Brooks Newmark challenges the Chancellor of the Exchequer to confirm that the Government will be doubling our national debt to more than £1 trillion in just five years.
Mr. Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): Can the Chancellor confirm that Labour will be doubling our national debt in just five years to more than £1 trillion, which is more than 80 per cent. of gross domestic product?
Mr. Darling: It is the case that debt and borrowing will rise. The shadow Chancellor was complaining about what we have done over the past 10 years. We reduced substantially the amount of debt that we inherited from the last Conservative Government, which meant that we are able to spend on front-line services. At the same time, we spent more on public services-on schools, hospitals, police, transport and housing. All those things needed more money after many years of underinvestment. We did increase public spending, but at the same time we reduced debt. Let us consider the position today. Despite all the things that we have had to do to support the economy, our debt will still be less than that of the United States, Japan and Italy. No one wants to be in a position where they have to borrow any more than they need to, and we want to keep debt at as low a level as possible, but to take money out of the economy now at a time like this, if that is what the hon. Member for Braintree (Mr. Newmark-
Mr. Newmark rose-
Mr. Darling: No, sit down. To argue that money should be taken out of the economy now would be completely ridiculous and irresponsible.
Mr. Newmark rose-
Mr. Darling: As I used a slightly stronger tone than I am accustomed to using, I shall certainly give way to the hon. Gentleman again.
Mr. Newmark: I am simply asking the Chancellor to confirm that over five years he will be doubling debt to a sum figure of £1 trillion. Is the answer yes or no?
Mr. Darling: The debt is increasing, as I have said to the hon. Gentleman, just as debt doubled in the 1990s during the recession then. The difference is that because we were able to reduce debt substantially over the past 10 years, when we met the fiscal rules that we set, we have now been able to increase borrowing because it is the right thing to do to support people.