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Andy Coulson: I listened to hacked David Blunkett voicemails into affair

NOTW: UK Telegraph Live Blog - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 08:44

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson admits for the first time in court that he listened to hacked voicemails David Blunkett left for his lover Kimberly Fortier, but insists he did not know then it was illegal




Politics Live - readers' edition: Wednesday 16 April

The Guardian: Politics Live Blog - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 04:22

Share breaking news, leave links to interesting articles online and chat about the weeks political events in our open thread

Im not writing my usual Politics Live blog today, but, as an alternative, heres Politics Live: readers edition. Its intended to be a place where you can catch up with the latest news and find links to good politics blogs and articles on the web.

Please feel free to use this as somewhere you can comment on any of the days political stories - just as you do when Im writing the daily blog.

Continue reading...

Andy Coulson denies knowing Milly Dowler's voicemail was hacked

NOTW: UK Telegraph Live Blog - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 09:21

On his second day of evidence, the former editor of the News of the World says he was aware phone hacking but did not know it was a crime




Politics Live - readers' edition: Tuesday 15 April

The Guardian: Politics Live Blog - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 04:41

Share breaking news, leave links to interesting articles online and chat about the weeks political events in our open thread

Im not writing my usual Politics Live blog today, but, as an alternative, heres Politics Live: readers edition. Its intended to be a place where you can catch up with the latest news and find links to good politics blogs and articles on the web.

Please feel free to use this as somewhere you can comment on any of the days political stories - just as you do when Im writing the daily blog.

Continue reading...

Hacking trial: Mystic Meg paid more than £200,000 a year by News of the World

NOTW: UK Telegraph Live Blog - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:52

Former editor of the News of the World Andy Coulson reveals the newspaper would spend £30 million a year




Andy Coulson: affair with Rebekah Brooks should not have happened

NOTW: UK Telegraph Live Blog - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:22

While on trial for phone hacking, the former News of the World editor says his affair with Brooks was "wrong"




Andy Coulson 'spent weekend with David Cameron after resigning as No 10 spin chief'

NOTW: UK Telegraph Live Blog - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 09:15

Former News of the World editor tells phone hacking trial that the invitation from the Prime Minister had come before his resignation




Phone hacking trial: Andy Coulson gives evidence

NOTW: UK Telegraph Live Blog - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 08:05

Andy Coulson take to the witness box, detailing his time at the Sun and News of the World and as David Cameron's media adviser




ABC apologises for Chris Kenny 'dog sex' skit on the Hamster Decides

News Corporation: Live Updates from The Guardian - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 00:56

Managing director Mark Scott said mocked-up depiction of the conservative commentator was 'very strong'

Mark Scott has made a belated apology to the conservative News Corp columnist and ABC critic Chris Kenny for a Chaser skit which the ABC managing director has now said should never have been broadcast.

Scott apologised for a mocked-up image depicting Kenny in a sexual act with a dog which was flashed across the screen during an episode of the satirical election program the Hamster Decides, from the Chaser team in September 2013.

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Phone hacking trial: News of the World was 'force for good', says Sara Payne

NOTW: UK Telegraph Live Blog - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 13:16

Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah was murdered, describes the News of the World as a "force for good" as she gives evidence at the phone hacking trial




Politics Live - readers' edition: Friday 11 April

The Guardian: Politics Live Blog - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 03:36

Share breaking news, leave links to interesting articles online and chat about the weeks political events in our open thread

8.36am BST

Im not writing my usual Politics Live blog today, but, as an alternative, heres Politics Live: readers edition. Its intended to be a place where you can catch up with the latest news and find links to good politics blogs and articles on the web.

Please feel free to use this as somewhere you can comment on any of the days political stories - just as you do when Im writing the daily blog.

Continue reading...

Question Time with Sajid Javid, Harriet Harman, Kirsty Williams, Billy Bragg and Sir Martin Sorrell - #bbcqt: Live

The Guardian: Politics Live Blog - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 19:11

* Snap verdict

* Summary

12.36am BST

Here is a summary of the main news points

* Sajid Javid, the culture secretary, rejected claims that there is house price bubble in the UK.

There has been a lot of talk recently about a house price bubble. I don't think there is a house price bubble. But you don't have to take my word for it. Even more important are the independent people who have looked at this, and this is the Bank of England. And they have looked at this again and again, and they look at it on a very regular basis. They don't believe there is evidence of a house price bubble. They recently pointed out, for example, house prices on average are at 15% below in real terms from their peak.

I don't know how Sajid can say there's not a house bubble in London. It's much worse than a bubble. The prices have gone mad and we urgently need more building.

I think it was. And I don't want to second guess the committee's decision, but I would certainly say, as far as the public is concerned, if the public see a committee of MPs has made a decision in relation to an MP, or whether it's independent, there's more trust and confidence in an independent situation.

12.09am BST

Here is a round-up of some of the most popular tweets from tonight's Question Times. These are some of the #bbcqt tweets that, according to Tweetdeck, have been retweeted at least 20 times.

DIMBLEFACT: SEVERAL NEW COLOURS WERE INVENTED SPECIFICALLY FOR TONIGHT'S MAGNIFICENT DIMBLETIE #BBCQT pic.twitter.com/S3uH54j4B5

"JAVID" HAS CAUSED BIO-DIMBLEBY TO PERFORM HIS FIRST "FACEPALM" OF #BBCQT. THE AUDIENCE CHUCKLES CORRECTLY. pic.twitter.com/WraLzLun4E

MT: @ampp3d This year is first time in which the private rented sector was larger than social rented sector. #bbcqt pic.twitter.com/Yk67jD6569

This is the poshest edition of #bbcqt I've seen in ages. It's basically a dinner party.

Guy in audience re: #helptobuy said it all. This scheme is what crashed the American economy. The #Tories are trying to buy votes. #bbcqt

Well done @billybragg for bringing up the sell-off of part of the Charing Cross Hospital site to build luxury flats. #bbcqt

I don't know where Sajid Javid is getting his household debt figures, but IT AIN'T THE OBR. #bbcqt pic.twitter.com/HyF4HaBLqd

Opponents of New Labour's tuition fees regime warned future governments would hike them. Time to take responsibility #bbcqt

Neoliberal Britain: A lifetime of debt from student fees & huge mortgages. Who benefits the most? The banks #bbcqt

Deutsche Bank, which Sajid Javid worked at for 9 years, paid out a record 725m euro fine for Libor Fixing http://t.co/V1DXLP7xiX #bbcqt

Yes, Javid. You were the first in your family to go to uni, for free under the old system. Now, you'd be doing a nice apprenticeship. #bbcqt

"THE MESS WE INHERITED" GROAN #BBCQT #DIMGO

11.57pm BST

Snap Verdict: So, is Sajid Javid really any good? Labour's John Prescott doesn't think so.

Sajid Javid. Bit of a lightweight on tonight's performance so far #bbcqt

Not many MPs as articulate as Javid. If he can soften his tone occasionally, he could go very far. #bbcqt

I get the feeling we'll be seeing a fair bit more of Sajid Javid #qt

11.38pm BST

And that's it.

I will post a quick verdict in a moment, then a round-up of some of the best tweets from the programme, and then a summary of the news lines.

11.37pm BST

Q: In the Oscar Pistorius trial, does television in courts help or hinder justice?

Sir Martin Sorrell, Billy Bragg and Sajid Javid all say it has hindered justice.

11.31pm BST

Kirsty Williams says the Lib Dems have apologised for breaking their election promise on this.

But the issue is, is this a barrier to students going to university? No, it isn't, she says.

11.28pm BST

Harriet Harman says Labour always intended that some money for tuition fees would come from government, and some from students.

But the coalition took out the money from the government, she says.

11.27pm BST

Q: What is the point of having tuition fees when 45% of students won't be able to pay it back?

Sajid Javid says it was always intended that the debt would be forgiven if it could not all be paid. It's a very progressive system. Those that earn the most pay the most. It was always intended that some of it would be written off. That is what helps to make the system fairer and progressive.

11.23pm BST

Billy Bragg says he thinks people need to swallow more bitter pills in Northern Ireland. And, if there is an amnesty, it should cover everyone - British soldiers included.

Sir Martin Sorrell says he thinks prosecutions should continue.

11.18pm BST

Q: Should there be an end to prosecutions for offences committed during the Troubles in Northern Ireland?

Harriet Harman says she would not support that. But there should be a process to address this, she says.

11.17pm BST

Number of people (as @imranq's "famous last words") questioning if @sajidjavid will come to regret saying there is no housing bubble #bbcqt

11.14pm BST

A member of the audience says the Bank of England did not see the last house price bubble coming.

Sajid Javid says that's because Labour put City regulation in the hands of the Financial Services Authority.

11.10pm BST

Kirsty Williams says we need to build more houses. A mansion tax might help, she says. And she says the problem is not confined to London. In parts of Wales, like Cardiff, houses are rising quickly.

David Dimbleby asks Sajid Javid how he knows there is not a bubble.

11.04pm BST

A member of the audience says he wants to challenge Javid. Help to Buy is going to fuel house price rises.

Harriet Harman says people need housing to live in. If it becomes just a question of investment, that's a problem. There need to be more homes. And that includes affordable homes built by councils, he says.

10.59pm BST

Q: Is buy to let fuelling the housing market?

Sajid Javid says house price increases are not really driven by buy to let. That's because the number of houses affected is small. He does not think there is a house price bubble. But don't take his word for it, he says. This is what the Bank of England says.

10.56pm BST

Dimbleby asks how this rates compared to other scandals.

A member of the audience says it could have blown up into a bigger scandal.

10.54pm BST

The New Statesman's George Eaton is impressed by Sajid Javid.

Not many MPs as articulate as Javid. If he can soften his tone occasionally, he could go very far. #bbcqt

2 members of audience say MPs' pay (64k) is too low. This edition of #bbcqt is coming from West London

10.52pm BST

David Dimbleby asks if it was right to cut the amount of money Maria Miller had to pay back from £45,000 to £5,000.

Harriet Harman says that she thinks that was wrong. Then she qualifies it, by saying she does not want to second guess the committee.

10.48pm BST

As usual, Caitlin Moran has focused on the key issue.

Fuck me Dimbleby's got a Rave Tie on tonight #bbcqt

10.48pm BST

Kirsty Williams says politicians need to act within the spirit of the rules. And the system needs to be reformed from top to bottom. A recall law should be on the table, she says.

A member of the audience says the basic salary of MPs could be too low. (Brave man.)

10.45pm BST

It's starting.

Q: What will it take for the the public to trust MPs on expenses?

10.35pm BST

Michael Sylvain, a reader of this blog, has previewed tonight's panel on my blog earlier. His profiles have many virtues, but generosity of spirit is not one of them. Here's an excerpt from what he says about Sajid Javid.

Much is made by the Tories that Javid is the son of a bus driver who Did Well. In the absence of conclusive stats on whether Javid is a representative example of the prospects typically available to the progeny of bus drivers, lets just say that the fact he stands out so much is more an indication of how unusual a lack of privilege is in his party than an indication of the fantastic opportunities he's giving to the working class of Rochdale.

10.31pm BST

Tonight's Question Time is particularly interesting because it will mark Sajid Javid's first big outing since his promotion to the cabinet as culture secretary yesterday.

In the past he has not been a particularly newsworthy panelist or interviewee, because he tends, fairly rigidly, to stick to the party line. But colleagues who know him believe that he has a fine brain and strong convictions, and that he could go right to the top of his party.

Hes the first of the huge intake of 2010 Tory MPs to get to the cabinet. In terms of ethnicity, gender and schooling it was the most diverse parliamentary cohort in Conservative history. Mr Cameron will hope that the days of promoting women and minorities to positions of influence before they were ready are over. Hopefully, promotions will now be on merit rather than for presentational reasons.

Mr Javid is also one of the first children of Thatcher to get to the top table in government. We know that he shares her commitment to market economics, choice in public services and the nation state. Do he and others from the 2010 intake also understand Thatcherisms weaknesses? Will they worry as much about protecting the safety net for the victims of the economic cycle as she worried about creating ladders of opportunity for its beneficiaries? And will they be able to compromise with political opponents in a way that she struggled to do?

10.08pm BST

Welcome to tonight's Question Time live blog.

David Dimbleby is presenting the programme from London.

Continue reading...

Nigel Evans cleared of all charges: Politics live blog

The Guardian: Politics Live Blog - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 11:57

Lunchtime summary

Nigel Evans' statement after the verdict

Police statement after the verdict

Afternoon summary

4.57pm BST

The Crown Prosecution Service has come under sustained criticism from Conservative MPs following the acquittal of Nigel Evans, the former Commons deputy speaker, of all the rape and sexual assault charges he was facing. David Davis said there should be an urgent wholesale review of the way sexual offences are prosecuted (see 2.59pm) and Crispin Blunt, a former justice minister, described the prosecution as "artificial" (see 4.39pm). But the police and the CPS have defended their decision to investigate and prosecute in this case.

One of the alleged victims in the Evans case has said the case should never have gone to court. (See 4.14pm.)

When it comes to standing up for Britain in Europe, is there anyone you would trust less than a group of Ukip MEPs? They talk the talk in Britain - but as soon as they're on that plane to Brussels they change completely. When they do actually bother to vote, they don't stand up for Britain indeed their own leader has said they 'cannot change a thing in Brussels'.

4.39pm BST

Crispin Blunt, the Conservative former justice minister, has also criticised the decision to prosecute Nigel Evans. This is what he told Sky.

If you look at how the case was constructed against Nigel, [the victims] do not regard themselves as victims and they didnt actually want to be in court. This was, to a degree, quite an artificial prosecution. I think anyone who was aware of the circumstances of the case against Nigel would not be remotely surprised that he was acquitted of all charges.

4.27pm BST

The Crown Prosecution Service has defended its decision to prosecute Nigel Evans. Here is the statement it has put out.

The complainants in this case provided clear accounts of the alleged offending and it was right that all of the evidence was put before a jury. That evidence could only be fully explored during a trial and the jury has decided, after hearing all of the evidence, that the prosecution has not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt. We respect this decision.

4.25pm BST

David Cameron has commented on the Nigel Evans acquittal. This is what he said.

It is hard to imagine the relief that Nigel must feel after such a traumatic time. I very much welcome what he said on the steps of the court and I think everyone should pay heed to that.

I'm sure he will want to get on with working with his constituents in the Ribble Valley and, as for the future, I'm sure it's something he'll be discussing with the chief whip when he returns to parliament.

4.19pm BST

And here are more Conservative MPs commenting on the verdict.

Good day for Nigel Evans but why was he charged in the first place? Serious questions for the police and CPS to answer! So pleased for Nigel

I'm so glad Nigel Evans has been found innocent, but saddened by the terrible toll it has taken on him personally

Delighted to hear Nigel Evans has been cleared of all charges. A good man maligned. He'll be warmly welcomed back to House of Commons

So pleased Nigel Evans has been cleared of all charges, a sweet, kind man, who didn't deserve such a hellish ordeal.

It is strangte to hear Police talking about "the victims" in the Nigel Evans case,when no crime was committed. The jury found Nigel innocent

4.17pm BST

And here's what No 10 are saying about the verdict.

PM spokesman says he has confidence in CPS. No words from Spox for Evans personally, just ref to CCHQ statement

(Understand PM does intend to talk about Evans in person though)

4.14pm BST

One alleged victim in the Nigel Evans case has told ITV News that he did not think he was the victim of a criminal act. Here's the quote.

I don't believe he [Evans] should have been charged. I don't think it was a criminal act. It's the sort of thing that happens in every bar. It wasn't a big deal.

4.01pm BST

My colleague Helen Pidd has sent me this about the team supporting Nigel Evans during the trial.

