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Programme highlights Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 17:00 GMT
Labour defends 'long-term' Budget goals
Gordon Brown and Tony Blair
Does the Budget deliver Labour's long-term agenda?
According to the Treasury's own publicity material - "Investing for the Long Term" - Gordon Brown's message, hammered home again and again, is that nothing he does is for short-term political advantage, and everything for the long-term health of the economy.

But how well does that assertion stand up to scrutiny?

There was hardly any mention of countryside concerns, but there was an apparant encouragent to people to drink, smoke and gamble more.

And on the Euro, there was definitely made no statement about how the economy is matching up to the Maastricht criteria - one of the most important long-term factors in our economic future.

Environmentalists 'let down'

And what did Mr Brown's budget have to say about the environment? On Tuesday, the Prime Minister made a passionate speech expressing his concerns for the environment - and promised that Britain would play a leading role in the long-term battle to fight global warming.

Tony Blair
Critics say Blair has reneged on his pre-Budget green promises

But in his Budget, Mr Brown made 1.7bn worth of concessions to the haulage industry and raised the size of car engine qualifying for lower excise duty. Charles Secrett, director of Friends of the Earth, told the World at One he felt let down.

'Unhealthy' tax freeze

There were also complaints at the apparant inconsistency of announcing extra money for the NHS whilst refusing to increase tax on smokers and drinkers - when their diseases will impose an extra burden on the Health Service.

Sir George Alberti, President of the Royal College of Physicians, called the tax freeze on cigarettes "shameful."

Productivity incentives?

Another problem area is productivity: Gordon Brown repeated in the budget a long-held ambition - to secure the fastest productivity growth among our competitors over the next decade.

cigarettes
Alberti: The inflation-only cigarette duty rise is "shameless"
Productivity in this country is far below that achieved in many European countries, let alone the United States.

The Treasury's Budget documents show that attitudes to Entrepreneurship in Britain are depressingly negative.

The issues are complicated - ranging from too little appropriate education and too much red tape - to the need for more Research and Development, Venture Capital and Banking.

Digby Jones
Jones: Few incentives for productivity gains
Speaking to the World at One, the CBI's Director General Digby Jones welcomed some of the Chancellors announcements, but remained concerned, saying that he was "looking for long-term commitment to productivity."

And on meeting the convergence criteria for joining the euro, the Chancellor has usually taken the opportunity of a Budget to comment on how the economy is matching up. This time such references were absent.

Hear the government's response to these criticisms in our interview with the Social Security Secretary, Alistair Darling.

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 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Social Security Secretary, Alistair Darling, defends Budget
Links to more Programme highlights stories are at the foot of the page.


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