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I want to talk about how we progress from the painful but very necessary deficit cuts to achieving growth that is balanced and sustainable. However, I shall start by addressing the shadow Chancellor’s attack. His starting point seems to be that the past is another country, and that 2010 was year zero. I am afraid, however, that all his rather bumptious self-confidence cannot conceal his massive legacy: the biggest deficit in the G20, an overweight and damaged banking system, and an economy that was hopelessly unbalanced.
The right hon. Gentleman’s criticism is built around the downgrading of the growth forecast, but before we get any more of this “Growth is down! Growth is down!”, let us remember what happened to growth in the last two years of the Labour Government—it was down to minus 4%. By the last quarter of the Labour Government, GDP was back where it was in 2006. Indeed, if we look at growth on a per capita basis—that is, living standards—we find that five years of Labour Government produced a decline in per capita incomes in Britain. The only time in history that this had happened previously was shortly after the first world war, so we do not need any lessons on growth. As the Chancellor pointed out yesterday, the European Union and the IMF has Britain’s projected growth comparing favourably with that of France—the shadow Chancellor’s favourite country—Italy, Spain, the eurozone and the whole of the European Union of 27. Our projection is better than any of those.