18/04/2012 Daily Politics


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Morning folks. This is the Daily Politics. It's exactly four weeks


since the Budget and the bad headlines just keep appearing. The


Prime Minister has endured a series of rows, gaffes, crises and U-turns,


but are they just mid-term blues or what one Downing Street insider has


labelled an omnishambles? Ed Miliband should have plenty to go


on in the the first PMQs since the Budget. We'll bring you that live


and uninterrupted from noon. Unemployment falls for the first


time in a year. The number of people out of work now stands at


2.65 million - that from the labour force survey measure. And, food


glorious food, as Cornish MPs attempt to stop the planned rise in


VAT on pasties, we'll be asking if we should in fact be considering


even bigger taxes on unhealthy foods. All that to come before


1.00pm and with us for the duration two leading lights of the political


world - Lib Dem Pensions Minister, Steve Webb and Shadow Leader of the


House, Angela Eagle. Welcome to you both. How much interest are you


getting from your savings? Probably not a lot, and if you're a


pensioner you're probably not relying on interest income to pay


the bills. This morning, the Treasury Select Committee has said


the Government should explore what it could do to help pensioners


whose retirement income has been undermined by low interest rates


and the Bank of England's quantitative easing programme.


That's printing money to buy00 gilts, keeping long-term interest


rates down. Mr Webb, any chance of the savers, not just the pensioners,


getting some help? It's vital that we need to reward saving properly.


When people save the Government means tests them and says, "You've


got money, so we'll not pay you any extra help." The number of


pensioners who ask when they bothered saving. That's why what we


are trying to do is get the state pension up to a decent level so


people have to be means tested less. That is not something which


interest rates flow up and down short term, but a long-term


strategy. The acutely minded will notice that's not what I was


talking about. It absolutely is. what the Treasury Select Committee


was importantly talking about was interest rates being at 0.5% since


March 2009. Which if you are a safer is not good news. It may be


the right thing for the country, it may not, that's for you to tell us,


but not good news for savers, coupled with the effect of


quantitative easing, of pumping a lot of money into the economy,


which depresses long-term interest rates, which in turn hits annuities.


The pension industry, for example, says the annuity rates have been


down by a quarter in three years and 90 billion has been wiped off


the value of pensions because of it. What is the answer to that? Annuity


rates have been falling year after year after year. There's no clear


evidence that quantitative easing has made a big difference to that.


Rates have fallen partly because people are living longer and what


we have to make sure is we have just had the biggest pension cash


rise ever and that's something the Liberal Democrats were wanting to.


Do what will happen every year is that the pension will go up by the


highest of inflation earnings or 2.5%. Excuse me, minister, but


pensioners watching this programme aren't going to be better off


because of this increase. They are going to be the same, because it


keeps pace with inflation. policy has been in force for the


last ten years, but the pension will be �10 a week higher. That's


the real difference. Before I come to Angela, you then don't buy the


implicit criticism from the committee that keeping interests


rates very low, may be right for other reasons, but they are low and


doing quantitative easing has been a bum deal for savers in general


and pensioners in particular? don't agree it's the reason why


annuity rates have fallen, but I agree that pensioners have suffered


through lower interest rates. That is true. The challenge is to make


sure they have a decent standard of living to build on savings.


Interest rates went to 0.5% in March 2009. Labour in power.


Quantitative easing started under Gordon Brown as Prime Minister.


Labour in power. Both of you have been at fault? It's important for


the economy, as you have mentioned, that quantitative easing and


monetary policy can help take some of the weight of adjustment after


the global financial crisis. Our argument with the Government on


that is actually they are expecting monetary policy to take all of that


weight and actually that's not working, because economists say


it's like pushing on a piece of string. Monetary policy - That was


Mr Key nes. You are not complaining because they're still low, are you?


You have to say that this is obviously hitting all savers.


are not complaining? Particularly pensioners. What I would say is the


Government needed to look more effectively at what else it could


do to stimulate the economy and not just have the overreliance on


monetary policy. I'll tell you what we want have done. Answer the


question. Ask me. I am asking you. It's not Labour policy, as I


understand it, to oppose keeping interest rates at 0.5% and it's not


Labour policy, as I understand it, to oppose the �325 billion of QE


that's been done. Am I right? we have said is that the Government


shouldn't be relying only on monetary policy. You've said that.


Will you answer my question - are you opposed to keep interest rates


at that level and to the QE? What we would have done would have been


different. We would have also had some fiscal policy measures. We


have got our five-point plan, which is about boosting the economy in


the short term, so we can allow fiscal policy to take some of the


pressure on this. I'm not sure we would have been in the position


where we flat-line the economy, where unemployment was going up and


there's no effective policy for growth. If you can have growth then


you can take some of the pressure off and get back to normality, so


that's the answer to that particular question. And ewe, I'll


tell you what else we wouldn't have done. No, no, no. Taking pressure


off interest rates is a way of - off monetary policy, which is your


phrase, is an oblique politician's way of saying interest rates would


rise, correct? Well, they have to rise at some stage in the future


when economic conditions have normalised. We are trying to get


the economy back to normality and that wouldn't be to have 0.5% rates.


I tell you what we wouldn't have done though, not increased VAT to


hit pensioners with a triple whammy and the granny tax. That's that.


Are you whispering now? Do you use Facebook, Twitter or Skype? If so,


the Government plans to watch you. It wants to allow GCHQ to monitor


all communication on social media, and log every site visited by


internet users. Some have called it a snoopers' charter, and said it


amounts to the same kind of surveillance that governments in


China and Iran use. But others have argued it's another tool in the


fight against terrorism. Today, the inventor of the world wide web and


the Government's own adviser on public data, Tim Berners-Lee, told


the Guardian that these powers would be a destruction of human


rights. And he said that routinely recording information about people


is obviously very dangerous. Will you change the policy? There isn't


a policy yet. What needs to be discussed is the law. Civil


liberties are core to what I'm in politics for, so I won't vote for


anything that tram ms on that. What we should do -- tramples on that.


Let's look at how new technology affects what the Government does,


but use it as an opportunity to give people more protection than


they've had in the past. You say that, but if you are going to allow


agencies to monitor the calls, e- mails and texts and website visits,


tell me how that doesn't? Many of the powers were introduced in the


previous Government and people can already have traffic on e-mails


monitored. You want to extend it? want to make sure there are proper


safeguards. What will they be? example, the things can be done,


but they have to have a magistrate agreeing, or in some cases the Home


Secretary has to agree, but huge amounts going on and we as a


Government have to make sure we are trying to presume protection for


people's liberties and then make somebody make the case for an


exception. It sounds a bit complicated. Your own adviser is


saying the policy should be scrapped. That's a big warning


light, never mind your own backbenchers? I have huge respect


for Tim Berners Lee. You are not going to listen to him on this?


Absolutely, listen to him. We need to protect civil liberties, but the


case needs to be made, but the presumption needs to protect


people's freedoms. One of the things raised by one of the Liberal


Democrat MPs who sits on the Select Committee, no expert I've spoken to


see can see how this can be done without great expense and allowing


access to the message that sent, in other words content. No-one is


going to believe they will just monitor the time and date messages


without looking at content and for that you need a warrant. Is that


something the Liberal Democrats will support? Content is obviously


a much bigger step than knowing whether you sent an e-mail to


someone or had a phone call. Content is a much bigger bridge and


would need greater levels of security than we currently have.


