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I noticed that the spin on Tuesday morning was that council tax was to be frozen in England next year. By the time of the speech, however, the Chancellor was saying that if local authorities did certain things, he would see what he could do to help them, which is not quite the same.
Let me put some questions to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. On the Chancellor's proposed levy on the banks, will the Secretary of State tell us precisely what the French and German Governments propose to do? I, too, had discussions with my French and German counterparts, but it was not always clear that they were proposing to do precisely what we might have done. Things have clearly developed, and I would like to know what those developments are.
The Chancellor announced measures to help development outside London and the south-east. He mentioned regional funds and other help, so will the Business Secretary give us further details? The Chancellor also mentioned that he wanted to change the approach to pensions tax relief. He made the point that the Labour Government had had a number of discussions; legislation went through on the nod, I think, just before Dissolution. Does the Chancellor's alternative mean reduced annual allowances? My recollection is that that would affect far more people than we proposed to affect, and is therefore less progressive?
People are right to be concerned about the overall thrust of the Budget in relation to the effect on growth and jobs. Yes, we need to get borrowing down-we all know that-but we must do it in a way that is sensible and will result in us coming through all the problems and being able to grow and secure jobs in the future. The Budget also fails the fairness test. Over the next few weeks and months, we will consider yesterday's announcement and, equally importantly, the cuts to departmental spending. The Business Secretary's Department is not protected. Perhaps he will say what the effect of a reduction of a quarter in his budget would be, given that he is responsible for science, universities and business support.
We will return to those big questions. Like all Budgets, this one will be judged in the fullness of time. We are coming through a difficult period, and the action taken by the Labour Government was totally justified. We must be careful not to derail that effort and end up undoing all the work done over the past few years.
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