20/03/2014 Daily Politics


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Afternoon, folks. Welcome to the Daily Politics.


The Chancellor must have enjoyed his breakfast this morning. Most of


today's front pages seem to have broadly welcomed his Budget. That


hasn't happened before! So what have we learned? Well, we'll get a new


pound coin. Very nice it is, too. A bit retro. But most radically, the


pensions industry will undergo its biggest reform for a generation.


There was good news for savers and a penny off a pint. That will always


get a cheer. George Osborne was keen to stress that he was rebuilding


Britain's economy. We're growing faster than Germany, faster than


Japan, faster than the US, he told us. But household wealth's not


expected to return to pre-crisis levels for another three years.


Labour, though, weren't so impressed. Not surprisingly. In


interviews this morning, Ed Balls accused the Chancellor of gambling


with people's cash and doing nothing for the young, the poor or the


jobless. We'll have all the analysis.


And we'll be hearing about the rock'n'roll lifestyle of


Parliament's only rock band. Have you ever trashed hotel room? I


rearranged the towels. Can you imagine those two!


MPs used to trash hotel rooms, but now they just put them on expensive


will stop -- expenses. All that in the next hour. And with us for


today's programme, a panel of the very best. Economic Secretary to the


Treasury, Nicky Morgan. Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Chris


Leslie. And Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Ian Swales.


Treasury related people. Welcome to you all. Now without further ado,


let's crack on with yesterday's Budget. George Osborne and his


shadow were doing the breakfast rounds this morning. Let's hear


first what the Chancellor had to say.


At the heart of the budget is a long-term economic plan to make sure


this country is investing in the future and creating jobs for the


people you are asking about. And here I am on a building site in


Nuneaton. Barratt homes are going to be creating 3000 jobs. There are


people being employed on this site who didn't have work before. There


are apprentices. That is what this is all about. I want to help people


who have saved hard, and are also want help people get into work so


that they can provide for their family and have economic security.


The good news for Britain is that things are getting better, but they


are warning that the job is done. He needed a big picture up behind


him! And now let's hear from his shadow.


If George Osborne was being sensible and wise and long-term, he would


have done something about the cost of living crisis which is hitting


working people, people who can't afford to save, whose wages are not


rising while prices go up and up. He had stunned nothing to help that or


youth jobs or build affordable homes. What they did do is cut tax


on bingo, took a penny off a pint of beer. You have to drink 100 pints of


beer to save the pound! And an advert says we have done things to


help working people with the kind of things they enjoy. It was so


patronising. I can't leave the Chancellor. Did he really signed


this advert off? What was the best bit of the budget


for you, Chris Leslie? Some of the U-turns were quite welcome, such as


the carbon floor price, which was essentially a tax the Chancellor


introduced, and has reined back on. But it is the missed opportunities,


as Ed Balls were saying, in terms of cost of living pressures. You would


have thought that that would feature in the budget, but in the 120 pages


of the document, it didn't even get mentioned once. And what we need to


get this recovery through is to make sure it benefits the vast majority


of people and not just the wealthiest few at the top, and that


sense that the Government and the Chancellor understands that was


blown out of the water when in particular Grant Shapps decided to


patronise people with his view about what work you people really want. We


will come onto that and the detail of cost of living issues. In terms


of first impressions, what was the most important bit for you? For me


and my constituents, another rise in the personal tax allowance, the


number one Liberal Democrat policy from the last election. We have


delivered on the ?10,000 threshold we promised, and we have another


?500 coming through this Budget. That helps 42,000 people in my


constituency who are basic rate taxpayers who will have more money.


We keep hearing from Labour talk of what is happening to wages, but of


course, if you take less tax off people, they have more money in


their hand, and the real term increases the people in minimum wage


through the tax cut will stop what about you, Nicky? We are proud to


have brought certain policies in. The pension bond, we recognise that


interest rates have been low which is great for people with mortgages,


but people living on an income for their savings have told us that has


been difficult. So having the bond so that people can get higher rates


of interest is very important. And in general, the reforms to pensions


that we saw, as well. It has been welcomed in many of the newspapers.