You are saying that's going to happen? Currently people's e-mails


can be accessed. New technology, you do something over the internet


and the current technology doesn't allow you to do that, but a phone


call you can. There are bizarre things about the current system. It


needs updating, but we need to use this as an opportunity to re-open


some of the measures that came in with the last government. Angela,


you must be pleased, because Labour wanted to introduce a database. It


was opposition from the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives that


had it scrapped basically. Do you welcome these? There's always a


balance between security and dealing with criminals who use the


internet. And all of that. Also privacy and people's rights. What


you wouldn't have heard from listening to Steve Webb talking


there, and what people might not have realised, is that Nick Clegg


appears to have signed this policy off in a Government committee, as


the Prime Minister chieded him for making trouble about it in public


and the Liberal Democrats have got to stop pretending that if they


complain about things in public that they've agreed to in the


privacy of a Cabinet committee and go and vote for it, that somehow


they can distance themselves from Government policy. Nick Clegg has


signed up to this? Nick Clegg is on the record saying that there needs


to be draft legislation to consult and listen to people, so there is


no law. He has said -- There are Conservative ministers on the


television saying that this is all agreed in Cabinet committees and


the proposals wouldn't have come forward if they hadn't been agreed,


so the Liberal Democrats have to decide whether they're in the


Government or out and stop taking people for idiots. People know that


Liberal Democrats are responsible for the decisions that pass through


the House of Commons and they vote for them. Of course, there's been


no vote or decision. What Nick has been insistent on is proper


consultation before anything happens. Thank you. I've been


reading your e-mails for years. Today's PMQs is the first for four


weeks. Yes, you heard that right. And what a month it has been for


the Government. Just four weeks ago everything seemed fine and dandy


for David Cameron. Fresh from his visit to Washington, where he


watched basketball with the President and was treated to a


lavish state banquet, Mr Cameron was on a roll. But then came George


Osborne's Budget and pastygate, the so-called granny tax, the charity


tax, the fuel panic for a strike that never was. Yes, a veritable


pot pourri of woes for the PM. So, Jo, can you remind us what's been


going on? At the beginning of March, the Sun's daily tracker poll had


Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck on 39%. With the Liberal


Democrats some way behind on 8%. However, following the Budget


things changed. Granny tax and charity tax, relief cuts riled


large sections of the press and public and Labour's poll ratings


began to move ahead. More problems came that following weekend, as


Tory chairman Peter Cruddas was forced to step down after offering


access to David Cameron for a �250,000 donation. He was filmed,


saying it would be awesome for your business. Then there were the


queues outside petrol stations, following fears of a strike.


Cabinet minister, Francis Maude, suggested keeping a jerry can in


theing grarge and the Government was -- garage was widely criticised.


Then monitoring calls, texts and e- mails that were labelled as


snoopers' charter and David Cameron was given respite, as the spotlight


on turned on Labour's failure to hold on to Bradford West. George


Galloway causing a headache. Yesterday's tracker poll showed the


Conservatives are now on 32%, nine points behind Labour. However, it's


worse for the Liberal Democrats, they're still on 8%. 1% behind the


UKIP, who have pushed the Liberal Weir joined by the Conservative


backbencher, Nick Boles. Our other two guests are still here. -- we


are joined. What is worse, being seen to be out of touch or


incompetent? You do not want to be either. I do not think we are


either incompetent or out of touch. I accept that we have a problem in


the press and the polls and frankly most Conservative MPs would tell


you that we thought we were going to be an unpopular government


within months of having to take the difficult decisions we have had to


take. What went wrong? You were going reasonably well, given that


you were taking these decisions that you think a difficult. It was


going reasonably well under the circumstances. And now it has


fallen through the floor. What went wrong? I think you cannot predict


what the media will do. They run in packs and there is a herd instinct.


There was no point complaining about it. We are in that business.


What matters is whether the economy grows and whether jobs are created


and whether the deficit is stabilised and people in 2015 think


that this Government has rescued Britain from the edge of an abyss


and got things back on track. That is the only thing that matters.


you prepared to accept, is it in the nature of things that you could


stay 10, 12, even 15 points behind Labour in the polls for the rest of


this year? Of course, we don't want to. Nobody wants that but we could.


Margaret Thatcher regularly stayed way behind oppositions and


continued to win elections. We should not worry about polls. We


should worry if we make mistakes or communicate things badly. We should


always be trying to improve of. it a mistake to tell us to fill up


our Jerry cans? I think it was not a mistake to send in very clear


signal to the most extreme union leader in the country that we were


not going to allow him to take the country to ransom. It is no


coincidence that he is now settling that and not going to be pushing


for a strike. He is going for strikes elsewhere. And we would


like to stop that two. That is an interesting answer and I thank you


for it. Was it a mistake to tell us to fill up our Gerry cans? When we


are facing people like you, we have all said things that we thought it


were not the right words. I'm sure that words have been said by


ministers that they regret. The fact is, it was right to tell


people that there was the threat of a strike and they needed to take


precautions. They did take precautions and the union, because


we stood up to them, backed off. Given the Government's poll ratings


and the things that we have been going through, you must be poised


to sweep London, hold on to Glasgow against the SNP, and do really well


in England and Wales? I think we have got a chance to criticise what


we think this government is getting wrong. At to see whether or not we


can translate that into votes in the election. We're not complacent


about that. What we have got here is an out-of-touch government.


have done that. You must be very confident as a result of the


Government's was, that Mr Livingstone will write -- white the


floor with Boris Johnson and London, that you will see off the challenge


in Glasgow, which is your party's heartland, and it will be happy


days here again in England and Wales, agree? You know the polls as


well as I do. You know the race in London is tight. We are well ahead


in the race for the assembly, bus - - but Boris Johnson is currently


head because he is differentiating himself from the Conservative Brant,


nationally. We think it is going to be a tight race. We are putting


everything in to try and win it. What about Glasgow Q Mack Glasgow


is going to be tight because of the different systems that are being


used there, and the rise of the Scottish National Party. However, I


think the important thing that we have seen over the last period, is


that we have seen a government causing of the petrol crisis


because it is out of touch and it has caused alarm. I sat on COBRA


when we had the first petrol dispute and there is no way that we


would have gone out on to the waves and sparked a panic like that.


sure you're right. I am absolutely sure you would have done a better.


Nick Boles should say it is a mistake. We have done that with him.


