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Structural Deficit

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 21 June 2011

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility published its latest forecast on the structural deficit in the March economic and fiscal outlook. The OBR forecast shows the structural deficit was 7.4% of GDP in 2010-11.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Does he agree that one of the main reasons we are experiencing financial difficulties and the large budget deficit is the simply that for a number of years prior to the recession the Labour Government were borrowing money while other, prudent economies were repaying debt, and that has exacerbated our problems now?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, and he makes an important point. This country was running a structural deficit from 2002 onwards, so his analysis is exactly right. However, that was not the only problem with the previous Government’s policy, of course; another was their abject failure to regulate the banks and deal with the financial system. That is a further major cause of the problems we face.

Does the Chief Secretary accept that his and his Government’s macho approach of massive cuts and confronting the unions is reducing consumer confidence, which in turn is reducing investment, and that that is hindering growth and has led to the March deficit forecast being increased by £46 billion, which is almost £1,000 per person in Britain?

No, I do not. The decisions we have taken on reducing the enormous budget deficit we inherited from Labour were absolutely necessary to restore confidence in this country’s ability to pay its way in the world, and that is helping to deliver the low interest rates that are delivering a significant benefit to our economy. The hon. Gentleman should recognise that, too.

Will the Chief Secretary reassure the House that he will never behave as irresponsibly as The Daily Telegraph has revealed the last Government did? When faced with a massive structural deficit before the recession, they increased spending by £90 billion between 2007 and 2010, even though the Treasury told them to increase spending only in line with inflation.

I can certainly confirm that we will not repeat that mistake. We have all seen the document entitled, “We’ve spent all this money, but what have we got for it?” It is very important that this country maintains the spending plans we set out in the spending review, in order to deliver the deficit reduction that this country needs to establish confidence in our economy.