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Politics blog: featuring Nick Clegg speech on the economy

Rolling coverage of all the day’s political developments as they happen including the deputy prime minister’s speech

9.58am: The text of Nick Clegg’s speech has now arrived in my inbox. I’ll post a summary as soon as I can.

9.46am: Clegg takes a question from the Herald, the Glasgow newspaper.

Q: Are you willing to put a devo max question on the Scottish independence ballot paper?

Clegg says this government is legislation now in the Scotland bill to make the biggest transfer of fiscal sovereignty from London to Edinburgh since 1707. The Scottish government will have control of about a third of total revenue raised in Edinburgh, compared to about a tenth now. By 2014/2015 Edinburgh will have control of another £200m’s worth of capital spending.

As a Lib Dem, he believes in home rule, he says.

Q: Do you think Britain is already in recession [as the Ernst & Young ITEM Club think]?

Clegg says there are lots of forecasts knocking around. Let’s just wait and see what the official figures say, he says.

Q: Are you convinced that all members of the coalition are still in favour of Britain’s membership of the single market?

Yes, says Clegg. The single market was a British invention. And Margaret Thatcher took Britain into it, he says.

Completing the single market would be the biggest single boost the European economy could have, he says.

9.42am: Clegg is taking a question from a non-journalist in the audience.

Q: How would your plan to reform company remuneration committees actually work?

Clegg says Vince Cable, the business secretary, will announce the details when he publishes his plans next week.

Q: Should you give employers an incentive to set up employee share ownership schemes?

Clegg says he wants to see if the government can establish a “simple, off-the-peg model” for employee share ownership.

9.41am: Clegg says the government is working on plans to beef up the competition regime in the UK.

9.38am: More questions.

Q: Do you accept that pay inequality has been driven by globalisation?

Clegg says this has been a factor. The long-term shift to a service economy has also had an effect, he says. One government cannot fix these problems on its own. But governments should do something. If people feel that the market is not acting properly, there will be a popular backlash.

Q: Is the government going to introduce a mansion tax? [The Independent says he is pressing for one to be included in the budget.]

Clegg says he supports taxes that capture unearned wealth, as well as lower taxes for work. That’s why he wants to lift the income tax threshold. Clegg says it is “quite right” to look at ways of taxing high-value properties. At the moment, they are taxed the same as other properties. But Clegg says he is in coalition. He will continue to argue the case for this, but he did not win the election.

9.31am: Nick Clegg is taking questions after his speech.

Q: Who are the vested interests that you are attacking?

Clegg cites the trade unions as an example. He supports unions, he says. But it is wrong that Labour are now so financially dependent on them.

Q: Would you support Michael Gove’s call for a new Royal Yacht?

Clegg makes a joke about haves and have-yachts. He is not going to comment on leaks, he says. But with very litte money around, most people would think this should not be a priority.

9.23am: Luke Bozier is not a household name, but he’s a former Labour e-campaigns manager and he’s trending on Twitter this morning because he’s defected to the Conservatives. Perhaps that tells you more about Twitter than it does about the Labour party, but his move has certainly delighted the Tories. Last year Bozier was the co-editor of a high-powered, 92-page pamphlet Labour’s business: Why enterprise must be at the heart of Labour politics in the 21st century (pdf). Now he seems to have concluded that, with Ed Miliband as Labour leader, there is no chance of that happening. The Independent has got the story, and Bozier has explained his move on his blog. Here’s an extract.

I became a member five years ago, in the final days of Tony Blair’s leadership. Back then, New Labour was still the intellectual heart of the party. A pro-business attitude and a commitment to revolutionising our creaking public services made sense to me …

Ed proudly declared that New Labour is dead; how tragic. With it, the passion for reform that made our party electable has gone. So too has the pro-business, pragmatic approach to wealth and enterprise. Instead there is a vision and leadership vacuum. At a time when the nation needs strong political leadership, Labour offers nothing. Labour seems to have learned nothing from the days of Brown.

9.09am: Nick Clegg has started his rebalancing the economy speech. He says he will be offering a liberal diagnosis of why capitalism in crisis, and liberal solutions. I’ll post a proper summary once I’ve read the full text.

8.56am: George Osborne announced his plan for London to become a major centre for trading the renminbi in a speech in Hong Kong overnight. The full text is now available on the government news website. Osborne has also been on the Today programme. Here are the key points he was making. I’ve taken the quotes from PoliticsHome.

• Osborne played down the suggestion that Britain is already back in recession. The Ernst & Young ITEM Club believe that GDP fell in the last quarter of last year and that it will fall again this quarter. But Osborne said that the government’s independent forecasting body, the Office for Budget Responsibility, published its own forecast only “a few weeks ago” and that it was not predicting a recession.

• He said that as China got richer, there would be more demand for British services.

As China moves from being a nation of low cost manufacturing to a much wealthier nation to a nation of consumers they’re going to start to want the things that Britain is pretty good at making …

In its earlier stage of development as people left subsistence farming, they came to work in factories, I think, frankly, other economies like the German economy were quite well suited to provide the machine tools that those factories needed. Now, as China grows, it needs more services, and we’ll see a more service-orientated economy, it needs more high-tech manufactured products like aero engines and we’re good at doing that. So I think Britain will come into its own in providing the kind of things that a richer economy of consumers are more likely to need.


• He said the eurozone countries needed to do more to protect their currency.
“I think what the euro needs to do is show convincingly that it can stand behind its currency,” he said. “We haven’t actually seen much evidence of the pooled resources needed by the euro to actually provide confidence to the market that they will stand behind their own currency.”

• He confirmed that the government was willing to increase its contribution to the IMF. “Britain has always been a very big supporter of the IMF and if the IMF believes it needs more resources and I think it does, then it should put its case to the membership around the world,” he said. “Britain has always been prepared to provide the resources in the past and will be willing to provide the resources in the future if there is a strong case.”

8.40am: Nick Clegg is giving a speech this morning on rebalancing the economy, which is normally code for getting Britain to concentrate more on real engineering and less on financial engineering.

And George Osborne is in Asia, where he has announced he wants to turn the City into a major centre for trading of the renminbi, the Chinese currency. I’m not sure quite how these initiatives complement each other, I’ll take a look. “There’s a very specific opportunity for Britain as China grows as an economy,” Osborne told the Today programme. I’ll summarise his interview in full shortly.

Otherwise, here’s the full agenda for the day.

9am: Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, gives a speech on rebalancing the economy. As Patrick Wintour reports, he is going to suggest that workers should be given the right to request shares in the companies they work for to create what he describes as a “John Lewis” economy.

9.45am: Boris Johnson launches a new office for policing and crime in London.

10am: Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey, Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace, Sunday Mirror editor Tina Weaver and People editor Lloyd Embley give evidence to the Leveson inquiry.

10am: Chris Smith, the former Labour culture secretary, publishes the review of the film industry that he has carried out on behalf of the government.

11.10am: Clegg holds a press conference with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president. Later Abbas is meeting David Cameron.

1pm: Simon Gass, Nato’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, gives a speech to the Royal United Services Institute.

2.15pm: Kenneth Clarke, the justice secretary, and Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, give evidence to the joint committee on privacy and injunctions. At 3.15pm Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, gives evidence.

2.30pm: Michael Gove, the education secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

3.30pm: MPs start debating a Labour motion saying that the government’s plans to bring in individual voter registration could leave more than 10m voters unregistered.

As usual, I’ll be covering all the breaking political news, as well as looking at the papers and bringing you the best politics from the web. I’ll post a lunchtime summary at around 1pm and another in the afternoon.

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