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Good afternoon, live from the Lib Dem conference here in beautiful


downtown Birmingham. The economy is taking centre stage yet again. The


eurozone crisis continues to rumble to an uncertain climax, with Italy


now firmly in the Cross says. It has joined the growing list of


countries whose credit has been downgraded -- in the cross hairs.


This is embarrassing for the Lib Dems because this party was once


the most enthusiastic of all about joining the euro. We didn't, but we


will still suffer from the fall-out. Smiling Vince Cable warned the


eurozone crisis could push Britain back over the edge. He told a


fringe event that the UK was facing a second financial crisis. He said


it was possible we face years of stagnation. Nick Clegg had to spend


this morning in his round of interviews defending the


Government's's policy of deficit- reduction, despite its impact on


growth, which is close to zero at the moment. Will be speaking to Tim


Farron who has been busy denying that he wants to be the next leader


of the party. We know what that rains. And we will be playing


coalition life swap with the Tory backbencher, Peter Bone. It is of


the scale, of the planet. I have no idea that they were so completely


out of touch with reality. And if that wasn't enough, Jo is in London.


Good morning. We are here but we are still talking about the Lib


Dems, who are claiming victory in their battle over health reforms in


England. Have they really saved the NHS? And the Energy Secretary gets


tough with the gas and electricity companies, but will consumers be


Thank you. Who better to kick off today's show than two of Her


Majesty's finest members of the official press corps. Paul Waugh


from Politics Home, that is a website. George Parker from my


financial times, that is a newspaper. More Tory bashing, this


time from the Tory bashing Chris Huhne. He does specialise in his


favourite blood sport of Tory bashing. Is it making any impact in


the real world? I suspect it is not. The conference will love everything


he has got to say about comparing the right of the Tory party to the


tea-party in the States. Chris Huhne has another game to play. He


is addressing his remarks to the ball about possible leadership


ambitions, who knows? -- to the hall. Positioning, for a meltdown


of Mr Clegg? Chris Huhne has been in the running before a couple of


times. Does anyone really think that he is going to stand again? I


don't think anyone in the party thinks. Maybe Chris Huhne things.


Certainly not Tim Farron who is the other on mobilising himself. I


think they think there has been too much of this easy Tory bashing at


this conference, and they are worried about this mare in wartime


phenomenon. Where you are collaborating with the enemy,


trying to make things worse than they otherwise would have been. It


is dangerous, it looks like they are collaborating with the enemy. I


think they want to get back more ownership of the programme. Chris


Huhne has already likened the Tories to go balls, so liking them


to -- Goebbels, so it likening them to Sarah Palin is probably an easy


step. Chris Huhne knows what he's doing. He is one of the most ardent


Europhiles in the party but he has had to amend his views. He knows


that on the issue of Europe, Lib Dems still firmly have big issue --


differences with the Tories. When it comes to European Human Rights,


he is going to stand firm on that. It is interesting, because he is


putting out these new feelers to the Labour Party. Last night he


attended a fringe with John Denham. Next week there will be a reversal


of that, he will go to Labour's conference with John Denham. There


were over chose last night about not closing of that route for the


future. There is no doubt when you speak to the rank and file, here,


they may not be representative of Lib Dem voters, because party


conferences are not, but most people here, if they had to be in


coalition, would rather be in coalition with Labour than the


Tories. I don't think there is any doubt about that. Most Lib Dem


marginal seats are against the Tories, most people have spent


their political lifetime fighting the Tories and would consider


themselves a left-leaning party. The fact is, they often don't have


a choice when it comes to coalition forming. They did not have a choice


in May 2010 and they may not have a prize at the next election. I think


that is why Clegg and his entourage do not like we talk about divorced


from the Tories. Tim Farron has talked about that, why would you do


that? Unless it was political posturing and positioning. It is


positioning. The reason for choosing Tim Farron is ditching the


coalition with the Conservative Party. He takes on the party when


everything goes sour with the Conservatives, or if Nick Clegg


finds it impossible to work with the Labour Party. It is looking a


long way down the track. There is a dark cloud. The eurozone crisis is


a particular problem for this party. Like your newspaper, you and the


Lib Dems were enthusiastic supporters of us joining the euro.


And it is not a great position in retrospect to have fouled, is it?


Indeed. I think that is a fair point about the FT and the Liberal


Democrats. The Liberal Democrats are an international party, but at


grassroots level there is a lot of scepticism. I am from the West


Country and most people in the West Country are probably not aware the


Liberal Democrats are pro-European, they don't like to talk about it


much and did not at the last election. Something has struck me


very much. Vince Cable, you would not mistake for a ray of sunshine.


He was very gloomy in his speech yesterday, even more gloomy at the


fringe event last night, talking about potentially years of


stagnation. It seems to me, this conference hasn't yet thought


through the political implications of if he is right. I think that is


right. There is a curious disconnect between Nick Clegg's


message to the party, reasons to be cheerful is what he was trying to


save. We are in government, doing things, delivering. But that is


nowhere to be seen on the big issue of the economy. For the next three


years, they will have to negotiate how to dig in during these times.


