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Summary

  1. The head of the British Chambers of Commerce called for an EU referendum to be held in 2016
  2. The rival parties sought to win over business at the British Chambers of Commerce Annual Conference
  3. David Cameron urged businesses, with the economy on the up, to give their staff a pay rise
  4. Labour's Ed Balls said an early EU referendum would be "hugely destabilising"
  5. Nick Clegg outlined proposal for a million more women in work by 2020
  6. There are 86 days to go until the General Election on 7 May
  7. Rolling coverage from the BBC's political team - from Today and Breakfast through to Newsnight and Today in Parliament

Live Reporting

By Adam Donald and Dominic Howell

All times stated are UK

Get involved

  1. Goodnight

    That's it for today's live coverage of the campaign countdown. It's been a jam-packed day which has seen David Cameron ask businesses to give their staff pay rises, Labour's Ed Ball's warn against leaving the EU, and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg say he wants to see a million more women in work by 2020. Other quirks of the day included Labour's "pink" campaign bus, which is expected to be on the move tomorrow. We'll be back here at 06:00 on Wednesday bringing you all the political news as it happens. Until then, good night.

  2. 'Frustrating'

    On Labour's pink campaign minibus, LBC's radio host Petrie Hosken tells the BBC's paper review: "I am sickened by this. I find it frustrating and I find it patronising."

  3. Tomorrow's papers

    @BBCNews

    BBC News

    UK

    tweets: Wednesday's Daily Express: "Dementia cure within 10 years" (via @suttonnick) #TomorrowsPapersToday #BBCPapers

    Tomorrow's Daily Express front page
  4. Tomorrow's paper

    @BBCNews

    BBC News

    UK

    tweets: Wednesday's Daily Mirror: "Shoot 500 pheasants & save a Tory!" (via @suttonnick) #TomorrowsPapersToday #BBCPapers

    Tomorrow's Mirror front page
  5. The MP's life

    BBC Newsnight

    BBC Two, 22:30

    Sarah Champion

    What do backbench MPs do for their constituency residents? Labour MP Sarah Champion tells Newsnight that the people who come to her for assistance have problems that are "incredibly wide ranging", from a Brazilian lawyer seeking asylum who is under penalty of death in his home country, to "people who are having the most awful, awful time when they've got benefit sanctions imposed upon them". And sometimes, it's just people complaining about a pothole outside their house.

  6. 'Behave negligently'

    BBC Newsnight

    BBC Two, 22:30

    More on business minister Matt Hancock's Newsnight interview with Evan Davis when he was asked about the HSBC tax scandal. Mr Hancock said he had been "one of the leading people" saying those at the head of large banks should "be liable for criminal prosecutions if they behave negligently".

    "Sometimes these prosecutions are very complicated I don't know the details - and it's best that I don't - but boy do the people who make these decisions need to be held to account," he added.

  7. BBC Newsnight

    @BBCNewsnight

    tweets: "Constituency work education in how govt works; but as a backbench MP you aren't making a difference to anything" @matthewparris3 #newsnight

  8. Tomorrow's papers

    @BBCNews

    BBC News

    UK

    tweets: Times: "Almost half of teenage girls coerced into sex acts" (via @suttonnick) #TomorrowsPapersToday #BBCPapers

    Tomorrow's Times front page
  9. Tax evasion

    BBC Newsnight

    BBC Two, 22:30

    With regard to the continuing HSBC tax scandal, Matt Hancock says he is "absolutely satisfied that individual ministers didn't know about the activities of individual companies". He adds: "I don't want ministers knowing about the individual affairs of individual companies."

  10. Pay rises

    BBC Newsnight

    BBC Two, 22:30

    Matt Hancock

    Conservative business minister Matt Hancock tells Evan Davis that "ultimately pay rises need to be affordable, and what we've started to see is that pay is rising faster than inflation". He adds that "tax changes coming through will mean that take-home pay after tax is going up still".

    Asked if it is appropriate for the prime minister to tell businesses they should give employees a pay rise, Mr Hancock said: "Not only is it appropriate, it's called leadership."

  11. Tomorrow's papers

    @BBCNews

    BBC News

    UK

    tweets: Wednesday's Daily Mail: "Best time ever to take out a mortgage" (via @suttonnick) #TomorrowsPapersToday #BBCPapers

    Tomorrow's Mail front page
  12. Tomorrow's papers

    @BBCNews

    BBC News

    UK

    tweets: FT: "Donations slump as Labour's wealthy business backers flee" (via @suttonnick) #TomorrowsPapersToday #BBCPapers

    Tomorrow's FT front page
  13. University speakers

    Theresa May

    Home Secretary Theresa May has said speakers at universities will not be required to give two weeks notice about what they are intending to speak about. She told the Commons that draft guidance outlining the duty of universities to protect their students from the risk of being radicalised would no longer require advanced notice from speakers. She confirmed the change as MPs discussed amendments made by peers to the counter-terrorism bill.

  14. Tomorrow's papers

    @BBCNews

    BBC News

    UK

    tweets: Guardian: HSBC staff "contacted clients to help them avoid tax" (via @suttonnick) #TomorrowsPapersToday #BBCPapers

    Tomorrow's Guardian front page
  15. Tomorrow's papers

    @BBCNews

    BBC News

    UK

    tweets: Wednesday's Metro: "Stitched up over rail delay claims" (via @suttonnick) #TomorrowsPapersToday #BBCPapers

    Tomorrow's Metro front page
  16. Tomorrow's papers

    @BBCNews

    BBC News

    UK

    tweets: Wednesday's Telegraph: "Don't cut defence, Obama warns UK" (via @suttonnick) #TomorrowsPapersToday #BBCPapers

    Tomorrow's Telegraph front page
  17. Today in Parliament, 23:30 GMT

    BBC Radio 4

    Palace of Westminster at night

    Join the BBC's Today in Parliament team at 23:30 on Radio 4 for all the highlights from the Palace of Westminster today.

  18. More minibus defence

    Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman has spoken out again in defence of the hotly-debated new "pink" Labour campaign minibus. She is expected to launch her party's "woman-to-woman" initiative tomorrow targeting women who did not vote in 2010. She said: "We don't want women to give up on politics. If you look at the figures, the disaffection that there is with politics is even more pronounced among women." She said there were 9.1 million women who failed to vote in the 2010 election. "Politics is too important to be left to be a men-only activity," she added.

  19. Democracy 'up for auction'

    The Guardian

    At The Guardian, Owen Jones says the Conservatives are "putting Britain's democracy up for auction". He claims: "There is no shortage of reasons to be frustrated with a Labour party not offering an inspiring enough alternative. But for Tories to be auctioning off dinners, bronze statues of Thatcher and pheasant shooting escapades in our nation of food banks, zero-hour contracts and poverty wages - well, it should concentrate the senses."

  20. Post update

    BBC Newsnight

    BBC Two, 22:30

    Matthew Hancock

    Coming up on @BBCNewsnight tonight: an interview with business minister Matthew Hancock, who will answer questions about the HSBC tax scandal.

