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Live webchat with Vince Cable, Business Secretary, Wednesday 1 May, 1-2pm

(106 Posts)
JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 29-Apr-13 16:25:44

We will be welcoming Business Secretary Vince Cable for a webchat this Wednesday lunchtime, following his aborted webchat last Jan (due to urgent business in the House).

A bit of background: The Rt Hon Vince Cable completed his undergraduate degree at Cambridge and post-graduate doctorate at Glasgow, where he then went on to work in a range of senior economic and foreign policy roles, becoming Shell International's Chief Economist in 1995. He became Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham in 1997 and served in the Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet from 1999-2003, and as Shadow Chancellor from 2003-2010. In May 2010 he was appointed Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The Minister is looking forward to questions on all topics and especially any on starting a new business, mentoring schemes, reforms for flexible parental leave, and the Government's work on increasing women's representation in UK boardrooms.

We hope you can join us and, as always, do post advance questions here if you're not able to make it on Wednesday.

Emsmaman Wed 01-May-13 13:42:12

Thanks for taking the time to join us.

Would you agree that more regulation is needed for childcare fees in order to get more people working - e.g. I am in your neck of the woods (SW London) where nursery fees for under 2's can be as much as £90 per day. In other parts of Surrey, nursery fees can be as much as half this cost. I feel I have been severely limited in job hunting in London as I need to earn at least enough to cover childcare + transport costs. Many of my well educated and experienced mum friends have given up work after maternity leave as they don't see it as profitable to work. I think there should be a formula dictating a maximum charge for childcare (a blanket max would be unfair I think due to vastly different rents).

Many thanks

VinceCable Wed 01-May-13 13:43:12


Hi Vince, thanks for coming on to talk.

My question: given the endless stream of stories we're seeing on the extent of the deficit/how cash-strapped we are, is it still feasible/reasonable to ring-fence the NHS, schools, pensioner benefits et al? Shouldn't we be looking at making savings in all areas, so that the burden doesn't fall disproportionately on sectors you've deemed cuttable? And is there any way you can meet the targets you've set yourselves WITHOUT removing the ring-fences?

AND ... if the ring-fences were to be lifted, where would you personally look first to make cuts?

In opposition, I argued against ring-fencing but the Coalition agreement took a different approach and I am having to work within that framework. I am very clear that if the country is to progress, we will need a lot more investment in science and innovation, skills and higher education. This approach will frame my approach to negotiating my department's budget in relation to the deficit.

VinceCable Wed 01-May-13 13:46:44


Now that you've had some time to reflect on the tuition fees fiasco, do you think your party will ever be able to regain all the trust lost?

Hi JeanBillie,
I fully accept that a lot of trust was lost as a result of making the pledge on tuition fees which we couldn't honour in practice. It's often forgotten that the Labour Party twice made a similar pledge and didn't honour it.

The system which we have introduced does not involve any payment of fees upfront and is in effect a system of graduate taxation in which repayments are linked to people's ability to pay after graduation, once they are earning £21,000. This is fairer than the earlier system and ensures that universities are properly funded for the long-term. We now have experience of two years of applications by students and it is clear that young people fully understand the new system and those from disadvantaged backgrounds have not been deterred.

meglet Wed 01-May-13 13:47:08

Dear Mr Cable,

Will improving parental leave extend to pushing for flexi-time for all employees? As a single parent I only have the right to unpaid parental leave until my daugter is 5 in the autumn. Why can't the right to 4 weeks unpaid leave be extended until the youngest is 16?

What would really help me is to be able to work flexi-time, but comapnies that offer this seem to be as rare as hens teeth. Will you consider pushing for more employers to reintroduce flexi-time as it would help cover doctorsd appointments, school shows etc.

And finally, I understand the government plans to make single parentd work full time once their youngests is 13? If this is true have you not considered the difficulties this will bring to many single parent households? I intend to work part-time until my children are off to Uni as I am there to support them academically, emotionally and practically. My single parent mother had to work full time when me and my sister were teenagers and the damage it did to all of us was immense (school bullying, self harm, homework not getting done etc). While I am already showing my 6 and 4yo children how to do laundry, make food and prepare them for adult life I am not going to flounce out to full time work while they are at their most vulnerable.

