23/01/2012 Daily Politics


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Afternoon folks, welcome to the Daily Politics.


Let battle commence - again Over welfare reform. The Government's


facing another tough day in the House of Lords. This time over its


plan to cap welfare benefits. The minister in charge insists no one


will be plunged into poverty over his proposals. But many peers


disagree. Do councils have a moral duty to freeze council tax? The


Government thinks so. But surprise, surprise, not all councils agree.


Power to the people. We'll be looking at one scheme designed to


put the energy companies in their place. And we'll be asking why MPs


seem to be so grumpy about their grub.


All that in the next 60 minutes of public sector broadcasting at its


finest. Yes, I hope you're sitting comfortably with a cup of tea and a


sarnie, because from now on we're on air for a whole hour! And with


us for the first half of the programme today we have the money


saving expert, Martin Lewis. Welcome. Now first today let's talk


about bankers' bonuses and Stephen Hester's in particular. Because


yesterday the Labour leader, Ed Milliband, said the boss of RBS


should not receive a bonus this year. It's been reported that a


bonus of �1.5 million is on the cards. Shouldn't he get his bonus


this year? It is in his contract. And the problem with bonuses, we


need to be talking about long term, entrepreneurial equivalent seat. It


is not the billions of pounds that is giving it out, it is what we are


rewarding. At what I would like to see from Stephen Hester, once he


has the Bank shipshape and back to the stock market, he can have a big


bonus as a reward for performance. But while it is still publicly


owned, it is distasteful. But when you are looking at many issues all


the time, we have pay-day lenders PPI, �9 billion being paid out and


Ed Miliband chooses to talk about this �1 million. There are lot of


bigger things to be focusing on than this man's salary. You don't


think it is symbolic and for the public, because it does not have as


many zeros as you talk about? symbolic. If he is doing a good job,


and they don't look at the corporate positioning of RBS, but


if he is doing a good job, to punish him because he is running a


public bank is wrong. But the bigger picture isn't about his


bonus but the entire structure of bonuses in the city and what we are


rewarding them for. It is probably distasteful he is getting his bonus,


but there is a lot more worse things going on in the financial


sector that I would like to see Ed Miliband and David Cameron talking


about. We will hear more from the Government on that and executive


pay. Now it's time for our daily quiz.


The question for today is which of these is NOT a complaint made by


MPs and their aides about the quality of the food in Parliament.


Is it: a) That the chips haven't been arranged in a tower formation?


B) That the caviar is too rich? C) That the scrambled eggs are too


watery? D) That the salami is too thick?


We'll give you the answer at the end of the show. It's been a bit of


a roller-coaster of a ride for the Welfare Reform Bill which is


currently under scrutiny in the Lords. Later today peers will


debate controversial proposals to introduce a �26,000 cap on


household benefits. Opponents of the plan, an alliance of Church of


England bishops and Liberal Democrat peers, are hoping to win


some concessions from ministers. This is what the Work and Pensions


Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, had to say earlier this morning.


These families are dependent on benefits. What we are saying if you


are dependent on the state, the state has a right to say on behalf


of taxpayers, there is a limit to the amount of money you are able to


receive. Most people out there working that �35,000 a year before


tax is a reasonable amount to live on because many of them have to do


the same. They live in houses they can afford and sometimes travel


long distances to work. I do make this offer to the Lords clearly, we


are not about punishing people. We have said we would have


discretionary measures to make sure this does not punish but we will


these people into this. We have a year before the cap will hit. They


need to trust us on this, as Paddy Ashdown has said, he has supported


us so far and I hope he will support us again. We are determined


not to punish people, but get this benefit system back on kilter to


help people get back into work. am joined by the employment


minister, Chris Grayling and the Labour Baroness. He will accept


people will have to move because of the cap, that is the whole idea,


moving to more for double accommodation. How can you be sure


it won't cause homelessness? We are talking about the level of income


which is equivalent to a salary of �35,000. Homelessness is a very


evocative word. But the reality is, we are talking about people in


poverty who are homeless on the streets and not people getting the


equivalent of a �35,000 a year salary. We are asking people on


relatively low incomes, doing the right thing, working hard and


paying taxes to support a welfare- state. We don't think we should


expect those people to support those people supporting people on a


salary of �35,000 when most of them aren't getting that. The Government


has made that very clear as to what is acceptable to tax payers. But is


it acceptable to taxpayers to have people literally put out on to the


streets, and that is what the Children's Society and some of the


bishops are saying, is that acceptable? You say out on the


streets, people in work and earning and on salaries a less than �35,000,


they are making decisions on where they can afford to live. I don't


see why people on benefit should be in a different position to those


working. There could be a level of homelessness were some, less well-


off families, either in work or not in work, but claiming benefits


could be without a home? I don't accept that principle of


homelessness. People haven't got a place to live, they cannot afford


the place they are living in in central London and cannot get into


a home in an outlying Borough, they will be classified as homeless?


