07/02/2012 Daily Politics


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Afternoon, welcome to the Daily Politics.


Labour's on the war path again over bankers' bonuses. They want


benefits to be performance related, and they want another bonus tax to


help get young people back into work. We'll be talking to the


Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and to a former


Chancellor. The radical Muslim cleric, Abu


Qatada, is to be released on bail. Parliament's kicking up a story,


but what, if anything, can be done? We'll be debating regional public


sector pay. One MP says the issue will prove more explosive than


pensions. BELL RINGS. And, what's that noise?


Quentin will be here with his guide All that in the next half hour.


With us for the programme today is Max Steinberg from Liverpool Vision,


the city's economic development company. Welcome.


First this morning, let's talk about shops. Because a report by


the Local Data Company has found that one in seven shops in towns


and cities stood empty last year. It found that vacancy rates were


above average in the Midlands and the north, including Stockport,


Nottingham, Grimsby and Stockton on Tees.


How or are you finding it? In your area, you cover regional


regeneration. How is Liverpool bearing up? We have just had a very


good lead-up to Christmas. The new shopping development is proving


popular. There was a time, in the 80s and 90s, we thought we were


America, of building it out of town centres. If you create the right


offer in the town centre, car- parking remains an issue. Create


the right attractions around shopping, that's what is happening


in Liverpool. If so you are not experiencing what Grimsby, not a


them are experiencing, empty shops? We are seeing 2 million people a


month, lettings and up to 97%. House of Fraser. Taking business


away from other town centres? do think it is out of town shopping


centres. I have seen examples across the North, in small towns,


out-of-town shopping centres have killed the small town centre.


what Peter will -- what people want. It is causing the death of the High


Street. Ours has an Odeon cinema, one of the most popular. If you


create the right attractions which we have done. Liverpool was so


confident, there is a �200 million development coming.


What do you think about the Government's mantra that there has


to be a shift from reliance on public sector to more reliance on


the public -- private sector. How does that impact on jobs? It is


having an effect. There is a strong argument that this is going too


quickly. We have an economy heavily dependent on public sector jobs.


Our council has had to take �90 million out of the budget this year.


A huge amount of money. When an economy is so dependent on the


public sector, we need investment to meet private sector investment.


It takes the risk it areas, in parts of the nipple, the north east


and north west where the private sector may not going. The


government says it wants to see private sector jobs picking up


public sector jobs. I believe we can do that. We have a global


entrepreneurship Congress coming to the people next year, recreating


the spirit of enterprise in the City, getting people to understand,


50% in this country want to form a business, but only 5% do. The Now


it's time for our daily quiz. The question for today is: Which of


these has Ed Miliband been compared A) Wallace from Wallace and Gromit.


B) A Lizard. C) Bert from Sesame Street.


D) Ernie from Sesame Street? At the end of the show, we'll give you the


Let's turn our eyes again to banks and bankers' bonuses. Because this


afternoon, Labour have forced a Commons debate calling for any


benefits to be "performance related". And for a new bankers'


bonus tax which would help young people get back into work. It comes


after the bosses of Network Rail, and the Royal Bank of Scotland


chief executive Stephen Hester turned down bonuses following a


political outcry. Joining us now from Central Lobby is the Shadow


Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rachel Reeves.


Thank you for joining us. You must be delighted with the decision by


Network Rail bosses to waive their bonuses. He made the right decision


as did Stephen Hester. Because they are not justified at a time when


ordinary families are struggling, and businesses aren't delivering


the performers they should, with share price at RBS falling, they


are laying of ordinary workers. But, we are calling for two things.


First, a tax on bank bonuses to fund 100,000 jobs for young people.


We have more than one million young people out of work. Also, a more


fundamental reform of how pay and bonuses work. Transparency in terms


of pay. Workers on remuneration committees to set wages at the top.


To bring bonuses back down to Planet Earth.


Would you rather have that the bonus culture didn't exist at all?


