Tory MPs lobby Harriet Harman and Speaker for debate on 'quantitative easing'
Update: Daniel Hannan is also outraged at the democratic deficit.
Alan Duncan, Shadow Leader of the House at Business Questions, and Anne Main, Julie Kirkbride and Christopher Chope later, all pressed yesterday for full parliamentary scrutiny of the Bank of England's momentous decision to start printing £75bn of extra banknotes:
Alan Duncan: "Why are we not being given a statement, even today, on the economy? Can we not have a statement from the Government and a full debate on quantitative easing, so that Members can question the Government on how they intend to steer a course through inflation and deflation? The decisions being taken today are of the utmost gravity and will have profound effects on the economy for many years to come. They are desperate measures designed to address economic failure and collapse. When can we be told in clear terms exactly what the Government are doing and why?"
Harriet Harman: "The hon. Gentleman asked for more opportunity to discuss the economy. There will be a written ministerial statement later today about the decision by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee to ensure that the inflation target is met and that the economy does not fall below that target by putting extra money into the economy, which is described as quantitative easing. There will be an opportunity to debate the economic situation in Government time next Monday, as well as an Opposition debate on Tuesday on unemployment and a debate on business rates on the following Wednesday. On Monday week there will be a debate on industry and exports and on Tuesday week there will be a debate on the Welfare Reform Bill. There will be a great deal of further discussion on the economy in the next week or two."
Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have just had an update from the Leader of the House that we have now gone to £75 billion quantitative easing, which is uncharted territory. I ask the Leader of House to consider arranging an emergency statement on the matter so that the House might debate it. Frankly, I am surprised that we are not at least being offered a topical debate on the matter, given that it was widely trailed on all the radio programmes this morning and is now a reality.
Mr. Speaker: I am not responsible for as and when Ministers come to give statements to the House, except when hon. Members ask for an urgent question. I can then call the Minister—
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: If I can finish. I can then call a Minister to the House. I have no doubt that the deep concern that the hon. Member for St. Albans (Anne Main) has mentioned will be noted.
Miss Kirkbride: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The announcement was only made at 12 o’clock, although it had been widely anticipated. Clearly, it is possibly the most significant economic move that any of us will see carried out by the Government and the Bank of England in our lifetime. Can you tell us whether Treasury Ministers have said that they are prepared to come to the House either today, or at the very latest tomorrow, to explain this enormously significant economic move?
Mr. Speaker: These things are up to Treasury Ministers. The matter has been put on the record by both hon. Ladies.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. We sympathise with the position in which you are placed by the arrogance of the Government, but can you give us an indication of whether you would be prepared to consider an urgent question for tomorrow? The House happens to be sitting this Friday and there will be a lot of public interest in the major announcement that was made by the Government today.
Mr. Speaker: I am not suggesting that I will grant an urgent question, because it would be wrong of me to do so at this stage. Matters have been put on the record and the deep concern of hon. Members has been conveyed, and it will percolate through to Treasury Ministers. An application for an urgent question can be made in the usual way—[Interruption.] The Clerk reminds me it has to be done for 11 am. I used to work to a stopwatch when I was at Rolls-Royce.