  21. 'It's the economy, stupid'

    London Evening Standard

    Newspaper

    Ed Balls and George Osborne

    At the Evening Standard, Vicky Pryce says that despite noise from all parties on many different issues, the economy is the one towering concern of voters: "As the main parties wheel out endless pledges to the electorate, there's one issue that overshadows all others."

  22. Climate change policy

    Tim Farron

    At PoliticsHome.com, former Lib Dem President - and current MP - Tim Farron explains "how the UK now needs strong climate change policy to enable strong foreign policy".

  23. Chuka Umunna on Tory Help to Grow scheme

    Earlier, David Cameron announced a future Tory government would help 500 of the UK's fastest-growing companies to expand, by guaranteeing business loans. The Help to Grow scheme he said would see the government use its balance sheet to underwrite private loans or co-invest. But responding to the idea, Labour's shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: "This is yet another announcement from a prime minister who has failed to get the banks lending to our small businesses. Government scheme after government scheme, from Project Merlin to Funding for Lending, has failed. And net lending to small and medium sized businesses fell by £1 billion in the last quarter."

  24. 'Strategic prize of the 21st Century'

    William Hague and Angelina Jolie on a panel at the launch of the LSE's Women, Peace and Security Centre

    William Hague has had a busy and varied day. This morning he spoke to an gathering of business people at the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference. This evening he appeared before a somewhat different audience, opening a new Women, Peace and Security Centre at the London School of Economics (LSE). Mr Hague, who is helping lead the global fight against rape as a weapon of war, told those present - including UN envoy Angelina Jolie - that the "empowerment of women is the great strategic prize of the 21st Century".

  25. The papers

    @CliveMyrieBBC

    Clive Myrie

    BBC News

    Tweets: On The Papers tonight @PetrieHoskenLBC and @guyawoodward. Join us from 22.30 on the BBC News Channel #BBCPapers

  26. 'Cow-milking contest'

    Labour MP Gisela Stuart

    We can bring you news of a rather unusual exchange in the House of Commons this evening. During a debate on council funding, German-born Labour MP Gisela Stuart has challenged Conservative MPs to a cow-milking contest to prove who is the "more rural creature". Although she represents a constituency in central Birmingham, Ms Stuart points out she grew up on a farm in Bavaria and "nobody needs to tell me what the countryside looks like". Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox, who represents a seat in Devon, signals that he would be willing to lock horns and take up the challenge.

  27. Target seats

    Channel 4

    The Conservative parliamentary candidate in the constituency of Boston and Skegness rejects suggestions he is being short-changed when it comes to support and resources from Conservative Central Office. Matt Warman tells Channel 4 News' Michael Crick he has got "everything he has asked for". He was speaking after the party appeared to inadvertently publish a list of "non-target" seats - including his own - on its website. Mr Warman, a journalist at the Daily Telegraph, plays this down, saying whether a seat is a target or not is "irrelevant".

  28. Inside The Commons, Part Two

    Michael Cockerell

    Remember to join Michael Cockerell tonight for another trip 'Inside the Commons' at 21:00 GMT on BBC Two. You can also catch last week's episode on BBC iPlayer.

  29. Not strangers on a train

    Boris Johnson (left) and David Willetts

    Accompanying Boris Johnson on his trade trip to the US is former universities and science minister David Willetts. Here the two men share a joke during their train journey from Boston to New York.

  30. Boris defends US trip

    Boris Johnson arriving in New York City

    Boris Johnson has been defending the number of foreign trips he has been taking recently to promote London abroad. Speaking in New York during a six-day trip to the US, the Mayor of London said the capital must never become "complacent" and it was vital that he continued to "keep banging the message home" about what it had to offer. In that spirit, Mr Johnson will later be attending a "glitzy" dinner organised by the British Fashion Council.

  31. James Chapman, Daily Mail political editor

    @jameschappers

    tweets: .@sajidjavid vs @ChukaUmunna got a bit feisty on @Channel4News. A glimpse into the future?

  32. Tax prosecutions

    Channel 4

    Culture Secretary Sajid Javid

    Responding for the Conservatives on Channel 4 News, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid says he understands "there's already been prosecutions because of this information" about HSBC and "we have to make sure that continues".

  33. HSBC tax scandal

    Channel 4

    On Channel 4 News, shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna says the revelations about HSBC in the last 48 hours are "not good for anyone frankly", as they undermine the confidence in British business practices held by the British public, and international observers.

  34. Premier League rights

    Premier League trophy

    Clive Efford MP, Labour's shadow minister for sport, has been commenting on the Premier League's announcement of a record £5.1bn TV rights deal. "Labour has consistently demanded that not all of this money should stay at the top of the game in the form of ever-more-inflated salaries for Premier League footballers and their agents," he says. "The grassroots of the game must benefit from this bonanza through a boost in participation and improved facilities."

    Read the BBC's full coverage of the deal here.

  35. Peter Hunt, BBC royal correspondent

    @BBCPeterHunt

    tweets: .@AmnestyUK on Raif Badawi: we still need the UK gov to do more....but Charles' diplomatic intercession could help secure this man's freedom

  36. New borders and immigration boss

    David Bolt

    A former crime-fighting chief has been announced as the next chief inspector of borders and immigration. David Bolt, who was director of intelligence at the now-defunct Serious Organised Crime Agency (now the National Crime Agency), replaces John Vine who stepped down in December. The Home Office said Mr Bolt, who is chief executive of the International Federation of Spirits Producers, will take up the role "as soon as possible". Read the full story here.

  37. Patrick Wintour, Guardian political editor

    @patrickwintour

    tweets: Harriet election battle bus hits the road.

    Burnt out pink bus
  38. Isabel Hardman, assistant editor of The Spectator

    @IsabelHardman

    tweets: I lurve pink. Had pink wedding (well, pink bridesmaids). Favourite shoes pink. But come on, Labour, a pink bus to show it's full of women?!

    and

    tweets: presumably the bus is going to drive to places where women are 'found'. Like hair salons, shopping centres, make up stalls, you know.

    and

    tweets: And then the Labour MPs can talk about what women think about foreign policy because we're all the same.

  39. Harman defence of minibus

    Deputy leader Harriet Harman is leading the "woman-to-woman" initiative, which will see a 16-seater minibus tour the UK up to May's election targeting women who did not vote in 2010. She said it would demonstrate politics was not just a "men-only" activity. She has defended the van's shade, joking "is it not magenta or something?" Read the full story here.

  40. 'Enormous political uncertainty'

    Nick Robinson

    Political editor

    Nick Robinson - at today's British Chambers of Commerce conference - says the speeches by various party representatives there have perhaps not entirely cleared up matters for those in the audience: "The truth is the businessmen and women here are having to learn to live with an enormous amount of political uncertainty."

