Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would allow me to make a little progress first. [Interruption.] I am not giving way now, but I promise that I will do so. I might even say something that he likes; one never knows. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, I do not think that anyone on either the Conservative Benches or the Liberal Democrat Benches is filled with any enthusiasm for increasing VAT. However, I am not going to rehearse all those arguments, because we know that Labour left the finances in a far worse state than we originally anticipated. The structural deficit is £12 billion greater than we were led to believe, so whichever way we look at it, the options are invidious. A VAT increase has therefore had to be the least worst option, as my hon. Friend has said. There are mitigating factors, because the VAT rise will not come into effect until 2011. Therefore there will be a short-term boost; consumers who want to spend money, particularly on large items, will be able to do so before that increase comes into effect.
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