26/04/2012 Dragon's Eye


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Have anti-gay marriage campaigners broken the law by taking their


fight into Welsh secondary schools? The Minister has ordered an


Good evening. The latest opinion polls suggest a majority of people


in Wales want some taxes to be devolved, but that may be easier


said than done. Business and accountancy leaders have told us


they are far less keen on the idea, fearing that it could mean a lot


more paperwork. The Welsh Government has set up a commission


to look into the issue and the man heading it up has spoken to


Wales already makes its own money but unfortunately for us it is just


the Royal Mint. They produce it but we cannot use it all for ourselves.


A recent poll for the BBC suggested two-thirds of people in Wales were


in favour of devolving some taxes, although they could not really


agree on which ones. That reflects how tricky it is. What do you


devolve, how do you collect it and how much money does it generate? As


the commission are finding out now it is a difficult issue. Which


taxes generate the most money? The big three are income tax, National


Insurance and VAT, between them raising over three-quarters of all


taxes in Wales. But can they be devolved? National Insurance is


tied in to welfare payments so you cannot really devolve that. That


takes out nearly �4 billion. There are European laws which mean that


devolving VAT would be very tricky. Another �3.5 billion out of it. So


that leaves you with income tax. But even that could be difficult to


devolve, according to accountancy experts. Yes, it is a big


fundraiser in Wales. It contributes to the net tax take. But the


practical implications of devolving that are going to be quite


difficult. For example, how would you appraise or divine where income


tax gets levied? It depends on where the individual lives and


works. It would be quite a difficult tax to devolve and if you


look at Scotland, Scotland has had tax-varying powers on income tax


for the last few years and has chosen not to use them, because of


the complexity. The main body representing accountants in Wales


says that devolving any kind of tax could be problematic. The UK tax


regime is highly complex and it would certainly not make it any


simpler. Our position would be to add a separate layer for perhaps


Wales, perhaps Scotland, perhaps Northern Ireland. To greatly add to


complexity would complicate matters for business. It would not really


be beneficial for businesses in general. There are smaller taxes


like landfill tax, and air passenger duty. But between them


they only generate around some �2 million. Not insignificant but


hardly a large contribution. One possibility is to devolve the


profits of companies, corporation tax. Alex Salmond is keen to have


that in Scotland and the same goes for Northern Ireland. It is 24% in


the UK at the moment, but that will fall in future. Lowering


corporation tax in Wales, the theory goes, could make businesses


more likely to invest here. But small businesses like this one near


Wrexham do not really see it that way. If we had a separate


corporation tax between here and the border, and we are only a mile


or two away, what effect that would have in terms of who collects it,


who pays? Do you then get a situation where you have to pay


corporation tax for the work you do in Wales when you are in Wales and


corporation tax to England for the job? Theoretically, it has to be


handled carefully, otherwise it could be an administrative


nightmare for small businesses. What small businesses really want


is to change the taxes they pay on their property, business rates.


would hope to see a new form of business rate that would be fairer,


more progressive, not levied on the arbitrary value of property that


you do not own, and it would be a means of taxing businesses,


irrespective of whether they have a property or office. Perversely,


conversely, the case is that we are looking for more businesses to pay


less tax. Instead of that business tax being levied on those with


property, it is contributed to by all businesses. So if there is


support for the Government... What else is there? It could borrow like


the UK Government can but the man heading up the Welsh Government's


Commission thinks there could be issues with that as well. The UK


Treasury takes the view that capital borrowing powers need to be


backed or flanked by a tax raising power, so that is something again


we have to be conscious of because clearly if we are going to make


recommendations which are going to be implemented, they cannot be ones


which the Treasury would reject out of hand. On top of that, as we are


technically in a recession again, borrowing more money could be


controversial. The issue of devolving taxes to the Welsh


Government, it really is very That joke is so good we had to use


it twice! Alan Trench is from the School of Social and Political


Science at Edinburgh University and writes the Devolution Matters blog.