If Mr Cable is right and there are years of stagnation ahead, they are


close. I think you might be right. They have a real problem put up


they were sold this proposition, two years of pain and three years


of recovery leading up to growth of about 3% a year by election year,


which is not going to happen. The Liberal Democrats trade on optimism


will do if you go into the next election in a gloomy economic


situation, that is pretty bad politically for them. I don't think


they have thought of the consequences. We will leave it


there. A pleasure to have you with us. The party has been giving


itself a bit of a pat on the back. All parties do that. When they last


gathered in March, they were in rebellious mood. They wanted big


changes to the government's NHS reform bill, even though they had


signed up to it. There was what was called a pause, changes to the Bill


and some satisfaction from the Lib Dems. Nick Clegg and his health


minister, Paul Burstow, will visit a local hospital in Birmingham


today. Have the Lib Dems really got their way? On these NHS reforms?


They would like to think so, wouldn't they? Or that the health


service in England is safer with the Lib Dems partially in charge.


One of the Prime Minister's most eye-catching pre-election pledges


was to protect NHS spending in England from the cuts. This was


enshrined in the coalition agreement with Lib Dem partners


Last year, the Chancellor promised a 0.4% rise in real terms. Rising


inflation, even higher rates of health inflation and factors like


VAT increase have wiped out this increase. The NHS chief executive


has said the service will meet savings of �20 billion by 2014, in


order to standstill, representing a 4% cut a year. This money would be


used to fund the rising cost of drugs and other cost pressures. The


NHS's budget overall will therefore remain essentially flat. In April


this year, the health regulation -- regulator, Monitor, said it


expected NHS Trusts to make savings of up to 7% each year to balance


their books, because of the higher than expected rate of inflation.


This means more hospital reorganisation and jobs cuts in the


hunt for greater efficiency. The Royal College of Nursing has


identified 40,000 posts to be closed, and those calling for


radical reform of the NHS see the government's water down health


reforms as a missed opportunity to tackle a growing financial crisis.


The government again to save �70 billion in the turn of the


parliament and nothing has happened in the first two years of


government, the savings won't have been made. If we talk about this in


year-on-year terms, it is �5 billion a year that the government


That is not being saved through efficiency which means it will come


in the form of salami-slicing, and probably big shops across the


service, which will be very destructive. I caught up with G


political adviser to Nick Clegg, Norman Lamb, and asked him if


delaying the NHS Bill had meant the creation of far more layers of


bureaucracy -- chief political adviser. I don't think so, there


are always risks of that. I think we have improved the governance and


accountability of the NHS. People want to know that the health


services that are provided for the community, that the people


providing those services are accountable to that community. I


think we have improved that significantly. The big concern that


I had was what I saw as a sort of headlong rush to imposing a


complete the strobed dream of commissioning across the whole NHS,


According to the Royal College of GPs and even the Department of


Health, not having that headlong rush, making it evolutionary, is


going to cost the NHS. The chairman of the Royal College of GPs says


the number of statutory organisations will go from 163, to


521, and that the savings from these reforms will be �700 million


less. There are more organisations, in that you have smaller groups of


clinical commissioners. Which will cost more? Well... I don't think it


necessarily well. I think there is a very good case for engaging


general practitioners far more closely in the decisions about the


care of their patience. At the moment, GPs have no role at all


about the cost of the care provided to their patience, and giving them


both the power and responsibility and accountability for making those


decisions is part of making the NHS more effective and efficient.


Improving care, but making the money go further. Why does the


chair of the Royal College of GPs say that now we have a new system


like spaghetti Junction? That is her view of it. The former head of


the Royal College of GPs was the head of the listening exercise that


led to the changes that have been made. There are different views


within the NHS. I think the overwhelming view, actually, is


that we need to stop the endless debate about this bill, get it


through and make it work, because the biggest threat to the NHS is


achieving the �20 billion of efficiency savings set by Labour.


It is necessary, even though we are ring-fencing the NHS, because every


year, in every developed country, costs keep writing because an


ageing population. You are sticking to that �20 billion worth of


savings. Do you think that is now feasible, when the Department of


Health impact assessment has said savings from NHS reforms have now


gone down by �700 million? Your budget intervention has basically


cost the NHS �700 million? reason why I want this debate to


end and to get it through... But do you accept the costs have gone up?