Each day of the trial, Nigel Evans was supported by an eclectic, ever expanding group of supporters who guided him gently through the pack of waiting photographers on the way in to court and gave him supportive waves from the public gallery. As well as Coronation Street star, Vicky Entwistle (Janice Battersby), there was the mayor of Clitheroe, Kevin Horkin, a pink-shirted film producer with the marvellous name of Huw Shakeshaft and a lady in full Salvation Army uniform at whose wedding Evans had been best man. Former Tory MP Edwina Curry, a friend for 30 years, also turned up during the final stages of the trial and told anyone who would listen how certain she was of his innocence. "I just don't think he's capable of it," she said. "Sometimes he even struggles keeping the MPs in line in the house - it's just not the sort. What he is is a superb MP and a public servant of the finest order."

3.54pm BST

Here is the statement from Detective Superintendent Ian Critchley of Lancashire Police about the Nigel Evans investigation.

Essentially, he defended the decision to prosecute - and implied that the same decision would have been taken again.

Firstly let me say that I entirely respect the verdicts reached by the jury today and I thank them for considering these matters so carefully.

I would like to particularly thank the complainants and many witnesses that have provided evidence to the court. I know that it has been difficult and challenging for many of them to do so given the circumstance that have been investigated.

3.36pm BST

Detective Superintendent Ian Critchley of Lancashire Police has just made a statement outside the court about the case.

He said the police respected the decision of the jury, and that there were careful discussions before this case was taken to court.

3.32pm BST

And Tory MPs are starting to demand that Nigel Evans has the whip restored.

The Conservative whip should now be restored to Nigel Evans

WONDERFUL news that Nigel Evans has been acquitted on all counts. The Party Whip must now be restored to him without delay!

3.29pm BST

More on the trial, from Newsnight and LBC.

1 of alleged victims in Evans' case tells me he told police all along he wasn't victim of crime but he says parliament has to act on culture

Friend/flatmate Brian Binley MP tells @LBC that Nigel Evans has spent £200,000 on his defence.

3.27pm BST

Nigel Evans started his statement by thanking his legal team and expressing his condolences to a juror whose father died during the trial. Then he went on:

As many of you know, I've gone through 11 months of hell. I've not been alone. Many have walked with me, including my team at Clitheroe and Westminster, my constituency association, my family, my friends, my constituents, and indeed many people who I don't even know have sent messages of support.

In my darkest and loneliest, there were only two, or one, set of footprints in the sand. And those of you of faith will know they weren't mine.

3.16pm BST

He says he has gone through 11 months of hell.

He has not been alone. Many have walked with him, including his team, his constituency association, his family, his friends, and many strangers too, who have sent messages of support.

3.13pm BST

Nigel Evans is speaking outside the court case now.

He starts by passing on his condolences to a juror whose father died during the trial.

3.13pm BST

The Labour MP Barry Sheerman has just been on BBC News discussing Nigel Evans. He said he had known Evans for many years, because he taught him at Swansea University.

His whole character led me to believe that [these charges were false]. He may have been a bit silly, and sometimes a bit stupid, but never malign. And I could not imagine him ever being violent. So his friends rallied round him. And we are delighted that he has been cleared of all charges.

3.08pm BST

Now the trial is over, the Press Association is about to report that a barrister friend of Nigel Evans has been referred to the attorney general after comments he made on his blog before the trial began.

Henry Hendron told the court he would also be reporting himself to the Bar Council after possibly jeopardising the trial process.

Red-faced Hendron made a contrite public apology to the judge on the first day of proceedings.

3.07pm BST

The Conservative MP Stephen Crabb, a Welsh Office minister, has issued this statement on Twitter.

So pleased for my friend Nigel Evans today. A good man. Horrid experience to go through.

3.04pm BST

My colleague Nicholas Watt has written a good profile of Nigel Evans. Here's an excerpt.

As the son of Swansea newsagents, Nigel Evans has always stood out in the modern Tory party. A friendly and wholly untribal figure with none of the airs and graces of more senior members of his party Evans has built up deep and enduring friendships in all parties at Westminster since his election as MP for Ribble Valley in 1992.

It was these friendships, ranging from William Hague on the right to the former National Union of Mineworkers official Kim Howells on the left, that explained his success in 2010 when Evans was elected as one of three deputy speakers in the House of Commons.

2.59pm BST

David Davis, the Tory MP and a former shadow home secretary, has called for an urgent overhaul of the way sexual offence prosecutions are prosecuted in the light of Nigel Evans' acquittal.

This case has highlighted serious concerns over how the police and the Crown Prosecution Service bring sexual offence cases to court. In particular we must now review the process whereby the police and the Crown Prosecution Service put together a large number of lesser, subsidiary cases in order to reinforce one serious case when prosecuting sexual offences.

It is clear from the way that this case proceeded that there is a risk of a serious injustice being done to an innocent man, and I would call on the Attorney General to urgently review this issue.

2.54pm BST

The Conservative party has issued a statement on the verdict.

We are very pleased Nigel Evans has been cleared of all charges after this very difficult time.

2.46pm BST

And here's the international development minister Alan Duncan on the verdict.

Delighted Nigel Evans has been cleared of all charges. We all wish him well.

2.43pm BST

Two more Conservatives have welcomed the verdict on Twitter.

And you can see the backlash against the Crown Prosecution Service already building up.

Surely prosecutors have questions to answer in Nigel Evans case, after Roach & Le Vell

Nigel Evans cleared on all counts. Lancashire Police and Crown Prosecution Service have some serious questions to answer

2.38pm BST

Here's the Guardian's background story explaining how the case against Nigel Evans fell apart.

And here's how it starts.

The prosecution case against Nigel Evans, the former Commons deputy speaker, began to fall apart as soon as his accusers entered the witness box. One by one, the young men trooped into Preston crown court and said they did not consider themselves victims of any criminal offence, nor had they wanted to complain to police.

The MP for Ribble Valley, in Lancashire, was an "all-round good egg", said one of the men. Others suggested they felt pressured by police into appearing as alleged victims in the high-profile trial. In testimony that would be echoed as the trial progressed, the first alleged victim described an encounter with the MP as a case of "drunken over-familiarity" rather than anything more sinister.

2.37pm BST

Here are two MPs offering their support to Nigel Evans on Twitter.

From Labour's Austin Mitchell

Evans case.There is some justice.Well not done Nigel.Happy for you

Really pleased for Nigel Evans, now cleared on all charges #justice

2.34pm BST

Here's the Press Association story on Nigel Evans' acquittal.

Former Commons deputy speaker Nigel Evans has been cleared of committing nine sexual offences against seven young men.

A jury at Preston Crown Court found Evans, 56, not guilty of one count of rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted sexual assault and two indecent assaults.

2.33pm BST

More from the court.

Evans was led from the dock in tears as local supporters and friends in the gallery erupted into cheers: http://t.co/DFng4Y42ib

2.33pm BST

And this is from David Skelton, who runs Renewal, a Tory pressure group trying to expand the party's appeal in the north.

Nigel Evans found not guilty on every charge. Justice has been done. How on earth did this end up in court?

2.32pm BST

This is from Iain Dale, the broadcaster and publisher and former Tory candidate.

Couldn't be happier to hear that Nigel Evans has been cleared. I'm wondering what charges can be laid at the door of the disgraceful CPS.

2.30pm BST

Jury being brought back into court in Nigel Evans trial after four and half hours deliberating, excluding lunch break

2.25pm BST

Nigel Evans has been found not guilty of all nine sexual assault charges he faced, the BBC is reporting.

1.51pm BST

Yvette Cooper's announcement that Labour would toughen the law governing the exploitation of migrant labour has received a mixed response from the CBI, the business organisation. In a statement, Neil Carberry, the CBI's director of employment and skills, expressed concerns that Cooper's plan could increase labour market regulation. But he welcomed other aspects of her speech.

Labours proposal to move away from a one-size-fits-all net migration target is a positive step. Its also right to ensure universities can bring students in for the duration of their courses, but this protection must also be available to temporary transfers of skilled company staff.

Businesses will engage with the consultation on the low-skilled labour market, but any action must be focussed on addressing areas of concern, not re-regulating a jobs market that is creating work.

Isn't the problem here that this decision is effectively a personal fiefdom of the home secretary and driven entirely by basic political motives?

She can and does ignore detailed representations by other ministers around government; she can and does ignore parliamentarians including a cross-party inquiry that I chaired last year; she can and does ignore the pleas of those who work with victims of torture, who say that she is exacerbating their trauma and forcing them into very severe poverty.

The truth is, no such proposal has been anywhere near a Party Conference and Federal Policy Committee. Danny talks to those groups but this policy has not been seen before; and when he appeared before the group that put forward a tax policy paper only last Autumn, he mentioned none of this."

The Lib Dems are the only party to have policy decided by democracy rather than media announcement. As the chair of the 2010 manifesto, Danny of all people should now know better and should set the record straight.

12.46pm BST

The Office for National Statistics has increased by nearly 350,000 its estimate for the number of migrants who have come to the UK over the last 10 years, according to the Press Association. It has filed this.

The net flow of migrants into the UK over the last decade was underestimated by nearly 350,000, statisticians have admitted.

A "substantial" number of citizens arriving in Britain from the eight countries that joined the European Union (EU) in 2004, including Poland, were missed.

12.24pm BST

Here are the main points from David Cameron's Radio Norfolk interview.

Cameron said that the government was proposing "a much tougher crackdown" on employers who exploit illegal immigrants. He said this would be the outcome of an announcement made yesterday putting the Home Office in charge of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and doubling the maximum fine for employing illegal immigrants.

We are also going to coordinate a much tougher crackdown. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority does do a good job at stamping out exploitation in this area. I'm putting it into the Home Office so that it can work alongside the National Crime Agency, which is the national body that can bring together all the latest technology and policing expertise, to really make sure when we find gangmasters behaving wrongly, or exploitation taking place, or cases of what I would call modern slavery, we absolutely crack down on it. I don't want to see this in our country.

In terms of money available from the European Union, you tend to find with some of these funds that every penny you take out of it, you have to put a penny back into it, so it does not actually save you any money.

There is no opposition that worries me. What worries me is people being apathetic and thinking you can't change things in Europe. You can.

11.58am BST

Q: How concerned are you about Norfolk. Are you worried about losing Norwich North at the election?

Cameron says he tries to pay attention to every area. Norwich has benefited from a city deal, he says.

11.44am BST

Q: What is happening about compensation for those affected by the flooding?

Cameron says he has just come out of a meeting about this. The government wants to encourage people to apply for the compensation available.

11.40am BST

Q: Eric Pickles has been criticised for delaying a decision on an incinerator at King's Lynn. Will compensation be available?

Cameron says if the government had taken a decision soon, it would have been subject to judicial review.

11.38am BST

Q: How do you counter apathy?

Cameron says he will persuade them that Europe matters. People do not realise that things can changed. Engagement and action and reform are what is required, he says.

11.38am BST

Louise Priest is interviewing David Cameron.

Q: Are you talking to us because of the Ukip threat?

11.31am BST

David Cameron is being interviewed on Radio Norfolk shortly.

You can hear it here.

11.14am BST

Here are the main points from Yvette Cooper's immigration speech.

Cooper said Labour would toughen the law governing the exploitation of migrant labour.

Take the case of the young Eastern Europeans forced to work for days at a time on chicken farms in filthy conditions without a bed, shower or proper food. Paid only by the number of chickens they caught, they worked through the nights and were forced to sleep through the day on a mini bus as they were driven round the country.

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority discovered it and described their treatment as disgraceful.

Currently EU citizens who are guilty of assault, burglary or robbery but arent imprisoned for more than a year are not deported.

A Labour government would change those rules, so that if new arrivals commit crime they shouldnt expect to be able to stay.

The reactionary conservative approach doesnt work. It says all immigration is bad.

It ramps up the rhetoric, raises false promises and expectations, undermines trust and confidence, and creates division and hostility ...

There can be no doubt this small island off the north-west coast off continental Europe could not have contributed so much to the world, from the English language to the Internet, without the contribution of immigrants.

10.35am BST

Here's the full text of Yvette Cooper's immigration speech.

I'lll post a summary of it soon.

10.12am BST

You can read all todays Guardian politics stories here. And all the politics stories filed yesterday, including some in todays paper, are here.

As for the rest of the papers, heres the PoliticsHome list of top 10 must-reads, heres the ConservativeHome round-up of the politics stories in todays papers and heres the New Statesmans list of top 10 comment articles.

George Osborne, the chancellor, and Lynton Crosby, his election supremo, made clear their anger at the damage being done to the Conservatives by the prime ministers staunch defence of his culture secretary, sealing Mrs Millers fate.

I should declare my own interest. Ive known Sajid for 25 years. I can even remember when he had hair. Ive forgotten how many Star Trek movies weve watched together, although mentioning that might not endear him to the artistic elites who will be wondering about their new ministers cultural hinterland.

We were in the Exeter University Conservative Association at the end of the 1980s. I remember him going to Tory conference to protest at the Thatcher governments decision to join the ERM. He handed out leaflets describing the decision as a fatal economic mistake. He was more Thatcherite than Margaret Thatcher and the Black Wednesday experience vindicated his judgment.

Im told the main reason Whitehall is holding back is that the Government fears any contingency planning could leak, giving Alex Salmond and the Nationalists the chance to claim that Westminster is preparing for defeat. Yet this is to put the needs of spin above common sense and good government. Surely we cannot be left to wake up on the day after the September referendum to find that the Scots have voted for independence and nobody in London knows what to do next.

Leaving aside the possibility of turmoil in the markets, there would be a whole series of issues to address, including sharing out the national debt, the future of the nuclear deterrent, the currency, Scotlands membership of Europe and what would happen to the 2015 general election. Would it be delayed a couple of years until after full Scottish independence? Not as easy as you might think. The one thing the Commons cannot do is prolong its own existence. Under the Parliament Act it must have the agreement of the Lords.

9.49am BST

This time last week, after the debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage, David Cameron went on television to accuse both of them of having an extreme position on Europe.

This afternoon Cameron is going to elaborate on that. The Conservatives have released extracts from the speech he will make in Manchester at the launch of the party's European election campaign, and he will argue that Labour and the Lib Dems on one side, and Ukip on the other, are in rival "extremist camps" over Europe.

If you want real change in Europe, you have got to vote Conservative.

Looking at the other parties, there are effectively two extremist camps.

9.24am BST

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, was on the Today programme this morning ahead of her speech. She confirmed that Labour would introduce criminal offences to deal with employers who use migrant labour to undercut local wages. (See 8.48am.) And here are some of the other points she made.

Cooper claimed that the government's policies were creating "the worst of all worlds" on immigration.

They set a big net migration target and instead of being able to meet it, in fact those numbers are going up and public concern is rising, but youve also got problems with illegal immigration getting worse and at the same time weve got fewer university students coming from overseas who bring billions to this country. So were in danger at the moment of having the worst of all worlds.

Theres a huge amount of abuse around these temporary student visitor visas; there should be a big clampdown on that.

We said over a year ago that there should be stronger restrictions, that people shouldnt be able to claim benefits when they first arrive from Europe. I think thats the right thing to do. I actually think we should go further and not have a system where things like child benefit and child tax credit can be claimed for those who live abroad thats not fair on the system.

9.01am BST

For the record, here are today's YouGov GB polling figures.

Labour: 36% (down 1 point from YouGov yesterday)

8.48am BST

There's no Call Clegg this morning. I trust you'll all be able to contain your disappointment.

But we have got a major speech from Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, on immigration. As Patrick Wintour reports in today's Guardian, Cooper will say that exploiting migrant workers in a bid to undercut wages would be a criminal offence under Labour.

The exploitation of migrant workers in an attempt to undercut wages would be made a criminal offence under a Labour government, the shadow home secretary will say. Yvette Cooper will also propose minimum custodial sentences for wholesale employment of illegal immigrants.