Alan Trench, on the face of it, you would expect businesses to support


something that could well reduce their tax burden, so why are they


being so sceptical about proposals to devolve corporation tax? They


fear tax rates might not go down but go up. The other reason to be


concerned from a business point of view about corporation tax is that


it would be administratively quite complex and that complexity would


fall probably more on business than on Government and administrative


agencies because you would have to work out and be able to show in


your corporation tax returns how much of your income originated from


Wales and how much from other parts of the UK. So for larger businesses


particularly, that could get very complicated indeed. From the point


of view of the Welsh Government and the revenue that it can get in, as


well as the possible stimulus to the economy of reducing corporation


tax, what are the sorts of things they should consider in deciding


whether or not to support devolution? Corporation tax is a


very volatile tax and if your job is to provide public services the


costs are pretty much constant and may even go up in a recession, it


is very difficult to rely on a sort of tax that can vary by as much as


corporation tax can. I have some figures here for how much it has


varied during the recession. From the peak in 2007-2008 to the trough


in 2009-2010, it has declined 23% in the UK as a whole. Over a


slightly longer period, from 2007 until now, corporation tax revenues


have declined by 9.2%, while there has been an overall decline of just


under 1%. So you put your revenues under quite a lot of strain. That


is made worse if you really want to cut corporation tax, because rules


mean your block grant will be reduced to take account of that as


well, so the overall amount of money to pay for public services in


Wales will be reduced and reduced in a way that becomes very volatile.


What about the argument that says reducing taxes on business


stimulates the economy and what we need more than anything at the


moment is growth in the economy, so all the devolved governments should


go for it? There is certainly that argument and it is being pushed


very strongly by Scotland and Northern Ireland. I think behind


the scenes the Northern Ireland people are a bit more ambivalent


about it. The question then is whether corporation tax is the main


and best determinant of that sort of growth. There are quite a lot of


levers for growth that are in the hands of devolved governments.


Things like skills in the labour markets and what is known as an


active labour market policy. Particularly in the Welsh case,


business rates, which are already devolved in Scotland and Northern


Ireland. Those may be more effective ways of trying to boost


economic growth than corporation tax. Might the decision be taken


away from the Welsh Government in the sense that if Northern Ireland


goes for it and gets it, and Scotland goes for it and gets it,


Wales is also going to have to go for it and get it or lose out to


more competitive corporation rates elsewhere in the United Kingdom?


There is a risk. I am more sceptical that it would be devolved


to Scotland or Northern Ireland than your question suggests. I


expect it will not be and I think the consequences of devolving it


for the Treasury would be quite alarming and they would be very


reluctant to see that happen. you. The Education Minister,


Leighton Andrews, has asked his officials to investigate after a


Catholic organisation wrote to secondary schools urging staff and


pupils to back the campaign against same-sex marriage. The Catholic


Education Service, which lobbies on behalf of the Church, invited them


to consider the issue during assemblies and to support the


online petition against same-sex marriage by the Coalition for


For some it is a convention but for others, particularly among some


religious groups, marriage is by definition between a man and a


woman. The UK Government is currently consulting on whether


that should change, so that same- sex couples would be allowed to


marry. Many faith organisations have thrown their weight behind a


petition by the Coalition for Marriage's plans. It has emerged


today that the debate has reached into schools. The Catholic


Education Service is defending its decision to write to secondary


schools urging staff and pupils to support the campaign to ensure


marriage remains between a man and a woman. It has been accused of


acting illegally. It makes me feel sick because I think about gay kids


in these schools and what message that gives of the totally


unrealistic and inhuman or inhumane policy of the Catholic Church


towards gay people. Welsh Government education officials are


now investigating because schools and teachers are forbidden from


promoting one side of a political argument. The organisation denies


acting illegally, saying in its view marriage is religious and not


political and it is entitled to raise it in schools. I think it is


right that people in the wider community should be made aware of


what it is that is being proposed, most particularly because there is


a consultation and the Government will look at what the outcome of


the consultation is before deciding how to proceed. Since 2005, gay and


lesbian couples had been allowed to enter civil partnerships, which


gives them similar rights to married couples. Critics at the


time said it would inevitably lead to calls for same-sex marriage.


