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As my hon. Friend says from a sedentary position, the discussions were refreshing, to say the least. I think there is another sale on at the moment.
The debate was about how to resolve the deficit that has arisen as a result of the credit crunch and the economic crisis that we face. Clearly, the division was around the level of reductions in public expenditure required and the time scale for their implementation. There was fierce debate about the level of public expenditure decreases and their implications for jobs losses, cuts in services and the impact on communities.
What was absent from the debate was a discussion of increasing tax revenues as an alternative to cuts. Everyone appreciated that the deficit needs to be reduced. There was some agreement, even across Benches, on some cuts, particularly with regard to ID cards and, perhaps, Trident. With regard to cuts in education and welfare benefits, however, there were strong differences. We need to look again at tax avoidance and evasion. There has been confusion about definitions in previous debates. Tax evasion is defined closely as the illegal non-payment or under-payment of taxes, usually resulting from the making of false declarations, or from no declarations of taxes to tax authorities, and can result in legal penalties. Tax avoidance is seeking to minimise a tax bill without deliberate deception, but contrary to the spirit of the law.
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