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18 Mar 2008 : Column 849

There is continued turbulence in the global financial markets. Banks are not lending to each other in the normal way and we have seen the consequences for one of the largest banks in the US. Every major country of the world expects repercussions as a result. As we predicted last week, the increase in world fuel prices is having an impact on domestic fuel bills and household inflation.

Alan Duncan: Can the Minister list any other countries whose response to the credit squeeze to which she has just referred has been to increase taxation?

Yvette Cooper: If the hon. Gentleman had read the Red Book properly he would understand that in fact we are putting money into the economy over the next 12 months, which is the right thing to do. Borrowing will increase over the next 12 months. We are delaying the introduction of fuel duty. We are putting more money into pensioners’ pockets through the winter fuel payment, and in addition we are introducing the lowest rate of basic tax for 75 years.

I appreciate the fact that Opposition Members do not want to hear the truth, but we are putting more money into the economy, which is the right thing to do. We have to make sure that over the long term we bring the level of borrowing down in line with the fiscal rules we have set. We shall continue to take responsible decisions to support economic stability.

Faced with the challenges, the Chancellor set out a responsible Budget. We start in a stronger position than many other countries. Inflation is lower than in the euro area, lower than in the US and far lower than it was in the ’80s or ’90s. Employment is at a record high. Government debt has fallen since 1997, and borrowing is substantially lower than it was in the early ’90s when it hit 7.8 per cent. of gross domestic product.

The Bank of England continues to support stability through its cuts in interest rates and through support for liquidity in the financial markets. We are working with the Bank, the Financial Services Authority, our international partners and the financial sector on ways to get the securitisation markets moving again and to help banks regain confidence in each other so that they begin lending again and get credit markets moving again.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): Will the Chief Secretary to the Treasury explain to the House why, between 2005 and 2008—after eight years of the Prime Minister’s chancellorship—the United Kingdom’s contribution to the wider European Union position has been to make it considerably weaker, not stronger?

Yvette Cooper: What we have seen is the Labour party’s strong commitment to working with our European partners. There have also been improvements in the long-term economic performance of the country. The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe wanted to argue that Britain was somehow the worst placed country in the entire world to deal with the global economic challenges that face us, and as I have said, if he is drawing on his experience in government, one can understand why he came to that conclusion.
18 Mar 2008 : Column 850
Certainly, it is true that in the early 1980s and the early ’90s Britain was first into recession and slow-down and last out, and had a far deeper recession than other countries across the world.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke: The right hon. Lady should follow the Chancellor and refer to the economy that the Government inherited, not the economy of the late ’80s and early ’90s. We had come out of the recession and were well poised for growth with low inflation when her party took over. I suggest to her that the opportunity should have been taken to put forward some credible, new fiscal rules for the future, to give realistic estimates for future borrowing and, because of the threat of the economy, to decide that this was not the time to raise corporation tax for small businesses. The whole Budget lacks imagination and any strategy at all for facing the present crisis, and makes misleading statements about the past.

Yvette Cooper: I noticed the right hon. and learned Gentleman trying very hard, in a slippery way, to sidestep and disown the events of the early ’80s and early ’90s, and trying to cling on to the events of the middle ’90s, when he stoked up inflationary pressures, when corporation tax was substantially higher than it is today, and when the tax burden on businesses was higher as a result.

In the early ’80s the world economy slowed, but Britain did not just slow—it shrank. That was the case in the early ’90s, too. In the early ’80s, inflation hit nearly 22 per cent., unemployment topped 11 per cent., and borrowing hit nearly 5 per cent. In the early ’90s, inflation hit nearly 11 per cent., unemployment topped 10 per cent., and borrowing hit nearly 8 per cent. For the 10 years before 1997, we had the lowest gross domestic product per head in the G7. Eleven years on, we have seen continuous growth and the largest growth in income per head of any G7 country. We are no longer bottom of the league; instead, we had the second highest level of national income per head of any major economy last year.

Mr. MacNeil: The Prime Minister—the former Chancellor of the Exchequer—used to boast that he had put an end to boom and bust. Does the right hon. Lady agree that those words are hollow today, or does she actually believe that the Prime Minister put an end to boom and bust? Which is it?

Yvette Cooper: The fact is that as a result of decisions that we have taken we have had much greater stability over the past decade than we had previously. For example, when the dotcom bubble burst, and after the 9/11 attacks, world stock markets halved, but while the economies in the rest of the G7 shrank, the British economy continued to grow by over 2 per cent. We face serious global challenges and serious pressures in the financial markets. They will inevitably have an impact on the UK, just as they will on countries across the world, but we start off in a stronger condition than many of our European competitors and many countries across the world, in part because of decisions that were made on issues such as Bank of England independence, which the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe always opposed, and on investing in Britain’s future.

