Conference Special Daily Politics


Conference Special

Andrew Neil is in Birmingham for the Liberal Democrats' annual conference and Jo Coburn is in Westminster with all the other top political stories of the day.


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Transcript


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

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

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

:00:35.:00:40.

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

:00:40.:00:44.

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

:00:44.:00:47.

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

:00:47.:00:53.

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

:00:53.:00:58.

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

:00:58.:01:02.

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

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

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

:01:13.:01:18.

this morning in his round of interviews defending the

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

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

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

:01:33.:01:38.

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

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

:01:44.:01:49.

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

:01:49.:01:57.

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

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

:02:01.:02:05.

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

:02:05.:02:10.

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

:02:10.:02:14.

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

:02:14.:02:24.
:02:24.:02:26.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:02:58.:03:03.

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

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

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is addressing his remarks to the ball about possible leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:03:42.:03:47.

phenomenon. Where you are collaborating with the enemy,

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

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

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

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

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

:04:11.:04:17.

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

:04:17.:04:21.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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coalition, would rather be in coalition with Labour than the

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

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marginal seats are against the Tories, most people have spent

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their political lifetime fighting the Tories and would consider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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positioning. The reason for choosing Tim Farron is ditching the

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

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everything goes sour with the Conservatives, or if Nick Clegg

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

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

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

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Lib Dems were enthusiastic supporters of us joining the euro.

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

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

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

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

:06:31.:06:35.

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

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

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

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

:06:47.:06:51.

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

:06:51.:06:54.

fringe event last night, talking about potentially years of

:06:54.:06:59.

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

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

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

:07:09.:07:12.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:07:48.:07:54.

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

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they have thought of the consequences. We will leave it

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

:08:00.:08:04.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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enshrined in the coalition agreement with Lib Dem partners

:08:48.:08:58.
:08:58.:08:58.

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

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inflation, even higher rates of health inflation and factors like

:09:03.:09:08.

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

:09:08.:09:12.

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

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

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

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

:09:25.:09:31.

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

:09:31.:09:34.

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

:09:34.:09:38.

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

:09:38.:09:42.

This means more hospital reorganisation and jobs cuts in the

:09:42.:09:47.

hunt for greater efficiency. The Royal College of Nursing has

:09:47.:09:50.

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

:09:50.:09:55.

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

:09:55.:09:58.

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

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

:10:04.:10:07.

parliament and nothing has happened in the first two years of

:10:07.:10:11.

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

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

:10:15.:10:25.

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

:10:25.:10:29.

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

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

:10:33.:10:37.

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

:10:37.:10:41.

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

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

:10:44.:10:49.

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

:10:49.:10:53.

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

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services that are provided for the community, that the people

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providing those services are accountable to that community. I

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think we have improved that significantly. The big concern that

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

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complete the strobed dream of commissioning across the whole NHS,

:11:13.:11:22.
:11:23.:11:24.

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

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

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

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the number of statutory organisations will go from 163, to

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

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

:11:49.:11:55.

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

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

:12:00.:12:05.

general practitioners far more closely in the decisions about the

:12:05.:12:09.

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

:12:09.:12:14.

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

:12:14.:12:17.

both the power and responsibility and accountability for making those

:12:17.:12:21.

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

:12:21.:12:25.

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

:12:25.:12:29.

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

:12:29.:12:38.

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

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

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

:12:46.:12:51.

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

:12:51.:12:55.

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

:12:55.:13:03.

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

:13:03.:13:08.

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

:13:08.:13:10.

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

:13:10.:13:15.

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

:13:15.:13:21.

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

:13:21.:13:25.

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

:13:25.:13:28.

Health impact assessment has said savings from NHS reforms have now

:13:28.:13:33.

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

:13:33.:13:39.

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

:13:39.:13:44.

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

:13:44.:13:49.

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

:13:49.:13:53.

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

:13:53.:13:58.

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

:13:58.:14:03.

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

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States suggests that you could end up with the commissioning groups

:14:06.:14:11.

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

:14:11.:14:15.

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

:14:15.:14:19.

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

:14:19.:14:23.

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

:14:23.:14:30.

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

:14:30.:14:34.

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

:14:34.:14:38.

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

:14:38.:14:45.

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

:14:45.:14:49.

