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Highlights of George Osborne's Today programme interview

By Matthew Barrett
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Osborne LargeThe Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne appeared on Radio 4's Today programme this morning. Highlights of his interview are below.

On the European economic situation:

  • Osborne dismissed concerns about a double-dip recession, saying instead that the concern is growth in all Western countries is not going to be as strong as people hoped and expected.
  • Osborne noted falls in the German and Chinese stock markets, calling it "a re-basing of global assumptions about the economy". 
  • Osborne also said Britain has been a safe haven, "in part because people see in Britain the stability of a credible plan to deal with our budget deficit".
  • On €urozone fiscal integration, Osborne said "I think we have to accept that is going to happen, it is in our interest that it happens because an unstable Euro is very bad news for us. We have to ensure that our influence on important decisions is not undermined, but we do have to allow greater fiscal union while protecting our own national interest." 

On the domestic economic situation:
  • When asked where growth would come from, Osborne noted the "unbalanced economy" in Britain, which relied far too much on banking and the City. 
  • Growth, he said, would be helped by the government "making the reforms that will make it easier to employ people and do business", noting "our tax revenues and spending plans are broadly on track"
  • Osborne hailed the deficit reduction plan as "the rock of stability upon which you can build" growth and a re-balanced economy
  • He stressed several times that the independent nature of the Office of Budget Responsibility meant he wasn't responsible for forecasting growth. 
  • Osborne also contrasted the government's fiscal responsibility with other European economies, especially Italy and France, both of which have been in the news in recent days. He said: "When you see the Italians having to make budget changes and the French having to address their parliament this week, you can see that we got ahead of the curve last year, did difficult things but are benefiting from those decisions today."

On domestic taxes:

  • Osborne was asked about tax cuts, and in particular, the wisdom of having a 50p tax rate. "I have said with the 50p tax rate that I don't see that as a lasting rate for Britain as it is very uncompetitive internationally", and "people can frankly move" if tax rates are too high, he said.
  • Osborne said he has asked the Inland Revenue to conduct an assessment of how much the 50p rate brings in for the Treasury, in order to ascertain its effectiveness - "in my view you've got to have taxes that are economically efficient."
  • Osborne also said the government is making the better-off sections of society pay their fair share by, for example, increasing Capital Gains Tax, introducing a permanent bank tax, and taking action to reduce tax avoidance. Osborne called the government's actions on tax collection "pretty ruthless".

On the riots that took place in several English cities:

  • Osborne said there "has to be a big response. The focus of the political classes has been on the economy... we have to re-discover some of the interest" in solving Broken Britain. 
  • Osborne made the point that the economy and private society are inseparably linked because the problems of society inevitably cost money.
  • Finally, on police cuts, Osborne said: "It is about reform, about improving the presence of the police in our communities and making the police more visible. We have made a commitment that we don't want to see a reduction in visible policing. I have to say, there are very deep-seated social problems that we need to tackle." 
  • Osborne said there are "communities cut off from the economic life-blood of the country" and that it is not helpful just to debate numbers of police officers. It is, he said, "about a far bigger challenge for our society, which is dealing with people who we have ignored for too long and helping them feel they have a stake in society. That is the challenge for the Government going forward."

Two other points of interest:

  • Osborne specifically mentioned American former police chief Bill Bratton as someone the government would seek policing "advice" from. Bratton is the man Cameron apparently wanted to appoint as head of the Metropolitan Police, but was blocked from doing so by Theresa May
  • Douglas Carswell MP blogged a few moments ago, criticising Osborne's words about European fiscal integration. This is significant because Carswell appears to be the first Tory to publicly oppose Osborne's pro-integration sentiments. 

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