18 Mar 2008 : Column 851

Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con) rose—

Yvette Cooper: I will make progress.

The Budget sets out clear plans to help pensioners and families with children. Even at a time of global challenges, we are able to help the oldest and the youngest. The Budget raises revenue from alcohol duty; that is what makes it possible to help pensioners with their fuel bills this winter, and to help families with child benefit and the child tax credit the year after that. So this is the right time to use that revenue to help pensioners. The average price of a bottle of wine has fallen from the equivalent of nearly £4.50 in 1997 to nearer £4 today. Even after the duty increase, it will still be significantly cheaper than in 1997. So yes, we are giving pensioners an extra payment of £50 for all pensioners and £100 for the over-80s. In 2009 we will use the money to help child tax credit and those on low and middle incomes.

The question for the Opposition tonight is whether they will back that. Will they back the increase in alcohol duty to fund the payment to pensioners this winter? Will they back the increase in alcohol duty to fund the child benefit increase and the child tax credit the year after? Or will they once again turn their backs on pensioners and on families with children, as they did for so many years when they saw child poverty double and a big increase in the number of pensioners in poverty? Will they once again turn their backs on those who are youngest and those who are oldest across society? It is indicative that the one thing that the Opposition have proposed to cut to fund their plans is Sure Start—one of the programmes that makes the greatest difference to those in greatest need. That is what the Conservatives want to cut.

What, then, are the alternatives offered in tonight’s debate? The hon. Member for Taunton set out what he thought was the Conservatives’ policy. He said that the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge was proposing tax cuts in seven years. He pointed out that we had fought and won a war in less time. The hon. Member for Taunton is doing better than the rest of us if he manages to keep track of the Conservatives’ policies. They have said that they think borrowing is too high. They have also called for £10 billion of unfunded tax cuts that would push borrowing even higher.

This weekend the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge said that the Opposition would not cut taxes for an entire parliamentary term, yet just three days before, on Budget day, they called for massive tax cuts to come in next month. It is still there on the Conservative party’s website. The shadow Chancellor calls on the Chancellor to bring in a massive series of unfunded tax cuts, including inheritance tax for millionaires in this year’s Budget.

Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con) rose—

Yvette Cooper: I will give way to the hon. Gentleman if he can tell me what on earth his party’s tax proposals are.

Mr. Harper: I want to ask the right hon. Lady a question about hers. Will she confirm that 5.3 million
18 Mar 2008 : Column 852
households—8,000 per constituency—will be worse off as a result of the increase in the basic rate of tax from 10 to 20 per cent.?

Yvette Cooper: I notice that the hon. Gentleman could not answer the question about his party’s tax proposals. We have set out a series of changes from which people will be considerably better off than they were in 1997 as a result of this Government. Three days after calling for massive tax cuts next month, his party and its No. 2 were telling The Sunday Telegraph that they could not introduce tax cuts for another five, six or seven years. Then, just a day later,

told the Daily Mail that

Mr. Speaker: Order. We refer to hon. Members by their constituencies, not by their names.

Yvette Cooper: I apologise, Mr. Speaker. I was quoting from the Daily Mail, which did not use our parliamentary conventions.

Perhaps the Opposition’s party leader could get a grip and set out the party’s policies. In his speech on Saturday he said:

But what else did he say at the same conference? He promised dedicated maternity nurses, scrapping the couple penalty, rewarding management and, because it was in the north-east, a new north-south rail link and the A1 western bypass. He does not know how to say no; he just keeps saying yes. Another day, another Tory policy; another interview, another economic promise. How can the Opposition support stability in the economy if they cannot even deliver stability in their own policies? Back the Budget and back stability in the economy.

Question put and agreed to.


1. Amendment of the Law

Mr. Speaker then, pursuant to paragraph (3) of Standing Order No. 51 (Ways and means motions), put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the further motions.

18 Mar 2008 : Column 853

2. Income tax (charge and main rates for 2008-09)


3. Income tax (personal allowances for those aged 65 or over)


4. Income tax (abolition of starting rate)

Motion made, and Question put ,

18 Mar 2008 : Column 854

The House divided: Ayes 304, Noes 242.
Division No. 125]
[10.1 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom

Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGrady, Mr. Eddie
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine

Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Twigg, Derek
Vaz, rh Keith
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Alison Seabeck and
Steve McCabe

Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clegg, rh Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Francois, Mr. Mark
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David

Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kramer, Susan
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McCrea, Dr. William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Robinson, rh Mr. Peter
Rogerson, Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Salmond, rh Mr. Alex
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, David
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob

Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wishart, Pete
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Noes:

Jeremy Wright and
James Duddridge
Question accordingly agreed to.
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