George Osborne Says Economy Still Strugglingec

The Chancellor tells Sky News the UK’s recovery remains fragile and insists a promised EU referendum is not damaging business.

19:07, UK, Monday 23 March 2015

The Chancellor has admitted the UK’s economic problems are not over and there is “lots more work to do”.

George Osborne also insisted Britain should be “in Europe, but not run by Europe” as he defended the Government’s decisions on a range of issues including savers and zero hours contracts.

Mr Osborne was answering questions at Sky News’ Ask The Chancellors event at Facebook’s central London offices.

He said while the economy was improving there remained problems that needed to be “fixed”.

“Although our economy is recovering and although we grew faster than almost any other major country in the world last year and although we have got a lot of people in work now, it is still a very difficult economic situation out there,” he said.

That is why interest rates are so much lower than they have been in other times in our nation’s recent history.

“So let’s not think the problems are over. Not for one second do I think problems in the British economy are fixed. There’s lots more work to do. The job isn’t finished.”

He also dismissed the idea firms were being put off investing in the UK because David Cameron had promised a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

He said: “We are getting more investment than any other EU country.”

But he added it was essential there was EU reform, saying:  “We’ve got to make sure the whole of Europe, Britain included, reforms … Our view, which is we want to be in Europe but not run by Europe, is where I think the majority of British people are, and the majority of British businesses are.

“And we want a better deal for the whole of Europe. We should not be happy with the fact there are so many unemployed young people across our continent … we also want a better deal for Britain.

“We’re not in the euro. We need a proper relationship with the members who are in the euro, and that’s what we intend to achieve.”

Mr Osborne was answering questions at Sky News’ Ask The Chancellors event at Facebook’s central London offices.

 

He said the economy had “had a heart attack” and the coalition had managed to get it back on track and was ready to “finish the job”.

He admitted more homes need to be built to help young people get on the housing ladder – but said the Government had introduced a number of measures to help first-time buyers.

“The reason why the housing market stopped building things is because the economy fell off a cliff,” he said.

Mr Osborne said there was “no silver bullet” to solve the problem, but there were measures the Government had announced at last week’s Budget, including Help To Buy schemes and an ISA aimed at helping young people save for a deposit.

He said: “I’m absolutely passionate about people having homes to buy and to rent for themselves.”

While Mr Osborne admitted savers had got a bad deal out of historically low interest rates, he said: “I don’t think increasing interest rates just to help savers would help the rest of the economy.”

He was also quizzed about zero-hour contracts, and said they have been “abused” by employers.

“I think the biggest abuse you get is exclusivity,” he said.

“So someone is on a zero-hours contract, but their company will not let them work for any other company, even though they’re not guaranteed any hours of work.

“So a law has now gone through Parliament, which we’ve introduced, to stop that happening.”

The Chancellor was asked questions by an audience of key opinion formers, including entrepreneurs and small business owners.

His Labour counterpart Ed Balls has also faced questions from the same audience this afternoon.

The event follows on from similar question and answer sessions for party leaders including David Cameron and Ed Miliband.

The clash comes at a crucial time, with the latest Sky News projection of seat numbers suggesting the two main parties are well short of the 326 seats they need for an overall majority.