George Osborne has been criticised for skipping a parliamentary question about the unraveling of his Budget – and for putting a junior minister up in his place.
The Government has backpedalled on a number of policies in just days since the Chancellor announced his spending plans for the coming year.
As well as a major U-turn on steep cuts for disability benefits, the Government has said it will not oppose a number of Labour amendments on issues including the so-called Tampon Tax and VAT on solar panels.
Conservative backbenchers have signed some of the Labour amendments – suggesting a rebellion when they come to a vote and a possible defeat for the Government, which only has a very small majority.
John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor has been granted an urgent question to ask about the changes – but the Government has said Mr Osborne will not reply himself.
Treasury minister David Gauke will field the questions from the dispatch box instead and reply for the Government.
Mr McDonnell branded Mr Osborne a coward for skipping the key scrutiny session.
“It is deeply disappointing that Osborne is cowardly hiding behind his junior minister instead of showing some leadership,” he said.
Neil Gray, the SNPs’ work and employment spokesperson, said the Chancellor lacked credibility.
“Unbelievable that Osborne [is] sending [a] junior [minister] to take heat for his omnishambles [Budget]. No strategy, no credibility and now no leadership,” he said.
Mr Osborne was criticised in 2012 for sending junior minister Chloe Smith onto the BBC's flagship Newsnight current affairs programme to defend his Budget, which also faced major criticism.
The urgent question comes prior to a scheduled statement by David Cameron, where he is expected to the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith as Work and Pensions Secretary.
George Osborne 2016 budget at a glance
George Osborne 2016 budget at a glance
1/8 Debt forecasts up, growth forecasts down
The OBR’s new forecasts have downgraded growth in all of the next five years to 2020. The watchdog says the economy will only grow by 2 per cent in 2016, as opposed to the anticipated 2.4 per cent. Borrowing and productivity growth are also down – with forecast borrowing in 2018-198 £16 billion higher
2/8 New tax on sugary drinks
The Chancellor announced a new tax on sugary soft drinks, which is projected to raise £520 million. At least some of the money will be spent on doubling funding for school sport, the Chancellor says. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the levy
3/8 Tax cut for higher earners paying the 40p rate
The Chancellor has raised the threshold for paying the higher rate of income tax to £45,000. The higher rate is paid by roughly the richest 15 per cent, currently people earning over £42,386
4/8 Increase in tax-free income tax threshold
The tax-free allowance increase to £11,500 in April 2017 – up from £10,600 now. The Chancellor previously raised the allowance from £6,475 in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The Conservative manifesto pledges to put the allowance up to £12,500 by the end of the Parliament
5/8 New devolution for counties and powers for London and Manchester
The West of England, the East of England and Greater Lincolnshire will all get elected mayor-led combined authorities with new powers. The Chancellor says they are backed by £1 billion new funding. Greater Manchester will get new powers of criminal justice while London will keep its business rates – giving whoever is elected Mayor a lot more spending power
6/8 Fuel duty frozen for sixth year running
The Chancellor had planned to end the fuel duty freeze he had put in place for the whole previous parliament. In the event, he has announced a freeze for another year
7/8 All schools to become academies
As reported yesterday the Chancellor unveiled legislation to turn all schools into academies. He said all schools would either be academies or on their way to being academies by 2020, and that funding had been set aside to fund the change
8/8 Lifetime ISA
The Chancellor announced a new savings account to encourage under-40s to save for retirement – for every £4 saved, the Government will top this up by £1 up to the value of £4,000 a year. Tax-free ISAs will also be increased from £15,000 to £20,000
Mr Duncan Smith, the mastermind of Tory welfare reforms, resigned on Friday night. He accused the Government of pursuing its deficit targets at the expense of the most disadvantaged in society.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the proposed cut to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) would have seen 370,000 disabled people lose an average of £3,500 a year.
The DWP says the changes will make PIP work more effectively and better target support.
MPs will vote on the Budget as a whole on Tuesday.Reuse content