The main point of George Osborne's speech on the economy today was
to highlight the Government's failure to deliver on the many economic
action programmes that it has been quick to announce. The key passage
is the bottom of this post but the Shadow Chancellor also fumed at the
failure of the Chancellor to come to the despatch box and respond to
the Opposition's economy debate. The Conservative Opposition had to
use its time to debate the econopmy because of Labour's failure to do
so. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Yvette Cooper took Mr Darling's
produced new growth forecasts for the world that show that Britain is
set to be in recession for longer than any other major economic area.
Indeed they predict that the British economy will be only major economy
contracting next year, 2010, when the economies of America, the
eurozone and Japan are all forecast to be growing again by then. And
today Lord Turner has published his Report. the first part of it. It
says something about the coordination of the tripartite committee that
they couldn’t get the report to Hon members in this House. The report
offers a pretty devastating critique not just of the regulatory system
created by the Prime Minister in 1997 – but also of the model of
economic growth that was based on unsustainable debts, overleveraged
banks and a huge macroeconomic imbalance.
You would have thought, Madam Deputy Speaker, that the Chancellor of
the Exchequer who commissioned that report and whose policies are
deepening this recession would be here to debate the economy and defend
his approach. But apparently not.
We have not had a debate on the economy in government since December
and the government have known about this debate for two weeks. When we
suggested it, we were told there was no pressing international summit
or unbreakable commitment that would require the Chancellor’s absence.
There is only one conclusion. The Chancellor is running away from
the debate because he knows he is losing the debate. A confident
Government, and a Prime Minister who meant what he said about restoring
the primacy of Parliament, would have relished the chance for the
Chancellor to appear before us today."
George Osborne then turned to the record of the Government programmes announced with fanfare but then left undelivered:
Finally, two months after we proposed it, on 14th January, the
government launched in a blaze of publicity their scheme to guarantee
credit lines to small and medium sized businesses – the Working Capital
Scheme. The Business Secretary said at the time: “there will be real
results coming from these schemes going live today” Two months later
that scheme does not exist. The date when it was supposed to be up and
running has come and gone. The negotiations with the banks are still
continuing. And all the while good businesses are going bust, and good
people are losing their jobs.
I wish it were an isolated example of incompetence. But it is not.
There is the Automotive Assistance Programme which is supposed to
help the car industry. Two months after it was launched there is no
evidence yet that a single car manufacturer has been helped.
Earlier this week the Government proposed a car scrappage scheme.
Today the Treasury is briefing the media that they are not in favour of
that particular scheme. That one didn’t even last a week.
Then there is the Homeowners Mortgage Support Scheme, announced by
the Prime Minister back at the beginning of December. Here we are in
March and it simply doesn’t exist. Repossessions are rising, thousands
are losing their homes, and not a single homeowner has received support.
And what about the National Internship Scheme announced three months
ago? It has completely disappeared from trace. They can’t distinguish
between getting the headline on the Today programme and actually making
sure the help they promise is delivered and working.
But the public can. And it is causing widespread disillusion and despair."