06/12/2011 Daily Politics


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06/12/2011

Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn have the top political stories of the day.


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Afternoon, folks - welcome to The Daily Politics. Stock markets have

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fallen across Europe following a warning that the creditworthiness

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of almost the entire eurozone could be downgraded. The announcement by

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the agency Standard & Poor's suggests there's a possibility that

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France and Germany could lose their Triple A status within three months.

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British exports are already falling due to the crisis in Europe. MPs

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debate the economy here this afternoon. We'll be talking to the

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Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party. Could we see another crisis

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in Britain's care homes similar to the collapse of Southern Cross? MPs

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warn it might happen all over again. And we'll be looking at what the

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political parties have to do to And with us for the whole programme

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today is the businessman Dr Chai Patel, who now runs over 200 former

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Southern Cross care homes. Nice to be here. Which brings us neatly to

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our first story, because a group of MPs say more action is needed to

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prevent another care homes crisis similar to the collapse of Southern

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Cross. The Public Accounts Committee say some providers in

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England are amassing huge debts, and they've called for better

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monitoring of the care system. This morning, the Health Committee was

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also discussing long-term care. They heard from Andrew Dilnot, who

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chaired a commission into how to best fund the system, and he was

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less than complimentary about the current situation. My view is that

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everybody in the social care system is inappropriately served at the

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moment. That means all of us. The risk of needing care in your Olda

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age is greater than the risk of falling pregnant. That's because

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half of us are not going to fall pregnant, but three-quarters of us

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will need care in our old age. And at the moment, the system does not

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work for any of us, effectively. It does not work for people looking

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forward to the possibility of needing care, it does not work for

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people at the point of needing care - the system is bust. Well we're

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joined now by the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret

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Hodge. How bad is it? We looked just at care homes, not at the rest

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of the system. I think it is a very worrying situation. If you look at

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Southern Cross, and why it collapsed, I think there are two

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main reasons. Firstly, it depended on high local authority rates - two

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thirds of the people going into care homes are funded through local

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authorities. That's nationally. all their fees are paid by the

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local authority. Which makes local authorities are vital in this

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respect. Quite. And local authorities have had their funding

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cut, so the care homes get less income. At the same time, the care

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homes are funded through a lot of borrowing, and interest rates have

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gone up. They were funded when interest rates were low. So we have

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got a pretty unsustainable model. Not just Southern Cross, but one of

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the other big four providers, four Seasons, we understand, has got

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into trouble. And let me make another point, because of the local

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authorities cannot put people into the care homes because the prices

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are too high, what then happens is that people stay in hospital, they

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block beds in hospitals, and that's another cost to the public purse.

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For the individuals, it is a terrible thing. Is it as serious as

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the politicians are making out? is serious, yes. There are

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different components. The funding contraction is serious and it is

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only going to get worse over the next two or three years, as the

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local authorities were now to have more money. Absolutely, and the

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austerity measures have hardly even kicked in yet, I think. This is a

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property backed investment, and as you know, properties have debt.

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Whether the debt is too high or too low is hard to tell at the moment,

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because this was done before 2005, 2007. And to have four years of

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real reduction in fee rates, I do not mean just inflation, real

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production, has meant that the funding has rarely contracted. At

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the same time, a policy of keeping people at home, which has a good

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policy, has taken another 7% of demand away from care homes.

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did you buy these Southern Cross homes? I did not. My job was to

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help out in terms of the restructuring of Southern Cross,

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and we have got a management contract to run one third of the

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homes. Huo owns them? They are owned by a property company. So, we

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brought the two together. Part of the problem at Southern Cross, and

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why I don't think Southern Cross will happen again, is that firstly,

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it was twice as large as the nearest competitor, it was so big

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that nobody else could have taken it. And secondly, it was entirely a

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landlord and tenant based company. It was a very complex structure.