Or do you want bonuses you can tax? I think bonuses should before


exceptional performance, especially at the top. It should be in


addition to pay. But at the moment do you want to see all bonuses


reined in? All banks have relied on an implicit guarantee from the


government. Those bonuses, as Ed Miliband has said, is part of what


caused the financial crisis. Bonuses for short-term reward


rather than adding long-term value encourages excessive risk-taking.


We want a reform in the way bonuses work because that would be good for


the economy and business. At the moment, with these bank bonuses


getting under way again, multi- million pound bonuses being paid,


we said the priority is to use that money to fund jobs for long-term


young unemployed people rather than the parity of a tax cut for the


banks. Are you going to target companies in the wake RBS and net


work well were. Companies which are state owned or part-owned, like


Eurostar, like Channel 4? One other things this government says his


shareholders should take an active interest in the bonuses and pay of


staff at the top of those organisations. With a RBS, the


taxpayers are the key shareholders. Would you like the government to


look specifically at those companies as a starting point?


David Abrahams got a 123,000 pound bonus last year despite viewers the


leaving the Channel. Whether government has a role, as a


shareholder or owner of, those bonuses should be looked at. This


goes well beyond what is happening in those organisations. But in


financial services companies which have relied on that implicit


government guaranteed to continue to pay out bonuses of up to


millions of pounds. Those bonuses have been damaging to the banking


sector and wider economy. Unless we take action and get a transparency,


we risk another financial crisis. Even Alastair Darling said, as far


as the backbone this tax is concerned, it will be a one-off


thing. The people you are after will find imaginative ways of


avoiding it. This year, we are likely to get


another bumper bonuses. Not as big as you thought. We're still talking


about billions of pounds of bonuses being paid this year. That could


bring into million pounds of funding we would use to create


100,000 jobs for people out of work. Is there a feeling now that what


you are saying, that this will send a message to the city that you are


serious? Banks already get very large salaries for doing their job.


That should be the reward, rather than these bonuses which often


rewards for failure. That is what we saw leading up to the crisis and


what we are still seeing today. If Britain is to succeed, we need a


factor -- banking sector supporting small businesses which are


desperately trying to get finance and create jobs. It is about reform


of the wider economy as well to get money is flowing through.


The emotion is non-committal, you have taught about improving lending


levels, but you have not set any figures. It doesn't specify what


you would like? We are in opposition. We wanted to set the


tone of the debate. We hope people will support us. That is why we are


calling for the government had to reinstate that backbone this tax


and looked at transparency and fairness in the culture of bonuses.


With me is Nigel Lawson, Chancellor under Margaret Thatcher, now a


member of the Lords. Is it right going after bankers'


bonuses? There is a problem of which bankers' bonuses are sent


home. It is a problem with banking. That is what needs to be sorted out.


These excessive bonuses are a symptom of the two big to fail, too


important to fail, of which has led to the feeling they don't have to


be that careful. They can gamble a huge amount because of it goes


wrong the tax payer will bail them out. They are not risking their own


money. It is striking, for example, over a period of time, looking at


figures for five years, bank shareholders have not done


particularly well at all. Why is it that the pay of exacted bank


managers has gone up, compared to dividends to shareholders? It maybe


shareholder failure, but a more fundamental thing. Banking


legislation. First of all, the government is proposing to put in


place following recommendations, a ring fence between the investment


banks and ordinary commercial banks. The purpose of that is to make it


extremely unlikely that the taxpayer will have to bail out


commercial banks. They are the ones that matter to the economy. If an


investment bank goes bust, like a hedge fund, they should be allowed


to fail. Then there is the question of the complicated but important


thing of the accountancy rules, the new accounting standards which are


particularly bad for banks which enables them to pay huge real


bonuses out of purely paper profits. They don't have the profits in the


first place. So you have basic legal system which makes this worse.


And the tax system is wrong. It says, if you find as yourself with


debt, the debt interest is tax deductible. If you finance yourself


without short equity, there is no tax deductible. This makes the


system very unsafe. If the government takes on the


recommendations from the report, all those things will be sold?