Apologies for any typos, am walking home from the supermarket!

dickdotcom Wed 01-May-13 13:47:59

Can I echo what @crochetcircle said above about help for men spending more time with their families. I'm married to an extremely capable woman with incredibly useful skills and in many ways it would make sense for me to go part-time - yet my organisation seems very wary of supporting this ... surely we should end the long hours culture and support part-time working for everyone's benefit?

Mum2twoGirls Wed 01-May-13 13:49:11

Thank you for your time Mr Cable. I am a SAHM (Stay at home mum and a graduate) to two daughters, the youngest is 18 months. I am a very disillusioned LD voter who questions why the coalition government discrimates in the tax system against family's where one parents chooses to stay at home with their children versus the dual earner parents who place their children into childcare. Please can the government think carefully about long term health of society and not short term financial bottom line.

VinceCable Wed 01-May-13 13:49:11


You would make a miles better PM than Nick or Ed or Dave. Why are we so ageist? What's wrong with a bit of gravitas?

I will pocket the complement but will not rise to the bait! I've still got bags of energy and good health, and I will continue with my very high-pressured job as long as I can do full justice to it. But you're right - there is a lot of ageism around and I hope we can get to a stage when people are genuinely judged on their merits, not their age, their gender or their colour.

VinceCable Wed 01-May-13 13:51:27


Hi Vince,

Does the government want / need parents to go out to work rather than stay at home with their children, so that higher tax revenues can pay for pensions and other costs associated with an increasingly elderly population?

If this is the case, do you believe that the school educational infrastructure e.g. length of school days and holidays needs to be restructured to support familes which have both parents out at work?

Thanks smile

The government doesn't have a view on whether or not both parents should work. I consider it a perfectly valid option for one parent, man or woman, to stay at home to help bring up children. That said, you make a good point about the need for school infrastructure to be flexible though we need to remember that there are very different needs in the parent population and that school teachers deserve a break too.

SacreBlue Wed 01-May-13 13:54:39

Hello Mr Cable,

I attended the business start up programme as part of the return to work help. I found the course useful, though financial help was no longer part of it, but what I found very heavy going was the amount of paperwork created by the course on one hand and other agencies dealing with benefits, on the other.

For example I had to complete income sheets for IS, for HB in a completely different format, and again, in a third format for the course.

Even now I need to complete my tax returns like everyone else, but the format for WTC is different and I still have a third, for HB - could these not be streamlined into the same format as the regular tax return?

Could your department work more closely with benefit agencies to smooth the transition from benefits to self employment by reducing duplicated paperwork?

Thank you

VinceCable Wed 01-May-13 13:54:58


Do you think that the huge cuts to UK research council funding are likely to improve the chances that talented students from schools like Millthorpe will be able to do PhDs/post-docs, or are you essentially just pulling up the ladder behind you?

Hi JacqueslePeacock,
It looks as if we were at the same school but it was called Nunthorpe when I was there. There haven't been huge cuts to research funding. In fact, the research budget was protected. The research councils are independent and we don't tell them how to allocate the funding. I do recognise that there is an issue with post-grad funding though we have made some initiatives as with engineering and I am working with my colleague David Willetts to find a solution recognising that we are in a cash-strapped environment.

edam Wed 01-May-13 13:56:36


Do you want to privatize the NHS? Does your party want to privatize the NHS? If not, why did you allow the competition regulations to be pushed through last week, meaning all NHS services have to be offered to any qualified provider - i.e. large companies, given they are the only ones who have the expertise and can afford the costs of tendering?

Do you feel guilty that you took part in making the Health Bill law, even though it wasn't in either the Tory or Lib Dem manifesto and the Tories specifically promised 'no top down reorganisation of the NHS'?

VinceCable Wed 01-May-13 13:58:50


As Business Secretary will you address the problem of 'The Banks'

I spend a lot of my time trying to answer this problem. Let's remember that Britain had some of the biggest banks in the world, and we had a banking collapse with a severity not seen since the beginning of the 19th century. We are clearing up the mess. Banks have been made safer and I have been working with the Chancellor to split the big banks as between so-called casino operations and retail banking through ring-fencing. There is still a serious problem funding small-medium sized business and I am currently setting up a business bank to help plug the gap and support new banks, filling this gap. It will take a long time to produce a better system of banking with competition and good relationship management but we are heading in the right direction.