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You could not put it into administration, which is what would

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normally happen, to get an orderly transfer, which is why it took so

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long. None of the other companies, including four Seasons, are much

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easier to manage. I wonder if size matters that much in these

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circumstances. What should the Government do? I agree that size

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did not matter, care homes are going broke every week. The first

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thing is that the Government has got to act. They are doing a lot of

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thinking, producing papers. They're aware of the problem? They are

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definitely aware of the problem. I think they are trying to run away

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from the problem, trying to make everybody else accountable - local

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authorities, the Care Quality Commission, but I think think this

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is a problem for government. I think this should be taken out of

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party politics, this issue is hugely important and will grow in

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importance, we have got an ageing population. You and I might end up

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having to go into a care home. We have got to sort out the funding.

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Andrew Dilnot said the system is bust. What should be done? I think

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it is going to be the old mixture - for those who can afford it, they

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will have to contribute more to their care when they are elderly,

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but the worst thing is if we do nothing, it will be the poorest who

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cannot afford to pay for their own care, and they will suffer the most.

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If we want us all to be in it together, we have got to find a

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solution which prioritise his, in a constrained and there but, spending

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for poor people, but also gets the balance between public and private

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contributions. What do you think should be done? I totally agree on

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the first point, the process, this is a multi-party issue, this is not

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party political, we need consensus. The second part is funding. This is

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a chronic issue, right across the world, in fact. We need planning

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for the short, medium and long term. The Dilnot report starts to tell

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you what to do for the next five or 10 years, and we need a long-term

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policy, so the next generation can start either saving or buying

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insurance products, or knowing that there will be joint funding. But

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there is no transparency right now. We have got this situation which

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has almost guaranteed -- which is almost guaranteed, each one of us

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is going to get old. Is there not a strong chance that some will have

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to be taken back into state ownership? Well, I think if we're

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going to leave it in the market, it has to be a much more tightly

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managed market. This is not an issue where you can allow market

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failure. Southern Cross, 31,000 people, suddenly thinking, where

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are we going to be tomorrow? I think this is too important to

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leave it to the vagaries of the market. The market did not fail.

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will wait and see. This subject will not go away, we will come back

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to it. To something different, time for the daily quiz. The question

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for the daily quiz. The question for today is... What programme

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would David Cameron like to bring back for Christmas Day? Is it a)

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Dad's Army? B) The two Ronnies? C) Spooks? Or d) To The Manor Born? At

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:10:04.:10:05.

the end of the show we hope Chai will give us the correct answer.

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it was me, I would like to see Spooks comeback. That does not mean

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it is the right answer. Standard and Poor's has booked almost all

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eurozone countries on a warning regarding their credit rating.

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Louise Cooper, who's a markets analyst for BCG Partners, is here

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analyst for BCG Partners, is here in Westminster. Is this a knockout

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blow from Standard and Poor's? the point of view of the markets,

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Standard and Poor's are not telling us anything we did not know already.

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If you look at the reaction from the financial markets today,

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equities are down a little bit, European government bonds are

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little changed, and the insurance market for sovereign debt is also

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little changed. So, to be fair, Standard and Poor's are playing

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catch-up. A lot of the concerns they talk about, five particular

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concerns, frankly, a lot of investors have been worried about

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for at least a month. Is it likely to happen, with France and Germany?

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Many market players have been saying that the AAA rating of

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France is going to go. That is not new news. The new news was Germany,

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that was a bit of a surprise. If you look at Standard and Poor's,

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when they put countries on credit watch, there is about a 50 got a

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chance that they will beef -- they will be downgraded in the future.

