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It is a privilege to make my first speech in this Parliament and to do so from the Government Benches. May I congratulate you, Madam Deputy Speaker, on your election? It is great to see you in the Chair. I also congratulate my hon. Friend Andrew Jones on a splendid maiden speech. He will obviously go on to represent his constituents with great poise and ability.
I should like to pay tribute to my new right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. Far from being the damascene conversion that Opposition Members have mentioned, his ability to meet the top officials in the Treasury and the Bank of England, study the evidence and conclude that he had been wrong in his assessment of how quickly we need to deal with the deficit shows a man of huge stature, to be honest. It is incredible that the shadow Chancellor, who must have been in possession of the same advice, came to a completely different conclusion.
Today's debate has been fairly predictable, and I am certain that if Opposition Members were true to themselves they would say that they know perfectly well that, if they had been elected-God forbid-as the Government of this country, they would have had to take some pretty severe measures to deal with the deficit that we have inherited. I pay tribute to the coalition Government, frankly, for being as brave as they have been. This is an austere and difficult Budget, and every person-rich or poor-in the country will take pain. There is no getting away from that.
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