I don't know what those specific figures are. All I know is that


changes to the Bill were necessary to safeguard the NHS. It would have


been madness to do this headlong rush to a new system, without any


evidence about how it is going to work. Evidence from the United


States suggests that you could end up with the commissioning groups


going bankrupt. We would not want that, because we have to safeguard


patient services. That is critical. We must learn as we go along, on a


more evolutionary approach. Do you think it is feasible to make those


savings by 2014? It is a very tough challenge, it has never been


achieved in the past. So, no? have to focus the entire service on


achieving that level of saving and if we don't, it services will be


lost. It becomes applet in Paris -- imperative that we focus the


service on achieving it. Because of rising inflation, it has all been


wiped out, so you have broken a key for edge in terms of money going


into the NHS? -- key pledge. alternative offered by Labour was


no ring-fencing of the NHS spent at all for we are talking about your


You make judgments about the level of spend, on the basis of the level


of inflation anticipated at that stage. We have been faced with


higher levels of inflation unexpected because of global


commodity prices. -- than expected. It reinforces the case for


achieving these efficiency savings and getting the whole service


focused. Norman Lamb, speaking to me earlier.


Back to Andrew in Birmingham. Get your crystal-ball cert, just


John Crystal once, I gaze deeply into them, I imagine it is made


2015, we had just had a general election, yet again it is a hung


parliament! They do not come for years and then two come along at


once. Who would the Lib Dems pair up with, their trusted friends, the


Conservatives? For what they want to try something new with their old


mates, Labour? We send Adam with his mood box to see what the party


faithful thought. Come and have a look, it is the


famous Daily Politics mood box. For the first quiz of 2011, we are


asking people to look forward to the general election of 2015.


Imagine Labour and the Tories have the same number of seats and the


same share of the vote. We will ask delegates who they would like to go


in coalition with. We have got 33 different policies at the moment,


and if that trend continues and we see an improvement in the economy,


we would stay with the Tories. First Labour voter, why is that?


come from a Labour. Bermondsey has been a traditional Labour seat


until Simon Hughes took over. We do not have a lot of luck with the


Tories, and I am more left than right-wing Tory views. It is a


dilemma, because we seem to be working with the Tories, but I do


not like their policies. Why do you say the Tories? The Tories we have


learned to work with, and this is just a first Parliament. Once you


have learned to work with a partner, I think you should not rush to


ditch them. I think my heart would like to go Labour, but


practicalities, I think it would have to be the Tories. With a heavy


heart, you are doing that. Yes. have cancelled each other out,


thank you very much! I am not putting my ball in either of those,


because I think it is a false question, OK? Are you going to put


it back in the basket? It depends entirely on people's manifestos.


Thank you very much. Run-a-ball for Why do you say Labour? Because I do


not think the Tories should exist at all. Labour? Oh, so you would


rather ditch them. I would ditch them tomorrow if I could. We will


be seen more of you today. Yes, later on, I've been so. Have you


been enjoying it? It has been interesting. We have had quite a


lot of people voting with their balls, and it looks like Labour are


edging it, that people are not keen and answering the question at this


conference. Pop it in the slot, it is 2015, another hung parliament.


B is in the middle, but it is rolling towards the Tories. It is a


tough dilemma. It is tough! I am not going to do it. A beastly


question! It is a beastly business. I am a two-ball person. They say


Tessa Munt has got balls, she has. Is it a dilemma, answering a


question like this? I think there are good things and all the parties.


They all have something to offer. When you look at the final result,


the balls do not life, what you think that says about the state of


your party today? The Liberal Democrat Laura Heart beats on the


left, we all know that. We are radical, progressives. When we come


from a social democratic background or a liberal background, most of us


are not Conservatives. You know what they say, the balls never lie,


and this is the final result, a clear majority of delegates would


prefer to go into coalition with Labour in the event of a hung


parliament in 2015. Only four years to wait to find out!


The interesting to see that Vince Cable rolled towards the Tories! I


do not know what it means, but it was interesting. We are joined by


the President of the Lib Dems, Tim Farron. Welcome to the Daily


Politics Conference special. You have said that as far as the


coalition is concerned, divorce is inevitable. Why? It is a fixed-term


parliaments to 2015, and the partners will go their separate


ways. It could happen, but... is not a divorce, or collisions


separate at the election, but you do not rule out coming back. -- for


coalitions. I do not rule it out. So why is divorce inevitable and it


this is a temporary marriage? are an independent party. We want


to win the general election outright. If that does not happen,


you have to be big enough to look at the arithmetic. If the next


election produces a result with the consent as has the largest party


and with your vote can form a government, as they do now, are you


ruling out renewing the coalition? Of course not. So it is not


divorce! It is not a marriage either, it was a good excuse to


tell and Eric Pickles Joe. So the words do not mean anything. It is a


temporary arrangement. Whatever happens, whenever the next general


election... Five years is not temporary, it is longer than most


marriages these days! It is important that it is a full five


years. You look in your crystal ball, it is interesting to see what


arithmetic you get out of it, but I am certain the British people,


whatever my political views, want a stable government to see us through


bleak times. I understand that, but when you said divorce is inevitable,


you were just plain to the gallery. I was saying that this is not a


permanent arrangement, not a merger. Nobody ever said it was a merger.