The measures are designed to reassure British workers that immigrant labour will not undercut their wages but the specific proposal is legally fraught since employers will be concerned that it could give the state greater control over the setting of wages in the private sector above and beyond the minimum wage.

Continue reading...

Rupert Murdoch on his divorce from Wendi, his sons and his accident

News Corporation: Live Updates from The Guardian - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 11:01

Rupert Murdoch has spoken of his recent personal, psychological and physical problems in an interview with the US magazine Fortune.

He told Fortune's senior editor-at-large, Pattie Sellers, about the splitting of his global media conglomerate, the struggle to repair frayed relationships with his children and his divorce last November from his third wife, Wendi Deng.

"Look, he was always going to come back. Lachlan is someone who's been in love with media from the age of 12. He spent all his vacations working in pressrooms.

But Lachlan and James and I had a very serious talk about how we can work as a team in July of last year... Lachlan was not not going to come back. It was a question of how we would work together. How would we be a team?

"I was shocked. But I didn't read them and I was not given them until after I had filed for divorce.

I regret the whole Vanity Fair thing. I wish we just could have got divorced quietly. There is this view out there, and I'm sure you've heard it, 'Boy, Rupert, he makes a decision and he moves on.'

Continue reading...

Maria Miller resigns: Politics live blog

The Guardian: Politics Live Blog - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 13:07

Miller's post-resignation interview - Summary and analysis

My PMQs verdict

Lunchtime summary

Afternoon summary

5.09pm BST

David Cameron has been accused of reneging on his pledge to boost female representation in government. Following the resignation of Maria Miller, and today's mini-reshuffle, the Counting Women In coalition (which comprises the Electoral Reform Society, the Centre for Women in Democracy, the Hansard Society, the Fawcett Society and Unlock Democracy) said the proportion of women in cabinet had fallen to 13.6%, a 15-year low. Nan Sloane, director of the Centre for Women in Democracy, said:

Despite his pre-election pledge to make a third of his Ministerial list female, the prime minister is now running the country with a Cabinet that's almost 90% male.

The number of women in Cabinet is now at its lowest level since 1997, more than 15 years ago.

In the public mind, if you don't have voting rights you're somehow not a full member and I do think there's a case for saying - and there's possibly also a case for saying there should be more lay members - there should be a debate here. But in the public mind, this is something which doesn't look or feel right. And I think that it is at least the beginnings of a step.

I think there other, a whole number of steps, that parliament has to consider. There are general issues about the ethical awareness, right across the public sector and I think we need more alertness, more self-consciousness about these issues and we should be having a public debate about that as well.

4.46pm BST

Here's a reshuffle reading list.

Iain Martin at the Telegraph says Cameron is losing touch with public opinion.

In opposition, Andy Coulson was Cameron's best barometer in such matters. Although his advice wasn't always followed, he did as Cameron's director of communications have a good sense of public opinion and the direction of a story. Coulson was never really replaced and there do not seem to be many people in Cameron's inner circle prepared to stick it to him when necessary. Leaders make mistakes when they are insufficiently challenged.

Eventually the restrictions and flummery of office must have an impact on how a leader sees the outside world. Cameron was, as opposition leader, able to travel around the country talking to people much more freely than he can now. This is not a personal criticism of Cameron, just an observation that all those filtered lines of people meeting and greeting the PM must after a while give a leader a very strange and unrealistic perspective.

Women succeed in Government by being studiously loyal and rarely putting their head above the parapet. Having a wild interest in amphibians or a quirky fascination with bird-watching (as characterful male politicians like Ken Livingstone and Ken Clarke do respectively) seemingly isnt the way to the top.

I wondered how Ed Miliband would manage to make a mess of Prime Ministers Questions, after David Cameron hung on to an unpopular Cabinet minister for six days and finally let her go. Actually, it was a harder job than it looked. Maria Miller had gone. The boil had been lanced. The rage of the people against politicians had nowhere to go, and Miliband could not be its channeller.

Indeed, it was trickier even than that, because, as someone briefing the Prime Minister had noticed, Miliband had refused to call for Millers resignation the day before. I'm not calling for that today, he had said. Perhaps he had been intending to call for it at PMQs, in which case that will teach him to put off until tomorrow what he could do today.

4.32pm BST

Here's Sajid Javid meeting his new permanent secretary at the Department for Culture.

Perm sec Sue Owen welcomes our new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport @sajidjavid at DCMS HQ. pic.twitter.com/K5t2gbSHpt

4.19pm BST

Here are the main points from the afternoon lobby briefing.

Downing Street said Nicky Morgan, the new minister for women, will report directly to the prime minister in this role. She will not report to Sajid Javid, the culture secretary and minister for equalities. The notion of the minister for women having a man as a departmental boss was generating some criticism. (See 1.10pm.) But that was based on a mistake in the briefing given to journalists, the spokesman said. However, the spokesman could not say who would take the lead on an issue covering women and equalities, such as equal pay. The spokesman said it was not unusual for such overlaps to occur.

It is not uncommon across government for their to be different areas of overlap. Ministers work together on these in all sorts of areas of government.

4.07pm BST

The Number 10 lobby briefing is over.

The prime minister's spokesman says that, as minister for women, Nicky Morgan will report directly to the prime minister. She will not report to Sajid Javid, the culture secretary and minister for equalities. It was a mistake that that was not made clear at an earlier briefing (see 1.10pm), the spokesman said.

3.42pm BST

The Labour MP John Mann is also urging Maria Miller to decline here £17,000 pay off. (See 3.20pm.)

It is a ridiculous and outdated practice to pay off ministers when they return to the backbenches. In light of Maria Miller's conduct, it would now be inappropriate for her to claim severance pay following her resignation. For her to accept a payoff would be a further insult to the taxpayer.

I am also repeating my call for ministers' severance pay to be scrapped, and hope that more MPs will support my resolution.

3.35pm BST

Here are some more blogs on PMQs.

Isabel Hardman at Coffee House says it was bad for David Cameron and Ed Miliband.

In spite of the PM flailing, in spite of the messy briefing over whether an emissary from Number 10 was indeed sent to at least suggest to Maria Miller that she should think about stepping down (Number 10 will only say that this was her own decision and sources evasiveness in dealing with this question tells us everything we need to know about the answer), and in spite of the mess that this has provided the Opposition to feast on, it doesnt benefit Ed Miliband. Punching the expenses bruise hurts all parliamentary parties, not just the Tories. It benefits Ukip, not Labour.

This could have been an excruciating PMQs for Cameron: the day when the many people who deeply dislike him rejoiced to see him humiliated. But although Cameron sounded resentful, he did not look like a Prime Minister whose authority has been shot to pieces. How fortunate for him that Miliband is the Leader of the Opposition. Tony Blair would have had a field day.

3.29pm BST

Ladbrokes have now got Sajid Javid on 33/1 to be the next leader of the Conservative party. He was on 40/1.

I'm not a betting man myself, but that's probably quite good value. They could be under-rating his chances.

3.21pm BST

Here's the Guardian video of PMQs.

3.20pm BST

Ministers who resign are entitled to a pay off worth about £17,000.

Left Unity, the new party of the left, is probably not the only body that thinks Maria Miller should refuse this. But it is the only one to have sent me a press release. This is from Left Unity's Bianca Todd.

Theres no way Maria Miller should get a £17,000 payoff. That would be an incredible slap in the face for everyone in Britain and would stoke peoples anger about politicians further.

2.53pm BST

Gloria De Piero, the shadow minister for equalities and women, has written to David Cameron asking him to clarify various aspects of Nicky Morgan's new role as minister for women.

Here's the text.

Dear Prime Minister,

Following today's announcement that Nicky Morgan MP will be replacing Mrs Miller as Minister for Women in an 'attending Cabinet' role and Sajid Javid MP will be responsible for Equalities as Secretary of State for Culture I write to ask clarification on the following points:

2.49pm BST

Juliette Garside, the Guardian's telecoms correspondent, has summed up some of the issued in Sajid Javid's in-tray as the new culture secretary.

Top of Sajid Javid's intray on the telecoms side will keeping the rural broadband project on track. While the cost is modest compared with the billions being spent on rail with HS2, the government funded plan to plug remote villages into the world wide web could arguably do more for the economy. But it has come under fire from Margaret Hodge's public accounts committee for handing all the contracts to BT, and from rural campaigners for delays and lack of ambition. Olympic games organiser Chris Townsend has been brought in to DCMS to turn things around, but he will need Javid's backing to ensure the government gets its money's worth from BT.

Javid, like his predecessor, will need to maintain a careful balancing act between policing and enfranchising the web. Under Miller, broadband providers agreed to offer all new customers the choice of using a filter for pornography and other unsavoury content. Miller also acted on child pornography, but there has been talk, from David Cameron himself, of action against websites publishing extremist content. Operating a blacklist of extremist material will not sit comfortably with broadband providers.

2.21pm BST

David Cameron has offered cross-party talks on the future of regulation of MPs following the resignation of Maria Miller as culture secretary. Speaking at PMQs, he said he understood that the public was still very angry about MPs' expenses.

The biggest lesson I learned is that that that anger is still very raw and it needs to be acted on.

If it had happened in any other business, there would have been no question about her staying in her job. Why were you the last person in the country to realise her position was untenable?

You seem to be, in my view ,the first Leader of the Opposition, probably in history, to come to this House and make the first suggestion that someone should resign after they have already resigned ...

I have to say, it is rather extraordinary for you to now come here, having not said that she should have resigned, and now saying she should have resigned. I think it shows all the signs of someone seeing a political bandwagon and wanting to jump on it. You are jumping on this bandwagon after the whole circus has left town.

I hope that one lesson that won't be learned is that the right thing to do as soon as someone has to answer allegations is just to instantly remove them, rather than give them a chance to clear their name and get on with their job.

If people clear themselves of a serious offence, you let them get on with their job, you let them try to do their job. That is actually the right thing to do. Firing someone at the first sign of trouble, that is not actually leadership, that is weakness.

David Cameron's decision to replace Maria Miller with Sajid Javid means that there is now no full member of the cabinet speaking for women. There are now just three women running Government departments out of a possible 22, demonstrating that when it comes to women, it's out of sight, out of mind for this out-of-touch government.

It is unfortunate that the new Minister for Women opposes the rights of some women, lesbians, to have the right to marry. I hope that in her new role, Nicky Morgan will represent all women regardless of the gender of the person they love.

Andrea Leadsom MP is the new Economic Secretary to the Treasury.

1.54pm BST

My colleague Rowena Mason has a good article about Maria Miller's eight political mistake.

(I'm impressed that Rowena has missed the temptation to bump it up to 10.)

1.51pm BST

And here are two blogs with a verdict on PMQs.

George Eaton at the Staggers says Ed Miliband beat David Cameron, but that Miliband missed an opportunity.

Yet while he got the better of the PM in the House, Miliband missed the chance to seize the initiative and make a wider case for reform. As he noted, the Miller affair has "undermined trust not only in his government, but in politics". If any party benefits from the row, it will likely be UKIP, an outfit without a single MP. But it was Cameron, not Miliband, who raised the prospect of cross-party talks on reforming the system. Had Miliband been bolder, he would have demanded an end to the right of MPs to police their own expenses through the discredited standards committee and the introduction of a right to recall (perhaps noting that one Maria Miller signed a letter in support of the proposal in 2008) for miscreants. By focusing on needling Cameron, he missed the chance to offer answers to the crisis of trust in all parties.

Did you ask her to resign Prime Minister? Was she asked to go Prime Minister? Did you sack her Prime Minister?

Unfortunately, it was not Ed Miliband who had pushed this point, and forced non-denials from the PM, it was those sat behind him. Miliband had instead sought to ask what on earth had taken so long, whilst accepting that he had at no stage called for Miller to go. There are reasons for such an approach as I outlined this morning but that didnt make it any easier for Miliband. It did, however, lead to the only significant trading of zingers across the dispatch box this year. Whilst cameron believed Miliband to be the first person to call for someone to be sacked after theyd gone, Miliband snapped back that he was surprised it was now his responsibility to sack Camerons Ministers. Advantage seemed set to swing towards Miliband.

1.36pm BST

And here is what journalists are saying about PMQs.

Verdicts are mixed.

Miliband is in serious danger of losing this mini-battle. He certainly ain't won it. #PMQs #Miller

Ed Miliband has been reasonably impressive in PMQs this year, but he faced an open goal today and, honestly, failed to score.

Cameron shows strong, principled leadership in not instantly sacking a minister and at PMQs daring to defend integrity of this Parliament.

A bad week for @David_Cameron just got worse - our #PMQs verdict hands @Ed_Miliband a 5-1 win http://t.co/ItoQL3JSqm pic.twitter.com/mnoIenjZn9

Not sure Cameron handled that very well. But EdMili had an open goal - and I don't think he hit the back of the net #pmqs

EdM good at #PMQs today. Cam promised to be an apostle for better standards, became apologist for unacceptable behaviour.

But Cam better. Firing someone at the first sign of trouble is not leadership it's weakness. #PMQs

Esther McVey standing at Bar of House for PMQs. Dressed all in black. Looks a little disappointed. Don't worry, Esther. Promotion will come!

Best EdM comeback in a while at PMQs :"It's my job to fire ministers in his Cabinet?". Even Tory Mps looked uneasy at that one

New Culture Secretary @sajidjavid on the front bench - a few seats down from PM #pmqs

Cameron just about avoids saying Miller did nothing wrong #pmqs I'm told Osborne had a major role in Miller going and choosing replacement

As ever, hard to think of a worse advert for British democracy than this atrocious willy-waving. #PMQs

Cameron accusing Miliband of playing politics over Miller takes the biscuit. Both do that every day :-) #pmqs

Judging by the tone of these exchanges, cross-party talks aren't going to get very far. #pmqs

Problem for Ed Miliband is that it took him over 5 days to speak publicly about Maria Miller #pmqs

Cameron has dodged question of whether an 'emissary' told Maria Miller the game was up several times now #pmqs

1.12pm BST

Labour says the party was calling for Maria Miller to resign last week.

Labour says PM has got his facts wrong on call for Miller to go. Frontbencher Thomas Docherty called for her to go on Friday.

1.10pm BST

The appointment of Nicky Morgan is coming under fire.

Nicky Morgan's appointment means the Women's Minister will have a male boss (Sajid Javid) for the 1st time (ht @nicholaswatt). Oops.

The government now has an Equalities Minister (Nicky Morgan) who voted against equal marriage. They still can't even do the political basics

Why Nicky Morgan is minister for women (but not equalities) PM spokesman says there's been a 'beefing up of responsibilities in this area'

12.57pm BST

PMQs Verdict: On Twitter I've seen at least one post suggesting that Ed Miliband faced an open goal and missed it. For reasons I set out at 11.53am, actually he faced a rather tricky challenge. That explains why David Cameron was able to see him off.

Miliband devoted all six of his questions to the Miller affair. He started with an open question about the lessons Cameron has learnt from the affair, but then he focused on attacking Cameron for his decision to support Miller after the report came out last week. Predictably, Cameron said Miliband himself was not calling for Miller to resign. Miliband had a smart reply:

Ive heard everything its my job to fire members of his cabinet.

I think it shows all the signs of someone seeing a political bandwagon and wanting to jump on it. You are jumping on this bandwagon after the whole circus has left town.

12.40pm BST

Andrea Leadsom is being appointed to the Treasury to replace Nicky Morgan, according to Mark Garnier.

Absolutely fantastic news Andrea Leadsome is promoted to the Treasury. Well deserved: long overdue!

12.37pm BST

At PMQs David Cameron refused to deny that pressure was put on Maria Miller to resign.

On the Daily Politics just now Grant Shapps, the Conservative chairman, told Andrew Neil that his understanding was that no one went to see Miller to tell her she should go.

12.33pm BST

David Nuttall says Cameron should read the winner of the IEA's Brexit competition. Will he accept that should be part of the long-term economic plan?

