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8 June 2010

Osborne in his first Commons clashes as Chancellor

Liam Byrne warns him to tackle inequality.

By James Macintyre

It would be wrong to say that the Chancellor, George Osborne, looked smug, or complacent, as he took his seat on the government bench just now for the first session of Treasury Questions. But he certainly looked relaxed. Next to him, in matching white shirt and blue tie, sat the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the Lib Dems’ Danny Alexander.

Liam Byrne, Alexander’s shadow, immediately warned Osborne that amid the defecit cuts to come, the government should not forget about inequality. But a combative and highly partisan Osborne hit back, saying that inequality rose under 13 years of Labour government.

Osborne also joked that Byrne was a “man of letters”, a reference to the Byrne’s jocular note to his successor (at that time David Laws) as he was leaving the Treasury, saying there was “no money left”.

Next came a question from the very clever Tory backbencher Andrew Tyrie, an excellent candidate for the chairmanship of the Treasury select committee. Ironically, given that he had fielded questions on the same question when on the BBC’s Daily Politics with Andrew Neil earlier, Tyrie sought clarification about the government’s headline-grabbing plan to “open” the cuts agenda to the public. He also asked that parliament be kept fully informed and consulted.

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