As the House would expect, Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of organisations.
I thank the Minister for his conclusive answer. With a Budget deficit higher than that of the Greeks, is it not a matter of some embarrassment to the Government that after 13 years of their being responsible for the economy, serious figures—from the CBI, to the Bank of England, to credit rating agencies—are raising questions about this country’s credit rating in the manner of some disreputable pyramid scheme salesman who has finally been caught out?
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman’s words are representative of how a vast majority of informed commentators look at these issues. They certainly are not representative of the credit rating agencies, all of which recognise the UK’s strong funding flexibility. They continue to judge the UK as having the highest possible sovereign credit rating. I point out to him that average debt maturity in the UK is 13.5 years, which is twice that in France, Germany and Italy, and is more than three times that in the United States.
Is it not the case that the credit rating agencies take account of the real economy, that Britain is the world’s sixth largest exporter of manufactured goods and the world’s second largest exporter of services, and that there is no possibility of the credit rating agencies downgrading our rating?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to point to the strength of the UK as a manufacturing nation and our strength in exporting services. Rather than speculate about credit ratings when it is very clear from all that the credit rating agencies have said that there is currently no risk to the UK’s credit rating, we should focus on a strategy for growth and jobs for the future. We will hear more about that next week.