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George Osborne wins first Commons exchange with Ed Balls

Tim Montgomerie

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Highlights, not verbatim.

Ed Balls and George Osborne clashed for the first time as Chancellor and Shadow Chancellor.

Mr Balls began by saying it was a privilege to be holding his portfolio at a time of such economic importance. He joked that he was glad he didn't have a breakfast meeting this morning or he would have missed the Chancellor's mini-budget, delivered at 7.32am to the Today programme. He then said snow was not a good excuse for poor growth figures given that other nations did grow despite experiencing extreme weather.

Mr Osborne welcomed Mr Balls to the despatch box and noted he was the second choice Shadow Chancellor of a man who was Labour MPs' second choice as Labour leader. He described Ed Balls as the architect of the deepest recession, the biggest budget deficit and the largest housing crash.

In his second question Ed Balls asked the Chancellor why he didn't have a Plan B given that his Plan A was producing faltering growth and consumer confidence.

Osborne said he wouldn't be taking advice from the man who, when City Minister, knighted Fred Goodwin and, as a Labour leadership candidate, became a deficit denier. Ed Balls, he said, didn't even have a Plan A for the deficit.

Mr Osborne was then helped by a series of Tory backbenchers who asked him to comment on Ed Balls' past performance. What was worst, David Tredinick asked, Mr Balls' gold mis-selling, the budget deficit or his bank regulatory system? Mr Osborne said it was hard to choose but the tripartite system of financial regulation was pretty catastrophic.

4pm: Video update:


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