Britain is overpriced – Osborne


Rising food and fuel prices have hit Britons harder than other Europeans, Chancellor George Osborne has conceded

Chancellor George Osborne has acknowledged that rising food and petrol prices are hitting British consumers harder than those in other countries, but said he hoped that decisions taken at this weekend’s G20 summit would help stabilise inflation.

Mr Osborne agreed that the rise of inflation to 4% was fuelled in part by the falling value of the pound, which he said had come about because Britain was “overpriced in the world” over the past decade when it pursued a growth model based on debt.

But he said that the depreciation of sterling had helped British exporters, who could help “rebalance” the economy towards a new model driven by the manufacture of products for sale abroad. And he made clear that he does not see it as his role, as Chancellor, to try to fix the value of the pound.

Mr Osborne was speaking at the end of a Paris summit where finance ministers of the world’s 20 biggest economic powers struck a compromise deal on indicators to address global imbalances between Western debt and the swollen currency reserves of exporting countries like China.

He said that the UK had won backing from fellow G20 members for its priorities of reducing state deficits and regulating banks.

And in response to Barclays’ announcement that it paid just £113 million in corporation tax on profits of £11.6 billion in 2009, the Chancellor said: “I don’t think banks were paying enough tax under Gordon Brown and Ed Balls. That’s why we introduced the permanent bank tax which will raise £2.5 billion every year.”

Mr Osborne told Channel 4 News there was “no doubt” that the fall in the value of the pound – currently worth around 1.62 US dollars, compared to 2.09 as recently as 2007 – had helped British exporters.

“The depreciation of the currency happened because Britain was overpriced in the world and that rebalancing had to take place. It has the effect of helping rebalance the economy, but of course it also has the effect of pushing up oil and food prices in a way that means those prices have gone up more for British consumers than for some other consumers elsewhere in the world.”

Labour Treasury spokesman Chris Leslie said: “George Osborne has got a cheek. He is the person who is giving the banks a tax cut this year – with a £100 million corporation tax cut and refusing Labour’s calls to repeat last year’s £3.5 billion bank bonus tax.

“The Chancellor is right to say that other countries have challenges with inflation, but he should face up to the fact he is making the problem worse in Britain by hiking up VAT.”

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