Q&A - Walter Houston got in touch to ask Richard about his views on the balance of the economy, and its dependence upon the financial sector
Richard: You are right that we are too dependent on the financial services sector, as the 2008 crash showed, and that too much of the economy is centred in the South East at the expense of the rest of the country.
The Liberal Democrats agree and we would try to re-balance that. We would extend the industrial strategy that Vince Cable introduced in government, borrowing to spend of capital projects, such as high speed broadband, better local transport connections and housing, which will grow the economy (and therefore cover the cost of interest). We want to see Britain develop the high-tech and creative industries, including web and games design and movie-making, and put money back into support for green jobs which we were leading the world in until the Tories so sadly removed government support in 2015. We want people with ideas to find it easier to start up in business so we would introduce an entrepreneur allowance for new start-ups.
I'm very cautious about the idea of printing money. I think that even the quantitative easing that the Bank of England is doing is quite dangerous. Creating money for everyday spending would very much undermine the already post-Brexit weakened pound. The fall in the value of the pound last year has already pushed inflation ahead of earnings, making people worse off. I would be against anything likely to make that worse.
What we would do is expand the activities of the state-owned British Business Bank, so that capital investment can be directed to areas it will do most good.
I do agree that big banks, distant from the needs of their customers, are a problem and so would favour more banks that are more local to serve people better.
Finally, the regions outside of London benefitted enormously from the European Union's regional development fund. We would prefer to remain a part of the Union, but post Brexit we will be pressing the government making sure they do not try to make saving by cutting this often-vital funding.