we had people bringing in from the state be governed of a �35,000 a


year salary. That is the same as many people working on much lower


incomes than that, who find housing options and saw themselves are. Why


should somebody on benefits be any different to that? Why should they,


Patricia Hollis? I'm not against a benefit cap if it is fair. But this


is not fair because it does not compare like with like, as the


Lords Government minister acknowledged. Although it may be an


average wage of �500 a week, as Mr grayling said, it excludes from


that other forms of income like child benefit. So a family man with


three or four children may have another 50 to �60 a week on top of


that 500. And the Bishop's amendment would compare like with


like and take the child benefit out of the benefit cap which would


protect something I 100,000 children from the risk of being


made homeless. Do you accept that, the measurement does not include


other areas of income and average family might get? The Bill does not


set the level of the cap, it requires the Bill to make reference


to average earnings. We have formed a view that the captured be set as


a level of �26,000 a year, which is equivalent to the average earnings


in this country. Do you not accept in the words of David Freud, your


Tory minister in the Lords, when he said on 23rd November, I


acknowledge we are not comparing like with like. If you were, you


would accept the Bishop's amendment and you would have much more


support for the cap? As a non politician, this is obvious. Some


way you have to work out should it be set at average earnings or


average income? Average income takes into account the family size.


The point about the benefit cap is it hurts those families would a


large number of children. If you are going to compare, you have to


compare like with like, take into account the family income with


somebody in work, with the family income of somebody on benefits.


is according to the Children's Society, the Bill will penalise


people with larger families, that is true isn't it? We are setting A-


level for the cat that is the equivalent of �26,000. You think


that is fair but we have now established you are talking about


one particular set of figures and you are talking about a different


set. On that basis, people with larger families will be penalised


more? Self-evidently, if you have more children, your life costs more.


But we have taken the decision in principle it should be capped at


�35,000 a year. Should child benefit come out? We have said we


will look as we did with the housing benefits, putting in


transitional arrangements. We have provided local authorities with the


money to do with transitional arrangements in the benefit system.


But we have set a clear point of principle and we will stick by that.


An arbitrary figure of 500 is not a point of principle. I don't object


to a benefit cap, but I want the playing field to be level and your


colleague has said it is not level. If you accept the amendments today,


and make the playing field levelled you will have support. Labour


appears, you will support it? supporting the Bishop's amendment.


He will support the Government's cabbage that amendment is set?


will support it if the amendments to date, because bed and breakfast


for homeless people can be �100 a night. If the Government makes a


benefit Catfirth, I am happy to support it. It is the right thing


to do. -- benefit cap Firth. Christopher grayling has just set


out, everybody has to move, defending on your definition of


homelessness. -- BEA 10 -- depending. You cannot support it on


the basis people will move house because that is what is going to


happen. It brings high rents. It is difficult to get A3 bedroomed house


in the private sector for less than �300 a week. You have Labour


support if you take on those amendments, what will the position


be? As Nick Clegg said yesterday, if you include child benefit in the


cap, it becomes potentially thousands of pounds higher.


does not. How can it not? A family with four children will get an


additional �59 a week whether they are in work or out of work. All we


are asking on the Child Benefit Amendment, it is to compare like


with like. Your minister is a good man and has acknowledged we are not


comparing like with like. Can I come to one issue, in terms of


public support, it is overwhelmingly in favour of the cap,


as suggested by the Government. Labour could find itself on the


wrong side of this argument. Labour supporters are in favour of it.


