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Pre-Budget Report

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 3:29 pm on 24th November 2008.

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Photo of George Osborne George Osborne Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 3:29 pm, 24th November 2008

Mr. Campbell is very excited because he has his U-turn on the vehicle excise duty increase, for which he has been campaigning for so long. Unfortunately, it is coming down the track.

Instead of boasting about his bank rescue abroad, the Chancellor could have made sure that he was rescuing the real economy at home. He could have got credit moving through the veins of the economy by telling us that he was directly insuring business lending—to keep small businesses going—instead of storing up tax rises for them in the future. He could have helped the private sector get back on its feet with properly funded help on tax bills and employment costs, instead of piling on them crippling debts and national insurance bills that will take ages to pay off. Instead of yet another phoney efficiency review while public sector waste runs rampant, he could have brought proper restraint and independent oversight to the way that public money is spent. He could have got a grip on Government spending so that in future the state would live within the country's means. That is what we would do and he would not. Instead he offers temporary tax give-aways paid for by a lifetime of tax rises for the British people, the national debt doubled and the future mortgaged to bail out the mistakes of the past.

This is exactly the road Britain is now on with this Prime Minister and this reckless Budget. Far from being an action plan, it represents the greatest failure of public policy for a generation. It will make the recession worse because it will make the recovery more difficult. If Denis Healey had had to announce these figures, he would not have turned around at the airport; he would have kept going—but the right hon. Gentleman did not.

When the Chancellor rises to reply, let him answer just these three straight questions. First, does he accept that the national debt will now double to £1 trillion? Secondly, does he have an explanation for why Britain is forecast to have the worst recession of any major economy? And will he confirm that families will be worse off because the tax cuts he announces are temporary, while the larger tax rises are permanent? I know that he will not want to answer those questions, but the choice at the next election could not be clearer. A record— [Interruption.] A record borrowing binge and a lifetime of tax rises under Labour, or fiscal sanity, and lower taxes that last, under the Conservatives.

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