My colleague Jesse Norman MP has done some fantastic work towards obtaining rebates on exorbitant private finance initiative (PFI) contracts. See for example his article It is time to derail the PFI gravy train. To that end, yesterday we held a lengthy debate in Westminster Hall which you can find here.
PFI really matters to Wycombe and Buckinghamshire, where long, expensive hospital contracts have become fixed points in the local health system. A sensible, negotiated rebate would help NHS staff deliver more.
My colleagues did a fine job in explaining the minutiae of PFI and its faults so I tried to widen the debate to encompass PFI’s place in our present social system:
I would like to develop one point: how PFI fits into the nature of our society. I am reminded of something that Churchill said, which I think speaks to the third way. He said:
“Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk.”
I will come back to how he finished the quote at the end. It strikes me that the third way seems to have turned private enterprise into a vampire squid to be suckered on to the faces of people on normal and low incomes.
It is strange that so much money is being funnelled to firms whose commercial risks are being underwritten by the power to tax. Far from protecting the poor, the state now seems to be an institution for protecting the rich from the risks they take with their own investments. I am a capitalist, and I believe that capitalism requires entrepreneurs and investors to bear their own risks. Somehow, through all this mire and mess we find ourselves in, we need to recover the principles of a free society and a vision of a capitalism that works, and works for everybody.
The worst part of the present system of vampire squid state capitalism is of course the banking system, but PFI as recently executed is in there too. The Treasury has made a start but there is far to go before PFI satisfies the public’s incisive sense of fair play.