Outside London, there is less of a problem. Private sector rents in


London of three times higher than my city of Norwich. People outside


London won't appreciate the pressures of housing costs in


London. Most people on housing benefit are not those affected by


the cat. They are pensioners, or they are in work and getting


housing benefit. In terms of regional variation, it is quite a


critical issue when you are talking of caps of any side? One of the


problems is this policy and the media coverage tends to be eight or


London getting �100,000 of benefits the year. My concern about this,


the people we want to help of those families who are in work, lose


their job and we don't want to tell them to move house after five or


six weeks because they can no longer afford it. When you look at


all financial issues, the biggest problems are about change,


transition and that is what we have to protect. Rather than make policy


for those eight or 10 families who are anomalies in the system. It is


how we deal with the change for people when they lose their job and


it does worry me. This has been costed by the Government and it is


their attempt to bring down a huge bill in the welfare, where would


you get the money from? The two big amendments today, the homelessness


amendment and the Child Benefit Amendment come to about �270


million. Eric Pickles has been throwing nearly 250 million at


local authorities urging them to restore a weekly bin collection. It


is all about political and moral choices. Might do believe Chris


Grayling is making the wrong I don't believe we should be


providing two people more than an income of �35,000 a year.


should make that cap fare so you don't penalise families with


children and make vulnerable children bear the cost of your on


fairness. Do you expect to lose tonight? I certainly hope not.


hope not, but do you think you will? I can't anticipate the vote.


If we do lose, we will come back and seek to overturn the defeat in


the Lords. If there is one thing we get hot


under the collar about, it is fuel bills. The Big Six energy companies


receive more than 4 million complaints last year alone, so, if


so many of us are on have become what can be done? -- so many are


unhappy. We done to it be great if we could tell the power companies


how much we want to spend on electricity and gas?


Believe it or not, that day could be coming, but only if we all stick


together and embrace the concept called collective switching.


collective switching would work is a group of consumers would come


together, we don't know how many, using the tools of social media to


do so cheaply, they would decide what sort of offer they want from


their energy company, that would be displayed through the social media


organisation, and then it is up to the companies to meet their demands.


It is a simple way consumers could gain power over the energy


companies and set the terms they want. How easy would it be? If


people power can make a foul mouth American rock band Britain's


Christmas number one, then getting some money knocked off your


electric bill should be a piece of cake. John was so fed up with X-


factor music hogging the charts, he used social media to catapult Rage


Against the Machine into the top slot. He sees no reason the power


companies shouldn't get the same treatment. It worked because we had


one solid thing that we all agreed with, and one reason we wanted to


come together to get something done using Twitter and Facebook, so can


this be applied to switching? Yes, I think it can. For this particular


subject, there are people who will want better deals from what they


are getting so there is no reason why not. That is a great reason for


people to get on board and want it happen. It is not just consumer


activist interested, the government is also taking a closer look and is


broadly supportive, but have the power companies really been having


a laugh at our expense? I would debate that, because we have to


remember the energy costs only count for about 50% of Babel. The -


- the bill. Like Heaton not, they might have to put up with it.


enough consumers come together and make these demands, they will have


to respond. Maybe, but if this is to become a reality, it looks like


people might have to seize the power.


Joining me now is not grow Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet, and a


member of the Energy Select Committee. Is this a viable option?


I think so, but to be frank I think this is in many ways a tactic. We


have got to have a fundamental reform of an industry that looks


very 1970s. It is geared up to the producer and none of it is


orientated around the consumer. These mechanisms are important but


I hope Ofgem and the government make some fundamental reforms and


bring them into the 21st century. We will come back to the collective


switch in a moment, but on the broader issue we have spoken


endlessly on this programme about reforming energy companies, if that


is possible, trying to bring prices down, so why hasn't it been done?


