John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I welcome the spirit of the shadow Chancellor’s remarks and the fact that he wants a serious debate. Government Members do not favour austerity; we favour prosperity. We believe that the way to create prosperity is to have sound money and sound state finances that we can afford so we have decent public services and money and so that credit is also available to expand the private sector, create the extra jobs we need to get people into work and create the higher paid jobs we need so that they can be more prosperous in work. I hope the shadow Chancellor will understand that.
I am afraid the shadow Chancellor did make a couple of mistakes in his remarks. First, he wrongly said that Conservative Members were calling for less banking regulation in the run-up to the crisis. I chaired the economic policy review for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and there was strong advice that tougher regulation was needed on bank cash and capital. We expressly warned that the banks were over-borrowed and over-geared and that the whole system was very shaky, and I remember the Opposition constantly warning about excess debts in the system. The shadow Chancellor would be well advised to read what we wrote because the warnings were there although Labour and its regulators were not listening.
The shadow Chancellor should reread the Red Book, which set out a few weeks ago the five year spending and borrowing plans for this Parliament. It makes it very clear that there are going to be substantial cash increases in total public spending over the five years of this Parliament as all goes to plan, as we trust it will. As inflation is currently around 0%, that will mean real increases are possible, just as in the last Parliament when, despite all the noise from the Labour party, cash spending went up every year and real spending went up every year. It went up much more modestly than it did during the excesses of the pre-2007-08 period that helped to bring about the crash, but there was room for small real increases in public spending. That is because Government Members care about ensuring that disabled people are properly looked after, that schools have enough money and that there are real increases for the health service every year because there is greater demand and more treatments.
I welcome the charter, and I hope that this Government—which I hope will be re-elected—and any future Government will take it very seriously. The evidence is clear that during the first five years of the previous Labour Government, the economy worked pretty well. I give them credit for that. In three of those five years, they generated a public surplus. They inherited our prudent public finances and for the first few years they ran with them, which worked very well. I therefore refer Labour Members to their own excellent example from those early years. It was only when their Government let rip on spending, credit and borrowing for the state and the private sector that things got out of control and they showed that they could put the boom into the boom and the bust into the bust. They then took us through the biggest and deepest cycle of the post-war period, with awful consequences for the poor and for those who lost their jobs and businesses.
We need responsible finances. We want growth. We want prosperity, not austerity, and this charter will allow us to achieve that. Let us hope that future Governments stick to it. The debt was only £380 billion for the whole state at the point at which the Labour Government ceased to generate a surplus. It went up by almost £700 billion before they left office, and a lot of the increase occurred before the crash. It now stands at £1,600 billion, because getting it down is proving extremely difficult. I urge Labour Members to understand that they jeopardised the public finances, trashed the economy and destroyed jobs and businesses. We don’t want to go there.