  41. 'Divisive gimmick'

    Tory MP Caroline Dinenage on Labour's pink minibus: "The wheels have come off the Labour bus. Getting Harriet Harman to drive around the country in a pink van to try and attract the female vote is as patronising as it gets. This is clearly just another divisive gimmick that the electorate will see through."

  42. James Chapman, Daily Mail political editor

    @jameschappers

    tweets: I hear Harman was warned by allies pink bus for #womantowoman campaign would be deemed patronising but was 'defiant'

    Labour bus
  43. When is pink not pink? When it is "magenta"?

    Johanna Howitt

    BBC senior politics producer

    At a media briefing this afternoon on Labour's Woman to Woman campaign, Harriet Harman seemed keen to make sure we all knew the precise colour of the team bus. She described the detailed discussions in choosing the colour:

    "We wanted it to be red…", she said, pointing to a Labour backdrop, "…but then it looked the same as everything else. We then looked at a darker red, but that looked too much like a Pret delivery van. We wanted to be visible and conspicuous, to mark it out, to be different". Earlier, she also referred to the hue as "a One Nation colour". So it would seem you can call it anything - just not pink.

    Oh, and to be clear - it's a "16 seater". By my measure that's a mini bus… but I'm no expert.

  44. Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    @rosschawkins

    tweets: Le Monde reported yday that HSBC whistleblower emailed the Foreign Office in 2008 offering them all his data

    (note: Le Monde article is in French)

  45. Labour bus row

    The Guido Fawkes blog has a picture of a Labour Party campaign bus - although it looks to be more of a minivan - set to be unveiled tomorrow urging women to vote Labour. The bus appears to be painted pink - a choice which has raised a number of eyebrows on Twitter. Guido Fawkes describes it as a "Sexist Pink Budget Battle 'Bus'", but Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman hit back by saying "labour women don't need any lectures on patronising women from guido fawkes!".

    Labour Party bus
  46. Mark D'Arcy, BBC parliamentary correspondent

    @DArcyTiP

    tweets: Hmm Lord Deben, AKA John Gummer, to seek to block "3 parent baby" order on #mitochondrial donation in @UKHouseofLords Feb 24 (correct date)

  47. Jason Groves, Daily Mail deputy political editor

    @JasonGroves1

    tweets: Miliband has been in 'internal meetings' in Westminster today, a couple of hundred yards from BCC conference. Sources say no snub intended

  48. Assad 'lying or deluded' - Hammond

    Philip Hammond

    Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has rejected Mr Assad's assertion that his forces were not using "barrel bombs".

    In an interview with the BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen in Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied the use of such bombs and dismissed the allegation as a "childish story".

    But Mr Hammond said: "Assad is deluded or lying when he says his military are not murdering hundreds of innocent civilians with the use of barrel bombs. His regime has waged a brutal campaign against the Syrian people, using crude and indiscriminate weapons and prevented access to life-saving humanitarian assistance.

    "Assad's forces have systematically murdered, tortured, raped and imprisoned Syrians. There can be no doubt that he is the problem, not part of the solution. The UK's position has not changed, we have no dialogue with Assad; there must be a political transition to a future in which Assad has no part."

  49. Jason Beattie, Mirror political editor

    @JBattieMirror

    tweets: Ed Miliband no show at BCC but when was last time Tory cabinet minister addressed the TUC?

  50. Tory dressing-down

    Buzzfeed

    Dr Phillip Lee

    At Buzzfeed, Emily Ashton reports that Phillip Lee, the Conservative MP for Bracknell, "has been told off by party whips for hitting out at George Osborne's pensioner bonds". She says Dr Lee was "hauled into the whips' office on Monday for a dressing-down".

  51. 'Military personnel to Iraq'

    Michael Fallon

    Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said British military personnel are in line to be sent to Iraq to train the country's security forces to find home-made bombs, known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Mr Fallon said the UK also intends to gift 1,000 counter-IED metal detectors as part of efforts to defeat the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

    In a written statement, Mr Fallon said: "Iraq is currently facing a severe threat from IED attacks - the number, scale and lethality of which has increased in recent months. The training team will add to the 560 UK military personnel in the region supporting coalition efforts and building on earlier packages through which the UK has gifted weapons and trained 1,000 Iraqi security forces in how to use them."

  52. Philip Hammond, foreign secretary

    @PHammondMP

    Tweets: Deeply distressing to hear of death of aid worker Kayla Mueller. My thoughts with her family and friends. #ISIL violence will not succeed.

  53. Daniel Sandford, BBC home affairs correspondent

    @BBCDanielS

    tweets: The number of migrants stopped in France trying to illegally enter the UK is set to double this year according to Sir Charles Montgomery

    and

    tweets: Sir Charles Montgomery, the head of the Border Force said 30,000 have been stopped in last ten months. Previously 18,000 stopped in 12 mths

  54. HSBC tax scandal

    Ross Hawkins

    Political correspondent, BBC News

    The prime minister's spokeswoman said the government had no record that HMRC officials made any minister aware of allegations of wrongdoing by HSBC staff.

    Her statement was much more limited than her earlier assertion that no minister had any knowledge that HSBC may have been involved in wrongdoing in the bank's Swiss arm until the recent reports.

    She did not concede that the government had changed its position, only saying that her most recent statement was consistent with her earlier comments. Privately, officials accept that they could not know whether any minister had at some point seen a press report about allegations against HSBC.

    Sources have stressed that ministers are not involved in decisions to prosecute companies or individuals for tax evasion.

  55. Peter Hunt, BBC royal correspondent

    @BBCPeterHunt

    tweets: The BBC understands that Prince Charles did raise the issue of Raif Badawi during his meeting with Saudi Arabia's King Salman.

  56. Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    @rosschawkins

    tweets: PM spox now says govt has no record HMRC officials made any minister aware of allegations of wrongdoing by HSBC staff

  57. EU referendum

    Matt Hancock

    Conservative business minister Matt Hancock tells BBC News he "wasn't even born when there was last a referendum on membership in Europe, and it's about time we had one".

  58. John Rentoul, columnist for the Independent on Sunday

    @JohnRentoul

    tweets: Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham & George Osborne are all 33/1 to be prime minister after the election

  59. PM on hostage death

    Ross Hawkins

    Political correspondent, BBC News

    The prime minister's spokeswoman has said David Cameron was deeply saddened by news of Kayla Mueller's death, and added that his thoughts were with Ms Mueller's friends and family. The spokeswoman said the PM was clear that "brutal ISIL terrorists" were responsible for Ms Mueller's death.

  60. Illegal cargo

    Police officer checking under lorry
    Image caption: An officer at the UK border checks for illegal migrants hiding under a lorry

    Keith Vaz highlights the case of a lorry driver constituent who found an illegal immigrant hiding in his vehicle. The man drove to the nearest police station in France but the officers were not interested and the driver had to "chase" the stowaway away himself. The French authorities may say they are helping to stem the flow of illegal migrants into the UK, says the home affairs committee chairman, but this one example (there are plenty of others) suggests it is not happening on the ground. Minister James Brokenshire says he will look into it.