the government is in the middle of doing it. Ofgem is in the middle of


the pricing policy. Gosh, again! Why don't we have a light bulb


moment? -- hour. We have one of those, a kilowatt version. It is


not about the name of the measure, it is about the fact that comparing


it is a nightmare. The most important thing to understand is


that the big problem is nobody mentioned pricing until I put my


hand up when we were sitting with David Cameron. The big energy


companies didn't, everybody wanted to talk about encouraging people to


switch. We have seen prices come down from the Big Six on gas or


electricity, not on both. Currently, typical standard tariff, after the


price drops, �1,320 a year for the typical home. 1020 is the cheapest


on the market, that is for nothing. Old people penalty. Aren't the


government trying to say let's do the simplest things first? I agree


pricing is crucial. We are not really giving the consumer the


tools to make those pricing decisions because it is opaque. We


are not putting enough pressure on the Big Six, not introducing enough


new companies into the market to bring competition. This is where


the reform comes in, and I hope it delivers. I don't agree it is


opaque. Go on a comparison site and put in your details - but this is


what I was about to say - we have a savvy internet generation who are


able to do this. For there are barred Messaging problems, such as


they say you will save �300, whereas you are preventing your


bill from rising �300. There are some people we are penalising, and


that is where collective pricing would be useful. We sold these


companies to the stock market. Their job is to make money for


shareholders and it is politicians and regulators who need to put the


prices down. Companies are not clear where they are making their


profit. What were need is in many ways greater liquidity in the


market, more companies, companies that want to work with consumers


rather than working for producers. Let's come back to the tactic, will


it work? How many people would be needed for it to work? I don't


think you would get cheaper tariffs by using collective purchasing, but


I think you would get a long-term relatively cheap tariff, whereas


you would still win by moving to the cheapest tariffs regularly. My


eyesight is used by 12.3 million people each month. I'm sure we have


talked about doing this, but I don't want to be liable. If the


energy companies do something wrong, who is liable? Me or them? All so,


the energy companies then follow each other on pricing survey will


start to move with that crowd pricing as such. The structure of


the industry is so 1970s, it needs to make sure it is working on


behalf of the customer. If this crowd sourcing could make the


company's wake up, and understand there is a different world out


there, that would be helpful. have seen, even in terms of


restricting freedom of the internet, it can work. How many people would


you need? I think you could get this working with 10, 20,000 people,


but the concept that someone goes on Twitter and says let's do this,


that will not work with mass. You have age Concern doing it, websites


like mine, we would try to provide it if the opportunity was there.


This is coming from Chris Huhne, not the other way round. Ed Davey


is salivating over collective purchasing on a lot of issues but


we must not confuse that with group buying. This works with heating oil,


the forgotten on regulated sector, people living in rural areas bulk-


buying their heating oil, but there is a long way for this to work on a


mass scale. The good start to look at communities having their own


distribution companies and that is really exciting. Thank you. A


heated debate! There is a busy week in store, and


who better to look ahead to it than Polly Toynbee and Ben Brogan. Can I


start with you, Polly. Will Labour find itself on the wrong side of


the argument on welfare reform if the Peers don't back the cap this


evening? Popular opinion says 26,000 is definitely enough for


anyone on benefits, especially if they are out of work. It sounds


reasonable but with these things often written on the back of an


envelope, what plays well with the public may end up working badly.


People will be horrified by stories of large numbers of families who


have been thrown onto the street, having to move miles, their


children repeatedly taken out of schools as they are moved on. I


think the public is more generous spirited than this Government gives


them credit for. It is easy to stir their mum with Daily Mail type


anecdotes of scrounging families, but when the reality hits home were


very worthy family is being thrown out of schools and jobs, public


attitudes may change. Even though the polling has consistently said


not, there is not that sort of sympathy out there that the


government's argument, that they should be on the equivalent of a


working family, �35,000 a year, has been pretty effective. If Labour is


not clear run where it is, as far as welfare is concerned, it looks


like it is trying to face both ways. In the long run what matters is


government policy and the government getting it right. If


they get it wrong this time, I think they will find, and this has


been shown time and time again, when people see the effect they


usually get shocked and appalled and start swinging back to a more


generous attitude, towards people who have fallen down on their luck.


Who is right? Is Iain Duncan-Smith right, saying not many people will


be thrown out of their homes? Or is it true that many children will be


made poorer and a lot of people will be evicted from their homes?