What you could say when you look at the Budget and the proposals and you


go through some of the policies that have been announced, in a way, you


targeted a group in society, pensioners, when that is the only


group in society whose wages have gone up over the last five years


compared to every other group. We help them more than young people? We


have helped young people in previous Budgets. I understand the programme


is looking today at yesterday's announcements. But on Tuesday we


talked about childcare. We also previously talked about the use


contract, the National employer contribution break for employing


people under the age of 21. So it is right that we should listen, and we


recognise that there are things we can do to help this group. The core


vote. It is not just about the core vote. We have done things in


previous statements. New The reform of pensions was at the


centrepiece of yesterday's Budget, although as the Chancellor spoke,


Westminster hacks and MPs alike were quickly looking up the word annuity


on their search engines. So what are the reforms? Well, the requirement


to buy an annuity has ended, removing tax restrictions on pension


pots. The increase in total pension savings people can take as a lump


sum has been upped to ?30,000. Taxable withdrawls from pension pots


will be charged at normal income tax rates.


And the Chancellor has also created a new Pensioner Bond for the


over-65s, which they tell us will be offering "market-leading rates".


Well, they will be offering 4% on a three-year bond, which is higher


than market rates at the moment. All of that took the City by suprise,


with ?5 billion wiped off the value of the five biggest annuity


providers. Though not many were shedding tears, I can tell you. We


can speak now to the Telegraph's economics commentator, Liam


Halligan. Does it matter that these pension


companies have taken a thumping? I don't think it does. They are


diversifying companies. They have been in the annuity market for quite


a few years which has been on its knees for a few years, not least to


quantitative easing and related low interest rates. In real terms,


negative real interest rates because of inflation. So we have already had


five or six years of pensions being forced to take annuities and being


locked into a lower annual income for the rest of their lives. These


reforms won't help them, and there are hundreds of thousands of them.


But as far as Aviva and LNG are concerned, it doesn't matter. You


don't have to take an annuity in America, and they still have these


companies. There will be a huge lobby to change these reforms as


they go through Parliament from the pension industry, but if they do go


through as they are, what will be the consequences for the pensions


business? I think you will obviously get a lot more competition in the


annuity market, and you will get people annuitising later. This is


typical of Mr Osborne, targeting the older voter, people 50 plus with


money locked in a pension but determined not to pay the 55p tax


rate. But now they can take lump sums up the basic rate of income


tax. It is also a concern that while the Treasury thinks it is being very


clever with this, and it is in some senses, if pensions are available to


tax now, which they will be to a degree under these measures, which


is why the Chancellor's pencilling in hundreds of millions of pounds


from these measures on the revenue envelope, that money won't of course


be available to tax later. But later is well beyond the Chancellor's


political horizon. He will be either in Number ten then or retired in


industry. He will be long gone from both. It is up to 2030. Are we


seeing you tonight on This Week? Apparently, yes. The thought police


have got their ducks in a row, to mix metaphors. I am gracing your


screen with a take on Ukraine and Russia. A double whammy! I didn't


know the thought police had any ducks. Anyway. Joining us now from


Salford is Paul Lewis from BBC Radio 4's Money Box. He is the world's


living expert on these things. Have we just seen in effect the death of


the annuity business? I don't think we have seen its death, but I think


it will diminish. In America, it is not compulsory, and only 10% of


people purchase an annuity. But I am sure that the industry will meet as


we speak to find other ways of taking money off people. Don't


forget that if you don't buy an annuity, what you do with the


money? You probably keep it invested and draw bits out of it as you see


fit. It is called drawdown, and a lot of people do that anyway if they


have a big pension pot. Now that will be extended to people who have


a smaller pension pot, and it can be quite an expensive business. Other


people may just take the whole lot out. The first 25% will be tax-free,


and after that, they have to pay income tax on the other 75%, so that


will be quite a drain on it, but they could go on world cruise. And


as the price of shares of pension companies for, probably the shares


of cruise liners go through the roof! Given that we have this choice


now, a choice that people 50 plus will be able to start thinking


about, and it doesn't affect pensioners because they are already


locked in, but why would you now take out an annuity? Because it is a


guarantee. It says, however long you live, we will give you this much per


year. It may not be very much, but it is guaranteed. If you are very


prudent, and you put your pension pot in an Isa investment, and you


think, I will live until an 85, I need this income, so I will take it


out each year and hope it grows, when it is all gone at 85 and you


carry on living, by the time you are 95 or 100, you may well find you


have run out of money. You have been prudent or make sensible choices,


but unless we all plan to live to 120, we will run out of money. Yes.


But we got a letter from somebody who said that they have a pension


pot of ?400,000, that is a lot of money, much bigger than the average


pension pot. And they went for an annuity. It gave them ?12,000 per


year. Why would you go for that? Because it is guaranteed. Peanut!