  61. Sam Lister, Press Association political correspondent

    @sam_lister_

    tweets: Boris Johnson was auctioned off at the black and white ball without his knowledge and may not be able to do it

  62. Constituency tour

    BBC's political correspondent Andrew Sinclair is in Lowestoft today looking at how the election campaign is affecting the area. He visited the constituency of Waveney and says the area has above average unemployment, and below average wages.

  63. Spousal abuse?

    Home Office minister James Brokenshire admits UK-born citizens who want to bring their spouses into the UK from outside the EU are getting a raw deal. Since 2012, only those who earn at least £18,600 a year can sponsor their non-European spouse's visa, in a move aimed at easing the financial burden of immigration on the state.

    But, points out Keith Vaz, the rule does not apply to citizens of other EU countries who have settled in the UK. So someone who has leave to remain in the UK or is British born must show their income meets the threshold, while "their next door neighbour who comes from Slovakia and who wants to bring their spouse from India doesn't have to show that income," says the home affairs committee chairman. Isn't this unfair?

    "It is something that needs to be addressed," says Mr Brokenshire.

  64. Clegg on EU

    Other snippets from the Clegg speech include his views on the EU. He said: "I believe this endless hokey-cokey about whether or not we stay in the EU is destabilising for British business. My party's view is clear. Yes to a referendum if and when the rules of the game change. In other words, when there is a new EU treaty.

    "But I don't believe the timing of such a momentous decision, which could potentially jeopardise millions of jobs in our country, should be determined by the domestic political needs of one party in Westminster. Of course the EU is not perfect. We will always make the case for reform so that the EU works better for British business and British citizens."

  65. Lib Dem pitch

    Vicki Young

    Political correspondent, BBC News

    The BBC's chief political correspondent Vicki Young says Nick Clegg's speech today saw the deputy prime minister "making a pitch very clearly for the centre ground", and "trying to get the Lib Dems to get some of the credit for the good economic news" we've heard lately.

    She adds that what struck her about the speech is that "a large part of it was given over to trying to say there are hundreds of thousands of women who want to go back to work and he wants to encourage them to do so", by enacting more flexible working contracts, more childcare, equal wages for women. This is, she suggests, "not the kind of thing, normally, this kind of audience - a business audience - hears very often or wants to hear".

  66. 'Crimes against humanity' in Syria

    House of Lords

    Parliament

    Peer

    The continuing devastation of the Syrian civil war flared up once again in the headlines today as the BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, interviewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Now, in the House of Lords, Labour peer Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws has been telling peers of reports that accuse all sides in the Syrian civil war of committing sexual crimes against women in children, which constitute "war crimes and crimes against humanity."

    Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay of St Johns says that the UK, along with US and EU, are funding the Commission for International Justice and Accountability to develop document legal case files on war crimes such as this in Syria.

  67. BBC Breaking News

    @BBCBreaking

    tweets: US hostage Kayla Mueller, held by Islamic State, has been killed, President Obama confirms http://bbc.in/1CdoBS2

  68. 'I am an immigrant' campaign

    Movement Against Xenophobia poster

    Just quickly back to the home affairs committee, where Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert name checks a new poster campaign by the Movement Against Xenephobia to highlight the positive contribution made by immigrants in the UK. Home Office Minister James Brokenshire says he hasn't seen the campaign but the government is keen to confront extremism and xenophobia "in all its forms".

  69. 'Unlock the talents of women'

    Nick Clegg adds: "If we can unlock the talents of women, British business will boom. We will be more innovative, more entrepreneurial, more dynamic. Together, we have achieved remarkable success over the last five years. We brought stability out of crisis. We have started to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, where there are opportunities for everyone."

  70. 'My own party - too male and too pale'

    Nick Clegg addresses the BCC conference: "My own parliamentary party is too male and too pale. We can and must do more to make sure our party and our politics is more representative of the people we serve.

    "If we're going to smash the glass ceiling then we - government and business - need to be ambitious. So today, I want us to think big. By the end of the next parliament, I want a million more women to be in work than there are today."

    He adds: "If we want to smash the glass ceiling, we need British businesses to hold the hammer."

  71. 'Risk of instability'

    Nick Clegg at the BCC conference

    Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says he has to take a few moments to talk party political matters at the British Chambers of Commerce conference, as in the run-up to the election there are "big differences between the political parties which could have a big impact on the British economy, on your business, and on the economic fortunes of our country".

    He says the country cannot "lurch to the left or right". Labour has "no coherent economic plan", and "despite paying lip service to the need for deficit reduction" have given "no indication of how they intend to do it". A Labour majority, he says, "would borrow billions more and put our stability and recovery at risk".

    The Conservatives, meanwhile, are "proposing huge cuts to public spending far beyond what is needed to balance the books - not because they are necessary, but because they see an ideological opportunity to shrink the state".

  72. If I were prime minister...

    The Independent

    For each day of the final hundred before the polls open, The Independent has been inviting one contributor to describe what he or she would do as prime minister. Today's candidate is the writer and activist Lee Williams. He says: "I would start by trying to turn the tide of British politics away from corporatism, neo-liberal capitalism and growth economics and towards a more equal, environmentally-centred economy with a healthier balance between business and state."

  73. Good afternoon

    Adam Donald and Dominic Howell

    It's been a busy day so far in the political world - you can see a brief recap below. The next major set-piece will be Nick Clegg's address to the British Chambers of Commerce conference, currently starting. We will, of course, be bringing you the live updates of that, as well as news, views, and analysis from across the BBC and the wider political scene.

  74. 'MP behaviour needs reform'

    Chamber of House of Commons

    The parliamentary committee which polices the behaviour of MPs is in need of reform, a new report claims. More non-politicians should sit on the Commons standards committee, it suggests, although it stops short of recommending that lay members should be given a vote on disciplinary matters. The report was commissioned in the wake of a row last summer about the committee's handling of allegations about former culture secretary Maria Miller's expenses, a dispute which led to her resignation.

  75. Half time summary

    Alex Hunt and Chris Clayton

    As we hand over the Politics Live baton halfway through 18 hours of coverage today, here's a recap of what's been a busy day so far.

    • David Cameron claimed business was getting behind his EU referendum plans, after the British Chambers of Commerce's John Longworth said the vote should be brought forward to 2016 to avoid uncertainty.
    • Labour's Ed Balls told the same BCC conference that the prospect of an EU referendum was causing huge uncertainty for business. He also insists Labour wants to work with business to create wealth and jobs.
    • Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told MPs there needs to be a stand taken against "Russian aggression", in a statement on the Ukraine situation.
    • There are continuing questions about who knew what, when about the claims involving HSBC and tax avoidance/evasion.

    Stay with our colleagues Adam Donald and Dominic Howell who look set to have a busy afternoon and evening bringing all the latest politics news, views and clips.

