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Budget Deficit

Volume 541: debated on Tuesday 6 March 2012

15. What assessment he has made of the effect of Government spending commitments on the budget deficit. (98013)

In the autumn statement, the Government announced their decision to continue the consolidation beyond the current spending review period in response to a deterioration in the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast. The Government’s plan has restored confidence in the UK’s fiscal position, protected the UK from the European sovereign debt crisis and kept low long-term interest rates.

Has the Chief Secretary seen the latest report by the International Monetary Fund, which shows that although the US had a fiscal contraction of 0.8% last year and Germany saw a 2.3% tightening of its fiscal policy, both those economies are still growing? Does he agree that this shows that those who have called for an increase in the deficit as a way to drive growth are completely wrong?

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. When the coalition Government came into office the UK was forecast to have the largest deficit in the whole of the G20. It is necessary to stick to the Government’s consolidation plan to restore public finances to sustainability. At the same time, the Government are delivering a radical programme of supply-side reforms to lay the foundations for a stronger and more balanced economy in the future.

I think the Minister has studied some economics. Does he understand the mechanism by which going too far, too fast with cuts can make the budget deficit worse? Where did he and his colleagues go so wrong with their sums on the budget deficit?

There is a very simple mechanism going on in the economy: the hon. Gentleman’s party caused the mess and we are cleaning it up.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the report in today’s Times saying that on his appointment the shadow Chancellor apparently turned to the Leader of the Opposition and asked:

“What if George Osborne is right?”

Does not the news of the jobs in Nissan, along with the 500,000 jobs created in the economy and our low interest rates, prove that he is?

I have not seen that report, but I can tell my hon. Friend that it is not a question I have asked myself.