Mr Redwood’s contribution to the Queen’s Speech debate on Business and the Economy, 15 May

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I remind the House that I offer business advice to a global engineering business and a small investor management business.

We meet today with the winds of danger blowing once again from the euro area. We meet to discuss measures in the Queen’s Speech to make Britain more competitive, to equip Britain better, and to produce more jobs and deliver more goods and services around the world. No one in this House would disagree with the aim. All the main parties agree that we need more economic growth. I think they all agree it is easier to get a deficit down when we are creating more jobs, getting people who are out of work into those jobs, and generating more income and activity, than when we are not. There is no disagreement across the Floor of the House about the aim.

However, when debating how we are going to get that growth and give the best possible support to the companies and individuals who create the jobs and make things happen, we must also recognise that there is a very threatening and menacing problem on our doorsteps. As we meet here today, we know that the Greek political parties may not be able to form a Government at all, or they may not be able to form a Government that can put through the necessary measures to meet the requirements of the EU and IMF loans in Greece. They may decide on new elections in some weeks’ time, creating a dangerous hiatus; and those elections may produce a Government who fully reflect the view of the Greek people, as expressed in the last election to a considerable extent, that they do not wish to co-operate any longer with the lethal mixture of policies that the euroland senior politicians have put forward.

That matters to the United Kingdom, not only because some of our exports and services are sold within euroland, but because, as members of the European Union, we will participate in some of the meetings about what kind of growth strategy Europe as a whole can develop, and we will be a party to some of the decisions that will determine the future of the euro. If the Greek tragedy unfolds such that the Greek state cannot meet the requirements, the European Union has to decide either to give in yet again and come up with another compromise, or that there has to be an early exit of Greece from the euro. It would be better for the British economy and for the future of euroland if an early exit of Greece from the euro were organised quickly, and in confidence up to the point when the necessary announcements must be made. I would not expect the British Government to confirm that that is their aim, but I hope that Ministers are working closely together, representing the greatest financial centre in western Europe and perhaps the world, with that in mind. The sooner the Greek problem is solved, the sooner we can get on with sorting out some of the wider problems in the European economy.

If it is decided to cobble together another compromise, massive headwinds against growth and prosperity in our continent will continue to blow forcefully. Will an early Greek exit be easy to handle? No, of course not. Will it be pleasant? No, of course not. But the Greek people have got to the point where they cannot take any more years of austerity, and in some way or another Greece has to be made competitive. If is it is completely impossible, as it seems to be, in a democracy to slash wages by the amount the German side of the argument seems to say the Greeks should slash wages by, other means have to be used: having a devaluation and having a new currency.

The United Kingdom has one big advantage in thecrisis: we have our own currency, it is freely floating,and we are much closer to having competitive prices than Greece, Italy or Spain can possibly be within the euro. Any measures that my right hon. Friends can take to improve our competitiveness in order to create more export jobs, the better. How right Ministers are to see that there has to be a huge reorientation of British exports towards the emerging markets—to the faster-growing territories of Asia, Latin America and parts of Africa—because Europe is making such a comprehensive mess of its economy and its prospects. It is destroying hope and jobs on such a massive scale that our only hope as a country is to support and orient our businesses to where the growth is and where the opportunities are to be found.

That means taking urgent action to mend our banks and to establish more competitive banking, with more money to lend to our companies, because they are going to need working capital and investment capital. They are going to need to gear up for the 2.5 billion Indian and Chinese who want to come to the world party, many of whom, I am pleased to say, will come to the world party and will be the market that replaces the European market, which is failing so visibly.

We also need competitive energy. Surely the Secretary of State would agree, at least in private, that if we wish to lead an industrial revival in this country or anywhere else, we need cheap and competitive energy in plentiful supply. We should not be saying, “Let’s make everything in China, so it does not score against our carbon dioxide totals.” Let us make things here. If we have cheap energy, we will have more chance. Modern manufacturing creates lots of jobs in marketing, legal work and promotion. It does not create many jobs on the shop floor because it is automated, which requires access to lots of cheap energy. That is what I want this Queen’s Speech to address: cheap energy, less intensive regulations—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. I remind hon. Members that there is a six-minute limit on speeches.

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3 Comments

  1. Derek Emery
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Fitch have said they will mark down other eurozone economies because Greece leaving proves the eurozone is not unassailable. Pressure is bound to increase on some other EZ economies from the markets as they re-evaluate risks.

    It would be very nice if there was increasing demand for UK products and services from the rest of the world as the EU is likely to be low growth for many years. The EU is an economic incompetent so we shouldn’t hold out too much hope there.
    The increasing rest of world demand is still in the future…..
    No doubt at some stage they will need to borrow to fund expansion. High capital limits for banks has to mean less future lending is possible which could hold down growth.

  2. nicol sinclair
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    And, I’m willing to bet that you could have gone on for much longer in the same frame of mind?

  3. David Langley
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    There will be a compromise, the Greeks will get the cash, and there will be some lip service to growth, some promises of technical assistance to ensure the Greeks dont behave like Greeks.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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