Ed Miliband hits back at energy firms over prices plan

 

Ed Miliband: ''We've got to tackle the cost-of-living crisis''

Ed Miliband would "take action" against energy companies if they defied a Labour government by raising prices ahead of his promised freeze.

The Labour leader has pledged gas and electricity bills would not go up for 20 months if he wins the 2015 election.

It has been welcomed by consumer groups angry at price hikes over recent years, but the "big six" suppliers warned it could have serious consequences.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey, a Lib Dem, said it risked "the lights going out".

Mr Miliband told the BBC the UK had "a market that isn't working" and, as the row between Labour and the energy firms escalated, he dismissed them as "unreliable witnesses" after they claimed possible blackouts.

He has written to the big six suppliers warning that without changes, taxpayer-funded guarantees to energy firms might not be sustainable.

The plan for a freeze on household and business energy bills between June 2015 and the start of 2017 was the stand-out announcement of Mr Miliband's party conference speech on Tuesday.

'Overcharging'

The Labour leader argued firms had been "overcharging" customers for many years and millions of households would benefit from the temporary cap on prices at a time when finances were under acute pressure and many were struggling to heat their homes.

Labour says the move will save average households £120 a year and businesses £1,800.

When the lights went out - the BBC reports on California's energy blackouts in 2001

Mr Miliband insisted he wanted energy suppliers to be successful and to continue to invest in new capacity to supply the UK's long-term energy needs.

But he said "public consent" for these arrangements depended on consumers getting a fair deal and that could happen only if the energy market was totally restructured to separate firms' generating and retail operations.

'Patently absurd'

Speaking to BBC News he said: "I've written a letter to [the energy companies] this morning saying there's a crisis of confidence in the system.

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"It's time we fixed it and they can either choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. I hope they choose to be part of the solution."

Rebutting claims that to protect their profits, suppliers would merely put their prices up ahead of Labour's freeze, Mr Miliband said he would "make sure this is a genuine freeze that works for consumers".

"If we have to take action to make sure that happens, we absolutely will."

The party has rejected suggestions the cap, which could cost energy firms £4.5bn, will endanger much-needed investment in new plants, saying suppliers should be able to absorb the cost of the freeze out of recent profits.

Responding to suggestions the policy could lead to energy blackouts, Mr Miliband accused the industry of spreading "scare stories".

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna added the claims were "patently absurd" and "nonsense" put about by the large energy companies.

Since 2007, gas bills have risen by an average of 41% in real terms, while electricity has gone up by 20%, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Energy profits

The "big six" - British Gas, EDF, E.On, npower, Scottish Power, SSE - made total net profits of:

2009: £2.15bn

2010: £2.22bn

2011: £3.87bn

2012: £3.74bn

This has contributed to overall industry profits of £2.15bn in 2009, £2.22bn in 2010, £3.87bn in 2011 and £3.74bn in 2012.

But suppliers say prices have gone up to cover their rising environmental and social obligations and in response to commodity price rises - sums paid on wholesale markets.

Speaking at a fringe meeting on Tuesday evening, a senior British Gas executive suggested such a direct price intervention could "threaten energy security in the UK".

"If we have no ability to control what we did with the retail prices, and that (wholesale price volatility) was to happen again, it would mean we are selling products at significant amounts of a loss and that would threaten energy security in the UK," said Ian Peters.

Asked whether it could mean "the lights could go off" he replied: "I think that is a risk."

'Economic ruin'

Energy UK, the trade body representing the six largest energy firms, has described the price freeze as "superficially attractive" but suggested it could bring a halt to future infrastructure projects.

Chief executive Angela Knight said: "It will also freeze the money to build and renew power stations, freeze the jobs and livelihoods of the 600,000-plus people dependent on the energy industry and make the prospect of energy shortages a reality, pushing up the prices for everyone."

Centrica's boss warns that the plan could lead to firms' "economic ruin"

And the chairman of Centrica - British Gas's holding company - said a firm unable to control either its costs or its prices was potentially in danger of "economic ruin".

"We are all concerned about rising prices and the impact on consumers, but we also have a very real responsibility that we find supplies to make sure the lights stay on," Sir Roger Carr said.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: "Fixing prices in this way risks blackouts, jeopardises jobs and puts investment in clean, green technology in doubt.

"Ed Miliband made a significant contribution to tackling climate change with the 2008 Climate Change Act. But he is putting this all at risk with his ill thought through plan which will put off investors in low carbon power generation."

Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme whether a Labour government would step in if a firm went bust, Mr Miliband said: "That's not going to happen."

But he added: "Of course if there was a major shock, companies could make their case."

Energy regulator Ofgem, which Labour plans to replace after 2015, has suggested legislation would need to be passed to change pricing arrangements.

In his speech, Mr Miliband also promised Labour would build 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 and enfranchise 16 and 17 year olds.

 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 86.

    Lets be honest the Labour Government could have done this when they were in power and they didn't because they needed to get their cut... so if by some starnge reason people believe this rubbish and vote them in expect the first U-Turn in the Queens Speech ... I can hear it now "Oh well we looked into it and decided it wouldn't work" ... same old Lies

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 85.

    So here's where I see the problem. A unit of energy has the same.value the world over. If we cap energy prices in the UK, someone like China will happily pay full price for it, and then the tankers of LPG that we rely on will be headed anywhere but here

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 84.

    Smoke, mirrors and clever election positioning on one hand and scaremongering on the other. You can fix your energy prices now for 2 years but it costs a bit more than fixing for one year.
    Millband has said he will freeze prices NOT bills, there is a significant difference.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 83.

    Ha Ha Ha Ha - Miliband is a complete idiot!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 82.

    While I initially felt that this announcement was more of a gimmick - the response from the energy companies is far more startling. If the Unions had said they were going to strike and there would be a total loss of power/gas supply, everyone would be up in arm. However the power companies can make the same threats and we are expected to believe and support them!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 81.

    Britain can do better than Millibean.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 80.

    Some things should be owed by the country to ensure a quality of life for its citizens. Energy and water are two of these. Politicians should serve the people and not themselves or their short term political goals.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 79.

    Centrica's boss warns that the plan could lead to firms' "economic ruin"

    ==

    So what do these firms, from whom we buy energy actually do?

    Do they build power stations, lay cables, and maintain and operate them? Not usually.

    Do they employ people who read our meters? Not directly, generally.

    No. They own computers, send bills, and are parties to the odd contract.

    Diddums.

  • rate this
    -19

    Comment number 78.

    Doesnt it just show you Ed Miliband has come and said what we all want but the government could have done this before they could do it now so where is all the money going The conservatives have all had massive pay rises was there really ever a shortage what are the cuts actually doing when the cost of living going up and there is no reduction in the debt this country is in and there will never be

  • rate this
    -48

    Comment number 77.

    Ed Milliband has finally put Labour back to work. Somnething needs to be done to rescue the people who are paying back the banks losses for past 3 years. If the energy companies threatan blackouts, just nationalise them (they would back-off to keep billion-£ profits or lose all). Those against Ed should pay into a special fund that goes direct to energy bosses private banks then all can be happy

  • rate this
    -114

    Comment number 76.

    Too little, too late, hearing the plight of the people, Ed Miliband's Labour has set itself to tweak the dragon's tail, to complicate life for profit-makers as profit-rakers, to threaten our 'open market' reputation, to help the poorer by helping rich AND poor, entirely to miss WHY 'the market doesn't work': because the customers are hopelessly unequal.
    Labour must win despite its leaders & gaffes

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 75.

    The energy companies have been overcharging by about 7bn in recent years, and this scheme is going to cost them about 4.5bn. It isn't even a full measure, and people are claiming it'll bring the apocalypse!

    The price freeze is a short stopgap measure until their reforms, breaking up the big 6, splitting generating and retail energy, transparent market, etc. come in.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 74.

    I love watching the forum - whenever you say anything bad about MPs you mediately get the negative rating while the political spin doctors go to work with crawling comments which get positive ratings as they try to influence public opinion - they must think we are all stupid...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 73.

    confidence of crisis regarding energy firms, can a politician really say that, i dont trust energy companies but i trust them more than MPs, particularly labour mps (the 2 former labour PMs are now running scared) due to being caught out as crooks.

    maybe labour should focus on making the unemployed have more money than those that work, and creating a country being held to ransom by strikes

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 72.

    The energy companies have debt funded themselves, taking on debt, (which means paying no corporation tax) paying the interest with their profits, while the owners have taken the money and put it in their pockets. If their profits are cut, the owners may have to pay some of it back, poor things.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 71.

    OrdinaryWorld - a lot of those 'greedy shareholders' are, in fact, pension funds trying to deliver an income for working people when they retire!