Nobody has ever claimed this was a merger of the parties. Both are of


parties tonight there will even be an electoral pact. That is


absolutely so. If you look at Polly Toynbee, he will write week after


week about how the Lib Dems have changed their politics, that is rot,


and it was a crude way of putting it. You say it is wrong, but the


last time I looked, Polly Toynbee wrote for the Guardian. I am a


Guardian reader, I am. Which means that in your heart are parts, if


you had a choice, all things being equal, you would rather share power


with Labour than the Conservatives. Admit it! No A. We are an


independent party. What I have always found it difficult to


understand is that you cannot really trust that the Liberal


Democrats are Liberal Democrats. I wanted to join the Labour Party, I


would have done. I am saying that there is a Guardian reader, a man


on the left, you would rather, all things being equal, share power and


be in coalition with Labour. If all things being equal, I would rather


win a general election. The bat that is not going to happen.


instead, the Said, sort it out. They gave us arithmetic which


pointed in just one direction. Am I not being honest? The why can't you


just say, I know the reasons we have to be in power with the


Tories? All things being equal, I would rather share power with


Labour if I had to share power with anyone. Correct? Off no. The bottom


line is that you look at the circumstances you are given. I'm


sure that we did the right thing going into coalition, and the only


option was to go with the Conservative Party. With Labour we


would have been short of a majority. The Tories would have won and


October general election. I want to look for. The mood box showed that


the rank-and-file at this conference would rather be closer


to Labour than the Tories. I think your mood box showed that there


were lots of people who did not want to put a ball Ni the box.


know that! It is a false question. Ming Campbell said that he saw


Labour as the most natural coalition party. Paddy Ashdown said


that a committee with Labour. Matthew Oakeshott said that the


party's heart beats to the left. Why are you saying that black is


white? Politics is an axis of horizontal and vertical, and the


interventionists and the three market. To say that we are just one


place along that line is just inaccurate and incorrect. When all


is said and done, I did not expect to have an easy ride with the


Liberals, it was not a good career move, but I wanted my politics to


prevail. Sometimes you have to go into collision to make that happen.


-- coalition. If you have described the Tories as witless and


reactionary. Which ones? I referred to some of the remarks made by some


Conservative writers in a newspaper's... No, you did not talk


about conservative writers. You thought about the Tories. What


regards to the riots, some of the responses that were made from


people, David Starkey, who support of the Conservative Party. He is


not a Conservative MP. I did not say MPs. You will say that there


are plenty of people and views expressed by the likes of the Daily


Mail, even the Murdoch press have made comments at this time. So has


you wriggle out of this, when you describe the Tories as witless and


reactionary, you were not describing any Conservative MPs.


Let's go back to the riots, six for seven weeks ago. Those were


absolutely appalling, and I am certain that I was not certain what


the causes were. I'm certain that we have to listen to people to make


sure our response is considered and thought for. There are some people


on the right, you will have interviewed them... Name names!


Starkey, bless him. He is not a Conservative MP. Those people have


decided to pour petrol on the flames of discontent by invoking


racial stereotypes. Am I not right to bring attention to that? Who are


the ideological descendants of people who send children up


chimneys? Who are they? Those were Vince's comments yesterday. All of


us wants to, I hope, get rid of the red tape that strangles businesses,


but we must not get mixed up between that red tape which


strangles business and that red tape that actually protects


people's basic rights in the workplace. Could you remind us who


got rid of children going up chimneys but a marked I imagine it


was the Liberals. It was Lord Shaftesbury, a Tory. So there are


these ideological descendants, your old Liberal Party? Lots of people


would rather get rid of tape, and it is easy to be populist, and it


is tempting to say things about red tape, but we are talking about


things that protect basic liberties and freedoms. It is a cheap shot


that you made, saying it was people who wanted to assess children up


chimneys. Vince Cable has said that we could be heading for a prolonged


period a stagnation. What are the political consequences of that? If


you hit 2015 and we are still in stagnation, and literally, you are


toast. We all know that this is a unbelievably difficult period. I


have quoted Mervyn King before, he said that whoever took power in


2010 would be out of power subsequently because of the


horrible decisions they would have to make. The rules are normally


have for five generations, so one is a good deal. Whoever is in power


has to take horrific decisions. The exit from this or for period, I


cannot predict when it is him to be. I believe that it will be in


advance of 2015. The consequences of the Liberal Democrats could be


very large, but the consequences of this country of ours not been


mature and maintaining a stable coalition, despite having


disagreements with the Tories, would be much greater, and in that


sense we are doing the right thing. Look me in the eye and be honest


with me, all this Tory bashing, divorce is inevitable, witless and


reactionary. Tories that he cannot name, you are just positioning


yourself to pick out the leadership if the coalition goes pear-shaped.


