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Budget 'depressing', says ex-minister Digby Jones

Guardian Economics 26th April 2009

The budget was a "disappointment", lacking the vision needed to steer the UK out of the credit crunch and rebuild the economy, former trade minister Lord Jones of Birmingham said this weekend.

Digby Jones, a former director-general of the CBI, said it left him "depressed" and "low". He criticised the chancellor, Alistair Darling, for failing to help low-waged workers, for having a "command economy mentality" and for ducking problems with the public sector.

"The greatest criticism was that there was no vision. The overriding thing was a feeling of disappointment. I was hoping to see leadership," he said. "It is wrong in 21st-century Britain that people who are earning under half the national average wage still pay income tax. If we took them out of the net, that would promote growth and self-sufficiency. I wanted concentration on keeping skilled people in work - but when the economy recovers, we will have to say, 'Oh, all our skilled people are bin men now'. That depressed me."

Referring to the glee among some backbenchers over 50p tax rates, Jones said. "I thought New Labour was about empowering people, not a command economy mentality and the politics of revenge."

"I felt very low about the way the public sector was addressed. If anyone thinks we can pay for it in its current form by any way other than increased taxation, they are living on a different planet. There are some who don't understand the basic economics. It is achievable and desirable to cut spending without harming frontline services: you would have many fewer administrators and save a fortune."

Jones left his post last year after reports, later denied, that he would not support the prime minister in an election.

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