Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:21 pm on 23rd March 2015.

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Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling Labour, Edinburgh South West 6:21 pm, 23rd March 2015

I continue to admire the humour and chutzpah of Mr Clarke in delivering that speech.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make what I am pretty certain will be my last speech in this House; I am very grateful to you for that. I will not follow on from the comments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, although I will return to some of the points he made, and nor will I follow on from what the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said, except by saying this: I agree very much with what my hon. Friend Rachel Reeves said in relation to annuities. Here we are, days away from people being able to choose what they do with their annuities, yet we hear that we are still to recruit the people who are going to be giving the advice—let alone training them and let alone members of the public being able to access that advice. The only thing the Secretary of State did was lay off some of the blame on to his Liberal Democrat colleague—so when the inevitable inquiry starts as to why these things were mis-sold, we know where the blame will be apportioned.

I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, but I want to focus on the Budget as a whole. The most notable thing in the report by the OBR—it has done a very good job over the last five years—is in the second paragraph, where it says that the Budget is not expected to have any material impact on the economy. Call me old-fashioned, but I thought that was what Budgets were for.

The reason why the economy was growing in 2010—and it was growing in 2010—was because of the measures we put in place in 2008 and 2009 to stop a recession becoming a depression. The Chancellor last week and the Secretary of State today implied that nothing particular had happened at that time, but we came within hours of the banking system collapsing. That is why we were facing such a difficult set of economic circumstances by 2008-09, and it took a Government committed to doing something about it—our Government—to make sure our economy was growing again in 2010. Sadly, what happened after that was that the economy slowed down, to a large extent because of the rhetoric and the fact that the current Government chose to trash what was happening and mendaciously claim we were like Greece, and as a result the Chancellor’s public spending figures are now way off what he planned in 2010.