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No giveaways in 2010 Budget, says Darling

21 March 10 12:12 GMT

Chancellor Alistair Darling has reiterated there will be no "giveaways" ahead of the general election, as he prepares to deliver Wednesday's Budget.

"People want to see a sensible, workmanlike Budget," Mr Darling told the BBC.

He added the Budget would emphasise measures to encourage private sector investment and secure long-term economic growth.

He also said that a rise in VAT was "not on the table".

Securing growth

"There is no question of giveaways," Mr Darling said.

"The mood of the times is not for giveaways. People are not daft, they know perfectly well that we need to get borrowing down and secure [economic] recovery."

Mr Darling said there had been signs recently that the economy was improving, with unemployment falling and government borrowing lower than forecast.

But he said there was still a lot of uncertainty, so the Budget would focus on securing future economic growth.

Despite the need cut government borrowing dramatically, Mr Darling stressed the need for the UK's taxation system to remain internationally competitive. To this end, he said there would be no rise in VAT.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Philip Hammond, also speaking to the BBC, said the Conservatives would also favour spending cuts as opposed to tax rises to cut debt levels.

"The burden of adjustment has to be on the spending side," he said.

Deficit cuts

The government plans to halve the budget deficit - which is one of the highest in Europe and is expected to hit about 12.6% of GDP this financial year, well above the European Union (EU) target of 3% - over the next four years.

Last week, the EU criticised the plans for not being ambitious enough.

The Conservatives also argue that cuts need to be made more quickly.

But figures released on Thursday showed that government borrowing for the year to the end of March is running at £132bn for the year-to-date, suggesting that full-year borrowing could come in well below the government's forecast of £178bn.

There had been some suggestions that lower borrowing could give the chancellor some room for pre-election giveaways.

March figures show that 2.45 million people in the UK are unemployed, 33,000 fewer than February's figure.

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