'This Is Really Basic': BBC Presenter Schools Treasury Minister On Economics In Car Crash Interview

Evan Davis was left "amazed" by Laura Trott's answers during the excruciating exchange.
Leon Neal via Getty Images

The cabinet minister in charge of government spending has been accused of lacking a “basic” understanding of economics during a car-crash interview.

Laura Trott, the chief secretary to the Treasury, repeatedly claimed debt was falling as a proportion of GDP.

This was despite figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) which project it is rising.

According to the official fiscal watchdog, debt will rise from 89% of GDP in 2023-24 to 93.2% in 2026-27.

It will then decline in the final two years to 92.8% cent of GDP by 2028-29

In an interview with Evan Davis on BBC Radio 4′s PM programme, Trott was asked how the government could cut taxes without breaking a pledge to reduce debt.

Trott, the second most senior Treasury minister after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, said: “One of our fiscal rules is debt needs to be falling over the five year fiscal forecast as a percentage of GDP - which it is.”

Davis, a former economist and economics correspondent, told her: “No, it’s higher in five years than now.”

“Not as a percentage of GDP,” Trott replied.

But Davis said: “Yeah, it’s higher. It’s going up.

“Debt goes up. It falls at the end of five years a little bit. That doesn’t mean debt is going down. It means debt is going up. It’s higher in five years than now.”

The veteran BBC radio presenter added: “This is really basic.”

“I’m amazed you don’t know that debt is rising.”

Trott, a close ally of Rishi Sunak, said: “I’m not sure.. I think...

“I need to have the figures... I’ve got different figures... which I just.. which.. so I think we just need to.”

But a Treasury spokesperson said: “There are different measures of public debt.

“Public sector net debt (PSND) is forecast to fall over the next five years by the OBR.

“PSND ex Bank of England is forecast to fall in the final year of the forecast meeting our fiscal rules with double the headroom compared to March 2023.

“It is only right we pay down the debts we incurred from the hundreds of billions of pounds of support we spent protecting people from the effects of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, rather than leaving it to our children and grandchildren to pick up the tab.”

Sunak made reducing debt one of his five pledges to voters at the start 2023.

At the end of last year the prime minister was slammed by the official UK statistics watchdog for wrongly claiming that debt was falling when it was not.


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