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Budget Deficit

Volume 525: debated on Tuesday 22 March 2011

The Government have received a number of representations for the Budget referring to the need to reduce the budget deficit. In addition, the Government’s strategy has been endorsed by a number of organisations, including the OECD, which said in January that the Government should

“stay the course…The fiscal situation in the UK absolutely requires this approach”.

The Government’s plan to eliminate the deficit by 2015 is in stark contrast to the Darling plan, which was simply to reduce it by half. What assessment has the Minister made of the likely impact of the Darling plan on the level of debt and the cost of servicing it?

If we had continued with the previous Government’s deficit reduction plan, debt would still be rising in 2015, not falling, meaning that we would have to spend an extra £3 billion in one year on debt interest while still having to make spending cuts. The lack of ambition in the previous Government’s plan put our credit rating at risk, thus threatening the prospect of higher interest rates and putting a brake on the recovery.

When such representations were being made, was the Minister conscious of the effect that these cuts might have on young people in our country? Did he look at last week’s level of unemployment among young people? When will his Government do something for young people in this country?

The legacy left by the previous Government was that youth unemployment was continuing to rise. The other problem with which the Opposition left us was that our children and grandchildren would have to pick up the tab for Labour’s mismanagement of our economy. We need to get the deficit down to create the foundations for economic growth to ensure that more young people are back in work.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has certainly received representations from me on such measures, including about the estimated loss to the Exchequer of more than £100 million due to tax avoidance through low value consignment relief on VAT. Will the Minister at least confirm that the Government’s conclusions on that will be shared with us in tomorrow’s Budget?