Andrew Neil catches up after Parliament's recess with Home Office Minister Nick Herbert, shadow health minister Diane Abbott and deputy Lib Dem leader Simon Hughes.
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You can tell a summer holiday is over, the sun is out. Parliament is
Yes, welcome to this new season of the Daily Politics, which will take
us through the party conferences and all the way up to Christmas.
But you wonder if we should ever have been away! We've had riots in
major English cities. Billions of pounds of damage caused. The
prisons filling up with those arrested and convicted. The House
of Commons was recalled and battle joined over how to react.
causes are complex, simplistic solutions won't provide the answer.
We've had revolution in Libya. What seemed stalemate in July looks like
victory in September. It's not all over yet. But Gaddafi is beaten and
in hiding, to the delight of both rebels and Western political
leaders. The Libyan people have taken their
country back. A cross Libya, millions are enjoying Eid for the
first time free of a vicious dictatorship.
Not only that we've had the mother of all phone hacking scandals,
turmoil in the financial markets and slowdown in the economy. Which
makes for a busy half hour! And with us for the whole programme
today we have the Home Office Minister, Nick Herbert, for the
Conservatives. Shadow Health Minister, Diane Abbott, for Labour.
And the Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes.
So, first day back at school here at Westminster. But no time for
sitting around and comparing tans and holiday snaps. It's straight
back into the serious stuff of high-politics and low mud-slinging.
Nick Clegg's been out already this morning. He was appearing with some
school kids ahead of a speech insisting he'd never allow Free
Schools to make a profit. Meanwhile, over in the Commons his
backbenchers are grumbling again about the Government's NHS reforms.
This is ahead of a big debate tomorrow. A meeting of the Lib Dem
Parliamentary Party takes place a little later today which will
decide just how many of them are prepared to back their own
ministers. For Labour, tales of woe from Gordon Brown's Cabinet just
keep on coming. According to the former Chancellor, Alistair Darling,
there were bitter fights over economic policy. And of course
there is the Prime Minister himself. He took the view I was being too
cautious. Every Treasury in the world is cautious. He took the view
it would be over in six months. took the view I have been
exaggerating and was misled by the advice I received.
David Cameron might have spent some of his summer holidays at the
Highland Games in Braemar. But he, like the rest of us, is waiting to
find out if the Conservative Party in Scotland decides to sever all
ties with their past. And if it does, will anybody notice?
Diane Abbott, you fought the last election led by a man who ran the
Government like a Cavaldi, who tried to destroy his own Chancellor
and he thought our economic problems would be all over in six
months, did you know any of that? am one of the people who did not
nominate him to be leader of the party. It might have been better to
have a contested election. I am surprised at people like Alastair
Darling, who did nominate him, now launching these attacks.
happened on a Thursday night in this very studio. I seemed to
remember some anticipation on your part as Mr Brown as the Great
Leader? I am one of these optimistic people and I am sure
that is why I am on the left in politics. If Gordon Brown was as
terrible as all that, why didn't he do something at the time? The
problem is with these newspaper serialisations, you make more money
out of newspaper then you do selling the book. And to get it see
realised you have to have these juicy bits. I will wait to read the
book. But, the continuity in this, which is why it is not right to say,
it is all history. Is a man at the centre of this, who shared Mr
Brown's views on the deficit, as opposed to Mr Darling's is Mr Ed
Balls who is the Shadow Chancellor? He is a great man and a grey shadow
chancellor. Will he not cut the deficit as Mr Brown did? Not at all.
They can be decided by the shadow cabinet as a whole on her by Ed
Miliband. Can we just write that down? Simon Hughes, Nick Clegg
talking about free schools this morning. Almost trying to be in
opposition in Government at the same time. He will be saying they
won't be allowed to make a profit, when has Michael Gove said they
would be? I'm not sure he has, it was a Tory idea and not our idea
and came into the coalition agreement from the Tory side.
Clegg said it was in your manifesto? They are slightly
different, I won't get into the technicalities but it was a bid
from the Tory side of the coalition. We came to an agreement. Then there
is a concern they were going to give them a special status and
position and there was a risk they would take money from money that
would be in the pot for local authority schools. What Nick Clegg
was trying to do this morning was a lay some of the concerns of things
that wouldn't happen. Is he worried about people like you and about
people in the Lib Dem conference coming up. Because in your
conference last year, live on the Daily Politics, your conference
approved a motion urging people not to take up the free school option.
Your party is against it? believe the best way is to have
comprehensive education in a Democratic way. So you are against
free schools? It has always been tension as to what you give people
the freedom to create a school. That is why you can justify
denominations schools. Whether that eats into the resources available.
