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MPs blast ministers over deficit cut plan

THE government yesterday faced attacks over the lack of detail in its plans to cut Britain’s ballooning budget deficit.

MPs on the influential Treasury Select Committee said ministers had failed to spell out in December’s Pre-Budget Report where the axe would fall in future departmental budgets.

Labour has pledged to halve the deficit in the next four years but, with an election less around four months away, has been reluctant to say exactly how it planned to do it.

Committee chairman John McFall said there was “no good reason” why the Treasury had failed to produce more detailed figures on spending cuts. He urged ministers to do it “sooner rather than later”.

“We consider clarity, even if it is clarity about the degree of uncertainty surrounding the forecasts, is essential,” he said.

The UK is expected to run a deficit of some 12.6 per cent of gross domestic product this tax year, among the highest of any major economy.

Chancellor Alistair Darling said last month it was “neither necessary or sensible” to set out firm spending plans because of global uncertainty.

But the MPs said they felt the Treasury was using uncertainty “to suit themselves” by producing some forecasts as far as 2017-18, but no spending details beyond 2011.

The Conservatives accused the government of undermining international confidence in the UK by failing to get a grip on the deficit.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Philip Hammond said: “The government urgently needs to listen to these warnings, show some leadership, and set out a credible plan.”

Business secretary Peter Mandelson defended the government’s approach, saying Darling’s debt-cutting plan was “bold and tough” and offered more detail about deficit reduction plans than other countries had provided.