Clarke calls for £30 billion in additional cuts

Ken Clarke has revealed more details of the Conservative party's planned approach to public spending. He wants an additional £30 billion in cuts by 2014-15.

Ken Clarke has today revealed more details of the Conservative party’s planned approach to public spending. He told the BBC he wanted to see the fiscal deficit reduced to 3 per cent over the next parliament, in line with the EU’s preferred approach. The policy would imply up to an additional £30 billion in cuts.

On BBC News 24 this morning, Clarke continued a theme from his Today programme interview this morning with Chief Secretary Liam Byrne. Referring to the European Union’s assessment that the UK should bring the national deficit below 3 per cent by 2014-15, Clarke said:

“[Gordon Brown] always claims that any alternative to his own policy involves some figure plucked out of the air of billions of pounds worth of cuts…

“A new Government is required to start cutting spending now, get rid of wasteful spending, and to continue to get onto the perfectly sensible target of 3% of GDP for a deficit which was the rule I had when I was Chancellor.”

The Treasury’s projections in the pre-Budget report show that the Government is set to reduce the “Treaty deficit” – the preferred EU measure – to 4.6 per cent by 2014-15. Given projected nominal GDP of £1,841 billion in 2014-15 (Table B1), the implied reduction of 1.6 per cent of GDP is equivalent to £29.5 billion.

On Today, Clarke got confused about whether the Conservatives would remove the entire structural deficit or the “bulk” of it. Paul Waugh later tweeted that the shadow business secretary backtracked in an interview on Sky News. Clarke also called on Today for “the kind of public spending round that I had when I was Chancellor”.

UPDATE 09.31, 17/03:

On her BBC blog, Stephanie Flanders writes:

“On the big macro question of this election – cutting the deficit – the Conservatives have actually given us less detail than Labour. yes, they have offered micro tasters: a few benefit cuts here, a public sector wage freeze there. We haven’t had many of those from the government.

“But on the basic question of how much they hope to cut the deficit over five years, Labour has a clear answer. With numbers attached. The Conservatives do not. If Ken Clarke, probably the most experienced – and certainly one of the most economically literate – members of the shadow cabinet, cannot stick to a single answer in the course of a 10-minute interview we can be fairly sure they haven’t got one. Or at least, not one that is ready for prime time.”

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