Monday, November 17, 2008

Ken Clarke warns Britain is on the brink of 'meltdown'

Kenneth Clarke, the former Conservative Chancellor, has warned the economy is on the brink of "meltdown" and unemployment could reach three million.

Mr Clarke, 68, said the British economy is headed for a "catastrophic crisis" that will be "far worse than anything that has occurred in my lifetime".

"There will be a very serious recession next year," he said in an interview with Telegraph TV. "I think the big problem in 2009 will be the catastrophic fall in consumer spending demand, spending in shops will get worse."

Mr Clarke, who as Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1993 and 1997 led Britain's recovery from Black Wednesday, called for a temporary cut in VAT to boost spending.

Speaking as the Office of National Statistics revealed unemployment has reached an 11-year high of 1.82m, Mr Clarke said the number of jobless could soon reach three million.

"It is going to go up a long way... whether we will get back to three million again is one of those slightly morbid questions I really don't know the answer to. But it could get pretty big," he said. Rising unemployment will have a "devastating effect" on families and lead to more people being unable to pay their mortgages, he said.

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