  76. Vaz grills immigration chiefs

    Over in Portcullis House, Keith Vaz - who sounds like he has a nasty head cold - is grilling immigration officials. Mandie Campbell, director general of the Immigration Enforcement Directorate, confirms that about 750 foreign national prisoners who should have been deported are still at large. Immigration officials are in contact with some of them, she adds brightly. "It's nice to chat," says the home affairs committee chairman, but are you doing anything about them? It's going to be a long afternoon for minister James Brokenshire and his officials.

  77. Vote Green, go red?

    The Daily Telegraph

    Natalie Bennett and Nick Clegg

    At the Telegraph, Martin Baxter of Electoral Calculus warns that Conservatives hoping to benefit from the "Green surge" should be careful what they wish for. His analysis is that most Green voters are disgruntled former Lib Dems - a sizable group which will also provide many new Labour voters.

  78. Flood funds

    Flooding in the Somerset levels in February 2014

    A year ago large parts of southern England were under water as the worst floods for decades engulfed communities. A committee of MPs has now questioned how the government will fund a six-year programme to upgrade the UK's flood defences. In a new report, it queries whether £600m can be raised from councils and the private sector to supplement £2.3bn of planned government expenditure.

  79. Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill

    Emma Bishop

    Political reporter, BBC Analysis and Research

    MPs will decide this evening whether to pass a revised version of the government's counter-terrorism bill, which will give new powers to UK security services.

    Following pressure from Lib Dem peers, the bill now says judges will have to agree to the use of temporary exclusion orders, and that the powers of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation will be extended. Cross-party pressure also means that universities will have to consider freedom of expression when complying with the new statutory duty to combat extremism.

  80. Westminster live

    Palace of Westminster

    Here on the Politics Live page we'll be bringing you everything political from inside and outside SW1, including the key moments from the Commons and Lords. But for the minute-by-minute lowdown on select committees, questions to ministers, and constituency woes, you'll need to head over to the BBC's Westminster Live page - and why not? It's just one more browser tab to keep you distracted.

  81. Register to vote

    For those of you that want to take part in May's general election, don't forget to register to vote. You can do so by clicking here. It takes about five minutes.

  82. Labour's business agenda

    The Spectator

    The Spectator's Isabel Hardman says that articulating Labour's "positive" vision for business has been left today to Ed Balls and Chuka Umunna - which is "much-needed after a week of Miliband defining himself through battles".

  83. 'It's businesses that will create wealth'

    BBC News Channel

    Chuka Umunna also told the BBC: "The pro/anti business debate is beside the point because it's businesses that will create wealth in our country and, if we want to close the gap between the rich and the poor, reduce the end levels of poverty and ensure that Britain can pay its way in the world, it's the guys who are here at this conference centre, our businesses, who are going to grow our economy, which is why having an agenda which helps foster them starting up but then growing is absolutely crucial."

  84. Patrick Wintour, political editor of The Guardian

    @patrickwintour

    tweets: If Head of HRMC told Treasury Select Committee on 12 September 2011 that whole nation knew about disc did anyone think to ask Trade minister

  85. 'Disastrous if we left EU'

    BBC News Channel

    Chuka Umunna

    Labour's shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna tells BBC News from outside the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) conference: "I think it would be absolutely disastrous for British business if we left the European Union." He said the country would be in a "much better position" politically and economically if it helped to drive the agenda for change in a reformed Europe.

  86. Osborne BCC message

    George Osborne

    Chancellor George Osborne wasn't able to attend today's British Chambers of Commerce conference, because he is at a meeting of G20 finance ministers. But he did send a video message, in which he said: "Our ambition should be to make Britain the best place to invest, the best place to grow a business, the best place to start a business, the best place to live out your economic opportunities. I think we have it within our grasp to make Britain the most prosperous major economy in the world in the coming generation. We can only do that if we're backing business, and with your help, I think we will reach that goal."

  87. Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    @rosschawkins

    Tweets: In 2011 HMRC boss Dave Hartnett said "whole nation" probably knew it had HSBC data

  88. Conservative targets

    Mark Reckless

    At the New Statesman's May2015.com election website, Harry Lambert says "the Conservatives have inadvertently leaked that they are not targeting 102 constituencies in the forthcoming general election". He focuses on five key marginal seats where he says David Cameron's party appear to have unofficially hoisted the white flag already - including Rochester and Strood, seat of Mark Reckless.

  89. No 'disagreement' with Russian people

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Conservative MP Jonathan Djanogly asks about wealthy Russian citizens who live in the UK.

    Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says some Russians in the UK "live in fear of the long arm of the Russian regime" and MPs "should not tar them with the same brush". "We do not have a long-term disagreement with the people of Russia," he adds.

    That brings the Ukraine statement to an end. You can follow everything going on in Parliament on our Westminster Live page.

  90. Balls on Miliband

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    On the apparent "diary clash" which stopped Ed Miliband speaking to the British Chambers of Commerce, Ed Balls says presenter Shaun Ley is "scraping the barrel". He lists the business groups Mr Miliband has spoken to, and says he (Balls) has had the BCC event in his diary for months.

  91. Balls on HSBC tax claims

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Labour's Ed Balls says no allegations about HSBC being involved in advising people to evade tax were put to him or any other ministers during the last Labour government. He says the first time it was raised was when the whistleblower handed over the papers in 2010. He says it was "staggering" Lord Green could be appointed to government without anyone discussing whether it was appropriate given the ongoing allegations.

  92. Not knowing HSBC details 'entirely appropriate'

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Business minister Matthew Hancock says it is "entirely appropriate" for ministers not to know the details of the tax affairs of individuals or individual firms, after the No 10 statement earlier that ministers did not know details about HSBC tax evasion claims.

  93. Tim Reid, BBC political correspondent

    @TimReidBBC

    tweets: Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says "public opinion neither in Britain or EU" has understood seriousness of #Russia threat to "world order" #Ukraine

  94. Conservative fundraiser

    Daily Politics

    Live on BBC Two

    As we've been reporting today, the chance to go shoe shopping with Home Secretary Theresa May was among the prizes being auctioned to raise cash for the Conservative Party's election campaign. Adam Fleming was not invited to the Black and White ball, but in a Daily Politics film he tried to speak to a few of those arriving at the event.

  95. HSBC tax row

    Ross Hawkins

    Political correspondent, BBC News

    Lobby journalists asked the the prime minister's spokeswoman about the HSBC tax avoidance row earlier. She said no government minister had any knowledge that HSBC may have been involved in wrongdoing in regard to its Swiss banking arm. She said ministers were only aware after the reports of the last couple of days. Pressed, she said her statement applied to all ministers in this government. That would include Lord Green - the former HSBC executive who was a trade minister until 2013.

  96. Russia 'would respond'

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Labour MP and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says Russia "would regard any provision of lethal aid" by an individual country as a Nato decision and would "respond in a similar way".

    Philip Hammond says that if, for example, the US decides to supply arms it will have a different policy to Germany. It would be for individual governments to decide about arming Ukraine, he insists.

  97. 'Robust and united'

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander calls the Ukraine crisis "a conflict of profound civilian suffering".