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 70.

    How about some journalism rather than parroting statement - show us what the profits of the big energy companies have been over the last ten years (production and distribution) and we'll see if they're telling the truth about how hard life is. I've a feeling I would be very happy living on their "hard times". Everyone knows Milliband is right the energy market is a cartel that hurst us all.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 69.

    Cancel HS2 and use the money to renationalise the utility companies.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 68.

    Really wonderful PR, good conference material, tells the 'troops' what they want to hear. super headline grabbing material, 'they' will love that and the voters will do what they are 'told' ie vote for Miliband and his colleagues, meanwhile, back in reality, at least a third of the increases are Government enforced (Green Tax),and MP's want more money (yours).

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 67.

    A politician referring to another party as an "unreliable witness"...? Pot meet kettle!

 

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  50.  
    Get involved 11:39: Politics Live readers on the TV debates

    Some more comments from Politics Live readers on the TV debates

    No meaningful mass media debate between the main party leaders? Just another example of politicians' disrespect for the population at large. They all think that the ONLY moment of accountability is at the ballot box and violently object to any other forum (unless it`s in their own particular interest).

    John Hyland

    Am I the only one who would be thankful if no debates took place at all? Televised Punch and Judy Politics can be seen every day on the news and in particular at Wednesday's Prime Ministers Questions. This is not informative nor even remotely entertaining.

    David Parker

    The problem is, the Conservative party have backed themselves into a corner. They have been banging on for the last few years how weak a candidate Ed Miliband has been and it's come back to haunt them.

    Expectations of Ed are so low, even an even debate would be a landslide victory for the Labour Party. From the Conservative point of view, it doesn't really make sense to give Labour the platform, where the best they could do is break even.

    Nicholas Williams

    It seems unlikely that any of the party leaders will win a majority in May. They are going to have to work together for the common good of an electorate tired of their silly and destructive adversarial politics.

    Let's make a reality TV show instead. It might be interesting if all the party leaders were shut in a plush stately home with plenty of TV cameras and given a task or do - agree a plan to build an environmentally sustainable economy in the UK would be a good one. There are many more tasks like that to be tackled.

    It would be tempting to make them stay in there until they agreed. In the real world we all need politicians to work together for the common good - something else they would have to agree on.

    It might even make good television. It is what Parliament needs to become after 7 May.

    Simon Court

     
  51.  
    @daily_politics BBC Daily Politics

    tweets: 'Britain now gives away an eye-watering £12bn a year' in foreign aid, says @StanburySteven in his film for Thu #bbcdp

     
  52.  
    11:37: TV debates: Lessons from history Brian Wheeler Political reporter
    John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960

    Nothing gets TV executives salivating - and political leaders quaking - like a live televised debate. Beneath the glare of the studio lights, a politician is at his most exposed. One stumble, a flash of anger, an inappropriate joke, a memory lapse or just a failure to bring your "A Game", and the whole shooting match can be over. The fate of nations sometimes hang in the balance. But the lessons are still there to be learned....

     
  53.  
    11:33: Where do we stand on the TV debates?

    Here's what the main players are saying:

    • David Cameron will only take part in one debate, his communications chief Craig Oliver has said. That debate must feature at least seven leaders and must be held this month. Mr Craig also criticised the "deeply unsatisfactory process" of organising the debates
    • Labour aren't happy. Alastair Campbell has accused Mr Cameron of making "pathetic excuses" to avoid the debates, which he says the prime minister is scared of losing
    • Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has offered to take Mr Cameron's place in the one-on-one debates. He says he would be happy to defend the government's record
    • But Lucy Powell, vice chair of Labour's election campaign, says the head-to-head should be between those who could be prime minister after 7 May
    • SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon says the prime minister is "clearly running scared of having to answer for his government's record of failure and incompetence"
    • A UKIP spokesman says Mr Cameron is "acting chicken"
    • Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood says Mr Cameron's behaviour is "unacceptable and arrogant"
    • The Democratic Unionist Party says broadcaster have made a "complete and utter mess" of plans to hold the debates
    • Publically, the broadcasters have said very little. But privately, they seem determined not to buckle, says our assistant political editor Norman Smith
     
  54.  
    11:27: No 10's briefing for political reporters Ben Wright Political correspondent, BBC News

    On TV debates the PM's spokesman referred all questions back to Director of Communications Craig Oliver's letter of last night. Asked if David Cameron was running scared the spokesman said "that is not a premise I would accept".

