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Nick Clegg's fiscal speech - Light at the end of the tunnel

February 5, 2015 11:16 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Today (Thursday 5 February) Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg set out the Liberal Democrats vision for delivering a balanced budget in the next Parliament.

Nick said:

"In 2010 the Liberal Democrats joined the coalition with a clear, over-riding priority: to rescue, repair and renew the economy.

"To do that we had to take some difficult and unpalatable decisions.

"Times have been tough for lots of people across the country who have had to work hard and make real sacrifices to get where we are today.

"As Liberal Democrats, we were always clear that austerity was necessary, not desirable.

"You have heard from Danny how we have stuck to a clear, sensible plan - anchoring the government in the centre ground.

"We brought stability at a time of crisis and are now beginning to see the fruits of those decisions: the fastest growing economy in the G7; record numbers of people in work; wages pulling ahead of inflation.

"For the Liberal Democrats, austerity was always a means to an end - and the end is in sight.

"If we stick to the sensible and balanced course we have set, there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

"An end to austerity in three years' time.

"It is through a balanced approach to dealing with the deficit that we will be able to restore the link between economic growth and investment in our world class public services in the second half of the next parliament.

"It is through a balanced approach that we can invest in Liberal Democrat priorities: tax cuts for working people by raising the personal allowance further to £12,500, investing in education, childcare and improving mental health services.

"And it is through a balanced approach that we can invest in infrastructure to make sure that the rewards of economic growth are felt in the North, the South West, and across the whole country.

"It is a plan for a stronger economy and a fairer society that creates opportunities for everyone, no matter what your background.

"But this sensible, balanced approach - this determination to finish the job in full and on time but to do so fairly - is only guaranteed if the Government remains anchored in the centre ground.

"Today we are setting out what that means in practice:

"A balanced approach to tax and spend that asks the wealthiest in our society to contribute a little more.

"Our plans mean there is no need to increase income tax, VAT or National Insurance rates.

"Yes, there will be more cuts - £16bn worth, including £4bn from the welfare budget - but that means that in the second half of the parliament we will be getting the national debt down and putting money back into our public services.

"Our plan means that in the last year of the next parliament, we will cut £38bn less than the Conservatives.

"And we will have borrowed £70bn less than Labour.

"The Coalition plan that we agreed in 2010 was rooted in a long standing Liberal belief that a fairer society is built on the foundations of a sound economy- a belief which goes back to the days of Gladstone.

"But it is clear that the Conservatives no longer see it that way. They see austerity as an end in itself.

"As George Osborne announced at the Conservative Party conference last autumn, they now see deep cuts to public services not as an economic necessity but as an ideological opportunity to shrink the state.

"The Conservatives' so-called long term plan is more like a Tea Party manifesto for Britain.

"By the end of the next Parliament, under current Tory spending plans, a further £54bn a year will have been cut from public spending.

"That's more than we spend today on all our schools put together and four times what we spend on our police.

"It means they will have to make deep cuts to everything from nurseries and social care to police and the armed services.

"And the saddest thing is that it is not necessary. We can balance the books, on time and in full, without that level of pain.

"The Conservatives are making a deliberate ideological choice.

"They are choosing not to raise a penny more from the wealthiest in society.

"They are choosing to single out the working age poor as the only section of society that will have to make sacrifices.

"They are choosing to add billions more in unfunded tax cuts aimed primarily at the better off.

"And they are choosing to keep cutting even after the deficit has been cleared.

"Under a Conservative majority there will be no light at the end of the tunnel - instead there will be austerity with no end in sight.

"And Labour's approach is no less dismal.

"They appear to have learned nothing in the five years since they crashed the economy.

"No apologies. No remorse. No facing up to their responsibility for exposing us so badly to the financial crisis.

"From what it is possible to decipher of their plans, Labour will not balance the books until the end of the next parliament - that's more years of spending restraint than necessary, supplemented with higher and higher borrowing.

"It means borrowing £70bn more than our plan and wasting around £4bn more on paying the interest on our debt - money that could be spent on schools and hospitals instead.

"Labour wasted their chance and they would waste it again.

"Only the Liberal Democrats can guarantee stability and fairness.

"Only the Liberal Democrats can offer light at the end of the tunnel.

"We will cut less than the Conservatives and borrow less than Labour.

"If you want a strong, stable government with a sensible, balanced plan to finish the job, finish it fairly, and protect and invest in our public services, only the Liberal Democrats can provide that."