Leveson day: what happens when?

Your timetable for today.

After eight months of hearings and 474 witnesses, today's the day we get to see the Leveson report. Here's a timetable of the key events.

8am Ed Miliband and his staff received five copies of the 2,000 page report earlier this morning. David Cameron and Nick Clegg were given copies yesterday. In a piece for the Guardian on Monday, Miliband wrote that the government should act on the report's recommendations provided that they are "reasonable and proportionate".

11am The inquiry's "core participants" and selected members of the media will be given access to the report in a secure "lock-in".

1:30pm The report will be published on the inquiry website and Lord Justice Leveson will make a short statement at the QEII Conference Centre in Westminster. He will not take questions and will not give any interviews.

With Leveson due to fly to Australia this weekend to take part in a conference on privacy regulation and to deliver a series of speeches on the future of the media, MPs may not get a chance to question him before Parliament rises on 20 December. The Times (£) reports that Leveson is "unlikely to be available as he is taking a holiday after making the speeches."

3pm Cameron will gave a Commons statement outlining the government's "direction of travel" and Miliband will respond for Labour. This will be folllowed by questions from MPs.

Nick Clegg will then give a separate statement setting out the Liberal Democrat position and Harriet Harman, in her capacity as shadow culture secretary, will respond for Labour.

Clegg said this morning: "I believe in a vigorous free press holding the powerful to account and not subject to political interference. But a free press does not and cannot mean a press that is free to bully innocent people or free to abuse grieving families. I hope when Lord Justice Leveson gives his statement later today, we’ll remember the reasons why this inquiry was set up."

Lord Justice Leveson at the launch of his inquiry into the press earlier this year. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.