Page last updated at 17:52 GMT, Thursday, 22 March 2012

MPs conclude second day of debate on 2012 Budget

MPs concluded their second day of debate on the 2012 Budget on 22 March 2012, focusing on business and access to finance.

Liberal Democrat Lorely Burt defended the coalition government's fiscal policies, claiming they had created "an environment of low interest rates".

"This has been vital to business and we only have to look over the Channel at our European neighbours to see what a shocking state we could have been in if we had not been as tough and as firm as we have," she said.

Conservative Sir Peter Bottomley was critical of the decision to impose a cap on tax relief, which he said could affect charitable donations.

George Osborne announced during the Budget statement that anyone attempting to claim more than £50,000 in relief - the equivalent of making a £200,000 lump sum donation - would be hit by a new cap at 25% of income.

"It seems to me that we ought to have the same ability to give away our earnings as we have to give away our assets in general," Sir Peter said.

Labour MP Jack Dromey mocked the chancellor for describing changes to age-related benefits - dubbed the "granny tax" by commentators - as a "simplification".

"Following yesterday's Budget announcement, the next time I go to the barber in Slade Road I will ask for my hair not to be cut but to be 'simplified'," he told MPs.

'Save the pasty'

Tory Andrew Griffiths, who chairs the Parliamentary Beer Group, urged changes to the taxation of beer.

He said: "We pay 40% of all of Europe's beer duty yet we only drink 13% of beer drunk across Europe.

"We have seen a 52% increase in beer duty over recent years yet at the same time only a 10% increase in revenue and a 25% drop in beer sales in this country... And yet beer is a great British product," he concluded.

Lib Dem Stephen Gilbert had other things on his mind.

He called on the government to clear up the "ambiguity" over VAT increases on hot food, wondering if it would affect pasties that are served in bakeries.

This was an issue that was exercising many in his Cornish constituency of St Austell and Newquay, he said.

"Not only is the pasty a stable and hearty meal, but it also employs thousands of people and brings millions of pounds in the Cornish economy," Mr Gilbert concluded.

As he made his remarks, an unidentified MP shouted: "Save the pasty!".

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