My Lords, I join in wishing the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, a very happy 90th birthday. He has asked an excellent question in that it relates to forward guidance. For a long time I have been saying that when setting interest rates the Governor of the Bank of England and the Monetary Policy Committee should look not just at inflation targeting but at the wider economy. This is excellent news. However, is it wise that the governor should tie himself down to a specific level of 7% unemployment, after which interest rates are to be raised, unless inflation is going out of control? When does the Minister think that the 7% will be achieved? Secondly, would it not have been wiser to have had a wider remit taking into account other aspects of the economy, not just inflation targeting?
My Lords, in the summer of 2003 my late father, Lieutenant-General Bilimoria, was here in the UK on a visit. It was his last visit to the UK because he passed away a couple of years later. At an event he was approached by a prominent journalist who said: “General, do you think that we should have intervened in Iraq?”. My father, without blinking, said: “No. Intervention should only have taken place with the authority of the United Nations”. My father spoke from experience because as a young captain he had served with the United Nations in the Congo.
My Lords, today the former Governor of the Bank of England has taken his seat, and we welcome him. His successor is a Canadian. How many other countries would have a foreign national as the governor of their national central bank? We do. Do not the Minister and the Government think that we should be proud that we are one of the most open economies in the world, and that that is a great strength to this country? Regardless of that, and on the other hand, how much longer are the Government going to dither and procrastinate about increasing our airport capacity in London?
My Lords, I declare my interests in this area. I remember when qualifying as a chartered accountant it was very clear that tax avoidance was legal and tax evasion was illegal. Recently, there has been a huge public outcry about avoidance having escalated to abuse and companies operating within the law have been vilified.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for initiating this debate. He said right up front that London is the greatest city in the world and I could not agree more. It is the greatest of the world’s great cities. He congratulated the London Finance Commission on its report, Raising the Capital. I had the privilege of serving on mayor Boris Johnson’s Promote London Council, which was a great experience. It came up with what ended up being London & Partners and had huge success. It really understands London and looks at its competitiveness.
My Lords, when I came to this country from India in the early 1980s, entrepreneurship had the image of Del Boy and second-hand car salesmen. There was a glass ceiling. Today, everything has changed. Entrepreneurship is cool, and I believe that we have a society where anyone can get anywhere, regardless of race, religion or background. Yet business still has such a bad image. We have executive pay. The noble Lord, Lord Sacks, spoke about the noble Lord, Lord Sugar. We have the “Apprentice” image of “You’re fired”. We also have the financial crisis and bankers. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, for initiating this debate.
My Lords, have the Government done a survey regarding one effect of student loans—the fact that students will be burdened with a long-term debt of up £40,000 after they graduate? Has it deterred children from going to university, particularly those from family backgrounds where no one has been to university before? Are the Government comfortable that we have student loans of this magnitude while in Scotland undergraduates still do not have to pay any fees at all?
My Lords, the gracious Speech said a lot of really good things: build a stronger economy so that the United Kingdom could compete and succeed in the world; strengthen Britain’s economic competitiveness; ensure that interest rates are kept low and that people who work hard are properly rewarded; invest in infrastructure-I could go on. It is terrific.
The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, did an excellent job, and the noble Lord is absolutely right. Will the Government accept, learn and consult business more in future?