Cameron says he disagrees with Nuttall on this. But he will consider the IEA pamphlet for his holiday reading, alongside Nadine Dorries's new novel.

12.31pm BST

The Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd says the scheme to safeguard those who have lost legal aid is not working.

Cameron says the legal aid system is more generous than in other countries. It needs to be reformed.

12.30pm BST

Labour's David Lammy says one of his constituents was shot five years ago outside a barracks in Northern Ireland. His family are still awaiting justice.

Cameron says this was a dreadful case. In 2015 consideration will be given as to whether to renew the use of Diplock courts in Northern Ireland for terrorist cases.

12.28pm BST

Alun Cairns, a Conservative, asks about the impact of longer NHS waiting times on soldiers in Wales.

Cameron says the NHS budget has been cut by 8% in Wales. Waiting targets are not being med. There is a "truly dreadful record" when it comes to the NHS in Labour-run Wales, he says.

12.27pm BST

Labour's Jenny Chapman asks if any members of the cabinet asked Miller to resign.

Cameron says Miller explained her decision in a letter. It was her decision.

12.25pm BST

Mark Pritchard, a Conservative, asks if Cameron supports reducing the abortion limit to 22 weeks.

Cameron says he has made his views clear in the past. MPs have had a chance to vote recently.

12.24pm BST

Labour's Paul Flynn says more than 2,000 jobs have been lost, including more than 500 in his Newport constituency, because of "vulture" capitalists buying firms and closing them.

Cameron says he will look at this case. But, overall, employment is growing, he says.

12.23pm BST

Mike Thornton, the Lib Dem MP, asks about the ethnic cleansing of a community in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Cameron says the UK wants Afghanistan to be multi-ethnic.

12.22pm BST

Jason McCartney, a Conservative, asks Cameron to congratulate all those MPs running in the London marathon.

Cameron says he is full of admiration. He could not manage 26 miles himself, he says.

12.21pm BST

Naomi Long, the Alliance MP, asks Cameron to condemn those involved in the "politics of fear" in Northern Ireland.

Cameron says anyone who believes that change is not possible in Northern Ireland would have been surprised to see Martin McGuinness toasting the Queen last night at the Windsor Castle banquet.

12.19pm BST

James Morris, a Conservative, asks about investing in skills.

Cameron says there are now 1.6m apprenticeships starts. The government is on target for its goal of 2m.

12.19pm BST

Cameron says universal credit will stop people facing marginal tax rates of more than 100%.

12.18pm BST

Rehman Chishti asks if Cameron will push for reforms of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

Cameron says he will raise that with the Pakistani prime minister when he visits the UK.

12.17pm BST

Simon Danzcuk, a Labour MP, asks about a "solicitor from hell" in his constituency. Will Cameron investigate?

Cameron says the legal regulators are independent of government. He will arrange for a meeting with a justice minister.

12.16pm BST

John Glen, a Conservative, asks about youth unemployment.

Cameron says the long-term youth claimant count has come down by 37% in the last year.

12.15pm BST

Labour's Andy Slaughter asks if Cameron, or any of his staff, asked Miller to resign.

Cameron says Miller set out her reasons for resigning in a letter today. He has already set out his attitude to allowing colleagues to get on with their jobs.

12.14pm BST

Cameron says he wants to see more women in science.

12.13pm BST

Snap PMQs Verdict: Cameron got the better of Miliband because the Miliband charge about Cameron not "getting it" did not stick but Cameron's claim about Miliband being opportunistic did.

12.10pm BST

Miliband says the public expect higher standards.

Cameron says this is transparent. Miliband came her determined to play politics. Since 2010 a lot of changes have been made. But there is more to do. If Miliband is serious, he will sit down with other leaders and discuss ways of showing this is a good and honest parliament.

12.08pm BST

Miliband says it will be unclear to the public why she resigned. Yet she refused to cooperate with the inquiry, and she refused to give a proper apology. Supporting here was a terrible error of judgement.

Cameron asks, if that was the case, why didn't Miliband ask for her to resign? Miliband must be the first leader of the opposition to demand a resignation after it has taken place.

12.04pm BST

Ed Miliband says the events of the last week have angered the public. What lessons has the PM learnt?

Cameron says he agrees there is still deep concern. That anger needs to be acted upon. He hopes that the lesson that won't be learnt will be that, if someone is in toruble, you should just remove them.

12.02pm BST

Tracey Crouch, a Conservative, asks about the dementia strategy. Will it be extended?

Yes, says Cameron.

12.01pm BST

Labour's Nia Griffith says Cameron promised to reduce net annual migration to the UK to below 100,000. Will that be met?

Cameron says he has got it down by around one fifth.

11.59am BST

Obviously a memo has gone out to make sure there are plenty of women on Tory frontbench for #pmqs to try & hide Cameron's problem with women

11.58am BST

Cheers, jeers & murmurs for David Cameron as he enters chamber for PMQs. Immediately puts specs on & studies his notes. As well he might!

11.53am BST

PMQs is starting in about 10 minutes.

Ministerial resignations are normally seen as very negative events for a government. And they are. But they also have the effect of "lancing the boil" and it won't necessarily be easy for Ed Miliband to exploit it at PMQs. He has three options. But they are all problematic.

There are few in the Labour leader's office that think the misjudgments by Downing Street will leave them the beneficiary. The Miliband office was uncertain about whether to call for Miller resignation, not because they had any doubt she should go, but because they felt the only beneficiaries of the public anger were the anti-politicians.

11.41am BST

Simon Tait at the Guardian's Cultural Professions Network has written a post on the impact that Maria Miller had on arts and culture.

His verdict? It was minimal.

Will she be missed? Er, not really, either in or out of DCMS. Although she has kept the damage to subsidy to a minimum after the depredations of her predecessor, it has been noted that throughout the whole of Derry-Londonderry's year as the first UK city of culture in 2013, the culture secretary couldn't find the time to visit the city once. She was attacked in the press for underperforming and in the Daily Mail Quentin Letts found her convicted of the worst of political crimes, that of being boring.

11.36am BST

This is not untrue.

In politics resign is a transitive verb, as in: 'David Cameron resigned Maria Miller.'

11.34am BST

Here is some reaction to Sajid Javid's appointment from Tories.

Great news as Sajid Javid goes into Cabinet. A New Model Conservative for our times whose done great work at Treasury.

: @sajidjavid - congratulations and well deserved.....

Congratulations to @sajidjavid on his promotion to the cabinet. An intelligent man who proved as FST that he has real political talent.

The son of a bus driver, comp school educated, and hugely impressive @sajidjavid promotion means now 2 muslims around the Cabinet table.

Delighted @sajidjavid has been made Culture Secretary - he will bring a huge amount to the job and to the cabinet table

Great promotions for the exceptional @sajidjavid and @NickyMorgan01 - spot on choices

11.29am BST

My colleague Nicholas Watt points out that the reshuffle has George Osborne's fingerprints all over it.

PM would have called @George_Osborne + said I have a problem. GO would have said I have an answer - @sajidjavid + @NickyMorgan01

11.22am BST

Sajid Javid has an interesting essay about his background in this set of essays published by Renewal, the group campaigning to widen the Conservative party's appeal to northern and working-class voters.

And a great piece by newest Cabinet minister @sajidjavid the archetype of the British Dream http://t.co/bDgtnoQlMQ

Terrific pic of a schoolboy Sajid Javid in set of essays penned by working-class Tories published today by Renewal pic.twitter.com/GxxRmAGJ59

Abdul-Ghani Javid (or, as he was known to me,Dad) arrived in the UK in 1961 at 23 years of age. His family lost everything during the partition of India and their move to Pakistan, so my fathers motivation was quite simple he wanted to work in Britain and provide the means for his brothers back in Pakistan to be educated.

Disembarking at Heathrow with a £1 note in his pocket (which his father, touchingly but mistakenly, had said would see him through his first month in the UK), my father made his way up north and found a job in a Rochdale cotton mill.

11.14am BST

My Bloomberg colleague Rob Hutton has a wonderful fact about Sajid Javid.

Sajid Javid, 1st member of 2010 intake to reach Cabinet, took estimated 98% pay cut to enter politics. Interview: http://t.co/ktoqYX7zlB

11.10am BST

Nicky Morgan, a Treasury minister, will move up to take over Sajid Javid's post.

And she will also attend cabinet as minister for women.

Nicky Morgan MP is the new Financial Secretary to the Treasury. She'll also be Minister for Women and will attend Cabinet in that role.

11.07am BST

Nigel Farage is not standing as Ukip's candidate in Basingstoke. Patrick O'Flynn, Ukip's communications director, has clarifed that in the light of his earlier tweet. (See 10.06am.)

@AndrewSparrow Basingstoke PPC is a local businessman named Alan Stone (chk spell) being unveiled tonight as in introduced to the public.

11.03am BST

Here's a quick Sajid Javid reading list.

A Simon Walters interview in last month's Mail on Sunday

As the attendant press officers urge us to wind things up, I ask Javid where he sees his career ending up. He responds by musing about his retirement. He says that when hes sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, he wants to know that hes done everything he can to try and help my country give those opportunities that I have had to other generations. Where that means I go between now and my late seventies, I dont know. But thats what I want to feel that Ive achieved. In other words: he knows precisely where that means he needs to go, but is too savvy to say.

Javid could have earned millions had he stayed in the career where he was doing so well he was in Singapore running Deutsche Banks credit trading division when he decided to go into politics. And why? Because he was mindful of the opportunities he enjoyed, and felt he had a duty to something to help more people enjoy these opportunities.

10.53am BST

Sajid Javid is the new culture secretary.

Sajid Javid MP is the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Sport and Equalities.

10.48am BST

Here is a summary of the main points in Maria Miller's post-resignation interview.

Miller played down, but did not not deny outright, the suggestion that she was forced out by Downing Street. Asked if it was her decision to resign, or whether she was pushed, she said:

I take full responsibility for my decision to resign. I think it's the right thing to do.

I take full responsibility for the situation. I fully accept the findings in the parliamentary standards report. This is about that.

I have made it clear, and apologised unreservedly to the House of Commons, and made sure that it was clear to everybody that I took full responsibility for those findings.

This has been a really difficult 16 month. Because I was cleared of the central allegation made about me by a Labour member of parliament I hoped that I could stay. And it has become clear to me over the last few days that this this has become an enormous distraction and it's not right that I'm distracting from the incredible achievements of this government.

10.24am BST

Here's the Maria Miller interview.

It was a pooled interview with Sky's Sophy Ridge.

10.17am BST

Maria Miller has been giving an interview. The Press Association has snapped this line from it.

Maria Miller today said she took "full responsibility" for her decision to resign as Culture Secretary, adding that she was standing down to avoid becoming a "distraction" from the achievements of the government.

10.15am BST

At an event this morning Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, was asked about Maria Miller's resignation. He would not comment on that, but he did say her replacement should be "somebody who can articulate why the cultural institutions are such a central part of what Britain means to itself and to the world. That the British institutions are such an extraordinary part of our national identity."

10.09am BST

And this is what Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, told LBC about the Miller affair.

In every political party, every company and perhaps most families, you get somebody that does things they ought not to do, and the question is how do you deal with it? I think throughout this whole Maria Miller saga, what we've seen is a Prime Minister, who clearly is totally disconnected with how the voters in Britain feel about MPs' expenses.

Let's not forget that taxpayers' money helped this woman to make a profit of £1m, it's a truly astonishing situation. To try and pretend that frankly she didn't really know where she lived simply isn't good enough, and I think had Cameron sacked her a week ago, people would have said 'right, Dave's taken control, he's showed us the kind of administration and the kind of regime that he wants in parliament'. The fact that it has been left her, a week on, to resign I think reflects very badly indeed.

10.06am BST

This is interesting.

UKIP meeting 8pm tonight in Old Basing Village Hall, Basingstoke. Our PPC will be unveiled and Nigel Farage will be the keynote speaker!

9.58am BST

According to Channel 4 News's political editor, Gary Gibbon, Maria Miller did not resign of her own accord. He explains what he's been told on his blog. Here's an excerpt.

There was a personal visit to Maria Miller last night in which someone close to the prime minister told her the game was up.

The decision was made late yesterday afternoon to get rid of her, a government source told me.

9.55am BST

There will now have to be substantial reform of the way MPs regulate their conduct, my colleague Patrick Wintour writes in an excellent analysis of the Maria Miller affair, and of how David Cameron got it "spectacularly wrong".

The standards committee, arguably the pre-eminent committee of parliament, also failed in its duty. It may have three lay members looking on, entitled to offer comment, but the committee's decision to overrule the findings of the parliamentary commissioner showed a sympathy to Miller that looked to an outsider like a smug club protecting one of its own.

That mistake will spell the end of self-regulation, regardless of the consequences for parliamentary privilege and the sovereignty of parliament. How this will be done, no one quite knows, but the issue can no longer be left to a procedure committee or a joint committee on parliamentary privilege, the only forums in which the issue has been discussed over the past two years.

9.26am BST

Here's a summary of today's events so far.

* David Cameron has said that he is "sad" about Maria Miller's decision to resign and that he hopes she will be able to serve on the government frontbench again in the future. Miller told Cameron late last night that she was resigning, having endured relentless criticism in the press since she responded to Commons standards committee report about her expenses on Thursday last week with a perfunctory, 32-second apology. Miller said she was resigning because her continuing presence in government was "a distraction". Neither Miller nor Cameron accepted, in the letters they released this morning, that Miller had done anything wrong.

It goes beyond simply a technical fix to this or that committee. The political class do need to recognise that the level of public feeling about these issues is still very raw. We do need to appreciate that and reflect on it.

My take on these things is that this is a judgment on the political class overall in Westminster and it is a warning to us to take these issues incredibly seriously and to recognise that there is a question of public trust in the political process and the capacity for politicians to police themselves which requires to be addressed. That seems to be the most important thing.

I would like to see David Cameron announce today at Prime Minister's Questions that that system is going to go immediately and there will be no more self-regulation of MPs by MPs.

8.59am BST

I have not seen many Conservative MPs defending Maria Miller on Twitter.

But this, from the planning minister Nick Boles, is warm and generous.

Through reasonable argument and calm persuasion Maria Miller made it possible for me and thousands like me to get married. Thank you Maria.

8.50am BST

Here's some more comment on Miller's resignation from journalists and commentators on Twitter.

Maria Miller QUITS - her resignation letter rather longer than the non-apology that cost her her job http://t.co/dWxdZX8BXj

The real reason Maria Miller thought it may be time to quit pic.twitter.com/t8Ej4olNYM

No wide reshuffle post Maria Miller today, Downing St sources say. Just replacements.

Was told yesterday that Craig Oliver was determined to face down media over Miller lest the media get the whip hand over government. Oops.

No tears in Derry/Londonderry for Maria Miller - the Culture Secretary who couldn't find time to visit the UK's first ever City of Culture.

WoooHooo. Gove works in "long-term economic plan" even while talking about Miller!!!

Very impressive Maria Miller mopping up job by Michael Gove on #r4today, and with almost zero notice. Conciliatory rather than angry.

Problem for #MariaMiller at election - thousands commute from Basingstoke to London every day and won't understand her 2nd pad in Wimbledon.

I don't think Maria Miller will be the Conservative candidate for Basingstoke at the general election. That would be UKIP GAIN.

Something quite strategically brilliant about the evident Tory ploy to make Miller's resignation not about them but about ALL MPs.

Maria Miller might be Ukip's most effective campaigner at the European elections

Strange timing on miller resignation - did PM really not know she was goner last night? Could have avoided a further negative news cycle

MIchael Gove sounding thoughtful, civilised and humane about Miller and public anger over expenses. #r4today

Newspapers more in touch with the public on Maria Miller than those attacking papers for criticising her expenses. End of

Maria Miller gets to keep practically all her dosh and knows she'll be back on the frontbench. More of a sabbatical than a resignation

8.46am BST

I mentioned some possible Maria Miller replacements earlier (see 8am), but Coffee House has now produced a more detailed list. It's is very thorough, even listing the number of Tory members of the government who are mothers (nine).

