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Gist of interpellations at Upper House Budget Committee, March 24, 2017

The following is the gist of interpellations at the intensive session of the House of Councillors Budget Committee on March 24, 2017:


Moritomo Gakuen issue


Shoji Nishida (Liberal Democratic Party): What do you think of the sworn testimony of Moritomo Gakuen’s Yasunori Kagoike?


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: It became evident that politicians were not involved in the sale of the government-owned land or the approval of the permit for the Moritomo elementary school. It is truly regrettable that he repeatedly refused to testify on the three contracts (with different amounts for the construction cost of the school building) on the grounds of not wanting to incriminate himself and the truth was not revealed. With regard to the 1 million yen (donation), it is deplorable that he lied and cited events that took place behind closed doors that would be impossible to disprove.


Nishida: The wife of Mr. Kagoike sent a letter to Ms. Saeko Tani, assistant to Mrs. Akie Abe, and received a faxed response from her.


Abe: The inquiry made by Ms. Tani (with the Finance Ministry, upon receiving the letter) was about the relevant systems and laws. No request, persuasion, or illegitimate pressure was involved. It is truly regrettable that Mr. Kagoike claimed that my wife silenced her through an email. This was a very malicious remark.


Tetsuro Fukuyama (Democratic Party): Was Ms. Tani’s fax part of her official duties?


Cabinet Secretariat Councillor Eiji Habu: Ms. Tani responded conscientiously as a public servant to an inquiry addressed to her. There was nothing wrong with that.


Fukuyama: It is unfair to say that Ms. Tani responded at her own discretion.


Abe: We are not shifting the blame to her, and we are certainly not saying she acted of her own accord.


Akira Koike (Japanese Communist Party): Mr. Kagoike testified as a witness with criminal liability. Mrs. Abe must do the same.


Abe: Those who have testified as sworn witnesses up until now were people who could be penalized under the criminal law. What my wife did does not constitute any crime. It makes no sense to summon her as a sworn witness.


Koike: The fax said, “I would like to see how this goes.” Does “I” here refer to Ms. Tani?


Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga: Of course. Ms. Tani wrote the fax and she personally owns this document.


Koike: This is outrageous shifting of responsibility. Ms. Tani made an inquiry (with the Finance Ministry) without Mrs. Abe’s knowledge. Was this a proper administrative procedure?


Abe: A fax was sent to Mr. Kagoike telling him clearly it would not be possible to grant his request. This was an outright rejection, and it is obvious that no consideration was given. (Ms. Tani’s act) does not prove in any way my wife’s involvement with the sale of government-owned land.


Mizuho Fukushima (Social Democratic Party): The fax said that “coordination is underway for allocations in the FY16 budget” to cover payments for the construction cost. Mrs. Abe had acted and made a specific request.


Abe: This was simply an explanation of a decision that had already been made.


Nishida: Was there any political consideration in the sale of the government-owned land?


Former Finance Ministry Financial Bureau Director General Hidenori Sakota: Only a very limited number of cases are reported to the Financial Bureau chief for consultation. I did not receive a report on this case. There was no way I could have given any political consideration.


Former Kinki Finance Bureau chief Yoshiki Takeuchi: There was no inquiry from any Diet member, politician, or secretary. There had been no political consideration at all.


Fukuyama: Did you know that Mrs. Abe gave a speech at the kindergarten operated by Moritomo Gakuen in September 2015?


Takeuchi: I had no knowledge at all that Mrs. Abe was the elementary school’s honorary principal.


Work-style reform


Ryuji Satomi (Komeito): We would like to know if you are determined to implement reforms?


Abe: The restriction on maximum allowed overtime work is an epoch-making agreement reached between labor and management in cooperation with the government. Work-style reform is the greatest challenge in Japan’s economic revitalization.


Missile defense


Mitsuo Gima (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): It is important to increase our interceptor missiles in order to adhere to a strictly defensive policy. The government needs to consider the introduction of new equipment.


Defense Minister Tomomi Inada: While the Defense Ministry currently has no concrete plans, the introduction of new equipment is one option for strengthening defense capability. We will continue to study the possibilities. (Slightly abridged)


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