Chancellor to face Treasury Select Committee question time

Chancellor Alistair Darling will be subject to interrogation by the Treasury Select Committee over his downgrading of the government’s economic forecasts, as revealed in yesterday’s Budget.

John McFall, chairman of the committee, insists that the chancellor will be questioned on the robustness of these targets and questioned about his level of support towards the mortgage markets next week.

But McFall welcomes the chancellor’s proposals on child poverty, environmental taxation and support for the elderly.

He highlights the trouble in global financial markets and described them as a ’bout of collective madness’. He warns that the situation will worsen and predicts that writedowns of between £295bn and £2 trillion will be reported in the US.

On environmental taxation, he says that the Treasury’s definition of such taxes was too narrow, accusing it of hiding behind definitions in order to avoid taking a more authoritative stand.

Meanwhile, shadow minister for London, Jacqui Lait, describes the budget as boring and warns that the chancellor will not be in his job very long if his most ambitious proposals involve taxing carrier bags.

She warns that, after an economic boom, the UK risks facing another bust and criticises the government for suggesting that such days were gone in the past decade.

Meanwhile, Peter Lilley, Conservative MP and financial secretary to the treasury and trade and industry secretary, criticises the lack of transparency in the Budget and the lack of detail on the measures that it proposes.

In particular, he criticises the chancellor for failing to acknowledge the level of debt taken on by the government to rescue Northern Rock.

Separately, Liberal Democrat MP John Thurso stresses that the Bank of England’s independence would help the country through its existing economic turmoil.

He also highlighted the inordinate effect of fuel duty on those in remote areas and calls for greater progress to be made on road pricing to help address this.

And SNP deputy group leader Stewart Hosie argues that it had been a sub-prime Budget.

He estimates that around £2bn will be taken from businesses in the next three years, during economic times when such money could be used to encourage investment.