Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:56 pm on 23rd March 2015.

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Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Labour, Bolton South East 8:56 pm, 23rd March 2015

Since this Government were elected five years ago, three mantras have been quoted by the Con Dems against the Labour party, and I want to debunk some of them. The first is the suggestion that, somehow, the global financial crisis was caused by the Labour party.

[Laughter.]

The second is that, somehow, that was because we had a light touch in our regulation of the banks. The third is that, somehow, our party is anti-business. Conservative Members started laughing when I mentioned the global crisis, but they perhaps need to be reminded that when Labour came to office in 1997 the national debt to GDP ratio was 43% but by 2002, five years later, it was down to 30% under Labour. So let us not have any lectures about our financial prudence.

The banking crisis occurred later—I expect more laughter—but Conservative Members should stop laughing because if the banking crisis was our fault, why were the USA, Japan and the entire world having the same problem? That is why it was called the global financial crisis. It was not the UK’s financial crisis; it was the global financial crisis, which we know started with the sub-prime mortgages in the USA, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the other things that happened. So it is wrong for the Government to have said what they have said for the past five years, and I hope that the British people, who know the truth, will reject them at the forthcoming election.

We keep hearing about our light-touch regulation, with people saying, “You took your eyes off the banks and you regulated them too lightly.” Yet this Chancellor and this Prime Minister were saying up until 2010 that the Labour party was far too stringent on the regulation; we were being accused of stifling business and of over-regulating the banks. So which way do Conservative Members want to play this: were we overly light or too strong? I would say that we regulated the banks properly. Again, the Government have collective amnesia and they need to be reminded.

The current national debt is £1.36 trillion, whereas when Labour left power in 2010 it was £0.76 trillion, about half what it is now. The national debt to GDP ratio is about 95% now, so we need take no lectures from Conservative Members about financial management and fiscal prudence. The reason there remains such a high debt, much bigger than when we left office, is because the Chancellor’s austerity measures meant he was not able to get the revenue receipts he needed to close the deficit.

Although jobs have been created, which we welcome, most are on zero-hours contracts, part-time jobs and poorly paid jobs. Many people still have to rely on working tax credits to make ends meet. It is worth remembering that, in 2007, the Labour Government borrowed £37.7 billion, but spent £28.3 billion on big projects, such as building hospitals and schools, which helped the economy. By contrast, when this Government borrowed £91.5 billion in 2013, they invested only £23.7 billion. The rest was used to bring down the budget deficit, so there has been no economic miracle.

Today’s debate is about jobs. We are told by Government Members that we are the party that is against business. Well, since 2010, it is Labour that has constantly urged the Government to fulfil the infrastructure projects that we pushed for and it took years for the legislation to be passed so that they could go ahead. We called for a reduction in VAT and in national insurance to help small businesses. We called on the Government to reduce business rates to enable start-ups and to allow local authorities to help small businesses. We have constantly argued that the banks were not lending enough money to small and medium-sized enterprises. We are the party that said we would build 200,000 new homes. We are the party that said that all 18 to 24 year olds who qualify would get apprenticeships, which is about 1 million young people. We are the party that said that it would create 20,000 more nurses training places and 8,000 more doctor and GP training contracts.