Andrew Neil and Anita Anand talk about calls for a temporary cut in VAT and the government's plans for poorly performing primary schools. Robert Winston discusses IVF on the NHS.
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Good afternoon. Welcome to the Daily Politics. The Education
Secretary wants to hundred of the worst-performing primary school sin
England to be removed from local authority control and transformed
into academies under different leadership.
Ed Balls has been calling for a temporary cut in VAT to help boost
the economy. IVF on the NHS - it's meant to be
free for everyone, everywhere. But it's not always the case.
Roll up your shirt sleeves, please get your woolly jumpers out because
the Lib Dems are having an awayday than we will find out just what
they get up to. All of that in the next half an
hour. With us for the duration, Robert Winston. Welcome back to the
programme. Let's talk about the economy, because the shadow
chancellor, Ed Balls, has been delivering a speech on the very
subject this morning. He has called for - get this - a tax cut! This is
what he said. My suggestion to George Osborne, whilst he won't
agree to reverse his mistaken VAT rise permanently, he should reverse
its temporarily bed least until the economy is growing strongly again.
By putting more money directly into people's pockets, it would boost
consumer spending for consumers who are feeling the squeeze from rising
prices and taxes, especially pensioners and those on low, fixed
incomes. That was Ed Balls this morning. Just as the European
sovereign debt crisis is reaching the peak, because countries have
borrowed too much. Why would it be sensible for Britain to increase
the size of its deficit? Ed Balls's. It is by reducing that you would
increase retail spending. Retail spending is in a serious crisis at
the moment. You would increase the deficit? You may do, but he is
asking for it temporarily to give a boost to the economy. I think it is
a good idea and it has been asked for in the House of Lords by a few
distinguished economists. We still have a very weak pound. Let's stick
to the deficit at the moment. There is no doubt a cut in VAT would
increase the size of the deficit. A cut in VAT to 17.5% would cost
about �12 billion. We have a deficit which is a percentage of
our GDP, about the same as Greece. At the moment, do you know how much
Greece has to pay in interest to get its debt away? It is a great
deal of money. It has to pay between 16 and 26%. We pay, because
the markets think we are getting our deficit down, we pay less than
4%. Can you argue if we increased our deficit, if we reversed the
deficit reduction plan, we wouldn't be paying a lot more for the debt?
I would have to see the exact figures. It is difficult to make
that assumption without knowing what the figures involved. Ed Balls
is, I think pretty well aware of what that would be. He did not
touch on that in his speech. We have a great size deficit but we
paid German interest rates. We pay less than 4%. I really don't
understand and there would be grateful if you could understand,
if we increased our deficit, we would have to pay more in interest
payments because of the bigger deficit? At the moment, people are
paying vast sums of money we cannot afford. If we increase spending we
would boost the economy and that is what Ed Balls is suggesting.
will see, this debate is going to go on.
Just as you were talking, Greek bank stocks we have been told, have
hit 15 year lows because of the political turmoil.
Because of the Greek banks hold a huge chunk of Greek Government debt.
They were told to buy it. If it has to take a cut, the bank balance
sheets will be shot. 15% interest, extraordinary. Only if you are not
in full control of your senses! return isn't bad. It is time for
the quiz. Since we have a science and fertility expert, we will give
you a bit and an exam. Please don't panic, it won't have an impossible
At the end of the show, Roberts will sort it out. He will answer it.
It is very easy! Regular viewers of this programme,
and I have been told there is at least three of you - will be a
weather Government's revolutionary drive to organise public services
in England has been driven back. Not on education, where Michael
Gove is expanding Tony Blair's academies and introducing his own
version of three schools. Independent schools that still
state funded, depending on the number of pupils you can attract.
Anita has the details. The Government's revolutionary
drive to reform public services in England has been driven back on a
couple of fronts. Just as comrade Lansley about it. But not in
education. The Education Secretary Michael Gove is in fact, expanding
the role... He is expanding the role of Tony Blair's academies and
introducing his own free schools. Independent but state funded, as
Andrew said. In December the Education Secretary compared
himself to Chairman Mao. He said he was embarking on a long march to
freedom of our education system. Promising a cultural revolution. In
a speech to headteachers in Birmingham this morning, he laid
out the latest thinking from his little red book. At the moment
secondary-school so are considered failing if less than 35% of pupils
get five GCSEs at grades A to C. This so called for target will rise
to 50%. Schools unable to meet this target may be taken over by a
neighbouring Academy. 60% of pupils basically reach -- reach basic
levels of English and maths. 200 of the worst primary school as will be
taken out of local authority control and turned into academies.
