George Osborne confirms that Crossrail and aircraft carriers have survived cuts
By Tim Montgomerie
Before heading off to Chequers to finalise the Comprehensive Spending Review with the Prime Minister, Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander - who he described as the "brilliant" Chief Secretary - George Osborne was on Andrew Marr's sofa this morning. The following points emerged:
- He noted that the Coalition's deficit reduction plan had been backed by the IMF, the OECD and British business. Britain had been on the edge of an abyss under Labour, he said, but the action taken by the Coalition had restored global confidence and long-term UK interest rates were now 1% lower as a result. These lower rates - not even more borrowing - were the best possible stimulus for British job creators and exporters.
- Wednesday's Comprehensive Spending Review would not introduce cuts overnight but would be "staggered" over four years.
- He said he would not be revisiting his decision on child benefit despite the furore. The fairness issue, Mr Osborne insisted, was whether - at a time of serious economic difficulty - someone on £20,000 should be taxed extra to pay child benefit to someone earning £50,000. Four-fifths of people would still receive child benefit, he insisted.
- The aircraft carrier decision was a terrible illustration of Labour's mismanagement. It would have been more expensive to cancel the carriers than to build them, the Chancellor said. He refused to be drawn on what aircraft would be launched from the carriers. Mr Cameron would be addressing this issue imminently.
- He promised enhanced powers for the Inland Revenue to ensure every person paid their fair share of tax. Tax evasion was, he said, as bad as welfare fraud. It is "immoral" at a time like this.
- He ended by saying his priorities in prioritising spending were healthcare, investment in a child's early years and infrastructure. He specifically mentioned Crossrail in a further sign that Boris Johnson has won his battle to get it fully funded.
Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson appeared on Marr immediately before Mr Osborne. He said that more money was being taken "from children", via cuts in child benefit, than from the banks in the task of tackling the deficit. He urged that more taxes be levied on banks and capital gains as part of an effort to protect infrastructural investment. He repeated the Labour mantra that the government was cutting too deeply and too quickly.
A poll overnight showed the Coalition opening up a massive advantage over Labour on economic management. Asked by ComRes whether they trusted Cameron/Osborne or Miliband/Johnson "to steer Britain’s economy through the current downturn" the Tory duo had a huge 45% to 23% advantage.