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Osborne sees sleight of hand over deficit

Labour has doubled the national debt to £1.4trn which is the equivalent of £23,000 for every child born today, according to Conservative Shadow Chancellor George Osborne.

Speaking after Chancellor Alistair Darling had delivered his pre-Budget report on Wednesday, Osborne accused the Chancellor of “sneaky fiddling” of the structural deficit figures.

He said Darling had neglected to mention that the UK would be borrowing an additional £789bn over the next six years, and that figure was on the basis of “some pretty heroic growth assumptions” in future years.

He also said that the UK’s GDP figures on growth that the Chancellor gave in his PBR speech were based on annual contraction figures while the GDP figures given from other countries were based on total con traction, which was misleading.

He said: “First the forecasts, every single time the Chancellor has come to this house, he has got his forecasts wrong and today was nodifferent. The GDP figures for this year show in contraction 4.75 per cent he confirmed.

“That is not only a full percentage point worse than in the Budget, it is almost four times worse than when he delivered the last pre-Budget report and I notice in his speech a little sleight of hand.

“He gave the annual contraction figure for the UK and the total contraction figure for every other country. The total contraction figure for the
UK is 5.9 per cent, the worst since the 1930s. It would be difficult Mr Speaker to imagine that this year’s forecasts for borrowing would be an underestimate but so it turned out to be.”

Osborne attacked the Government for sticking with the same plan announced in the Budget earlier this year which he said the Bank of England, Confederation of British Industry and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have all branded as not credible.

Osborne said: “As the deficit becomes bigger, the Government’s response gets smaller.” He said the Chancellor was prepared to tell the House what he would spend money on but stayed silent on “where the axe will fall”.

He said: “He is achieving the previously impossible trick of ringfencing a black hole.”

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