Lib Dem conference: Clegg to defend spending cuts

The government will not change course on spending cuts, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is to tell the Liberal Democrat conference. In his leader's speech, due to start shortly, Mr Clegg will stress that boosting growth is a top priority. Despite the public spending squeeze, he will say the government is not "helpless" to halt rising unemployment. The Treasury has denied BBC reports ministers are considering £5bn in new spending to kick-start the UK economy. The comments come after the International Monetary Fund cut its growth forecast for the British economy and said the government should delay its deficit reduction programme if growth slowed further. 'Right thing' The coalition has already brought forward spending on some infrastructure projects but BBC political editor Nick Robinson said cabinet ministers were in the early stages of discussions about injecting £5bn extra into the economy to boost growth. Ministers pushing for such a move believe it would not be seen as a U-turn as the money would be capital spending, on infrastructure projects like roads, rail and broadband, rather than current spending. But the story was immediately denied by the Treasury and Lib Dem cabinet ministers Danny Alexander and Chris Huhne, who both said they "did not recognise" that figure. Government borrowing was £1.9bn higher in August than a year ago, figures published on Wednesday showed, but Mr Alexander insisted ministers were still on track to meet their 2011 deficit target. "We will stick to the plan to reduce the deficit because of the scale of the problem we face," Mr Alexander told the BBC's Daily Politics. 'Long, hard road' Mr Clegg will focus strongly on the economy in his speech, saying the government must do "the right thing not the easy thing", but he will not announce any new measures to boost growth. "The recovery is fragile," he will say. "Every worker, every family knows there is a long, hard road ahead. But we are not in politics just to repair the damage done by Labour, to glue back the pieces of the old economy. "We need to build a new economy. A new economy for the whole nation." Labour have urged the government to cut VAT, tax bankers' bonuses and reinstate their school building programme to stimulate demand in the economy and create jobs for young people. Mr Clegg will also use the speech to reassure party members they remain a distinct political force and that commitments on reducing the tax burden of the lowest-paid, providing more money for the most disadvantaged pupils and restoring the link between earnings and pensions, have been delivered.