Many now say that is exactly what has happened, but faith groups are


united either for or against the proposals. Andrew Morton was a


church minister who resigned in protest at what he saw as


homophobic attitudes. In order to have an authentic critique of the


Church as an institution, it was the most honorable thing to do.


proposals would allow same-sex partners to enter into civil


marriages only. Even those religious organisations that wanted


to have gay and lesbian weddings would not be allowed to do so. But


critics argue that if this does go ahead churches would eventually be


forced to perform these ceremonies. The proposal is that this would be


a change in the civil law and it will not affect what happens in


churches or other places of worship. But the reality is we know that our


participation in the European Convention on Human Rights, the


fact that we had this overlay of human rights law, is in my view


very likely to lead to churches ultimately being required to


perform such marriages if the general definition of marriage


changes. No one is proposing that religious bodies be forced to


conduct same-sex marriages. That is just propaganda. It is also


propaganda to say that if we get same-sex civil marriages in


registry offices, this will force the churches to conduct same-sex


marriages. That is not true. At the moment we have civil divorcees but


even though the Roman Catholic Church prohibits divorce, it has


never, ever been forced to conduct divorces. There are disagreements


on whether these proposals go far enough. What they are offering is


quite timid. There is a clear case that in those cases where religious


groups such as Quakers and others that celebrate a marriage, the


legislation should allow them to do so. Within my lifetime there has


been a complete revolution in social attitudes towards same-sex


couples. We have gone one step at a time in that revolution but when


you look back and add it up, it is a revolution. I think it is


important that we carry on doing it one step at a time because if you


try to go too far too fast, then you create a backlash out of


nowhere. Some argue that even if the current proposals go ahead,


there still will not be equality. If the Government legalises same-


sex civil marriages in registry offices, that would be great. But


we will continue the fight to ensure that heterosexual couples


have the right to a civil partnership if they wish and we


will continue the fight to ensure that religious organisations can


conduct same-sex marriages if that is their wish as well. It may be a


subject that ignites passions but there is not a great deal of time


for reflection. There is only a few months left of the consultation if


the Government wants gay couples to be able to take their vows and


declare themselves married before the next election, due in 2015. The


Catholic Education Service refute any suggestion that their action


amounts to campaigning. They have given a statement which reads,


"Catholic state schools have always been permitted to teach matters


relating to sex and relationships education, including the importance


of marriage, in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church.


The Church's view on the importance of marriage is a religious view,


not a political one". Joining me is Andrew White, director of Stonewall


Cymru, and from our Millbank studio, Milo Yiannopoulos, who writes for


the Catholic Herald. Welcome to the programme. Milo Yiannopoulos,


before we get to the meat and drink of the issue, could I ask for your


view of the appropriateness of the Catholic Education Service's


decision to write to secondary schools in this way? It is entirely


their right to do so. I will not speak on their behalf but it is


almost certainly true that this is a religious, not a political


statement and request. My personal issues with gay marriage are


actually political and not quite so much religious. We will return to


those in a second. On the issue of the Catholic Education Service's


decision to do this, the Education Minister says he has asked for an


investigation of whether there has been a breach of the law. What is


your reaction? If there is a school in Wales that is encouraging


children as young as 11 to sign a petition against equal civil


marriage, that would be a gross dereliction of the duty of care.


did make it clear that the petition was only eligible for signatures of


those over 16. And yet we already have a case where a school has been


shown to encourage children as young as 11 to be signing that


petition. I am not sure what you mean. That is a very vague slur.


