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Motion to Take Note (Continued)

Part of Comprehensive Spending Review – in the House of Lords at 10:29 pm on 1st November 2010.

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Photo of Viscount Eccles Viscount Eccles Conservative 10:29 pm, 1st November 2010

My Lords, it is complicated to follow the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I will not even compete on the subjects of the Scotswood Road and the Geordies, although I have a daughter who lives in Newcastle.

Listening to this debate, what can one conclude? Certainly that the Government have made a big call, sometimes described as a gamble. They have made a call to reduce and reform public expenditure, most notably welfare expenditure, to end the structural deficit within the Parliament and to set a date for peak national debt. In doing so, they have predicted that economic growth will continue and will provide the necessary returns. Of course, nothing is certain. Unfortunately, Governments of any complexion do not command economic growth; they only set the scene. To expect supply-side policies, however elegant, to do the trick, as the noble Lord, Lord Myners told us, is to deny all our post-war experience.

Is there an alternative big call on offer? Yes, possibly. It seems to be unreconstructed Keynesianism-basically, a call to leave well alone. "The deficit is not too big, the debt is sustainable. Protect aggregate demand and all will work itself out. There is no need for reform or change".

This is not the time for a detailed analysis, but I have three points. No two recessions have ever been the same. Therefore, we cannot rely on past experience alone. Our economic circumstances are so different from those of the 1930s that we must be cautious before reading too much into a Keynesian solution. Then, the world was not global. Then, manufacturing was a much larger proportion of our economy. Who will march from Jarrow today? Then, the real incomes were a quarter of those of today. Then, we believed in high interest rates and a strong pound, no matter what.

The timing of the coalition coming into power demanded decision. People expected firm action and they were right to do so. The Government have made their call. They are right to have done so and need our full support. If they get that support, the economy can continue to grow. Science and technology have seen to that. There are plenty of opportunities. Confidence will ensure that they are seized.