     
  55.  
    11:23: Shapps on Daily Politics Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn are joined by former Labour minister Andrew Adonis as guest of the day. Conservative chairman Grant Shapps will be talking TV debates. MPs Paul Flynn and Andrew Percy will debate whether PMQs should be abolished, while a film from Giles Dilnot looks at civilian use of drones after a parliamentary report on the issue. And they will be looking at party names after the Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party was told by the Electoral Commission that its moniker was "describing women as a sexual object in a demeaning way and would cause offence if it were to appear on ballot paper". You can watch the programme live from 1200-1300, or later, on the Live Coverage tab on this page (if you're reading this on the BBC app, to watch the it live you have to click here and open the page in a browser)

     
  56.  
    11:05: Hague on debates
    William Hague

    William Hague has told MPs that the Prime Minister's offer for a television debate should be taken up. Speaking in the Commons this morning he said: "When I recall asking Tony Blair when I was leader of the opposition in 2001 for a television debate there was not even an offer of a debate from Tony, not even the pretence of a debate, there was a very clear 'no debate whatsoever'. And this prime minister is offering a debate and that is an offer that should be taken up that was never offered by Tony Blair in similar circumstances."

     
  57.  
    @patrickwintour Patrick Wintour, Guardian political editor

    tweets: Ms Moneypenny lives. Only 19% of senior civil servants in intelligence agencies are women - report from Intelligence and Security Committee.

     
  58.  
    @OfficeGSBrown Gordon and Sarah Brown office

    tweets: Gordon Brown: #TBT to me at primary school. On #IWD2015 Stand #UpForSchool to empower the next generation of women

    Gordon Brown
     
  59.  
    10:50: Expert view: Are debates dead? Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    So are the debates dead? Well, maybe not. But only if the broadcasters hold their nerve. In other words if they decide to press ahead with the three debates and empty chair the prime minister. It would be a huge decision - and many at Westminster remain sceptical that the BBC would be willing to do this.

    However, privately, the broadcasters' insist they will not buckle and will not allow one party to "dictate" the conditions. They insist the single 90 minute seven, or even eight party, debate proposed by the prime minister will "not cover the ground". And crucially, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats say they will still turn up for whatever debates the broadcasters' decide to hold. Ed Miliband will even take part in the head-to-head without David Cameron - and subject himself to a grilling from Jeremy Paxman. Senior Lib Dems say Nick Clegg would be ready to stand in for the prime minister in the final head-to-head, making it a Miliband v Clegg clash.

    The danger for the prime minister is that even if the debates lose their impact without him - he risks a backlash from voters for failing to take part. Downing Street's hope - that the broadcasters will buckle and either agree to his proposal or just scrap the whole idea of TV debates for this election.

     
  60.  
    10:46: Harvey Proctor

    Earlier, we reported that the home of former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor had been searched by police investigating historical allegations of child abuse. He phoned the Today programme to give his reaction and deny any wrongdoing. You can listen to his interview with James Naughtie here.

     
  61.  
    10:41: Electoral reform society on debates

    Reaction to David Cameron's TV debate decision is coming in thick and fast. Electoral Reform Society Chief Executive Katie Ghose says: "This unseemly squabble over TV debates has to end now. In the run-up to an election that's too close to call, the British public expect to hear from all the party leaders. Everyone involved needs to recognise that fact and come to an agreement before it's too late.

    "Compared to other advanced democracies around the world, Britain has been extremely late to the party when it comes to TV debates. It would be a national embarrassment if we end up being the first to leave that party as well. No TV debates in 2015 would be a backward step in terms of our democratic development."

     
  62.  
    10:40: DUP on TV debates

    The Democratic Unionist Party says broadcasters have made a "complete and utter mess" of plans to hold pre-election TV debates. The party has begun legal action against the BBC for excluding it from its earlier proposal of two UK TV debates. Today, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster that the BBC and other broadcasters had "messed up big style" during the entire debates process.

     
  63.  
    10:40: Rural fuel rebates

    Away from Westminster, the European Union has approved the rollout of rural fuel rebates to 17 areas in Scotland and England. The move will mean some retailers can claim back up to 5p per litre duty relief on unleaded petrol and diesel, and pass on the savings to customers. The 17 areas include parts of the Highlands, Argyll and Bute, Northumberland, Cumbria, Devon and North Yorkshire.