My judgment has always been we need to make sure they don't take
resources that are available for schools. Are you for against free
schools? I prefer local authority schools. So you are against them?
I'm not against them... You won't be encouraging any to be formed in
your neck of the woods? No, I won't. Nick Herbert, I know it is not your
decision because you are an English Tory, but do you agree with the
idea the Scottish Conservative Party should just abolish itself?
think it is a reasonable debate to kick off. In the end it has to be a
decision for because they have -- Scottish Conservative Party.
tried to pre-empt that answer. is a perfectly reasonable debate to
have. What the Scottish people want, I think it is a real choice and I
think that if they are able to be given the choice in terms of the
things we stand for, it is a possibility. You are Unionist?
a Unionist, but I am happy for this debate to be had. The decision
should rest with members... It is a good debate to have, we are having
it, it is not your decision, but what is your opinion? My opinion is
I am happy and proud to be a member of the Conservative Party which is
a Unionist Party. But, equally in Northern Ireland for instance, we
ran on a platform in the last election or where we had an
association with members of another party. That is something that could
be considered. Let's have the debate. Wouldn't it be seen as a
cosmetic, rebranding exercise? is a thing we have got to decide.
The person advocating this said it would be about a fundamental change.
They have to have the debate and let it take place in Scotland and
let the members of the party decide. He rebranded yourselves? You used
to be the Tories' and then in 1834 U became the Conservatives. But we
still call you the Tories? You do, and parties go through periods
where they remain themselves but the core values survive of security
and individual responsibility. Those will remain. Now there used
to be a time we called the 'silly season' between the House of
Commons going into recess in mid- July and the start of the Party
Conference season in mid-September. Most August months are news-free
zones. A barren month punctuated only by shots of fresh-faced
teenagers celebrating their A level results and the latest parade of
wannabes and D-list celebrities parading into the Big Brother House.
But not this year! Here's David Thompson So the summer was blighted
by riots across England, Parliament was recalled and no-one was talking
This is the most humble they are my life. The ICA the fightback has
begun, we will protect you. It might not have been a long hot,
summer but it has not been dull. We have had riots, Libya and phone
hacking and Parliament has been recalled not once, but technically
twice. Testing time for politicians. How have Ed Miliband and David
Cameron done? Does this summer give us any political clues about the
summer ahead? England's troubles cities have given David Cameron a
major challenge. Can he turn crisis into opportunity? David Cameron
emerges from this with a chance to relaunch his premiership. We are
about to discover whether he can use the riots and accommodation of
the lift he will get out of his victory in Libya, will he use that
as a chance to really give his Government a new mission this
autumn? We will know the answer to that probably by the beginning or
the middle of October. Given the correct response to the riot was
vital for Ed Miliband, too. But did the phone hacking round give his
leadership a makeover? Ed Miliband has had a good summer. He was
convincing on the whole Rupert Murdoch scandal. Tying it into what
many people regard as the corrosion of public life and on the riots, he
didn't fall into the trap of being seen to equate it with the cuts all
the great social discord. images which define the summer, but
will they fade with time or help shape the party leaders?
Miliband responded effectively to the phone hacking crisis and showed
he had some steel and his party liked it. But he hasn't formulated
a message of a kind which really seems to Connect in any meaningful
way with the sort of voters he needs to stand a chance of winning
the next election. That is what this autumn will be about for him,
he has to put flesh on the bone. The greatest criticism within the
Tory party and outside it and that of the David Cameron is he is not
strongly right wing, people don't know what he is. He asked to define
that this autumn. As normal service resumes in Westminster, the
extraordinary events of recent weeks will fall into perspective.
But now, this feels like a summer of change.
The summer season was blighted by riots, Parliament was recalled and
nobody was talking about hugging hoodies any more. On 10th August,
David Cameron said, "There are pockets of our society that are not
only broken, but frankly sick". The following week he vowed to tackle
the "slow-motion moral collapse" affecting parts of the country. By
contrast Labour leader, Ed Miliband, talked about a wider "crisis of
values". In a speech on the 15th August he made a link between the
values of the looters and those of the bankers. "Our whole country is
held back by irresponsibility, wherever it is found". Deputy Prime
Minister, Nick Clegg, attacked the "smash and grab" culture of those
involved in the unrest. Although he did also say that the best response
was to give people "opportunities to get ahead so they feel they have
a stake in their own future". Diane Abbott, let me come to you
first. Now it has died down a bit, we are standing back a bit. Did
these riots have anything to do with coalition policy or not?