    "We must continue with a robust and united international response," he tells the House.

    He asks if the government will call for new EU sanctions is diplomatic progress is not made.

  98. 'High readiness taskforce'

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Philip Hammond tells MPs the UK will form part of a "spearhead unit - a very high readiness taskforce" within Nato. These forces will "be able to deploy at very short notice wherever they are needed", he adds.

    However, Mr Hammond emphasises that there needs to be "a diplomatic solution" to the conflict. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced last week that the UK will play a lead role in a "high readiness" Nato force that will be established in Eastern Europe.

    RAF Typhoon
    Image caption: The UK will deploy four RAF Typhoon jets for "air policing" in the Baltic states
  99. 'Russian aggression'

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    The foreign secretary says there needs to be a stand against "Russian aggression". Ukraine's Western allies accuse Russia of sending in troops and tanks to help the rebels fight the Ukrainian government. The Russian government has repeatedly denied that it is arming the rebels in Ukraine. Russian state television has reported the deaths of Russian soldiers who had "volunteered" to fight in Ukraine.

    Philip Hammond
    Image caption: Philip Hammond addresses the Commons
  100. Cameron's BCC speech

    Norman Smith

    BBC Assistant Political Editor

    "I was struck by what a fiercely partisan speech that was. Mr Cameron was saying business should fear the alternative of a Labour government - trying to hammer home this message that Labour is somehow anti-business. Also interesting was Mr Cameron seizing on those comments by the boss of the British Chambers of Commerce earlier today - that he really wants a referendum and he wants a referendum early - to suggest that far from business being nervous about a referendum they actually now support the Tory position."

  101. Ukraine statement

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is making a statement on the current diplomatic situation regarding Ukraine. The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France are due to meet in Belarus's capital Minsk on Wednesday to discuss a peace plan for eastern Ukraine.

    The leaders of the four countries discussed the ongoing conflict by telephone on Sunday. More than 5,300 people have been killed by fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia rebels since April 2014.

    People clean a street near a destroyed car after shelling in the Leninsky district of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, 8 February 2015
    Image caption: The Ukraine conflict has killed more than 5,300 people since April last year
  102. Cameron on EU referendum

    David Cameron says business leaders are increasingly backing his plans for an in/out EU referendum after a renegotiation of the UK's role within the EU. He said: "They are saying it is quite right to have a strategy that gives Britain the best chance of staying in a reformed European Union that works in our interest and that is what my approach is. Let's get stuck in there, let's hold a negotiation, let's deal with those things that are holding Britain back, and then let's have this put to the British public in an in/out referendum.

    "And the reason why I think an increasing number of businesses support this approach is in business everybody knows you have to have a strategy, you have to have a plan and I think the danger of the alternative of what I'm suggesting is that Britain would just steadily drift towards the exit of the EU because the British public would not be taken along for this very important decision."

  103. Growth consensus 'over', says PM

    David Cameron says the "long-held consensus" in British politics that business is the generator of growth is over. He says: "Labour want to hike up corporation tax, which new analysis shows could cost our economy over 96,000 jobs. They've opposed every planning reform and every welfare reform. They want to intervene in the market and fix prices. Worst of all, Labour have no credible plan to deal with the deficit and get Britain back living within our means. Just think of the risks to your business. More borrowing, more debt, higher interest rates, a loss of confidence in Britain."

  104. 'Help to grow' scheme

    David Cameron

    David Cameron continues to explain his planned "help to grow" scheme: "Our ambition is to help 500 of our fastest growing firms annually - giving entrepreneurs the access to the kind of finance their German equivalent would get. The Business Bank I set up has found the finance gap is likely to be up to £1bn per year. One billion pounds of opportunities lost, £1bn of new investment missed. "We will plug this billion-pound gap by using the government's balance sheet to guarantee loans by private lenders, or by co-investing public money alongside private money."

  105. More on the 'help to grow' scheme

    David Cameron says: "Here in the UK, 45% of the job growth has come from our fastest growing medium-sized businesses. Their businesses - your business - are the country's job engine. But they often struggle to get the finance they need to grow. We need to think strategically about helping those small firms over the 'valley of death' funding gap so they can become medium firms and the medium firms can become larger firms."

  106. BreakingBreaking News

    David Cameron pledges at the British Chambers of Commerce conference that a Conservative government to launch a "Help to Grow" financing scheme to help business grow from small to medium sized firms over the financial "valley of death".

  107. Cameron on regulation cuts

    David Cameron tells the British Chambers of Commerce: "You asked for cuts to regulation - we have delivered. We are the first government in 40 years to have less regulation than when we started. Domestic regulation has been cut by £10bn over the past four years and as we announced last weekend, we have a target for the next Parliament - cutting another £10bn from your bills. That is a 'deregulation dividend' of £2,000 per business."

  108. Cameron: UK now a safe bet for business

    The prime minister starts by telling British Chambers of Commerce delegates: "If you look at all those things you asked for - with our long-term economic plan - we have delivered and we are committed to delivering for you again in the next Parliament. You asked for a stable framework to do business in - and we have delivered. Inflation low. Interest rates low. Stability locked in. The UK economy is now seen as a safe bet - attracting investment from around the world. This didn't happen by accident. It is the result of difficult, long-term decisions taken by this government."

  109. Cameron at BCC

    David Cameron

    David Cameron is addressing the British Chambers of Commerce conference in London. You can watch it live via the Live Coverage link on this page.

  110. Liam Fox: Nato reputation 'on the line'

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Liam Fox

    Ex-Defence Secretary Liam Fox suggested it would be appropriate for the UK to provide Kiev with support with drones, anti-tank capabilities and encrypted communications. While he welcomed the current efforts to find a peace deal, Fox said that the prior Minsk agreement was "not worth the paper it was written on". Fox added that the reputation of Nato was now "on the line". Listen to the full interview on BBC Radio 4's World at One from 13:00 via the Live Coverage tab on this page.

  111. Liam Fox: Appeasement has a very bad record

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Ex-Defence Secretary Liam Fox says the West needs to "wake up" to the threat of Russia and send arms to Ukraine. Speaking to BBC Radio 4's World at One, the Conservative MP said that the West faces a choice. "Either we allow Ukraine to be dismembered," he said, "or we give the Ukrainians some ability to stand up to the sort of weapons that are being used against them."

  112. Miliband absence from BCC conference

    BBC News Channel

    Asked whether Ed Miliband should have taken the opportunity to show he supported business by attending the British Chambers of Commerce conference, Ed Balls responded: "Isn't it getting a bit trivial that we're jumping on this agenda about who came to which conference? Isn't the election about bigger things than that?"

  113. Balls on EU referendum

    BBC News Channel

    Ed Balls tells the BBC: "What we hear from businesses up and down the country is that companies like Toyota, or Nissan or Honda, Rolls-Royce, big companies, Jaguar, they are investing in Britain to sell into the European Union single market and they are deeply fearful of what would happen if we were to leave. I want reform, I don't like the status quo, but if you advertise with a sign "we're thinking of leaving" that's how you lose allies and lose influence and that's what's going on with David Cameron."

