Peter Hoskin

Clegg responds - Part I

Clegg responds - Part I
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Here are Nick Clegg’s answers to the first 5 questions put forward by CoffeeHousers:

Q: If the Lib Dems hold the balance of power in 2010, which Cabinet portfolios are you after, and who would fill them? – Peter

A: That’s just not something I think about.  The Liberal Democrats are an independent party, focused on providing a programme for government across the portfolio areas.  Speculating about coalitions is not a game that I am interested in playing.

Q: You have made rather anti-government spending noises recently. Is there a figure for spending as a %age of GDP which you would regard as roughly about right – 35/40/45/50%? - Tim Hedges

A: Where we are able to find savings in public spending we should look to use those savings to cut tax for the most needy rather than simply allocating the savings to other public spending projects.  Families are struggling in the current economic environment, and I’m determined to cut taxes for low and middle income earners. But broadly, I think that the current balance is about right.  It’s important to tax enough to fund quality public services, but equally important not to tax people so highly that it makes businesses uncompetitive, crowds out job creation, or makes the British economy less competitive. 

Q: I am a small "l" liberal. Why should I vote for the Lib Dems rather than the Conservatives? – Syllabub

A: The Liberal Democrats are the only truly liberal party.  We alone have the liberal policies needed to make Britain a better place to live: for example, crime policies aimed at reducing the rate of reoffending; health policies that put peoples’ individual needs at the heart of their treatment; and green policies that protect the environment by taxing the polluter, while rewarding hard work. 

That is a policy platform that the Conservatives cannot match: underneath their rhetoric, they are still conservative. What’s liberal about making moral judgements about marriage in the tax system? What’s liberal about handing control of the NHS to a quango?

Q: Would you and your wife, under any circumstances at all, send either of your two young sons to your local English comprehensive school? Do you know any of your colleagues who do this? Do you know any of your colleagues who do not do this? Is it, like religion, a matter for the individual conscience? - Fergus Pickering

A: All parents want the very best for their children, and they have a right to expect their local schools to provide that.  The problem is there are some very good state schools, and some very bad ones. We need to rebuild our education system so everyone has the power to send their child to a good school.

Q: What would you do to help those on lower incomes currently facing a massive tax hike when the 10% band rises to 20% this month? – BluePorcupine

A: This tax rise is a disgrace – hurting people on the lowest incomes who aren’t entitled to tax credits. If that’s you, your income tax bill will rise this week.  I would cut tax for those lower earners.  First, I’d cut the government’s basic rate of national income tax from 20 pence in the pound to 16 pence in the pound, funded by increasing green taxes and closing tax loopholes. And second, I’d scrap the unfair Council Tax and replace it with a progressive Local Income Tax – this would slash bills for low earners and pensioners in particular.

UPDATE: For Nick Clegg's answers to the last five questions, click here