Osborne accused of dodging questions on more cuts

Chancellor George OsborneChancellor George Osborne
Chancellor George Osborne
CHANCELLOR George Osborne has been accused of dodging questions from a Yorkshire MP six times as he defended his Budget before the Treasury Select Committee.

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said he evaded giving a straight answer on whether there would be more welfare cuts to come before 2020.

During the committee the Labour politician said she wasn’t convinced that by the Autumn Statement in November, when the country’s finances will be reviewed, that more cut-backs won’t be in the pipe-line.

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The Chancellor said: “When it comes to welfare spending I’ve been very explicit we are not seeking to offset the billion or so pounds higher we are spending on disability benefits with some other welfare cuts. We do not have any other welfare cuts planned or in train.”

She said: “Is it possible that you might make further cuts to welfare spending?”

He said ‘we’ve got no plans to’ before Ms Reeves interrupted to say ‘that’s not the question I asked’ and said not ‘planning’ further cuts did not have the same gravity as confirming there wouldn’t be any.

He replied he had given clear answers but Ms Reeves said again: “So it’s possible you will make further cuts to welfare?”

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He said: “We have no plans for further cuts...that’s the answer I’m giving you.”

Earlier Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North, had asked the Chancellor why he couldn’t be ‘more emphatic’ by saying he ‘will not’ cut welfare.

Mr Osborne said: “We are not going to seek further cuts.”

His evidence to the Treasury Select Committee came after a week of intense criticism from MPs and disability campaigners for his plan to cut personal independence payments (PIP) by £4.4bn in his 2016 Budget.

The unpopular proposal was dropped over the weekend as former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith resigned. The Chancellor said the £4.4bn had been absorbed and they would still meet a surplus by 2019.

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He said ‘controlling welfare spending is necessary for the economy’ when asked if his PIP plan had been politically motivated.

Challenging drinks manufacturers who plan on fighting the Budget’s sugar tax plan, he said ‘bring it on’ and that the decision was the right thing to do.