Cable may resign over Philip Green spending job

Vince Cable may become the first Liberal Democrat cabinet member to resign, after controversial businessman Sir Philip Green was appointed to head a government spending review that could see millions slashed from IT budgets.

Last week, the News Statesman speculated that a "semi-detached" and "grumpy" Cable would be the first prominent Lib Dem to unhitch himself from the party's alliance with the Tory party.

Now, a clearly irritated Cable - who had not been consulted over the appointment - told reporters:

"There's a lot I could say on this, but I'd better miss this one out ...I'm tempted to comment, but I think I'd better not."

Cable is a noted opponent of tax avoidance - and has previously been a critic of Green, the billionaire boss of the Arcadia clothing retail group, which owns BHS and Topshop. Green now faces renewed questioning over the tax status of his wife and other family members.

In 2005, Green's wife, Tina, avoided paying tax on a £1.2 billion dividend paid to her by Arcadia, because she is a resident of Monaco, a tax haven where Green himself spends some of his time, when he's not out on the town sniffing round Kate moss.

In an interview on the BBC's Today programme today, Green insisted that his wife was not a 'tax exile', and claimed his family had paid £300-400 million in taxes to the UK over the last five years.

Off microphone, the government's new chief axeman was considerably more direct. Business journalist David Crow, tech editor of UK magazine The Spectator, last night tweeted that the business magnate had phoned his editor to call Crow a "f**king t**ser" for asking about Green's tax affairs.

Green's spending review, announced by the Cabinet Office in a press release this morning, will include a comprehensive look at all government contracts entered into since 2007, to see if they offer value for money.

So far, the coalition has already cancelled a number of key IT projects, including the ContactPoint database and ID card scheme, and has hinted at plans to offshore others.