MPs worried by poor prospects for economy

Cross party pessimism that the higher than expected inflation levels will drop in the next 12 months

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Indy Politics

Anxiety about the flatlining British economy among Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs has emerged in a ComRes survey for The Independent.

The poll of 158 MPs from all parties suggested they are jittery about prospects for economic growth, unemployment and inflation in the next 12 months. Although gloom among Labour MPs would be expected as they cast doubt on George Osborne's economic strategy, concerns among Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs will worry ministers.

The findings suggest Nick Clegg could come under pressure from his backbenchers this autumn to demand a change of course unless growth picks up. Official figures announced on Tuesday showed the economy grew just 0.2 per cent in the second quarter.

A majority (58 per cent) of the Liberal Democrat MPs polled believe growth will stay the same over the coming year, while only 32 per cent think it will improve. While two out of three Tory MPs (64 per cent) predict growth will improve, one in three (32 per cent) believes it will remain flat. Only 4 per cent of Labour MPs think the economy will grow faster and 62 per cent say it will get worse.

The findings mean 37 per cent of MPs expect growth to pick up, while 35 per cent think it will remain flat and 27 per cent that it will get slower. Mr Clegg's MPs are also nervous about the jobless figures. Twice as many (54 per cent) believe that unemployment will stay the same over the next year than think it will fall (28 per cent), while 18 per cent predict it will rise.

Fewer than half (47 per cent) of Tory backbenchers believe that unemployment will fall, while 34 per cent say it will stay the same and 19 per cent see it growing. More than 90 per cent of Labour MPs say dole queues will get longer.

MPs from all parties are pessimistic that the higher than expected level of inflation will drop in the next 12 months. Forty-seven per cent of Tories and 42 per cent of Liberal Democrats say it will stay the same and only a quarter of MPs in both parties think it will fall.

Today ministers will seek to answer criticism that the Government lacks a "growth strategy" to boost the frail recovery.

They will announce plans to scrap a raft of "ridiculous" business regulations, including the need for shops to obtain an alcohol licence to sell chocolate liqueurs, the wartime Trading With The Enemy Act, and rules covering the safety of prams and pencils. The age limit for buying Christmas crackers will be reduced from 16 to the European Union minimum of 12.

Business Secretary Vince Cable announced that 130 out of the 257 regulations covering retail firms will be scrapped, and a further 30 will be simplified as part of the Government's "red tape challenge", which will eventually review more than 20,000 regulations across British industry.

"We have heard these promises by successive governments before," Mr Cable commented. "But these first proposals from the red tape challenge show that we're serious and we are making real progress," he added.