practical terms, no, not least because the coalition policies have
yet to feed to those on the ground, particularly the cuts. I never said
the cuts caused the riots. But David Cameron and Nick Clegg have
agreed an inquiry where they will go into communities and ask them
what they think happened. So when Harriet Harman specifically linked
the riots to the cuts in the educational maintenance allowance,
that wasn't true? It is not a causal link, but there is no doubt
cuts in education funding have affected communities and their
perception of what opportunities there are for them. Nick Herbert,
you are talking about taking �2 billion out of the police budget in
the spending round and increasing the budget for international did
allotment by �2 billion. How does It is exactly why our policy of
free schools is designed to extend educational opportunities. In
relation to police funding, we have to deal with the deficit, of a
police can make their share of the savings. A report today has been
produced by policy exchange, an independent think-tank, pointing
out there are thousands of officers in backroom positions who Onuoha
near the front line. We can make savings and still do that in a way
that protects the visible and available policing. The Policy
Exhange, you call it an independent think-tank, it is centre right.
is a good report. The Inspectorate of Constabulary have said exactly
that the same thing. They said there were 25,000 police officers
in back and middle office positions, not on the front line. There is
plenty of scope for savings if forces work more efficiently. Have
I reject the idea that a cut in funding means there has to be a
poorer service for the public. they are Johnson of London -- and
Boris Johnson said the riots undermined the case for cutting
police budgets, he was wrong? disagree. In London, he is
increasing the numbers of officers from the level he inherited. It is
not about that in London. He was talking about outside London.
Meyers are bound to bid for... is the Mayor of London. He was
talking about outside London. is not the time to think about
making substantial cuts in police numbers, I am looking at the
country as a whole, he said. He was talking about outside London. He
said himself he had addressed the situation in London and he was
increasing the numbers. Snares are bound to bid for more money. --
Meyers. We have a deficit and we have to be -- deal with it. There
is plenty of scope for saving. did it take a riot, or several
riots, for you to decide you needed to do something about gangs? That
is simply not the case. There has been ongoing work. The government's
College and a set up by David Cameron in opposition when he
talked about social responsibility and some of the social measures we
need to take in terms of radical reform in both education, that
Michael Gove was talking about last week, extending opportunity and
improving discipline and opportunity, and Iain Duncan
Smith's agenda of welfare reform, were set in train some time ago.
Could they have been embraced under a coalition programme. We are
embarked on an agenda that his social reform. Simon Hughes, you
warned against knee-jerk policy responses, have you seen any?
have seen the courts be tougher than normal. And I think some of
those will have sentences which may be reduced on appeal. There should
be an addition for taking part in a riot. Were these tough sentences
knee-jerk? They were a response... A word a knee-jerk? They weren't a
knee-jerk response, but they were a response that was a difficult one
to judge. OK. I have seen a debate which I welcome about how we are
more effective with our policing. I am very clear and I am a London MP,
I don't think you need to see a reduction in police numbers if you
see a reduction in budget. Brian Paddick said this morning that if
you look, for example, at the extras that senior police officers
in the net get, extra accommodation, chauffeur-driven cars, there are
lots of things you can take out. I discovered, I didn't know this
before, that most police officers in London are not allowed to go out
and deal with public order offences because they are not trained to
have body armour and helmets. That is ridiculous. All police on the
streets ought to be on to deal with all situations. Wood cutting the
welfare benefits of a family with a member involved in riots could be a
knee-jerk response? I am not in favour of that. I have warned that
kicking people out of public sector housing and taking benefits await
seems the wrong response. Evicting a family from council property,
which Southwark council has, that his knee-jerk? They haven't yet.
They have talked about it. They want to do it. I will tell you why
it is illogical. If you have two people who go into Argos to make
staff and one happens to live in a council property and one is also
living in private property, to distinguish between them is invalid.
Younger siblings will suffer. On the question of sentencing, I would
say this. The public would expect sentencing to be a little higher
given the context and the system of appeals will help to deal with them.
Will we see more riots? I hope not. I would add on sentencing,
exemplary sentences are important and they have been set
independently. I visited one of the courts. How can you support
exemplary sentences, which is basically banging people up for a
longer time than normal, how can you do that and cut prison funding?
For the Prime Minister has been clear. There will be enough places
provided to ensure the courts can give a prison sentence. There is a
difference between cramming people in and giving them the sort of
experience that might help to rehabilitate them. I would agree
that up he might have space to cram them in. Are you prepared at more
prison spaces? We will provide sufficient prison spaces.
police could end up arresting 25,000 people and there might be a
lot more convictions. You are prepared to add more prison places
to accommodate these people? So far there have been over 2000 arrests
and half of those have been charged. We can learn the lessons over house
with just as was. That has not answered my question. Sufficient
places will be available. Does that mean you are prepared to increase
the prison population? The Prime Minister answered it, he said
enough places will be available. I agree with Diane, it is not just
about incarcerating people, it is also about reducing reoffending and
breaking the cycle. Where will these extra prison places come
from? We have been able to accommodate those that have been
incarcerated in present by sentences in response to the riots.
