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Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:06 pm on 22nd March 2016.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Conservative, Rushcliffe 2:06 pm, 22nd March 2016

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on reviving the tradition of the Chancellor speaking on the last day of the Budget debate. It is one of the many things that my successor, Gordon Brown, should not have abandoned. I think we will agree it has enlivened the debate very considerably, compared with what usually happens. I also congratulate him on his extremely effective and spirited performance in defence of his Budget. He rightly took pleasure in his achievements so far in his term as Chancellor.

It is remarkable that we are having such a lively debate on the Budget at a time when, as we have just discovered from listening to the shadow Chancellor, there is absolutely no alternative economic strategy or policy on offer—no doubt my party will make up for that lack of challenge in its own curious way, but meanwhile I congratulate the Chancellor on where he has got so far.

In case the Chancellor is worried about the controversy surrounding the Budget, let me tell him that it is not unusual. I have been here so long that I have seen much worse. Geoffrey Howe’s 1981 Budget was extremely controversial, and passions ran higher, and far more seriously, than they have on this occasion. Nigel Lawson had his Budget speech interrupted, and the House was suspended because of disorder, when he tried to cut the taxes on the higher paid.

I had merely one defeat on a Finance Bill. I lost to a rebellion on the Floor of the House. My mitigation was that it was not my proposal—it was Norman Lamont who proposed VAT on domestic fuel—although I still think it was perfectly sensible. I immediately came back with more tax proposals to get the revenue I had lost, but my right hon. Friend is quite right to wait for events between now and the autumn statement and then to continue the fiscal discipline he has rightly maintained so far.