Blair praises Chancellor's 'excellent job'

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Indy Politics

Chancellor Gordon Brown presented his pre-Budget report to Cabinet colleagues - with the praises of the Prime Minister ringing in his ears.

Chancellor Gordon Brown presented his pre-Budget report to Cabinet colleagues - with the praises of the Prime Minister ringing in his ears.

Tony Blair told the 45-minute meeting of ministers that Mr Brown had "done an excellent job" in steering the country through difficult times and preparing a platform for the next election.

Mr Brown is due to present his report to MPs in the Commons this afternoon after disclosing to ministers its contents for the first time at this morning's meeting.

Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "The Prime Minister said that the Chancellor had always set out the importance of stability and steady growth as an objective of our economic policy and that he had done an excellent job in steering us through a difficult passage in the economic cycle and given us a legitimate claim to the mantle of economic competence and that was hugely important to the success of the Government and the country."

The spokesman added that Mr Blair had emphasised to the meeting: "The key to the whole of the pre-Budget report and the Queen's Speech is enterprise for all, fairness for all.

"Having laid the foundations our goal was to create a more competitive and stable economy and one in which potential of all was developed."

Downing Street also disclosed that Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling would also be making a statement to MPs on benefits uprating, following the Chancellor's report.

The Government has been under fire because the low rate of inflation in autumn this year means that pensions and other benefits are due to rise next year only by minimal amounts.

Mr Brown's statement to a packed Commons this afternoon is likely to last about 30 minutes.

Ministers earlier today insisted it would not herald the start of a pre-election public spending spree - despite pressure from unions, and some Labour and Opposition MPs.

Unison general secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe said with the Treasury uprating its long-term "trend" growth forecast and tax revenues coming in more strongly than anticipated, Mr Brown could afford to act.

"We are not asking him to put everything at risk," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"If there is any money around you have got to raise morale, you have got to do something about the public services."

However, Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers said Mr Brown would not jeopardise the economic recovery by relaxing his grip on the public finances.

"We are not going to make the mistake that has been made in the past, which is, as soon as we see economic growth coming along, we relax our fiscal discipline," he told the programme.

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