CCHQ issued this prepared text of the remarks David Cameron was due to deliver in the Commons this afternoon, in response to the Prime Minister's statement on the latest EU summit.
In his reply Mr Cameron emphasises the importance of free trade, the CBI's warning that another fiscal stimulus is unaffordable, and the fact that many of Gordon Brown's anti-recession initiatives struggle to get beyond the press release.
“Before asking the Prime Minister about his statement today, can I ask him about reporting to the House on the outcome of next week’s G20? Given it is taking place on the day that the House rises, will he consider a statement that evening?
Before turning to the economy, I welcome what he said about the climate agreement in Copenhagen. Can I also agree with what he says about the importance of not walking away from developing countries at this time? On the economy, I want to ask about trade, financial reform, and the recession in Europe.
First, trade. The Communique talks about the importance of the Doha round. But so did the last one, and the one before that. Since then, we’ve seen “Buy America” programmes from the US Congress, higher agricultural tariffs in India, French ministers boasting of repatriating jobs from Slovenia to France, and the Prime Minister talking of ‘British jobs for British workers’.
The task of the London Summit should be urgently to agree the key issues of the Doha round. That should be the key aim. Will he confirm that the existing trade rules in fact allow countries to double tariffs? So isn’t freezing existing tariffs a pretty minimum acceptable outcome for the London Summit?
Second, financial reform. We need rules that force banks to hold more capital when the economy is strong. We have been pressing for such counter-cyclical capital requirements for over a year now. Will this Communiqué mean this actually happens? Don’t we need the same sense of urgency when it comes to supervisory colleges of regulators?
The Prime Minister’s Office announced these would be established “by the summer”. But the Communique is now talking about by “the end of 2009”. Can the Prime Minister tell us: has the deadline slipped?
I agree that it is better to have co-ordination rather than a single European regulator that overrides national regulation. Wouldn’t it be easier to resist such a European regulator if he would accept that the tripartite system he put in place in 1997 simply hasn’t worked and needs reform? Doesn’t he need to admit that clearly and frankly today?
Next, recession in Europe. The Prime Minister repeatedly lectures everyone in this House and beyond that he is uniquely forging a consensus in Europe on how to deal with recession. Doesn’t that claim now look completely ridiculous?
Aren’t there three examples of that? First, on whether we in Britain can afford a fiscal stimulus. Second, on what that stimulus should consist of. And third, whether he is any good at implementing the measures he has announced. Let me take each in turn.
Isn’t it remarkable that today the CBI – the organisation responsible for representing businesses large and small – said the following: “a further significant fiscal stimulus is unaffordable and would lead to businesses and households retrenching…”. Instead, they say, the Chancellor needs to deliver “a clear and credible plan for restoring the public finances to health”. Isn’t the CBI right, and the Prime Minister wrong?
Last week we saw the worst set of public finance figures in our peacetime history. We are forecast to have the largest budget deficit of any G20 economy next year – almost twice as large as the average for the G20 as a whole. Isn’t the view in Europe clear? As the German Chancellor says: “We should not be competing for the most unrealistic fiscal stimulus”. Isn’t she right?
This week the Prime Minister is going to South America. Can he confirm that there’s only one country in the whole of South America that entered the recession with a higher deficit than Britain? Not Argentina. Not Paraguay. Not Uruguay. Not Ecuador. They all managed to balance the books better than the Prime Minister did. Isn’t it something when the British Prime Minister has to go to a conference in Latin America to get a lecture on fiscal responsibility and prudence?
It’s not just the affordability where the Prime Minister is criticised in Europe. It’s the make-up of his stimulus as well. No-one else is copying his policy of cutting VAT. In fact the consensus in Europe is that it actually made things worse. The French President says “We won’t be repeating Gordon Brown’s mistakes” and that the VAT cut had “absolutely not worked”. And the German Finance Minister says the debt will take a generation to pay off.
Third, isn’t it the case not just that the Prime Minister is wrong on affordability, and wrong on VAT, but everyone else thinks he’s getting implementation wrong as well. Can the Prime Minister not see that when his various schemes exist only in a press release, they help don’t help build up confidence, they destroy it? The homeowners mortgage support scheme. The recruitment subsidies for the unemployed. Announced months ago. Still not available.
Shouldn’t he listen to the German Chancellor, who said: “if we want to make real impact, you really must implement the package first before you talk about the next step”? Isn’t that what he should do?
Mr Speaker, instead of listening to his lectures, shouldn’t we all now be clear about what the Prime Minister is delivering? A longer recession than the United States or the eurozone. The fastest rise in unemployment since records began. And the worst public sector deficit in British peacetime history.
When is the Prime Minister going to understand the need for change? And shouldn’t that change start with him acknowledging properly, and apologising for, the mistakes that have led the country to this position? Isn’t it time to start now with “sorry”?”