No, OK? You do not want to be leader of the Lib Dems? I have no


such ambition. Will not accept? Certainly not. You will refuse the


leadership? It is not going to come up. Nick Clegg is doing a brilliant


job. You would refuse? Yes. Not only is Nick Clegg doing a great


job, but he deserves my support. What does Tim Farron wants to be


when he grows up? Simon Hughes. that really your ambition? That


should be everybody's ambition. That is as far as it goes?


should be yours. Would you like this I love the euro that? Would


you like to wear that? I will not wear it! All your party manifesto


said that he wanted to join. It is in a difficult position at the


moment. I love tuition fees! I do not love tuition fees. You voted


for them. I did not, I would like to get rid of them. Maybe this is


the best on, don't panic. I would say panic constructively. Next!


would say calm down to a panic. Thank you for being with us and is


thus will show from Birmingham. Last year the Liberal Democrat


conference we decided to cause a bit our mischief, it surprised me,


too! We brought a Conservative MP along to see what he made of it all,


and this year we thought of a better gimmick and we send a former


England football manager along. None of them would do it, so we got


the next best thing, lookalike Peter Bone, who moonlights in


I am sometimes mistaken for a formal England football team


manager. One thing you will never mistake me for is a Liberal


Democrat. They may be in government but they are certainly not playing


for the team. Last week was my wedding


anniversary and I forget. Our -- I forgot. I am in the doghouse. What


more can I get for Mrs Bone than a Liberal Democrat bear? I'm going to


Here we are. Liberal Democrat stand on Europe. No views, no position


whatsoever, completely in line with the leadership.... Separate retail


and concede a banking must be put in place. -- casino banking.


Legislation will start soon and it will be completed within this


Parliament. I heard nothing that would help


Britain get going. As far as I'm concerned, as far as Vince Cable, I


I am sure everybody in here heard a Vince Cable setting it straight.


Absolutely outstanding. I wished the whole world was taking notice


and listening to every word of that. I think it justified what we are


doing. I have just listened to what the priorities for the Liberal


Party are for the government. Legalising cannabis, it women


shortlists and closer ties with Europe. It is off the scale, off


the planet, I had no idea they were so completely out of touch with


reality. The Liberal Party as a whole must have a yellow card.


Is it worth it, being in government? Absolutely. It means we


can get our agenda as government policy, which we are doing. You


heard our Deputy Prime Minister say we are punching way above our


weight. We did a compromise, which should have been called a graduate


tax. That is what it is, in effect. And we get the blame, because we


are the ones who said we wouldn't. The others were going to do it


anyway. I feel quite bad about that. There are lots of issues that we


have put forward. Those are the issues that we wouldn't have been


able to have any impact on, if we were not in government. But is it


for today, delegates going off. I have been struck by how many of


them want to stay in government. They would rather be in government


than stick up for their policies. That seemed very strange for me.


Many are very happy with what the Conservatives are doing. I should


have brought some Conservative membership forms, signed them up


and then they could be really part of the Conservative Party, not just


in coalition. I am joined by Sven-Goran Eriksson,


also known as the Conservative MP, Peter Bone, and by Don Foster, the


Lib Dem MP who will be going to the Conservative conference for us in a


spirit of mutual coalition liking. Are you having that for lunch?


is to get me out of trouble with my wife as I forgot her anniversary.


You have already brought your wife in to the interview. She is an


important person. I don't know why you don't have her on instead of


you. Indeed. What do you make of your coalition buddies? They did


not seem to be much Tory bashing when I talked to the


representatives. I was amazed how many people want to be in


government, they like what the Conservatives are doing. Why don't


they become Conservatives? There was nobody with beards and sandals


complaining, nobody thought they should not be in the coalition. I


was pleasantly surprised. This is not the same Peter Bone who was on


Newsnight last night, when he said, you have tainted the Tory brand,


you have stop us doing so many things, you are pulling above your


weight. You are getting much of your own way. They give you a bear


and you changed your tune? I had to pay for it, and they didn't give me


the right change, but that is another matter. I think they are


pulling above their weight, making government policy worse and the


sooner the coalition can end, the better. I am for the divorce that


Tim Farron was talking about. is a slight snag because before you


can end so coalition, you have to win an overall majority, which is


what your party spectacularly failed to do. You have to say it


was a pretty impressive result. Really? Coming from behind to be


effectively in government. But you are right, we should have done much


better. I don't think being in coalition adds to our prospects.


Let's get on, become independent parties, argue the case and have a


general election. You will become independent parties for the


election, no one is arguing that. Do you agree with Tim Farron that


the voice is inevitable? When we get to the end of the five-year


period, we will go our separate As Tim was saying to you earlier,


you look at these circumstances, you look at what the opportunities


are to get the maximum Liberal Democrat policies through. That is


what we will be following the outcome of the election, if no one


party is in overall control. As the government batted -- benefited in


any way? One big benefit is that we are working together to solve the


economic crisis, that is what the coalition is about. You mean your


air-raid shelter? I think they were brave to come in and both parties


have taken difficult decisions. We are both suffering in the polls.