It is a partisan political point. If you cannot win now, London, a


Labour city, with your own party is a point ahead, never mind Mr


Livingstone, when your party is 10 points ahead nationally, if you


cannot win now when will you went? Let's see what happens with the


local elections. -- will you win. I notice you are not asking about how


many seats we are able to take in other parts of the country. You


have much of London and Scotland. think the transcript will show that,


and I remember my exact words, I said "It will be happy days are


here again for Labour in England and Wales". I think there will be


happy days coming up after May 3rd. We will be happier than the Liberal


Democrats and the Conservatives will be. The Lib Dems, you are part


of the problem. You leak all the good start -- all the good stuff


before the Budget so we know the stuff that is popular, like lower


income has been taken out tax and other things. We know of that so,


budget, because you have lead to be good stuff, only the bad stuff is


left and that is what we concentrate on. It is hardly a


secret. We were pressing for big increases in personal tax


allowances. He told us it was going to happen, 36 hours before the


Budget. You people, Lib Dems leaked to me and others that it was a done


deal in the Budget. Disgraceful. never happened under Gordon


Brown's(!) Gordon Brown would speak to me, so it never did! There is a


lot of froth in all of that. The thing in the Budget that will last,


after that has died away, is taking 2 million people out of tax


altogether. And cutting the top rate of tax. That is something the


Lib Dems have been talking about for years, delivering in government.


That is why the Government budget will be seen as being a good one.


Why did the Government not prepare the ground for this idea that there


should be 8 cat on charity giving, if it meant that the amount of tax


you then paid becomes meaningless? It is a perfectly respectable idea.


Why did you not lay the groundwork? Instead it came like a bolt out of


the blue because his lot were pushing for you to do something


about those at the top end. It is true that most of the process of


government have had to change because we are red coalition. -- we


are in coalition. In this case, the Lib Dems, reasonably and fairly,


made the suggestion for a tycoon tax, which means that you're


restricting the release that people on high incomes can go for. Rolling


the picture is the best thing to do, getting people prepared, while we


try to fix a problem? When you come forward with the proposal, it makes


sense. In this case, we did not have much time to do that because


it was a late gesture. Mild observation would be this, but


actually what is revealed is that we are in a halfway house on the


process of budget baking. We are no longer in the totally secret,


resign if anything gets out, phase foot, but we are not in an open


budget process. I think we need to move to a process where more of it


is put out there for consultation and discussion before the Budget so


that no one is surprised by anything. Light the granny tax?


Then you can have a sensible conversation. -- like.


Before you go, if Labour are still 10 points ahead, when you get


worried? How long can they stay 10 points or 15 points ahead before


you get worried? I am not sure I know what the first Thursday in


20th May 15 is, but one or two weeks before would be troubling.


John Major, remember, you all thought he had lost several hours


after the polls had closed, and he went on to secure the highest vote


of any Conservative Prime Minister. Your ride. Since you have raised a


factual issue, I was doing the coverage that night and one hour


after the polls closed, we called John Major as the winner. And that


is why you're here now. You mean I have been demoted?!


Steve Hilton, the real one, not a guru, he is having his leaving do


tonight. David Cameron's guru... Have you been invited?


He is heading off to a year's sabbatical in California. It is not


as if we are run recession or that unemployment is high for anything


like that, why not go to California? What will the Prime


Minister give him as a leaving present, I hear you ask. Well, you


could go wrong by giving the guru Eight Daily Politics mug. What


better way to secure California cocoa water and one of those little


beauties. -- sip you're. We don't just give these away to Prime


Minister us. They will have to enter guess the year, just like


everybody else. I look forward to that. We will


remind you how to enter in a minute but let's see if you can remember


Arguably, Prime Minister? -- I use a bully. Why not have an inquiry


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 42 seconds


Unforgettable images. To be in with a chance of winning the Daily


Politics mug, send your answer to our special e-mail address: As you


can see the terms and conditions for Guess The Year on our website.


You can also win a Daily Politics mug if you can tell us to Steve --


Steve Hilton do really is. Big Ben is behind us, which means the Prime


Minister's Questions is on its way. James Landale is here to join us.


It is a grey April day out there. But if you are Ed Miliband, where


you start? You have an embarrassment of riches. You have


several weeks of news events to choose from. But I think that is


both his opportunity and potentially a weakness because


sometimes opposition leaders, when they have too much on their plate,


can be scattergun in their approach. Opposition leaders are better if


they choose one specific issue and burrow way, making an impact. If


you read out a list of the Government's was, you dilute your


impact. You travelled with the Prime Minister on his Far East trip.


We got the impression that here that he was being chased from


Indonesia to Bruma or wherever it was by events back here. Did it


seem like that when you were with him? This is what the strips are


always like. Particularly a long trip on the other side of the world.


-- Burma. Prime Ministers always get caught up. The factor that in.


When they talk to people like me, they know that I will ask a


question about the trip and a question about charity tax or


whatever the issue is. But it did lead to some criticism within


newspapers that the Prime Minister is globe-trotting when he should be


back here. The Prime Minister insists that being out there is why


he should be out there because he believes he is banging the drum for


business and creating jobs. But it is not an easy balance. Is the


Indonesian President not bemused when you ask him about a plastic


tax in Jakarta? I think that test of the translators. What did they


translate that as? In terms of the embarrassment of


riches, unemployment, to raise a mixed picture. That gives the Prime


Minister some momentum, bit of ammunition with which to defend


himself. But can the Prime Ministers are always cautious


before pleading too much, basing too much on one month's figures.


Next month comes up for the month after, and the figures are down and


people say, well, hang on, you told us these figures were important and


now you're saying it is just one month. The mood from Downing Street


is encouraging but there is a long way to go. But it has become quite


personal. Mr Cameron is being accused of being out of touch, it


is in having a Downing Street of cronies, that is the other


criticism. Chums is the phrase a mode. I have cronies and you have


chums. -- alarm mode. Is that getting home? They are aware that


there is an issue but they need to address. The difficult thing is how


to. Whenever they talk about taxation, for example, you sock and


amount of discomfort within Downing Street, and George Osborne about


exactly how to handle it. Let us go I'm sure the whole House will pay


tribute to those servicemen who have fallen since we last met.


Captain Rupert Bowers, from 2nd battalion the Mercian Regiment.


Sergeant Luke Taylor from the Royal Marines, Lance Corporal Michael


Foley -- Foley from the Adjutant General's Corps and corporal Jack


Stanley from the Queen's Royal Hussars. We are endebted to their


selfless service and we send our heart-felt condolences to families,


friends and colleagues of these men who made the ultimate sacrifice for


our country. They will not be forgotten. This morning I had


meetings with colleagues and others and I shall have further such


meetings later today. I want to offer my condolences to the


families. Mr Speaker, in Northern Ireland party political traditions


are not subject to the same publication rules as those in the


rest of the UK. However, my own party has delivered on our


commitment to publish the relevant information on a voluntary basis.


Will the Prime Minister commit to bring is our rules into line with


the rest of the UK and further will he demonstrate his own commitment


to openess and transparency by following our lead and publishing


voluntarily lists of donors to the Conservative Party in Northern


Ireland? Very happy. We publish those donor lists and quite rightly


so. As the honourable lady knows, the last Government passed


legislation with specific treatment for Northern Ireland for reasons


which are quite well known. We want the parties to show the same


approach as in the rest of the UK. If parties choose to publish the


information on a voluntary basis then that's very very welcome, so I


welcome what the party has done, leading by example. Following the


unlawful killing of my constituent as a result of out-of-hours GPs


being unable to speak English, can we strengthen controls on foreign


doctors? GPs working in England should be able to speak English,


does the Prime Minister agree? And that freedom of movement within the


EU is not an excuse for compromising patient safety? He's


entirely right and today's announcement makes clear that


doctors shouldn't be operating in the NHS in our country unless they


can speak English. Under the proposals, senior doctors need to


assess whether the doctor has the necessary language skills to be


able to communicate effectively with patients. If they can't do


that, they can't practice. Let me join the Prime Minister in paying


tribute to captain Rupert Bowers, sergeant Luke Taylor, Lance


Corporal ral Michael Foley, and -- korp Michael Foley and Jack Stanley.


