The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:08 pm on 8th July 2020.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham 4:08 pm, 8th July 2020

The money is used to maintain the price of Government bonds so that the Government can borrow on very low interest rates as much money as they want. Investments are therefore determined by this House and the Government, so I cannot quite understand what point the right hon. Gentleman is making.

The Government are right to borrow a lot of money for six months or so, to get us through the crisis and to speed the recovery, but it has to be a one-off. We cannot live like that. One needs to earn a living, but this is a one-off crisis. The markets are such and the Bank of England’s intervention is such that the Government can borrow a lot of money very cheaply and quite long term. That is the best we can do, and it is the right thing to do to try to save jobs and create new jobs.

This week, we have had the summer forecasts from the European Union for the economies of the European Union, and it has still done a UK forecast. It is worrying, because the forecasts say that the French, Italian and Spanish economies will lose more than 11% of their economic output and income this year. They say Britain will be in high single figures—a bit better than those three—although not as good as Germany, which has come through it the best so far. However, the figures are not acceptable, and most people feel that the United States figures will be considerably better, because the US response to this crisis has been on a far bigger scale, both fiscally and in terms of monetary policy, than the European response. The UK needs to be closer to the American example in this case, because this very severe hit to major economies requires something very big to try to carry them through and rescue those jobs.

I hope that the Government will look at the opportunities for sourcing more in the United Kingdom through its purchasing programmes as we leave the European Union. I am all in favour of strong competition, value for money and good pricing, but I think we have had examples of our not having enough national resilience. We found that we could not buy the things abroad that we needed for our health service, because we were relying on others’ goodwill and they needed it for themselves. We are finding that buying things from China comes with all kinds of difficulties. We will find, if we go down the route of importing more and more electricity, that we have strategic weakness in depending on Russian gas, which is the main source of continental energy. I urge the Government to use their purchasing intelligently to give us resilience and more British jobs. Value for money and competition are good, but let us make sure that the purchasing goes to home purposes, just as they do in other countries abroad, where they look after themselves first.