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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 December 2006, 15:49 GMT
Tories play down Brown's claims
George Osborne
George Osborne said Labour could 'only be new once'
The pre-Budget report has failed to deliver a more competitive, global and flexible future for Britain, shadow chancellor George Osborne has said.

Replying to Gordon Brown's report that the economy was growing faster than expected, Mr Osborne said the rate was still slower than in 20 EU nations.

The UK also had higher unemployment, with a larger structural deficit than other major EU countries.

Mr Osborne said the economy was moving "further from the direction" needed.

Mr Brown revised his 2006 economic growth forecast upwards to 2.75%. Last year's Budget prediction had been for 2-2.5%.

'No new answers'

However, Mr Osborne said the chancellor had "buried" on page 198 of the report the fact that he had downgraded the growth forecast for 2008.

Mr Brown, who is widely expected to succeed Tony Blair as prime minister next year, delivered his 10th and possibly final pre-Budget report in the House of Commons.

People say of the chancellor that he's only become green recently. I think that is most unfair. He's been green ever since that meal at Granita's
George Osborne
Shadow chancellor

"With this PBR, like the nine PBRs before it, Britain is moving further from the direction we need to go," Mr Osborne said.

He said Mr Brown was "so obsessed with securing his next job" that he failed to mention the 300,000 people who have lost their jobs.

He also said the chancellor did not address the NHS in the report.

"Today the chancellor had no new answers. He promised to change a gear, but all we got was more of the same."

He had also failed to address the issue of why Britain was losing its competitive edge, according to Mr Osborne.

"The chancellor is trying to persuade the public that he is the change that they're crying out for," Mr Osborne said.

"He lets it be known with nods and winks that he will end the spin and eye-catching initiatives of the Blair years. But let there be no mistake; they were his years too - the Blair-Brown years.

"The years of the clunking fist - the hospital cuts were his cuts, the failing schools are his failures, the pensions which were destroyed were destroyed by him.

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"The truth is this: Labour can only be new once and if the public want change they're going to have to vote for change."

Mr Brown told MPs the UK was performing better than its major competitors, apart from the US, and the country was enjoying the "longest period of sustained growth in our history".

In moves seen as showing his green credentials he announced fuel and air duty increases and plans to scrap stamp duty for some "carbon neutral" homes.

But Mr Osborne mocked his efforts, saying Mr Brown had been green with envy since agreeing at London restaurant Granita in 1994 that Mr Blair, rather than he, would run for the Labour leadership.

"People say of the chancellor that he's only become green recently. I think that is most unfair. He's been green ever since that meal at Granita's.

"But it says something about the state of the Labour Party that Granita has changed its name and is now called Desperadoes."


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