In a maiden speech, Lord Gilmour urged ministers to accept that reducing unemployment was as important as reducing inflation and advised against any tax increases in next month's Budget.
Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, opening the debate on the economic and social consequences of the Government's policies, railed against what he said had been such an 'appalling decline' in political standards. 'Shame has been abolished as a political emotion,' the leader of the Liberal Democrat peers said. 'Hitherto, if an administration reached a certain level of incompetence or even of ill-luck, they fell. Now, having achieved a unique series of policy disasters, the one principle which appears to unite those who preside over a demoralised nation is a determination to cling to office at all costs, both individually and collectively. In our brave new Britain, the honourable resignation has become as outdated as a balance of payments surplus,' he said.
He also described Michael Heseltine as 'immobilised by loss of nerve' after mismanaging the pit closures policy.
Linking crime with unemployment, Lord Gilmour, who was an early sacking by Baroness Thatcher, said that 25 per cent of children were being brought up in families living on income support, yet for families it was not enough to live on. 'That is not a state of affairs likely to foster great respect for legality.'
During the past decade, poverty among young people had multiplied, he said. 'Because of unemployment, repeated cuts in benefit and the break-up of families, those who have borne the brunt of increased poverty are single people in their late teens and early 20s. Yet the late teens are the peak age for committing crime.
'The Government quite rightly emphasises that the individual should recognise, and take responsibility, for his own actions. But it follows that the Government must recognise and take responsibility for its own actions.'
Lord Gilmour's warning that the 'trough of the worst depression since the war' was the wrong time to raise taxes, was reinforced by Lord Callaghan, who said that it would put up unemployment. The recession was going 'to leave as deep a scar on the national consciousness as the 1930s'.
The Earl of Caithness, Minister of State for Transport, said ministers believed 'that the essential elements for a sustainable recovery are now in place' - a much-used phrase which Lord Callaghan said made him 'feel like spitting'.Reuse content