Opening for the Opposition was Shadow Chief Secretary Philip Hammond and here are a few excerpts from his speech:
"Listening to the Chancellor and the Prime Minister yesterday, and to the Chief Secretary, one would think that the global financial crisis had caused the meltdown in Britain’s public finances, but that is not what has happened. According to the Treasury’s figures, the economic recession accounts for about a quarter of Britain’s deficit—that is the cyclical part of the deficit, which economic recovery will eventually eliminate—but three quarters of it is structural, and requires a structural response.
"The truth is not that the financial crisis has caused the fiscal crisis, but that for many years the global financial boom masked the scale of the underlying fiscal problem as this profligate Government spent the tax receipts that were the proceeds of a series of bubbles in financial assets, and property in particular, as if they were permanent features of the economic landscape. The real structural crisis that needs to be addressed is not caused by the Government’s support for the banking system, as they like to imply. In fact, none of this year’s £178 billion deficit is directly attributable to support provided for the banks.
"The pre-Budget report was the Government’s last chance to set out a credible path to fiscal stability, to put our economy back on the road to sustainable growth and enduring prosperity, and to ensure our triple-A credit rating. They blew that chance, and now the country knows beyond doubt that only a change of Government can deliver the economic change that Britain needs. The present Government have shown themselves to be unfit for office by shirking their task in the nation’s hour of economic need."
"There is a fact here that we must all face: whoever is in government after the next general election will have to cut public spending… The fact is that this Government are being driven not by the needs of the economy and the medium and long-term best interests of the British people, but by the needs of the Labour party and the insistence of the Prime Minister and the Schools Secretary that the scale of the fiscal problem, the challenge of dealing with it and the true price of not dealing with it are to be concealed at all costs from the British public until after polling day. No price is too high to pay, provided the bill does not arrive until 7 May. No burden is too heavy to bear if it is the Prime Minister’s successor who will bear it.
"That is the most systematically reckless, cynical and dishonest strategy for dealing with a fiscal crisis that anyone in the House will be able to recall."
Click here to read his full contribution.