Budget 2012: Lib Dems distance themselves from 50p decision

The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats distanced himself from George Osborne's decision to cut the top rate of income tax this morning.

The chancellor was effectively given the go-ahead for the decision when Liberal Democrat business secretary Vince Cable said his party would not oppose a change as long as it was accompanied by other measures to tax wealth, such as a mansion tax.

But in media interviews this morning, Simon Hughes appeared to distance himself from the decision, calling it a Tory priority.

"The chancellor took a view that he wanted to do things that mattered a lot to Conservatives, and that was to bring down not this year but next year the top rate of tax from 50 to 45p," he told BBC Radio 5 Live this morning.

"What mattered to us was not that at all. What mattered to us was the millions of people, the 99 in 100 who are ordinary taxpayers."

Mr Hughes' comments are a clear sign the Liberal Democrat leadership is keen to disassociate itself from the decision, which led Ed Miliband to attack the Budget as a document which cut taxes for millionaires while others endured austerity.

But critics of the Liberal Democrats claim they again got the worse end of the deal following negotiations with the Conservatives.

Their ideas for a mansion tax and a tycoon tax were rejected in favour of a rise in stamp duty on properties over £2 million and the closing of corporate envelope avoidance schemes.

Asked if he was proud of the Budget this morning, Mr Hughes replied: "No. But I'm proud that overall what it does, is in relation to ordinary people it helps them and takes them out of tax and 20 to 25 million people will be better off as a result."

Most coverage of the Budget has centred on the cut to top rate income tax and so-called 'granny tax' phasing out the 'age-related allowance'.