It is the government's responsibility to ensure there will
be sufficient... Are you confident they are getting the education they
would normally get? Are you confident they are getting the
support they would normally get? is so important that we have a
prison system that does work and works to reduce reoffending. 17% of
those that have been charged in the riots have had previous convictions.
-- 70%. We need to move on to Libya. Diane Garbutt, you described Libya
in May as an elf entered intervention. -- Diane Abbott. It
is not sustainable. Would you like to change your opinion? A lot of
backbench MPs thought that. We were glad to vote for the original
intervention because we thought we were protecting the people in the
cities. You have been proved wrong by events. This is a bit like Iraq.
There was a point when everyone was crying victory. Bush had this
banner, mission accomplished. Let's not say mission accomplished yet.
You also said, where advisers go, troops can be found behind. The
British public will be wringing their hands tomorrow. Troops have
and followed and I am glad of that. I think it is right that backbench
MPs should express what a lot of the British public were thinking.
It would have been very poor... Even if you were wrong.
public's concerns are valid. Let me bring the one to another public
concern. How ashamed are you to discover the incredible extent and
complicity of the last Labour government with Colonel Gaddafi?
Well... As you know there are a number of aspects of the last
Labour government I was not absolutely thrilled was. Things
will come out... Things have come out, how ashamed of you? The idea
that our security services, under a Labour government, would be
complicit in returning someone to Libya clearly to be tortured, and
he was tortured, for three years. have always been against any breath
of intimation that British government could be involved with
torture. How about the Prime Minister helping side Gaddafi with
his PhD thesis? Why was it necessary... I understood and the
point that he wanted to change the trajectory that Libya was on, but
it did not mean that Labour had to climb into bed with them.
Parliament known, you can be assured parliamentarians on both
sides would have expressed their concern about these things. In your
view, what is worst of the Blair years, the way Mr Blair cosy up to
Mr Gaddafi or Mr Blair becoming a godfather to one of Mr Murdoch's
children? You are tempting me! In the long run, the fact that Tony
Blair was godfather... It is a close call. Was it acceptable that
MI6 helped Mr Gaddafi's forces with anti- Gaddafi rebels? I would not
be able to comment on that allegation. Other than to say that
clearly such matters are serious. The Prime Minister is making a
statement to the House later and I understand he has suggested that
this may be a proper matter for an inquiry. There is an existing
inquiry, the gives an inquiry, and that could be extended to consider
matters of such collusion and the British government must always
stand against torture and improper behaviour. There must be a concern
among MPs like yourself that this sort of thing isn't continuing
elsewhere. Firstly, we should have gone into Libya to protect Libby --
Libyan people. Secondly, I was very clear that it looked on the
evidence as if there was illegal rendition in the last government.
The gives an inquiry is the right place to start and it would be
logical to get a High Court judge to look into this. But I do have
the concern that there are other despotic regimes in North Africa
and the Middle East. We must be very careful that our foreign
policy does not continue to sustain them in the same way, including
potentially detention of people in large numbers in Syria. My
particular concern is the way we manage our arms trade. We have
often made a lot of money out of selling arms to countries with
regimes we should in no way be publicly supporting. I hope that
will be a review. A on the economy, why it is the recovery worse than
the recession? In what respect? Falling living standards,
unemployment among young people, no sense of growth, growth is lower
than it was a year ago. For most people the recovery is hurting more
than the recession. Globally, we have seen the problems in the
United States. We can't pretend we are insulated from that and
insulated from things like rising commodity prices. But it is
important that remain tame the course of getting hold of the
deficit by doing that. We succeed in having market confidence in the
economy. You have to do something about growth as well. For most
damaging thing we could do in relation to growth would be to
choke it off. By losing that confidence, taking the advice of Ed
Balls and others who say we should increase spending at this time, we
have seen the fact that a huge surge of spending in the US has not
produced the growth they want. The important thing is to maintain that
confidence, maintain our course. What spending would Labour make --
spending cuts would lead to make to cut the deficit? But we have run
out of Tarin! Don't say I am not good to you! -- we have run out of
time. That's all for today, thanks to our
guests. I'll be back tomorrow along with Jo Coburn for an extended
programme. There's just too much politics to cram into half an hour.
Not least Boris Johnson in front of one Select Committee talking about
A look back over the last few weeks in British politics. Topics for debate are the riots which took place in some of England's major cities, revolution in Libya, the phone hacking scandal and economic uncertainty in the financial markets.
Joining Andrew Neil for the whole programme are Home Office Minister Nick Herbert, shadow health minister Diane Abbott and the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats Simon Hughes.