At the moment it doesn't look like the public is wobbling at all, but


some Liberal Democrats are clearly wobbling. How much irritation is


there among senior Conservatives? There is something terribly


synthetic about this debate within the coalition. One gets the


impression that Nick Clegg's reservations are really about


giving Nick Clegg something to show to his troops. We will get


concessions at some point, there will be a sweetener thrown out by


the government, and Nick Clegg will be able to say "once again the Lib


Dems have been able to take off the rough corners". The politics are


straightforward - this policy is not designed to please people like


Polly or me, it is really about millions of families who earned


�26,000 a year, and look at people who don't and get benefits


equivalent to that. Two-thirds of Labour members are keen on this


policy, and so is the public. The politics at the moment effect David


Cameron and Nick Clegg more than Ed Miliband. Iain Duncan-Smith and


Chris Grayling made it clear they will force this through so what


will it do for relations between The House of Lords is a tricky


place at the moment, it is overcrowded and not reformed. It


would be a foolhardy minister whether it be Chris Grayling or


Iain Duncan-Smith, with a bit of blustering they can get stuffed


past appears at the bottom of the corridor. In the end, the


Government will find a way of making this legislation palatable


and it will get through. But the House of Lords will continue to be


a problem between now and the end of the session in spring, there


will be more rows with the House of Lords and the Government may have


to jettison some of its legislation. Ed Miliband has had a personal


relaunch and a relaunch on economic policy. He has had no impact on the


pulse. One poll indicated they had fallen behind the Conservatives. It


does not bode well does it? He is not doing as well as Labour would


like to be doing. It is worse than that isn't it? He is not doing any


worse than David Cameron was doing when he was first elected leader of


his party at about the same time. Labour crashed out at the last


General Election, 29%. Now they are almost level-pegging with the


Tories. They are ahead enough to make it clear the Tories could not,


as things stand, be sure of winning a majority. We wouldn't know which


would be the biggest party, it is too close to call. Not too bad 18


months after such a disaster. Yvette Cooper becoming woman?


hard to say? One of Ed Miliband's strands says that there is not


another clear contender. Yvette Cooper has been around, she is


experienced. There is no devastating, obvious person waiting


in the wings. What about you Ben Brogan? The difficulty for Labour


is there is no one rushing forward to volunteer to take over from Ed


Miliband. Yvette Cooper is doing well and is the favourite at the


moment. But I think we have a long way to go and Polly is right, the


polls at the moment help Ed Miliband. Things aren't as bad for


Labour as they appear at judging by Ed Miliband's performances. It will


be a while before Ed Miliband screws up its courage to do


something about him. And as if by magic I've been joined by the


Conservative MP, Pritti Patel, the Labour MP, Lisa Nandy and by the


Liberal Democrat MP, Tessa Munt. Then Brogan St the opposition on


welfare is synthetic and the Liberal Democrats are only doing


this to please their own supporters. Is that how you see it? I think it


is absolutely essential that something is done about the welfare


system. Do you agree with the cap? I do broadly. There are many of my


constituents, the majority of my constituents would love to have


�35,000 a year income. Are you annoyed with Lord Ashdown? No, he


is making a good point. We need a safety net for those who find


themselves perhaps a less mobile and six. We also need to make sure


the people who have a problem in their life, and it is not a


systemic problem in their lives. You lose your job, we shouldn't...


We need a shoulder. Deal agreed with these beers tonight? They can


do what they like. If we can make changes, it is going to happen.


have heard these arguments being set out, and there is every chance


the Government loses tonight because of what appears to. Do you


think there should be concessions? I was on the Welfare Reform Bill


Committee in the House of Commons last year. I have clear views of


the direction of travel when it comes to reforming the welfare


state. It is inevitable when legislation goads to the Lords it


is going to be shaken about and there will be a debate. I don't


think, what concerns me is the artificial tone in terms of, let's


pick a row here and seek concessions, which I think has been


as predictable as Ben Brogan said. But at the same time, it is very


valid to have the debate to make sure the right safeguards are in


place. It is the biggest reform in 60 years, so we have to make sure


the welfare state is a safety net and people don't fall through it.


Labour's position, Patricia Hollis saying they agree with the cap, you


agree with the cap at �26,000. If their work some other concessions


made for vulnerable families as you see it? The real danger is whether


it will work in practice. And like many other policies that have come


out of this coalition, those on the front line dealing with


homelessness and welfare and getting people into work has been


part of it. It will do nothing but push people... They have been doing


her masses of work on this. They're not at the end of the phone when


the family is being made homeless. And under this crude attempt to cap


benefits, more people will be pushed into poverty, children will


go into poverty. Extra households will be added to the homelessness


waiting list. It will cost more in the long run than the cost to do


nothing. Labour has said it won't be cost-effective. But the bishops,


the Children's Society and other charities are saying there will be


thousands of children pushed into poverty. Is it acceptable? It is a


sweeping generalisation. It is what they say. There are children living


in poverty were there is acute worthlessness. Chris Grayling is


trying to get rid of the issue of worthlessness and change the


culture of welfare and around the benefit system. No children in this


country should be living in poverty. The benefit system and the system


needs changing, there is no doubt about that. Some of those families


are in work, so what is the Government doing to help people who


are in work, out of poverty? People believe work should pay and your


Government has no solution to that problem. This system will enable


VAT. Alongside reforms of benefit and welfare, we had the work


programme which has focused on getting individuals back into work


and training programmes as well. will have to move on.