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But if you look at the five reasons - tightening credit, eurozone

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countries finding it more expensive to borrow money, disagreements with

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:11:55.:11:56.

policy makers, massive levels of eurozone debt and a recession in

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are unlikely to change. I look at them and think, nothing I see will

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indicate any of that is being changed. So, it is a realistic

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response. What about our rating? That appears to be saved at the

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moment - are we considered a safe haven? It is all dependent on

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growth for the future. We have definitely seen investors fleeing

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the eurozone, not wanting to own euro sovereign debt. They have

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piling into UK sovereign debt gilts, Swedish debt, Danish debt, because,

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frankly, we are not in the eurozone. However, our debt figures do not

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look pretty, and are unsustainable if we have a recession. And so, we

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are a safe haven for the moment, the Bank of England is buying gilts,

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which brings down our borrowing costs, yes, we are not in the euro,

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but do not be complacent about the future for the UK. I'm joined now

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by George Eustice, who is a member of the all-party parliamentary

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Fresh Start Group, which is looking at our relationship with Europe.

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Welcome to the programme. Looking at this deal which has been put

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forward to deal with the debt crisis, would you like to see a new

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European Treaty of all 27 countries, or just the 17 and euros countries?

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I think to be credible, it needs to be an agreement at the level of the

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27. I think Germany would want that as well. They want to use the

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machinery of the European institutions to enforce these new

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rules. If it was just another level of the 17, they would not be able

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to get the European Court of Justice engaged, to hand out

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sanctions, and if they do not have that, then they have got something

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which is no better than what they have got already, with the

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stability and growth package. also it is probably the only

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realistic chance for the British Government to try and renegotiate

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Pact powers from Brussels, if there is a treaty of all 27 countries.

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That's right. That would give credibility, but it would also give

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us an opportunity to repatriate certain powers and protect are own

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interests, particularly in the City. But why on earth would France and

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Germany, for example, be interested in any concessions to Britain? They

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have said as much, Sarkozy has said, we will do this with or without

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Britain. Why on earth do you think we would get concessions? They

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might say that now, but they are grown-ups as well. Once you get

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around a table and have a discussion, it is absolutely

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legitimate for Britain to raise this. There are some 50 EU

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directives coming down the track which affect the City. London

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dominates financial services in Europe. We have got to make sure we

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have some kind of veto on the emergency brake procedure, and we

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say we should have that in respect of these 50 new regulations coming

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Well, as George Eustice and the Fresh Start group debate our future

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within Europe, the impact of the eurozone crisis is already being

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felt in the UK today. Jo, bring us Yes, as faith in the euro continues

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to melt, just how much heat are we already feeling from the eurozone

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In a series of gloomy announcements, the Chancellor delivered the news

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that predictions for growth within the UK economy have been downgraded

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from 2.5% to just 0.7% for 2012. Much of this was blamed on

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uncertainty in the eurozone. Weak economies in Europe have also hit

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UK exports, with a reduction of 1.4% in the number of exports to EU

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countries, our biggest market, in the three months to September. The

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Chancellor has also claimed instability within Europe is a

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reason behind rising unemployment in the UK. Last month he said,

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"There's no doubt that jobs in Britain have been hit by what's

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going on in the eurozone." Many eurozone countries have seen big

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fluctuations in their cost of borrowing. However, bond yields for

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the UK have remained relatively stable so far, but with large

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public debts we are certainly not guaranteed safety in this area.

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With the crisis deepening and the UK economy on a knife edge, can we

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avoid heading back into another I'm joined now by Michael Fallon,

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Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, and Chris Leslie, who's

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Labour's Shadow Treasury Minister. Welcome to you both. Michael Fallon,

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the Eurozone is clearly going to form a much tighter block now, it

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is going to move towards its own tax-and-spend and budget policies.

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Huge change to the European Union. Time to live up to your promise of

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your party and repatriate some powers? We have always wanted to

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repatriate some powers, things could be done better at the

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national level than the European level but the priority at the

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moment is to make sure the Eurozone sorts out its problems. We have a

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huge domestic British interest in making sure the Eurozone does not

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go on in this crisis and they solve their problems. That is the first

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thing we want to see come out of this week and the meetings taking

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place. We are just cheerleaders, we are not part of that, because we

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are not in the euro-zone. So we can support what they are doing it, but

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we are going to support it in the knowledge that it is a systemic

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change in the nature of the European Union. So it isn't that

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time for you to live up to your promise? We have had promises of

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systemic change before, we will see whether that transpires. We have

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had various agreements from other countries to operate in different

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ways and so on, but let's be clear about this, if the Eurozone

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countries want to form a smaller grouping, they must use the

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European institutions to use that - - do that. We heard George Eustice

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agree with that, they must use European law and the European Court.