This could involve significant change in terms of staffing and in
some cases, the headteacher would be removed entirely. The glorious
Revolution continues. David Blok is head of a primary school in south
London. Fans of being with us. Is this a good idea?
I don't think it is a very good idea. I worry about the capacity of
good or outstanding schools to support failing schools. Parents in
the school where I work expect to see me in the playground, expect to
see the leadership team in the playground. Expect us to respond to
their questions, to meet them regularly. I don't see how we can
do this if we were having to look after a second school. I don't
think it is about money, it is about the capacity of schools to
run another school. I think what would happen is standards in the
good or outstanding school would go down. If somebody asked you
tomorrow please take over and neighbouring school which is
struggling, you would say? I would say no, there aren't enough hours
in the day. If we can go back to basics, why does a fine -- primary
school fail? What happens there? think the primary reason why
schools fail is because there aren't enough good teachers around.
It is very, very difficult to find teachers in inner London who can
deliver the goods. There is all sorts of reasons for this. Teachers
can't afford to live in the inner city. I wonder about the standard
of teacher-training. We find it very difficult to find good
teachers. We have good teachers in the school, but at this time of
year when we are looking for teachers for next year, it is hard.
Schools can very, very easily dip into failure if they cannot find
adequate staff. I would love you to stay with us because you might be
interested in what Andrew and his panel say next.
Little gremlins in our electronic script system. I am holding on to
the old fashioned paper! With us now, the Conservative MP,
chairman of the Education Select Committee, Graham Stuart. We tried
to get a minister on, but although we could not get one, we are
delighted we have used. You said when the Academy's Bill was going
through last summer, not long after the coalition formed power, they
may be rushing things. He said he would like to have longer to
reflect on these changes, suggest changes and improvements to make
sure there aren't any problems that have not been considered. Are they
still rushing it? On the question of urgency, it is central. Is this
system in need of small adjustments or does it need shock treatment?
Are we falling behind competitors? What is the answer? We need to move
fast. The Government did move on the passage of the Academy's bill.
They said they would change things like special educational needs. You
need to combine with careful consideration with a sense of
urgency. The warning you gave last July, you wouldn't make? When you
are trying to push the pace of changes, there is a risks that
unforeseen and perverse consequences... I am not sure what
you're saying, are they right to make these changes now or are they
rushing them? Depends which changes you are talking about. These
primary school is have been identified as failing for a long
time. Are we going to continue accepting this? Hopefully we will
get answers to the questions from the Government in the next few days.
Fundamentally, are they right to say these 200 schools need external
support and stimulus - they are. This was Shiv primary school Stiven
more independent Academy sector, how does that alleviate the
desperate need for more primary school places, which this country
has. Financial Times saying we need another 140,000 extra places?
about raising the quality, it is a different issue. What is the
Government going to do? They are allocating from the devastated
capital budget. Too much money was sent on monuments to political
vanity. Huge, new schools were they put an existing schools, was a
waste of money when there were dilapidated schools that needed
repairing. We have a budget which has been overspent and Miss
allocated in its use. Do you want these 200 primary schools to become
academies? To be the praetorian guard of AC change? Do you want to
see a lot more primary schools become academies? I am cautious
about that. Primaries, by their nature tend to be smaller and more
fragile, making them independent and autonomous without working out
there is a whole series of supports around them is risky. Way you have
200 schools which have failed repeatedly on a sustained period,
there is a case of coming in, gathering whoever will be prepared
to contribute... In secondary schools it is no longer just fail
schools becoming academies. 47% of children in academies set up by
Michael Gove, are from the richest 30% of the population. Under Labour,
47 came from the poorest 20%. It is changing now? It is the same vision
Tony Blair had, which is to see every school, independent school,
secondary-school. Personally I am yet to be convinced on the primary
issue. This did start under Tony Blair and the Tories have given it
wings? I have a lot of time for Michael Gove, he is thinking very
hard. There are big issues, valuing teachers more and getting more
teachers in that are better qualified. If you look at the
record of the academies, take south London, the Harris academies in
Peckham and elsewhere, they have improved the educational standards.