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

:14:49.:14:56.

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

:14:56.:14:59.

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

:14:59.:15:07.

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

:15:07.:15:14.

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

:15:14.:15:19.

higher levels of inflation unexpected because of global

:15:19.:15:25.

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

:15:25.:15:27.

achieving these efficiency savings and getting the whole service

:15:27.:15:34.

focused. Norman Lamb, speaking to me earlier.

:15:34.:15:44.
:15:44.:15:44.

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

:15:44.:15:48.

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

:15:48.:15:52.

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

:15:52.:15:57.

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

:15:57.:16:02.

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

:16:02.:16:06.

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

:16:06.:16:11.

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

:16:11.:16:15.

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

:16:15.:16:19.

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

:16:19.:16:23.

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

:16:23.:16:27.

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

:16:27.:16:30.

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

:16:30.:16:38.

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

:16:38.:16:41.

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

:16:41.:16:47.

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

:16:47.:16:51.

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

:16:51.:16:56.

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

:16:56.:17:03.

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

:17:03.:17:07.

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

:17:07.:17:15.

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

:17:15.:17:19.

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

:17:19.:17:23.

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

:17:23.:17:29.

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

:17:29.:17:33.

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

:17:33.:17:40.

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

:17:40.:17:44.

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

:17:44.:17:48.

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

:17:48.:17:53.

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

:17:53.:18:03.
:18:03.:18:12.

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

:18:12.:18:19.

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

:18:19.:18:24.

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

:18:24.:18:29.

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

:18:29.:18:33.

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

:18:33.:18:38.

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

:18:38.:18:40.

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

:18:41.:18:48.

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

:18:48.:18:58.
:18:58.:18:58.

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

:18:58.:19:04.

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

:19:04.:19:12.

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

:19:12.:19:17.

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

:19:17.:19:22.

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

:19:22.:19:26.

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

:19:26.:19:30.

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

:19:30.:19:35.

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

:19:35.:19:40.

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

:19:40.:19:45.

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

:19:45.:19:50.

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

:19:50.:19:53.

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

:19:53.:19:57.

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

:19:57.:20:03.

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

:20:03.:20:07.

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

:20:07.:20:11.

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

:20:11.:20:15.

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

:20:15.:20:18.

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

:20:18.:20:24.

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

:20:24.:20:27.

parliaments to 2015, and the partners will go their separate

:20:27.:20:35.

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

:20:35.:20:40.

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

:20:40.:20:46.

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

:20:46.:20:51.

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

:20:51.:20:54.

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

:20:54.:20:58.

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

:20:58.:21:03.

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

:21:03.:21:07.

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

:21:07.:21:12.

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

:21:12.:21:17.

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

:21:17.:21:22.

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

:21:22.:21:26.

temporary arrangement. Whatever happens, whenever the next general

:21:26.:21:30.

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

:21:30.:21:34.

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

:21:34.:21:39.

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

:21:39.:21:43.

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

:21:43.:21:47.

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

:21:47.:21:52.

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

:21:52.:21:56.

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

:21:56.:22:01.

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

:22:01.:22:06.

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

:22:06.:22:11.

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

:22:11.:22:15.

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

:22:15.:22:20.

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

:22:20.:22:24.

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

:22:24.:22:30.

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

:22:30.:22:34.

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

:22:34.:22:39.

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

:22:39.:22:44.

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

:22:44.:22:47.

independent party. What I have always found it difficult to

:22:47.:22:50.

understand is that you cannot really trust that the Liberal

:22:50.:22:54.

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

:22:54.:22:59.

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

:22:59.:23:04.

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

:23:04.:23:08.

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

:23:08.:23:12.

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

:23:12.:23:18.

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

:23:18.:23:26.

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

:23:26.:23:30.

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

:23:30.:23:34.

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

:23:34.:23:40.

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

:23:40.:23:43.

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

:23:43.:23:47.

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

:23:47.:23:49.

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

:23:49.:23:55.

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

:23:55.:24:00.

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

:24:00.:24:02.

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

:24:02.:24:07.

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

:24:07.:24:10.

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

:24:10.:24:19.

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

:24:19.:24:23.

Labour as the most natural coalition party. Paddy Ashdown said

:24:23.:24:26.

that a committee with Labour. Matthew Oakeshott said that the

:24:26.:24:32.

