31 Mar 2015

Labour scornful of Osborne’s good news ‘topping’

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats claim credit for today’s news of a 2.8 per cent rise in economic output. But Labour is dismissive, saying this is still the slowest recovery in 100 years.

Chancellor George Osborne said that figures from the Office for National Statistics, which showed that the UK economy grew by 2.8 per cent in 2014, suggests that the Conservatives’ long-term plan was “working”.

Official figures put 2014 growth 0.2 per cent up on initial estimates and showed that disposable incomes were 0.2 per cent higher than when the coalition came to office in 2010.

Liberal Democrat Treasury minister Danny Alexander said that his party had been the “rock of stability on which this recovery had taken root” and warned that giving sole control of the economy to either the Tories or Labour in the 7 May poll would put growth at risk.

‘Pick your pockets’

The new figures come as Prime Minister David Cameron urged Labour to spell out its tax plans, warning voters that Ed Miliband’s party would “pick your pockets” if they came into power.

He said he would make “no apology” for claiming that Labour would increase taxes, adding: “It is a choice, the election… Fundamentally it is a choice about whether you want a government that will find savings and not pick into your pocket or, with Labour, a government that will pick your pocket I think on a pretty frequent basis.”

But shadow chancellor Ed Balls insisted that all Labour’s pledges would be fully costed and funded, claiming that Mr Osborne had an “extreme plan” to wipe out Britain’s deficit through even deeper spending cuts.

‘Even deeper spending cuts’

Mr Balls visited Swindon to set out Labour’s plan to cut and then freeze business rates, which he said would save 1.5 million small businesses an average £400, funded by reversing a coalition cut in the main rate of corporation tax from 21p to 20p due to come into effect on 1 April.

He accused the Conservatives of planning “even deeper cuts in the next three years than we have had in the last five”.

Large companies had already benefited to the tune of £7bn from cuts in the levy over the past five years, while small businesses had paid £3bn more in rates, said the shadow chancellor, adding: “It’s not right to go ahead with the further cut for larger companies when we can use the money in a better way to help us create more good jobs by backing small companies.”

Cameron ‘dishonest on immigration’

Meanwhile, Ukip leader Nigel Farage said immigration should be brought down to around 30,000 people per year.

Speaking in the shadows of the white cliffs of Dover, he said he wanted immigration reduced to roughly the levels seen between 1950 and 2000.

After unveiling a poster condemning David Cameron’s promise on immigration, Mr Farage said British people would be more comfortable with net migration of around 30,000 a year, a level at which he claimed integration was possible.

He said: “It was a level at which the country was comfortable and that integration was possible, and it didn’t, crucially, compress the wages, push down the wages of ordinary people.”