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Do you want the Eurozone to be a tighter, closer group? As a

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currency, we wanted to work, it is in our interests that it does not

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collapse and it polices itself. know all that, but Mr Sark cosy and

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Angela Merkel say the way to do that is to do what they agreed in

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Paris -- Nicolas Sarkozy. They want the rest of Europe to take that on

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have the Government, it seems, support that approach. If we are

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supporting a more coherent Eurozone, what is the response, the

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consequence for Britain? What they have said it is they now say they

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want to abide by the rules, they want to set themselves tough rules.

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What do you say? I know what they say, I read the newspapers. You

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just said you want them to do it, of what is the consequence for

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Britain? The consequence if they get on and do it is that our

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national interest is protected as well, I'll economy is protected and

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the Eurozone problems won't come over the Channel -- our economy. We

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want the currency to succeed, we don't want it to fall apart. Let's

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see if I can do better with Labour. If they proceed to have a tighter,

:19:18.:19:23.

deeply Eurozone, what would the Labour policy response be? It I

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think it depends when we see the details of this treaty whether it

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is going to be pro-growth, of whether it is going to solve

:19:30.:19:34.

economic problems or if we are just going to be kicking into the long

:19:34.:19:38.

grass a whole set of constitutional changes that may not come to pass

:19:38.:19:44.

for 5, 6, 7 years. We need to see the details of this. We need

:19:44.:19:47.

negotiations that are focused on a growing economies and not austerity.

:19:47.:19:52.

You are dodging the question as well. I am not. The don't need to

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see the detail to understand that if the Eurozone becomes essentially

:19:57.:20:02.

a fiscal union, with constant, combined, common tax-and-spend and

:20:02.:20:06.

budget policies, and forced from the centre, which is what the

:20:06.:20:12.

Germans want, I ask again, what are the consequences for Britain in its

:20:12.:20:16.

relationship to this new Eurozone? They could be very significant,

:20:16.:20:20.

possibly detrimental. We literally to have to see where this is going.

:20:20.:20:26.

I suspect that just as the market go up-and-down week by week, the

:20:26.:20:30.

changes that we see in the politics are also far from certain. We have

:20:30.:20:34.

heard about the Standard & Poor's downgrading this week, it makes it

:20:34.:20:38.

look as though we are all very much focused on the European Central

:20:38.:20:41.

Bank's role as lender, rather than the possibility of a big bail out,

:20:41.:20:45.

which is what we really should have been pushing the Eurozone countries

:20:45.:20:50.

to do. It is really important and I am really exasperated by the fact

:20:50.:20:57.

that government is not focusing not less. -- on this. The Germans and

:20:57.:21:01.

the French and our own government are not focusing it on growth. If

:21:01.:21:05.

we have a coalition, it should be to earn some revenues, to deal with

:21:05.:21:09.

the debt crisis. Why we are not doing that... They say they are

:21:09.:21:13.

going to meet every month to focus on growth policy, so that is not

:21:13.:21:18.

quite true. It is part of the deal. I want to come back to you, you are

:21:18.:21:22.

the governing party and your party told us that if the Europeans

:21:22.:21:27.

wanted to make major changes, and I can't imagine a bigger change than

:21:27.:21:31.

what is being proposed that the Eurozone, then you would use that

:21:31.:21:34.

opportunity to repatriate powers. And yet that is a word you won't

:21:34.:21:39.

even use this morning. They are not proposing to take any power away

:21:39.:21:43.

from us, they are proposing to work much closer together, to have the

:21:43.:21:49.

fiscal union to poll taxes and spending Bath pull taxes and

:21:49.:21:53.

spending and have, and enforcement. That is not an opportunity, in your

:21:53.:21:59.

view, unlike your colleagues, to renegotiate our relationship.

