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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Brown 'ducking and diving' over economy

The UK economy is "badly imbalanced" and at the mercy of government spin, Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor has claimed.


The reality is that instead of being a prudent chancellor, Gordon Brown is flying by the seat of his pants

Matthew Taylor
In the first keynote speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, Mr Taylor said Chancellor Gordon Brown was "flying by the seat of his pants" with his stewardship of the economy.

He said businesses competing with those in the Eurozone were in crisis, with the economy kept going by increased government spending and consumer debt.

He said: "We have output back to 1995 levels. Employment in manufacturing down half a million since 1997.

"Manufacturing investment below the levels of five years ago. The deepest manufacturing recession since 1981.

'Silent prisoner'

"The reality is that instead of being a prudent chancellor, Gordon Brown is flying by the seat of his pants."

Mr Taylor said Prime Minister Tony Blair was Mr Brown's "silent prisoner" over the euro.

"The five economic tests are so vague the chancellor can say they are met or not met any time he likes," he said.

He said: "Our position on the euro is clear. If Britain votes to join the euro, British jobs and living standards will be more secure."

But Mr Taylor said there was a need for reforms of European economic structures in order to build UK confidence in Europe.

Drift

He said there must be an open debate on the euro rather than the "duck and dive" approach he said the government were adopting.

Turning to public services, Mr Taylor said the government had lost touch with frontline workers such as teachers and nurses.

He said: "(Labour) have drifted so far out of touch that they cannot understand why millions of decent public service employees are up in arms."

He said the answer was to decentralise control and give local people more control over spending and strategy.

And he went on to attack the Conservative Party's attempts to appeal to the vulnerable in society, saying the Tories were the "destroyer" of public services.


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