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

:24:32.:24:39.

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

:24:39.:24:42.

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

:24:42.:24:46.

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

:24:46.:24:52.

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

:24:52.:24:55.

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

:24:55.:25:00.

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

:25:00.:25:04.

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

:25:04.:25:09.

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

:25:09.:25:14.

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

:25:14.:25:17.

about conservative writers. You thought about the Tories. What

:25:17.:25:23.

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

:25:23.:25:28.

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

:25:28.:25:33.

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

:25:33.:25:36.

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

:25:36.:25:43.

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

:25:43.:25:48.

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

:25:48.:25:53.

reactionary, you were not describing any Conservative MPs.

:25:53.:25:57.

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

:25:57.:26:01.

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

:26:01.:26:05.

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

:26:05.:26:08.

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

:26:08.:26:14.

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

:26:14.:26:20.

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

:26:20.:26:24.

decided to pour petrol on the flames of discontent by invoking

:26:24.:26:29.

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

:26:29.:26:33.

the ideological descendants of people who send children up

:26:33.:26:38.

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

:26:38.:26:42.

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

:26:42.:26:46.

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

:26:46.:26:49.

strangles business and that red tape that actually protects

:26:49.:26:52.

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

:26:52.:26:55.

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

:26:55.:27:03.

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

:27:03.:27:07.

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

:27:07.:27:11.

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

:27:11.:27:15.

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

:27:15.:27:21.

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

:27:21.:27:26.

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

:27:26.:27:30.

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

:27:30.:27:37.

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

:27:37.:27:41.

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

:27:41.:27:46.

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

:27:46.:27:52.

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

:27:52.:27:54.

2010 would be out of power subsequently because of the

:27:54.:27:57.

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

:27:57.:28:02.

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

:28:02.:28:06.

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

:28:06.:28:11.

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

:28:11.:28:16.

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

:28:16.:28:20.

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

:28:20.:28:24.

mature and maintaining a stable coalition, despite having

:28:24.:28:27.

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

:28:27.:28:31.

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

:28:31.:28:35.

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

:28:35.:28:39.

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

:28:39.:28:43.

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

:28:43.:28:48.

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

:28:48.:28:53.

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

:28:53.:28:57.

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

:28:57.:29:04.

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

:29:04.:29:08.

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

:29:08.:29:12.

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

:29:12.:29:17.

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

:29:17.:29:22.

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

:29:22.:29:28.

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

:29:28.:29:32.

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

:29:32.:29:37.

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

:29:37.:29:42.

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

:29:42.:29:50.

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

:29:50.:29:54.

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

:29:54.:29:57.

thus will show from Birmingham. Last year the Liberal Democrat

:29:57.:30:01.

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

:30:01.:30:06.

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

:30:06.:30:13.

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

:30:13.:30:16.

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

:30:16.:30:21.

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

:30:21.:30:31.
:30:31.:30:43.

I am sometimes mistaken for a formal England football team

:30:43.:30:47.

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

:30:47.:30:50.

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

:30:50.:30:54.

for the team. Last week was my wedding

:30:54.:31:01.

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

:31:01.:31:07.

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

:31:07.:31:17.
:31:17.:31:23.

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

:31:23.:31:31.

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

:31:31.:31:37.

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

:31:37.:31:41.

Legislation will start soon and it will be completed within this

:31:41.:31:48.

Parliament. I heard nothing that would help

:31:48.:31:54.

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

:31:54.:32:04.
:32:04.:32:09.

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

:32:09.:32:13.

Absolutely outstanding. I wished the whole world was taking notice

:32:13.:32:16.

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

:32:16.:32:24.

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

:32:24.:32:29.

Party are for the government. Legalising cannabis, it women

:32:29.:32:34.

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

:32:34.:32:38.

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

:32:38.:32:44.

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

:32:44.:32:48.

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

:32:48.:32:53.

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

:32:53.:32:56.

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

:32:56.:33:00.

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

:33:00.:33:04.

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

:33:05.:33:08.

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

:33:08.:33:12.

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

:33:12.:33:16.

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

:33:16.:33:22.

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

:33:22.:33:26.

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

:33:26.:33:29.

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

:33:29.:33:33.

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

:33:33.:33:36.