VinceCable Wed 01-May-13 14:03:40


Dear Mr Cable,

I put the same question to you as I did to the Deputy Primeminister a month ago. Why is the Coalition discriminating against mothers who choose to look after their children themselves. Why does a single-income family on £36,000 pay £9,000 in tax compared to a double-income family who pays £6,500. Why does the tax system ignore caring duties? Do you are about the carers?
Laura Perrins

I've already replied to several SAHMs, making it clear that I have nothing but respect for their role. However, there is the issue of cash. The problem you describe dates back several decades to the point where it was decided to tax people as individuals rather than families. It used to be possible for families to swap tax allowances but in a world where most families have two earners, this created serious anomalies of its own. The current unfairness is party offset by tax credits but I recognise the grievance you describe. I don't think there is an easy solution, or we would have found it.

VinceCable Wed 01-May-13 14:07:19



Do you want to privatize the NHS? Does your party want to privatize the NHS? If not, why did you allow the competition regulations to be pushed through last week, meaning all NHS services have to be offered to any qualified provider - i.e. large companies, given they are the only ones who have the expertise and can afford the costs of tendering?

Do you feel guilty that you took part in making the Health Bill law, even though it wasn't in either the Tory or Lib Dem manifesto and the Tories specifically promised 'no top down reorganisation of the NHS'?

Hi edam,
The answers are 'no' and 'no'. The NHS remains free at the point of use, as a public service. Bringing in private providers occurred under the last government and has long been a feature of the NHS. GPs are after all private, not public servants. I certainly don't want to see big companies dominating the supply of services as against existing NHS operations and mutuals and there is no reason why that should happen if commissioning bodies are strategic in the way they deal with tendering.

VinceCable Wed 01-May-13 14:09:16

There were enough questions to keep me busy for several hours! Sorry if I haven't got to yours but I tried to deal with the main categories of questions. I have to head off now. Thank you for all your questions.



JustGiveMeFiveMinutes Wed 01-May-13 14:12:32

he didn't answer my question about the death of the high street.

What a pity.

pickledginger Wed 01-May-13 14:38:35

I never doubted that they were. I would just feel happier with someone who knew what they were doing in number 11, even if I might disagree with them on some issues.

pickledginger Wed 01-May-13 14:44:01

It would be helpful to see the number of unique individuals when looking at the makeup of boards. It's far from unusual for one person to sit on several boards and it would be a shame if the move to encourage more women in boardrooms simply led to more work for the same handful of women.

edam Wed 01-May-13 14:54:17

I'm glad he came along but blimey, the effrontery of politicians who say one thing while doing precisely the opposite - flat denials re privatising the NHS, while passing laws and restructuring the organisation to carve it up for the private sector...

pickledginger Wed 01-May-13 14:58:35

Hospitals can only earn up to 49% of their income from private work now though, so there's still 1.0000000001% to go wink

He's the only one in the coalition with any capability or integrity as far as I can see. He's still a politician though grin

edam Wed 01-May-13 15:10:45

That's so reassuring, ginger... not!

Hmm re integrity, really? His analysis of the financial crisis looked jolly good in opposition, he's not been that impressive in govt. and has made himself look a bit daft several times (e.g. telling a journalist he was out to get Murdoch, when he was supposed to be ruling on the BSKyB takeover and was required to be neutral...)

pickledginger Wed 01-May-13 16:16:15

He was honest about it though grin

And don't pretend you aren't thrilled by the idea of your local hospital losing it's maternity wing but gaining a laser hair removal clinic. Happy, hairless days ahead.

AlanMoore Wed 01-May-13 18:25:22

I still like him, I thought he came across well. He actually answers the question which is fairly unique for politicians smile

YoniOno Wed 01-May-13 20:36:29

No answers for SAHMs regarding fair taxation either.

blondieminx Wed 01-May-13 21:00:10

He missed the point of my question too - parents want flexible working contracts - periods of leave, and shared paternity leave in the first twelve months is NOT the same thing. Pah!

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