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PMQs: Wednesday, 5 November 2008

November 5, 2008 11:25 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

John Leech questions the Prime Minister over the referendum on congestion charging in Greater Manchester, and Nick Clegg congratulates Barack Obama on his US election victory.

John Leech asked if the Prime Minister will ensure that in the event of a "No" vote the people of Greater Manchester will have the opportunity to take on an improved scheme without the concern that the Government might take the money away.

Nick Clegg asked if the Prime Minister would, like Obama, promise to cut taxes for people on low and middle incomes.

Read their exchanges below. Click here to read Prime Minister's Questions in full.

John Leech's Question

Mr. John Leech: If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 5 November.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in sending our profound condolences to the family and friends of the soldier from 2nd Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles who was killed in Afghanistan yesterday. In the week leading to Remembrance Sunday, we should remember the debt of gratitude that we owe to all those who have laid down their lives in service of our country.

Before I list my engagements, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in sending our sincere congratulations to Senator Barack Obama on winning the presidency of the United States and writing a new chapter in history in doing so. The bonds that unite the United States and the UK are vital to our prosperity and security and I know from talking to Senator Obama that he will be a true friend of Britain. The Government look forward to working with the new Administration as we both help people fairly through the downturn. I also want to pay tribute to Senator McCain, who has shown the characteristic dignity that has marked a lifetime of service to his country.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Mr. Leech: May I add my condolences to the family of the dead soldier?

Over the next few weeks, the residents of Greater Manchester will have the opportunity to vote in the referendum on introducing congestion charging in return for £1.5 billion Government investment in public transport. Many people support road pricing but do not support the scheme. Will the Prime Minister- [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Let the hon. Gentleman speak.

Mr. Leech: Will the Prime Minister- [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. That was too long in the past, so do not put that accusation.

Mr. Leech: Will the Prime Minister ensure that in the event of a "No" vote the people of Greater Manchester will have the opportunity to come back with an improved scheme without the concern that the Government might take the money away?

The Prime Minister: I know that the voting paper has options for a "Yes" vote and a "No" vote, but I am afraid that there is no option for a "Don't know" vote. In the event of a "No" vote, it would be up to Greater Manchester authorities to decide whether they wanted to do further work on the proposals. The Government are in principle prepared to contribute, as he has said, up to £1.5 billion towards the Greater Manchester package, but that is dependent on the broad scope and nature of the package remaining the same. If Greater Manchester came back with a revised proposition, we would need to assess it on its merits.

Nick Clegg's questions

Mr. Nick Clegg: I would like to add my own expressions of sympathy and condolence to the family and friends of the soldier from the Royal Gurkha Rifles who tragically lost his life in Afghanistan this week. Of course, I would also like, on behalf of all Liberal Democrats, to join in congratulating Barack Obama on his extraordinary victory as the new President of the United States, and to wish him luck, because the hopes and expectations that people have of him to change America and change the world are immense.

The Prime Minister just said that he shares lots of policies with the new President-elect, so he will be aware that the central policy that Barack Obama fought on in his election was to cut taxes for people on low and middle incomes, paid for by the very wealthy. Why will the Prime Minister not do the same here?

The Prime Minister: What Barack Obama did not fight on was a policy for £20 billion of public spending cuts, and that is the effect of the policy of the Liberal party.

Mr. Clegg: The fact is that this Prime Minister has fixed things so that a millionaire pays less in tax on their capital gains than their cleaner does on their wages. He is not learning from Barack Obama; he is copying the Conservatives, who want to cut more taxes for millionaires.

and not give an extra penny to anyone else. So will he cancel his special tax breaks for the very wealthy to put more money into the pockets of hard-pressed families right now?

The Prime Minister: I think that the right hon. Gentleman is a bit behind the times. We raised capital gains tax from 10 per cent., and at the same time we took action on non-domiciles in the United Kingdom, but I have to remind him that a tax and spending policy must add up. If he is going to propose £20 billion of public spending cuts, he is out of touch with the British people.