Parliament & Politics: Brown snubs Tory demand for statement

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The Independent Online
THE CHANCELLOR, Gordon Brown, was accused by the Tories of "running scared" of Parliament yesterday over his failure to explain the Government's economic policy in the Commons.

As another manufacturer warned of big job losses, the Conservative leader, William Hague, called for an emergency statement on the impact on the United Kingdom of the global financial downturn.

Mr Hague will use Prime Minister's Question Time today to keep up the pressure on the economy and claim that Mr Brown is facing a pounds 37bn "black hole" in public finances after his revised growth estimates.

The construction and cables company, BICC, warned that at least 200 jobs would go from its plant in North Wales because of lower than expected profits forecasts.

However, Downing Street made clear yesterday that it would stick to its policy of budgeting for long-term stability and dismissed calls for a statement. Tony Blair's official spokesman pointed out that Mr Brown would deliver a speech on the economy to the European Investment Bank tomorrow. He said the Chancellor would not "rush" to the Commons" simply because the Tories had no other means of attracting publicity.

The cabinet "enforcer", Jack Cunningham, also hit back at the Opposition, claiming that Tory spokesmen had issued conflicting statements on whether they wanted more or less spending on public services.

Mr Brown will make his annual pre-Budget statement in the next few weeks, laying out latest details of the Government's finances and forecasts.

The Tories tried last night to raise the stakes on the economy by tabling 19 parliamentary questions to Mr Brown, seeking information on expected revenues and social security spending.