UK Politics

Vince Cable questions George Osborne's Budget 'priority'

Business Secretary Vince Cable has said cutting the top income tax rate would not have been his Budget "priority".

Chancellor George Osborne has announced that the amount paid on earnings above £150,000 will fall from 50% to 45% from April next year.

Mr Cable told the BBC this was a "sensible" move as the higher rate had not raised "much money".

But he added that his main focus was helping low and middle earners, adding that "we've delivered on that".

During his Budget speech, the chancellor told MPs that the 50 pence income tax rate - introduced by the last Labour government - had not raised as much revenue as had been hoped.

'Pushed hard'

He also argued that it had damaged economic competitiveness.

But Mr Cable told BBC Radio 5live: "If I'd been chancellor, this would not have been my priority.

"But actually it's a sensible thing to do, given that it was largely a symbolic gesture.

"It didn't raise much money but certainly our priority as Liberal Democrats was for the low and middle income families and we've delivered on that."

In the Budget, the government promised to crack down on wealthy tax-avoiders and raise the level of stamp duty on properties worth more than £2m.

It also pledged to raise the level at which people start paying income tax by £1,100 to £9,205 from April next year.

Mr Cable said: "The Liberal Democrats have pushed very hard to lift low earners out of tax and help hard-pressed middle-income families and that's our priority.

"But the Budget has to be judged against the extent to which it contributes to Britain's recovery from this dreadful economic crisis into which we've been plunged."

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: "There are many winners and indeed losers in any Budget.

"So who are the losers in the Budget? The millionaires who weren't paying their fair share.

"The winners are over 20 million basic rate taxpayers who will be £220 better off because of what we have just announced in the Budget today.

"This is a Budget every liberal can be proud of."