That sounds to be index-linked. It may seem peanuts to you, but to a


lot of people... That is not the issue. It seems peanuts if you have


saved hard all your life document out ?400,000, that is what I'm


saying. ?12,000 a year for many pensioners would seem a lot of


money, but that is not my point. The point is right, that you get a very


small proportion of it every year, because we are living longer, and


insurance companies are profitable. If you had ?40,000, it would be


?1200 per year, and it makes you realise what the index-linked state


pension of seven or ?8,000 per year is worth. If you are annuitising


that, it is worth ?250,000. So it is difficult to have enough, but if you


had that and you started taking money out of it and you did live


until you are 85 you took more than that ?12,000 index-linked each year.


Stick with us because we're going to talk to the politicians so we'll


need you to correct them! Did we mean to destroy the pension


companies? That's not what we've done. They just lost 5 billion! It


was a surprise and we managed to get the whole policy a surprise. People


hadn't expected it. I think Ed Balls has welcomed it this morning and has


said it was... Has he welcomed it? We want more flexible to a pension


fund annuities and we've got to reform these ancient instruments. We


would have personally like to some action on the charges, the fees and


charges that the companies put in place. But are you in favour of this


new freedom pensioners will have? In the proviso that we've got


protection for pensioners. Paul was talking about some of this. We have


actuaries, these individuals in the pension companies who make an


estimate about your longevity and think about your ability to get a


steady amount of income. Now if we're not doing that, everybody is


going to have to individually make an estimate about their life span.


We've got to make sure people get proper ad twice about this. --


proper advice. People will get that. In general, are you in favour of


this? Are you going to vote for this? I've got to be convinced that


there's enough protection and advice for people making very big decisions


about a possible third of their life and their income. Forgive me my


cynicism - I know you'll be surprised that I have a slight


scepticism - but as the Chancellor doing this for the right reasons? He


happens to be getting a lot of taxes from these pensioners early on.


Perhaps it's because he's got a big black hole. What hole is this? You


left a big black hole! I'm a little bit sceptical. Have the Lib Dems


gone along with this? Absolutely. Professor Steve Webb is one of those


rare people, a minister and a Lib Dem who absolutely knows his brief.


He's caused a revolution in pensions. He bores for Britain on


pensions! He has done a terrific job on this. One of the things that has


not been reported well is the detail of the red book does have


safeguards. You will not be able to draw all your pension pots out and


blow it and binge it. You will need certain minimum income levels. The


government actuary is still going to restrict the amount you can take


out. Are they going to give actuarial advice? Free, impartial,


face-to-face advice. It has to be actuarial. You don't just want that


to aerial advice but pension and vice. Do you see my point about the


life span people will have? Last night, we had a Labour adviser


saying "we, as a party, don't trust people to spend their money" . Now


you're saying you don't trust people to know that the advice is good for


them. Paul Lewis made a very good point which is that annuities are


insurance policy. People say that if they die at 69 they will lose all


the money. They are not really losing it. The people who lived to


90 are getting that money. People will need to look more closely at


the issue of insurance if they keep their money in their own hands. When


you look at what the Tories have done by stealth, and out of the


blue, to take ?5 billion off the pension companies at a stroke, in


your wildest dreams you couldn't do that to the energy companies! Nobody


wants to, I think, make policy which has a volatile and disruptive effect


in that way. I think what you have to do is enter into these reforms


with your eyes open and make sure that if you are making changes, big


changes affecting people's income over a long period, you're doing it


with the right reasons - so it's not just about short-term tax grabs -


and with protections for the public. Those are our concerns. But here's


the point which I don't think has been widely grassed. If, as a result


of saying that annuities are no longer going to be compulsory,


pension companies lose a ?5 billion on their value, that can only show


that they were taking economic rents that they didn't deserve. I think a


lot of people have been ripped off. But reforming annuities is a really


big step. I think it's important for us as an opposition to ask these


questions, not just take it at face value because we know they've got


form. Why didn't you do it? When we were in power annuity levels were a


lot higher. They've changed quite a lot. The banking crisis changed


everything. Let's be honest about the politics of this. This is a


burning arrow fired from the Tories straight to the heart of UKIP.


That's the politics of it. I can honestly tell you that UKIP is not a


part of the budget making process. When I dined with a cabinet minister


last night, he said that was exactly what it was designed to do. Was he


not being honest? I don't know who you were speaking to. Of course you


don't and you wouldn't want me to break a confidence if I dined with


you. But he was quite explicit about this - that you are losing


50-year-old males and over to UKIP. He described them as grumpy old men


and this is designed to get them back. Any Chancellor looks at


different people and what they are asking for. On Tuesday we had


childcare announcements. We've had pension reform. We've previously


been looking at businesses. Paul, any card you'd like to mark there?