Once that is done, what is the point of having a false marriage


when there is no need for it? is the point? The country needs


economic stability at the current time. One of the great things about


having the coalition is it has given us that stability and kept


interest rates down, so we are not spending on paying off the debt of


this country and paying the interest. Anything like many other


countries are having to do, because we have got the stability. Are you


happy the Lib Dems seem to have moved you away on the euro? It's --


moved your way. I am not sure if I think the Liberal Party has one


really good policy, to have a referendum of whether we should be


in or out of the EU. I don't understand why the Conservatives


have not adopted that. It is your party's fault. Absolutely and they


need to change their mind. Have you spoken to the wife? She is fully


behind that and I think we will John Pugh is co-chair of the bank


spent -- the backbench Health Committee. He says these health


reforms, even with the changes, are a major strategic mistake. John has


been very outspoken from the very beginning. He has played a key role


in helping to ensure many of the changes... You are quite right, he


has made it clear from the outset that even if we could improve them


in the way we have thought, something Peter acknowledged last


night again on Newsnight, but John is entitled to his own view.


says it is going to damage the Lib Dems and the Conservatives. Well,


that is his view. He has been outspoken, he doesn't like the


health reforms, he has said that consistently, it voted against them


in the House of Commons. He is a Are these health reforms worth the


candle now that the Lib Dems have succeeded in watering them down.


They have been watered down and I disagree that they have been


improved, they have gone in the wrong direction. We are getting rid


of PCTs, but if you have had a Tory government, you would have proper


reforms. Watering down and compromise is not what the British


people want, and that is why we need to default on the coalition.


You are accepting that even though you don't like all of it, they are


a step in the right direction. They are democratising the health


service... Andrew Lansley's proposals, watered down. Would you


like a badge? There is none that I would like. What about I love the


euro? At the moment, it would be very bad news for us. These badges


are not going very well. I can see that. There is still the


rest of the week. The Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, is


delivering a less than coded warning to Conservative


backbenchers, agitating for action on Europe and tax cuts for the rich.


He is calling them -- action on tax cuts for the rich. He's calling


them the Conservative tea-party. He turned to more everyday concerns


like the increasing cost of boiling a kettle. He attacked the gas and


electricity companies for stifling competition. World gas and


electricity prices have leapt by a third, thanks to Libya and Far


Eastern Growth. Global factors. We should surely try to limit our


dependence on oil and gas, not increase it, particularly as our


own North Sea resources are running down. In the storm-tossed seas we


have defile, low carbon energy gives us security, insurance and


safety -- we have to sail. British consumers will on average be better


off in 2020, thanks to our low off. Because getting off the oil


and gas price hook and on to clean, green energy, makes sense. With


energy saving, we can offset the effects of higher prices, and end


up with lower bills. And in one generation, we will go from fossil


fuels smokestack, too low carbon But there is hardship now, and we


are determined to help. Higher energy bills hurt, none of us


should have to save on warmth in a cold winter. Some of the most


vulnerable and elderly will shiver and worse if we do not help. That


is why this government is boosting by two-thirds the discounts to help


people in fuel poverty. Why our Warm Homes discount is a statutory


scheme, not a grace and favour hand out relying on good will. That is


also why this government will make those in fuel poverty a top


priority for the green deal, helped by our because subsidy. Improving


people's homes, after all, cuts fuel poverty for ever, while a


discount only cuts fuel poverty for a year. And year after year, fuel


poverty rose under Labour. Now we are helping the poor wear label --


where Labour flannel, we are acting where Labour talks and we are


delivering where Labour failed. It is not just the fuel poor who


need help. Today, I can announce a new package to help the hard-


pressed consumer this winter and every winter. We are determined to


get tough with the Big Six energy companies, to ensure that the


consumer gets the best possible deal. We want simpler tariffs


requiring energy companies to tell you whether you could buy more


cheaply on a another tariff. And you can save real money. Ofgem, the


independent regulator, calculates that the average household could


save �200 a year by switching to the lowest-cost supplier. But fewer


than one in seven households do so. Britain privatised the energy


companies, but most consumers never noticed. Contrary to the recent


Times report, I neither said nor meant that this was laziness. It is


just that consumers still think they face the same bill, whoever


they go to. I want to help households save money with simpler


charging, clearer bills and quicker switching. I also want consumer


friendly firms, co-ops, partnerships, consumer charities,


dedicated to doing the shopping around for consumers, to make sure


that you are always on the best deal, even if you don't have the


time to check yourself. And Ofgem should also have new powers to


secure redress for consumers money back for bad behaviour. Ofgem...