Particularly the separation of retail investment? Or is there


still the potential for banks to circumvent those rules, and they


will still be vulnerable? The only have to look at the banks in Europe.


Will this recommendation prevent that? The European Bank system is


extremely vulnerable as a result of the disaster of the eurozone. That


is a separate issue. I would prefer to see a complete structural


separation between investment and commercial banking. The ring-fence


will go some way. These other things are needed, tax changes,


accountancy rules, and beyond both, something which is across the board,


Coming back to the political row about bonuses, do think the


government is right in doing what it is doing, going at the bonuses,


trying to change the culture? think, as he said in his opening


remarks, there is genuine concern from the man and woman in the


street about what is going on. The situation in this country where the


FTSE chief executive is turning to wonder 19 times the median work it


is a situation that cannot continue. -- is burning to wonder than 19


times. The bonus system came here from America. Did it come at the


time of the Big Bang, when you were Chancellor? Too big to fail, that


was the start of it. I think it is true that it is one of the


consequences of the Big Bang, although it did not happen in my


time, it happened later, that universal banks came into being. In


the old days, in this country, we had quite separate... They were not


called investment banks, they were called merchant banks, and they


were completely separate from the commercial banks. They were


different cultures, different people. No-one wanted to turn off


the Taff. Remuneration committee after remuneration committee...


is impossible to say the word! are letting each other up. I ask


the question, where are the shareholders, turning up at AGMs


and arguing the case that it is not right? There is clearly a lot of


anger and a lot of upset about this in the country. The parties are


saying that the system is fractured, and whether it cannot be repaired I


do not know, but the other question is, why do people need bonuses?


Isn't this about setting the right salary and incentives for people to


do their job? The system is now at a point in this country where


people have lost belief in the whole system. There has been talk


not about bonuses but profit sharing and incentives. The John


Lewis model. Would that work in banking? The John Lewis model will


not. The John Lewis model is very old hat, it is a very old company,


a good company but very old. People have tried this, workers' co-


operatives, time and again, and it does not provide a suitable model


for business and industry going ahead. On the Vickers Report,


Wright, the government has said they are going to introduce it in


2015. Is that let too late? There is going to be a gap until then


before the separation is going to take place. I think it is important


to do it as soon as possible. I think it is very desirable that the


legislation should be introduced in the next session of Parliament.


They had said it will be in this Parliament, but I think it should


be in the next session of Parliament. We cannot go on


rewarding failure. We cannot go on with a situation where the public


are completely out of tune with this. We have got to have a


situation where this is managed in a more effective way, and we are


the major shareholders, turning up at AGMs, arguing that these are out


of kilter. Now, to the row that has taken Parliament by storm, beer!


Over to you, Giles. It has to be said, there are


certain jobs in journalism I will not do, but this is not all of them.


Standing outside, discussing beer! The whole problem started with his


beer that was served in the bar served -- bar frequented by MPs,


Top Totty. It was banned, somebody said they were offended by it. What


you make of that? Well, I think it is not just a storm in a teacup,


the vast majority of voters and the general public, people watching


this programme will think, have and MPs got something better to talk


about? It is quite a last place, the House of Commons, two women


have a point? I think it was an over-reaction, I would rather the


Top Totty than speckled hen! suspect the name alone might have


been all right, it was something to do with the marketing around it and


the label which hopefully people will be able to see in a moment. It


does have a scantily clad female, barely concealed inside a bikini


with bunny ears. You can see how some people might have got upset.


met the aforementioned Lady... is never real! She is a real person.