Correct them where they were wrong? Ian Swales wasn't correct to say you


won't be able to take it all out. You will from next April. From March


the 27th of their will be still some restrictions but far fewer than


now. But from next April, it will be complete open house. You can do what


you like. The government has said everyone will have a legal right to


face-to-face advice. What isn't clear is how they will get that.


Some of the pension schemes will have to offer it but people who look


after their own pension, the voluntary sector might provide it.


It will be a problem to get good face-to-face advice to help people


with those difficult decisions about how much they should take out of


their fund and cutting down on the charges that will be made. Sounds


like it will keep you in a job, Paul! Thanks for joining us and


keeping us straight on the matter. So, what other headlines did the


Chancellor make? As predicted widely, the personal allowance


threshold will rise to ?10,500. The threshold for the 40p income tax


band is to rise from ?41,450 to ?41,865 next month and by a further


1% to ?42,285 next year. The Chancellor took a penny off a pint


and he froze duty on Scotch whisky. Always popular! He's also chopped


the tax rate for bingo halls from 20% to just 10%. And conscientious


savers can now put up to ?15,000 into their individual savings


accounts tax free! Nicky Morgan, what did you do to tackle Labour's


cost of living crisis? Raising the personal allowance is the biggest


thing we can do to help families and people working hard to keep more of


their own money. We've taken action on fuel duty. It was confirmed


yesterday that the planned rise for September is not going to go ahead.


On Tuesday we had a very important childcare announcements so there are


lots of things that we are doing. But I'm not going to say the last


couple of years haven't been very tough households. We recognise they


have been. That was recognised yesterday in the budget. We said the


job isn't done yet but we can see the momentum building. The recovery


is there and it's important we stay on the current path to build that


recovery. And it's who it actually benefits. Real wages have been


dropping consistently since 2010, the longest period of falls since at


least 1964, under both your governments. Real wages started to


fall before that in the financial crisis. They did but they have had


now the longest period of falls. Real wages have fallen by 2.2%


annually since 2010 when you came into power. I'm not saying people


haven't had it very tough. As a result of the recession that was


left behind, the big black hole, and we've had external shocks like the


eurozone crisis, it has taken time to build confidence. The employment


figures yesterday were very good news and we're looking at how we can


help with the personal allowance, childcare, free school meals,


council tax, fuel duty. My constituent tell me these things are


making a difference to the money they have in their pocket. What do


you say to the charge that it's too little, too late? We had to get in


and sort out the problems we had before. We can only do these things


because of the long-term economic plan we have in place to build the


recovery. The largest fall in real wage growth amongst the G7. What are


you doing worse than every body else? We were in a worse financial


position. The last government crashed the car. The Chancellor


brought about not fixing the roof while the sun was shining. The bail


out meant that because we'd been consistently spending so many years


more than we bring in in taxes, there wasn't the money to develop


banks so it's hit everybody. Every household is ?3000 worse off as a


result of Labour's recession. Well, they've shot sure Fox, stolen your


thunder. There were measures to deal with cost of living issues and at


some point this year, wages will go ahead of prices and that is going to


completely dampen your cost of living crisis that you keep accusing


the government of. Let's hope that eventually earnings to surpass the


level of prices because we have had such an unprecedented period of the


pound in people's pocket, no matter what new shape it will be,


diminishing in value and in the amount it can purchase. The


criticism that we have of the budget is almost conspicuous by its


absence. There weren't the significant changes that we need to


help people with the cost of living crisis, the now well-known cost of


living crisis. There were the childcare policies. Which won't come


in until autumn 2015. We could have had help now, particularly if we'd


taken some of the money that should be collected from the bank levy and


taken it into childcare. There is a difference. They like to throw a bit


of dust in this very clear policy. We could take ?800 million from the


bank levy which should have been collected properly and hasn't been,


and put it into increasing childcare hours for three and four-year-olds.


That would help with parents getting part-time work and training and that


isn't happening. They've taken 15 billion from families with children.


We don't hear about the child benefit changes and tax credit cuts.


They are not going to give anything back until the next Parliament. 85%


of people who receive child benefit are still doing so. The issue is...


