Living Standards

Part of Opposition Day — [Un-allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:49 pm on 30th November 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Robert Syms Robert Syms Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee, Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee 4:49 pm, 30th November 2011

Yes, partly because of that. Traditionally in Britain it has been about 40%, so that gave the Government some room for manoeuvre. Any Government in office would have had a large increase in its deficit given what hit them in 2007 and 2008. There is no great argument about that and, as someone sitting on the other side of the Chamber, I think that many of the things that Mr Darling did were beneficial in trying to maintain a fragile economic situation.

Having said that, we cannot continue to increase debt year on year at the rate we were in 2009, 2010 and 2011 or we will overwhelm the British economy. The worst thing for our constituents is not paying tax; it is paying tax to pay interest on money being borrowed from someone else. The Government had to make a judgment, and their judgment was to set out an economic policy gradually to reduce our debt over five to seven years to a level that, once it tops off in 2016-17, can then start to be brought back to the level of more normal years, which is about 40% of GDP. In an environment in which the world was growing rapidly, that would be easier. In an environment in which the eurozone is blowing up, and there are high fuel and food prices, it becomes much more difficult. That is part of the problem for the Government in the short term. It is events—it is what is happening around the world.

There is nothing surprising about where the Government are. Sticking with the policy is perfectly sensible, but things do not go in a straight line in economics, and there will be OBR forecasts and Budgets where the figures for debt increase, and some where they decrease. It will depend to some extent on world events.