Left stays aloof from loyalists' applause

By Ben Russell
Tuesday 28 January 2014 02:31

Labour MPs welcomed the decision to loosen the Treasury's grip on borrowing and praised Gordon Brown's pledge to maintain the Government's programme of public spending.

Backbenchers cheered as Mr Brown announced proposals for a trust fund for every newborn baby and the end of "hotel" charges for elderly hospital patients. But Mr Brown faced attacks from left-wingers.

Alan Simpson, the Labour MP for Nottingham South, said: "He could have invested in restoring the link between pensions and earnings, he could have delivered £5 a week extra for the over 80s, he could have extended the national concessionary travel scheme to make it a free entitlement for all pensioners and he could have abolished tuition fees for students. Those are the opportunities we have missed in order to pay for this wretched war."

Another backbencher said: "If you speak to people this time next week they will struggle to remember what the nuggets [in the Budget] are."

John McFall, Labour chairman of the Commons Treasury Select Committee, welcomed Mr Brown's decision to increase borrowing. He said: "We do have a number of threats domestically. The retail sales are the weakest now for 10 years. Industrial investment is at a 20-year low and the finance industry is still recovering from the dot.com crash.

"There is a time now for a fiscal loosening. There is a sound economic case for extra borrowing. When interest rates are low, when inflationary pressures are almost non-existent and when the national debt is very modest as the Chancellor has indicated, we do not want a fiscal strait-jacket on a cyclically depressed economy."

Bill Tynan, Labour MP for Hamilton South, praised Mr Brown's commitment to the "continuing crusade" for full employment. He said: "We have to keep reminding ourselves that we have low interest rates, we have low mortgage rates, we have low inflation rates. And we have the highest level of employment ever. We have to keep on pushing that message."

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