     
  64.  
    10:35: Hustings origins

    Where does the word "hustings" come from? Our colleague Trevor Timpson, the BBC's Vocabularist, has been taking a look.

     
  65.  
    10:30: Plaid Cymru on debates
    Leanne Wood

    Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood says she is "ready to debate the prime minister and the other party leaders at any time".

    She adds: "People want these debates to go ahead so that they have the opportunity to hear from the parties that they will be voting for in May. Plaid Cymru is ready for these debates and we look forward to setting out our plans for an alternative to Westminster's austerity agenda. The prime minister's efforts to manipulate the broadcasters are unacceptable and arrogant and it would seem that he is running scared of his record being open to scrutiny."

     
  66.  
    10:25: TV debates: A broadcaster's view BBC News Channel

    Former Sky News chief Chris Birkett, who this time is heading up a team hoping to stage a prime ministerial debate on YouTube, says the broadcasters have been firm so far and that he won't be surprised if the broadcasters stick firm with the current plans. But he suggests there may need to be a look at how the debates are organised in the future.

     
  67.  
    10:13: Scottish polling reaction
    Andrew Morrison and James Cook

    After last night's Ashcroft polling on Scotland, our Scotland correspondent James Cook is out in Glasgow speaking to some of those involved in the election. First up is Glasgow East Tory candidate Andrew Morrison. He says his party is "fighting hard" to increase its share of the vote - especially because Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson is from the constituency. He says the response he gets on the doorsteps has been mixed, with many not having decided how to vote yet. Mr Morrison agrees with our correspondent that Scottish politics is now being seen through the prism of nationalism v unionism.

     
  68.  
    10:12: 'Cameron running scared' BBC News Channel

    The British public wants to see the TV debates, according to Labour's Lucy Powell. She says Ed Miliband debating Nick Clegg head-to-head, as suggested earlier by Lord Ashdown and the Liberal Democrat leader, is not the table at the moment. The debate should be between those who could be prime minister after the election and says David Cameron is "running scared".

     
  69.  
    10:11: Your say

    Some more of your views on the TV debates

    David Cameron gives Ed Miliband a thumping (metaphorically) every Wednesday at PMQs - I don't think for a minute that he's running scared or has anything to prove.

    D.Williams

    Politicians are there to serve us, not vice versa and television is a great medium to reach millions across the country, allowing us to hear how they propose to do that and get a measure of their leadership qualities.

    Garan Jenkin

    If Cameron can't be bothered to turn up for debates (plural) then I can't be bothered to turn out and vote.

    Colin Smale

    A pointless exercise overhyped by journalists with nothing better to do. The politicians will tell us what they think we want to hear. Far better to judge them on what they have done over the lat few years. Parliamentary question time is a disgrace by all parties

    Rob Whitrow

     
  70.  
    10:09: Alastair Campbell on debates BBC News Channel
    Campbell

    David Cameron is investing "pathetic excuses" over the TV debates, Alastair Campbell says. He is worried out losing them, and that is why he is not taking part, Tony Blair's former director of communications says. And it is an insult to the British people not to give them a chance to see a one-on-one debate, he adds.

    He admits he was "sceptical" of Tony Blair taking part in the debates previously, but the precedent has now been set, he says.

     
  71.  
    @LordAshcroft Lord Ashcroft, pollster

    tweets: Factors in voters' decisions between Con and Lab and how they've moved. Cons need points top right, Lab top left:

    Ashcroft tweets
     
  72.  
    09:51: Transport questions House of Commons Parliament

    Over in the Commons, Transport questions are just getting under way. Topics today include the Airports Commission, rural railway stations and compensation payments to passengers for delayed rail travel. You can follow today's proceedings on our dedicated Westminster live page.

     
  73.  
    09:50: Clegg on UKIP Call Clegg
    Nigel Farage

    Nick Clegg bets a UKIP candidate (not Nigel Farage) who calls his programme "several pints" that the Lib Dems will have "many, many, many, many, many more" MPs than his party after 7 May. He says UKIP will be a "pipsqueak" party in comparison.

     
  74.  
    09:48: Clegg on spending Call Clegg

    On defence, Nick Clegg says the spending review will decide how much of GDP goes towards defence in the future. The deputy prime minister says money was misspent to the tune of billions in the past and must be properly spent in the future. It comes amid a debate on whether the UK will be able to honour a commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence.

