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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:41 pm on 24th March 2011.

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 1:41 pm, 24th March 2011

It is a bit rich to have a lecture from the hon. Gentleman, who used to say that the national minimum wage would cost millions of jobs. We, unlike Members on the Government Benches, do not think unemployment is a price worth paying.

The Chancellor is going too far and too fast, and we are paying the price in lost jobs and lost growth. That is because a vicious circle is now taking hold in our economy. If the economy is not growing and hundreds of thousands of people lose their jobs, then fewer people pay tax, more people claim benefits and it is harder to get the deficit down. By cutting too far and too fast, the Chancellor is not solving the problem, he is making it worse. That was why yesterday, we heard from the OBR that growth had been downgraded for last year, this year and next year; that unemployment was forecast to be higher in every year of the forecast period; and that up to 200,000 more people would be unemployed than the Chancellor said last summer. Our borrowing was coming in £20 billion lower, but the Chancellor has now been forced to revise up his borrowing over the next four years by £45 billion.

The Chancellor said yesterday that he would put fuel in the tank of the British economy. Is not the truth that, as a result of his Budget, it is confidence in the British economy that is now tanking, and he who is running out of fuel?