Well, welfare isn't the only sticking point for the Coalition.


There are plenty of other flash points coming up over the next few


weeks which are going to provide some big tests. Tomorrow the Health


Select committee, which has a majority of Conservative and


Liberal Democrat members, will publish a report which will be


highly critical of the Governments plans. The Committee says NHS


trusts are resorting to cutting services to meet their budget


targets, even though the Health Secretary had pledged that would


not happen. There could be further wrangling when the bill returns to


the Lords next month. On Wednesday the Prime Minister visits


Strasbourg to give a speech at the Council of Europe, where he'll tell


European human rights judges to stop interfering in British law.


But the Lib Dems warn a 'nuclear option' pulling out of the court's


jurisdiction on a temporary basis unless changes are agreed, could


fracture the Coalition. Last week's announcement that a consultation


over a possible Thames Estuary airport will go ahead angered lots


of Lib Dems. The Lib Dem Transport Minister, Norman Baker, said any


expansion would be "irresponsible environmentally". And the Liberal


Democrats are also pushing for a mansion tax on properties worth


more than �2 million, which the Conservatives are fiercely opposed


to. Let's go back to health. Viewers might be forgiven for


thinking this is almost done and dusted. Here we are coming back to


criticisms from and into the -- influential select committee. This


cutting of services, is it what you envisage? No, but I think we did


stop the whole process last year. We make quite a lot of changes at


that point. And what happened in the Lords, it is another set of


questions. Shirley Williams has some technical questions about how


various bits and pieces will work. It is quite right. The


responsibilities of the Secretary of State have to be clarified and


various other technical things we would like to change. The House of


Lords are not limited on the amount of time they can spend on these


things. How worried are you hospitals are cutting services? In


order to meet the savings required of them to make over the next four


years, efficiencies of �20 billion, pocketing services? Is that what


Liberal Democrat voted for? there is always a conflict between


localism, letting people locally do it, which is what we feel should


happen. We feel strongly people should have a say in the services


offered locally and the GP is the person he knows what I might need


and what anybody else might need. But there is a conflict. Nationally


we might want to say don't cut services, you have to do this and


have to do that. That is interfering. But we cannot sit


where we are because changes are happening already. The NHS


shouldn't stay static in the way it was 10 and 20 years ago. It is


never perfect. But we need to get the best for the patients. No one


would disagree with that. Do you agree with Stephen Dorrell, the


former Conservative health secretary. His committee have come


back and said, you cannot manage those savings and carry out a huge


overhaul of how the NHS is run at the same time? I am appalled by the


suggestion. I'm not sure if it is right. I don't have a hospital in


my constituency, but I have plenty of examples of lack of patient care.


Central to these reforms, and I think this is important, it is


about the modernisation of the health service to make the change


in the population and meet the needs of the individuals. From my


experience, as Ice Edge don't have a hospital, my local health service


has been dominated by bureaucracy, by management and red tape, as


opposed to frontline care. Stephen Dorrell wrong? He is wrong


and the Government shouldn't take any notice of him? You cannot apply


that across the board. He is that share of the health select


committee and will have done research. Sweeping generalisations


from someone who has a relative expert and has listened to the


concerns, the pause we have had and the concerns raised by Lady --


Labour, is now saying fundamentally it won't work? I don't know the


details of that. From the experience but I have had, and they


know what I need from the NHS for my local area, I want the money to


go to the front line. Even if hospitals are saying they have to


cut services to make their savings? The shouldn't be cutting their


services. The select committee's job is to hold Government to


account. They should test what they see is inadequacies in the system.


