Labour hit back at Tories over VAT freeze promise

Chancellor refused to rule out a VAT hike only 24 hours before Mr Cameron’s pledge

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David Cameron’s Commons triumph over Ed Miliband when he ruled out a rise in VAT after the general election was called into question today.

The Prime Minister wrong-footed the Labour leader on Wednesday promising the Conservatives would not increase VAT in the next parliament. But Labour fought back by accusing George Osborne of the "most serious breach ever" of the select committee system, because the Chancellor refused to rule out a VAT hike when questioned by the Commons Treasury Committee only 24 hours before Mr Cameron’s pledge.

Labour’s attack came after Matthew Hancock, the Business Minister, revealed that the Tory leadership had taken the decision before Mr Osborne was quizzed by the MPs.

John Mann, a Labour member of the committee, said Mr Hancock had "let the cat out of the bag”, claiming: “For the Chancellor to mislead the committee and then for it to be a political set-up the next day, what it does is it brings into disrepute the whole select committee system.”

But David Gauke, a Treasury minister, said the Tories had been "very clear for a long time" there was no need to raise VAT. "There have been discussions in the last few weeks as to whether to go further, to change the language, and that decision has been made in the last few weeks," he said.