Nick Clegg has used his party conference speech to justify the coalition’s austerity measures but stressed deficit reduction alone will not be enough.
The deputy prime minister told the Liberal Democrat conference that more needs to be done for growith and jobs. However, he stopped short of unveiling any specific new measures to boost the economy.
He said: “Our first big decision was to clear the structural deficit this parliament. To wipe the slate clean by 2015. This has meant painful cuts. Agonisingly difficult decisions. Not easy, but right.
“Deficit reduction lays the foundations for growth. But on its own it is not enough. That’s why we’re already: investing in infrastructure, reducing red tape, promoting skills, getting the banks lending.”
Speculation was rife that Mr Clegg would use his speech to unveil plans to inject £5bn extra into the economy to boost growth following BBC reports last night but the speech makes no mention of such a proposal. The Treasury has dismissed the BBC’s report.
Mr Clegg said the coalition wanted to “build a new economy” which would be safe from casino speculation; protect savers, the environment and the low paid.
He also panned Labour’s handling of the economy. Britain should “never ever be trust Labour with the economy again”, he said adding that the last government had left the nation “teetering on the edge of an economic precipice”.
The need for the coalition to identify a creditable growth strategy intensified further after the International Monetary Fund called on chancellor George Osborne to prepare a Plan B and re-think the austerity drive if economic growth continues to fall.
The Liberal Democrat leader also sought to justify broken manifesto pledges, describing the infamous tuition fees U-turn as “heart wrenching”.
“Government has brought difficult decisions. Of course the most heart wrenching for me, for all of us, was on university funding. Like all of you, I saw the anger. I understand it. I felt it. I have learned from it. And I know how much damage this has done to us as a party. By far the most painful part of our transition. From the easy promises of opposition to the invidious choices of government,” he said.