It is nothing worse than you would see on a saucy seaside postcard or


Jessica Rabbit, it is nothing more than that. I think you have got


done a bit of a sense of humour. There is a long tradition of having


cheeky names for beers in Britain, real ales with GDA names. Maybe, in


the interests of quality, we should have a cheeky chappie scantily clad


and see if any of my male colleagues... I think it would go


down quite well, maybe more of the female drinkers. Been to have a


gentleman offended by a beer? of my mature constituents was


offended by old codger and wanted me to take that up. Look, part of


the problem is some of the marketing. Top Totty is described


as a stunning blonde beer, full- bodied with a voluptuous of. It is


being replaced by his beer, Kangaroo Court, which is not using


the same sort of language, and assuming Lehman after the initial


kick with a tight, dry finish. we judge it by its label? It as a


kangaroo on it, largely! Is it scantily-clad? Vaguely furry, but


not naked. Is it in danger of offending Australians first mark


possibly, but that is a national sport here. The sales of Top Totty


have gone through the roof as a result of this row, it is probably


the best marketing they have had. You are both beer fans, as a


connoisseur... Not quite the distance, but pretty good.


would you describe the flavours? Quite sweet. Sweet? It is almost


like a Belgian beer. I am the chairman of the All Parliamentary


beer Group, which is the best job in Parliament, and I would say, as


an expert, it is quite hotly. would expect A kangaroo Court to be


a bit wobbly. On that note, I think we should get back to the studio


while we just clear up here! We will give them away!


It is a tough job, Giles, but somebody has to do it. I will tell


the staff, they will be delighted, we aim to please. Rebellion is in


the air among Liberal Democrat MPs of a coalition plans to localise


public sector pay. George Osborne is looking at whether public sector


workers should be paid different amounts depending on where they


live. For example, a fireman in Inverness could earn a different


amassed by firemen working in Surrey. Adam Fleming reports. -- a


different amount. So South Wales as a big public


sector. This village has schools, a library, a hospital, and most of


the people who work in them have their wages set nationally. Critics


of national pay bargaining say it takes no account of the fact that


the cost of living in places like this might be different from other


places. They also say their private sector employers struggle to match


the same wages. Local solicitor Victoria experience that when she


advertised for a legal assistant. What we found is that solicitors or


lawyers alike would prefer to work for the public authority, the local


authority, and work in private practice. Who can blame them? We


cannot offer the salary, we do not have the benefits that you get in


the local authority, and therefore this is why lawyers really are


going straight to the local authority upon leaving, upon


graduating from university. The so- called public sector wage premium


varies by gender as well as region. In Wales, men in the public sector


earn on average 18% more than their private sector counterparts. In


Scotland, women earn on average 20% more. In Northern Ireland, men in


the public sector get 15.5% more. But in the East Midlands, it is


much less, just 7%. In the south- east, the difference is not


statistically significant. In other words, there's hardly any


difference at all. To address those variations, last year the


Chancellor wrote to the pay review bodies for nurses, teachers, prison


workers and some senior staff, asking them to investigate and


report back this summer about whether salaries can be made more


market phasing in local areas. To the unions, that is code for cuts


to pay. This is an agenda of cutting pay in the public sector,


and our point of view is that it is a race to the bottom in the regions.


The only real driver in terms of regional differences around there


it is London and the south-east, and you can deal with that through


London weighting or market supplements to retain people. If


you are just looking at this as an organisational problem, that is.


But this is a backdoor way of driving down pay in the public


sector. Some local businesses also worry that it could deflate the


local economy. The protests over changes to pensions taught the


government it can be tough to tangle with the public sector.


Realising their pay is technically tricky and some Lib Dems have


already said it is a terrible idea, so there is no guarantee that it


will ever actually happen. Joining me now is Liberal Democrat


MP Andrew George and conservative anti-David Ruffley, who is on the


Treasury Select Committee. Max Steinberg is still with us. --


Conservative MP. You think this is a terrible idea. Yes, I come from


West Cornwall, the bottom of the earnings league table since records


began, and if you want to introduce a measure which is going to drive


down wages and actually enshrined an area, a region like Cornwall as


a place of endemic low wages, this is a pretty good way of going about


it. The national minimum wage, a lot of private sector employers


suggested it would cause catastrophe across the country, but


it never did. We should be looking at mechanisms to drive wages up,


not to push them down. A race to the bottom, why fix something that


ain't broke? The IFS, which is independent, says if you are in


Wales or the north-east, on average, in a public's after Jock, you are a


30% more on average than someone off during the same job in the


private sector. -- in a public sector job. The private sector is


suffering as a result, and we need to have more than us through a


regional, locally determined pay structure. Is it really fair,


Andrew George, that a worker living in an area with a low cost of


living to end the same as a worker who lives in a more expensive area?


