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Politics Live blog: Tuesday 17 January 2012

• Today’s agenda
• CPI inflation down to 4.2%

9.36am: Maria Miller (left), the disability minister, was on the Today programme earlier talking about the government’s plan to replace disability living allowance (DLA), which will be challenged in a vote in the Lords this afternoon. Here are the key points from her interview. I’ve taken the quotes from PoliticsHome.

• Miller said the government was not cutting the amount being spent on the benefit. The new benefit, the personal independence payment (PIP), would cost just as much she said.

We’re not reducing the bill by 20%; what we’re trying to do in these difficult economic times is make sure the rate of growth doesn’t spiral in the way that it has in past. It’s not a 20% cut – actually, in the future we’ll be spending the same on DLA as we were last year.

• She said there was “very clear evidence” some £600m a year was lost in over-payments in DLA, she said. That was because the benefit was not regularly re-assessed. Regular re-assessment would lead to some claimants receiving more, she claimed.

• She said the government was committed to supporting disabled people. “As well as supporting disabled people, we have to make sure the money that is there is getting through to the people who need it most,” she said. “At the moment with DLA we know that isn’t the case.”

9.31am: Here are the headline inflation figures.

• The consumer prices index (CPI) measure of inflation fell to 4.2% in December from 4.8% in November.

• The underlying rate of retail prices index (RPI) inflation fell to 5% in December from 5.3% in November.

• The headline rate of RPI inflation fell to 4.8% in December from 5.2% in November.

Here’s the Office for National Statistics bulletin (pdf) with full details.

9.11am: In his Guardian article Len McCluksey, the Unite general secretary, says that new Labour has changed his stance on the cuts in response to a new Labour “policy coup” and that “the real points of differentiation between Labour and the government on the economy are now very hard to identify.” On the Today programme, Harriet Harman (left), Labour’s deputy leader, said he was wrong. Here are her key points.

• Harman said that Labour did not accept the government’s cuts.

It is simply not the case that we are accepting the Government’s spending cuts. That could not be further from the truth. We think they are too far and too fast and actually we are fighting the cuts.

(She is right. It is worth reading Ed Balls’ interview in the Guardian on Saturday in full. Balls said: “My starting point is, I am afraid, we are going to have keep all these cuts [if we take power in 2015].” He was talking about what would happen in 2015 and he said that that was a “starting point” – ie, not the party’s final word on the matter. In rhetorical terms, it was a significant shift. But in policy terms it was far less significant, because Balls said he still reserved the right to oppose some cuts on the grounds that, if Labour were in office today, they would not be cutting so fast.)

• She said Labour was not deliberately picking a fight with the trade unions.

We are certainly not wanting to annoy the unions. We are strongly supportive of the teachers, the police officers, the care workers. We do not think they should be bearing the brunt of the Government’s wrong economic decisions or the global economic crisis.

(Some would argue, I suspect, that Ed Miliband should be deliberately picking a fight with the unions.)

9.09am: The Press Association has just snapped this about the European court of human rights judgment about whole life tariffs.

Britain’s most dangerous and notorious criminals can be kept behind bars for the rest of their lives, European judges ruled today.

I’ll file more as I get it.

8.58am: With Len McCluskey’s Guardian article attacking Ed Miliband dominating the BBC headlines, Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, has just been on the Today programme trying to mollify the Unite leader. It was “simply not the case” that the opposition accepts the government’s spending cuts, she said. I’ll post quotes from her interview shortly, and I’ll be covering the reaction to the McCluskey interview all day.

Otherwise, there’s plenty of other stuff on the agenda too. Here’s the full list.

9.30am: The Ministry of Defence announces a fresh round of redundancies in a written ministerial statement. As Steven Morris reports, a further 4,500 jobs are due to go.

9.30am: Inflation figures for December are published.

9.30am: The European court of human rights gives a judgment on whole life tariffs.

10am: Sir Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, gives evidence to the Commons Treasury committee about financial stability.

10am: The Leveson inquiry resumes. Ian Hislop, the Private Eye editor, Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian editor, James Harding, the Times editor, John Witherow, the Sunday Times editor and News International chief executive Tom Mockridge are giving evidence.

10.30am: Paul Burstow, the health minister, gives evidence to the health committee about social care.

11.30am: Keith Bristow, the National Crime Agency director general, gives evidence to the Commons home affairs committee.

12pm: Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, gives evidence to the environment committee about the common agriculture policy.

12.30pm: David Cameron hosts an education summit at Number 10. As Jeevan Vasagar reports, the Ofsted rating of “satisfactory” for schools – widely regarded as a euphemism for a poor school – is to be scrapped.

2.30pm: William Hague, the foreign secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

After 3.30pm: Peers attempt to amend the government’s plans to scrap disability living allowance as they debate the welfare bill.

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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