8.33am BST

Here's a statement from the Labour party about Maria Miller's resignation.

It is welcome that Maria Miller has finally done the right thing. By resigning she has recognised that the public expect and deserve the highest standards from politicians.

Labour said all along that you cannot have one rule for a Cabinet minister and one rule for everybody else.

8.30am BST

Nick Robinson says he has been told that yesterday afternoon David Cameron was preparing to defend Maria Miller at PMQs.

But, when he returned from the state dinner for the Irish president at Windsor Castle, he got a call from Maria Miller saying she would resign.

8.26am BST

Q: The commissioner says Miller should pay back £45,000. MPs said she should only pay back £5,000. That's wrong, isn't it.

Gove says he accepts that looks wrong. He could get into a discussion about how the system has changed. But the public need to know that politicians "get it". Nit-picking about the facts of this case does not give that impression.

8.22am BST

Q: Doesn't this show MPs still don't get it about expenses?

Gove says he thinks that's right. There are details about Miller's case; she was cleared, he says. But there is still a degree of public distrust about the political class.

8.20am BST

Q: Cameron showed, at best, indecisiveness, he says. He says Miller's apology, he saw the reaction, and yet he gave her his warm support. Doesn't this cast doubt on his judgment?

Gove says human decency is a virtue.

8.17am BST

Q: Have you spoken to the prime minister?

Very briefly this morning, Gove says. He says David Cameron said it was Miller's decision to resign. He is very loyal to his team, Gove says.

8.13am BST

John Humphrys is interviewing Michael Gove, the education secretary.

Q: Yesterday I imagine you thought you would be defending Maria Miller today.

8.09am BST

And her is some political reaction to Maria Miller's resignation.

Maria Miller resigned. Expenses HAVE to be abolished and recall introduced. Public has no stomach for reform the word expenses is toxic

Miller Resignation: Inevitable, sadly, from Monday, when the focus shifted to second home designation, profits on sale & CGT.

Maria Miller resigns. Inevitable. PMQ's would have been a bloodbath.

So much for the idea that PMQs is a pointless pantomime - striking how often resignations occur on Wednesdays #MariaMiller

Maria Miller thrown overboard. Cam's judgement looking disastrous.

8.06am BST

And Isabel Hardman has posted her verdict at Coffee House. Here's an excerpt.

As Miller says in her letter, the present situation has become a distraction from the vital work this Government is doing to turn our country around: yesterday the IMF upgraded the UKs growth forecast, but this further evidence that George Osborne had survived his own 364 economists moment was largely ignored .

8.04am BST

Fraser Nelson at Coffee House has written a powerful post describing the Maria Miller saga as a Tory shambles. Here's an excerpt.

The blame starts with the Prime Minister. He should need no telling about expenses scandals. Not so long ago, he dealt quickly and forcefully with Tory MPs who had been exposed by the Daily Telegraphs investigation in stark contrast with the stunned Gordon Brown. Now it seems it was Mr Camerons turn to see all this chiefly as a battle with the press, of resisting a witch-hunt, rather than as a simple matter of probity ...

Having chosen the fight, No10 seem to have had no plan for winning it. Normally, the drill is to line up Ministers and MPs who can go out to defend the embattled minister. No such arrangements were made. Ive spoken to MPs who have been stunned at the sheer disorder in No10, the utter absence of a political operation of the ability to even guess how all this would play out. The Cabinet has been noticeable by its silence aware of just how toxic it is to be seen defending someone found to have been on the hey-diddle-diddle. Normally, a Prime Minister either drops the minister or mounts a proper operation to defend the minister. In this case, neither happened.

8.00am BST

Here is some snap reaction to Maria Miller's resignation on Twitter from journalists and commentators.

So, the Maria Miller situation is resolved before PMQs

Maria Miller resigning to spend more time in her £1.2m Tudor barn leaves Cameron in the lurch. Her judgement better than his

Maria Miller resigns - but political damage now is greater than had she gone in the first place. Who now for Culture, Media and Sport?

It was survivable for Miller, but a difficult manner and badly judged apology did for her.

Maria Miller demise says a lot about power of backbench Tories. On Monday, No 10 said: "It is the PM to choose his Cabinet, not MPs."

There WILL be a statement from Maria Miller herself this morning before #pmqs

Attitude of Tory MPs in marginal seats was particularly important. And they were v unhappy at Maria Miller saga.

Spare a thought for Andrew Lansley - sent to Newsnight last night to make the government's case for Maria Miller. Beaten up for nothing.

Will smiling assassin Ester McVey win promotion after knifing Miller?

Big question today: would Maria Miller still be in her job had she spoke for more than a minute in Commons last week?

The Telegraph yesterday spoke to 23 MPs in the UK's most marginal seats - none backed Maria Miller to stay in her job.

John Peinaar tells us a more extensive re-shuffle is expected than merely replacing Maria Miller

7.48am BST

John Mann, the Labour MP who submitted the original complaint about Maria Miller, has just been on the Today programme. Here are the key points he made.

* Mann welcomed Miller's resignation. "About time too", he said.

7.36am BST

And here's David Cameron's reply.

Dear Maria,

Thank you for your letter. I was very sorry to receive it.

7.33am BST

Maria Miller, the culture secretary, has resigned.

Here's here letter to the prime minister.

Dear Prime Minister,

It is with great regret that I have decided that I should tender my resignation as a member of the Cabinet.

Continue reading...

Maria Miller - MPs' self-regulation system criticised: Politics live blog

The Guardian: Politics Live Blog - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 11:58

Ed Miliband's speech - Summary

Report from lay members of the Commons standards committee - Summary

Lunchtime summary

Afternoon summary

4.11pm BST

Mary Macleod, Maria Miller's parliamentary private secretary, has accused the media of attacking Miller because they are angry about her support for gay marriage and the Leveson-backed royal charter on press regulation.

MacLeod on camera: think this is a witch hunt by the media angry about Leveson & equal marriage & taking it out on Maria

MacLeod: : "We can't just let the media do whatever they want and hound someone where allegations have been dismissed"

No.10 stonewalling re Miller. Asked if Mary Macleod speaks for Govt, refuses to comment directly.

I know some of you have described what has happened as 'venting the spleen' exercises or 'a little bit of bloodletting' but it is simply wrong and is not how we should treat colleagues or indeed as I like to think of many of you, a friend.

We are all rightly entitled to our opinion but as professional police officers and federation officials, it is how we express those opinions that matter. Whilst accepting emotions are running high in the advent of inevitable change, at times I have genuinely felt that I have been gratuitously and cruelly bullied and humiliated.

3.57pm BST

Isabel Hardman at Coffee House has a good audioBoo selection of Tory MPs ( Mark Field, Zac Goldsmith and Matthew Offord) having a go at Maria Miller.

3.50pm BST

The Telegraph's Holly Watt has hit back at Maria Miller's PPS, Mary Macleod. (See 3.25pm.)

It is offensive to suggest Miller story is in any way about equal marriage & only person who mentioned Leveson was DCMS spad

3.43pm BST

During the urgent question Sir Kevin Barron, the chair of the Commons standards committee, said the committee met this morning and authorised him to issue a statement defending their report into Maria Miller.

Here it is.

At our meeting today the committee authorised me to say that it continues to believe that its individual adjudications are impartial, non partisan and fair. It is extremely important that those who express opinions on these cases both within this House and outside it should have read closely the carefully reasoned and evidence based conclusions set out in each report. The committee will continue to work closely and cooperatively with the commissioner to reach objective non partisan and fair adjudications.

3.39pm BST

Here's the Sun's "Miller must quit" banner. (See 10.40am.)

In the words of her special advisor Jo Hindley, @TheSunNewspaper's message to Maria Miller today; pic.twitter.com/czG9qEI97F

3.25pm BST

The Conservative MP Mary Macleod has been tweeting support for Mary Miller.

Full support for @maria_millermp as she has been cleared of allegations but still hounded by media. She is an excellent Culture Secretary.

2.58pm BST

Maria Miller, the embattled culture secretary, has come under fresh pressure from her Conservative colleagues to resign. Mark Field, the MP for Cities of London and Westminster, told the World at One that her apology last week was "unacceptably perfunctory". He said MPs who entered the Commons in 2010 felt particularly strongly about this.

They of course felt when they were elected four years ago that they were untainted by the expenses scandal of 2009, yet they of course have now also felt the real backlash from their constituents over recent days ...

There is this whole public perception here that, rightly or wrongly, the standards committee as it is currently constituted is somehow open to being nobbled by senior government members. In many ways it is that public perception that is so damaging here.

Whether [Miller] resigns is a matter for her but obviously the whole thing is extremely damaging for the Conservative party, it's damaging for parliament as a whole and politicians - we all get tarnished by the same brush. It's damaging for the government, for the prime minister. The sooner the matter is resolved, the better.

For a wholly external body to consider complaints relating to the conduct of members in this House - for example on participation in debates and the registration of financial interests - risks undermining parliamentary privilege.

If we were to seek, for example, to make the standards committee or the commissioner wholly independent, the position we would end up with would be the commissioner for standards would no longer have access to parliamentary privilege in relation to her investigations.

Presently she does, by virtue of her investigation being part of the proceeding of the standards committee of this House. Her role would be much more difficult to fulfil in the way she does.

This is is not so much a failure of the system but a complete and abject failure of the media properly to report these matters objectively, the result of which is many of our constituents have failed completely to understand exactly what has been the case in a recent report and it is time the media should pay proper consideration to Parliamentary reports rather than seeking to engage in witch hunts.

You can aspire to be a great nation, without desiring to be a great power. The USA is both but most nations can't be, and they reduce their chance to be a great nation if they pretend to be a great power

For most countries, greatness can only come from influence, not force; from soft, not hard power; from enlightened self-interest, not self-interest alone.

2.03pm BST

The report from the three lay members of the Commons standards committee - Sharon Darcy, Peter Jinman and Walter Rader - only runs to 12 pages (pdf). It is written in cautious, neutral language, and it is (generally) devoid of any juicy revelations.

But it is also, in a quiet, understated way, rather devastating.

A fundamental rewrite of The Code of Conduct and The Guide to the Rules, with close attention given to the way in which these are presented and communicated, would, in our opinion, help ensure that these important documents are both seen to be fit for purpose and future proofed for the digital world and for the next Parliament.

Several of those we have met have said that Elected Members were often too busy to spend much time on standards.

If the House is to show that it is not just paying lip service to the importance of high standards then, in our view, more needs to be done to ensure that leadership (one of the seven principles of public life), is shown in this area. We observe that the extent to which the Committee on Standards should lead in this area, and be at the forefront of championing wider cultural change, would be worth exploring.

Once the high level core purpose of an Elected Members role has been described / clarified, setting and assessing the standards of conduct which Members should meet can become more focused.

Over the last twelve months, the Lay Members have observed that the fragmentation of the current standards system has enabled some to say that the conduct which is expected from them is unclear. The opaqueness of the letter of the law has the potential to enable those so minded to ignore the spirit of the law, as encapsulated in the seven principles of public life. In our view, even once the Guide to the Rules is tightened up, this will remain a risk unless it is made clear that behavior will always be interpreted within the context of the spirit of the law.

From the public point of view, Elected Members set the rules / laws that the rest of the population live by. The Lay Members note that some of the rules that have been set for both public facing organisations and private corporations (e.g. expectations of behavior, commitment to openness and transparency or staff disciplinary procedures) do not appear to be fully followed by the House itself.

When Elected Members decide that different standards of behaviour are acceptable from them, as compared to other external public figures, we are of the view that a clear evidence base should always be used, and communicated, to publicly explain the reasons for this decision.

Over the last year we have observed the heavy and demanding workloads required of Elected Members [of the standards committee]. Many will frequently be scheduled to be in one or more meetings at the same time that the Standards Committee is meeting, as well as having to prepare for debates and deal with mounting constituency business. On one occasion this led to a situation where only the Lay Members were present with the Chair and the Clerk at a Committee meeting, although we were assured that this had not happened previously. This rendered the Committee non-quorate and must be considered unacceptable given the cost to the public purse.

It is also currently unclear who is in the strategic driving seat in the Committee. Is it the Committee Chair, the Committee as a whole, the Commissioner or indeed even the Lay Members?

1.19pm BST

Here is the report from lay members of the Commons standards committee (pdf) mentioned earlier. (See 12.49pm and 1.11pm.)

I will post a summary of it soon.

1.14pm BST

Labour's Thomas Docherty asks why David Cameron wants to end self-regulation for the press, but not for MPs.

Lansley says having lay members on the standards committee was intended to introduce a system akin to a body like the Bar Council. But there are issues of privilege to be taken into account, he says.

1.12pm BST

Bob Blackman, a Conservative, asks how many "legacy cases" there are (ie, unresolved expenses complaints relating to before 2010.)

Lansley says he does not know the number. He hopes there are relatively few. But he cannot say there are none.

1.11pm BST

My colleague Patrick Wintour has been looking at what the lay members of the standards committee have been saying in the report Sir Kevin Barron mentioned earlier.

Lay members of standards committee have risen up - want new code of conduct, and tell MPs to stop paying lip service to higher standards.

1.10pm BST

Matthew Offord, a Conservative, says people did raise expenses with him when he knocked on doors at the weekend. He says people think the situation has not changed.

Lansley says MPs should tell people that the situation has changed.

1.09pm BST

Labour's Sheila Gilmore asks if Lansley is really unwilling to consider reform proposals.

Lansley says that is not his position. He would consider changes.

1.08pm BST

Peter Bone, a Conservative, says he has been doorstepping and telephone canvassing in recent days. Only one issue came up - immigration. The Miller case was only mentioned once, he says.

He says they should have recall - and "pure recall" (ie, a system that does not rely on the standards committee approving a recall ballot).

1.06pm BST

Labour's Chris Bryant says there is no point complaining about the media on this issue. The system of self-regulation for MPs has been on trial for some time. And it has been found wanting, he says.

There is "as much dodginess" in the Lords as there is in the Commons too, he says.

1.02pm BST

Labour's Paul Flynn says the expenses system should be replaced with a system of allowances. Isn't Ipsa an idea whose time has gone?

Lansley says none of the recent cases imply Ipsa has been at fault, because they do not relate to cases since 2010.

1.01pm BST

Lansley says there was a concern that giving lay members voting rights on a committee could led to that committee losing its parliamentary privilege in the eyes of a court.

1.00pm BST

Therese Coffey, a Conservative, says a green paper on parliamentary privilege two years ago led to the introduction of lay members.

She says it was the standards committee that decided to reopen an investigation into a former member (Denis MacShane) that led to him being jailed. So it is independent, she says.

12.59pm BST

Labour's Ben Bradshaw says he thought self-regulation had gone. What can Lansley say to assure people that reform has not stopped.

Lansley says the public are concerned about expenses. There are some "legacy cases" relating to the past. But the rules have changed, and Ipsa have created a situation that should command public respect.

12.57pm BST

Back in the chamber, Lansley says he does not see how it would be acceptable to allow an external body to take a decision to expel an MP from the House.

12.57pm BST

Outside the chamber another Conservative MP has admitted that the Miller affair is damaging the party.

Tory MP .@PhilipDaviesMP on Maria Miller expenses: "Obviously the whole thing is extremely damaging for the Conservative party" #bbcdp

12.56pm BST

Labour's David Winnick says he does not accept the idea that this was all "got up" by the media. Mistakes have been made, he says. The system has to satisfy the public. At the moment they think there are double standards, he says.

Lansley says he is not being complacent.

12.55pm BST

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative, says he wants parliament to retain control over regulation of MPs. But there should either be a proper power of recall, he says, or disciplinary decisions should be taken by the Commons as a whole.