:21:59.:22:04.

it is our opportunity to protect British interests. To make it clear

:22:04.:22:09.

to the 17 that they can't legislate for the 27. They shouldn't. You see

:22:09.:22:14.

what I have to put up with? It is tough, I can see that. What would

:22:14.:22:19.

you like to say? We have to remain relevant and to do that, we have to

:22:19.:22:23.

sit in the centre of vessels you can't if you are not to the euro-

:22:23.:22:28.

zone. The -- we have to sit in the centre of this. This is a good time

:22:28.:22:33.

to be baking lot of friends. People say we cannot be end of the

:22:33.:22:37.

sidelines but as the country, both of these parties have been decided

:22:37.:22:40.

-- both of these parties have decided we should be in the

:22:40.:22:47.

sidelines because they are against joining the euro. Thank goodness.

:22:47.:22:53.

They stop us going in. We have got a serious risk. This idea that we

:22:53.:22:58.

are a safe haven is nonsense. things be to think about, the Tax

:22:58.:23:02.

Payers Alliance have written out, for repatriating. 20 items.

:23:02.:23:07.

Don't say we aren't here to help. The British curry industry employs

:23:07.:23:10.

around 100,000 people and is worth �3 billion a year to the economy.

:23:10.:23:13.

But does that make it an appetizing prospect for politicians searching

:23:13.:23:15.

for votes among the Asian community? Adam's been

:23:15.:23:22.

investigating. The British Curry Awards, held in

:23:22.:23:27.

London last week, and lapping up the chicken tikka, a host of

:23:27.:23:32.

politicians, most of them Tories. With my colleague Eric Pickles, I

:23:32.:23:37.

have been discussing how we can get a curry College up and running.

:23:37.:23:40.

There are more curry cost -- restaurants in London that in

:23:40.:23:44.

Mumbai and Delhi combined. And they won't just popping in for Paul the

:23:44.:23:54.
:23:54.:23:54.

Dons, according to the founder of the event. The da poppadoms. Some

:23:54.:23:58.

of the family is here are working at the different sectors, there is

:23:58.:24:04.

if you devote. In Epsom, Enam Ali has seen a big change in the

:24:04.:24:08.

community's political tastes. my generation and my father's

:24:08.:24:17.

generation, maybe somebody wasn't their cup of tea. Maybe by birth,

:24:17.:24:20.

you can say they are Labour supporters. These things have

:24:20.:24:25.

changed. I have seen for the last five years, a huge change. But back

:24:25.:24:29.

at Westminster, this prominent Labour Peer says that targeting the

:24:29.:24:36.

Asian vote is difficult. It doesn't actually exist. You say Asian,

:24:36.:24:39.

because of we can't say Indian, because there are a lot of

:24:39.:24:44.

Pakistani as well, but already Asian is a fudged the word. We

:24:44.:24:52.

don't want to talk about religion too much. But you have a very

:24:52.:24:57.

different Asian voters although the Countryfile stock and he is right,

:24:57.:25:04.

according to the latest research. - - all over the country. Figures

:25:04.:25:08.

have bad that Asian communities are overwhelmingly Labour voters, but

:25:08.:25:12.

the Indians are more likely to vote for Conservatives than those with a

:25:12.:25:15.

Pakistani background. All of this is a complicated mixture of many

:25:16.:25:19.

different ingredients. You might say just like an award winning a

:25:19.:25:22.

curry. It is all in the writing.

:25:22.:25:25.

I'm joined by the entrepreneur and crossbench peer Lord Bilimoria, and

:25:25.:25:30.

