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David Cameron and Harriet Harman clash on cuts

By Sean O'Grady

David Cameron and Labour's acting leader, Harriet Harman, clashed sharply at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday over the extent to which cutbacks in public spending will increase unemployment.

Figures released by the interim Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicted that 538,000 public sector posts would disappear by 2016, but that the number of people in work will be about 210,000 higher than under Labour's plans.

A Treasury leak earlier in the week suggested that 1.3m jobs would go.

Ms Harman told David Cameron: “I know you've published some figures today but it's the figures you haven't published that I'm asking about — the figures that say that 1.3m jobs will be lost. Why won't you publish these Treasury documents? Why are you keeping them hidden?”

Mr Cameron said the OBR forecast was independent of the Government, adding that before the election Labour's chancellor, Alistair Darling, said that public sector job losses were inevitable.

The timing of the OBR's release of fresh data, apparently in response to newspaper reports about the Treasury leak, raised questions about how truly “independent” the OBR is.

Ms Harman pointed out that the OBR's forecast indicated that “unemployment will be higher than it would otherwise have been”.

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