03/12/2012 Daily Politics


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Welcome to the Daily Politics. MPs have denounced multinational


companies who pay little or no tax on their earnings in Britain as


immoral. In a report, the Public Accounts Committee describes some


of the evidence it heard from large corporations such as Starbucks and


Google, as difficult to believe. All eyes will be on George Osborne


on Wednesday when he delivers his Autumn Statement. We'll be taking a


look ahead. Playing tough with Israel. Its ambassador in London


has been summoned to the Foreign Office, following the Israeli


government's decision to build new settlements in east Jerusalem. And


we'll be asking if God and politics All that in the next hour. And with


us for the whole programme today is the vicar, Giles Fraser. He's a


regular contributor to the Today programme's Thought for the Day. So,


we're expecting big things from him on today's Daily Politics. Now,


first this morning, let's talk about sentencing because a range of


new criminal offences and sanctions come into force today in England


and Wales. They include a new offence of aggravated knife crime,


which would in most cases result in a custodial sentence, and mandatory


life sentences for anyone committing a second serious violent


or sexual offence. The Government has also introduced what are called


Extended Determinate Sentences, under which offenders must serve at


least two-thirds of their prison term. This is what the Justice


Secretary, Chris Grayling, had to say this morning. There are some


areas where, society as a whole, expects politicians to say there is


a minimum - a clear message to people who are attempted to carry


knives and wave them around in an aggressive way - that you should


and would go to jail. It is not about saying to the judges, you


lose discretion. In some cases, sentences would be much longer.


ETA's about saying, when somebody behaves in an aggressive way with a


knife, they should and would go to jail. What is your response


generally? I live in a part of South London Wedd there is knife


crime. I understand the problems it causes in a community. The question


is whether the politicians should be doing the sentencing for the


judges. They should be free to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.


What is going on is politicians same, we do not trusted to make


these decisions. The public would agree with politicians in many


cases where they fear of not tough enough sentences are brought down


on the offenders. It is dangerous to bandy about slogans. I think we


ought to trust our judiciary more than politicians, who are


grandstanding electioneering on a case-by-case basis. They do a good


job in tackling things like this. You have said you do a good job


with victims of knife crime. It is a very violent and often fatal


crime. It should be treated consistently. That is perhaps where


judges have fallen down. If they were given a guideline on a minimum,


perhaps they can use their discretion. If people have done a


terrible offence, they will go to prison for it and for a long time.


The question is, whether we trust the judges to make decisions or


prefer politicians to do it. What do you say to Sadiq Khan? With the


two strikes policy, it is only when you commit a second violent offence,


you get alive sentence. Innocent victims of the second offence with


be right in questioning why more was not done to stop after the


first offence. An enormous amount has to be done to tackle problems


in the inner cities. It is not necessarily through the judiciary


and through the loft. Some of these problems are to do with the way


inner-cities are constructed. We need to look much more broadly at


the problems in the inner-cities, which create conditions for life


crime. On to something somewhat different. Now it is fair to say


the Public Accounts Committee was not very impressed with a number of


very large corporations who gave evidence to MPs last month. This


morning the Public Accounts Committee described it as


unconvincing and accused Amazon, Starbucks and Google of using the


letter of tax laws both nationally and internationally to immorally


minimise their tax obligations. Here is a taste of the committee in


action. If you have made losses in the UK, which is what you are


filing, over 15 years, what on earth are you doing doing business


here? We must be in the UK to be a successful global company. But you


are losing money. Why not focus on the US way you say you are making


money? We have had tremendous optimism about our company.


have given it 15 years and you are still making losses. Yet you are


carrying on - if it is true. I will have to go to Victoria Street and


had a Starbucks coffee. You are in such a bad way. 14 years of trading


in this country and you have paid 1.6 million in corporation tax. You


are either running the business very badly, or there is a fiddle


going on. Your entire activity is here and you pay no UK tax. That


really riles us. We do pay corporation tax. Our accounts...


Tiny - a tiny amount. I love the service you provide. Having bought


this biography of John Major, you may be interested also in 50 Shades


Love to -- I am interested in how you paid so little tax. We do pay


corporation tax and tax on any profits that we make. The rough


treatment in the Public Accounts Committee. Well, today, the Public


Accounts Committee called for a change in the mindset at Her


Majesty's Revenue and Customs, so that it became more aggressive in


its policing and prosecuting companies that paid too little tax.