Dr Chai Patel is still with us. Lord Bilimoria, is there such thing

:25:30.:25:35.

as an Asian vote in a homogenous sense? The agent BT makes up 4% of

:25:35.:25:39.

the committee in this country -- Asian population. What I have

:25:39.:25:42.

discovered is there is a meritocracy and the Asians have

:25:42.:25:45.

blasted through the glass ceiling, reaching the very top in every

:25:45.:25:50.

field you can imagine and that 4% contributes double at proportion to

:25:50.:25:54.

the economy of this country. In Parliament, look at the House of

:25:54.:25:59.

Lords, we have 24 Asian members, the House of Commons there are 17,

:25:59.:26:04.

11 Labour, six Conservative, so the Asians are really coming to the

:26:04.:26:08.

fore. We have a Cabinet minister who is Asian, the deputy leader of

:26:08.:26:13.

the Liberal Democrats. But are they adequately represented? If you look

:26:13.:26:18.

at the proportion of the population, around 3% in both Houses, much

:26:18.:26:22.

better than when we were. When you did a split in terms of party

:26:22.:26:27.

allegiance, all right, more Labour, but do you think that that has also

:26:27.:26:32.

changed? Predominantly, the Asian vote would have voted Labour 20 or

:26:32.:26:37.

30 years ago, but has it changed? That has changed as well. Labour

:26:37.:26:42.

are the more Popular Party but the question is, well and Asian become

:26:42.:26:45.

Prime Minister and I have always said there will be at an Asian

:26:45.:26:49.

prime minister in my lifetime, but only one in five think that will

:26:49.:26:54.

happen. The So You are an individual isolated on that point.

:26:54.:26:59.

Dr Chai Patel, the subject of immigration, particularly none EU

:26:59.:27:02.

immigrants in business terms and the Government wanting to set curbs,

:27:02.:27:07.

because they can, has that made it difficult for people on the Indian

:27:07.:27:12.

sub-continent? Is it detrimental? don't think it has made it

:27:12.:27:14.

difficult for the Indian sub- continent, but it has made it

:27:14.:27:18.

difficult generally in business. That mobility has made the EU work,

:27:18.:27:22.

and I think it is a pity we have gone that way but if I can comment

:27:22.:27:27.

on the Asian vote, I think it is just that lazy and clumsy to talk

:27:27.:27:31.

about the Asian voters as it was about that was the woman and the

:27:31.:27:35.

Basildon man. What you need to look at is the several generations. Some

:27:35.:27:38.

of my old uncles behave more like Indians and my nephews, who were

:27:38.:27:44.

born here, they operate like regular breaks. So is it pointless

:27:44.:27:49.

for political parties trying to tailor votes to the Asian vote?

:27:49.:27:51.

the question of immigration, I think the Government has made a

:27:51.:27:55.

serious mistake with the immigration Kapo. The number of

:27:55.:28:01.

Indian students applying to British universities is plummeting.

:28:01.:28:05.

Academics at Oxford and Cambridge, 30% are foreign and these

:28:05.:28:08.

immigration policies are affecting them. Add the curry industry

:28:08.:28:12.

desperately need chefs and we should set up schools, but in the

:28:12.:28:15.

meantime, we need to have flexibility and the Government is

:28:15.:28:19.

being too blunt about this. terms of other Asian Friendly

:28:19.:28:24.

Policies, Dr Chai Patel, what about plans to restrict the number of

:28:24.:28:28.

dependents brought into the country. Would that have a negative impact

:28:28.:28:32.

on the Asian vote? Definitely, given the relevance of family and

:28:32.:28:35.

the way family works, that is something that would be viewed as

:28:35.:28:39.

usually negative. Thank you. Just time before we go

:28:39.:28:43.

to find that the answer to the quiz. The question was what programme

:28:43.:28:48.

would David Cameron like to bring back for Christmas Day? Chai Patel,

:28:48.:28:58.
:28:58.:28:59.

any idea? Spooks. He did. Well done. And anyway, thanks to all of our

:28:59.:29:03.