Lansley says the government is committed to recall legislation.

12.53pm BST

Labour's Peter Hain, a former leader of the Commons, says the public think there is one rule of them, and one rule for MPs.

Lansley says if the parliamentary commissioner for standards were independent, she would not be covered by parliamentary privilege. Her investigations would be subject to legal challenge, he says.

12.51pm BST

Sir Peter Bottomley, a Conservative, says he resigned from the standards committee when the House authorities, and at least one party, trashed Elizabeth Filkin, a previous parliamentary commissioner for standards. He is referring to Labour.

The media should read the committee's reports, he says.

12.49pm BST

Sir Kevin Barron, chair of the committee, says the lay members of the committee recently submitted a report on their reflections on their first year on the committee.

That paper is on the committee's website, he says.

12.47pm BST

Sir Nick Harvey, a Lib Dem MP, says he is on the standards committee. Until recently he did not realise they did not have a vote. That's because they don't need one. They contribute greatly to its discussions, he says. They have brought a great deal of expertise to the system. It should carry on as it is.

Lansley says that, if the lay members were to dissent from a committee report, that would have a powerful effect.

12.45pm BST

John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, says MPs should not be debating Miller. MPs can only debate the conduct of an MP if there is a substantive motion, he says.

12.45pm BST

Angela Eagle, the shadow leader of the Commons, says this affair has cast doubt on the conduct of Miller, and the judgment of the prime minister.

Will the government remove the government majority on the standards committee? And will it give lay members voting rights?

12.41pm BST

Sir Gerald Howarth, a Conservative, backs Lansley.

He accuses the media of misrepresenting the standards committee's report.

12.40pm BST

Lansley is replying to Mann.

He says Ipsa is "wholly independent" of the Commons.

12.39pm BST

John Mann says Lansley has probably not spent much time on doorsteps recently.

If he had, he would know how unhappy the public are.

12.37pm BST

Andrew Lansley describes the role of the standards committee and Ipsa.

As of now, Ipsa is wholly independent, he says, and it considers expenses complaints. It can demand repayment and impose a fine.

12.34pm BST

John Mann asks for a statement on the possible changes suggested by David Cameron yesterday to the Commons disciplinary committees.

12.33pm BST

Here's the latest from Number 10 on Maria Miller.

Asked if Maria Miller has offered resignation, No 10 says "matter has not arisen". You could fall into the space left open there

12.31pm BST

Andrew Lansley, the leader of the Commons, is about to answer an urgent question on Commons standards.

One Urgent Question today from @JohnMannMP on regulating complaints about fellow #MPs. More details to follow.

Andrew Lansley leader of house 3 months ago rejected plans to pass legislation to give decisions of committees with lay members privilege.

12.23pm BST

That expression of support didn't last long. (See 8.41am.) Boris Johnson is now cracking jokes at the expense of Maria Miller.

'If things were to go wrong for Maria there's plenty of jobs in life sciences' - Boris' Miller solution at the MedCity launch

12.15pm BST

This morning Ed Miliband has delivered a speech on the cost of living crisis. On a normal day it would probably get some coverage on 24 hours news, but the BBC and Sky are obsessed with Oscar Pistorius giving evidence in his trial.

The full text of Miliband's speech is now available. And here is Patrick Wintour's preview story summarising the key announcement.

The country that once built its prosperity on the great towns and cities, like Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff, has become a country which doesnt do enough to build prosperity in England outside one great capital city: London ...

London and the South-East of England was responsible for 37 per cent of the UK's growth in the decade before the financial crisis.

Governments of both parties have not done nearly enough to give the tools to the brilliant people, talented individuals, dynamic businesses of our great towns and cities to do the job they want to do.

Lord Heseltines review called for massive funding to be devolved to Britains cities.

And they flunked the test.

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are today writing to all local authorities, universities and LEPs [local enterprise partnership] setting out this road map and inviting them to prepare plans meeting the conditions which could be brought forward early in the next Parliament.

Authorities which bring forward plans in the first nine months of the next Parliament will in return receive a devolution deal finalised in the first spending review period of a Labour Government.

1. Putting in place stronger political governance to drive economic leadership and decision-taking at city-region and county-region level.

2. Properly integrating a single Local Enterprise Partnership working closely with, but entirely independent of, the combined authority so that businesses are fully engaged in decision making and signed up to the local blueprint.

In the last few years, weve seen employment in low paid sectors rise twice as fast as in higher paid sectors.

George Osborne thinks that creating more and more insecure, low paid, low skilled jobs is good enough as an answer to our countrys cost-of-living crisis.

Now, I welcome the chancellors apparent conversion to the cause of full employment.

It is 70 years after a British government first dedicated itself to it.

Because they tell us that very soon, on one measure, average wage rises will overtake the level of inflation.

I hope that happens as soon as possible.

11.45am BST

Ed Miliband has been taking questions about the Maria Miller affair at his speech in Birmingham. He is not calling for her to resign.

. @Ed_Miliband: David Cameron has 'some serious questions to answer' over Maria Miller's approach to expenses probe and'perfunctory' apology

Ed Miliband, asked whether Maria Miller should resign: "I'm not calling for that today." Tomorrow? Thursday? Easter Monday?

Ed Miliband says right to reform MPs expenses but miller case raise issues about how decisions are made 'but not in a knee jerk way'

Ed Miliband not calling for Maria Miller to resign - Labour's had too many expenses problems of its own

11.20am BST

We're going to get an urgent question on parliamentary standards at 12.30pm.

Urgent question on Parliamentary Standards 1230 in Commons

11.04am BST

Guido Fawkes has posted on Twitter more details of the Survation poll I mentioned earlier. (See 10.02am.)

55% say Miller is the worst expenses cheat since 2009 http://t.co/Y1qkZ2OllS pic.twitter.com/4oSbEgnak9

10.49am BST

Alastair Campbell is the man credited with saying that a political crisis cannot go on for nine days (or 13, or 11, or seven - no one is quite sure) without someone having to resign.

At the BBC they're counting. This morning's radio news reports made the point that this was Miller's sixth day in the headlines. (They're starting from Thursday last week.)

Whatever my rule was, Maria Miller is breaking it.Trouble is Dave likes to have fights not worth having so he can avoid the ones that matter

10.40am BST

Sometimes tabloid papers coin a nickname that brilliantly encapsulates a figure they either love or loathe.

And sometimes they don't quite pull it off. The Sun's decision to christen Maria Miller "the Millerpede" probably comes into the category.

There is currently a Sun newspaper "Millerpede" banner being photographed outside Parliament.

All will be revealed soon; MT @christopherhope It looks like The Sun is photographing a "Miller-pede" banner pic.twitter.com/2who4l9eTA

10.32am BST

You can read all todays Guardian politics stories here. And all the politics stories filed yesterday, including some in todays paper, are here.

As for the rest of the papers, heres the PoliticsHome list of top 10 must-reads, heres the ConservativeHome round-up of the politics stories in todays papers and heres the New Statesmans list of top 10 comment articles.

Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, met the Prime Minister on Monday to tell him that MPs from across the party were calling for Mrs Miller to go ...

A source said senior members of the 1922 Committee were in no doubt that this is absolutely toxic for the party. Mr Brady would make that very clear to Mr Cameron ...

A former colleague of Mrs Millers has also disputed a key justification for her expense claim also challenged by the independent watchdog that her main home was in her Hampshire constituency, allowing her to claim mortgage costs on her London house.

Mrs Miller claimed parliamentary allowances for her Victorian terrace property in Wimbledon on the basis that it was her second home. In her evidence to the watchdog, she repeatedly insisted that she spent more nights in her constituency residence than in her larger home in Wimbledon.

One [backbencher] said: "He's looking after his own and it's going to cost us vote. Whatever happens now we have lost credibility."

Maria Miller should resign. If she does not appreciate the need, the Prime Minister should make it clear to her. It seems at the moment as if she and those who work in Downing Street are almost the only people in the country who do not recognise that it is time for her to go. In both cases, obstinacy is getting in the way of good judgment.

As for David Cameron, at last he seems to acknowledge that there may be a case for toughening up Parliaments regulatory regime. But still he stands by Mrs Miller.

The longer this affair drags on, the more toxic it becomes for the Tories. This paper cannot see the story dying of its own accord.

David Cameron' s misplaced loyalty to Maria Miller is costing him votes with ever hour that ticks by.

People won't fall for it, Dave. They think Miller should go. The longer you defend the indefensible the more out of touch you become.

10.19am BST

Zac Goldsmith has told Radio 5 Live this morning he's "surprised" Maria Miller hasn't already resigned.

10am: Conservative MP @ZacGoldsmith tells me he's "surprised" #MariaMiller hasn't resigned ..full interview after 10 on @bbc5live #expenses

10.02am BST

And here's another Maria Miller poll. A Survation survey for Breitbart London (a rightwing, libertarian website) and Conservative Grassroots says that 34% of those who voted Conservative in 2010 say they would reconsider how they vote on the basis of Miller's conduct and David Cameron's response to it.

(Polls like this need to be treated with even more caution than normal ones. It's based on a leading question, because you are unlikely to want to admit that the conduct of a minister is something that you will just ignore, and in practice single controversies of this kind, on their own, tend not to have much impact on voting intention.)

9.46am BST

Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP, has written a piece for ConservativeHome saying the Maria Miller affair underlines the need for a proper "recall" law giving the voters the opportunity to force an MP to stand again in a byelection if they are unhappy with his or her conduct.

The government is promising to legislate for recall in the final session of parliament. But, as Goldsmith points out, under Nick Clegg's plan (he's in charge of this legislation), the committee that would decide whether or not to allow a recall would be the same one, the standards committee, that watered down the report saying Miller should pay back £45,000.

When it comes to the technicalities of financial wrongdoing, it probably makes sense for a specialised independent body to lay out the facts, and make recommendations.

But what seems to have slipped the net in recent debates is the fact that we already have an independent body, capable and uniquely qualified to pass judgment on MPs. Its called the electorate. The only difficulty, for now, is that they dont have the powers to do so.

9.25am BST

According to a ComRes poll of Conservative supporters, 69% of them think Maria Miller should resign.

9.03am BST

I'm told there's no need to get excited about the idea of Maria Miller going into Number 10 early today. She was there for a political cabinet meeting starting at 8.30am. The full cabinet starts at 9.30am. A Number 10 source says that the suggestion that Miller was turning up early for a special meeting with Cameron was "total nonsense" and that she still has Cameron's "strong backing".

8.41am BST

It's another tricky day for Maria Miller. Today the Daily Telegraph and the Times - the two leading Tory "broadsheets" - are leading on stories saying Conservative MPs want her to be sacked.

And here are this morning's developments.

Maria Miller has just done possibly the quickest EVER entry into No10. Drove up in car, back to cameras, no response to shouted questions

She is staying. I don't know the facts of the case in great detail but it seems to me she is being hounded quite a lot and I suppose my natural sympathies go out to people being in a hounded situation. How about that?

She's another member of the government and of course she has my support, just as she has the prime minister's, which is the support that really counts. I'm just junior minister. It's the view of the prime minister and the view of the standards committee that really counts.

Continue reading...

Maria Miller's expenses controversy - latest developments: Politics live blog

The Guardian: Politics Live Blog - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 11:16

No 10 lobby briefing - Summary

Lunchtime summary

Afternoon summary

This blog is closed: For the latest Maria Miller developments, follow Tuesday's live blog

4.12pm BST

John Bercow, the Commons speaker, has told MPs that concerns about the way they regulate themselves are "widely shared by our constituents". He was speaking after Labour MPs used points of order to call for a debate on this matter. Bercow said he was "very open" to the idea of a debate in the Commons.

Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, has indicated that he would be concerned about any attempt to radically reform the system of self-regulation used for MPs. This is what he told the World at One.

There has always been a tension between maintaining Parliament's independence and placing it under somebody else's scrutiny. I don't think that it needs me to explain that there is quite an interesting constitutional issue here. It's one which I think we've been wrestling with.

In setting up Ipsa, Parliament moved very substantially away from the earlier model of its regulation. It's very much a matter for my parliamentary colleagues if they think that further change is going to be needed. I think that we need to evaluate that further change probably on how the system is working today, and not necessarily with reference to events that are 10 years old.

I will be in Basingstoke tomorrow evening to meet local residents outraged at Maria Miller's behaviour and discuss how to regulate MPs

As I will be able to leave the House of Commons and be in Basingstoke in an hour, there will be no need for overnight accommodation

3.47pm BST

Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP, has suggested that John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, may have had a hand in persuading Maria Miller to keep her apology short.

Just interviewed Nadine Dorrries, who says Speaker ordered her to shorten her personal HoC statement & may have done same with Maria Miller.

3.39pm BST

In the Commons just now Labour MPs John Mann and David Winnick have both used points of order to call for a debate on the system of self-regulation for MPs. John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, said he was open to the idea of a general debate on this principle and that MPs might have opportunities to raise this issue in the coming days.

3.30pm BST

This is interesting from James Forsyth on Maria Miller.

Tory MPs splitting along generational lines on Maria Miller. 2010 intake generally want her gone, previous intakes more sympathetic

3.29pm BST

In a speech in the Commons last Thursday Michael Meacher, the Labour former minister, delivered a damning verdict on the way sanctions are now imposed in the welfare system.

This afternoon, in a speech to Business for Britain, Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pension secretary, gave an entirely different take on the government's new "conditionality" regime (the rules that apply as a condition for people getting benefits). It's not a speech that unveils new policy, but it is one that explains Duncan Smith's thinking, and it complements the one that George Osborne gave last week setting "full employment" as a Tory goal.

The incentive structure in the welfare system that I inherited was wrong. The old benefit system too often rewarded the decision to turn down work and for too many, the decision to move into work left them worse off. To take a job was not the logical choice.

Our conditionality system is designed to send a clear message that we expect every effort to be made to find and take work.

We have set clear requirements in return for state support, and are making sure that if someone fails to meet their responsibilities, they face the consequences getting the balance right again in the welfare system, just as for those in work.

Whilst our critics persist in arguing that a minimum wage job is stepping into a hole, I believe, quite the contrary, that it can be the first step on the ladder to an independent life.

Under Labour, millions of people were stuck on out of work benefits a million for a decade or more.

Unemployment had risen by half a million, and youth unemployment by nearly half.

In just 5 years between 2005 and 2010, the number of British people in jobs fell by over 300,000, while the number of foreigners in British jobs soared by more than 650,000 ...

When British business found British people were unwilling or unable to work in the UK, they quickly looked elsewhere.

Inactivity is at its lowest on record excluding those in education, down by nearly half a million since 2010 ... driven by falling numbers claiming inactive benefits down by 350,000, and falling in every single local area of Britain.

There are a lower proportion of workless households than at any time on record, down 450,000 since 2010.

2.46pm BST

The Evening Standard says David Cameron's proposal to reform the system of self-regulation for MPs has not stopped some Tories saying Maria Miller should be sacked.

One senior Tory accused the Prime Minister of scrabbling around for a line to take to avoid having to confront Maria Miller. He said Mr Cameron should draw a line under the affair by sacking the Culture Secretary, who last week repaid £5,800 and apologised for failing to co-operate with an official watchdog.

Conservative MP Nicola Blackwood told BBC local radio that Mrs Miller faced most serious questions about her expenses. Another senior Tory MP said: Its ghastly, its just making us look all the same. It is setting back the reputation of Parliament and MPs. He said he had nothing positive to say about Mrs Miller.

2.13pm BST

Here's the Guardian video of David Cameron defending Maria Miller during his visit to Asda this morning.

