In 2010 the Government inherited the largest deficit since the second world war at 10.2% of GDP. We have made substantial progress in reducing the deficit since 2010. By the end of the last financial year 2013-14, the deficit had fallen from £149 billion to £95.6 billion, estimated at Budget 2014. As a share of GDP that is a fall of more than a third from its peak.
The Chancellor’s promise to eradicate the deficit in this Parliament has long since been abandoned, but with the deficit going up in the first half of this financial year, the scaled-back aim of halving the deficit by the end of this Parliament looks in serious trouble as well. The Chief Secretary has just attacked the unfunded tax cuts that the Chancellor announced. Does the Minister still think that the tax deficit will even be halved by the end of the current financial year?
The right hon. Gentleman is possibly being a little mischievous. As a veteran Chief Secretary to the Treasury from the previous Government, he should well understand that, according to the OBR’s comments and looking at its 2010 forecast errors over time, the biggest difference between 2013 and earlier was the lack of external shock. In 2011, high commodity prices ate into disposable incomes and the euro area crisis damaged credit and confidence. He should well understand why the deficit reduction was impacted by external shocks.
According to the International Monetary Fund’s “World Economic Outlook”, the UK is set to grow at rates that will put other major European economies to shame. What measures does the Minister believe have allowed that out-performance of our European partners?
My hon. Friend is quite right. The UK is now growing at the fastest rate in the G7 and, indeed, is forecast to grow at the fastest rate in the G20. That is the result of our long-term economic plan—reducing business tax rates in order to get more people into work; more people paying their taxes and more people able to bring home a wage. That long-term economic plan is what is bringing our economy back into growth.