Page last updated at 22:05 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Budget 2010: Darling warns of 'no giveaway'

Alistair Darling: "I don't think anyone is expecting a giveaway budget"

Chancellor Alistair Darling has warned people not to expect a "giveaway" when the government's Budget is announced later this month.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Darling said that the Budget would be "sensible" and "reflect the times in which we live".

He reaffirmed his commitment to halve the country's budget deficit over a four-year period.

But he said the government would continue to spend money to support the economy and keep people in jobs.

The Budget will be unveiled on 24 March, with a general election widely expected to be called for early May.

"I don't think anyone's expecting some sort of Christmas-tree-of-a-Budget. They're not going to get anything like that," Mr Darling told the BBC's chief economics correspondent Hugh Pym.

"What you're going to get is a sensible Budget, a Budget for the times in which we live, a Budget for the future of the country."

Recession risk

He called his plans to cut the budget deficit over four years "non-negotiable", arguing that making faster cuts would be harmful to the economy.

"I think that is a sensible rate. To do that more quickly would run the risk… of tipping us back into recession," Mr Darling said.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne appears on Daily Politics

Earlier, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne told the BBC that tax increases would not be needed to achieve the halving of the deficit.

Increases to national insurance contributions, announced in the pre-Budget report last year, meant tax rises were not necessary, he said.

Speaking on the BBC's Daily Politics programme, Mr Byrne confirmed that there would be a comprehensive spending review should Labour win the election.

"By October/November, budgets will be set for the three years ahead," he said.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne criticised Mr Byrne's comments on tax rises.

"It sounds to me like the chief secretary is not really in command of his figures," he told the BBC.

"We haven't heard from Alistair Darling, who's actually the person who's setting out the budget. And that's the problem with this government - lots of hints, leaks, gaffes, but not a clear plan to deal with Britain's debt."

Martin Weale, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, told the BBC that the government's view was "on the optimistic side".

"After the deficit has been halved, it will still be at 6% of GDP," he said.

"If the economy is to be run on a sound basis, that needs to be brought down to zero."

He warned that the next government would have to provide more detail to plans to reduce the deficit, which is expected to rise to £178bn this year.

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