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Economic Growth

Volume 511: debated on Tuesday 8 June 2010

1. What assessment he has made of the effect on economic growth of the programme of expenditure reductions announced on 24 May 2010. (918)

The Treasury’s assessment is that the effect will be positive. The in-year reductions in spending are part of the Government’s efforts to bring down the budget deficit, the level of which threatens the recovery. This weekend the G20 stated:

“Those countries with serious fiscal challenges need to accelerate the pace of consolidation. We welcome the recent announcements by some countries”—

including Britain—

“to reduce their deficits in 2010”.

I welcome the Chancellor to his place, but will he have the candour to admit that his strategy is very risky, because it risks putting this country back into a double-dip recession? In any case there will be losers, so will he say who they will be?

Let us be clear about who the losers would be if we did not deal with this record budget deficit. The whole country would lose out, because there would be higher interest rates, more businesses would go bust and international investor confidence would be lost. The hon. Gentleman needs to examine what is happening in the rest of the world, and realise that because Britain has the largest budget deficit of any advanced economy, we have to get on and deal with it.

I welcome the Chancellor to his position. Will he give an absolute assurance that the coming Budget, and future Budgets, will always be presented first to Parliament, and that they will not have to be pre-notified to, or approved by, Brussels?

My hon. Friend has my absolute assurance that I would not sign up to that. Indeed, I have made that position clear to ECOFIN, and my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is taking my place at today’s ECOFIN meeting, has also done so. It is absolutely certain that future Budgets will be presented first to the House of Commons.

I, too, welcome the Chancellor to his first Treasury questions. I know that he prefers the safety of the Treasury courtyard, but I am sure that the House will be on its best behaviour with him this afternoon. Since the 1970s, almost no country has cut its deficit significantly without increasing inequality. Will he make it a central goal of his deficit reduction plan to ensure that inequality does not rise?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his welcome. He is Labour’s “man of letters”, and it is good to see him still on the Front Bench. The point that I make to him is that Labour had 13 years in government, and inequality increased during its time in office. What we will do is deal with the very large budget deficit bequeathed to us by him and his colleagues in a way that is fair and reasonable, and protects people across the country.

It is clear that in the past few days a new system of public expenditure control has been put in place. What will the Chancellor do to ensure that Parliament is fully informed about the new system? Will he publish a full explanation of exactly how it works?

I think that we have the two candidates for the chairmanship of the Treasury Committee here today. [Interruption.] I do have a vote, but I am not going to exercise it on that matter. The point that I should make to my hon. Friend—I shall speak about this a bit more in our debate on the Queen’s Speech later—is that we are publishing today details of the framework that we will adopt in conducting the spending review. I will say more about that at the time of the Budget—and I will, of course, answer questions about it in detail before the Treasury Committee, whoever is in the chair. Parliament will also have a number of opportunities to discuss it, and when the spending review is finally produced in the autumn it will, of course, be presented to this House. I want all Members of this House, from all parts of it, to engage in the big national challenge of resolving how we get this country to live within its means.