2.01pm BST

David Cameron has said that he is "very open" to the idea of making further changes to the system of self-regulation for MPs. This emerged as Cameron himself, in a clip with broadcasters, and his official spokesman, at the Number 10 lobby briefing, defended Maria Miller in the face of continuing demands for her to be sacked over her expenses, and the perfunctory apology she delivered in the Commons last week after being criticised by standards committee report. However, Number 10 sources suggest that the changes to current system of parliamentary self-regulation favoured by Cameron are minimalist. Allowing the three lay members of the standards committee to have a vote, as well as the 10 MP members, seems to be the main change that Cameron is envisaging. The standards committee is the body that recommends what punishments MPs should face if they break the Commons rules. (See 12.58pm and 1.26pm.)

Miller has indicated that she will pay some capital gains tax on the sale of her home in Wimbledon. For a period the home was funded by her parliamentary expenses, because Miller regarded it as her second home. According to the Press Association, "an estimated profit of £1.2 million on the London property could leave her owing around £70,000 to HMRC for the four year period in which she claimed expenses - although other allowances are likely to reduce that figure. (See 12.01pm.)

1.35pm BST

Therese Coffey, the Conservative MP, was defending Maria Miller on the Daily Politics. She said rejected suggestions that Miller was only keeping her job because she was a woman and she dismissed Lord Tebbit's call for Miller to resign. (See 9.16am.)

Maria Miller has taken two very tricky pieces of legislation through the House, competently. And frankly Norman Tebbit two weeks ago was calling on Conservative backbenchers to unseat David Cameron, he's not in touch with the parliamentary party and he's certainly not in touch with members on that anymore.

1.26pm BST

This is what David Cameron say about Maria Miller during his visit to Asda earlier.

What matters is doing the right thing. I think Maria has done the right thing by repaying the money, making an apology and now getting on with her job. We ought to remember she was found innocent of the claim that was levelled at her at the start of this process. I think that is important to bear in mind.

Theres a big change coming, which is that all expenses cases after 2010 will be dealt with in a totally new way; theyll be dealt with by Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, IPSA, and that will be done without reference to MPs, so its a very important change. But if there are further changes that people think are appropriate, Im very open to suggestions.

12.58pm BST

Here is a full summary of what was said at the Number 10 lobby briefing, about Maria Miller and about other matters.

The prime minister has full confidence in her and the way that she does her job.

Talking to Ange at @Asda, a company announcing 12,000 new jobs and helping show our #LongTermEconomicPlan is working. pic.twitter.com/yTtXvma1P9

12.39pm BST

At one point during the Number 10 lobby briefing the prime minister's spokesman said: "The prime minister always stands by his words".

But the Telegraph's James Kirkup suggests this does not tell the full story.

Maria Miller news. On Sunday, No 10 said PM supports current Commons standards system; no need for reform. Today, PM "open" to reform.

12.26pm BST

John Mann has failed to get his urgent question on the Miller affair (which isn't a surprise - see 9.16am).

No statements or urgents questions today in @HouseofCommons

12.01pm BST

Maria Miller's office is now suggesting that she will pay capital gains tax on the sale of her Wimbledon home.

This is from the Press Association.

A spokeswoman for the Culture Secretary dismissed suggestions that she would attempt to avoid a capital gains tax (CGT) bill by arguing that it had been her main home throughout the period.

The aide said it was "common knowledge" that the London house had been Mrs Miller's second home between 2005 and 2009.

11.54am BST

While the Number 10 briefing was taking place, the Labour party issued a call for Maria Miller to deliver a second, proper apology to the Commons.

It came in the form of a letter from the Labour MP Sheila Gilmore to Sir Kevin Barron, the chair of the Commons standards committee. Here's an extract.

Following the focus on Members expenses and subsequent reform to the system in 2009 there is now a higher bar for all Members to demonstrate the integrity of their conduct in public life. We must act at all times within the spirit as well as the letter of existing guidelines. It is clear that Mrs Miller fell foul of this not just in her conduct during the inquiry but in her apology to the House.

Rather than meaningfully address the arrogant and evasive attitude that characterised her behaviour during the inquiry, she chose to reinforce it in the House of Commons, revealing Mrs Miller to not be apologetic at all.

11.45am BST

I'm just back from the Number 10 lobby briefing.

Here's a snap summary of the key points.

10.57am BST

Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, is giving a speech on welfare reform at 1.30pm. He will be outlining measures coming into force this month ensuring that jobseeker's allowance claimants have to do more to show that they are looking for work (such as preparing a CV before they meet a Jobcentre Plus adviser) and arguing that his policies are addressing welfare dependency.

Here's an extract released in advance.

In too many cases, a combination of the welfare system trapping people in dependency and removing the drive to go to work ... and the open door immigration policy meant British people were so easily replaced by foreign workers coming in.Taxpayers paid a financial cost for rising welfare payments, and society paid the cost as well with too many of our own fellow citizens falling into dependency, hopelessness, and despair.

10.38am BST

The Ukip MEP Roger Helmer says it would be churlish to gloat about Maria Miller's predicament. But I'm not sure he's been able to resist the temptation.

It would be churlish to gloat over Maria Miller's expenses trauma. But electorally, it comes at a bad time for the Tories.

My prediction for what it's worth is that Cam will throw Miller overboard soon despite publicly backing her. A weak PM lacking principles.

10.34am BST

Here are three interesting blogs about the Miller case around this morning.

Andrew Gimson at ConservativeHome is delighted that David Cameron is defending Miller.

If one opposes mob rule, and is dismayed by bullying, one cannot go along with these cheapskate moralists and their cost-free denunciations. The treatment of Miller has got completely out of hand. I am delighted that David Cameron has so far stood by her. The Prime Minister cannot govern by yielding to whichever moral spasm is currently convulsing the press. He has to take a wider and more balanced view. What woman with children would contemplate trying to become a Conservative MP if he throws Miller to the wolves?

The Miller row does bear a number of striking similarities to the early days of the Andrew Mitchell saga. The Prime Minister was then quick to back his chief whip, then called for the media to move on. But colleagues within the party started to stoke the story by briefing against Mitchell and support among MPs began to ebb away, forcing him out. We are not at that final stage. But MPs who I spoke to over the weekend who are currently supportive of Miller feel that this weeks 1922 Committee meeting will as was the case with Andrew Mitchell be crucial in determining whether this row quietens down or whether it becomes a great deal more serious.

10.21am BST

Journalists are already speculating on Maria Miller's successor.

Esther Mcvey, Priti Patel and Liz Truss tipped as poss Miller replacements in cabinet by @IsabelHardman and @helenlewis on Woman's Hour.

10.16am BST

Roy Greenslade thinks Maria Miller will have to go. (See 9.52am.) In his morning briefing email, the Telegraph's Benedict Brogan tries to explain why David Cameron is hanging on to her - although he too thinks here days could be numbered.

So the puzzle is this: why doesn't Dave get rid of her? Partly, of course, it's because of the women problem, although it surely runs deeper than that: the PM could replace her with one of the many able women lower in the ranks. The issue seems more fundamental: Dave decided, very early on, that she wouldn't be going. In the process, he has turned this into a test of political will. There are no shortage of Tories who will be furious about political capital being spent keeping an unpopular, rude minister - and one reckoned to not be very good at her job - in position six weeks before the European elections. The point is fast approaching at which Mr Cameron may have to decide whether to cut his losses.

9.52am BST

On his blog my colleague Roy Greenslade has been looking at what the papers have been saying about the Maria Miller story. Ever the professional, he's even steeled himself to have a look at the comments on Mail Online. His conclusion: Miller is toast.

Here's an excerpt.

Andrew Marr is a shrewd analyst of the relationship between the press and parliament. But he was wrong to suggest, on his TV show yesterday morning, that Maria Miller will hold on to her cabinet post simply because the prime minister has the power to defy calls to fire her.

In fact, in offering his support to Miller, David Cameron has defended the indefensible. He may think he can see off the press, which is united against Miller continuing as the culture, media and sport minister, but he cannot afford to fly in the face of the public, especially his own voters.

9.46am BST

My colleague Tom Clark poses a good question about Maria Miller's response to the Telegraph story. (See 9.30am.)

Miller saying she stopped claiming on house before getting letter re CGT. Next Q: 'was it a coincidence that the letter was abt to arrive'

9.42am BST

Conservative MP Nicola Blackwood has said that Maria Miller faces serious questions about her expenses.

Cons MP Nicola Blackwood tells BBC Radio Oxford Miller faces "most serious" qs about her exes & she'd be "really quite worried"

Cons MP Nicola Blackwood on Miller: "clearly it's very unhelpful for this to drag on in the way that it is"

9.30am BST

As I mentioned earlier, the Daily Telegraph claims in its splash today that Maria Miller stopped claiming expenses on her "second home" after being asked to agree that she would pay capital gains tax if she sold it.

Miller denies this. A spokesman for the culture secretary said that she stopped claiming expenses for the property in April 2009, and that it was not until May 2009 that the Commons authorities sent out the first of three letters to her and other MPs asking them to sign a declaration that they would pay capital gains tax if they sold a property designated for parliamentary expenses purposes as a second home.

9.16am BST

Alastair Campbell is credited with inventing a rule saying that no minister can survive a controversy if it continues to dominate the headlines for nine days. Or perhaps it was 13 days? Or perhaps 11? Or perhaps a week? No one seems quite sure, not least Campbell himself.

Maria Miller is now on her fourth day in the Fleet Street gunge tank. If she is being worried about being forced out this within the next few days, she will take comfort from the fact that a) David Cameron has supported her strongly in public and b) today she is no longer on the tabloid front pages.

Most members of the Commons must have hoped that the scandals over fiddled expenses had at least calmed down, even if not gone away.

Now Mrs Miller has not just re-ignited the flames but, by the arrogance of her response to the scandal, poured petrol on the fire.

The standards committee's recent decision to overrule the conclusions made by the independent commissioner for standards, Kathryn Hudson, in the case of Maria Miller has highlighted the problem of MPs regulating their own expenses. Public trust in Parliament and in the expenses system has now completely eroded, and we need a new, transparent regulatory system.

The standards committee should have its power to rule on MPs' expenses abolished, and more power should be given to the independent commissioner. We have to stop the practice of MPs regulating themselves.

Continue reading...

Politics Live - readers' edition: Friday 4 April

The Guardian: Politics Live Blog - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 03:07

Share breaking news, leave links to interesting articles online and chat about the weeks political events in our open thread

8.07am BST

Im not writing my usual Politics Live blog today, but, as an alternative, heres Politics Live: readers edition. Its intended to be a place where you can catch up with the latest news and find links to good politics blogs and articles on the web.

Please feel free to use this as somewhere you can comment on any of the days political stories - just as you do when Im writing the daily blog.

Continue reading...

Maria Miller apologises to MPs over her response to expenses inquiry: Politics live blog

The Guardian: Politics Live Blog - Thu, 04/03/2014 - 10:51

Maria Miller ordered to apologise to Commons over her response to expenses probe

Lunchtime summary

Afternoon summary

3.39pm BST

Ed Miliband has said that Nigel Farage should be excluded from the television debates before the general election next year.

Michael Meacher, the Labour former minister, has said that thousands of people are being "driven into destitution" by the "sanctions first, think later" approach taken by Jobcentre Plus staff. Opening a Commons debate on a backbench motion calling for a review of the benefit sanctions regime, he said that even the rightwing thinktank Policy Exchange says 8% of sanctions are unjustified.

I accept - and I presume everybody does - that there have to be fallback sanctions in extreme cases where there is deliberate and real non-cooperation with the obligation to try and find work. But also that those sanctions should be proportionate and reasonable and not exercised punitively.

A security guard at a job centre turned away a man with learning difficulties who had arrived 20 minutes early to sign on; he then arrived two minutes late to sign on and had his Jobseekers' Allowance (JSA) sanctioned for four weeks.

A woman claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) had been diagnosed with cervical cancer and had given the back-to-work scheme provider a list of her hospital appointments; she was sanctioned for failing to attend an appointment on the middle day of her three-day hospital stay. The woman had two daughters and her ESA was reduced to £28 a week. She asked for reconsideration, but had heard nothing five weeks later.

Brilliant speeches by @MaeveSherlock #bedroomtax but lost votes - too few brave LibDems prepared to walk the walk as well as talk the talk

In the last 10 years air pollution has contributed to nearly 300,000 deaths in the UK, thats the equivalent of the amount of people living in a city the size of Newcastle.

Yet, despite the ongoing threat of air pollution and the fact that the EU is taking legal proceedings against the UK on this issue, the prime minister has the audacity to lay the entire blame for the smog on Saharan dust.

3.16pm BST

Here's a very short afternoon reading list.

Daniel Hannan at the Telegraph says the debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage was game-changing.

Clegg, remember, was defending the position taken by every party represented in the House of Commons and by every newspaper except the Daily Express. Yet he lost by more than two to one. More than two to one, for Heaven's sake.

Euro-enthusiasts will no doubt be trying to console themselves with the thought that it was a clash between two politicians, not the In/Out referendum itself. But why should that campaign play out significantly differently? What we saw over the two televised clashes is what we usually see when the EU is debated. Euro-enthusiasts almost always argue as Clegg did, calling their opponents names, flaunting their supposed expertise, implying that anyone who disagrees with them is a bigot. It didn't work for Clegg, and it won't work during the referendum.

2.14pm BST

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has put out this statement about the Maria Miller case.

The discussion of MPs past expense claims, and in particular of the vexed issue of MPs claiming for their mortgage interest, serves as a timely reminder of the reasons why IPSAs sweeping reforms of the old expenses system was so important. This case came about before IPSA was created. We have since introduced a ban on MPs claiming for mortgage interest to make sure that this issue cannot rumble on or be replicated in the future.

2.05pm BST

Two of the firms that carried out polling on last night's Europe debate with Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage have today published details of their findings.

YouGov released its headline findings, showing Farage winning by 68% to 27%, last night. Peter Kellner has now written a post with more details of the findings. They provide further proof that Farage did much better last night than he did last week.

1.38pm BST

The Labour MP John Mann has called for Maria Miller to resign following the publication of a report criticising her response to an inquiry into her expenses. The Commons standards committee said that Miller should repay £5,800 that she had over-claimed and that she should apologise to the Commons. Miller has apologised, in a perfunctory, 32-second statement. David Cameron has defended Miller. But the committee's report reveals that Kathryn Hudson, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, concluded that Miller over-claimed by more than £40,000. The committee did not accept this finding.

Nick Clegg has said he fully expected to lose his debates on Europe with Nigel Farage, arguing that it was extremely difficult to dispel decades of "myth-making" on the subject and counter what he described as the simplistic and populist views of the Ukip leader.

1.20pm BST

Here's the statement from Labour MP John Mann on Maria Miller.

Maria Miller was today found to have acted in a way that is completely unacceptable for a minister.

Not only must she now repay her expenses 'overclaim' but she was also forced to apologise to the House of Commons for showing a completely inappropriate attitude to the inquiry. It is as though she does not take the issue at all seriously.

1.10pm BST

And here is the Guardian video of Maria Miller's apology.

1.08pm BST

John Mann, the Labour MP who submitted the original complaint about Maria Miller, has said she should resign.

Theats and evasion over expenses show Maria Miller not fit to be responsible for the press says John Mann

The Labour MP John Mann who made the original complaint about Maria Miller has said she should be sacked.

12.39pm BST

And here's what David Cameron told Sky News a few minutes ago about Maria Miller.

Maria Millers doing an excellent job as culture secretary and will continue to do that. If we look at this report, yes, of course these issues do matter but she was cleared of the original allegation made against her. An overpayment was found, which she is going to pay back, and she will make a full apology and I think people should leave it at that.

What Maria said is that shes going to apologise in front of the House of Commons and make clear that apology. But in terms of what the report found, it actually cleared her of the original allegation made against her. It did find an overpayment, which it refers to as an administrative error and its important Maria repays that money and thats exactly what shes going to do. That is what this committee and remember, this committee now includes independent people, non-politicians thats what theyve recommended, thats what shell do and I think people should leave it at that.

12.37pm BST

The news keeps coming today.

