CBI Conference: Blair declares Iron Chancellor's grip 'here to stay'

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair today declared there would be no "irresponsible spending spree" by the Government in the run up to the next general election.

Tony Blair today declared there would be no "irresponsible spending spree" by the Government in the run up to the next general election.

The Prime Minister, addressing the CBI annual conference in Birmingham, assured business leaders that the Government would not take risks with the economy.

"There will be no risks taken by this Government with this new stability. No irresponsible pre-election spending sprees. No irresponsible switches of policy," he said.

"Gordon Brown is the Iron Chancellor and his iron grip is here to stay."

Mr Blair added: "We have managed to live through this part of the economic cycle without recession, with the lowest inflation and borrowing for many years, with the lowest unemployment for 20 years and we are not going to throw it away."

On Europe, the Prime Minister attacked the "virulent anti-Europeanism" of the Tory right and warned that Conservative proposals for a new opt-out would lead to Britain pulling out of the EU altogether.

"They are unable to name a single country that would support this proposal and it would require unanimous support by all 15 members," he said.

"If they failed to get that support, we would have to leave the EU, as of course many of the supporters of this proposal would like us to do. That would be a disaster for Britain."

Mr Blair backed Chancellor Gordon Brown's comments in his speech yesterday to the conference that joining the euro would depend upon meeting the Government's five economic tests.

"It is the right position for Britain. It keeps our options open. It resolves all the issues of principle. It correctly identifies the crucial test as the national economic interest," he said.

"In principle, a successful single currency within a single European market would be of benefit to Britain - in terms of trade, transparency of costs and current stability.

"But in practice, we can only sensibly join a successful single currency if it is in the best economic interests of Britain to do so.

"We will judge that on the basis of the five tests we have set out and if they are met, we will put that judgment to the people in a referendum. The position of principle is clear. And so are the economic conditions."

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