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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 Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Chancellor of the Exchequer 3:29 pm, 24th November 2008

The hon. Gentleman is right about one thing: there is a very clear choice before the country today—and that is between a Government who are prepared to help people and help businesses and an Opposition who are prepared to do absolutely nothing to help. [Interruption.] He was also right to say that we have chosen to take a different path. We have taken a path that will help businesses, help pensioners and ensure that everyone is helped through a reduction in VAT. At no point in the hon. Gentleman's intervention did he even mention pensioners or children or families. He had absolutely nothing to say.

The hon. Gentleman then warned about repeating the mistakes made by Japan. The mistakes made by Japan in the early 1990s were precisely to follow the course of action that he is advocating today. I know that because a Japanese Finance Minister told me that those were the mistakes that his country made. You would have thought, Mr. Speaker, that at this stage of a Parliament, when we have seen countries all over the world recognising that action needs to be taken to support the economy, the shadow Chancellor would have had at least one suggestion to make to help people out of this difficulty. Instead, he has absolutely nothing.

It appears that the shadow Chancellor is against the reduction in VAT. At least he has gone a bit further than the Leader of the Opposition, who was unable to tell Andrew Marr on Sunday whether he was for or against reducing VAT. The shadow Chancellor has nothing to say about the help that we are giving to businesses. Instead, all he is saying is that, faced with today's difficulties, which are recognised the world over, he is not prepared to take any action.

In some ways, that should be no surprise. This is the shadow Chancellor whose judgment led him to back a call to get rid of mortgage protection regulation just before the problems arose in the housing market. He is the one who said that the International Monetary Fund would not support the idea of a fiscal stimulus across the world, only a day before the IMF said that that was precisely what was necessary. This is the man who said that the Bank of England could not cut interest rates because of our policy, just a week before it cut interest rates by the largest amount for many, many years. [Interruption.]

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