"Has been shown to have suggested". I know no evidence of that. Let's


move on to the meat and drink of the issue. Perhaps you could


explain why it is that you oppose the proposal for same-sex marriage.


Aside from religious questions, and I will not speak for the Catholic


Education Service or the Catholic Church, my objections to it are


twofold, both political. The first is that I deeply resent being used


as a political tool by David Cameron. This is really a very


cynical vote-winning strategy by the Prime Minister to appeal to


people who are not going to vote for him anyway. The second reason I


am troubled by it is that by racing into what is an enormous change to


a very substantial institution, which it is not an exaggeration to


say is the cohesive glue which holds society together, we run the


risk of serious consequences. I speak specifically about the war


that will break out, and it will break out, between the gay


community and extremist gay activists like Peter Tatchell who


you had in your report, and the churches. Because what will not


happen is that the Catholic Church will not bend on this. And nor, by


the way, will the mosques. What I will find very interesting to watch


is, when the inevitable human rights challenge is made, what will


happen when the Imams in Tower Hamlets are told they have to


legally perform gay marriage. is no suggestion under the


proposals at the moment to force any religious organisation to


conduct religious same-sex marriage ceremonies. In fact, it is ruled


out. You see, the issue is that, while that may be true and the


activists like to say this, of course what we know and have seen


is that the European Court of Human Rights has no compulsion about


overriding some of those rulings where it is considered to be an


issue of human rights. It is very clear, from looking at similar


cases, that what will happen is a test case will be brought and


churches will be... Forgive me for interrupting but I must give Andrew


White his fair say. A slippery slope that will ultimately end with


a religious organisations being forced to act in contradiction of


their beliefs? We are used to Milo Yiannopoulos and his argument of


the slippery slope, along with many others. It is no such thing. The


consultation states that this is not a religious marriage, it is a


civil marriage. If you take the example of Spain, Belgium, Portugal,


all of them Catholic countries, and all have had same-sex marriage for


some years. There have been no such cases. Let's look at the Human


Rights appeal court and the arguments that Milo Yiannopoulos


used. No one has appealed under human rights legislation on the


grounds of religious freedom or marital status to force the


Catholic Church to marry divorcees or non-Catholics. It is just a


hysterical argument. What about the point that this could cause a


backlash against the gay community? I believe the term he used was that


this could start a war between gays and straights, if certain


extremists on either side decide to take up cudgels over this? Many


lesbian and bisexual and gay people of faith would disagree with the


arguments being used against civil marriage. If there is to be a war,


it will be one declared by Milo Yiannopoulos and his compatriots.


That is obviously offensive and untrue. That is absolutely not the


case. The important thing to remember is that nobody has


actually asked for this. This is not something that has even been


demanded by the gay community but it is something that will be used


by activists to make a point. You mentioned countries where this has


been brought in. I do not think you really want to get into the case of


Spain, for example, where since gay marriage has been instituted in a


Catholic country, the instance of homophobic violence has skyrocketed.


This is probably not something that you know much about but it is


something I have been looking into. Well, is it something that you know


much about? Let's talk about the current narrative. I think that


means no. The narrative that talks about same-sex relationships as not


being as worthy as heterosexual relationships. That narrative leads


to increased bullying. Let's talk about the statistics - Milo


Yiannopoulos is a fan of statistics. Two-thirds of lesbian and bisexual


students in schools are bullied, 17% receive death threats. 1000


homophobic hate crimes reported in Wales in the last two years. I am


going to leave it there. Thank you There is one week until the local


government elections. Tomos Livingstone has been looking at


whether local or UK-wide issues have dominated the campaign.


Before local elections, there is no shortage of political news, but


with the economy in recession, the focus is on the national picture.


