Senior Cabinet ministers are embroiled in a blame game over who is responsible for the lack of economic growth.
George Osborne challenged colleagues at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting to explain why they are not 100 per cent focused on getting the economy moving.Today Labour leader Ed Miliband said in the Commons: ‘They were at each other like rats in a sack.’In a sign of the Chancellor’s unease at the state of the economy ahead of his mini-Budget next week, he warned too many departments do not think they are responsible for jobs and growth.
David Cameron also voiced his frustration during the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday, complaining at slow progress in delivering major transport and broadband projects.But some in Whitehall believe the Cabinet ambush is an attempt to deflect blame for the lack of growth ahead of next Wednesday’s Autumn Statement when more grim forecasts are expected to be published.Yesterday the influential Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) downgraded its forecast for growth in the UK.
In May it had predicted the economy would grow by 1.9 per cent in 2013 but now it thinks it will only expand by 1 per cent. Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King warned of ‘a slow and protracted recovery’.The Office for National Statistics yesterday confirmed that the UK economy grew by 1 per cent over the summer 2012.The Prime Minister has put Whitehall on an economic ‘war footing’, insisting normal rules need not apply in the battle for growth.‘I want every department in Whitehall to be a growth department,’ he said in a speech at the CBI last week.
‘And I want every Minister and every official to understand that the dangers are not just in what you do but what you don’t do – that the costs of delay are felt in businesses going bust, jobs being lost, livelihoods being destroyed.’But anger at some ministers dragging their feet erupted at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, with individual ministers singled out of criticism.Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Business Secretary Vince Cable were among those targeted.
Downing Street is growing increasingly frustrated that some ministers do not think it is their responsibility to react to the economic threat posed y the likes of China and Brazil.Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is under pressure after his flagship £5billion Work Programme helped just 2.3 per cent of participants into a long-term job in its first year.A No. 10 source said: ‘The PM and Chancellor are a hundred per cent focused on making sure Britain succeeds in the global race.
‘We have countries around the world like China, India and Brazil, that are forging ahead, and we can’t afford to have UK government departments not doing everything they can to support economic growth.’Culture Secretary Maria Miller was in the firing line for delays in delivering high speed broadband to the whole country, though she countered that Mr Osborne was using out of date figures.At Prime Minister Question’s today, Mr Miliband seized on reports of the Cabinet blame game.
‘Look, we know in reality what happened in yesterday’s cabinet – they were at each other like rats in a sack… the Prime Minister is doing what he does best – he is blaming everyone else for a failure.’Mr Miliband attacked Mr Cameron: ‘His welfare programme is failing; his welfare reform programme is failing because there isn’t the work and his economic strategy. He’s got a Work Programme that isn’t working, a growth strategy that is not delivering and a deficit that is rising.’But the PM said Mr Miliband had worked in a Labour government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown ‘where the Prime Minister and the Chancellor couldn’t be in the same room as each other, rats in a sack doesnt’ even do it’. – Dailymail