Lib Dem splits appear over budget

THE first cracks in the coalition started to appear yesterday, after a leading Liberal Democrat said he and colleagues would try to “improve the fairness” of George Osborne’s Budget.

Deputy Lib Dem leader Simon Hughes, who is on the left-wing of the party, told MPs in the commons he would consider tabling amendments to the Finance Bill.

“When it comes to the Budget next week, we will vote for the Budget. But if there are measures in the Finance Bill where we could improve fairness and make for a fairer Britain, then we will come forward with amendments to do that,” Hughes said.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats insisted Hughes was not planning to lay any amendments.

He added: “Simon Hughes made it clear in his speech that there would be no unpicking of the coalition deal. He was referring to a hypothetical situation. Given that fairness has been built into the Budget there are no plans to lay any amendments.”

And business secretary Vince Cable told City A.M. that Hughes’ remarks had been taken “out of context”.

“Simon is a loyal colleague, he wasn’t trying to be rebellious,” he added.

Hughes has backed the Budget thus far, but any suggestion he is singing from a different song sheet could cause trouble for the coalition.