I join the Prime Minister in saying they showed the most enormous


courage and bravery and owl -- all our thoughts are with their family


and friends. Can the Prime Minister confirm that the cut in 50 pence


tax rate will be worth 40,000 a year to the country's millionaires?


It will be paid five times over by the richest in the country. I


notice he doesn't ask about unemployment. Every month when


unemployment has risen he's leapt to that box to leap on the bad news,


and today we see unemployment fall by 35,000, employment up by 53,000


and no welcome from the honourable gentleman. Doesn't that show all of


his priorities? Will he welcome the increase of people employed in the


country? Only this Prime Minister could think it was a cause for


celebration that over one million young people are still out of work


in this country. It's no wonder people think he's out of touch. And


the House will have noted that he couldn't deny that Britain's 14,000


billionaires are getting a �40,000 cut in their income tax rate. As


for the figures produced for the Budget even the Select Committee


says they're bogus figures today, so millionaires are winners from


this Budget, but what about everyone else? Will he confirm that


by freezing the personal tax allowance year on year on year, .4


million pensioners will lose as much as �320 a year? What this


Budget is about is actually cutting taxes for 24 million working people.


Taking two million people out of tax. Freezing the council tax.


Cutting corporation tax so we are competitive with the rest of the


world and for pensioners we have increased the basic pension by


�5.30 a week, far more than Labour would have ever done so, but I have


to ask him this: if he's concerned about the 45 pence top rate of tax,


perhaps he can explain why his amendment that he's asking everyone


to vote on for at 4pm, would get rid of the 45 pence top rate of tax


and leave us with a 40 pence top rate of tax. It's here! He hasn't


had much to do over the last month. Some of us have been quite busy.


He's had almost nothing to do, but even that he has to do he's


incompetent at. The Prime Minister is talking rubbish as always.


However, on the issue of pensions, he points to the increase in the


basic state pension. I do say to him, only this Prime Minister could


try and con Britain's pensioners by taking the credit for high


inflation. And everybody will have noticed he didn't deny that


Britain's pensioners are seeing a tax increase year on year. It's not


just pensioners he's trying to con. It's families with children. Will


he confirm that according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, as a


result of all his tax changes from this April, families with children


will be over �500 a year worse off? I notice he's moved off the top


rate of tax, because he doesn't want to talk about it. I've got to


ask him, he's got to withdraw his amendment, because if he's


successful he'll give us a 40 pence tax rate. The other reason he


doesn't want to talk about the top rate of tax is because he can't


convince Labour's candidate for Mayor of London to pay his taxes.


Now, when it comes to pensioners, what we have done is increase the


basic state pension, we have kept all the pensioners' benefits and


the freeze in age-related allowances means there will be no


cash losses. Compare that with a pathetic 75 pence increase for


pensioners. We remember what the Budgets did. Will he condemn


Labour's candidate for Mayor of London, who wouldn't pay his taxes?


In case - he's very excited today, in case he's forgotten it's Prime


Minister's questions. The clues in the name. I ask the questions and


he is supposed to answer them. No answer on pensioners. No answer on


families. What about charities? The Prime Minister's big idea was the


big society. But since the Budget - I don't know why he's taking advice


from the part-time Chancellor sitting next to him. I wonder which


job he's doing today?! Since the Budget the Government has managed


to insult people who give to charity and insulted the charities


themselves by implying they're bogus. The Prime Minister claimed


he worked on the Budget line by line. Did he know when he signed


off the Budget that it represented a hit of as much as �500 million on


Britain's charities? The figures are completely wrong, but let me


tell the Right Honourable gentleman firstly, no defence of Ken


Livingstone. Not a word. What this is all about is making sure that


the riechest people in our country do pay their taxes -- richest


people in our country do pay their taxes. Last year there were over


300 people earning over �1 million, who paid a rate of tax of 10%. I


don't that's good enough and we have a Labour candidate for Mayor


of London, who is paying less tax on his earnings than the person who


cleans his office. I think that is disgraceful. Why wouldn't he


condemn it? Mr Speaker, this is - THE SPEAKER: Order, the usual level


of orchestration from the usual suspect on the Government


backbenchs. Be quiet Mr Burns, you are the minister for health, get


better. What a desperate Prime Minister who can't justify his own


Budget. If he want to talk about the Mayor, we have a candidate who


will cut Tube fares and make rents fairer and bring back EMA. What has


he got, a candidate for Mayor of London who is out of touch and


arguing for the cut in the 50 pence tax rate. Mr Speaker, the reality


on charities is that he's not making the rich worst off, he's


making charities worst off -- worse off. Over the last month we have


seen the charity tax shambles, the churches' tax shambles, the caravan


tax shambles, and the pastie tax shambles. Mr Speaker, we are all


keen to hear the Prime Minister's view as to why he thinks four weeks


on from the Budget even people within Downing Street are calling


it an omnishambles Budget. We have got a Mayor of London who pays his


taxes. Nothing from him about unemployment. Nothing about the


rich needing to pay their taxes. Nothing about Ken Livingstone's


responsibilities. He asks about the budget. This Budget cut taxes for


24 million people. This Budget cut corporation tax. This Budget made


Britain competitive. He talks about my last month. I accept a tough


month. Let's look at his. He lost the Bradford by-election. That was


a great success. I ask to -- I have to say he has given one person a


job opportunity, George Galloway! He lost the Bradford by-election.


He showed complete weakness when had came to the Unite trade union


and fuel strike and he's got a Mayor of London who won't pay taxes.


That's his last month. As ever, completely hopeless. He talks about


the fuel strike. I am not going to take any lectures on industrial


relations from a Government and Prime Minister that calls caused


panic at the pumps. That is the reality. Had he gets to his feet


let him apologise for the gross irresponsibility. Let him apologise


for the Cabinet minister who caused that panic at the pumps and for him.


The reality is - he should calm down, Mr Speeber. -- Mr Speaker.


This Budget comprehensively fails to test the fairness and it failed


the test of competence. We have a Prime Minister who is unfair, out


of touch and incompetent. Never mind we are all in it together.


When he's going to get a grip on his Government? He won't take any


lectures on the fuel strike, because he's in the pockets of the


people who called the fuel strike. That's right. They vote for


policies and sponsors his members of Parliament and got him


electioned. Absolutely irresponsible. That's what we've


heard once again from the honourable gentleman. Not good


enough to run the opposition, not good enough to run the country.


Does my Right Honourable friend noted that Standard and Poor's have


confirmed a stable outlook on the UK's AAA rating and said, "We could


lower the ratings if we came to the conclusion if the pace and extent


of fiscal consolidation was slowing." In other words, if the


discredited parties of the party opposite were adopted. He makes an


important point, which is in this week of all weeks, we are getting


yet more reminders from other countries in Europe of the


importance of getting on top of your deficit, on top of your debts


and having a proper plan to deliver that. That's what needs to happen.


