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Cabinet members said Tuesday they are ready to start a debate on raising the consumption tax as long as the administration does not deviate from its pledge to avoid any increases before the next Lower House election.

The ministers made the remarks at separate news conferences following Finance Minister Naoto Kan’s comment that he wants the Tax Commission to begin discussions in March on fundamental revisions to the tax system, including raising the consumption tax.

Kan said Tuesday he is aware of the agreement reached by the three ruling parties last September not to raise the consumption tax, currently at 5 percent, until after next Lower House election. Under the Constitution, Lower House elections must be held at least once every four years.

But Kan said the accord “does not amount to sealing off a discussion” on whether the tax rate should be changed.

Seiji Maehara, minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, said holding a debate on a tax rate hike “would not at all contradict what we have said, because the coalition will not raise it during these four years, even though we may discuss it.”

Masayuki Naoshima, minister of economy, trade and industry, agreed that discussions do not present a problem.

He added that a debate on the consumption tax could also be held under the heading of how the nation’s social security system should be financed and maintained.

Financial Services Minister Shizuka Kamei said discussions will cover the entire taxation system, not just the consumption tax.

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