     
  75.  
    09:47: Tony Blair donation

    A bit more on Tony Blair's decision to donate £106,000 in total to Labour candidates fighting the election. In a letter to candidates in key seats, the former PM says: "I know how hard it can be to raise money to fund a local campaign, but for you, in one of our 106 battleground seats, it is even more vital. This is where the election will be won for Labour and that is why I am making a donation to all 106 campaigns."

     
  76.  
    09:38: TV debates latest
    Leaders

    Here's our latest story on the TV debates, leading off with David Cameron's political opponents accusing him of running scared.

     
  77.  
    09:35: Clegg on eurostar Call Clegg

    Nick Clegg tells LBC the sale of Eurostar was a good deal and good value for the taxpayer. He says the state is not simply there to manage transport companies. But he says infrastructure - particularly HS2 - carries many benefits for the country. The line "is something which is long long long overdue", the deputy prime minister adds.

     
  78.  
    @AlexForsythBBC Alex Forsyth, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: So @David_Cameron seems to have unified political parties from across the spectrum in their response to his position on #debates

     
  79.  
    09:25: Clegg on drugs policy Call Clegg

    Meanwhile, over on LBC's Call Clegg phone-in, the deputy PM is talking about drug laws. Mr Clegg says the full force of the criminal justice system should be focussed on those criminals and gags who peddle illegal drugs and "profit from misery" of addiction. The comments come after news that the Liberal Democrats' manifesto will include a pledge to hand drugs policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health.

    The system at the moment "just doesn't make sense", Mr Clegg says, but adds that drugs will still remain illegal and there will still be civil penalties for users.

     
  80.  
    09:22: Nicola Sturgeon on debates
    Nicola Sturgeon

    SNP leader of Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is the latest politician to criticise David Cameron over his refusal to take part in more than one TV debate. She says he is "clearly running scared of having to answer for his government's record of failure and incompetence - and this arrogance in trying to lay down the law is all about getting out of debates, not taking part".

    "I will debate him anytime, anywhere, on any number of occasions. However we have accepted the broadcasters' proposals, and believe we should stick with that, rather than allow a Tory Prime Minister to dictate the terms of debate."

     
  81.  
    09:13: Deputy PM on debates Call Clegg

    Nick Clegg has told LBC he is prepared to stand up and defend the government in the TV debates if David Cameron doesn't take part. The deputy prime minister says he is "about the only person who is prepared to step up to the plate and actually defend the record of this government."

     
  82.  
    09:06: 'Down to the broadcasters ' Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    It all hinges on what the broadcasters do now. At the moment, they are saying nothing in public. But privately, they seem determined to tough this out.

     
  83.  
    09:05: Labour's Scottish challenge
    Ballot box

    There are other political stories today, even if the debate row is drowning out coverage. Prof John Curtice has been speaking to BBC Scotland about Labour's prospects north of the border at the election. He said there may be tough times ahead for the party after new polling by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft suggested big gains for the SNP at May's election.

     
  84.  
    @xtophercook Chris Cook, Newsnight policy editor

    tweets: I don't get why CCHQ doesn't just say "Last time, we think the debates were a distraction and we would rather run a traditional campaign"

     
  85.  
    09:03: Your say

    Politics Live readers on TV debates

    Mr Cameron, in effect, is the CEO of the United Kingdom. His duty is to abide by what the electorate requests or risk losing power, he has already lost face. He doesn't want to stand in front of his company's employees and explain his failures.

    Chris

    Either David Cameron or Ed Miliband will be obliged to form a (probably minority) government on 8th May so why is Cameron running scared of a 1 to 1 debate with Miliband?

    ... The public want to see an old fashioned 1 to 1 between the 2 potential Prime Ministers and if it doesn't happen it will be David Cameron's fault.

    Andy Kirkland

    If the conservatives think Ed Miliband is so weak why is David Cameron not willing to go head to head with him?

    Pat Pierce.

    Cameron is always going on about the achievements of this Government, how at all costs the good work being done should continue and not change course, the long term etc. If he speaks so passionately about this and how anything else would be utter chaos and doom, and he wants people to vote Tory, why does he not go all out in TV debate with Miliband and pull opposition apart and vice versa, so the voters get to see a real debate.