It's welcome what standards and poorz have done. -- Standard and


Poor's have done. We need to keep the interest rates low to make sure


we deliver the growth the economy needs and it's absolutely


extraordinary that the leader of House of Commons has gone on


television today calling for higher interest rates - the Shadow Leader.


Better go and look at the transcript. The First Minister of


Northern Ireland requested that the Prime Minister meet the families of


the ten innocent families of a massacre in 1976. I know the Prime


Minister met other families and he desires to be balanced. Can he


assure me he will meet these The Kingsmill massacre was --


massacre was an appalling event and I will arrange a meeting with a


family and the Northern Ireland secretary. I will attend a possible


for stop the Prime Minister will be aware that there is no VAT


chargeable on caviar and yet the Government is proposing to put VAT


on the Cornish pasty. Why is that fair? I understand that feelings in


Cornwall run high on this. I think it is unfair that products sold in


a fish and chip shop, subject to a tee, the same projects can be sold


us supermarkets not sold -- not subject to VAT. I think that is


right and we should redraw the boundaries. While the Prime


Minister is entertaining millionaire party donors at cosy


kitchen suppers at his Downing Street flat, thousands of ordinary


people are queuing up for banks because they cannot afford to feed


their families. What do those people worst hit by the cuts and


the rise in food prices have to do to get a quiet word in the Prime


Minister's here? Is there any chance he could invite some of them


round for supper. This government has done -- made the biggest


increase in child tax credits, going to the poorest in the country.


In April, there was a �255 increase, the largest ever increase. There is


a further increase this year of �135. Added to that, 2 million of


the poorest people are now out of income tax altogether. One of the


things that would hit families hardest is an increase in interest


rates, which is now the official policy of the opposition. Given a


tour of hundred jobs at Group Lotus in south Norfolk may be at risk


following the company's written change of ownership, will the Prime


Minister put all possible pressure on the Malaysian government to


ensure that the company only permit the sale of the business to buyers


who wish to see it as a going concern in Norfolk? I Widders -- I


raised this issue with the Malaysian Prime Minister and with


the new Malaysian owners of the parent company. Lotus makes a key


contribution to the UK automotive sector which is doing well. I want


to see Lotus succeed. I want to see them having a secure future. We are


in contact with the company at wallet and the situation closely,


making sure they know about the growth fund that is available.


lot budget makes 230,000 additional pensioners pay tax and will bring


500,000 extra parents into the self-assessment regime because of


tax on child benefit, yet this week we have heard that 10,000 members


of staff at HMRC will be cut. Isn't it the case that the Chancellor is


so incompetent he will not have the staff to be able to deliver his own


budget plan to him that we have actually increased staffing levels


to make sure we crack down on the sort of tax avoidance that, frankly,


has been shown by the honourable lady's candidate for the mayor of


London. That is what it has come to. That is the measures we are taking.


Would my right honourable friend agree with me that service


companies set up by Labour politicians to disguise their own


hypocrisy on tax are a disgraceful betrayal of real entrepreneurs up


and down the country? I think my honourable friend makes a good


point. They do not want to hear it because the man they are putting


forward to be Mayor of London has set up a company to fuel -- fund


all this money into and is paying a lower tax rate than the people who


work for him at the GLA. It is disgraceful and even at this stage,


I would call on the Labour leader to get the Labour candidate to


publish all this information so that we can see the taxi is paying.


-- tax he is paying. Does the Prime Minister agreed that the specialist


centre in Oxford currently facing closure does outstanding work


unlocking the isolation of children with acute communication


difficulties? Given the pressure charities are under, will be Prime


Minister step in and pulled together some bridging finance so


that this outstanding centre can continue helping the children and


young people who need it so much? The honourable gentleman knows that


I know this centre. I visited it in the past and I am happy to look at


him -- look with him at what can be done to help the centre and the


good work it does, particularly for disabled children. The Prime


Minister wants to cut down on tax avoidance, so what does he think


about Ken Livingstone, who said "I get loads of money from different


sources. And I give it to an accountant and they manage it." Is


that modern socialism for you? do not like it. I thought the


Labour Party wanted rich people to pay their taxes properly. That is


what we have insured through this budget and through the extra


resources. So why the deafening silence? Why not a combination of


this appalling behaviour? -- a condemnation. Does the Prime


Minister share my concern at the actions of the Northern Ireland


Attorney General in using an outdated and discredited block of


disrespect in the court to invoke contempt proceedings against the


former Northern Ireland Secretary, for comments in his memoir?


Shouldn't respect for the independence of the judiciary be


balanced by the rights of individuals to fair comment on that


judiciary? I do have a great deal of sympathy with what the


honourable gentleman says. Parliamentary privilege, quite


rightly, allows Honourable Members to express their views in


Parliament. In terms of what is said his side of Parliament, there


are occasions as we know where judges make critical remarks about


politicians and there are occasional remarks the politicians


make that a critical about judges. To me, this is part of life in a


modern democracy and I think we ought to keep these things out of


the courtroom. Like the Prime Minister, I welcome the strides


towards democracy been made in Burma. I welcome his efforts to


achieve sanctions. With a decision on proposals due next week, will he


ensure that measures to monitor human rights in Burma are included


in the discussions? I think my honourable friend is right. While


it is clear that the Burmese regime is making some steps towards


greater freedom and democracy, we should be extremely cautious and


extremely careful. We want to see a further release of political


prisoners, and the resolution of ethnic conflict. We want to see the


democratisation process continue. That is why we are pushing for the


suspension of sanctions, excluding the arms embargo that should stay,


rather than lifting of sanctions. We have support from that position


for most of the other leading European countries and I hope we


can deliver it. -- from most. That would be the right thing, back in


progress, and strongly supporting what Hang Seng Suchi has set


herself as the right approach. My constituents are angry that his


priority in the Budget was to give a �40,000 tax cuts to millionaires.


Will he tell the House that as a result of the reduction in the top


rate of income tax, how much collectively will his cabinet be


better off? Let me make this point but the top rate of tax. The party


opposite had 13 years to introduce a 50 pence top rate of tax and they


did it one month before a general election that they knew they were


going to lose. This top rate of tax has not raise any money and the 45


p rate but we have is higher than what you had for 12 of you 13 years.