  114. Balls on EU referendum

    BBC News Channel

    Speaking after addressing the British Chambers of Commerce conference in London, Ed Balls told the BBC News Channel Labour had not completely ruled out holding an EU referendum. He said: "We've said if there is any proposal for any transfer of powers to the European Union there would be an in/out referendum - and we need to make sure we get reform in the European Union."

  115. Labour 'mansion tax' plans

    Ed Balls defended Labour's proposals for a "Mansion Tax". He told the British Chambers of Commerce conference: "I don't expect people with houses worth over £2m to celebrate paying an extra £250 a month to help us secure the future of the National Health Service, but when high-value properties are so relatively under-taxed and our NHS is under such pressure, it's an important part of a tough and balanced plan."

  116. Ed Balls' BCC speech

    Norman Smith

    BBC Assistant Political Editor

    There were quite a few jokes about the "Bill Somebody" moment when he couldn't remember the name of chairman of their task force on Newsnight. Ed Balls goes down quite well at these business meetings and that may be one of the arguments why he is doing this rather than Ed Miliband, who is not here. There has been some private criticism of the Labour leader's non appearance by some of the BCC people here.

  117. Ed Balls' BCC speech

    Norman Smith

    BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Ed Balls was very uncompromising over Labour's stance in that he regards leaving the EU as a potential disaster for the British economy, but also in attacking the idea of an early referendum floated by the boss of the BCC - he said that would be deeply destabilising. Much better, he said, to stay in the EU to argue your case for reform.

  118. Balls on Labour and business

    Ed Balls tells delegates at the BCC conference an early EU referendum would be "hugely destabilising". He adds: "Ed Miliband, Chukka and I are determined to work with you to improve the environment for business investment and productivity thorough an economic policy that tackles our weaknesses and backs our strengths and delivers more jobs because when working people and British business succeed then Britain succeeds too."

  119. Ed Balls on EU referendum

    Ed Balls, speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce conference, said: "I agree with your director general John Longworth. Britain must lead the debate for reform in Europe, we must bang the table for change and for the EU to work better for Britain but we shouldn't flirt with an exit and put party interest above the national economic interest.

    "So while I agree with John on the need to reform and about the damage the current uncertainty is doing to investment, I fear that every comment by senior cabinet ministers saying they would be happy or relaxed for us to walk out of Europe, and every hint that it could happen as early as next year before any meaningful reform could be achieved, only adds to the uncertainty and risk for British business. I fear that Britain walking out of the EU is the biggest risk to our economy in the next decade."

  120. Ukraine statement

    There is going to be a statement on Ukraine in the House of Commons at 12:30 GMT from Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

  121. Ed Balls speaking at BCC conference

    Ed Balls

    Shadow chancellor Ed Balls is addressing the British Chambers of Commerce conference. He tells business leaders gathered in London: "Britain has always succeeded and can only succeed in the future as an open trading nation backing wealth creation, winning investment and attracting companies and talent from around the world."

  122. EU referendum timing

    BBC News Channel

    Speaking to the BBC News Channel, Business for Britain's Matthew Elliott added: "Both business and the British people want some serious powers back from the EU and that will take longer, particularly against a backdrop of Greece possibly leaving the eurozone. There's a lot going on in the EU at the moment - we can't rush this process."

  123. EU referendum timing

    BBC News Channel

    Matthew Elliott, chief executive of Business for Britain, which supports calls for a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU, said: "I would be concerned that, if we hold it in 2016, the renegotiation process will be rushed and I think that if we are going to get the changes that we need to stay in the EU that we are probably going to need a longer process than that."

    Matthew Elliott
  124. Toynbee attacks

    The Guardian

    Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee says Labour is "lucky" the HSBC tax avoidance story broke "in a week already dominated by a tax avoidance row: it was a Tory blunder to put up the Monaco-dwelling head of Boots to call Labour a 'catastrophe', when his company pays a fraction of the UK tax it did before switching its base to Switzerland".

  125. Weekly NHS meetings

    Hugh Pym

    Health editor

    With the NHS high on the list of voter priorities it is not surprising the government is keeping a close eye on the health service but, writing in his blog, BBC health editor Hugh Pym says high-level ministers are meeting weekly to monitor its activity - and asks whether they are too focused on the NHS.

  126. Peer review time

    The Constitution Unit, a research centre based at University College, London, has published a report recommending an end to prime ministers having the power to decide on the number of peers appointed and the balance between them. It says the number of members of the House of Lords needs to be cut from 850 to 600 at most. It also says peers should be appointed to reflect the share of party votes at general elections. You can read the full report here.

  127. Prisoner voting

    Speaking after the European Court of Human Rights ruling on prisoner voting, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The government has always been clear that it believes prisoner voting is an issue that should ultimately be decided in the UK. However, we welcome the court's decision to refuse convicted prisoners costs or damages."

  128. Mandelson 'body language' warning

    Lord Mandelson

    Responding to questions about whether Labour is doing enough to win over business, former Business Secretary Lord Mandelson tells the BBC: "You must never use language or even body language, let alone what you say, that creates the impression that you are for or against any section of society of the economy. We need people working together, there has to be a collaboration between business and government, between politicians and entrepreneurs."

  129. Prisoner votes

    Clive Coleman

    Legal correspondent, BBC News

    This is the fourth time the UK has been found to be in violation in relation to its blanket ban on convicted prisoners getting the vote. This is a saga that goes back a decade and now there's a sort of stand-off. In 2010 the UK was given six months to get some legislation in place, there is now a draft bill before Parliament that has three options - either that prisoners serving less than four years get the vote, that those serving less than six months do so, or that everything stays as it is now. In the interim Parliament itself has voted on this issue and has rejected very strongly any change to the existing law. We've got a stand-off - nothing is going to happen now until after the next election.

  130. Robert Peston, BBC economics editor

    @Peston

    tweets: My exploration of why gap between rich & rest has widened & what can be done on @BBCRadio4 - or here

  131. BreakingBreaking News

    The rights of 1,015 UK prisoners were breached when they were prevented from voting in elections, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

  132. Consumer charges

    Rent-to-Own agreements are often too expensive and not clear enough, the Parliamentary Group on Debt and Personal Finance has said. The weekly rental services are often used by people on low incomes, many of whom can't access loans. The group's Labour chairman Yvonne Fovargue says customers aren't always aware they're sometimes paying for extras they don't need: "What they don't realise is that they're buying the insurance, they're buying the delivery charge, and they're paying the interest on this for the whole period of the agreement. So for example, some goods you could buy at, say, John Lewis - a washing machine for £386, is charged at £1,500 when you've paid all the interest and the insurances and delivery charge."

