PRIME Minister David Cameron promised to roll up his sleeves and fight for the country’s economic future as he used a speech in Yorkshire to shape the political battleground ahead of the Budget later this month.
Mr Cameron hit back at criti- cism of his economic policy from his own backbenchers, his coalition partners and the Opposition as he insisted that cutting the deficit, reforming the financial system and improving the UK’s competitiveness was the only path to recovery.
Less than two weeks before Chancellor George Osborne delivers his Budget, Mr Cameron’s speech was a carefully calibrated effort to stifle calls for a significant change of direction.
It also coincided with an intervention from Business Secretary Vince Cable arguing the case for increased borrowing to spend on infrastructure such as schools and roads.
Speaking to an audience of Yorkshire business people at manufacturer Cinetic Landis in Cross Hills, near Keighley, the Prime Minister said: “There are some people who think we don’t have to take all these tough decisions to deal with our debts.
“They say that our focus on deficit reduction is damaging growth And what we need to do is to spend more and borrow more.
“It’s as if they think there’s some magic money tree.
“Well, let me tell you a plain truth: there isn’t.”
Despite his apparent jibe at the Business Secretary’s position, Mr Cameron insisted Mr Cable and he were united in tackling the country’s economic problems.
But he had equally strong words for Conservative backbenchers calling for tax cuts to boost growth, quoting Margaret Thatcher’s insistence that “a tax cut paid for by borrowed money is no tax cut at all”.
“Getting taxes down to help hard-working people can only be done by taking tough decisions on spending.
“That is what we are doing in our plan. And this month’s Budget will be about sticking to the course. Because there is no alternative that will secure our country’s future.”
The Prime Minister highlighted the recent downgrade of the UK’s triple A rating as the “starkest possible reminder” of the problems posed by the country’s debts.
“If we don’t deal with it interest rates will rise, homes will be repossessed and businesses will go bust.
“Even just a one per cent rise in mortgage interest rates would cost the average family £1,000 in extra debt service payments.
“So, there’s not some choice between dealing with our debts and planning for growth.”
Describing the UK as in a “global race”, Mr Cameron said major changes were needed to make the country more competitive in areas such as planning, housing and transport– including the building of the HS2 high speed rail line -– but they would prove unpopular in some quarters.
“Make no mistake, in this battle for the future of Britain, I am prepared to roll up my sleeves and fight,” he added.
Responding to questions from the audience, the Prime Minister defended the Government’s record after it was suggested spending on infrastructure was needed in Yorkshire now rather than on long term projects such as HS2.
Mr Cameron pointed to schemes including electrification of the transpennine rail route and the Leeds trolleybus as examples of projects already going ahead.
He later visited a BT telephone exchange in Pudsey and met a group of the company’s apprentices.
BT yesterday announced the creation of 1,000 jobs, including 50 in Yorkshire, as it rolls out high speed broadband services.