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Sir John Major raises the prospect of 5p on the basic rate of income tax and VAT at 20%

John Major on sofa Sir John Major has just appeared on the sofa with Andrew Marr and discussed a variety of issues. Here are the highlights of what the former Prime Minister said:

The Economy

He said the economic hole is "as deep as I can ever remember'... about as bad as it has ever got". He said the recovery pattern will be very slow and that it would be "remiss" of Whitehall and local councils not to be looking at "significant spending reductions". He said that there would more likely be a mix of tax rises and public spending reductions, but that if serious spending reductions were not undertaken that we may well see 5% added to the standard rate of income tax and VAT at 20%. Sir John lamented that since 1999, even in the good economic years, debt has been rising and that there is a danger that all the pain we went through in the 1990s will have been thrown away. He concluded that the party that tells the truth about the economy in the most explicit terms well be the "long term gainer".

Reducing the size of government

Sir John called for both the downsizing of the sum total of government by reducing the size of the government machine and reducing the number of ministers by a third - as well as downsizing what government does. He said that we now had a "philosophical opportunity to reshape the country".

David Cameron

He said that he had a very high opinion of his successor as Tory leader, who has done "a remarkable job of changing the Conservative Party in the right direction over the last two or three years".

MPs' outside interests

Sir John commended the principle of MPs having outside interests, citing the danger that otherwise the House of Commons would be populated by "political nerds with no interests other than politics".

Outsiders in government

He repeated a proposal he has made previously that talented people who are neither in the Commons or Lords should be able to serve as ministers.

MPs' pay and allowances

Sir John said that it would be clearer, cleaner and more transparent if MPs received lower allowances but a higher basic pay.


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