Over the past few weeks since the coalition came into being and the announcement of the Budget, the rhetoric that we have heard has been all about fairness. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor have said on many occasions, "We're all in this together." The other phrase is, "There's no alternative." We have heard the accusation that the previous Labour Government did not have a deficit reduction strategy. Well, this element was a key part of that-£3.6 billion of it.
I am quite sad that only one Government Back Bencher is in the Chamber, and I notice that the Liberal Democrats have not been here throughout this debate. During the election, we heard nothing about the VAT rises, but we also heard nothing about the fact that one of the things that the Government would do in their first Finance Bill would be to give a £3.6 billion tax give-away to the richest 2% of pensioners. I am sure that that would have gone down very badly with the electorate if the Government parties had been honest with us at that time. During the past week, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, in their great coalition together, have been arguing that VAT is not regressive, although a key exception is Andrew George, who has found this policy very difficult. However, one cannot say that the measure we are debating is progressive at all.
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