If that makes hospital stand up and say, no we shouldn't. It is time


for the management to reassess what they're doing. Andy Burnham came on


the programme and said they are supporting this idea of changing to


GP commissioning. So, Labour is backing these proposals. Are you


surprised that this late in the day they are coming back to an argument


saying that actually perhaps it cannot be done? The risk is the


Bill makes the situation you have just described, worse. Hospital


having to cut services to find efficiency savings. Some hospitals


have managed to find those savings haven't they? The Bill, potentially


makes the situation worse, that is why the Royal Collinge Best Royal


College of Nursing has come out and said they are against it. It is


hard to find anybody who isn't. The risk is, what to do under the model


proposed by the coalition is to add another layer of bureaucracy and


bring in private companies who can cherry-pick the services they want


to deliver and leave the state to pick up the rest. That's why there


are so many expert voices united in opposition to it. It is why there


has been such a row about it in the Commons and the Lords. The


Government shouldn't be pushing through such fundamental change so


quickly. Although Labour does support the idea of GP


commissioning? We support the idea GPs are the best place to


understand... GPs are private. are self-employed. It is the


private sector at work. We have accepted that GPs are the right


people to be choosing services for their patients. The their private


business already. We are going to do more about health tomorrow.


Let's move on to the European Court of Human Rights. Is there any


realistic chance David Cameron can reform that called? I see no reason


why not. The MEPs think he would be difficult? It is difficult because


of the voting model. But the point is, the Prime Minister is going


there on Wednesday. It is a line in the sand moment. We have the


chairmanship of the Council of Europe for the first time in 25


years, it would be missed opportunity for our Prime Minister


not to go out there and say, we have to look at, not just our


relationship, but set the tone of whether relationship needs to go in


terms of judgment and safety Europe, stop meddling on a lot of our legal


decisions in the courts over here. David Cameron's position is clear,


if he does not get his way, would you back the idea of Britain


withdrawing from the court's jurisdiction? I don't think it is


going to happen. Would you back it, because there is debate whether he


would get reform? I would contribute to the bait. It would be


making the case as to why we need the reform. -- debate. We all


supportive of human rights legislation. Nobody is talking


about ultimate withdrawal. But we are talking about making sure


British Parliament is sovereign in terms of many of his decisions and


Europe stops a Medellin. And the Council of Europe and the Human


Rights Court are more transparent in their own decision-making as


Will the Liberal Democrats be backing this line of attack?


essence, we would support the Court of Human Rights and we would not


want to go to the point where we would be withdrawing. But people


have suggested you would be... That would be a problem for us. A what


about Labour? Labour did a lot for this in government so there is a


level of democracy here that is quite often lost. It is important


we remember that when we go around the world, whether it is a


Conservative-led government or not, and we tell other countries that


they should adhere to a human rights standards, we can do that at


the same time as arguing that somehow we should be exempt.


can understand that people would be frustrated that courts made the


decision here and then it was overruled. Politicians don't do


enough to go out and explain what is behind those rulings. It is


right that we don't send people to countries where they will be


tortured or killed, and that is a do the other parties largely share.


This weekend Eric Pickles told councils they have a moral duty not


to raise council tax this year. However, a number of authorities


are choosing to reject the government offer and opt for a rate


increase. Brighton and Hove is looking to raise rates, and Jason


Kitcat from the council joins us now. Make your case - why should


people from Brighton and Hove have to pay more? The government are


reducing our funding by 33% over four years so we are trying to


protect services, proposing 57p a week more for the average household


in this city. We think that is a small contribution. But what about


the central government money - you say it is less. There is an offer


for this year and next year. there is a one year only offer and


it is a gimmick because you end up worse off than if you didn't take


it. We would be �5.4 million worse off over two years and the grant is


only worth �3 million so it is not a good deal. That is why many


authorities have now stopped and said to Eric Pickles this is


another attack on the freedom and financing of local authorities.


