PMQs: Vince v Gordon

by Stephen Tall on October 17, 2007

As the party’s acting leader, it was Vince Cable’s turn to put the questions to the Prime Minister at this week’s pointless half-hour of theatrical nonsense. You can watch the exchange here.

Here’s the transcript:

Dr. Cable: Does the Prime Minister agree with the comments of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury that there is a moral case for rewarding marriage through the tax system?

The Prime Minister: May I first of all say—and I think I speak for the whole House—that we send our best wishes to the former leader of the Liberal party, who is a distinguished parliamentarian? He is a man of integrity, he is a man of honesty and he is a man of decency. Let me welcome the shadow Chancellor of the Liberal party to his position as temporary leader of the Liberal party. If things go on in this Parliament at this rate of change, every single Liberal Member will have the chance to be leader of the Liberal party.
As far as the tax issues are concerned, it is because we recognise marriage in the tax system that we have made the changes that we have on inheritance tax; it is because we recognise marriage in the tax system that—[Interruption.] It is only possible because we recognise marriage in the tax system. But as far as children’s tax credits and child benefit are concerned, I believe that the duty of every citizen of this country is to support not just some children in our country, but all children.

Dr. Cable: I thank the Prime Minister for his gracious comments and for his welcome.
Both of us are happily married men, but why has the right hon. Gentleman crafted an inheritance tax system that discriminates against millions of unmarried couples and their children? And why is he lining up with the Tories to defend the principle that these families should not merely be condemned to the everlasting flames of hell, but should be taxed more on the way?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for letting me into the secrets of his marriage. It has always been the case that marriage is recognised in the inheritance tax system. I have not seen him making very detailed proposals to change that in recent years. As far as inheritance tax is concerned, if we took up his proposal and extended it to everyone, that would be a very great additional expense. I do not know how Liberal party policies would be able to cope with yet another spending commitment, because in the last few days we have had commitments to a border police force, high-speed rail links, more money to Visit Britain and reducing VAT on historic buildings—£18 billion of spending commitments in all. The most recent one that I want to draw attention to is more investment in bullying prevention; perhaps they should look at that as a party.