Nick Clegg vows economy projects boost

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today pledged to boost the flagging economy by pushing through major infrastructure projects like rail, road and broadband.







Warning that the global economic climate had worsened dramatically over the past six months, Mr Clegg said that the Government would not "sit on our hands" in the face of rising unemployment and sluggish growth.



Each of 40 hand-picked projects will be given priority status and "rigorously examined by ministers to make sure there are no delays, no blockages, and we get these projects delivered", he promised.



Far from being a "one-off shock", the banking crisis of 2008 set off a "chain reaction that continues to reverberate around the globe", said the Deputy Prime Minister in a speech at the London School of Economics.



And he added: "The reality we face is stark; there is now little margin for error. But that does not mean we are helpless. It does not mean we intend to sit on our hands while the economy falters."



Chancellor George Osborne led a Cabinet discussion on the latest economic situation yesterday at which ministers were reportedly given a direct warning that they must rein in spending.



The Financial Times said Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander issued a clear message to colleagues that overspending departments would not be bailed out by the reserve.



But Mr Clegg said that his Lib Dem colleague was also "shaking the Whitehall tree, making sure no one is stockpiling capital that can be put to good use today" to fund infrastructure.



"Since we came into government, ministers have been expected to make savings," said Mr Clegg. "Now they're under the same pressure to spend the money they've got."



He promised a "gear change" in efforts to get huge state-backed projects such as rail, road and broadband improvements funded and under way.



Labour's Treasury spokeswoman Angela Eagle was dismissive of Mr Clegg's comments.



"Nick Clegg says that the Government is not going to sit on its hands while the economy falters, but that is exactly what he and George Osborne are doing," said Ms Eagle.



"His speech today merely says Ministers will turn up for work and make sure those projects which haven't been cut are delivered on time. No investment is being brought forward to support jobs and the stalled economy now and the Government is simply pressing ahead with cuts and tax rises that go too far and too fast."



Mr Clegg denied that he was signalling a rift within the Cabinet over whether to introduce a "Plan B" with priority given to growth over deficit reduction.



"This is not a lurch in any direction, still less a great revelation of some ideological debate going on about our economic policy," he said.



"Our strategy has always been firstly in creating a fiscal context in which Government could at least be masters of our own destiny."

PA

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