JUST IN: Massive climbdown as Owen Paterson says badger cull won't roll out nationwide in England: http://t.co/VcPJHYK6fG

12.35pm BST

Here's Maria Miller's apology in full.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal statement in relation to todays report. The report resulted from an allegation made by the member for Bassetlaw [John Mann.] The committee has dismissed his allegation. The committee has recommended that I apologise to the House for my attitude to the commissioners inquiries and I of course unreservedly apologise. I fully accept the recommendations of the committee and thank them for bringing this matter to an end.

12.29pm BST

Maria Miller's apology has not impressed my colleagues in the press gallery.

No contrition from Maria Miller in 27-second "apology" in Commons that was over before it started

Miller is speaking from backbenchers. All over. Accepts committee recommendations. That must be one of the shortest statement ever

You could probably get the entire Maria Miller apology into 140 characters

Miller's personal statement re her MPs exes certainly seemed faster than superfast broadband arrival across UK. 30 seconds flat

That was hardly contrite from Maria Miller, no attempt to throw herself on the mercy of the House. Clearly determined to just KBO

'Speedy' Miller's 34 sec apology, flanked by Hunt and Chief Whip, with full Dave support, should raise Qs about role of Standards watchdog

i am giving maria miller respect: she has taken the non-apology apology to new heights (or perhaps depths)

12.27pm BST

And James Forsyth has this detail.

Jeremy Hunt springs off the frontbench to go and support Maria Miller on the backbench

12.25pm BST

According to the Mirror's Tom McTague, Sir George Young, the Tory chief whip, was trying to get MPs to sit near Maria Miller to support her when she was making her apology.

Sir George Young is demanding MPs sit around Miller for TV support. Gesturing at Mark Harper. He's shaking his head. Hmm.

12.24pm BST

The Sun's Steve Hawkes had a stopwatch on the Maria Miller apology.

It's Official - ITV say Maria Miller apology 32 seconds ( or as George would say 'Buckle My Shoe' )

12.20pm BST

The complaint about Maria Miller was submitted by the Labour MP John Mann. Essentially, he complained that she claimed expenses between 2005 and 2009 for a second home where her parents were living, and that she claimed excessive amounts for mortgage interest.

Complaints of this kind are investigated by the parliamentary commissioner for standards, Kathryn Hudson. The commissioner then submits a report to the Commons standards committee. It is published as an annex to the committee's report. It is for the committee to decide what "punishment" should be imposed on the offending MP

In my view Mrs Miller's London home would have been maintained in any case, even had she not been an MP.The statement provided by Mrs Miller's legal advisersaid that she had to have a second home"exclusively and necessarily for herparliamentary duties". It cannot be said that her London home was established or maintained"exclusively and necessarily for her parliamentary duties". I consider it more likely than not that Mrs Miller's London home was her main home, as a matter of fact, and that the expenses which she incurred on staying away from her main home in order to perform her parliamentary duties were those associated with the Basingstoke properties.

We agree with the Commissioner that Mrs Miller should properly have designated London as her main home rather than Basingstoke. Nonetheless, we consider that Mrs Miller's designation was reasonable in the light of the guidance available at the time, given that the matter was finely balanced. Accordingly we make no criticism of Mrs Miller for her error.

In particular I find it difficult to believe that Mrs Miller genuinely thought she was entitled to make the additional claim for her extended mortgage in 2007 without any consultation with the House authorities or agreement from them. If the Committee agrees with my interpretation of the rules, the total amount by which Mrs Miller has over-claimed in relation to her mortgage interest would be around £44,000[167], to which should be added a further £1,000 to take account of the reduction which she should have made to her claims for council tax to take account of her parents' presence in the home. Her apparent misuse of the allowances system continued for four years from May 2005 to the end of April 2009 and seems to have been brought to an end only by the expenses scandal of 2009-10 when she abruptly ceased to claim.

As Mrs Miller pointed out, no attempt was made to ensure that newly elected Members only made claims against the original purchase price of the property. In these circumstances, imposing a strict interpretation of the rule would not be appropriate. Whatever the strict construction of the rule, it was reasonable for Mrs Miller to claim the interest on her mortgage as it was when she entered the House, rather than as it was when she first purchased the property ....

Mrs Miller considers that she overclaimed on her mortgage by £5,800 in 2008-09. We have examined the figures carefully and accept that that is a reasonable assessment of the amount that she overclaimed. We recommend this sum should be repaid.

12.18pm BST

That was it. It was very short, and perfunctory.

I will post a full transcript later.

12.18pm BST

Maria Miller is making a personal statement now.

She says the report was prompted by complaint from John Mann. The complaint was rejected, she says.

11.32am BST

Downing Street is supporting Maria Miller.

The PM offers his "warm support" to Maria Miller, says No.10 official spokesman.. This is going to be one hell of a day

No10: PM spoke by phone to Miller. She'll apologise to House[for failing to assist inquiry into her expenses]& that is the right thing to do

PM spoke to Maria Miller re her expenses this morning + offered her 'warm support'. Q of resignation 'doesn't arise'

11.26am BST

The Commons standards committee report into Maria Miller, the culture secretary, and the complaint about her expenses is out. You can read the whole 113-page report here.

Miller has been ordered to apologise to MPs for the way she responded to the inquiry into the complaint.

We are concerned that Mrs Miller did not pay as close attention to the rules of the House as she should have done. As we have seen, after her election she increased the facility on her mortgage on at least two occasions without consulting the House, despite the fact that in both the 2005 and 2006 Green Book the advice given to those who wished to change their mortgage was: "Please consult us in advance. There are strict rules on the costs that can be claimed, and you may need to change the nomination of your main home".[69] While Mrs Miller has consistently told us that she never intended to claim the interest on the £50,000 mortgage increase revealed by the Commissioner's initial investigation, there is no documentation as to how she apportioned her claims, and towards the end of the period in some months she not only claimed for the entire mortgage interest charged, but appears to have claimed slightly more than that interest. There is no indication that she considered whether or not her variable mortgage or the increase clearly shown in the RBS documentation from a facility of £425,000 to £525,000 might have engaged the prohibition against additional mortgages.

The documentation that is available of Mrs Miller's interactions with the House tends to show a pattern in which officials would press her for information and the information that was provided appears to have been the minimum necessary.[70] This pattern was repeated in both the Commissioner's inquiry, and our own investigation.That said, Mrs Miller did not subsidise her parents' living costs from public funds. Her claims up until 2008-09 did not include claims for mortgage interest on any increase above the facility when she entered the House. Indeed, for much of that period her claims were significantly below that figure, although close to the overall cap on expenses. We accept Mrs Miller's contention that her overclaim in 2008-09 was inadvertent and caused by the rapid reduction in interest rates. The Code of Conduct from 2002 stipulated that: "No improper use shall be made of any payment or allowance made to Members for public purposes".[71] We have seen no evidence to suggest that Mrs Miller failed to abide by this part of the Code. The 2002 rule had a second part stipulating that "the administrative rules which apply to such payments and allowances must be strictly observed".[72] Mrs Miller failed to observe this.

11.13am BST

Labour's Pat McFadden goes next.

Q: Are you worried that by writing publicly to the FCA about the release of information about the insurance inquiry last week, you could be undermining it?

11.10am BST

Q: Haven't you said people are better placed to look after their money than pension funds? And doesn't that undermine auto-enrolment?

Osborne says he wants people to save for their retirement.

11.07am BST

Q: What impact will this policy have on investment in infrastructure [because there could be less money in pension funds]?

Osborne says this policy was so commercially sensitive that he could not consult in advance with industry.

11.05am BST

Labour's Teresa Pearce goes next.

Q: When did you tell the FCA of your pension reforms?

11.00am BST

Q: What are the main indicators of a house price bubble?

Osborne says you would look at headline house prices, and try to separate out the central London problem from what is happening there than from what is happening in the rest of the country.

10.56am BST

David Ruffley, a Conservative, goes next.

Q: Are you concerned about house price rises?

10.52am BST

Q: Of the 34 categories of tax take, which one goes down?

Osborne suggests Mann tells him.

10.48am BST

Labour's John Mann is asking the question now.

Q: How many new immigrants will enter the labour market between now and 2019.

10.44am BST

Mark Garnier, a Conservative, goes next.

Q: Are you not worried about debt?

10.36am BST

Q: Are you concerned that household debt will rise?

Osborne says household debt as a proportion of income has fallen from 170% to 130%.

10.35am BST

Q: What do you say to people who think that, although you want people to save, you need them to consume?

Osborne says he does not agree with those who say "forget about the savers, just go for consumption".

10.30am BST

Labour's Andy Love goes next.

Q: Are you worried that the savings ratio is set to fall?

10.28am BST

Osborne says William Hague has done a brilliant job at making the Foreign Office more trade focused.

10.27am BST

Q: Exports have been disappointing. Is that just because of the Eurozone situation?

Osborne says Britain's export performance has been "disappointing". Some of that is down to the situation in Europe. Exports to non-European markets are up a quarter. The UK found itself over-dependent on mature markets. It was not connected in to new markets, like China and Brazil. That was a huge error made over the last 15 years.

10.22am BST

Andrea Leadsom, a Conservative, goes next.

Q: An extremely capable woman has been appointed to the Bank of England, Nemat Shafik. Would you encourage them to appoint more women?

10.18am BST

Jesse Norman, a Conservative, is asking questions now.

He says his constituents particularly welcomed the money in the budget for dealing with potholes.

10.12am BST

Q: Do you agree there has to be an independent inquiry into the release of information to the Telegraph about the planned inquiry into the insurance industry by the Financial Conduct Authority?

Osborne says there will be an independent inquiry.

10.06am BST

George Osborne, the chancellor, has just started giving evidence to the Commons Treasury committee about the budget.

Opening the questions, Andrew Tyrie, the committee chairman, told Osborne that the budget had been very well received. Was the because it was not leaked in advance?

9.54am BST

Here are the Opinium polling figures on the debate.

Post debate study: Winner: Farage54%, Clegg25%, Draw21% (1,041 UK adults who watched + weighted nat-rep) More stats on the way #NickvNigel

9.47am BST

This has not been a very good morning for coalition relations. It's not even 10am, and already we've had David Cameron calling Nick Clegg an extremist on Europe, and now Clegg is saying that Cameron's EU renegotiation is a nonsense.

Well, that's more or less what Clegg said just now. Here's a summary.

David Cameron's renegotiation - I still don't quite understand what it is supposed to be all about. To be honest, the more I've heard, or at least what I've read in the newspapers about Conservative plans, it's a little tweak here, a little tweak there. I don't think it will satisfy anybody within the Conservative party, many of whom agree with Nigel Farage that they want to leave the European Union altogether ....

I believe in reform. What I don't beleive is a realistic prospect is to do what I think David Cameron initially suggested, which is to repatriate a bunch of powers; in other words to say we will only keep the good bits, we will let everyone else in the European Union keep the bad bits. I've never thought that's a realistic proposition.

I dont feel bruised at all. Im absolutely delighted we had this debate, the debate has now finally started.

9.31am BST

Call Clegg is now over.

I'll post a summary shortly.

9.30am BST

Q: David Cameron says he shops in Waitrose and likes the customers there. Where do you shop?

Clegg says he uses different supermarkets. People are friendly to him. Lots of people want to take selfies.

9.29am BST

Q: How come it took almost a decade to get Abu Qatada out of the country, while in the case of Yashika Bageerathi, the Mauritian student, she was deported overnight.

Clegg says Qatada fought extradition. With regard to Yashika, she is clearly a lovely girl, he says. But the rules have to be applied.

9.26am BST

Q: What do you think of charging people a £10 monthly fee to use the NHS?

Clegg says he is totally opposed to this idea.

9.23am BST

Q: The Tories want to raise the inheritance tax threshold. But a Conservative minster has written saying the rate will stay where it is until 2018.

Clegg says whoever is in government next will not have much money to spend.

9.18am BST

Q: How do you rate Farage as a debater?

Clegg says Farage is a good debater.

9.15am BST

Q: Why do you think you lost the debate?

Clegg says he is trying to reverse 20 years' of myth-making. You cannot do that in two hours.

9.13am BST

The next caller offers commiseration for the debate.

Clegg says he enjoyed it.

9.07am BST

Q: Why do you favour sanctions on Putin when he has probably prevented a civil war in Ukraine?

Because he has annexed part of a country, says Clegg.

9.04am BST

The first caller congratulates Nick Clegg on his performance last night.

Q: What three things would you do to make the EU better?

8.58am BST

Here are three of the most interesting articles on the debate I've seen this morning.

Benedict Brogan in his Telegraph morning briefing says Nick Clegg won't be regretting taking part in the debate.

So will Mr Clegg be regretting his challenge to Mr Farage? Surely not. Ukip are taking votes off the Lib Dems - 400,000 since the last election - but they're a much bigger threat to the Conservatives. 38 of the Lib Dems' 57 seats are in seats when they face a Tory challenger. A senior Lib Dem MP in a marginal Con-Lib seat reckons that, thanks to Ukip, he could lose one-fifth of his 2010 vote share and still be returned to Parliament. If anyone should worry about Mr Farage's success, it's David Cameron. The other Lib Dem hope, as Tim Wigmore explained, is Ukip sticking around will encourage the Tories to shift to the Right and leave space for the Lib Dems in the centre. If the debates help to ensure that Ukip is here to stay, that's brilliant news for the Lib Dems. Perhaps Mr Clegg should be getting a little more credit.

Farage accused Clegg of being part of an elite club of career politicians" in hock to "big business. He offered his audience an invitation to join the peoples army and topple the Establishment. And he got away with it. Clegg let him off the hook. This should cause alarm among those who believe in pragmatic engagement in Europe and those who take a liberal, open-minded, cosmopolitan view of the kind of place Britain should aspire to be. Perhaps Clegg was the wrong messenger. Perhaps under the circumstances he did well to get that case across at all. But it is hard to avoid the feeling that important arguments about Britain's cultural and economic future were stress-tested tonight and yielded too easily.

Farages profile will have been elevated the most. In the first debate, he was sweaty and shouty. In this one, he was cool and in command and looked in American presidential language like the incumbent. What the visuals confirm is that Ukip is capturing an important part of the political zeitgeist. On the European issue, it is no longer a party of single-issue fruitcakes but instead the argument to beat. This is a revolutionary change from just four years ago.

8.40am BST

So, Nick Clegg lost last night's debate with Nigel Farage on Europe.

We'll find out what he has to say about that at 9pm. But David Cameron has already been giving his take on BBC Breakfast. Here are the main points he's been making.

I didnt have a dog in the fight, as it were. The problem with this debate is both of the people taking part actually have quite extreme views. Nick thinks theres nothing wrong with Europe and we shouldnt have a referendum; Nigel thinks theres nothing right with Europe and we should just get out and leave. Theyre both wrong. The right answer is to be tough for Britain, renegotiate, get a better deal and then give people the choice in an in/out referendum. And that is what I will do, if Im prime minister after the next election, before the end of 2017.

[Clegg losing] doesnt concern me because on this one I do not agree with Nick. I have a very different view about Europe: I want real change in Europe; I want us to change our relationship, I want a renegotiation and then I want an in/out referendum.

The problem with the UKIP is its sort of stop the world, I want to get off, Britain cant succeed. Its deeply pessimistic. Im very optimistic. We can, if we take the right decisions, secure a really strong and stable future for the families of our country, but that means being strong for Britain, not saying no change in Europe, saying yes, we need change and when we get that change, well give you, the British people, a choice.

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BSkyB tells staff it will not intervene in Scottish independence debate

News Corporation: Live Updates from The Guardian - Thu, 04/03/2014 - 10:30

Broadcaster, which employs 6,400 in Scotland, will remain in the country regardless of referendum outcome

BSkyB has told its thousands of staff in Scotland it has no plans to intervene in the Scottish independence debate and intends to stay in the country regardless of the outcome of September's referendum.

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