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

:33:36.:33:39.

have brought some Conservative membership forms, signed them up

:33:39.:33:43.

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

:33:43.:33:50.

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

:33:50.:33:55.

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

:33:55.:34:00.

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

:34:00.:34:04.

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

:34:04.:34:08.

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

:34:09.:34:13.

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

:34:13.:34:16.

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

:34:16.:34:21.

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

:34:21.:34:24.

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

:34:24.:34:27.

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

:34:27.:34:30.

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

:34:31.:34:35.

they become Conservatives? There was nobody with beards and sandals

:34:35.:34:39.

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

:34:39.:34:43.

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

:34:44.:34:48.

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

:34:48.:34:51.

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

:34:51.:35:00.

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

:35:00.:35:04.

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

:35:04.:35:08.

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

:35:08.:35:11.

pulling above their weight, making government policy worse and the

:35:11.:35:15.

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

:35:15.:35:21.

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

:35:21.:35:25.

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

:35:25.:35:30.

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

:35:30.:35:35.

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

:35:35.:35:38.

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

:35:38.:35:42.

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

:35:42.:35:47.

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

:35:47.:35:50.

general election. You will become independent parties for the

:35:50.:35:55.

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

:35:55.:35:58.

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

:35:58.:36:08.
:36:08.:36:09.

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

:36:10.:36:13.

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

:36:13.:36:16.

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

:36:16.:36:21.

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

:36:21.:36:24.

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

:36:24.:36:30.

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

:36:30.:36:33.

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

:36:33.:36:39.

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

:36:39.:36:46.

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

:36:46.:36:50.

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

:36:50.:36:56.

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

:36:56.:36:59.

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

:36:59.:37:03.

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

:37:03.:37:07.

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

:37:07.:37:10.

this country and paying the interest. Anything like many other

:37:10.:37:15.

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

:37:15.:37:21.

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

:37:21.:37:31.
:37:31.:37:35.

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

:37:35.:37:38.

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

:37:38.:37:42.

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

:37:42.:37:47.

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

:37:47.:37:51.

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

:37:51.:38:01.
:38:01.:38:15.

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

:38:15.:38:18.

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

:38:18.:38:23.

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

:38:23.:38:28.

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

:38:28.:38:33.

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

:38:33.:38:37.

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

:38:37.:38:41.

in the way we have thought, something Peter acknowledged last

:38:41.:38:45.

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

:38:45.:38:50.

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

:38:50.:38:53.

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

:38:53.:38:57.

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

:38:57.:39:05.

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

:39:05.:39:10.

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

:39:10.:39:13.

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

:39:13.:39:17.

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

:39:17.:39:22.

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

:39:22.:39:25.

reforms. Watering down and compromise is not what the British

:39:25.:39:29.

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

:39:29.:39:32.

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

:39:32.:39:36.

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

:39:36.:39:41.

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

:39:41.:39:48.

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

:39:48.:39:54.

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

:39:54.:39:58.

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

:39:58.:40:01.

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

:40:01.:40:04.

delivering a less than coded warning to Conservative

:40:04.:40:09.

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

:40:10.:40:15.

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

:40:15.:40:19.

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

:40:19.:40:23.

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

:40:23.:40:29.

electricity companies for stifling competition. World gas and

:40:29.:40:34.

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

:40:34.:40:40.

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

:40:40.:40:45.

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

:40:45.:40:49.

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

:40:49.:40:56.

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

:40:56.:41:00.

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

:41:00.:41:09.

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

:41:09.:41:15.

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

:41:15.:41:20.

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

:41:20.:41:26.

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

:41:27.:41:36.
:41:37.:41:40.

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

:41:40.:41:45.

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

:41:45.:41:49.

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

:41:49.:41:54.

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

:41:54.:41:59.

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

:41:59.:42:03.

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

:42:04.:42:12.

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

:42:12.:42:16.

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

:42:16.:42:21.

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

:42:21.:42:25.

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

:42:25.:42:32.

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

:42:32.:42:39.

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

:42:39.:42:42.

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

:42:42.:42:52.
:42:52.:42:54.

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

:42:54.:43:00.

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

:43:00.:43:05.

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

:43:05.:43:09.

