House of Lords
My Lords, I should like to take the opportunity provided by the question of the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, to raise two topics, one general and one relating to the particular issue of inflation statistics.
My general comment is that I am appalled by the degree of statistical illiteracy abroad. Almost every time I read a newspaper I am aware that the journalists writing it have no knowledge of statistics. They simply pluck out things to create stories, as the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, said, and therefore there is constant statistical abuse. Of course, it is very hard to be against more information but sometimes I think we would be better off with less. A good example of that kind of statistical abuse is the debate on climate change.
My Lords, the opening paragraph of the gracious Speech pledges the Government to give overwhelming priority to ensure the stability of the British economy during the global economic downturn. We would all endorse that.
The Minister outlined several useful measures that the Government have taken or are planning to take, which remind me of the useful measures taken by Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour Government of 1929 to 1931, about which I wrote my first book, but which were far too small to stem the economic blizzard that was then sweeping the world.
The gracious Speech promised reforms to the banking sector. These are necessary, but here I sound my first cautionary note. In his open letter to President Roosevelt in 1933, John Maynard
My Lords, I would like to follow the structure of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, although my arguments and conclusions will be a little different from his: how we got to where we are and what should be done about it. On how we got to where we are, as I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, chiefly blames the failure of banking supervision, which enabled the banks to lend recklessly. Of course, that is a large part of the issue. The whole world became vastly over-leveraged. Ten years ago the world stock of financial assets, stocks, bonds, loans and mortgages was equal to the total of world GDP. When the crisis hit last year it was four times as much and financial derivatives, which are claims on financial assets, were 10Continue reading...
I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, for initiating this debate on international financial institutions in the middle of the biggest financial meltdown since the war.
I shall concentrate my brief remarks on the IMF. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Desai, with whom I rarely disagree, I do not want to abolish the IMF—his suggestion that distressed borrowers come to private banks for loans is a remarkable expression of confidence in the private banking system at this moment of its performance—I want to reform it.
My reform would be based on reminding us of what it stood for: to promote a stable system of exchange rates by preventing countries from manipulating their currencies to get unfair trade advantages. Various things
My Lords, I was not a member of the House of Lords foreign affairs sub-committee, and I think that I am the first speaker today who was not a member, but I commended its report at the time as a sensible contribution to Europe-Russia relations, which mapped out the areas of possible co-operation between the EU and Russia. It highlighted challenging conflicts, which needed to be negotiated. I was particularly pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Roper, pointed out the crucial aspects of Russian psychology that influence the country’s behaviour. The feeling of resentment that it had lost out and that it is now in a position to get some of its own back has dominated its recent actions.
Since then, events have taken place. I shall not go into