Actually, it's going to be raised. But the issue with the opposition's


childcare policy, not least about the funding, is also about the fact


that we want a simple, flexible scheme so that parents are able to


choose the right childcare. If you say you have to have a certain


number of hours a week, that doesn't suit everybody. Let's have a look,


though, at the type of recovery, as Labour always call it, and the


rebalancing of the economy. Ian Swales, do you think it has been


rebalanced enough or do you think there is still too much focus, as


Vince Cable often warns everybody, about consumer spending, which is


up? Since last year the property market is improving but is not a


pre-crash levels, apart from in London. Do you fit we're moving that


are exactly the same position as we were pre-crash? No, I don't. I think


the rebalancing is taking place. We can see it. There was lots of


rebalancing that needed doing when Labour left office, one of which was


between financial services and manufacturing. There were lots of


measures yesterday about manufacturing, around capital


finances and energy costs, particularly the type of area I


represent the north-east. These are the kind of things we need to be


doing. We need to rebalance from north to south and that job has in


no way been done yet. Do you accept there is a big divide between North


and South and even within that huge regional differences? You say there


has been a focus on manufacturing. What level is it at paired to


pre-crash? It's up. No, it's down from pre-crash but it's up since


2010. 9% down. From a low bar it is improving but is still way below


pre-crash levels and we are in 2014. But the trade figures were very


disappointing just over a week ago. Where is this rebalancing of the


economy? I represent a constituency in the north-east which has a net


positive trade balance. The north-east Chamber of Commerce


welcomed the budget, saying it had prospects for growth. If you look


around this country, for example on house prices, nobody in my


constituency would recognise the worries about the housing bubble. It


doesn't exist. Nicky Morgan, household gross debt to income at


its peak in 2007-8 and the prediction is that it's going to be


at similar levels by 2018-19. That's household gross debt to income. It's


going to be as high, so it's predicted, by 2018-19, and by then


interest rates will probably have gone up by about 3%. You need to


look at what the debt is. It's about building a culture of saving. We


need households and people to do more of that. The OBR forecast shows


the savings rate going from 7% to just over 3%. People are saving and


we'd like to see them doing more. Steve White according to OBR


forecast made after you'd may be changes, the savings forecast shows


it fallen by 15%. That's why the announcements were about helping


people to do more. You know how it works. The OBR makes these forecasts


after you've told them what you're going to do. The savings


announcements that we made yesterday one thing but people 's confidence


that they have taken action to tackle their debt.


Let's have a look at this poster that appeared earlier today. " to


help hard-working people do more of the things they enjoy. ".


The Budget was about a lot more than this. But would you have referred to


working people as "they" ? I wouldn't have put that, but it was


only a part of the Budget, and there were plenty more parts of the


Budget. She is very loyal to Grant Shapps is, but it was very


patronising, this notion that you patch working people on the head.


The government is so out of touch with the struggle that people are


having, the difficulties to make ends meet. We end up with an economy


that is Carragher fired by food banks and zero hours culture. --


characterised by food banks. It is patronising. I regard myself as part


of the community I represent. It is not "they", we are all in it


together. A couple of policies were very popular yesterday. That this is


the one that Grant Shapps told everyone to tweet. There was a whole


list of things that we told everyone to tweet. It is because Tories don't


drink beer or play bingo, isn't it? That is not true. When we last at a


bingo hall? The point is, yesterday's Budget was to draw


attention to a couple of key policies, and that is what Labour


can't get past. Screwed up by your party's propaganda division. The


reaction from here is typical. The Budget response speech didn't


respond to the Budget. There was no action to deal with the pressures


people are facing, and the telling thing was the way in which you


character rise working people, because you don't understand the


pressures that people are facing. That's what it told, it told a story


about you. What else to "they" like? It is "we", and we have a lot


of issues that we all face together. Will you tell Grant Shapps that? He


doesn't understand it. I don't think they will be going for a beer. Maybe


a long walk off a short pier. And only one will return. Now, the


economy. George Osborne said yesterday that Britain was enjoying


the fastest economic growth in the advanced world. He could hardly take


the smile off his face as he said it. So let's take a quick look at


the figures. According to the oh BR, the economy will grow this year at


2.7%. It's expected to grow 2.3% in 2015. 2.6% in 2016. Steady at 2.6%


in 2017. And 2.5% in 2018. Forget everything I just said that, because


they have no idea how it is going to grow in 2018, this is just a


complete the series! Public borrowing stands at ?108 billion


this year, but it's expected to fall over the next five years to a ?5


billion surplus in 2018/19. Supposed to be a surplus this year, but it is


now been moved to then. But Britain's debt mountain will end up


being smaller than previously thought, peaking at 78% of GDP in


2015, 7% less than forecast. Why have you presided over the worst


recovery of any major economy? Because we had the biggest recession


in 100 years where are economy shrank by over 7%. But the sub-prime


crisis started in America. Japan has had a huge banking crisis as well.