So, are the elections about local issues, or is May 3rd a referendum


on the UK Government? I have been knocking on doors with local


election candidates since shortly after the Assembly elections last


summer. We have had a whole sea of candidates with local manifestos in


each of our local authorities, setting out local priorities. But I


do not shy away from or apologise for the fact that we have also


talked about the national picture. It is an issue voters have raised


on the doorsteps. There is certainly no love for the Tories or


Liberal Democrats and I think they are in for a tough night. These


elections are about actually doing something for communities, creating


opportunities within the local economy. We have done that in


Cardiff. 600 jobs created there. In Gwynedd, we created a fund which


has safeguarded or created over 300 jobs. In Caerphilly, we created 100


apprenticeships. That is what we are offering the people of Wales.


Labour hopes to benefit from the UK Government's recent problems, but


what of the parties actually in power at Westminster? They would


prefer the elections were about local concerns. The Welsh


Conservatives will be fighting on a local level. Where I have gone


round Wales, people have been addressing local issues. We have a


positive platform about freezing council tax, increased funding for


schools, greater transparency in local authorities so that people


know where the money is going. But I accept there is an issue about


mid-term and Westminster news. But from the Welsh Conservatives and


the response we are getting, people want answers about what is going on


locally. Labour, for some reason, do not want to talk on the issues


relating to the election. Last year, they wanted to talk about the


Westminster government. This year, in council elections, they do not


want talk about the local government. They do not want to


talk about the level of council tax investment in local services. And


the reason is because Labour has such an appalling record at local


council level. Problems at Westminster can spell trouble for


local councillors. That is what happened to Labour in 2008.


Ultimately, it is for the voters to decide what is more important, the


performance of their local council, or what they think of the UK


Government. Tomos Livingstone joins me in the


studio. Westminster issues, or local issues? This is the axis on


which all local elections turn, whether they are about the local


council, whether the bins are collected on time, local services


delivered, the level of council tax, or are they really about


Westminster? Are they mid-term elections, to all intents and


purposes, about the UK Government? Last time in 2008, it was the time


of the 10p tax row. A Labour Government at Westminster getting


rid of the 10p income tax rate, affecting low income people. That


had a huge effect on the local elections. Labour lost dozens of


seats across Wales and beyond. As we saw in that film, there are


people hoping that the boot is on the other foot this time around,


and that the problems of a different UK Government, the


Conservative-Lib Dem administration, and there are plenty of those,


everything from the Leveson inquiry to the economy going back into


recession, Labour hoping it will perhaps work the other way and they


will win back some of the ground lost in 2008. I sense that it will


have an effect but will not be the dominant issue in the way it was


four years ago. Do you get a sense of the expectations for how they


are likely to do? Labour are hoping to win back some of that ground and


they did very badly in 2008, down to 344 councillors across Wales.


They will be looking to get back close up to and beyond 500


councillors next week and will be looking to win back control of some


of those authorities in the valleys that they lost last time. The test


is whether they can win back control of the big authorities and


the cities, Swansea, Newport and Cardiff. Plaid Cymru, a big test


for the new leader, Leanne Wood. They will be hoping to take control


of some authorities where they have been knocking on the door,


Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, also hold off a challenge from Labour in


Caerphilly. The Conservatives will be looking to do well in the areas


where they did well in last year's Assembly elections. A tough night


for the Liberal Democrats. Peter Black said earlier this week that


the party is competitive in the wards they already hold, and that


is the sound of a party crossing its fingers. Let me ask about an


unrelated matter. Keith Davies, the Assembly Member who is being


investigated by the Assembly's Standards Commissioner. What is


that about? After a night out with other Assembly members and


political figures, Keith Davies, after going to to a bar in Cardiff,


ended up at a five-star hotel in Cardiff Bay, where he was staying.


At some point during the early hours of the morning, staff at the


hotel contacted the Assembly authorities, who had arranged for


him to stay there, expressing concerns about his behaviour. We do


not know much more, but the Standards Commissioner of the


Assembly is looking into it and can perhaps shed some light on this


mysterious story. Everyone is scratching their heads as to how he


ended up in such a situation. you. That is it for this week. The


e-mail address is on the screen if you want to get in touch. We are


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