Ofgem is already stamping out bad doorstep practices that lead to


energy and is selling, with the guilty companies suffering


swingeing fines. We will stop the energy companies from blocking


action by Ofgem, which can delay matters by a year. I remember when


I was on the board of Which?, the Consumers' Association, that the


best guarantee of a good deal is more competition for your pound. We


want to encourage new small companies to come into the market,


cutting red tape so that they can grow bigger, making it easier for


them to buy and sell electricity in the wholesale market. And with


Ofgem, we are cracking down on any bad practice that could smack of


being anti-competitive. It is simply not fair. That big energy


companies can push their prices up for the vast majority of their


consumers who do not switch, while introducing cut-throat offers for


new customers that stop small firms entering the market to provide real


competition. That looks to me like predatory pricing, and it must, and


We asked the six big energy companies to respond to that speech.


No one was available this afternoon, unfortunately. The industry body


said they were on their way to Birmingham to get a public flogging


from Chris Huhne, so they were not available. But we are joined by


Louise Hanson from Which? that last point from Chris Huhne, predatory


pricing, is there anything he can do to bring prices down. Despite


all the other things he has mentioned, that is what consumers


want. Absolutely, and the cost of energy is the number one for


concern for consumers. If you want to make sure it is affordable, the


government needs to do a range of things, and it was good to hear him


talk about simpler bills and simpler tariffs and greater


competition, because injecting competition could make sure that


consumers can shop around and get the best deal. So you think that


will make a difference in terms of actually trying to bring the bills


down even if you cannot do anything about the price of gas and


electricity? Yes, at the heart of this is the fact that a lot of


people do not switch supplier. Of Gen estimate about 60% do not. --


Ofgem. The Secretary of State is suggesting to look at the major


suppliers, and is there something he can do to help the smaller


players increase their market share? I do not know, but I hope


very much that he will be putting pressure on the major retailers and


the Major Energy suppliers, because consumers at the minute are not


getting a great deal from across the basics. He denied in a speech


that consumers were lazy and cannot be bothered to switch. I have


switched companies before, and you get the best deals because you are


a new customer, but then they put the prices up and you have to


switch again. With the best will in the world, it is quite a laborious


task to keep switching companies. Absolutely, and tariffs are very


confusing. If you ask people to work them out, most people would


not understand it. There has to be a question of how often consumers


have to keep switching. Will there the loyalty for customers who stay


with their existing supplier? It is good the government is looking at


those questions. You have said you support the measures broadly, and


you will be delighted to hear that Ofgem does. They say they are


delighted with the commitment to new consumer redress powers,


although, like the others, they cannot come onto the programme


either. These new powers, I still do not feel it is going to make a


big enough difference, even if you encourage more people to switch,


let's say they know the tariffs that are available, so are you


saying that bills will come down by �300 on average? Some people can


make a really big difference to their energy bills over the space


of a year if they move to a cheaper tariff, and that is often on direct


debit, it is online, and it is dual fuel. If 60% of people are not


switching, clearly there are major barriers to encouraging people. It


has to be about giving people the individual information about how


much they can save. It was good to hear the Secretary of State saying


that he wanted energy companies to tell their customers directly if


they are better deals on offer that they could switch to. New powers


for Ofgem might include, although we do not know the detail, the


ability to impose unlimited fines on companies for bad behaviour,


which is overcharging customers. Is that likely to happen? It is really


important that fines levied by the regulator are genuine deterrent.


Some of the fines we have seen are really small compared to their


profits. They have to be an effective deterrent. Looking at the


money that they are binding, why doesn't it go back to the customer


or be invested in something to do with energy efficiency? Most


regulatory fines go to the Treasury. Consumers and individuals can go to


the ombudsman if they have an individual problem, and they might


be able to get compensation, but if the Secretary of State is thinking


about the size of regulatory fines as a deterrent to without bad


behaviour, they need to think creatively about what to do with


that money. Thank you very much for coming in. That is all from me in


London today, now back to Andrew in Birmingham.


We are not lonely at the end Birmingham, even if nobody is


coming in to talk to you! We have got the former leader of the


Liberal Democrats, Ming Campbell. Welcome back to the programme. This


morning Nick Clegg admitted that joining the euro would have been a


huge, huge error. Do you agree? do not think I would put it in


those terms, but what he is doing is articulating what many people


now feel, and that is that so far as Britain is concerned, the single


currency is off the political agenda, and is is likely to be so


for some considerable time. told your party in September 2002


that it would be a historic error if Britain bins join the euro. The


stand by that? When the facts change, I changed my opinion. Not


me, but Lord Keynes! I knew you would get it. So we were wrong?


those circumstances, at the time, it appeared to be the proper thing


to do for Britain to stay out as undoubtedly resulted in at


exercising much less influence in Europe, but as recent events have


proved, still being subject to a lot of difficulties as a result are


the failures in the eurozone. So we stood out, but it does not stop us


being affected. You once accused the Labour government of timidity


over joining the single currency. You published a pamphlet, still


available in Waterstone's, by the way, for �4.99, why the euro is the


best future for Britain. That will not make the best sellers any more.


I am delighted it is �4.99. I do not think you are going to get


much! Somebody bought a copy of my biography for one penny on a bay.


