personal allowance and so on. I am sure that my constituents will be glad to know that fuel duty will be 13p lower per litre than it would have been under Labour’s plans. However, I want to talk mostly about credit market interventions and monetary activism. I am particularly reminded of the curious fact that the general disinclination to explain the past boom by monetary factors has been quickly replaced by an even greater readiness to hold the current working of our monetary organisation exclusively responsible for our current plight.
The same stabilisers who believed that nothing was wrong with the boom, and that it might last indefinitely because prices did not rise, now believe that everything could be set right again if only we would use the weapons of monetary policy to prevent prices from falling. The same superficial view sees no other harmful effect of a credit expansion but the rise of a price level now has it that our only difficulty is a fall in the price level caused by credit contraction. I thoroughly recommend the preface to “Monetary Theory and the Trade Cycle”, published in 1932, since which little has changed when it comes to the error of the monetary stabilisers.
We need to ask ourselves what is holding the economy back. I refer particularly to feedback from Stewart Linford chair makers in my constituency. Stewart Linford is a great man, and chair making is what made High Wycombe a great town. As costs rose in Britain, Stewart remained competitive by increasing the quality of his product and exporting. Yesterday, he said to me:
“What’s holding me back isn’t red tape. It’s not taxation. It’s not even foreign competition. It’s HSBC bank holding our money against an interest rate swap we didn’t need.”
That swap was originally sold to him by RBS. I fully support the Government’s efforts to change the culture of banking. Previously, they have talked about the need for a responsibility revolution and it is firms such as Stewart Linford’s in my constituency that demonstrate the great David and Goliath battle that is going on.
Why is that battle going on? If we look at debt in the past 10 or 13 years, we find that the big story of banking and money is a great transformation in borrowing. In about 2002-03, under the previous Government, mortgage lending rose substantially. Eventually, the banking system blew itself up and mortgage lending collapsed and deficit spending by the Government took over.
If we look at the money supply back to 1997, we find that under the previous Government it tripled. In 1997, M4 was £693 billion; by 2010, it had risen to £2.2 trillion before stagnating. That chart, if well understood, is remarkable. It tells us that there was an accelerating rush to destruction in debt. Shortly, we will realise that while we were originally told that this was a banking crisis and then that it was a debt crisis, we will have to face up to the reality that what we use as money is debt—debt that was loaned into existence in response to incentives created by central bankers lowering interest rates.