Why have we performed worse than them? Because we had a big


recession, the eurozone crisis, other emerging markets. So did the


French and the Germans. Why was hours worse? Because of all of those


factors and the need to get some structural things that we needed to


get right in our economy to build our way through, dealing with public


spending, dealing with things like the welfare bill that had been going


up and up, and also about consumer confidence and business confidence,


and that takes time. We can see that coming back now. But the whole


purpose of this coalition has been bid to reduce the deficit. The


deficit made by Labour, is the Tory mantra. So why are we still, two


years from now, having the worst fiscal deficit of any Western


economy? It is down by a third now and is forecast to be halved,


because we have had this big recession to deal with. We have not


had a worse recession than Ireland, we have not had a worse recession


than Greece, which has lost 25% of its GDP. We have not had a worse


recession than Portugal. We have not had a worse recession than Spain,


which is an even bigger property boom than we have. Yet our fiscal


deficit will remain bigger than all of these countries. There is also


the fact that other things, public spending needed to come under


control. Greece had massive public spending, too. They haven't got it


under control. But their fiscal deficit in 2050 will be smaller than


ours. We're bringing the spending under control. The welfare benefit


had got out of control as far as taxpayers were concerned, all of


those things have combined... And you still can't do better than the


Greeks? We are well on course to halve the deficit by next year, and


to have a small surplus by 2018. These things take time, and I think


people respect that. Why did Ed Miliband not mention a single


measure in the Budget yesterday in his response? I'm not sure that is


quite true. Don't all gang up on him! That's my job. I think the


measures that he mentioned were the effect on the public. What Budget


measure did he comment on in his response to the Budget? We can go


through his speech in great detail... Just give me one. You were


there. You must have listened to it. I was actually giving my own


reaction. Tell me one measure that he commented on four or against? I


think he was making a point about the lack of measures in the Budget


to deal with the cost of living pressures that people were facing.


He could've written that weeks ago. He probably did. You are reacting to


the Chancellor's speech. The normal convention is that a Minister makes


a statement. There is an hour or two of notice to the opposition


spokesman. Redacted in a certain way for market sensibility. But it is an


important thing people need to know. As a leader of the opposition or any


shadow Minister, you have to react to the context in which the speeches


are given, and I can tell you something for the Op the more that


we look at the Budget, the more obvious it is the measures that are


conspicuous by their absence. That he didn't mention either! But since


he didn't mention any measure, can you tell us today what was announced


in the Budget that you will vote against? I think there was some good


things in the Budget. There were a few U-turns. We haven't got the


finance bill yet. So you don't know yet. We are in favour of a welfare


cut, and we believe that your reckless spending in terms of... To


go back to your question about recovery. Our biggest question was


how unbalanced our economy was. Under the previous government,


manufacturing went from 22% to 11% of the economy. We're having to


recover from a low base. The alternative measures that have been


suggested have even now started complaining about tax rises, 24 tax


rises. I don't know which ones they particularly don't like. But they


are complaining about both spending cuts and tax rises. It is always two


government spokespeople. The personal allowance, you say we give


a little with one hand and take off with the other, that is far greater.


Council tax, fuel duty... You never mention VAT. People are ?891 worse


off on average. There was a total lack of detail in Ed Miliband's


response. But you published 24 tax rises that you claim have come...


And we can't undo the maul. Will you reverse any of them? In 2015, the


years the general election, we will look at them then. Say you cannot


say that you will reverse any of them? I cannot promise to reverse


any thing that we cannot afford. We think there are ways of funding the


bedroom tax and its abolition. Stamp duty reserve tax the rich investment


managers shouldn't be the priority that they are cutting in April. We


think instead it is important to help people with the bedroom tax.


Why did you not include the bedroom tax among the 24 tax rises? We


could've done. We didn't include tax credits. If you want an even greater


list... That is because you know it is not a tax. For a lot of people it


is. So why didn't you include it? This is the main thing you have been


campaigning for, to get rid of what you call the bedroom tax. Yet on a


list of 24 tax rises, you don't include the biggest one that you


have talked most about? Why? I am happy to call it 25 tax rises if you


really want. Why has it taken new 24 hours to do that? If you want a


compendium, it is a much bigger list. Why didn't you put the most


important one? There are many of them. This is the one that you say


you want to reverse. You have just said you can't reverse the other 24,


yet the one that you can reverse is the one that you didn't include.


Why? We needed to set out for people that there were a number of changes


to their taxes, and we needed to put beyond doubt the fact that this is


an approach that typically comes from the Chancellor. He will


sprinkle around a few goodies, a change in your personal allowance,


but the context is that people's taxes elsewhere have been going up.


