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Thank you for calling me to speak, Mr Deputy Speaker, and it is good to see you in your new position.
The Government's mantra is that this Budget is both unavoidable and fair, yet more and more evidence demonstrates that exactly the opposite is true. In reality, this Budget is neither unavoidable nor fair: instead, it is a massively failed opportunity to shift the economy into the greener, fairer direction that we need.
Devastating public spending cuts of the kind announced yesterday are not unavoidable. They are not some kind of economic inevitability, but an ideological choice. The reality is that there has been no public debate about the choice between tackling the deficit through cuts or through progressive and radical tax reform. Quite simply, that case has not been put.
That is hugely significant, because the fact that these cuts will have an enormous impact on generations to come means there needs to be a national consensus that they are the right way forward. There is not that national consensus; there is a growing sense of anger and disbelief about the scale of the cuts proposed, as well as a growing sense that the Government have been economical with the truth.
Let us be clear: we are not in the same position as Greece. Our cumulative national debt is not large by international standards. The structure of our debt is very long term-about 14 years. Much of this year's debt will be sold to British-domiciled individuals and companies, so the international sovereign debt crisis has much less impact on us. Those are the truths of the situation.
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