No, it is not. That is not what happens. Isn't it? Take for example


my own area, I will talk about my own area, we are at the bottom of


the earnings league table, but our house prices are anything but. As a


result of large numbers of second homes and the pressure of the


market, the external market, a desire to move to the area, the


cost of living is one of the greatest in the country. So to say


that there is any kind of parity between wages and cost of living,


it is simply not the case. south-west is an interesting case,


because it is traditionally one of the poorest areas, but because it


is so popular and fashionable to live there you are suggesting would


make it difficult for people. prose medium weight of a public


sector employee in the south-west is �541, where I am, East Anglia,


it is less than that. All of those factors are public sector wages.


They are a lot higher in many parts of the country than the same job in


the private sector. Where is the fairness in that? What about


pushing up wages? Why try to suppress them in some areas? Well,


Labour employment is a market like many other things, and it has to


find its own level. The CentreForum, the Lib Dem think-tank, which has


lots of good ideas, even they say that the private sector employer is


finding it very difficult to compete with inflated public sector


wages in the regions. What is your experience? The government is


saying that we have to create areas like Liverpool or the north-west


where there is too much reliance on the public sector, private sector


jobs, but I do not want a system which drives away higher-paid jobs.


I want to bring in all sorts of jobs into the North West and


Liverpool. Is there a policy which will put pressure on salaries?


Where are they go into go? To the south-east, I think. That. The


regeneration of cities like Liverpool. -- that will stop the


regeneration. I'm against a policy which will put pressure on the


drive to bring private sector investment into a city like


Liverpool. You would not want to do that either. I am not sure I follow


the logic. We are saying to give a boost to private sector employers,


the opposite of what I am suggesting. But the economy, David,


in places like Liverpool will be dependent on the public sector for


years to come, and there's nothing wrong with that. We need to


rebalance it, the Chancellor said, this year, I'm going to get work


done on realising pay. I cannot understand why you want high public


sector pay when you say you are trying to encourage private sector


jobs on Merseyside, you should be supporting this. I am encouraging


the private sector, but I do not want to discourage salaries going


up, because the more disposable income in the economy... You want a


fairer deal for private sector employers to pay a decent wage.


without public sector wages going down, that is the point. The fact


is that it is a market. If you are doing the same job in the public


sector, you can have a premium of 30% over the same job in the


private sector. How can you justify that? Let me just come in and say


that from the point of view of the implications for public finances,


one of the hat comes as a result of the establishment of the national


minimum wage was that income- support budgets went down. --


outcomes. That is because, those employers who were then paying the


national minimum wage, employees who were dependent on higher levels


of housing benefit to make up their income, the public sector, were in


effect subsidising poor employers who were paying below what was an


I think we should have regional benefit rates as well. Iain Duncan


Smith said that is something we should look at. He said it would be


difficult to execute. He is saying it is a legitimate question. I


think there are plenty of Conservatives on the back bench who


have floated that idea well before Labour. That would be localism?