  133. BBC Radio 4 Today

    @BBCr4today

    Today programme graphic

    tweets: President Assad 'bears no responsibility for Syria's humanitarian crisis'. Full interview: http://bbc.in/1E1iLoJ

  134. Business chief on EU vote uncertainty

    BBC Radio 4 Today

    John Longworth, director general, said British Chambers of Commerce members want an EU referendum. He said there was already debate about one, which was creating uncertainty, so if there was going to be one it needed to be held quickly (he wants one in 2016). He predicts that if Labour are elected they will be under huge pressure to have a referendum, which he says will create uncertainty if it's not clear whether they are going to give in or not. He says BCC members want to stay in EU trading bloc but don't want to join the euro or see any further integration.

  135. BCC chief on Ed Miliband

    BBC Radio 4 Today

    The director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, John Longworth, said businesses had had a tough time during the recession and had had to rebuild their finances. He was asked what he made of the fact that David Cameron and Nick Clegg were attending his organisation's annual conference today, but not Ed Miliband. "You'll have to ask the Labour Party why Ed Miliband was unable to attend."

  136. Robert Peston, BBC economics editor

    @Peston

    tweets: I am agog to know what was paid for the chance to do 10k "iron man" endeavour with Duncan-Smith & who bid

  137. Fox hunting 10 years on

    Justin Parkinson

    Political reporter, BBC News

    generic fox hunting picture

    The Labour government used the Parliament Act to ensure opposition in the House of Lords would not scupper the 2004 Hunting Bill, backed in a free vote of the House of Commons. About 3,000 protesters gathered outside when MPs voted, some becoming involved in scuffles with police and one group burning an effigy of Tony Blair in Parliament Square. After the Hunting Bill passed, supporters claimed it would protect animals, while opponents decried it as bad law which would be impossible to implement. Ten years on I've been looking at what impact the law has had.

  138. The Bill at the Conservative ball

    Billy Murray

    Actor Billy Murray, who played Don Beech in the TV series The Bill, was among those at the Conservatives' annual fundraising ball. Treats that were auctioned included a shoe-shopping trip with Home Secretary Theresa May and dinner at Michael Gove's home. The menu included smoked salmon, lamb and panna cotta with rhubarb and mint oil. Buzzfeed has what appears to be the full catalogue.

  139. Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor

    @BBCNormanSM

    tweets: Labour write to Chancellor over #hsbc scandal accusing him of "failing to act" over tax evasion

  140. Timeline: The UK and an EU referendum

    Archive 1970s pic

    With debate today about whether any EU referendum should be held in 2016 rather than 2017, here's a timeline of the long campaign for a vote on UK membership.

  141. Miliband misses business gathering

    Norman Smith

    BBC Assistant Political Editor

    From BBC Radio 4's Today programme: One thing that I suspect will be picked up on today is the fact that pretty much the world and his wife politically is addressing the British Chambers of Commerce conference. We've got Mr Clegg, Mr Cameron, Mr Cable - who we do not have is Mr Miliband. I've spoken to Mr Miliband's office. He was invited back in December but they say due to a diary clash he couldn't attend and Ed Balls will be attending instead. I think the danger is, in terms of perception, it tends to fuel the view that somehow Mr Miliband isn't that engaged, isn't that interested in business and I suspect some in Labour would have thought this might be a good time for Mr Miliband to get on the front foot to try to make the Labour case for business. I'm told he's not going to be there although he will be addressing the Engineering Employers' Federation in a few weeks' time.

  142. 'Set a date for EU referendum'

    Iain Watson

    Political correspondent, BBC News

    John Longworth's call for an early referendum on EU membership is significant - the British Chambers of Commerce represent companies which employ five million people. So the organisation's leader's warning that business doesn't want the uncertainty of a long campaign on EU membership won't go unheeded.

    But more perhaps significantly, his public comments reflect a private debate taking place at the highest levels of the Conservative Party. Some senior ministers are urging David Cameron - if he remains prime minister - to go for a referendum in 2016, not 2017. Partly this is because of the business climate, but it's also motivated by a desire to signal to potential UKIP supporters that the prime minister is really serious about holding an In/Out vote.

    Some senior backbenchers are pushing for the prime minister to name a referendum date before the election, to steal a march on Nigel Farage.

    However, one of David Cameron's closest allies on Europe believes he won't want to box himself in. The downside of an early referendum is that it wouldn't give much time to renegotiate Britain's relationship with Brussels. That, in turn, could increase the risk of a No vote. And both the prime minister and the head of the chambers of commerce say they want to stay in a reformed EU.

  143. 'Black and White Ball'

    In case you missed it last night, the Conservative Party hosted its annual "Black and White ball" for party donors. Guests from a variety of industries were invited and David Cameron was there. Here are some of the better-known guests arriving:

    Michael Gove
    Image caption: Chief Whip Michael Gove
    Conservative peer and businesswoman Karren Brady
    Image caption: Conservative peer and businesswoman Karren Brady
    Jeremy Hunt
    Image caption: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt
    Peter Stringfellow and guest
    Image caption: Nightclub tycoon Peter Stringfellow and guest
  144. Cameron's message to business

    Norman Smith

    BBC Assistant Political Editor

    From BBC Radio 4's Today programme: David Cameron will be urging business leaders at the British Chambers of Commerce to give workers a pay rise. He won't quite say to them, 'You've never had it so good' but his view is the economy hasn't been so benign for business since the crash, with inflation down at half a per cent, growth now bedding in - the fastest growth for seven years - cheap borrowing costs, cheap energy costs, now is the time to pass on some of the profits business is earning in pay rises. In part that's an attempt to blunt Labour's offensive over the cost of living but I think it also does reflect perhaps an anxiety that although we know pay is gradually beginning to overtake inflation, it's happening very, very late in the day and I think the concern in government circles is will people actually feel better off by the time of the election.

  145. Early EU referendum?

    BBC Breakfast

    Iain Watson on Breakfast

    The British Chambers of Commerce say they don't want two years of uncertainty over an EU referendum if David Cameron gets back into Downing Street. BBC political correspondent Iain Watson told Breakfast that the business group was not alone in wanting an earlier-than-planned referendum - he has spoken to senior Conservatives who are also urging Mr Cameron to go for the referendum in 2016 rather than 2017.

  146. The day ahead

    Alex Hunt

    Politics editor, BBC News Online

    So, you ask, what's coming up today? Well, the main event is the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference, where a succession of politicians will be appearing with the hope of winning over businesses. It'll be particularly interesting to see the reaction Labour gets after a week or so of tensions between the party and some well known business chiefs.

  147. Good morning

    Alex Hunt

    Politics editor, BBC News Online

    Good morning and welcome to Tuesday's rolling political coverage. We'll be bringing you the best quotes, clips and reaction from the BBC's political output starting with Today on Radio 4 and Breakfast on BBC One, all the way through to Newsnight and Today in Parliament. We'll also bring you news from the morning newspapers. Monday was dominated by the HSBC tax revelations and Labour's plans to double paternity leave. You can see how the day unfolded here.

  148. Post update