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More cuts 'may harm social fabric'

Business Secretary Vince Cable has raised concerns that further cuts will damage the "social fabric" of Britain.

The Lib Dem Cabinet Minister also launched a fresh attack on Chancellor George Osborne's scheme to boost home ownership warning it needs to be "looked at again".

Mr Cable has become known as one of the more free-speaking members of the Cabinet, earning the nickname " Jeremiah" from Prime Minister David Cameron.

Pressed on the choice the next government will have to make between spending cuts and higher taxes, he told BBC 1's Andrew Marr Show: "The crucial thing is it has got to be dealt with fairly. The people who are best able to pay should pay relatively more and we have got to have a sensible balance between pressure on public spending, which is getting very severe, and some very good services are now being seriously affected."

Asked if he was concerned about Britain's "social fabric" if cuts continued, he replied: "I am concerned about the social fabric. There are two answers to that. One is we have got to get recovery going properly and sustained, and there's been some good news over the last six months, growth is happening and unemployment is falling, so those things have got to be built upon and we have got to make this sustainable. We don't want to get into one of these boom-bust cycles with property that we've had in the past.

"We've got to build on the industrial recovery, which I'm trying to get behind. We are getting a lot of manufacturers coming back to the UK now but that's got to be put on a sustainable basis.

"We have got to make sure this recovery is fair. That means we have got to help people at the bottom end of the scale."

Mr Cable, who has previously raised concerns about the Help to Buy scheme, said there is a "raging housing boom" in London and the South East.

Asked if the measure, which provides government guarantees for low-deposit mortgages, could be reassessed to stop the bubble, he replied: "Indeed. We certainly need to look at that again.

"It was conceived in very different circumstances. I notice, for example, that the ratings agency, Standard and Poor's, which gives the UK a triple A rating, is expressing quite serious worries on that front."

Mr Cable said Lib Dem demands for a mansion tax would "absolutely" be a red line at the next election.

"We will argue for a fairer tax system. The Conservatives want to go in the opposite direction. We will be arguing on a very, very distinct agenda on tax when the election comes."

Asked if the top rate of income tax, cut from 50p to 45p, should be looked at again, he said: "No, I don't see any reason for that. The previous cut was not a great political success."


From Belfast Telegraph