East Anglia: Task of rebalancing economy ‘not yet done’, Kenneth Clarke warns
PUBLISHED: 18:53 30 January 2014 | UPDATED: 18:53 30 January 2014
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The job of rebalancing the UK economy is not yet complete despite the upturn in growth, a senior Government minister said during a visit to Suffolk today.
Former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, who is currently Minister Without Portfolio within the Cabinet, highlighted the need for the UK to improve its export performance in order to ensure a broadly-based and sustainable recovery.
He was speaking on the same day that Lord Livingston, the Government’s new Trade Minister (who as Ian Livingston was previously chief executive of BT) made his first ministerial visit to the eastern region, to promote a new Government drive to boost exporting by medium-sized firms.
“We have to continue not only to come out of the deepest economic crisis we have seen in recent times but to create a competitive modern economy for the benefit of the future generation as well as our own,” said Mr Clarke.
“There is a comparison to be made with Germany where many more medium-sized businesses are engaged in exporting. Governments can accidentally concentrate on big multi-nationals and on smaller businesses. Ian is very much putting his emphasis on the medium-sized sector.”
Mr Clarke said that, relative to the scale of the “calamity” the UK economy had suffered, the present recovery was one the strongest, if not the strongest, among the western democracies. However, to ensure a lasting and sustainable recovery, there needed to be an emphasis on entrepreneurship.
“The consumer-led element of the recovery is not a matter of concern in itself but it does underline the fact that we still need to reblance the economy. That job is not yet done,” he said. “Manufacturing is growing but we need to accelerate that; we still have to improve our export peformance and we still have to improve our skills performance.
“We also have to carry on getting the Government finances in order and cutting debt to a sustainable level,” said Mr Clarke. “When you have fiscal problems you have to sort them, and they are not sorted out yet, although hopefully the worst is over.”
And, in a side swipe at Labour leader Ed Miliband’s plan to reintroduce a 50% tax rate, he added: “We also need reasonable tax levels, not symbolic tax levels.”
Mr Clarke was speaking at the Aurora restaurant on the Ipswich Waterfront at the inaugural meeting of the Ipswich and Suffolk Business Club which has been launched to build on the success of a number of business lunches hosted by Ipswich MP Ben Gummer last year.
It aims to bring together senior business leaders to discuss key issues affecting local firms and to help drive growth. Members will receive a free place at four lunch or dinner events to be held during the year, each with a high-profile speaker,
Following today’s lunch, Mr Clarke and Mr Gummer visited Ipswich-based energy company Haven Power, with the Minister then heading for Norwich for tonight’s edition of the BBC’s Question Time programme.