Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lib Dem conference: Clegg to defend spending cuts

The government will not change course on spending cuts, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will tell the Liberal Democrat conference later.
The Treasury has denied BBC reports ministers are considering a £5bn rise in spending on infrastructure in a bid to kick-start the UK's stalled economy.
Mr Clegg will stress in his speech that boosting growth is a top priority.
And that despite the public spending squeeze the government is not "helpless" to halt rising unemployment.
The comments come after the International Monetary Fund cut its growth forecast for the British economy and said the government should delay its deficit reduction programme if growth slowed further.
'Right thing' The coalition has already brought forward spending on some infrastructure projects but BBC political editor Nick Robinson said cabinet ministers were in the early stages of discussions about injecting £5bn extra into the economy to boost growth.
Ministers pushing for such a move believe it would not be seen as a U-turn as the money would be capital spending, on infrastructure projects like roads, rail and broadband, rather than current spending.


"We're sticking to our plans across the board."
That's how the chief secretary to the Treasury slapped down the idea, coming from some of his cabinet colleagues, that he and the chancellor should increase the budget for capital spending to help stimulate growth.
At a time when the markets are asking searching questions about the ability of the Greek and Italian governments to do the right thing, Danny Alexander and his Conservative boss, George Osborne, want the boys in the City to be in no doubt that the British government will hold its nerve and, therefore, not alter a dot or comma of their plans.
No-one around the cabinet table is arguing to remove the spending strait-jacket the government has chosen to wear but some are arguing that it is just a little bit roomier than the Treasury are currently arguing.
But the story was immediately denied by the Treasury and Lib Dem cabinet ministers Danny Alexander and Chris Huhne, who both said they "did not recognise" that figure.
Government borrowing was £1.9bn higher in August than a year ago, figures published on Wednesday showed, but Mr Alexander insisted ministers were still on track to meet their 2011 deficit target.
"We will stick to the plan to reduce the deficit because of the scale of the problem we face," Mr Alexander told the BBC's Daily Politics.
Mr Clegg will focus strongly on the economy in his speech, saying the government must do "the right thing not the easy thing", but he will not announce any new measures to boost growth.
"The recovery is fragile," he will say.
"Every worker, every family knows there is a long, hard road ahead. But we are not in politics just to repair the damage done by Labour, to glue back the pieces of the old economy.
"We need to build a new economy. A new economy for the whole nation."
He will also use the speech to reassure party members they remain a distinct political force and that commitments on reducing the tax burden of the lowest-paid, providing more money for the most disadvantaged pupils and restoring the link between earnings and pensions, have been delivered.
Responding to last month's riots in England, Mr Clegg will say the disorder showed that some young people "had fallen through the cracks" and had "nothing to lose" by their actions.
"It was about what they could get here and now, not what lies in front of them tomorrow and in the years ahead," he will say.
Some of those involved "lost touch with their own future" years before the riots, he will argue.
Summer schools The Lib Dem leader will also announce a programme of catch-up summer classes for children "most in need" prior to starting secondary school.
"So often the people who have gone off the rails are the ones who were struggling years earlier," he will say. "This is a £50m investment to keep them all on the right path."
The Lib Dems have been trying to regroup after suffering heavy losses in council elections in England and Scotland.
The party also suffered a defeat in a referendum on the UK voting system, when the alternative vote campaign it backed was overwhelmingly rejected by the voters.
Despite these reverses and continuing poor poll ratings, Mr Clegg has insisted he will remain in his job "well beyond" the end of the current parliament.
The conference speech - which brings the five-day event to an end - is Mr Clegg's second as deputy prime minister and his fourth since becoming Lib Dem leader.
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