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I rather wish that I had not given way for that intervention, but, frankly, it says more about the hon. Gentleman than about the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, whom I regard as having the greater stature because of what he has done.
I am amazed that the shadow Chancellor can conclude that severe action did not need to be taken to deal with our deficit. If we had not begun to take such action, the international markets would have taken the lead. Spot interest rates and bond rates would rise sharply. The cost of financing the huge deficit that we inherited would rise substantially. Business failures would accelerate. Unemployment would rise. Ultimately, by not taking the action that we have taken, we would return to recession. I completely take the opposite view from that of Opposition Members, who have said that we do not need to deal with deficit in the way we have now done.
Those siren voices of the Opposition would have led us into greater trouble than we are in now. What we see from the Opposition is a legacy where the gap between the rich and the poor grew in their 13 years in government. I would be bitterly disappointed if the Government's actions do not lead to the economy being immeasurably stronger in five years' time. We can then start to reduce that gap and put money into poor communities, exactly as Huw Irranca-Davies wants us to do, so that we can start to benefit some of the poorest people in society.
It was a huge tribute to the Chancellor that he said time after time yesterday that he wanted to bring the bottom of this country nearer to the top, with some of the measures that underlie the Budget-for example, how he will deal with the state pension. Opposition Members had 13 years to deal with the state pension. More than 1 million pensioners had to go grovelling to the Government and to fill in huge forms to get pension credit. We have now promised that everyone will receive a pension increase linked to earnings, prices or 2.5%, whichever is higher. That is real promise. Pensioners can now look forward to receiving at least a 2.5% increase from 2011.
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