People who were underperforming on a performing very well. There is a
strong case for what the Secretary of State is saying. A headteacher,
just listening to Robert Winston, a Labour peer, he seems to think what
Michael Gove is doing is the next logical stage which was started
under the last Government? I am not sure how relevant and Academy is a
four primary schools, it is a red herring. Are you not just
frightened of the competition, you are the Establishment at the
moment? No, my school is very oversubscribed. We're not afraid of
competition from anybody. Primary school has are being tempted into
becoming Academy's because their budget will go up and headteachers
are mindful of budgets. All sorts of issues to do with governments
and employment law which are not clear to me. We haven't decided at
my school which way we will go. The reality is, we don't have enough
information on which to make a Robert Winston, we are coming onto
the issue you know a lot about. Babies, money and the National
Health Service - there are not many issues as emotive as these. What
happens when you roll them together? Should the state paid to
help infertile couples have a child? Government guidelines say
that women between the ages of 23 and 39 should be entitled to three
cycles of IVF for free on the NHS, but it has emerged that in many
areas, that is not being offered. Technicians at a private IVF clinic,
doing some tricky science, but in the middle of an even tougher moral
issue. Couples who are infertile are entitled to up to three cycles
of IVF treatment for free on the NHS. That is the guidelines set out
by the board who advise on the availability of healthcare, the
National Institute for Clinical Excellence, NICE. But those are
just guidelines. The Primary Care Trusts who administer healthcare in
each local area are not obliged to stick to them. Across the country,
almost three-quarters of Primary Care Trusts provide less than the
recommended number of cycles. That is according to recent research by
a Conservative MP. A small handful provide no IVF at all. This doctor
at his private clinic sees some of the couples who end up paying for
the treatment themselves. Some of them actually cry, because they
feel they have been denied what they feel is their right. As
taxpayers, they contribute to the economy. The prime minister waded
into this emotive issue a week ago. The deputy chief executive of the
NHS is writing to all primary care trusts, reminding them of the NICE
guidance. Of course, some PCTs have worst deficits than others and a
more difficult process to follow, but we want to make sure everyone
has access to this treatment. this letter, which was actually
cent in January, does not guarantee that anything will change. These
decisions are delegated to local PCTs. You are almost bound to get
variation between them. We know they will not take the decision not
to fund IVF lightly. It will be because of cost pressures elsewhere.
You always have to choose between funding cancer, maternity services
and mental health services. NICE is revising its guidelines, and new
ones will be issued next year. But for this treatment to be free for
everyone everywhere, that guidance will have to be toughened up and a
lot of money will have to be found to pay for it.
Lord Winston is still with us. What you don't know about this is not
worth knowing. On the question of health budgets, there is so much
pressure. We have an ageing population, you know the arguments.
Can we afford to give people the chance to have a child when that is
not a life-or-death issue? There are several issues here. Firstly,
being infertile of course causes massive pain, and there is a proper
case for proper reproductive medicine within the NHS. But the
real issue is something more subtle. At present, the NHS is not costing
out what it really costs to deliver the service. In my view, they are
charging too much. If you centralise these services, you
could have staff costs per cycle of around �500 to �800 per cycle. If
you add in the drugs, it is still under �1,000. What is it currently?
It is based on the private sector, which charges �3,000, which is
massive profiteering. It is a big issue for the health bill coming
through parliament. The health service is not good at costing a
range of packages. If the PCTs were charged what the economic grade
really was, they could deliver three cycles, and they could do
much better medicine. That is a real issue for the health service.
That is a strong word, profiteering. I mean that. You cannot justify, in
London, most private clinics are charging more than �3,000 for a
bare IVF cycle without the consultation fee and without
investigation and without seeing the consultant and without
ultrasound, simply as the upfront fee, paid in advance by the patient
before they have anything done. What would be the cost to them? To
the provider? I think the cost to the provider is about half that.
Massive salaries are being made. The freezing of embryos, which will
be more important if you are going to reduce multiple birth rates,
people are being charged at �350 a year to destroy an embryo. Liquid
nitrogen costs 50 pence a litre. To do this eight times will still not
cost more than �5. The costs being charged in the private sector, on
which the NHS is based in some of its fees, make this and realistic.
A let us accept your premise that it is an unfair and an real cost
that PCTs are paying. But still, on that price list you have things
like hip-replacement, knee replacements, things which are
fairly cheap. Some will say, do more of those and fewer of the IVF
treatments, because one transforms a life and the other is a choice.
That is not true. Having a child transforms your life more than
anything else. We are living in a society which does not value the
most important thing, the next generation. For people who are
unable to have children, of course nobody has a right to have a child.
But everybody in the UK has the right to get health treatment which
is due to the pain they are suffering. In my view, the pain of
infertility is as serious as the treatments you are talking about.