And the Chancellor, George Osborne, has announced plans for a �10


billion tax dodge clampdown. We're joined now by the chair of the


Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge, and by the Conservative MP,


Jesse Norman. The Government is doing far more on tax avoidance and


evasion. The Government has committed more money to HMRC. The


number of prosecutions for evasion has quadrupled. What else do want


them to do? Last year, they collected over �6 billion less in


corporation tax than they did the year before. That is year 11/ --


year 11 Macro/yr 12 Macro. That is 2011/2012. It is about whether or


not a global company pays corporation tax. It is not fair to


small businesses, the bookshop - local bookshop - having to compete


with Amazon. That is not fair for the corner Copy Shop -- coffee shop


to compete. You have talked about naming and shaming. We will find


out whether that is a good line to tread. Also about taking more of


these cases to court. Can you do that with avoidance? HMRC can be


tougher. It is not a black-and- white issue. At the moment, it is a


bit like David and Goliath with the company is being supported with


very experienced, highly paid accountants and employers. We went


two up the game from HMRC. They can take more cases to court. They're


not taking any avoidance cases to court. We buy it a lot of stuff and


we will not buy from companies... You want to advocate boycotts?


is good citizenship. There is stuff the Americans and Germans do now,


which we could do. The Americans are much more open with the


accounts. The Germans, in some of these devices that companies do,


they have just out log them. So could we. Let's pick up on the way


you deal with it. Would you like to see companies named and shamed and


cases going to court? It is not a voluntary thing, paying corporation


tax. ICU to Margaret full of the work she has done. There is no


doubt there is a lot of avoidance that is abusive avoidance of tax. -


- I salute Magritte for the work she has done. The corporation tax


held up better than she expected because rates came down. I am not


in favour of boycotts. They are not found guilty of breaking any laws.


It is fantastic that Starbucks has started to come to the table.


Public information has been put on the table by good journalism and


not because the Government has got into the very messy, and possibly


dubious business, of naming and shaming. This is the situation we


should be handing over. We should be allowing our excellent press to


ferret out these facts. Do you a Greek - if you say you admire what


Margaret Hodge and the committee have done - do you accept the


Government has turned a blind eye to it up until now? They're


completely different from each other. HMRC was the flagship of the


British public administration. It has gone through a series of minor


disasters over the last decade. Let's be clear. Under the last


government, it was merged with Excise. Vast numbers of people were


let go, including some of the best tax inspectors. What is happening


now is a slow process of pulling it back to the dignity and energy it


had before. Do you see it as a disincentive - naming and shaming


companies - might they withdraw their business? Is it bad idea?


Company should not be paying tax out of the goodness of their heart.


They should not do this because of public pressure. Paying tax is not


something there needs to be a consumer boycott about in order to


get everyone to do it. That needs to be changed. We must find the


system in which people pay their fair share of tax. I am not an


accountant. It is not beyond the wit the people who can move money


around so brilliantly to avoid tax to find a way in which people can


pay their fair share. It should not be about boycotts or four Starbucks


to very generously pay their tax. Can we unilaterally design a system


which make sure that big multinationals paid their full


allocation of tax, even if they do not have to? You cannot get rid of


all of it. You do need co-operation. What to do not want to happen is


for that to be used as an excuse for inaction in the short term.


About naming and shaming, we name and shame benefit cheats. By now


taken through the courts. If we took more cases through the courts


on avoidance - not evasion - those companies that get caught under


that also thought to be named and shamed. I agree we should get the


law right. But does not like paying PAYE. This is negotiation between


HMRC and the global companies about what is admissible and what is not


admissible. There, I do not think we are tough enough. HMRC needs to


get a grip foot of it is not just resources, it is culture. -- and


HMRC needs to get a grip. benefit cheat is someone who has


been found guilty of a process between tribunal and lot and has


been named and shamed when their name has been made public anyway.


They have not been found guilty of any crime. It cannot be found


guilty of a crime on avoidance up for there is a raw on that. The


Government is bringing in a general anti-avoidance rule. -- on


avoidance. There is a rule on that. I love the idea it is a question of


negotiation. The next time the tax man rings me up and asked me to


take my tax, I will say, let's discuss a cup of coffee. The idea


that this is compared with benefits cheats - people who are poor and


vulnerable without brilliant lawyers - are they the ones who get


dumped upon. Those with fantastic lawyers pay nothing will stop it is


much more expensive to be poor. When you said they need to be


tougher and negotiate harder, if you negotiate, you will have deals.


