Ed Miliband denounced “a more-of-the-same Budget from a downgraded Chancellor” as he tore into George Osborne for failing to keep his promises to produce economic recovery and for saddling families with higher taxes.
In rowdy Commons scenes, the Labour leader challenged Cabinet ministers to disclose whether they would benefit personally from next month’s “millionaire’s tax cut” when the top rate of income tax is reduced from 50p to 45p. He told them: “Just put your hand up if you are not getting the 50p tax cut.”
As ministers sat motionless, Mr Miliband taunted them: “At last the Cabinet are united, with a simple message: Thanks George – he’s cutting taxes for them, while raising them for everyone else.”
The Labour leader seized on the Chancellor’s admission – weeks after Britain lost its cherished triple-A credit rating with one agency – that growth forecasts for 2013 were being halved, while borrowing would rise.
“Under this Government, the bad news just doesn’t stop,” Mr Milband said. “’Wait for tomorrow’, the Chancellor says, ‘and I will be vindicated’. “But with this Chancellor tomorrow never comes. He’s the wrong man in the wrong place at the worst possible time for the country.”
Lindsay Hoyle, the deputy Commons Speaker, repeatedly intervened to urge calm on all sides of the House as Mr Miliband mixed mockery and humour to lambast Mr Osborne, but made no reference to Labour’s alternative economic medicine.
Mr Miliband said: “Today the Chancellor joined twitter. He could have got it all into 140 characters. ‘Growth down. Borrowing up. Families hit. And millionaires laughing all the way to the bank. #downgradedChancellor’.”
He claimed ministers had started jostling for position, with a “blame game” underway within the Cabinet over the Government’s performance and record.
“The Chancellor is lashed to the mast, not because of his judgement, but because of pride, not because of the facts, but because of ideology.
“And why does he stay in his job? Not because the country want him, not because his party want him, but because he is the Prime Minister’s last line of defence. The Bullingdon boys really are both in it together.”
Mr Osborne’s measures were broadly welcomed by Coalition MPs, but right-wing Conservatives suggested he should have acted more boldly to reduce the burden on businesses and entrepreneurs.
David Davis, the former shadow Home Secretary, called for capital gains tax to be “slashed”, further cuts to corporation tax for small companies and an extension of the employment allowance scheme.
He also argued that the planned carbon floor price, which would put British firms at a “unique disadvantage” with their foreign rivals, should be scrapped.
“If we do not take action to make our economy outperform our international competitors, we risk being stuck with low growth for decades,” Mr Davis said.
The former Cabinet minister, John Redwood, said the strategy of reducing the deficit by increasing taxes had “miscarried” as revenues had fallen as a result.
He said: “That is partly because they set tax rates that didn’t work - the higher rate of income tax and the capital gains tax rate is too high so we are actually going to get less capital gains tax receipts this year than in the previous year.”
Stephen Williams, the Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman, said: “The Government need to do more to get growth in our economy going. Liberal Democrats both inside and outside Government have called for that growth to come from extra capital spending, which is why I am pleased the Budget contains a further switch to finance more of it.”