4.99 at, I am doing pretty well. Remember what I was saying, Gordon


Brown's approach, which you will recall, was to set out five


conditions. Everyone of those, he was able to say, it has either been


fulfilled or not. It was entirely equivocal. In circumstances which


we now know from the memoirs, he was at direct odds with Tony Blair.


Your party was the arrears at the time. He wanted him to get the


British economy into shape quickly to meet these five conditions. That


is why you accused him of timidity. We were the first party to promise


that there should be a referendum on whether Britain should join the


single currency. Leg has also said that no-one predicted that the euro


would descend into crisis. -- Nick Clegg. That is not true, is it?


context of that, is that no one predicted that the economy of the


United States would stagnate. No- one predicted that the eurozone


would fail, not because of the conditions that were laid down, but


because of the failure to apply these conditions. It is not the


scheme of the euro which is at fault, it is the failure of


countries to make their obligations. With, for example, the notable


alternative of Germany, where they have met all their conditions.


Guess what, the German economy is the strongest in the European Human.


-- the European Union. We knew that Italian national debt was a hundred


and 15% of GDP, whereas the rule was that it could be 60. -- 115%.


You knew that they were getting in on a false prospectus, but you


still said that the euro was best for Britain. It was best for


Britain in the circumstances of that time. I do not resile from


that. How can we trust your judgment on economic matters now


when you seem to get the biggest economic question in a generation


wrong? You can trust our party's position on economics as a result


of the performance of Vince Cable, who was predicting precisely the


kind of tsunami, economic tsunami which was created as a result of


the policies of the previous Labour government. He did not predict the


sub-prime crisis. What he did say was that personal debt in this


country amounting to 1.3 trillion pounds was extremely dangerous for


us to be an. Do you agree with Paddy Ashdown that the eurozone is


currently current circuit -- as currently constructed is unlikely


to survive and there will almost certainly be a retrenchment into a


hard core northern eurozone? think that is a possible outcome.


If we look at Germany, which I referred to a moment ago, there is


clearly great resistance among the German public, essentially, to be


turning themselves into the banker of the eurozone, which is what is


being expected of them. If that is so, and Angela Merkel cannot


persuade public opinion in our country to be more amenable to


helping to bail out those countries which are in difficulty, then I


think the possible outcome is that there will be, if you like, an


inner core and an outer core. Can I make this point? We will be


directly affected in Britain, whatever the outcome, because such


a large proportion of our trade is with Europe. And because the


sovereign debt crisis hits everyone in the end. As the economy flat


lines, and I think you will agree that is a fair way to describe the


British economy at the moment, are you really happy that there is a


determination to stick to plan? Have you noticed there is another


plan around? No one has quite articulated it, but Vince Cable


wrote a pamphlet in which he praised Roosevelt. We have not got


to the Tennessee Valley Authority of the New Deal... Danny Alexander


told me that there will be no new deal style stimulus, it is not


going to happen. But look what he said in his speech, a number of


public projects are being stymied for bureaucratic or other reasons.


He had the example where an access road costing 10 million would open


up, a very substantial opportunity for public investment. But it is


not new money. Maybe you could bring things forward, maybe you can


do things that are being done too slowly, but it is not new money,


and by definition it is therefore not a stimulus. It will be a


stimulus if it is money that is not being spent because of bureaucratic


intervention. It will be a stimulus, too, if it is money which, by being


spent, provokes and encourages the private sector. Your expertise


traditionally, your interests have been in foreign affairs, you were


the party's foreign affairs spokesman for a long time, and you


travel a lot. Should Britain's support Palestine's bid to be a


recognised state in the UN? Yes. Why? Unequivocally. Because in my


view it will contribute towards that two-stage settlement which


every Foreign Secretary I have heard at the dispatch box in the


House of Commons since 1987 has been Britain's objective. If they


go unilaterally, there will be two Estates. It will be legal


recognition of something which is partially, in practical terms, on


the ground. And is your view Nick Clegg's view? I have not discussed


it with him, but my view is quite clear and unequivocal, and I have


said so in the House of Commons and indeed here. I'm grateful for you


repeating it. Are you telling me that the leader of your party has


not consulted the man who knows more about foreign affairs than the


rest of his party puts together? on a key issue like this? I am


flattered by your assertion that I am important, I am a humble


government backbencher, I have reached my own view. He does not


consulted? I talk to him from time to time, but I would not expected.


I understand the Foreign Office is conflicted. That is why I am


speaking out. I am told that there is ministerial dispute, that some


ministers are for and some against, but my view is that Britain's


influence and reputation in the Middle East will suffer badly if we


don't do it. Ministerial conflict is our bread and butter! Thank you


for being with us. That is it for today. I will be back just after


Newsnight tonight with a round-up of today's events at the conference.


We will be back again live at noon on BBC Two tomorrow with another


Daily Politics conference special. A quick sandwich for lunch then


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