Speech in the budget debate

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): When I came to the House today, I expected to hear a great deal of Keynesian argument and I have not been disappointed. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Austin Mitchell) is no longer in the Chamber, as I wanted to congratulate him on his comprehensive grasp of Keynesian arguments. Unfortunately, it was also excruciating.

I am told that Keynes thought that the safe upper limit for the size of the state was 25% of national income. He might have halved the size of Government, so we can applaud the Budget as extremely moderate and thoughtful.

I have to tell those who propose deficit spending that it is inherently unsustainable. When Governments spend with a deficit they are bound to inject funds in a particular location in the economy and that is bound to create a pattern of economic activity that can be sustained only with deficit spending. We all accept that deficit spending cannot go on for ever. As one of my hon. Friends explained earlier this week, last year we were able to borrow only because we created a hole in the market for bonds using quantitative easing. That is so dangerous. In the past the world has seen the effects of printing money to pay off Government deficits, and I would dread to think that this country should live through such a circumstance.

I am reminded of some words published in 1945:

“I see now more clearly than ever before that even our greatest troubles spring from something that is as admirable and sound as it is dangerous-from our impatience to better the lot of our fellows.”

That is a quotation from Karl Popper, who is an interesting philosopher because, like his contemporary, Friedrich Hayek, he was a socialist until he understood where that philosophy went.

I am interested in the general well-being, particularly as Wycombe has not only great wealth but significant poverty and income levels everywhere in between. We must take seriously the realities that we face. I am glad that the Budget has included an announcement that there will be a review of pensions, and I should like to speak on that. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Margot James) for having brought up the subject.

Read the rest of the speech here.

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