Alan Duncan MP

23 Jan 2009 11:14:18

Alan Duncan makes his debut as Shadow Leader of the Commons

Alan_duncanThe new Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Alan Duncan, seems to be throwing himself into his new role with gusto. Yesterday he took part in Business Questions:

"I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business and, in turn, I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your statement just now.

Apart from a short exchange on a point of order yesterday, this is my first formal encounter with the right hon. and learned Lady. May I say to her and the House that I am delighted to have been appointed her shadow? I have always held a dangerously romantic affection for the House of Commons, and it looks as though my teenage years spent reading Hansard and “Erskine May” under the duvet might now finally pay off.

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will allow me while I hold this position to work towards three principal objectives: to explore all ways of making Parliament work better for Britain; to help overcome the low reputation of Parliament in the eyes of much of the press and the public; and to take an understanding of Parliament and our democracy into schools, so that younger people can overcome their instinctive derision for politicians. As shadow Leader of the House, one must work on many levels. One must be able to work on a non-partisan basis of trust as well as take part in vigorous exchanges of political difference. I undertake to do both."

He went on:

"Yesterday, we saw the release of the latest figures which show unemployment racing towards 2 million, and most forecasters predict that this year it will burst through 3 million. Today, the value of sterling is at its lowest point for nearly 25 years. The exchange rate is the price tag put on our country’s value by the rest of the world, and it is plummeting. Why, if this is a global phenomenon, is Britain in so much worse a position than other countries across the globe? It is increasingly difficult to persuade the Government to debate the future of the economy in Government time. Only last week, we had to drag Ministers to the House to explain the announcement of their loans guarantee scheme. Given that the Prime Minister is so keen on telling everyone how brilliant he is, the Government’s reticence on the economy seems rather strange. In the interests of recognising the saviour of the world’s achievements over the past few months, may we now have a full debate in Government time on the state of the British economy and how we can escape from the Government’s mishandling of our livelihoods?"

15 Jan 2009 09:35:00

Alan Duncan slams Government on loan guarantees

Alan_duncanShadow Business Secretary Alan Duncan put pressure on the Government yesterday. He excoriated ministers both for leaking their announcement on loan guarantees to the media (before coming to the Commons) and for adopting a pale imitation of the Conservatives' proposals.

The fact is that Mr Duncan is an extremely talented operator. He is forensic and devastating in debate, be it on television or in the chamber. He is also genuinely funny, and that skill should not be deprecated - given that it enables him to win over an audience.

The questioning of his energy levels and commitment seems pretty unfair to someone who has seen Mr Duncan working at close quarters. He is a very good politician, and would make a fine minister.

Mr Duncan is at fault for one thing however. Yesterday was not the time to raise economic questions. It was in fact my birthday, and business in both houses should therefore have been devoted to talking about me. Oh well. His words follow.

Tom Greeves

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12 Dec 2008 09:40:05

Alan Duncan calls for a delay in VAT payments

Alan_duncanShadow Business Secretary Alan Duncan doesn't get to quiz Lord Mandelson directly in Parliament, because they sit in different Houses. Instead Pat McFadden, a minister of state, represents the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform in the Commons.

Yesterday Mr Duncan, who is a formidable debator, piled on the pressure:

"The real truth is that businesses are increasingly desperate because their credit lines are drying up, the cost of borrowing has increased dramatically and credit insurers are refusing to underwrite the payment chain. Surely the Minister would agree that the recapitalisation of the banks has not yet filtered adequately, if at all, into the real economy. Why, then, has he chosen to reject our clear policy for a national loan guarantee scheme that would augment and underpin credit lines in a way that no Government policy yet does—or is he really saying that the Government have no ideas of their own and are simply rejecting it because it has on it the label, “Not invented here”?

Mr. McFadden: We announced a loan guarantee scheme in the pre-Budget report, based on a balance of risk sharing between the Government and business. As far as the hon. Gentleman’s proposal is concerned, as I have already said, the Conservatives have not made clear what proportion of the loans would be underwritten or what balance of risk will be shared between the Government and the lenders. It is important that proposals in this area are properly costed. That is what we have done and if further action is needed to help small businesses, we will not hesitate to take it.

Alan Duncan: But one thing the Government could definitely do to extend credit to businesses is to let them delay their VAT payments. Yesterday the Prime Minister said at Prime Minister’s questions that that was his policy and it should happen, but businesses are saying that, in fact, they are not being allowed to do that because Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs says, among other things, “Oh no, it would give such a company a competitive advantage.” How can the Minister reconcile what the Prime Minister says one day with what is actually happening on the ground, and what instructions—what clear instructions—have the Government given to HMRC about the deferral of businesses VAT?

Mr. McFadden: The Chancellor announced in the pre-Budget report that HMRC would, on a case-by-case basis, allow businesses to spread their tax and VAT payments over a longer period of time. It is not the case that they have all been refused, as the hon. Gentleman claims that they have. It is judged, as I said, on a case-by-case basis.

In terms of policy—I know that the Conservatives like a leak—perhaps I should draw attention to the hon. Gentleman’s approach. I have an e-mail to him from his colleague, the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk)—

Mr. Speaker: Order. We will not bother with that."

It looks like the Speaker has had enough of a certain subject!

8 Oct 2008 15:07:04

Alan Duncan on what the government has done to make the current crisis worse

Video and highlights from a speech by Alan Duncan during yesterday's Opposition Day debate.

Unemployment is too high after more than a decade of growth: "When it comes to the problems that we want to confront, the starting point is not really one of which the Government can be proud. It is not a proud boast that after 10 or more years of economic prosperity, unemployment stands at "only" 1.7 million. Let us compare that with the situation in many of the years that speakers have mentioned tonight; it is triple what was seen as an absolutely unacceptable level of unemployment in the 1970s. The starting point is not a happy one, which means that what will follow may be extremely serious."

People could be hit in a way not seen for a century: "I fear that the prospects for employment are grim. We have seen institutional mayhem, and the concern is that even within a matter of weeks businesses, small, medium and large, will have their credit lines withdrawn and their overdrafts cancelled, that they will not be able to pay their bills, and that people who are paying them will take longer and longer to pay what they owe. The picture that we can therefore foresee of a credit squeeze going right to the high street, to households and into corporate Britain is potentially apocalyptic. If the bank problems that we face today are not addressed in short order, the mayhem in the business community will hit people in a way in which no one has been hit for nearly a century.

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