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I wish to make some progress.
I want to consider some other premises of the previous Conservative Government. We have dealt with the national debt, but we also need to consider borrowing, which we are all concerned about. The Government have halved borrowing as a proportion of national income, reducing it from 3.4 per cent. between 1979 and 1997 to half that and less now. Tory borrowing peaked at 7.8 per cent. of national income in 1993, which is equivalent to £110 billion today. Borrowing next year will be well under half that, at around 3 per cent. of national income. Labour's highest borrowing is less than the average borrowing between 1979 and 1997.
The reason we have been in a good position to weather recessions that have affected countries and why, without in any way being complacent, our economy is well placed to weather the global problems that are affecting us, with higher food and oil prices, is that we have worked with business to ensure that, at 28 per cent., our corporation tax is the lowest in the G7 and that our tax rate is the most competitive of any major economy. We have made three cuts in corporation tax since the Conservatives set it at 33 per cent.—a full five points higher than it is under this Labour Government. That is one of the reasons we have 750,000 more firms operating than we had 11 years ago. Those are important facts, which the Opposition spokesperson chose to ignore.
What else made those years, in the Governor of the Bank of England's parlance, the NICE years? The reason is partly that more people are now in work than at any time in our history—I think that the figure is 29.5 million. We can be proud that in the NICE years we took 700,000 children out of poverty.
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