-- you are 13 years. Earlier this week, an article appeared in the


Independent about how many South Asian women find traditionally that


their votes have been hijacked through abuse of the postal voting


system. Would my right honourable friend look at the issue of


revisiting postal votes on demand, not only to strengthen our


democracy and trust in it, but to ensure that all voters have a vote,


and that particularly in the case of the South Asian young voters,


their votes are not Solon. -- not stolen. I am happy to look at the


issue of postal voting but I think that first of all what we need to


do is sort out the issue of individual voter registration. I


think this is vitally important, to make sure we do not have a system


that allows lot of people to be locked on to a register when


actually nobody is living at the premises. There is growing evidence


of abuse and it is right that we are acting on it. Two years ago,


the Prime Minister said "It is fundamental to me that people who


have worked hard all their lives are now drawing their pension and


deserve to be treated with respect." Does he think that trying


to sell his granny tax as a simplification is treating


pensioners with respect? Let me explain what we're doing. We are


increasing the basic state pension by �5.30 every week. This is not an


increase that the party opposite would have made. At the same time,


we are saving the winter fuel payments, the cold weather payments,


the free television licence, the free bus pass and the other


pensioner benefits. That is what this government is doing at the


same time, we are examining the case for a single tier pension of


around �140 each. I would have thought that is something that


members on all sides of the House would welcome, because it would be


a well-paid basic pension that would encourage people to save


before they become pensioners and their welcome reform. -- a welcome


reform. 30 years ago, a British toddler went missing in Germany and


due to the mishandling of this case by the British military police, her


parents still have no idea what happened to her. Will the Prime


Minister agree to meet with the family, to hear their calls for an


independent inquiry into the bungling of this investigation, and


give them the closure they so desperately need. I will certainly


look at the case and see what more we can do. Cases of missing people


are completely tragic and the family does not get closure, as


this case and other ones show. I am happy to look at the case and get


back to her. Churches and places of worship including many in Blackpool


do it immensely valuable work adapting their buildings for


community use. Why is the Prime Minister backing a 20% VAT rate in


the Budget on alterations to listed buildings which will cost many of


those churches and places of worship millions of pounds? The


Church of England, it is estimated, �10 million. That is infuriating


them and the charities concerned and shooting his "big society" in


the third. -- in the foot. There is a basic unfairness and the current


system. Repairs to churches are subject to VAT. Alterations to


listed buildings are not subject to VAT. That means that you pay VAT on


repair to a church, but if you put a swimming pool in a listed Tudor


house, you do not pay VAT. If we need to redraw boundaries. We will


be putting money aside to make sure to hear Mr Douglas Carswell. A few


weeks ago when this House, I asked the Prime Minister to what extent


he believed the Whitehall machine, the Sir Humphrey factor, was


frustrating reform. The short answer was that it was not.


According to the Financial Times, in Malaysia last week, he said "As


Prime Minister I can tell you that Yes Minister is true to life." Can


you tell us what has happened to change his mind? There are few


occasions when I think the honourable gentleman needs a sense


of humour. The Prime Minister's official


spokesman argued last week that rich individuals avoiding tax by


giving to charities which do not do a great amount of charitable work.


Can be Prime Minister name any of these charity is? The figures I


gave earlier show that last year 300 people earning over �1 million


in our country got there rate of tax down to 10%. I think we need to


make sure that yes, we protect charities and encourage


philanthropic giving, but we make sure that rich people are paying


their fair share of taxes. I would have thought that would have been a


principle that would get some attraction on all sides of the


House. Does my right honourable friend agree that universities


should be free to admit students on the basis of merit? I think my


honourable friend is entirely right. It is welcome that a greater


proportion of 18 year-olds are now applying to university than any


time under -- in the last 30 years. No one pays upfront for tuition or


other fees. He is right, university entry is about academic merit.


The Deputy Prime Minister recently said that we have succeeded to pull


the economy back from the brink. With a record levels of youth


unemployment and growth lower than forecast, and inflation up, does


this not show that the Deputy Prime Minister is a Prime Minister's --


the Prime Minister's Broken Arrow. He does not work and the Prime


Minister cannot fire him. welcome of the fact that the


unemployment has fallen, and youth unemployment has come down. It is


too high and there is more that needs to be done but let me bring


the House up to date with one particular scheme. The work-


experience scheme. Evidence is growing that 50% of young people


going into that scheme are off benefits within six months. That


means it is 20 times more cost- effective than the Future Jobs Fund,


which is part of the youth contract that the Deputy Prime Minister has


been spearheading. Today, a group of MPs... Members


shouldn't be yelling at the honourable lady. That is very


discourteous. I want to hear what she has to say. Here, here! Perhaps


they should listen first before yelling. Today, a cross-party group


of MPs from right across the political spectrum published a


report into something that is incredibly important to many of us,


how we keep our children say fall line. We think that internet


service providers should do more and that the Government should


deliver a very strong lead on this issue. Would the Prime Minister


undertake to read the summary of the report, because I know he is


busy, and perhaps meet with us to discuss the recommendations? I am


grateful to the honourable lady. She dropped off a full copy of the


report to my office this morning. As a parent and a politician, I am


keen that we help protect people from this sort of material. I have


got together some of the technology and telephony companies and got


them to look at offering a choice of blocking all adult and age


restricted content on their home internet. I think if we start


working with the companies to deliver the sort of changes, we can


protect more people. The government said it wants to simplify the tax


system, so why introduce changes to child benefits that will bring what


the Treasury Select Committee has today said will create further


uncertainty? I will say to the honourable lady, who did good work


as head of the Child poverty Action Group, we have to make difficult


decisions to deal with the debt and the deficit. I think it is not a


sensible to ask people who and �20,000, �30,000, to pay taxes so


that people sitting in this House can get child benefit. I do nothing


that is fair and I think members opposite will walk through the


lobby tomorrow for something that they will financially benefit from,


but I think it is profoundly wrong. Order, order. I want to accommodate


backbenchers. In these Georgia, the vast majority of manufacturing is


located. Will the Prime Minister listen to the vast majority of my


constituents, I think again about this tax which will cripple the


suffering industry? I listened carefully to the point that he make.


-- to the point that he made. This is an issue about how we trawl the


VAT boundaries fairly. I do not think it is fair the table by a


caravan pays VAT but a stationary caravan does not. No one is talking


about putting VAT on park homes that are people's permanent homes.


This is about a fair drawing of the boundaries. As I was saying, Mr


Speaker, there is an iron-clad consensus across the three


frontbenchers about what they now call a mission, but given the


amount of blood on the ground and the rapidly deteriorating military


situation, most of us call the situation a war in Afghanistan. In


the wake of Mrs Gillard's decision to accelerate the withdrawal of


Australian forces from that war, and in the wake of the Bradford


West by-election, will the Prime Minister reconsider his current


planning on our withdrawal from this bloody more of a Afghanistan?


Let me congratulate the honourable gentleman on his stunning by-


election victory and his return to this House of Commons. I know that


he always speaks with great power and force. But on this issue, I


have to say I profoundly disagree with him. Our troops are in


Afghanistan, not fighting a war against Islam, but at the


invitation of an Islamic government and under a UN resolution to try


and help that country to have paid a peaceful, prosperous and stable


future. He knows the dangers of walking away from Afghanistan and


leading that country to become the terrace supporting haven that it


did under the Taliban. We must not make that mistake again and I would


urge him not to play to the gallery on this issue but to speak up for


the work our forces are doing to make Afghanistan a safe country?