HMRC has been criticised for making deals. There would be a lack of


consistency and transparency and you would get the same problems all


over again. It is interesting territory. The moment you get


transparency, Starbucks comes to the table. This is so complicated.


Companies can quite legitimately say, if they are global companies,


some of their expenditure is Head Office expenditure. It depends


where that is amazing it is in tax havens. What you decide his profits


from real trading in the UK is difficult to define. That is what


the hassle is over. At the moment they are hassling much more


strongly. They are of the Goliath The poorest in society, the level


above that, have difficult tax rates, and it is true that some


very large companies do pay their tax. We are picking on the


multinationals as a result of an enormously complicated tax codes


among many jurisdictions. We need to be tough and clear and properly


organised. Margaret Hodge, on your own tax affairs there have been


reports that a company which you have major financial associations


with does not pay any UK tax. wrong, scurrilous and I am afraid


it is defamatory. The what are you doing in terms of responding?


Taking action. I hear that loud and clear. This government has been


very clear about trying to appear fair. We will hear more about that


in the Autumn Statement. Do you think fairness just comes down to


equality? It is an important part of equality. The issue with paying


tax is the extent to which these large companies contribute to the


paying good. I have taken over the fairness commission in Tower


Hamlets. Half the children living child poverty there and yet the


average wage for the people who work there is �70,000 a year,


because of Canary Wharf's. It is extraordinary. The money does not


trickle down to the poorest. The this trickle-down economics, the


idea that the wealthy in Canary Wharf spend their money, but they


do not spend it to the benefit of the people who live near them and


the other low earners in the capital, but the money does not


benefit the wider community? There is a lot of truth in that. Trickle-


down has never been good economics, least of all now, because if you


look at the very richest, they live in a payment world of their own.


They do not spend and when they spent at the margin, they are


paying for things and the only way you can tax them is on VAT that


gets paid by all members of society. That does not work. The great


tragedy of the current situation is that we have allowed this crony


capitalism, as I have described it, to blow good capitalism, are people


working in a day's work for eight day's pay, generating social


benefit. -- a day's pay. Labour failed. They closed the gap a tiny


bit but in terms of... Over a 30 year period, it was not very


impressive. Is that because you cannot successfully legislate?


cannot legislate but you can run expenditure programmes and that is


how you use goods -- good public spending, to raise the aspirations


of the poorest in community. What is sad is that we never Keith these


things time -- we never gives. I was involved in Sure Start and the


only use programs and I think they would have Paul Ince -- they would


have borne fruit, and now they are closing, and all of that investment


in children under five, wasted. We could have transformed their life


chances. Lots of studies suggested that represented poor value for


money. No, that is not true. key thing is to have an ethos of


people who have made money giving back. Briefly, do you think


unfairness has become the norm in society and everybody accepts that


that is the way it is? No, but I think we are at risk of it. One of


the hopeful things that may come out of this deep recession is a


problem we calibration of public values. Do you think unfairness is


the norm? I think we live in a very unfair society at the moment,


shockingly unfair for many people. If you live in Notting Hill and you


get the Central line to Bethnal Green, 10 stops and you use a year


of your life if you live there, from Notting Hill to Bethnal Green


-- you lose a year. How unfair is that? Is it the norm? I think


fairness is the one value that people care most about, so the


pursuit of SEN this I think brings people together. -- the pursuit of


fairness. Thank you. The Israeli ambassador in London has been


summoned to the Foreign Office, following the Israeli government's


decision to build new settlements in east Jerusalem. Ministers have


warned Israel that going ahead with the plans would provoke a strong


reaction. Or world affairs correspondent is outside the


Foreign Office. The Israeli ambassador has been summoned. That


is one thing. Withdrawing Britain's ambassador to Israel is another.


Will that happen? It does not look like it at the moment. Officials


say they are not at that stage. It is in the realms of speculation.


