Don’t miss the remarks of our own Lib Dem MP for Taunton, Jeremy Browne, who spoke at great and caustic length in the discussion on the finance bill, heaping scorn on Labour and Conservative members alike. The link to online Hansard is here – he begins towards the bottom of the page and you have click “next section” to continue reading.
Amongst the gems:
The leader of the Conservative party rose to his feet—we have to remember, of course, that my constituents pay more in their taxes for the salary of the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) than they do for any other Opposition MP, so we are entitled to think that he will stand head and shoulders above us all in respect of his ability to analyse the Budget—but unfortunately, he did not notice the doubling of the 10p rate. [...]
If the Conservatives cannot stand the relative heat of being a smaller Opposition than Michael Foot was able to muster, they are obviously not quite the Government in waiting, as they have come to style themselves in recent weeks. [...]
We have the Prime Minister, waiting in an ante-room in the west wing of the White House for his audience with the most powerful politician in the world, having to divert his attention to emergency phone calls to a Treasury Parliamentary Private Secretary—not a PPS from another Department, but a PPS from the relevant Department—so that he could plead with her, “Before I have an audience with George W. Bush about issues of global magnitude, please, please will you not embarrass me by resigning as PPS to the Chief Secretary?” It is a pitiful state of affairs. [...]
Labour MPs need to realise that there is no great salvation coming from the No. 10 bunker; they are on their own. In the bunker, all is dither and meltdown. If they want to save their lower and lower to middle income-earning constituents from taking a big tax hit precisely when their food and other bills, council tax and fuel bills are going up, that will not be achieved by this Prime Minister and this Chancellor. Labour MPs will have to act alone to try to represent the interests of their constituents. [...]
The Conservatives have two criticisms of the Labour Government: the first is that they tax too much, spend too much and waste too much, and the second is that they have not done what the Conservatives would do, which is exactly the same. The Conservative party and the Labour party have morphed into a single entity. Every time the Conservatives criticise Labour tax rises, we should remember that they must have a secret extra tax rise in mind to make up for the one that they are criticising. [...]
The Conservatives feign concern about those who will be harmed by the doubling of the 10p rate, but at the Conservative party conference last autumn, what was the party’s main priority for helping those who were struggling with their tax burden? Was it helping the people on the lowest incomes—the people whom I mentioned earlier, the farm labourers, hotel receptionists and hospital porters cited by the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond)? Was it single people under the age of 25 on modest incomes? No; they were completely ignored by the Conservatives. Was it pensioners between the ages of 60 and 64, who will be adversely affected by the Government’s proposals? No, it was not them either. The group singled out for special assistance by the Conservative shadow Chancellor [...] were people who owned houses worth around £990,000 to £995,000 and had paid off their mortgages. Those people were considered to be a more deserving target for the largesse of the Conservative party than people, in my constituency and elsewhere, on incomes of £11,000, £12,000 or £13,000 a year. [...]
Many members of the shadow Cabinet bought their first house for about £1 million, but they are not entirely typical of the people whom I represent, although they may be entirely typical of the people at the dinner parties attended by the shadow Chief Secretary of the Treasury. It was the shadow Chief Secretary, who is so out of touch not just with public opinion but with the mood in his own party, who said recently that the Conservative party would not be able to introduce any tax cuts until 2015. Unfortunately, over the recess he was overruled by the shadow Chancellor, who indicated that it might not be possible to reduce the tax burden until 2018 at the earliest. No wonder the chairman of the Conservatives’ own tax commission, the former Cabinet Minister Lord Forsyth, said only last week that the Conservative tax policies were “mad”. [...]
The full text expands to some three pages on the online Hansard, and is peppered with members of other parties having a go, and largely being put in their respective places by Browne’s rapier wit. I commend all three pages to anyone who would like a good read.
The speech was flagged up almost immediately by the Hon Member for Hornsey and Wood Green in her Twitter message to the world so sorry for not bringing it to your attention sooner.