George Galloway, the new kid on the block, the Prime Minister pleading


for him not to play to the gallery. If the plea is he did, you will


hear it. It is as if the budget happened yesterday. Prime


Minister's Questions were dominated There were the many taxes and we


learned that caviar has no VAT at all. But a Cornish pasty will. News


to most of us. At least I think it was! Maybe if you heated it up you


would have to pay VAT on that too. There's no doubt you'll tweet and


e-mail us and let us know about that. We'll hear about how - what


you made of this. As always, people were pretty divided in terms of


performance of David Cameron and Ed Miliband, but this from Huntingdon,


"I cannot believe the inept attitude of Mr Cameron and his


unsurprising support for the cut in the 50 pence tax rate. The snub to


celebrate unemployment due to a small drop in the number which is


probably a seasonal adjustment." This is from Lorne that, "I thought


the idea was for the Prime Minister to answer questions and there were


quite a few about this. The first question was swept aside." This one


here, "David Cameron's language is very off-putting. He needs to


answer questions and not just use endless words about him like


pathetic and incompetent. When he was in his shoes he used to


endlessly chastise Gordon Brown." Then this about Ed Miliband from


Kent, "The break hasn't done much for Ed. He simply blew his chances


today. David Cameron was like a bulldozer." This from Manchester,


"How Ed Miliband can talk about helping millionaires when he was


against removing tax credits like himself is beyond a joke." Helen,


"Ed's on form all right - bad form. He still can't score." That wasn't


too bad!? James, you and I have covered many, many Budgets. I can't


remember one which is still being talked about by such intense - with


such intensity four weeks on from the Budget and it's not even the


overall Mac economic stance or the fiscal policy or general monetary


policy, it's the kind of bells and whistles of the Budget. It's the


things that are tacked on to the Budget -- macroeconomics. Can you?


In our trade journalism we story the story that keeps on giving.


in a good way for the Government. We should market this point, a new


phrase which has formally entered the lexicon, which is omnishambles.


A phrase that was originally coined by the television programme The


Thick of It, but it's been used. Another phrase we can't use on This


Week. It's been used to describe the confluence of events and the


interesting question now for the Government is how he respond to it.


What analysis do they put on this. Is this because of bad judgment by


the Treasury? Is this because of lack of political antena? Is it a


function of coalition Government, the fact that the Liberal Democrats


were briefing so it all had the bad? How the Government responds to


that is fascinating. There was no indication, I would suggest, from


the Prime Minister's performance today of how the Government is


going to respond? If you talk to some they take the point that you


made, these are not marginal issues, but you are talking about hundreds


of millions, not billions, or the broader issue of deficit reduction


or broader reforms on health and welfare and education and that


these things, you have bad weeks. The problem is the narrative is


developing here and I think governments find it very, very


difficult to get out of those negatives once they start. I think


that is the risk for the Government. We have a minister here and can you


tie up a few loose ends, because I'm uncertain to what is going to


happen. For example, the pasty tax, will that go ahead? Yes. There


won't be any kind of U-turn on that. The ideas are that there are odd


VAT lines and that creates new issues, but the plan is to go ahead.


I'm not too keen to go through the rights and wrongs. All right. The


so-called granny tax, the freezing of the allowances, that is going


ahead? Pensioners tax allowances going up this April to �10,500. Tax


cuts and then staying the same for the following three years. That's a


done deal, if I can put it that way. It's part of the maths and reducing


personal tax allowance and raising it for people at working age.


cap of charitable giving, is that going ahead? The principle was


announced for implementation in a year after consultation, so the


basic idea of people not using charity funding to pay less tax


right at the top, but exactly how it works will be talked about. You


said there was no preparation for that. When we do prepare for these


things and talk about them you call them a leak and when we don't, you


say nobody is prepared, so we can't win either way. It's not up to you


do win either way, but up to you to prepare the ground better. But not


a leak? The principal that no matter how much money you earn an


agreed - no matter how clever your accountants and well paid they are,


no matter what perfectly legal tax dodges or avoidances there are,


there are a per centages of incomes that should be paid in tax Mr Obama


has accepted that in the United States. He can't get it through


Congress. That ground was never laid before the Budget. Nick Clegg


was talking about it about the tycoon tax idea. Only just before


it. Yeah. That's fair. He's floating the idea and it will be


consulted on. I think Liberal Democrats were surprised about that.


What about the tax on caravans? The static caravan tax, of which in my


home we talk of nothing else! What about that? As far as I'm aware,


it's going ahead. To remove a different an knollly between


different categories, so wherever you draw a VAT line there is a


danger so that's why that was introduced. There was quite a lot


of Tory backbenchers who are not happy. We heard one there, but we


are down to the very fine detail of the Budget and you look to where


the money went. Where 3 billion went was to get people out of tax


at the bottom and those are the things that will remain.


Unemployment has fallen today and they'll last for the long term and


all the froth has been forgotten about pasties. Unemployment went


down today. Can you remind our audience about inflation? It went


up, so what would you rather have this week, 35,000 more people in


jobs or 0.1% change? The deputy Governor of the Bank of England


assured us many moons ago that inflation on the CPI measure would


be below 2.5% by this summer. That's not going to happen. It's


heading down. You get the blips, because it's compared with a year


ago and last March very dramatic discounting was going on by


retailers. You got a mention from the Prime Minister as a result of


what you said on The Daily Politics before PMQs. The Prime Minister


said, "It's absolutely extraordinary that the Shadow


leader of the Commons, that is you, has gone on television calling for


higher interest rates. I don't think, pointing at Ed Miliband, he


has focused on that. Better go and look at the transcripts." What do


you say to that? It's a complete travesty of the discussion you and


I were having. If we can't have a discussion about what an economy


might look like when it's normalised rather than being in the


aftermath of a credit crunch with higher interest rates and lower


unemployment and growth, more normal conditions, then it's a joke.


Interest rates are at historic low levels, lower than they've ever


been as part of the aftermath to the global credit crunch. That is a


fact. When things have normalised it's highly unlikely in years to


come that interest rates will stay at their very, very low levels.


That is just a fact. You seem to imply that if Government had


followed a more skpationary fiscal policy, as you have been urging on


the Government, that the consequence of that would be higher


interest rates sooner rather than later? Well, what I was implying or


fiscal policy is a tool that needs to be used in order to achieve a


growth strategy and generate jobs, which is the best way of dealing


with a deficit. Instead of cutting too far and too fast and hoping


that monetary policies, for example, extremely low interest rates will


bear the whole cost. If you look at what happened in the Japanese


economy, they had the lost decade of bumping along the bottom when


monetary policy failed to work, because the economy couldn't be


normalised. I was making that point. They were building bridges then.


should have higher borrowing and interest rates as a mix? I'm not


talking about what we should have. I was talking about an economy that


was normalised. We have seen a Government there that hasn't paid


attention to the detail of the Budget. George Osborne, who is a


part-time Chancellor was so busy swang around America that he didn't


check on the pasty tax -- swanning around America that he didn't check


on the pasty tax. We are told to take a running July p, because we


had our eye on the -- jump, because we had our eye on the detail of


that. OK. James, we have had the Budget playing out and there are


more votes to come and so on. When does this current period come to an


end? We have the Queen's Speech. There is even talk, I've heard,


that Parliament may go down even earlier, because it's got nothing


to do. Yeah. There is a possibility that Parliament will, to use the


phrase, pro rogue, which as aim sure you know, they'll stop and go


to the races, before the Queen's Speech, later in May! Certainly, we


know the financial bill, for example, that will be carried over,


so the Government has given itself leeway for that. At some point


politics will reset itself. There will be a new set of agendas. We'll


start talking about something different. Something to look


forward to. House of Lords reform. The show piece of the speech. Are


you trying to destroy our ratings? I'm trying to get you excited.


