Tories cry foul as Bill rushed

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Ann Taylor and Gillian Shephard clashed yesterday in the Commons over the Government's decision to impose the guillotine on the Finance Bill putting the Budget into effect.

The Leader of the Commons and her Tory shadow were involved in a heated row after Mrs Shephard accused the Government of acting in a high-handed manner by steamrollering the Budget legislation through the House.

Mrs Shephard claimed that it was unprecedented to force the Budget through the Commons committee stage within 12 days of the second reading, which took place yesterday. She protested that it left the City institutions too little time to make representations about the detail in the Budget.

The Tories suspect that the Government's haste is partly motivated by a desire to avoid a campaign building up from the City against the Budget tax changes which will hit pensions.

"There has never been a gap of only 12 days between the publication of the Finance Bill and the committee stage. Under the Conservatives, that gap was sometimes 84 days or over 100 days. The reason is to give sufficient time for the institutions to have an input but they are preventing that from happening," said Mrs Shephard.

With an overwhelming Labour majority, the Opposition has little hope of changing the timetable for the Budget legislation.

Mrs Taylor strongly defended the decision to press ahead with the Finance Bill, after announcing in the Commons that the House will rise for the Summer recess on 31 July. The time was shortened by the timing of the general election, which left Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, little option but to steer the bill through at the double.