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Alexander: Lib Dems wanted to take part in TV debate

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has said the Liberal Democrats were prevented from taking part in last night's challengers' debate on the BBC because of the Conservatives.

Speaking on ITV's The Agenda, after the debate programme, Mr Alexander insisted that his party wanted to be there "to defend our good record in government."

Mr Alexander added that Thursday night's TV debate showed that the Lib Dems were needed at Westminster to represent "the centre ground".

Other guests on The Agenda were poet Benjamin Zephaniah, journalist and broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer and BBC Radio4 presenter Aasmah Mir.

Lib Dems: Key issue is who will form coalition

Danny Alexander has said there not enough answers on who would form a coalition during tonight's debate.

The truth is that neither Ed Miliband or David Cameron are going to win an outright majority. So the key issue is who's going to be working with them?

On the evidence of tonight people will need to have the Liberal Democrats there otherwise this country's going to be in for a hell of a ride after the election.

– Danny Alexander

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Treasury announce 'tough' new tax evasion laws

The Treasury has outlined plans to strengthen the law on tax evasion following George Osborne's Budget yesterday.

Danny Alexander making his statement to the Commons today. Credit: ITV News

Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said a new strict liability criminal offence would be introduced so offshore tax evaders "could no longer plead ignorance" in an attempt to avoid prosecution.

"Strict liability will bring an end to the defence of, 'I knew nothing - it was my accountant my Lord,'" Alexander told the Commons.

He said the Government would also enforce a new offence of corporate failure to prevent tax evasion, so no organisation is allowed "to get away with facilitating or abetting others to evade tax".

Anyone who helps tax evaders will also be handed new civil penalties, Mr Alexander announced, meaning those found guilty will be forced to pay fines that matches the sum of the tax dodged.

During his speech in the Commons, Mr Alexander was met with angry heckling from Labour MPs who accused him of abusing his ministerial office by Labour to set out the Liberal Democrats' "alternative Budget".

Labour makes 'cut and freeze' business rates vow

Labour has said it will "cut and then freeze" business rates for 1.5 million small business properties if it wins the next General Election.

Shabana Mahmood, shadow exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said: "Labour's better plan goes much further than anything David Cameron and George Osborne are offering.

Labour has set out its stall ahead of the General Election. Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

"And unlike the Tories, we won't short-change areas which choose not to have an elected mayor by giving them a second-class deal. Every part of England will benefit from Labour's better plan, not just a few."

Mahmood's comments follow the Chief Secretary to the Treasury's announcement of a "radical" review of English business rates.

'Wide-ranging' business rates review launched

Danny Alexander has launched what the government calls "the most wide-ranging review of national business rates in a generation".

The review, set to report back before the 2016 Budget, will examine the structure of the current system, which is paid annually on 1.8 million properties in England.

Chief Secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

It will examine how businesses use property, what the UK can learn from other countries and how the system could be modernised so it better reflects changes in the value of property.

"Now the time has come for a radical review of this important tax. We want to ensure the business rates system is fair, efficient and effective," the Chief Secretary to the Treasury is expected to say.

Firms who fail to prevent tax evasion 'to face stiff fines'

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander. Credit: BBC/The Andrew Marr Show

Firms which fail to prevent tax evasion would be subject to stiff fines under a proposed new crackdown, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has said.

Danny Alexander suggested a new offence of "corporate failure to avoid preventing an economic crime" could become law.

Under the proposals, organisations who encourage tax evasion would face the same fines as the evaders themselves.

It comes after allegations HSBC was involved in a tax avoidance scandal.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Alexander said: "Organisations, be they accountants, banks or whatever, who help people evade tax will be liable for this new offence and crucially liable for financial penalties.

"So, for example, if their customers have to pay back hundreds of millions of pounds in tax, then those organisations should have to match that."

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Alexander: Families must benefit from oil price fall

Families must benefit from the fall in oil prices in their heating bills and airline tickets, Danny Alexander has told ITV News.

Mr Alexander's comments come after oil prices tumbled to their lowest level in nearly six years.

Speaking to Business Editor Joel Hills, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury said: "The fall in oil price is a benefit to most of the UK economy provided that the benefits are passed on at the pumps, in the cost of holidays and in the cost of heating homes."

Alexander: Tories taking credit for recovery 'p***** me off'

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander claims that the Conservatives are responsible for the UK's economic recovery "p***** me off".

Danny Alexander said he was annoyed over the Tories' economic claims. Credit: Tim Goode/EMPICS Entertainment

He told the Sun on Sunday (£), "It isn’t the bloody Conservatives. It’s the Coalition and we as Liberal Democrats have done as much as the Tories have. It really p***es me off when I look at what we’ve done."

In his speech to the Liberal Democrat party conference later today, Alexander is expected to say, "The Tories like to try to claim the credit for lots of our achievements, including the economic recovery. We have to set the record straight ... We wrote the recovery plan."

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