CHANCELLOR George Osborne delivered a hike in VAT and slashed welfare spending as he moved “decisively” to tackle Britain’s record debts.
Presenting his first Budget to a packed House of Commons, he promised “tough but fair” action to wipe out the structural deficit within five years.
And he laid the blame for the pain ahead firmly at the door of the former Labour government, saying: “The years of debt and spending make this unavoidable.”
However his plans were denounced as “reckless” by acting Labour leader Harriet Harman, who warned those least able to pay would be the hardest hit.
Mr Osborne said: “Yes it is tough; but it is also fair.
“This is an emergency Budget, so let me speak plainly about the emergency that we face.
“The coalition Government has inherited from its predecessor the largest budget deficit of any economy in Europe with the single exception of Ireland.
“One pound in every four we spend is being borrowed. What we have not inherited from our predecessor is a credible plan to reduce their record deficit.”
Ms Harman said it was the most vulnerable who would suffer most under the Government’s plans.
“This is a Tory Budget that will throw people out of work, that will hold back economic growth and will harm vital public services,” she said.
However, she reserved her harshest comments for the Conservatives’ Liberal Democrat partners who, she said, had fought against measures like the VAT increase which they were now supporting.
“How could they support everything they fought against, how could they let down everyone who voted for them, how could they let the Tories exploit them?” she demanded.
“The Liberal Democrat leaders have sacrificed everything they ever stood for to ride in ministerial cars and ride on the coat tails of the Tory Government.”
But Dewsbury MP Simon Reevell said: “This is a tough but fair budget that finally allows us to get to grips with our record budget deficit.
“Thanks to the previous Government we are now borrowing one pound for every four we spend.
“This is simply unsustainable. We have been living on borrowed time for too long and everyone knew there would be a day when the money had to be paid back.
“It’s only right that every part of society will share the burden of securing our recovery.
“This allows us to protect the most vulnerable – the poorest, pensioners and those with children.
“Child poverty will not increase during the course of this parliament and that is very welcome news.”