'Failure at very heart' of budget

Updated: 
Budget 2014

Labour has hit back at claims that there is little to differentiate its economic policy from the coalition, insisting a future Labour government would "make different choices".

Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, said Labour would support the Government when voting on the welfare cap tomorrow, but insisted the party would also "take tough decisions".

She said Chancellor George Osborne's "Wallpaper Budget" was cosmetic and failed to tackle the cost of living crisis.

"I know that the Chancellor comes from a wealthy family of wallpaper manufacturers, and this really was the ultimate Osborne and Little Wallpaper Budget. Paper over the craps, use a zany design to mask the overall structural faults, repeat patterns from last year's range," she said.

"But the truth, is that for all the patterns and effects, people are worse off by £1,600 per year under this Government."

Ms Reeves criticised last Wednesday's Budget, which she said "was certainly dressed to impress, but there was an admission of failure at the very heart of it", after failing to clear the deficit by the end of the Parliament as the Government had set out to do.

"We would get a grip on the failing programmes, like Universal Credit and the Work Programme and focus on the cost of living crisis. We would scrap the bedroom tax, which is both cruel and costing more money than it saves and we would take tough decisions, like scrapping winter fuel allowance for the richest pensioners. And we would get more people into work on decent wages that they can afford to live on," said Ms Reeves.

"Different parties, different values, different priorities."

Ms Reeves's comments come after Labour donor John Mill said there was very little difference between the party and the Tories on economic policy. Mr Mill, who gave Labour more than £1.5 million in shares in 2013, said Labour leader Ed Miliband was "boxed in" on the economy.

But Ms Reeves insisted that "our priorities would control the cost of social security, whilst under the Tories it will continue to rise".

Addressing her Tory counterpart, Iain Duncan Smith, and his fellow Tories, she said: "You have had four years to deal with the cost of living crisis; you failed. You have had four years to help young people and the long-term unemployed; you failed. You have had four years to help those who are disabled and vulnerable and you have failed.

"A tax cut for millionaires, and beer and bingo for the working classes."

Alluding to George Orwell's book about a nanny state, 1984, Ms Reeves said: "Thirty years on, in 2014, it seems that the Chancellor thinks that all he needs to do is cut taxes on beer and bingo and they will be happy. Them and us. How patronising, how out of touch, how very, very Tory.

"The Tories can't deal with the cost of living crisis, only Labour will."

Mr Osborne was not present for today's Commons debate, as he was on visit to a bingo hall in Cardiff to highlight his Budget announcement to cut bingo duty by half to 10%.

Budget 2014: Winners and Losers

Budget 2014: Winners and Losers