    K.Pearce

     
  86.  
    @IsabelHardman Isabel Hardman, assistant editor at The Spectator

    tweets: Tory MPs are in a mutinous mood over defence spending, dismissed as having "no votes". Me in today's Times

     
  87.  
    08:47: 'Thatcher would have debated' BBC News Channel

    Lord Ashdown tells the BBC he can't imagine Margaret Thatcher refusing to take part in debates - he says David Cameron's decision is "unbelievable". The former Lib Dem leader adds that broadcasters should go ahead with their plans and "empty-chair" the prime minister if needs be.

     
  88.  
    08:46: Greens on TV debates
    Nathalie Bennett

    The Green Party has just released a statement on the TV debate row: "This swerve by Cameron will further damage trust in our political system. Not only is Cameron's announcement cowardly but it also shows his contempt for the electorate.

    "People want to see a set of debates between all major party leaders, yet the Prime Minister is clearly scared of scrutiny.

    "Natalie is very much looking forward to debating with the other 6 party leaders. David Cameron must not be allowed to scupper these plans."

     
  89.  
    @jimwaterson Jim Waterson, BuzzFeed UK deputy editor

    tweets: Happy to host a seven-way leaders' debate over Twitter group DMs at a time that suits the parties.

     
  90.  
    08:40: What's happened so far?

    It's been a busy morning in Westminster. Here's a quick recap for those of you heading to work or just arriving at the office:

    There's bound to be plenty more to come. We'll bring you all the latest news and analysis. Don't forget to let us know your views; emails is politics@bbc.co.uk or tweet @bbcpolitics.

     
  91.  
    @kayburley Kay Burley, Sky News presenter

    tweets: So @campbellclaret says he's been prepping @Ed_Miliband for #TVdebates by 'playing David Cameron' Now there's a thought...

     
  92.  
    08:27: Harvey Proctor BBC Radio 4 Today

    "The police wish to interview me", Mr Proctor says. He wants it to happen "at the earliest opportunity", he adds.

     
  93.  
    08:25: Harvey Proctor BBC Radio 4 Today

    Harvey Proctor says he was a discreet man and he would not have discussed his sexuality with senior colleagues in the Commons. He tells Today he did not know about alleged sex abuse. He says he is "sure" some of the allegations are true, but others are not.

     
  94.  
    08:24: Harvey Proctor on claims BBC Radio 4 Today

    Former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor is speaking to Today after his house was searched by police. The police have told him they are investigating historical sex abuse allegations going back to 1970s and 1980s, he says. The offences he committed in the past would no longer be offences - they related to the age of consent, he adds. He denies ever attending sex parties of being part of any "rent boy ring" with high profile figures.

     
  95.  
    08:21: Debate fallout BBC Radio 5 live
    Lord Carlile

    Reaction to the debates row is pouring in. This is from Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile:

    "I think we should found our debates on the system we've got, upon a credible approach and treating the public as intelligent people and the Prime Minister I'm afraid is running scared from it because he knows how well Nick Clegg did at the last election so he doesn't want him in the debates."

    On plans for a seven-party debate, he adds: "I most certainly will not be watching a bun fight of that kind because I think it will be extremely uninformative. I think the public should be treated with respect in this controversy and the public expect that this will be resolved on the basis of the election system we have, like it or not."

     
  96.  
    08:19: Lord Ashdown on debates BBC Radio 4 Today

    The biggest losers from this are the British people, says Lord Ashdown. He accuses the prime minister of "cowardice" and suggests the debates could become a right for the British people.

     
  97.  
    08:16: Lord Ashdown on debates BBC Radio 4 Today

    Lord Ashdown asks "why on earth" should David Cameron be allowed to "veto" debates? He says the Lib Dems will take part in whatever debates take place. He says Nick Clegg will be happy to debate Ed Miliband on the government's record if Mr Cameron won't.

     
  98.  
    08:15: Lord Ashdown on debates BBC Radio 4 Today
    Lord Ashdown

    Lord Ashdown, chairman of Liberal Democrats election campaign, says David Cameron is frightened of "defending his own position" during the TV debates. The peer says what the prime minister is proposing is "ludicrous" and highlights it would come out before the Conservative election is published.

     
  99.  
    @georgegalloway George Galloway, MP

    tweets: How pathetic must a PM be that he is "frit" to debate with Ed Miliband....?

     
  100.  
    Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    tweets: Ed Miliband met BBC boss Tony Hall last night to urge broadcasters to stand firm over #tvdebates

     

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