UK Politics

MPs approve Chancellor George Osborne's Budget

The result of the Commons vote is announced Image copyright HoC
Image caption The result of the Commons vote is announced

MPs have approved the Budget after Chancellor George Osborne was forced to shelve planned cuts to disability benefits.

The changes had led to a rift in the Tory Party and the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith from the cabinet.

Ahead of the vote, Mr Osborne defended his handling of the economy, but told MPs that where mistakes were made he was ready "to listen and learn".

The Budget was accepted by 310 votes to 275, a government majority of 35.

The government also won a series of votes on specific Budget resolutions, including the cut in capital gains tax.

Opposition amendments to scrap the "tampon tax" and block an increase in VAT on solar panels were accepted by the government without the need for a vote.

Remaining Budget measures will be brought forward in the Finance Bill and other legislation which will be debated after the Easter recess.

The vote came after days of highly charged debate on the Budget, which was overshadowed by the row over disability benefits and the fallout from Mr Duncan Smith's resignation as work and pensions secretary.

In a rare move, the chancellor introduced the final day's debate and confirmed to MPs that he would not proceed with planned cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIPs).

He said the changes, likely to have affected up to 640,000 people, did not "command support".

"I have made it clear that where we've made a mistake, where we've got things wrong, we listen and we learn. That's precisely what we've done," he said.

And he told MPs no further welfare savings were anticipated beyond the £12bn already approved by Parliament towards his target of balancing the books by 2020.

'Political chancer'

But Labour demanded an explanation as to how Mr Osborne would plug the £4.4bn gap in the Budget left by the rethink.

Former work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper said he would either have to raid the welfare budget further or "ditch" his self-imposed cap on overall benefits spending.

Mr Osborne said the cost of abandoning the policy could be absorbed because public spending was under control.

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Media captionGeorge Osborne and Yvette Cooper clash in Commons over Budget cuts

Labour also called on the chancellor to apologise for his attempt to introduce the cuts.

And shadow chancellor John McDonnell questioned Mr Osborne's "fitness for the office he now holds".

Mr Osborne was a "political chancer" whose "grubby, incompetent manipulations" could not be defended, he said.

IDS tribute

Mr Duncan Smith resigned on Friday over the proposals to cut disability benefits at the same time that taxes were being cut for higher earners.

In his resignation letter, he said the latest cuts were a "compromise too far" and flew in the face of David Cameron's and Mr Osborne's oft-repeated claim that "we are all in this together".

In the Commons, Mr Osborne said he was sorry Mr Duncan Smith had resigned and told MPs he was proud of their work together in government.

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Media captionGeorge Osborne 'proud' of what he and Iain Duncan Smith achieved

He praised his former colleague for "helping to make work pay, protecting the vulnerable and breaking the decades-old cycle of welfare dependency".

But the chancellor rejected Mr Duncan Smith's charge that his fiscal targets risked dividing society and that working-age benefit claimants were being unduly penalised by a "desperate search" for savings.

"Without sound public finances there is no social justice," he told MPs.

He said spending on disability benefits would still be higher in 2020 than it was now and 300,000 people with disabilities had found work in the past couple of years.

In separate votes on several Budget resolutions, proposals to cut capital gains tax and increase the insurance premium tax were endorsed by MPs.

Increases in the landfill tax were also passed by the House with a 235 majority, after being approved by English, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs by 296 votes to 10 under the "English votes for English laws" procedure.

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