No more sterile debates on forthcoming budget

When the House returns in the autumn after the summer recess – that is, if there is the same configuration in these Houses as there is at present and according to who is in Government – there will be a short period of three months or perhaps less, before the budget. We had many phoney debates in the House last year about the budget and about the proposals for cuts. The debate became quite sterile. I suggest to colleagues that this autumn we might take the debate to a higher level than perhaps was possible last year when there was a sense of crisis – not that there is not still a sense of crisis – to get beyond simply talking about budgetary measures and cuts and readjustments, necessary as those are, but look to the future of this country. In particular, we should look at the very important issue of investment. We should discuss investment in the economy, investment in infrastructure, investment in people and in ideas so that we can genuinely turn the economy around. This would ensure we would have an economy when we get through the more immediate pressing budgetary crisis.

My party has brought forward a very carefully considered proposal for a strategic investment bank to marshal investment, to marshal resources towards productive activity, to get away from this long hangover we are experiencing as a result of basing our entire future on the construction industry. We need to look at new ideas and ways to marshal available funds into that kind of productive activity in the future. Those of my colleagues who have suggested that my party has no policies or deals in soundbites, might look at this document. I suggest it could form the basis, along with proposals from other parties, for us to get away from this sterile, if necessary, debate about the budget and look to the future.

I noted another contribution today which is relevant to the discussion. In Britain there is a proposal for the establishment of a new green investment bank. This type of initiative will seek to marshal public and private sector funding, given that it is so difficult to get financing for projects, including green projects, to help make this kind of investment which will fund productive activity in the economy. I know the Green Party supports such measures.

I say that sincerely, but we must do more than talk about it. We need initiatives such as our proposal for a strategic investment bank or the green investment bank in the UK. Let us go beyond the immediate debate and brickbats about whether certain measures should be in the forthcoming budget, important as that should be, and have a real debate about the future of the economy.