There has been a statement from Number Ten saying they are not


proposing to do that. However, officials say they want to see how


Israel reacts. QB Britain, France, others are piling on the pressure


to reconsider this decision to build 3,000 new homes in a very,


very sensitive area in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. To see


whether Israel will reconsider this. If they don't, then I think that


Foreign Office are certainly making it clear that other steps will be


taken. Whether that will lead to the withdrawal of the ambassador to


Israel is not clear. It is still a strong stand by the British


Government. Why now particularly, when settlement building by the


Israeli government is not new? Why make this strong stand now? It is


the scale of what the Israelis are planning to do. 3,000 new homes in


an area which the Palestinians say would effectively cut the West Bank


in two and woodcut of East Jerusalem from the West Bank, and


the Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of any


future Palestinian state -- and it would cut off East Jerusalem from


the West Bank. This is particularly sensitive. The other thing is, at


the moment be international community is hoping, after the


conflict we have seen in the Gaza Strip and having negotiated a


ceasefire, the international community wants to see some renewed


effort for negotiations and I think the belief is that if Israel were


to go ahead with the settlement building programme, that would stop


any chances of any resumed negotiations, so they are piling on


the pressure. Not just Britain. France as well. Everyone is looking


out towards the United States. that is the key, isn't it. Britain


and France have made the strong and symbolic dance but it is what the


US does that counts. -- symbolic stance. They are the only ones that


can put real pressure on. Not the only ones but certainly the


Americans are absolutely the key country because they provide so


much financial assistance every year to Israel and so that


relationship is vital. Israel generally have to listen when


Washington tells it something. We saw that in the last few weeks.


Hillary Clinton's arrival in Israel, going to Egypt, and her role was


pivotal in brokering the ceasefire that ended the recent conflict, so


they can apply a lot of pressure. The question is whether they will


do in this case. Israel's reviewed the Palestinian moved for increased


recognition at the UN as a blow for peace negotiations. Do you see this


as a response to that? It is almost a petty act of revenge, and not


petty, it is not insignificant, for what happens at the United Nations.


Israel saw that as provocative. is very popular, it has widespread


support. Not from the US. No, and six other countries. It was eight.


Building 3,000 new settlements east of East Jerusalem is an extremely


provocative act that the Israeli government really have to


demonstrate that they believe in the peace process. This is a wilful


defiance of the will of the international community, that there


needs to be a return to negotiation in that part of the world. The do


you think the proposals for a two state solution is in tatters now?


hope not. I know that is the view of the UN, that it is almost dead.


I really hope that is not the case. The two estate solution seems to me


to be the only way to go, the only thing I can think of to make sense


of this -- to state solution. Israel say they are committed to


this. Apparently but you have to judge them by their actions and


this is defiant of any attempt to construct a two state solution. I


feel great despair for peace in the Middle East, for both Israel and


Palestine. Frankie. -- thank you. Two subjects almost guaranteed to


spark controversy, politics and religion, which is why a lot of MPs


try very hard to avoid mixing them. For a long time, it seemed to be an


unwritten Westminster rule that personal faith was just that,


personal, with politicians from Tony Blair down reluctant to speak


publicly about their beliefs. But some people think that may be


changing. Holy Trinity Church in London. If


you want to do God, this is a pretty good place to come. It was


Alastair Campbell who famously said "we don't do God", but rather than


making a grand statement of intent, he was just trying to finish an


interview, but it was an interesting point. Should personal


faith and policy-making be kept well away from each other?


Allister's old boss felt he needed to wait until leaving office before


converting to Catholicism and speaking frequently about his faith.


If you are in the American political system, you can talk


about safe and it is something people respond to naturally. You


talk about it in our system and people think you are a matter.


those times could be changing for. I think there are more politicians


who are actively religious in parliament than in the general


population, and I think that is a growing phenomenon, particularly


with the new Conservative intake. Their religious beliefs are very


important for them and informs their politics. But only one of


them leads the party. Only David Cameron is a confirmed churchgoer


but he does not go as often as he would like. Does our political


system allow politicians to do God. To some degree. Most members of


parliament have values and beliefs which stem either from religion and


safe or a belief in certain ways of living, whether they are humanist


or everything else. We may describe it as something else but we


probably do do religion, perhaps not necessarily God. But some


people think that is not all were as healthy. There is a danger when


people allow their religious beliefs to override empirical


evidence. The abortion debate, it is clearly people's religious


argument that abortion is wrong which leads people to try to make


the facts fit their argument. people and politicians come to


decision making opportunities with principles, beliefs, values, and it


is important that that is taken into account. Otherwise what is the


point of politicians? And she has no qualms about politicians telling


God's voices on earth what they should do. We should debate whether


we should disestablish the Church of England, which politicians


should not interfere with, but it is part of the constitutional


settlement in the country. The Queen is the sovereign head of the


Church of England, so it is right that parliament puts forward its


use to the Church of England about how it should behave. They say you


should never discuss religion and politics in the pub. In parliament,


God seems to be everywhere, whether This is probably your subject when


it comes to whether religion and politics should mix. Was Alastair


Campbell right but you should not do religion if you are a


politician? My problem with politicians not saying anything


about got is that I want to know where they come from. -- about God.


