Labour brand Osborne a 'coward' for ducking questions on Budget

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP has described George Osborne as a coward for not appearing in person in the House of Commons this afternoon.

The Chancellor will instead field junior minister David Gauke, who will have to deal with an Urgent Question on changes made to the Budget following the Government's decision to drop their controversial cuts to disabled welfare.

Chancellor George Osborne

Chancellor George Osborne

After public outcry and a potential Tory rebellion led by Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy, the Government decided to axe their planned £4bn savings by cutting Personal Independence Payments.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith resigned over the fiasco on Friday night, telling David Cameron of his concern that not enough had been done to ensure 'we are all in this together'.

Today Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said it was 'unacceptable' to the country and 'insulting to Parliament' that the Chancellor will not respond in person and instead send Mr Gauke, a financial secretary to the Treasury.

Further embarrassment emerged this morning when the Government said it would not be opposing two amendments to the Budget tabled by Labour on reducing the VAT rates on tampons and the solar energy sector.

Mr McDonnell said: "It's unacceptable to the country and insulting to Parliament that the Chancellor is not turning up to respond to my Urgent Question on the chaos of his making around a Budget he delivered only last week which had collapsed by Friday night.

"This has meant hundreds of thousands of disabled people will have been worried needlessly by George Osborne.

“And today yet another thread of George Osborne’s Budget has unravelled. The Chancellor and David Cameron knew that if they hadn’t climbed-down on the Tampon Tax and Solar Jobs Tax they were heading for defeat and would have lost the first votes on a Budget Debate since 1994.

“George Osborne needs to now set out how he will fill the back hole in his Budget. His failure to do so means his fantasy £10bn surplus target, like his credibility, is further shot to pieces.

"It is deeply disappointing that George Osborne is cowardly hiding behind his junior minister instead of showing some leadership in a crisis of his own making."