If you want me to call it 25 tax rises, I am happy to do that, but


the point is it is unfair. We have run out of time. Policy has been


made yet again on the Daily Politics as! You heard it here first. And now


for something completely different. We're going to mark an anniversary


of true national significance. No, not Andrew's birthday, but ten years


since Parliament got its own rock band. They're called MP4, and they


regularly bring their signature brand of dad rock to events at


Westminster. Adam's been auditioning to be their roadie.


It is Budget night, and boring politicians are talking about


pensions stuff, but not here. This is MP4, the only parliamentary rock


group in the entire world. # Keep on running. They let us into


the sound check ahead of their gig to mark ten years on stage. On


guitar, Labour's Kevin Brennan. On drums, the Conservative Greg Knight


and on keyboards, Pete Wishart of the SNP, who has been on an actual


band that played in stadiums and everything! But just how rock 'n'


roll are these guys? I want to ask about rock cliches. Do you have


groupies? Yes, but we don't tell the media about them. Have you ever


trashed a hotel room? I rearranged the towels are slightly. There are


violent rows between two members of the group, usually the two Labour


members! Kevin was in favour of Gordon Brown and I was in favour of


Tony Blair! MP4 I'll regulars on the Westminster social scene. This cake


was last week at the Parliamentary variety show. -- are regulars. The


band have raised ?1 million for good causes over the last decade, they


reckon. And yes, there is an album - probably not available in a record


shop near you. Pete Wishart has come from a


recording studio and he joins us now. How did you all get together?


It's ten years and I think Andrew was at our first gig. I was from the


music industry and there was an all-party music group put together


and I wanted to get debate going. I met Ian and we started about the


prospect of putting together a parliamentary rock band. We said we


would never find a drummer to only find Greg Knight eavesdropping on


our conversation and he asked if we were talking about a drummer and


offered his services. We were quite happy being MP3 at that point and


then Kevin Brennan decided to gate-crash the party with his guitar


and from Bennet been MP4 so we've risen to the steady heights of


competence! -- from then it's been. You didn't have to audition, then? I


don't think there was a great talent -based audition from! Any hidden


talents here? No, but I think Ed Balls is trying his best to get in!


MP4 performed one New Year on the terrace and they had a guest, David


Morris the MP4 Morecambe. He's a genuine session guitarist so there


is a reserve in place! Maybe your fame could spread further than the


Westminster terraces. You could be in Pienaar spaceman grow 650. -- you


could be MP650. We've raised quite a lot of money for Macmillan Cancer


Support. We've made a lot of great friends in the ten years.


Camaraderie urges in bands and developed and we are very


supportive. Not like the Rolling Stones, then!


You haven't split up and come back together? No, I think this will be


the line-up until our last days. When is your next gig? Believe it or


not, the Speaker has kindly agreed to allow us to do a show in


Speaker's House to celebrate ten years. We also have a gig where we


sail up and down the Thames. Do you think John Bercow would allow you to


play a gig in the chamber? I think that would be ruled out. How many


copies has your album sold? Three. Still available on all good download


sites! Have you noticed something about the band? In what way? It's


cross-party but there are no Lib Dems. I'm not sure we have any Lib


Dem musicians. You have a few fiddlers! Very good! He did turn up


with his mouth organ once but we had to let him down gently! But it isn't


a policy that they're barred? Is a Liberal Democrat came forward with


is a pre-musical talent he would be admit it at media early! Have you


heard them play? I haven't but I hope they manage to stay together.


Maybe if you win at the Brits! We are waiting for the best


parliamentary rock group category to emerge! Would have been nice to have


you play them all out because we now say goodbye to the three of you


guests. Enjoy. Back to the budget, a day of high


drama in the Westminster village calendar. Apart from the general


election, it's probably as good as it gets. Let's take a look back.


If you are a maker, a doer or a saver, this budget is for you.


CHEERING If you like the Budget, we need to


put the question. All the prime minister needs to do is nod his head


if he's going to rule out cutting the 45p tax. There was almost no


mention of young people in the statement at all. A very, very


sensible Budget. I'm joined now by one man who things budgets are a


waste of time, trying to do us out of a job! He's Danny Finklestein.


He's a Tory peer and terribly grand. And one man who thinks they're not,


Steve Richards. He's not a peer - yet - but is quite grand. I think we


have now got four fiscal events in a two-year period and I'd like one.


