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Volume 560: debated on Tuesday 12 March 2013

6. What recent assessment he has made of progress on the Government’s target of public sector net debt falling as a share of GDP in 2015-16. (147128)

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility assesses the Government’s performance against the fiscal mandate and supplementary debt target. The OBR’s assessment is that the public sector net debt as a percentage of GDP will be falling by 2016-17.

Will the Minister confirm that the Government will have more than doubled the national debt between 2010 and 2015, and that this Government will have increased the national debt by more in five years than it increased in the entire 13 years of the Labour Government?

Having brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy and having set the economy ablaze, the Opposition now throw stones at the firefighters. The country will never forget that we had the largest budget deficit when we came to power. We were borrowing £5,000 a second, and that deficit began in 2001, long before the financial crisis. Since then, we have cut it by a quarter, brought back confidence to Britain and created jobs at a record rate.

I congratulate the Government—the Conservative-led coalition—on reducing the deficit, but of course all that is slowing the rate of growth in the debt. When does the Minister think we will get to a budget that is balanced?

My hon. Friend makes a good point about how we must tackle the record national debt that we inherited. It went up threefold during the 13 years of the previous Government’s time in power. When we set out the Budget forecast next week, my hon. Friend will get a good answer.

Businesses in Swansea are telling me that assessing net debt should include an assessment of net assets, and they have written to me and the Chancellor asking that Swansea be considered for superconnectivity status, namely that the Government invest in our broadband capability. Is that something he is willing to look at positively with the businesses involved?

That was very wide of the subject of public sector net debt falling as a share of GDP in 2015-16. The hon. Gentleman needs to do his research and have another go. Go back to the drawing board. We are grateful to him.

Would it ever be a credible policy to borrow more in order to borrow less, or would it simply increase our debt, damage our credit rating and ensure that the country would be in even greater difficulties than it already is thanks to the Labour party?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. If the country were now following the Labour party’s plans, independent assessments show that the country would be borrowing £200 billion more: more debt, more deficit. As we bring the deficit under control we will be able to invest in things such as broadband plans in Swansea and help growth in this country.