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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

The hon. Gentleman knows the answer. We went into the downturn with a deficit that was low and covered our borrowing for investment. [Interruption.] It was low. We had low national debt—lower than France, Germany or Japan. We then had a global financial crisis, which hit the American and British economies hard. Our economy had a larger financial services sector than others—that was precisely why we did not join the single currency in 2003—so of course America and Britain were harder hit than other countries by the financially driven recession.

If we had not let the deficit go up, which some hon. Members now seem to think we should not have done, the result would have been unemployment above 3 million rather than it peaking at 2.5 million. The economy would have gone from recession into depression. That is the economics of the situation. The question is, who did a good job of getting the deficit down? We had the deficit coming down, unemployment coming down and growth going up, but a year later we have unemployment going up, inflation going up and the economy ground to a halt. As a result, borrowing will be £45 billion higher, not lower.