The best type of Chancellor creates a framework for the economy, a


framework for taxation, has a sense of direction and doesn't want to


keep on moving taxes up and down to manage the news media. But the way


the fiscal calendar is organised, it encourages people to do something


that means that television programmes have got something


exciting to say about them. And what's wrong with that? I can


understand why the media, including myself and the Chancellor, will have


a vested interest in having all these events but I don't think it


makes for good policy because the better policy is long-term strategic


policy. I accept that you get silly policies and I think it's worth the


silly policies because in my view, politics is now an art form and one


might as well and break the artistry. In other words, we need


these events, partly to hold people to account, partly to explore what


they're up to, partly to explore what they are. And without these


events, we wouldn't get that, so it's a wholly artificial device, the


Budget, the party conference speech, all the annual rituals we have, the


Autumn Statement which is, in effect, a second Budget. We get the


silly policies but it's worth it because it gives us an excuse to


explore what they're about. And take stock. And take stock. And without


them, we wouldn't have these pauses in the general frenzy of political


life. I think and argue that have to start with silly policies being


worth the price is arguing against itself. What makes you think you


wouldn't still get silly policies? I think the few occasions you have


where politicians are expected, as a matter of ritual, to turn up with


something exciting to say, the better policy would be... Let's take


a beer policy. It sensible to create a long-term framework for the


taxation of alcohol. It isn't sensible to have a framework in


which people are courage to move the attacks up and down to create


newspaper headlines. But if you don't do that, you don't get any


headlines. -- to move here tax. You end up with posters like the one Mr


Schatz has released. It tells us about what the person who came up


with it thinks. -- that Grant Shapps has released. It's taken the lid off


something? It tells us about a thought process. I feel like the


Leader of the Opposition. I've got nothing interesting to say about it.


I can't understand what everyone has got so excited about. In a way, it


makes my case, which is that it's a silly political row about the words


people use. All the letter set. It's digitally made now! In terms of


policy, you get the silly things about beer but in terms of the


pensions announcement, I saw some people say they think it will


implode but I think probably, after the so called on the shambles


Budget, this, I assume will be rock solid. -- omnishambles Budget. We've


had the Mayor of London, it on the poster. Let's have a look. Who are


"vague"? I haven't seen it. -- who are "they" ? It seems to be


celebrating the fact that we are cutting the tax on bingo and beer


and that is the right thing to do. Are they via Tony and is? -- the


people who went to Eton? I think it is the right thing to do. I didn't


write the blooming thing. It's trying to get across the message


that it is the Budget for everybody. What's he supposed to say? May be


what he thinks! Well, it's a little bit of paper with a few words on


it. Naturally, this kind of conversation in which the consensus


is that it was silly is an opportunity for somebody who isn't a


Conservative to say it is a silly poster. Maybe for other people, and


just not for me - it didn't strike me as that interesting. You don't


think it tells us something? I do. And so does the Budget speech. On


the whole, it would be a very tedious exercise but if you look


back at Budget speeches, much more than Queens speeches, it tells us a


lot about the economic policy, of a future intent, context. I do think


they force people - in this case chancellors - to think about who


they are and what they are about and they tell us things. It's the same


with the leaders' conference speeches. I spoke to one of the


leaders before there's last September and October and I asked if


they were fed up about the amount of time they spend on it and they said


it made them focus and concentrate the mind. Let's forget the poster


and come onto the substance or, more particularly, both of you give me


your view about where this leaves our politics up to the election,


after this budget? I don't think the Budget will have altered this but we


are in for a period where we have this debate between the living


standards rising versus whether growth is rising. People will know


the country is doing well and then wonder whether they themselves are


doing well. If they feel they are not they may well say that the Tory


brand values are that they don't help people like them and that's why


they are not being held. There is a great boon - we got things right,


the economy is going the right direction. And the danger which is


the party being seen not to help people. Where it is clever is that


there will now be a new focus on savers which hasn't really been


around in our daily reflections on politics and economics throughout


this whole period. That will change I think and that is quite a big


twist. Other than that, I think it will have little impact on the wider


political mood in the short-term. I'll be surprised if polls show a


sudden huge Tory lead. And in the build-up, there were clearly a


series of traps for Labour and the one they haven't yet resolved is


whether they support his tax and spend plans or his spending targets


for the next parliament and that will be a big call on their part.


Unlike the welfare cap, my guess is that they won't stop That's a debate


to come. That will shape the politics of the election. That's it


for today. The News At One is starting over on BBC One now. I'll


be on BBC One tonight with Ranulph Fiennes, Kevin Maguire, Miranda


Green, Diane Abbott and Michael Portillo on This Week at 11:35pm.


And I will be back here at noon tomorrow with all the big political


stories of the day. What are you doing? What am I doing here? !


You're a glutton for punishment! Goodbye.


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