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

:43:09.:43:15.

consumer gets the best possible deal. We want simpler tariffs

:43:15.:43:19.

requiring energy companies to tell you whether you could buy more

:43:19.:43:24.

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

:43:24.:43:30.

independent regulator, calculates that the average household could

:43:30.:43:35.

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

:43:35.:43:40.

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

:43:40.:43:46.

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

:43:46.:43:51.

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

:43:51.:43:56.

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

:43:56.:44:01.

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

:44:01.:44:08.

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

:44:08.:44:12.

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

:44:12.:44:16.

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

:44:16.:44:21.

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

:44:21.:44:27.

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

:44:27.:44:37.

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

:44:37.:44:42.

Ofgem is already stamping out bad doorstep practices that lead to

:44:42.:44:46.

energy and is selling, with the guilty companies suffering

:44:46.:44:51.

swingeing fines. We will stop the energy companies from blocking

:44:51.:44:56.

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

:44:56.:45:01.

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

:45:01.:45:07.

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

:45:07.:45:12.

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

:45:12.:45:16.

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

:45:16.:45:20.

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

:45:20.:45:25.

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

:45:25.:45:30.

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

:45:30.:45:34.

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

:45:34.:45:39.

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

:45:39.:45:43.

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

:45:43.:45:49.

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

:45:49.:45:58.

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

:45:58.:46:03.

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

:46:03.:46:06.

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

:46:06.:46:10.

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

:46:10.:46:19.

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

:46:19.:46:23.

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

:46:23.:46:25.

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

:46:25.:46:31.

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

:46:32.:46:35.

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

:46:35.:46:39.

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

:46:39.:46:43.

talk about simpler bills and simpler tariffs and greater

:46:43.:46:46.

competition, because injecting competition could make sure that

:46:46.:46:50.

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

:46:50.:46:53.

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

:46:53.:46:57.

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

:46:57.:47:01.

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

:47:01.:47:07.

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

:47:07.:47:13.

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

:47:13.:47:16.

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

:47:16.:47:20.

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

:47:20.:47:25.

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

:47:25.:47:27.

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

:47:27.:47:33.

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

:47:33.:47:36.

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

:47:36.:47:41.

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

:47:41.:47:44.

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

:47:44.:47:48.

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

:47:48.:47:52.

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

:47:52.:47:57.

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

:47:57.:48:01.

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

:48:01.:48:04.

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

:48:04.:48:08.

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

:48:08.:48:12.

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

:48:12.:48:16.

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

:48:16.:48:19.

delighted with the commitment to new consumer redress powers,

:48:19.:48:22.

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

:48:23.:48:27.

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

:48:27.:48:31.

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

:48:31.:48:34.

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

:48:34.:48:40.

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

:48:40.:48:43.

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

:48:43.:48:47.

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

:48:47.:48:53.

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

:48:53.:48:56.

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

:48:56.:49:00.

has to be about giving people the individual information about how

:49:00.:49:04.

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

:49:04.:49:06.

that he wanted energy companies to tell their customers directly if

:49:06.:49:11.

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

:49:11.:49:15.

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

:49:15.:49:19.

ability to impose unlimited fines on companies for bad behaviour,

:49:19.:49:24.

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

:49:24.:49:28.

important that fines levied by the regulator are genuine deterrent.

:49:28.:49:32.

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

:49:32.:49:37.

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

:49:37.:49:41.

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

:49:41.:49:44.

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

:49:44.:49:49.

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

:49:49.:49:52.

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

:49:52.:49:55.

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

:49:55.:50:00.

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

:50:00.:50:03.

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

:50:03.:50:08.

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

:50:08.:50:11.

London today, now back to Andrew in Birmingham.

:50:11.:50:15.

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

:50:15.:50:19.

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

:50:19.:50:22.

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

:50:22.:50:27.

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

:50:27.:50:31.

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

:50:31.:50:35.

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

:50:35.:50:40.

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

:50:40.:50:44.

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

:50:44.:50:49.

for some considerable time. told your party in September 2002

:50:49.:50:53.

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

:50:53.:50:58.

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

:50:58.:51:04.

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

:51:04.:51:07.

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

:51:07.:51:13.

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

:51:13.:51:16.

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

:51:17.:51:22.

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

:51:22.:51:27.

