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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2007, 21:24 GMT 22:24 UK
Win for Brown in confidence vote
Chancellor Gordon Brown
Mr Brown said the 1997 decision had been the right one
Chancellor Gordon Brown has beaten off a Conservative call for a vote of no confidence over his 1997 decision to scrap tax relief on pensions.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne, who tabled the motion, accused Mr Brown of "acting with stealth" and hitting the pensions of 125,000 people.

But MPs voted by a majority of 65 against the Tory proposal.

Mr Brown said the changes to pensions had made "the right decision for the country" and helped the economy.

It is highly unusual for opposition parties to call for motions of no confidence on individual ministers.

'Blames everyone'

Despite losing the vote by 298 to 233, the Tories will hope the debate will embarrass Mr Brown, the firm favourite to succeed Tony Blair as prime minister.

The government's current Commons majority is 67.

A recent release of Treasury documents under the Freedom of Information Act led to claims that the chancellor had ignored the advice of officials when he abolished tax relief on pensions. The Treasury denies the claim.

The arguments have been well rehearsed over the past few weeks, even years, but shadow chancellor George Osborne was not going to let that stop him
BBC's Nick Assinder

The Conservative motion read: "This House has no confidence in this chancellor's handling of pension benefits."

Amid a lively Commons atmosphere, Mr Osborne said: "This chancellor has from the start acted with stealth, blocked all attempts to get at the truth and now blames everyone but himself for the destruction he has brought to Britain's pensions.

"In short, the abolition of dividend tax credits was in the words of the prime minister's own economic adviser at the time, a mad thing to do, quite crackers."

He added that Mr Brown had never shown "any expression of sympathy" for those whose funds had been "raided".

The government help given so far had been "inadequate" for the "big hole" it had created, Mr Osborne said.

Competitiveness

Mr Brown said the Tories had "no alternative to the policy we put forward" and accused Mr Osborne of "short-termism" and "opportunism".

He added: "We take the long-term decisions for the economy. He has a short-term approach."

Mr Brown also said the Labour government had introduced safeguards for holders of occupational pensions whose companies go bust.

He added: "The strength of our argument is ... upon the rock of the economy and making the long term decisions that are the right decision for the country.

"It is upon the rock of the economy that occupational pensions and any other services depend in our country.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vincent Cable said: "We think the government made a mistake and we think they should acknowledge it."

He added: "The government clearly judged that the should raise taxes in '97...

"If the government needed to raise taxes, they should have done it openly."

His party supported the no-confidence motion.

The Conservatives earlier said they would be tabling an amendment to the government's Pensions Bill when it returns to the Commons on Wednesday to help those who have lost occupational pensions since 1997.

Mr Brown says said his pensions decisions have raised 5bn a year and had been a key reason the UK economy had been strong for the past decade.

It is the first time Mr Osborne and Mr Brown have gone head-to-head in the Commons on the subject of pensions since the row over advice given to the chancellor erupted earlier this month.


SEE ALSO
Brown defends pensions decision
03 Apr 07 |  UK Politics
Miliband 'won't run for leader'
17 Apr 07 |  UK Politics
Brown comes out fighting
17 Apr 07 |  UK Politics

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