Wednesday, 7 December 2011
‘Stimulate the economy from the bottom upwards...we have paid homage to the Bank and financial institutions for too long’, says Roger Godsiff MP
Birmingham Hall Green MP, Roger Godsiff, called for an overhaul of the UK financial system during a general debate on the economy, yesterday.
Mr Godsiff said: “Ordinary people in my constituency who face massive pressures on their household budgets and look forward to a bleak Christmas are not too concerned about the blame game that is taking place between the parties, but there is a smouldering resentment of the financial sector, including the banks and financial institutions that have plunged the economy into recession, destroyed jobs and ripped people’s lives apart. That resentment is heightened by the fact that those self-same banks and financial institutions are once again acting as they did before they brought the crisis upon us. There are bonuses galore, and veiled threats that if regulations are introduced they will go elsewhere.
“It is three years since the financial crisis struck, but it needs to be said again and again that that crisis was not caused by nurses and teachers. It was not caused by public sector workers, or by people working in the private sector. It was not caused by small business men, students or retired people, or indeed by the majority of people working in the financial sector. It was caused by the greed and irresponsibility of a small, self-serving group of people who made the decisions and played the casino, and now everyone else is paying the price.
“Between 1992—when the United Kingdom was thankfully forced out of the exchange rate mechanism—and 2007, the British economy grew every year. It grew under the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it grew under subsequent Labour Chancellors. Public sector borrowing was consistently between 2% and 3% of GDP, which was perfectly sustainable. However, in 2008 it shot up to 11% because the financial crisis caused by those I referred to earlier had resulted in a full-blown recession and a collapse in tax revenues, and, furthermore, in the need for the Government to bail out the banking sector. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling), who spoke earlier, referred in his book to an interesting deputation that he received—when Treasury officials informed him that the only way of resolving the crisis was for him to nationalise the banks—and I understand why Mervyn King told the Treasury Committee that he was surprised that there was not more public anger about.
“However, we must look forward. Britain and the rest of the western world are witnessing the death throes of an ideology that has dominated for 30 years. The Anglo-Saxon neo-liberal market model has failed, and we must consider adopting different models if we are to have a financial services sector that is fit for purpose. We need to be more innovative: we need to try out new ideas rather than adhering to traditional recipes which we have already tried, which have been found wanting, and which have now been totally discredited.
“Why, for example, should we not use RBS as a national investment bank—or call it what you will? After all, we own 87% of it. Why should it not be modelled on America’s Small Business Administration, which has supplied 20 million small business men with financial help since its establishment after the second world war, or indeed on Germany’s state development bank, which lent €30 billion to businesses in 2010 alone? Instead of printing money through so-called quantitative easing and giving it to the banks—which do not lend it, but hoard it to rebuild their capital base—why should we not give consumers money vouchers that are time-limited and must be spent on household goods or on, for instance, car scrappage schemes? We should try out some new ideas. The fastest way to stimulate the economy is from the bottom upwards, and no job creation scheme could have a more immediate effect than bringing our high streets alive. All Members know of high streets in their constituencies with boarded-up shops, and where the only new shops are Poundland stores and charity shops.
“This is not revolutionary thinking. It has been tried before in America, Japan and China. People are looking for new ideas for the future, and they are prepared to accept radical and innovative policies. They do not want to be lectured by the Government or the Governor of the Bank of England, who can hardly be thought to have had foresight in seeing the recession coming given that he was arguing for increased interest rates right up until the end of 2008 in order to head off inflation, which he said was the biggest threat to the recovery.
“We have paid homage to the Bank and financial institutions for too long. We must construct a better financial system that is fit for purpose, and we need to do that sooner rather than later.”
At the end of the debate, the coalition government lost a surprise vote forced through by Labour whips. Members voted against the government by 213 votes to 79.