We touched on that in the stuttering review added of
education policy. Andrew Lansley has been pushed back in some of his
ambition. It is called a watered down blueprint. Are you happy with
what we have? No, because I have not seen the Bill as it comes
through the House of Lords. We know a lot about what is in it. At least
they have got some academic medicine and evidence that there
will be experts in the commissioning process. But DD10 of
that deal, it is still a very big bill. You will have a tough time in
the Lords. I think we probably will have a tough time in the Lords.
There are situations where the Labour Party will agree with the
Government. But I think we will see a considerable extended stage.
There is still a big problem in healthcare, which is what you do
with the people who need support in the community after they leave the
hospital and how you follow them up properly and give them adequate
healthcare. Those are big issues which are not fully worked out yet.
Now, we love a good awayday on the Daily Politics. We have cake
competitions and play petanque. In fact, I came second last year. In
the petanque. I did not do the cakes. The Liberal Democrats have
not one, but two away-days. And they are off on one now. Giles has
more. Roll up your sleeves, be relaxed.
Try to forget to buy and your boss. I want you to think about some
works stuff, but in a relaxed and fun way. You are probably wondering
why I am wearing sunglasses. It is because the future for us is so
bright, I have to wear shades. Oh, dear, oh, dear. Yes, the
awayday, once the preserve of companies keen to try and get their
employees to bond. It was not long before politics had embraced them
as well, taking the reins of the Conservative Party in 1997, William
Hagues or the awayday as key. He also had a secret weapon to pull
over his party's fusty image, the jumper, the dress down look that
says, we are all equals. Despite the bijou nature of the Liberal
Democrat parliamentary party, its leaders have also seen the awayday
as a way of knitting the party together and forging his identity.
But does the political awayday served as nothing more than a
slightly dodgy photo op? Sadly, paintballing has yet to feature on
a political awayday, much favoured by companies. But the politicians
do go in for those team problem- solving exercises - building trust.
The problem is, one day in politics, your colleagues catch you, the next
day they let you fall flat on your face.
Just like the office! You saw him in the film and he
joins us now - former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik. What do
you get up to? It is feel good. Whatever we have said in Parliament,
we are all basically pulling the same way. The only thing we do not
do is sing the Lib Dem national anthem, the Gland. I will not sing
it for you. -- of the Land. would like to keep our viewers! Do
you play bonding games? Sometimes, but they tend to be in the evening.
In the daytime, there are worthy discussions about policy. There is
always the hardy perennial about what went wrong with tuition fees.
In the evenings, we have dinner and a quiz. Then there is a surprise so
tough questions about politics, and everyone gets competitive. Do you
play any other games? Where are you reading with that question? It is
an awayday. We do not do the paintballing stuff. I was not
thinking of that. Are you being a bit naughty? No, I was just asking
if you play any other games. Does anything could come of these
events? Sometimes you get clarity in policy areas which have caused
controversy. That will be an issue with health. Sometimes you can also
get bonding with a leader if he has been controversial. But it is not
guaranteed. Sometimes you come back, and everything is the same as it
was before. You still hope to be your party's mayor for London
candidate. Let's look at your Power to the people! There is
nothing like using an old '70s sitcom opening titles for a
campaign. Mr Clegg does not seem to want you to be his candidate.
he said that? He said it to the Welsh Liberals. He said, we have
even had a Liberal Democrat celebrity flying the Welsh flag in
the depths of the Australian jungle. That is one fresh tree disaster
that we are not responsible for. I would not call that a wholehearted
endorsement. He was using me as cover for the Forestry Commission
disaster of policy. But we picked upon that and said we thought it
was a bit partisan. The leader has withdrawn from that position. I
have had a lot of negative briefing from some mysterious sources in the
party. What are they afraid of, the fact that I have a profile? We have
run out of time. There is just time before we go to
find out the answer to our exam. Robert, what is the correct answer?
I suppose it is sexual reproduction, isn't it? I do not know if they
will be doing that at the Liberal awayday. He is right.
Before we go, we didn't have time to pick a winner to our guess the
year competition, so you get to pick a winner today, Robert Winston.
The answer was 2002. I have two here. End Livingstone guess the
year. From Yeovil in Somerset. I will be back tonight for This Week
Some 200 of the worst performing primary schools in England are to be removed from local authority control and transformed into academies, under the leadership of private sponsors.
Plus news of Ed Balls' calls for a temporary cut in VAT to help boost the economy.
IVF on the NHS is meant to be free for everyone, everywhere - but find out why that's not always the case. We raise that with our guest of the day, the Labour peer and fertility expert Robert Winston.
And roll up your shirt sleeves, get your woolly jumpers out as the Liberal Democrats are having an away day. We'll be finding out just what they get up to with former MP Lembit Opik.