I want to know what motivates them - the values. The idea it is an


important part of what motivates them and they are not prepared to


talk about, I find quite difficult. I want the menu laid out before me


and what motivates people. I can then decide if I want to vote for


them or not. There will be a lot of people out there who are not


religious, who will say, I do not want a member of parliament or a


minister who is guided by religious belief rather than the evidence


before me. Everybody comes from a... They have a background of values.


Something which fundamentally informs them. I want to know what


shapes people morally and politically. If people are


embarrassed by where they come from, it does not seem to need to be a


very good reason to separate religion and politics. It is a


pragmatic reason and not a principled reason. They should be


separated at the level of policy will start it is essential. I have


thought about this for a very long time. I am against the issue of


bishops in House of Lords. On a personal level, I want to know


where they come from. You want more honesty. People should say if they


have a religious background. When it comes to issues like abortion,


and when it comes to issues of gay marriage, or even religious beliefs


in education - if it is based schools - do you think people with


strong beliefs should not be serving in those positions in


government? They would not be able to distinguish between personal


believes and what is in the interests of the country at large.


I have a view on all of those subjects will stop if I was


standing for office, I would tell people my view on all those


subjects and see if I had got voted for or not. You have a thing called


a collective responsibility. That is not specific to people with


religious faith. That would be the same for someone with passionate


humanist values. Are we going to be open about what motivates us or are


we going to hide it? The problem with, we do not do got we will not


talk about him, it is like people not displaying their moral workings.


-- not do got. With the Iraq war, many people were feeling he was


being guided to match by a zealous belief. A zealous belief in George


Bush! Whatever it was. Yes. If people had voted for him on not


voted for him, that would have been a very straightforward way to go. I


disagree with Tony Blair and his decisions on the war. I would have


liked again to have seen his workings - his theological workings


of. On that one, they were over done. There was a lot of


scaremongering. People hearing whispers in their ear from got to


do this. That is not how it works. It is about real fundamental values


are, where you are formed and way you are shaped. We'll be following


be Twitter? It is not going to be very exciting, we get? -- Will you


be following him on Twitter? last week, Westminster was


dominated by the Leveson Report into press standards. Will it be


different this week? Well, no, because this afternoon MPs debate


Lord Justice Leveson's Report on the reform of press regulation, as


their party leaders attempt to reach a consensus on the way


forward. Home Secretary Theresa May has until 3pm to decide whether to


appeal against a recent judgment preventing Abu Qatada's extradition.


The season of goodwill hits Downing Street this evening, as this which


is flicked on to light up the Prime Minister's Christmas tree. On


Wednesday, we find out whether it is Scrooge or Santa as George


Osborne delivers the Autumn Statement and we find out what the


Dickens is going on with the deficit reduction plan. On Thursday,


the European Council is due to respond to the UK's continuing


defiance of the Court of Human Rights ruling on voting rights for


prisoners. But, later that day, harmony will prevail with the


parliamentary carol concert, when for at least once a year MPs of all


parties can be heard singing from Joining as is James from the Daily


Telegraph and Kieran from the Financial Times. It does not look


good in terms of George Osborne and his targets. What do you think he


will do in order to try and present and -- a credible plan? It is a


good question. One thing we must remember is what Nick Clegg said


during the Lib Dem party conference. He said he did not want to see a


penny more of a penny less taken away from the fiscal plan. If he


gets his way on Mant, George Osborne will not do much more to


pay off the debt. -- on that. What George Osborne has to say is, I


have got my plan, I am continuing to cut. I will carry on doing that.


That is the only way to eliminate the deficit as we understand it now.


One big announcement he will make on Wednesday is he will not hit his


target of having debt falling as a ratio of GDP by the end of


Parliament. That will pass a lot of people buy. It is technical


measurement. It is worth remembering that on the two key


tests of his fiscal plan, the one to have debt falling and also to


have eliminated the structural deficit by 2014, he has failed on


them both. Having set them out, some of it might pass people buy.


