Danny Alexander has admitted the UK's economic recovery has been "choppier" than expected but said it was important to stick to the Government's plan for deficit reduction.
After official figures showed the UK's GDP grew just 0.2% in the second quarter of 2011, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury defended the Coalition's economic policy. He told the BBC on Sunday the road to economic recovery would be "long and difficult".
"We always said that recovering from the deepest recession that we've had for many decades, with the largest budget deficit that we've seen for a very long time was going to be choppy and I think probably the waters have been choppier than anyone expected. We've seen big headwinds in the global economy, rising oil prices, rising commodity prices. All those things have an impact on the British economy."
He blamed problems in the "global economy" for slow growth in the UK but admitted it was a concern: "Of course we're concerned about the situation in the economy. That's what we spend every day, every hour of every day working on."
The Liberal Democrat minister also said senior Conservatives calling for a change in the 50p tax rate were living in "cloud cuckoo land". Both Boris Johnson and former Chancellor Lord Lamont have called for the top rate to be abolished in recent days.
Alexander told the BBC: "We set out in the Coalition agreement, and it's something that we as Liberal Democrats pushed very hard for, that the Government's first priority in tax reductions would be tax cuts for people on low and middle incomes. Those very families who are working hard to try and make ends meet. Anyone who thinks we're going to shift our priority to reducing the tax burden for the wealthiest has got another thing coming."