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

:51:27.:51:31.

being affected. You once accused the Labour government of timidity

:51:31.:51:36.

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

:51:36.:51:41.

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

:51:41.:51:44.

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

:51:44.:51:49.

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

:51:49.:51:55.

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

:51:55.:52:01.

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

:52:01.:52:05.

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

:52:05.:52:11.

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

:52:11.:52:16.

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

:52:16.:52:21.

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

:52:21.:52:25.

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

:52:25.:52:30.

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

:52:30.:52:34.

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

:52:34.:52:37.

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

:52:37.:52:43.

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

:52:43.:52:49.

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

:52:49.:52:54.

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

:52:54.:52:58.

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

:52:58.:53:03.

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

:53:03.:53:06.

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

:53:06.:53:09.

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

:53:09.:53:14.

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

:53:14.:53:17.

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

:53:17.:53:23.

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

:53:23.:53:28.

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

:53:28.:53:33.

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

:53:33.:53:38.

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

:53:38.:53:42.

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

:53:42.:53:44.

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

:53:44.:53:49.

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

:53:49.:53:52.

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

:53:53.:53:58.

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

:53:58.:54:02.

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

:54:02.:54:06.

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

:54:06.:54:10.

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

:54:11.:54:15.

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

:54:15.:54:20.

country amounting to 1.3 trillion pounds was extremely dangerous for

:54:20.:54:26.

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

:54:26.:54:30.

currently current circuit -- as currently constructed is unlikely

:54:31.:54:34.

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

:54:34.:54:38.

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

:54:38.:54:43.

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

:54:43.:54:47.

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

:54:47.:54:51.

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

:54:51.:54:56.

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

:54:56.:55:01.

persuade public opinion in our country to be more amenable to

:55:01.:55:04.

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

:55:04.:55:08.

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

:55:08.:55:13.

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

:55:13.:55:17.

directly affected in Britain, whatever the outcome, because such

:55:17.:55:21.

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

:55:21.:55:25.

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

:55:25.:55:28.

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

:55:28.:55:32.

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

:55:32.:55:36.

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

:55:36.:55:42.

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

:55:42.:55:47.

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

:55:47.:55:51.

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

:55:51.:55:56.

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

:55:56.:56:00.

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

:56:00.:56:06.

public projects are being stymied for bureaucratic or other reasons.

:56:06.:56:10.

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

:56:10.:56:14.

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

:56:14.:56:19.

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

:56:19.:56:22.

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

:56:22.:56:27.

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

:56:27.:56:30.

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

:56:30.:56:35.

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

:56:35.:56:43.

spent, provokes and encourages the private sector. Your expertise

:56:43.:56:47.

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

:56:47.:56:49.

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

:56:49.:56:54.

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

:56:54.:57:00.

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

:57:00.:57:05.

view it will contribute towards that two-stage settlement which

:57:05.:57:08.

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

:57:08.:57:12.

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

:57:12.:57:17.

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

:57:17.:57:22.

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

:57:22.:57:28.

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

:57:28.:57:33.

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

:57:33.:57:36.

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

:57:36.:57:40.

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

:57:40.:57:43.

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

:57:43.:57:49.

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

:57:49.:57:56.

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

:57:56.:57:59.

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

:57:59.:58:05.

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

:58:05.:58:11.

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

:58:11.:58:15.

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

:58:15.:58:19.

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

:58:19.:58:22.

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

:58:22.:58:27.

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

:58:27.:58:32.

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

:58:32.:58:36.

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

:58:36.:58:41.

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

:58:41.:58:45.

Daily Politics conference special. A quick sandwich for lunch then

:58:45.:58:50.

Andrew Neil is in Birmingham for the LibDem conference and Jo Coburn in Westminster. The economy has been dominating events so far.

The world markets are jittery following the downgrading of Italy's credit rating. Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned that the eurozone crisis could push Britain back over the edge, while Nick Clegg has defended the government's policy of deficit reduction.

Andrew talks to Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron, who has been busy denying he wants to be the next leader of the party.

As the Lib Dems claim victory in their battle over health reforms, Andrew and Jo ask if the party really has saved the NHS?

Tory backbencher Peter Bone sees what his coalition colleagues are up to.

The energy secretary is getting tough with the gas and electricity companies. But will consumers be any better off?


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