are you setting the rate at 3.5%, is it because anything beyond that


and there would be a referendum? Were reset our rate last year, it


was the understanding that there would still be capping powers, and


only the last minute did Eric Pickles changed that to the


referendum option. Now the electoral commission have so there


are not the correct regulations in place so we couldn't hold a


referendum even if we wanted to. not because you are frightened you


would lose? It wasn't even on the cards when we were making that


decision. Giles is in the Central Lobby. Over to you. It to his


interesting but not only did Eric Pickles used the phrase moral duty,


he also said raising council tax would be a kick in the teeth to


hard-working households. What is the point of alleviating


the burden on households for one year when the next year they may


have to pay even more if they took your grant? That is not necessarily


the case. 140 councils will be taking the freeze so the


overwhelming majority get the message, they know that they can


make sense of it. The assumption that Jason Kitcat wrongly made was


that the council does nothing in that year to make further


efficiencies. He is assuming it simply stands still, that


everything is frozen for the years ahead. So you are saying to freeze


council tax, and the next year when you have this larger short fall,


don't do it by increasing, but cut out. Many councils have been saying


for ages they are cut to the bone. We are giving �27 billion in


support to councils for other local services. The average council get


something like �2,100 per household for funding services. Brighton and


Hove, a unitary authority, it gets significantly more because it has


more demand on its services. We are targeting the money to where it is


most needed, but equally there is an obligation on households to


continue pressing for savings and have a look at the money that


councils have got in their bank balances in reserves. The there is


no doubt that some local authorities could cut waste without


affecting frontline services, and focusing their mind some that is


not a bad thing. Councils have been doing that not least because of the


cuts in funding the government has imposed upon them. This year


councils will do their level best to avoid an increase in council tax,


but the so-called offer of help is only for one year. That is why


Conservative-run Surrey County Council are saying you might have


short-term gain but it will be long-term pain. There are some Tory


authorities as well as Labour ones that are saying that in the end we


have the balance of what we want to provide for people. It is a cheek


of Eric Pickles who has done this unfairly so bigger cuts on the


deprived authorities. At the same time the government put up VAT, so


people need to take what he is saying with a pinch of salt. It is


interesting that it is not just opponents of the government in


local authority doing this. You mentioned sorry, Southend, this is


difficult stuff is what they are saying, and they are asking if you


could change your minds about it and they are councils of your party.


We talk annually to the councils, we consort with them on the


settlements and there is nothing you on that. I am happy to talk to


anyone. There are only about three Tory councils talking about that.


We have worked hard to find money to assist council tax payers. The


council tax doubled under Hilary's government. I don't think that the


ordinary voter will thank any Council for turning away money


which could save them �75 a year. You would have been under the same


sorts of pressures. Yes, but we would not have allocated them out


in the unfair way the government has done. If Bob is saying that he


will not make it a one-off that would be great, but it is not clear


what the government stance is. have said so far we can do the


funding of this for one year. Many councils are well able to cope.


will be coming back to this. Now, importantly the big topic of


the day - let's find out the answer Which one of these was a complaint


made by MPs about the food in their parliament? The answer is that the


caviar is too rich. That is the right answer, so the others are


complaints logged in the catering sub-committee about the quality of


food in the 19th eating and drinking establishments. Can I just


say, that complaint is not about me. What is most bizarre is not about


how they found the time to complain, it is what they are complaining


about because the food is very nice. You yes, and it is also subsidised,


isn't it? Not as much as it might be. I sit on the Administration


Committee. I will discover who did the chips! We have to recognise


that in Parliament, and I'm sure you covered it last week, we are


paid generously but my team, I have three-and a-half staff and a budget,


and they are not paid very well... At but they are not complaining


about the food either. The do have to make sure the people who work in


London for far below the celery outside of Parliament are able to


feed themselves. We have made your point. Do you like the food? I eat


there all the time. And I eat the chips! I on that note, may I bring


my glamorous assistant in. Where going to ask how you like to read


your chips, Pritti Patel. Because we are all starving at the end of


the show. That is the tower formation, and that is what one


particular MP would like to see on his plate. We also have a little


posh holder for the chips. I just like mine in a reasonable sized


bolts. Can't you tell by my size?! The what is the best meal you have


had in the Commons? You wouldn't get away with serving that portion


of chips in Wigan at a fish-and- chip shop! The what would you say?


That there aren't enough? Nobody in the right mind would serve chips


like that. The quality in the House of Commons is absolutely fine.


would you recommend we try? soup is out of this world. I have


never heard any complaints about the cake. No, they haven't


complained. I'm surprised they raised a lot of complaints about


the food. He should always have the ability to complain. We don't want


you to leave unhappy - please, have a chip. Don't be shy. You are


obviously dying to have won. We didn't think about ketchup. We are


going to have our complaint book on the programme. Chips and gravy.


do you have that? If you complain too much, they will take the


subsidy away and that would be a shame. The to is not a problem for


us. I have always thought that the passes we have, I have always


thought this should be graded and we should be paying a full price


and those on a lower salary should be paying less. That is reasonable,


particularly for staff. I have been around during the summer recess. My


constituency is not that far from London. What, getting your meals?


No, because I can pop in or out, but a lot of staff tend to go


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