George Osborne skips parliamentary session about problems with Budget and sends junior minister instead

Labour is asking an urgent question about the unravelling of the Budget

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.

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David Gauke is expected to respond for the Government

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.

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.

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