Belfast Telegraph

Tories set out targets with pledge to save AAA credit rating

Shadow chancellor George Osborne has committed an incoming Conservative government to preserving Britain's triple-A credit rating, as he set out eight key benchmarks against which voters should judge its handling of the economy.

Mr Osborne acknowledged it was a 'very tough' challenge. The Tories would have to use an emergency budget within 50 days of taking office to reassure the bond markets they can regain control of state finances.

The Conservatives claim Labour's failure to deliver credible plans to reduce Britain's £178bn borrowing has raised the threat of a downgrade in the rating. But Mr Osborne's benchmarks omitted a target for cutting the deficit and the shadow chancellor said only that he would eliminate 'a large part' of it within the first Parliament.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown defended the rise in state borrowing. He told the House of Commons Liaison Committee: "Those people who want to cut the deficit immediately and cut it very fast are making a mistake with the economy, which needs the level of support we are giving it."

The Conservatives envisage an economy based on long-term saving and investment, with a private sector recovery driven by exports and enterprise, said Mr Osborne.