Economically, let's put that to one side. Politically, what does he


have to do? He needs to try to distract from the points Keiran is


making - the economic signs of failure. He needs to last longer.


He has missed targets. The politics, he needs to say that with one hand


he is smiting welfare claimants. With the other, he is smiting the


rich. The idea it is he can look middle England in the eye and say,


I am in the Middle with You. I am against the undeserving poor and


the undeserving rich. If he gets to Wednesday night, a Thursday morning,


and he is being attacked by left and right for the Autumn Statement,


he will be happy with that. Let's take a look at Leveson. Will the


debate achieve anything? Very little. We had faith they have -- a


flavour of it in the debate following the announcement of a


report last week. It became a slanging match across the Commons


was up 1 1/2 said they want statutory regulation and the other


half said they did not. Is the main body of opinion, as far as the


Leveson Report those in the House, it is a shifting? There is a


gradual change and a wave. David Cameron came out very quickly and


said, no. -- under way. Lots of people thought that was bowled. He


was going up against hacked off Hugh Grant and the others. Since


then, a few signs that, in Parliament, opinion is drifting his


way. Some of the Conservative backbenchers who had previously


suggested he was in favour of a statutory option, they are saying,


maybe not. Ed Miliband is trying to calibrate his position. He had


given the impression that the Labour Party was signing up to


Leveson are. He is now saying, if you got that impression, it is not


the case. We're more questioning in our approach. The direction of


travel has gone a little bit in the direction of David Cameron but only


slightly. The idea of there being a new law, at some underpinning, at


layback and the Liberal Democrats together could outvote the Prime


Minister. -- Labour and the Liberal Democrats. They cannot force him to


legislate. David Cameron has data at his position. He says he is


reluctant to cross that Rubicon, in his phrase. The fact he might have


to do so, he is not going to legislate on this. One thing that


will help him is, if Labour wants to mount a public campaign in


support of the Leveson proposals come at it will not get much favour


from the press. -- the Levison proposals, it will not get. I am


sure that has not pass them by. I am sure it you will be listening to


that debate this afternoon. So, as we've been hearing, all eyes will


be on George Osborne this Wednesday, when he delivers his Autumn


Statement. The Chancellor was on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday.


This is what he had to say. Very clear going forward. We need to


deal with the deficit. It will take longer. It needs to be done fairly.


The richest have to bear their fair share and a whale. That means more


than they are paying at the moment. -- it they will. The mansion tax


business has been kicked around. There will not be a mansion tax. We


have made that clear. Can I just say this? There is another


conception of fairness - the fairness for the individual who


goes out to work and the next on Labour is living a life on benefits.


It is unfair for that individual. Make the rich pay but also made


sure you are tackling the welfare system which is deeply unfair.


Welcome to the three of you. How much has deficit being cut? It has


been cut substantially. We're trying to turn round a very


difficult economy. Highlight what George was saying on the PC just


played. -- I liked what George was saying on the piece you just played.


Youth unemployment has improved. There are very positive steps but


we need to do a lot more. You say the deficit has been cut


substantially. Cutting it by 25% is the figure Tory politicians have


used, and a Liberal Democrat ones as well. You only get to 22% if you


go to March and stop counting. You could find you have only reduce the


deficit by 2%. That is not much at all. Which figure do you disagree


with? 5% seems the exact figure. Let's see what the OBR says on


Wednesday. We are second guessing what everyone is going to say.


use the current budget balance, which is used by most rating


agencies, as of October, 2012, the deficit has only been reduced by 2%.


If you stop counting in March. we go forward, it will get better.


Do you accept that? That is the right figure. A quarter over the


last two and a half years. When the coalition government came to power,


we had the largest peacetime deficit of any country. It has been


very difficult to turn that around. When the Chancellor talks about the


deficit, and we can argue in disagree about how it has come down


and at what point, debt is going up. Don't you think it is disingenuous


to talk about death is becoming damn about talking about debt?


People get confused. -- debt is coming down. There has been more


borrowing. We would not like to have had so much borrowing. They


are different issues. We have differentiated them very well.


you listen to the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, they say


they have brought the deficit down by a quarter. What is Labour


complaining about? People will be amazed at the level of complacency.


