Deputy PM Clegg optimistic for the future

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DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited Sheffield to hold a question and answer session with sixth formers in his constituency - after telling of the Government’s determination to pay off the national debt and create “a new model of sustainable economic growth”.

The Sheffield Hallam MP and Liberal Democrat leader met youngsters at Tapton School, yesterday afternoon, to answer questions and hear their views on the coalition’s policies.

Hours earlier, Mr Clegg made a speech during a visit to AMP Technology, on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, where he said the Government inherited crippling debt and a “failed economic model” from Labour, fuelled by debt and overly reliant on financial services.

He outlined the Government’s ambition to “rebalance” the UK economy, diversifying into sectors other than finance, spreading economic activity across the whole country and encouraging “green” sustainable growth.

But in his own speech yesterday, Labour leader Ed Miliband accused the Government of using children and teenagers as soft targets for spending cuts.

Mr Clegg, who had been presented with reports from AMP about the latest carbon capture technology which aims to remove carbon dioxide from industrial emissions, acknowledged figures showing the economy shrank in the last three months of 2010, were “disappointing” and conceded Britain faces “a long, hard road back to prosperity”.

But he insisted there are “strongly positive signs” in manufacturing, construction and services, adding: “Things are difficult, but it is not all doom and gloom.”

Mr Clegg rejected accusations from Labour and business that the Government has not done enough to foster economic growth, particularly by failing to publish a Growth White Paper in the autumn.

He said: “We are determined to foster a new model of economic growth, and a new economy - one built on enterprise and investment, not unsustainable debt. We seek nothing less than a new model of sustainable growth.”

“If the coalition Government simply pays off the deficit, but leaves the underlying economy unchanged, we will have failed. We are in government to lay the foundations of a better, stronger economy.”

Labour leader and Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband said yesterday the UK has its own version of the American dream - the ‘British Promise’ that each generation will enjoy more opportunities than the previous one.

But he said the future of young people was threatened by a combination of coalition cuts to initiatives ranging from Sure Start to Educational Maintenance Allowances, and policies such as student fees.