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The growth figures are a fraction of what the Chancellor promised back in 2010. I urge caution on the hon. Gentleman, who has seen long-term unemployment in his constituency go up 600% under this Government.
Indeed, that whole sorry saga just about sums up the Government’s haphazard and cavalier approach to backing economic growth and job creation. Clearly, it is welcome news that the economy is growing again—undoubtedly, after three years of flatlining—but as we all know, in 2010 the Chancellor predicted that our economy would have grown by 8.4% by now. Instead, we have seen growth of just 3.8%, lower than the US and lower than Germany. Indeed, GDP growth this year is still expected to be lower than the OBR forecast in 2010. This is now the slowest UK recovery for 100 years, with our economy still 1.4% behind its pre-crisis peak.
How many more businesses could have grown, and how many more jobs could have been created, had the Chancellor not slashed the annual investment allowance at the first opportunity? How many jobs and how much new investment has been lost as a result of his carbon price floor, about which the Opposition have consistently raised concerns and on which he finally used last week’s Budget to take some action?
Had the Chancellor acted before last week’s Budget, how many firms could have been given the support and finance they need to export, thereby helping to ensure that any economic recovery is driven not just by consumer spending? It is little wonder that he is so unlikely to achieve his target of doubling UK exports to £1 trillion by 2020, given that the Government’s export enterprise finance guarantee scheme helped just five firms before folding and their export refinancing facility is still not operational, despite being announced back in July 2012.
Of course, three years of a flatlining economy have meant that the Chancellor’s much-hailed deficit reduction plan has been an abject failure, with the coalition now set to borrow £190 billion more than originally planned. Indeed, the Government have borrowed more in three years than Labour borrowed in 13 years. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor previously promised to eliminate the deficit and balance the books by 2015, but now they will not be able to do that until 2018. As a result of their failed policies, the Government, who like to talk tough on welfare spending, will actually spend £1 billion more on welfare this year and next than Ministers were planning only last December to spend. They will spend £13 billion more than they planned.