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Fiscal Consolidation

Volume 591: debated on Tuesday 27 January 2015

The Government inherited the largest deficit since the second world war. Since then, we have made substantial progress on reducing the deficit. Borrowing has already fallen by more than a third since 2009-10 and is forecast to have fallen by half this year as a share of GDP. The Government’s consolidation plans have been central to the reduction of the deficit.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Given the eye-watering amount of British taxpayers’ money that is spent on paying the interest on our national debt, I am pleased that the Government have already reduced the annual structural deficit by half. Does he agree that it is vital to continue with the policy of reducing the annual structural deficit in order to tackle our national debt?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend, who is right to make that point. We need to go on and run an overall surplus, to ensure that our public finances are sustainable over the longer term.

Is the Office for Budget Responsibility not right to say that stagnant wages have led to more borrowing? Is that not the key reason why the Government have missed their borrowing targets by more than £200 billion?

If we want wages to increase, which we do, we need to improve our education system, ensure that we have a welfare system that makes work pay, improve our infrastructure and have competitive tax systems. In brief, we need a long-term economic plan. That is what we have got with this Government, and it is not what we would have with the Labour party.

My hon. Friend will recognise that getting the deficit under control is vital if we want a strong economy. For all the posturing that we have seen today from the Labour party about the NHS, does he recognise that Greece, which had a smaller deficit to the one we had in this country when we came to power, had to cut spending on health services by 14%? Does he agree that only a strong economy can deliver a strong health service?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend, who puts it well. We want a strong NHS, but a strong NHS requires a strong economy, and that requires the Government’s policies to continue.

In the long-term economic plan—[Hon. Members: “Hurray!”] I would wait for the second part of the question. In the long-term economic plan, is missing a target by 50% evidence of success or failure?

We have turned the British economy around, and we grew faster in 2014 than any major western economy. Employment is increasing and unemployment is falling, including by 40% since 2010 in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. That is a success.