The Economy

Part of Council Tax Rebate – in the House of Commons at 3:49 pm on 31st March 2009.

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Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Chancellor of the Exchequer 3:49 pm, 31st March 2009

No, I do not. As I have said throughout this time, it is necessary for Governments to support their economies, and 19 of the 20 G20 countries are doing so. There is recognition across the world that in these extraordinary times we need to take extraordinary action to support our economy. It is equally true, as I have said time and again, that in the medium term we have to live within our means. I believe that we were right last autumn and that we are right now to continue to protect jobs, to support people and to support businesses. We are right to continue to repair the banking system and to make the reforms we need for the future. We are right, too, internationally to use the International Monetary Fund and other international institutions to support developing and emerging economies; otherwise, that will not only damage them but affect us, too. We need to get world trade going and we need to ensure that the recovery is sustainable in the long term.

That was why last autumn I took the judgment that we needed to intervene. I rejected the suggestion that we should simply sit back and let the recession take its toll. That was what happened in the 1980s and 1990s, with disastrous consequences. We are helping people and businesses, with more than £1 billion going into the Jobcentre Plus network to help people find jobs. That is one reason why, still, more than half the people who lose their jobs get back into work within three months. That did not happen in the 1990s and 1980s.

We have given additional money to pensioners. Next week, the pension credit will go up from £124 to £130 a week. The state pension will go up to more than £95 a week. In January, we increased child benefit to more than £20 a week for the first child. The child tax credit will go up next week, and from Monday 22 million basic rate taxpayers will see a reduction in their income tax. That is real help for people up and down this country, at a time when the Conservatives have opposed every single one of those measures. They would have done nothing, as they did in the past. On top of that, we have put £12.5 billion into the economy through the reduction in VAT. The health in pregnancy grant is another measure that shows how we, even at this time, are ready to help people who need help, and it will come in at the beginning of next week.

It is important that at a time such as this we support people and businesses. It is imperative. I simply do not understand the policy whereby, in the face of all this, we should do absolutely nothing and hope for the best.

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