Debt is going up. Now of the Chancellor has had to borrow an


extra �150 billion over the parliament because he is not


meeting his own debt targets - his own target. That is because the


economy is stalling. We need gross, demands, government policies and


the strategy to get the economy going there again. That is what


businesses say every time I meet them. It is not what the Chancellor


is offering. To call for more spending? I hope he looks at


bringing investment for it and using the G four dividend to invest


in housing. -- investment forward. What about paying down the debt? If


you are worrying about the debt rising, which it is, why not use


that money to pay down the debt? You cannot pay down the debt whilst


the economy is shrinking. That is the problem that George Osborne has.


We need to get the economy moving. And the targets and all this seemed


economic growth which has that happened. How embarrassing is it?


Everyone accepts he will shift deficit-reduction targets. Make the


five years start later and that he We are trying to turn around the


economy in a very difficult time. He set those targets himself based


on that. You attempt to meet them but you cannot legislate for the


fact that that eurozone is going to hell in a handcart, those are


things beyond control. If your number of three and four customers


in the European economy go bust, that will clearly affect our


economy. He will have to try to find more savings if he is going to


reduce the deficit. Are you pleased he will be looking again at welfare


and possibly a freezing benefit payments? The test for me is


whether it is good for the economy, whether we go for growth and reduce


the deficit, but whether it is fair, and my view is you have to start at


the top, and make sure those on very high incomes are paying their


fair share of tax. We saw today the �170 million that George Osborne


and Danny Alexander have announced to target tax avoidance. We need to


start at the top. You will be happy for benefits to be frozen? We have


to look at benefits on a case-by- case basis. I am sceptical about


the need to remove housing benefit for those under 25. I do not want


to see a general freeze on benefits overall. But we have to make sure


the measures are fair and that means starting at the top,


companies and individuals dodging tax, and working down, so that


everybody has a fair burden. terms of Lib Dem performance in


budgets, no mansion tax, top rate of income tax increased, up tuition


fees troubled... The first policy of our manifesto was to raise the


income tax threshold to �10,000 and that has been delivered. Jo, you


cannot just Roelof analyst... Some of those are accurate -- you cannot


just read a list. A Liberal Democrat pledge has been delivered.


When you look at the Lib Dem approach to the Budget on Wednesday,


the Autumn Statement, it is crucial that it is a fair distribution of


pain. You have mentioned the tax avoidance and you want to hit the


rich. Well cutting the annual allowance for pension savings be


enough to mitigate, for Lib Dems, a freezing of benefits? Up I do not


have a crystal ball... Do you think that would be fair? We will have to


look at a packet when it comes out on Wednesday. I cannot say without


making sure that when I see the overall package that the Chancellor


has done everything he can to make sure those on higher incomes pay


their fair share. What would you be doing if the swing Labour's ought


to misstatement? -- if this were Labour's Autumn Statement? What


else? One of the things we would not be doing and that we would take


out is the tax cut for the richest, the tax cut for millionaires, which


means that on 1st April, the same day that pensioners will find their


tax going up, and many will find their benefits have been cut or


removed, on that day it millionaires, 8,000 of them, will


be getting a tax cut of at the �100,000. That does not stack up


well with your SEN this equation? For 13 years... -- with your friend


this -- a... If you meant what you said, you would have had a 50 pence


tax rate for 13 years and you did not, you had it for 30 days. We had


the greatest financial crisis that we have had since the Depression


and as a response we brought in tax changes. The consequence of the


financial crisis is still with us will stop his VAT at the right


level? I do not think it should be changed. It is a big money earner


for the Treasury. We put VERY strongly for fuel duty to remain


frozen -- we put VERY strongly. It is a matter for the Chancellor. I


have made the point very strongly to him that I wanted see particular


address to the cost of living issues. I loved what he is doing on


energy, I support that, I particularly believe that you all


in my part of the world, it rural Northumberland, it is not a luxury,


it is a necessity, and it has a great impact on business. I believe


it contrasts very strongly with what the Labour Party did which was


repeatedly put up fuel prices throughout their government and


they would be higher now. We have frozen it. I accept boat, and this


is important, if we freeze certain duties, that means less money to


the economy and we will have to make tougher decisions on other


issues and that is a very tough calls for the Chancellor to make,


but I do believe it is responsible thing to do, and if you talk about


growth, fuelled price is the key. Right.