Briefly, because we have to move on, have you heard the talk that the


Government, because you are the Shadow leader of the House, that


they were going down quite early before the speech, can we go down


very early? There are the rumours around and I think it's because


they've completely mishandled the programme and taken too years,


which is the longest session ever to get not as many bills as they


thought they would get. They stuffed too many of them into the


Commons to begin with and we had to twiddle our thumbs while they were


piled up in the Lords and,000 they've got it wrong again. I think


the thing is this, the Government quite likes to run the run the


country without Parliament sitting. Like Gordon Brown. It avoids Prime


Minister's questions. Thank you The coalition MPs will try to


derail the pasty tax when it is debated today. Following the fall-


out from the so-called pasty tax, should we be looking at the whole


system of how we tax food? We asked one expert who wants the Government


We are in the grip of an obesity epidemic. 25% of British adults are


overweight or obese and that is costing the NHS over �5 billion a


year. Why is this happening? As a nation,


we are eating too many calories. Too much cheaper, energy dense food


like chocolate bars, soft drinks, sausages and passes.


-- pasties. We use taxes to discourage drinking and smoking,


which raises money for the Treasury and prevent people from dying too


early. There is now what have evidence that manipulating food


prices could promote healthy eating. I would like us to start with a new


tax on soft sugary drinks. They have introduced one in France and


it adds about 2 euros -- two Euro cents to a can of cola. I think we


should go for twelves pence on a can of cola. At a rate, there will


be 400,000 fewer cases of obesity in this country and we would save


2000 lives a year. Last year in Denmark, the introduced a fat tax.


Eight tax on foods containing a lot of saturated fat. Those are the fat


that raised cholesterol. They had the right idea, but foods in


Britain that a low in fat have a lot of salt, so tackling one


problem may be creating another. Instead, we need to rethink the way


that we apply VAT to food. At the moment, we have a muddled system.


We pay tax on some relatively healthy food such as movies, but


not on junk food like doughnuts or I don't care whether it is hot or


cold or whether we get are from a shop or a takeaway, I want a tax on


all unhealthy food from butter to biscuits. That way, we will be


tackling a problem that will only go on expanding otherwise.


What are the figures that say that that will reduce obesity? There is


a lot of different evidence. There is studies with vending machines


and in canteens, the restrict economic data looking at how


consumption changes when you increase the price of food, and


there is modelling studies, predicting what would happen when


you change the tax on food in this country. We are shown that if you


put a 20% tax on fizzy drinks, you would save around 2000 lives a year.


That is quite a big number. Isn't there something that the Government


should be looking at? Shouldn't just be done and looked at former a


health point of view? -- from a health point of view. I am as weak


as anyone when it comes to sugary food, but it should not be about


another source of tax. To get the manufacturers to put less of the


junk into the foods is also important. If using the tax system


could do that, that is an effective strategy. It should certainly be


looked at but not as another way to get money. But that is not what


you're suggesting, you're suggesting that the money is used


to help bring down levels of obesity. And we should look at


Denmark and other countries and see the evidence. It is worth looking


at. What is the success in those countries? In France, they're


putting a tax on soft drinks and they will use that money for health


promotion and preventing disease. That is the sort of thing we would


like to introduce. Tony Blair dismissed the plans for a fat tax


as suggestive of a nanny state. Do you fell -- do you still agree?


think you should always bear evidence in mind, think that is


important, but how do you define food that is bad for you? How do


you work that through into a vat system? I would rather see us deal


with the food production industries to make sure we label things


properly and educate people more, so that we have an entire approach


into how we make eating healthier and help people to make the right


choices. When you're in the middle of that process, tax may have a


role to play, but they do not think you can just rely on it. So you're


not in favour? It is easier... accusation is that of -- that it


affects a people. One of the things that has emerged is that there is


now a positive correlation between been poor and being obese. -- poor


people. I fancy economies have to think about how they deal with that.


-- advanced economies. The 80 or tax may have a role to play but


education, assistants, regulation of salt content is equally


important. Do you agree with that, nudging towards it rather than


going for a restructure? I would like to see it as a notch. Nobody


is saying this will solve the whole programme. It is part of the next.


-- part of that mix. Prices an important factor in determining


what we eat. The Government should be looking at what we can do it but


the prices of unhealthy food. Saying that, there is lots of


science around how you define healthy and unhealthy food. It is


called a nutrient profiling and I am working with the World Health


Organisation on devising schemes to define healthy and unhealthy food.


We could have a definition which is incorporated into the roles.


the chances of a fat tax coming in, not likely? Not immediately. But I


think it is worth looking at what else you can do, things like


hydrogenated fats, many of them have been taken out. There is a


range of strategy. I can see a lot more stories about


the pasty tax and VAT. It will keep us in a job. Some people might not


give a fig for fat taxes but many MPs to about their trees, fig trees,


to be precise. John Bercow, remember his outrage in February


about the fig trees in the atrium of Portcullis House, about the


authorities' policing the trees at a cost of over �30,000 a year. It


now looks like MPs will probably keep the trees because they reduce


noise, improve their quality and provide shade for MPs. In the


piercings summer months when they are actually not there. Angela


Eagle's is on the committee that will make the decision and we are


joined by Kenneth Freeman, the chairman of the European Commission


for interior landscaping grips. -- interior landscaping groups. Can


you justify to us why our viewers should be paying �30,000 a year for


the upkeep of 12 trees? I think the question ought to be why people put


plants into buildings and the first place. The rural sorts of good


reasons why plants can be installed into buildings. They improve well-


being, air quality, and the climate. Whether the trees in portcullis


House are particularly good value for money, I really can't comment,


but in general, trees in plants -- trees and plants in buildings offer


benefits. Is it normal to lease them so that you are paying �30,000


a year for them? I would not like to comment on the particular set-up.


But it is not unusual to rent plants. More typically, they would


be smaller trees than that. The overall cost would include not just


the value of the trees but how they are maintained and looked after.


bet you a lot of people who are watching this programme could look


after these trees for less than �30,000 a year. Do you think so?


would like to see them try. Interior plants are not necessarily


the same as gardens. The costs involved will be something you


would not normally expect to find in a typical garden. I have some


trees in my garden and I'm not paying �30,000 a year for them.


What will you do about this? We are doing something about it. The House


authorities on a pulsating with the people who own this contract. --


are negotiating. When the trees were put in, nobody knew whether


they would survive in the hemisphere. They are thriving now.


I'm told... For �30,000 a year, I'm sure they would. We have run out of


time. There is a real negotiation going on. It is good news for the


trees and particularly for the taxpayer. Mr Freeman, thank you for


joining us. For the moment, it is time to find out who has won our


Guess The Year competition. It is a doubly exciting day because we have


actually moved into the 21st century. We now have ace Ang Lee


new electronic system for picking the winner. -- a spangly. The


answer was 2010. Andrew, D will be the first to press the button and


reveal the winner. -- Ancelotti. If is a great honour. I was feel


worried about pressing red buttons. -- I always feel worried. And the


winner is Linn Hoyle in West Yorkshire.


It worked. It's quite amazing. That's it for today. Our thanks to


Angela Eagle's, Steve Webb and all of our other guests. The One


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