Talks between the coalition and Labour about how to respond to the


Leveson Report on press regulation have resumed today. Sir Brian


Leveson's proposals for an independent body, backed by


legislation, will also be debated in the Commons this afternoon. This


is what the Labour leader had to say a little earlier. I think we


owe it to the victims like Milly Dowler's parents and Madeleine


McCann's parents to make change happen, and we are seeing a large


majority of the public also warned that change. That is why we are


going to draughts legislation -- draft legislation to show that


Independent sold regulation guaranteed by law can work. The


government said they want to produce legislation that can't work,


but we believe it can. Which of you has wrecked the whole report? 2000


pages? 550 pages. Is it a good read? Or no, it is very serious.


You cannot read about Christopher Jefferies and Milly Dowler without


filling revulsion at the action of some journalists. It is a serious


and sensible piece of work. There are over 100 recommendations. And I


have looked at some of the world on Criminal Justice and data


protection, and I have looked strongly at be individual points in


relation to Ofcom. Not every single point will be adopted. There is


allotted to discuss. What about the central recommendation? -- there is


a lot to discuss. You said you could not not feel revulsion. Buzz


that mean there should be a guaranteed part of law that compels


newspaper editors to be part of the regulation? My view is that there


will be a derivation of the PCC and the 0 black and Lord Hunt proposals,


I question whether a statutory regulation underpinned by a Ofcom


is the right way forward. I think it is the thin end of the wedge. I


also think it is not workable. You said that means that all newspapers


would have to be signed up to it. Isn't it pointless otherwise?


is the point. But you cannot force newspapers to do that. You would


have a statutory system that says, we have this regulation, but nobody


would sign up to it. If you look at the specific regulation, 75 in the


summary, he says, I accept some people would not sign up to this.


They read newspapers have said they would not. But if there is some


sort of law that underpins the regulator...? No. This is a locking


in the last chance saloon for a press that has shown itself to be


reckless in targeting innocent people across the country and


exposing them to the full force of the media, often without a


correction, often without an apology. Some of the writing in the


Leveson Report is very difficult. I think we do need to see a legal


fail-safe to make sure that we have an independent regulator, free from


editors on the board, three from politicians on the board, which is


able to properly address the concerns that innocent people have


when they had been abused by the press. Did you want to respond?


Congratulations on 500 pages. He said not every point is capable of


being implemented. Let's not forget statutory underpinning is said by


Leveson Report to be essential, it is not a detail. It is essential to


ensuring that victims have the kind of protection that they need, and


the Prime Minister promised that. He said unless it would be bonkers,


he would implement it. Einstein said that insanity is doing the


same thing again and again and again and expecting different


results. You will not get different results without change. Nobody is


expecting this present status quo to stay the same. The PCS seat...


Nobody wants the PCC to remain. Lord Black and Lord Hunt's


recommendations are not far enough and everybody in the House of


Commons that the same thing. What they have not said is if there


should be statutory regulation. Ofcom, that is a political


appointment by the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport. I am very


nervous about that political appointment. I do not think it


should be a political appointment. You can cherry-pick bits of the


report but paragraph 65 so has by far the best option would be for


all publishers to choose to sign up to a self regulatory regime and in


order to be able to make them do so, convincing incentives are required.


If you have not got people party to it, the statutory scheme fails


totally. A what do you say to the victims? How do you justified...?


Is it is a breach of criminal law! A not always, it was often


professional standards. But in a note in a five-year-old's school


back to influence their mother, that is not criminal law. That is


be criminal offence. What we need is statutory underpinning. One of


the recommendations is regarding the Data Protection exceptions,


which the press already have, so the press are happy to have


statutory underpinning for protection but not for protection


for the victims. Labour are drawing up their own draft legislation.


Should the Liberal Democrat support that legislation and then you can


vote together and defeats David Cameron? Cross-party talks are


happening at the moment. I think they will be productive. I am quite


sure that Nick Clegg will be making the case to David Cameron


powerfully that we want to see a legal fail-safe that guarantees the


independence of the self regulatory system. We are not talking about


abolishing a free press. Everybody wants to see a free press...


how do you stop...? We do not want the press to bully the innocent


without redress. Everybody wants that. The point raised by its Guy


Opperman is that if you go down the route of statutory regulation, how


do you stop it getting to the stage where editors phone up the


regulator and say, is this OK before I publish it? Where does


that stop? We have to make sure that those issues are properly


addressed. I am sure that one of the issues she has just mentioned,


the exemption of the press under data protection legislation. If the


press are pursuing an individual and that individual can ask for all


the data the press have, that is clearly nonsense and would harm


investigative journalism... I will have to stop you there. You have


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