Localism is a question of making decisions locally. We need a


benchmark against which everyone can have some security. If you are


enshrined in areas low wages and their benefits as well... You will


be condemning Merseyside in effect. By actually putting a dampener on


wages, and benefits as well, the money circulating in that local


economy in Merseyside. David wants to... Du Liberal Democrat in attack


-- think-tank said the idea is to get people into work. They are


being crowded out by artificially high public sector wages. I am


afraid we have to bring this to an end. Are the Liberal Democrats


going to dig their heels in? I am sure we are. We want to stimulate


debate. He's been described as a "truly


dangerous individual" and a "key UK figure" in al-Qaeda related terror


activity. But the radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada is to be released


on bail, under strict conditions. So how have we reached this


position? He was one of the UK's most wanted men when he was taken


to Belmarsh prison in 2002. But he was freed in 2005 when the courts


ruled his detention was unlawful. Later that year, he was detained


again. The UK started trying to deported him back to his native


Jordan where he faces terror charges, beginning his six and a


half year fight against deportation. At the start of this year, the


European Court of Human Rights blocked his deportation, saying


that Jordan might use evidence obtained by torture. This led Mr


Justice Mitting to rule yesterday that the preacher should now be


bailed. But he's under strict bail conditions. He will only be allowed


to leave the address for two one- hour periods a day. Anyone visiting


his home, bar his wife and children, have to be pre-approved. And he


must give notice of all meetings arranged outside his home. He will


not be allowed to leave the general area, and will also have no access


to the internet or electronic communications devices. The Home


Office is up in arms. They've been given three months to show that


British diplomats had made progress in negotiations with Jordan, which


would satisfy the European Court. Or else see Abu Qatada's stringent


bail conditions revoked. I'm joined now by the former counter-terrorism


and security minister, Hazel Blears. And with us for the rest of the


programme we have the Liberal Democrat peer, Susan Kramer.


Human rights, our rights are being made a mockery? We have to hold up


to due process. One is very disturbed when someone like this


announce -- appears to be announced as potentially free. There may well


be other solutions I would like to see, there must be answers. He was


in jail at the time when you were in government. Why were


prosecutions not brought? We all wish every suspected terrorist


could be brought before a normal criminal court. Wasn't he


different? We have in this country a handful of people for whom the


evidence against them is basic intelligence evidence. If you were


to bring that to a normal criminal court, you would have to reveal


your capability and agents who would be compromised. What we did


was we've brought in a system of control orders, very controversial,


but within the human rights framework. With Abu Qatada, he was


held under deportation provisions, which is why they can put bail


conditions on him. My worry is, if we cannot get this issue sorted


with Jordan, those strict bail conditions will be relaxed and he


will be virtually free. Abu Qatada, walking the streets free. How will


the public react? The public will be quite rightly horrified. The


pressure on the government now is to make sure that we can get the


assurances from Jordan in relation to a possible trial, that the


evidence will not be introduced through torture. That way we can


get him deported. There is a big issue about the European Court of


Human Rights. Showed, is it time to leave the European Court? Leave the


jurisdiction? I don't think that is right. We need to change the


European Court so it is not in the position of second-guessing our


court. The reason we put the legislation into our own system is


so we wouldn't need to keep going to Strasbourg. But it has backfired.


So the government needs to decide whether to appeal the judgment of


the European Court. Or get changes to the court so we don't find


ourselves in the same position. they haven't been charged and


prosecuted, why should he be held indefinitely in prison? He should


be released. We would all argue for due process. Otherwise we would


have a chaotic system. The question is, it is due process working


properly in this particular case? Or is it illustrating real


problems? There are real issues about the European Court of Human


Rights. I would personally like to understand why we're not in a


position to bring a serious prosecution here. We have had as


explained. It is one of the things I hope the government will look at


very closely. If there is intelligence evidence which is none


of dated, we may not have the risks -- long dated. Where I have some


comfort is that this man is identified and watch. I would want


assurances that will never change. If here is under strict bail


conditions, surely that is fine? He is still so well known, there is


this process with Jordan. You seem relatively confident that might


bring results in terms of seeing him deported. I sincerely hope it


does bring results. Otherwise we will see these bail conditions


relaxed. Then, this person could have access to the internet, mobile


phones, to be back with his associates and to start to do that


terrible things he was inspiring. He was an inspirational figure


which led people to radical as Asian and terrorism. There is going


to be an urgent question this afternoon. Is Britain powerless?


These are the tanagers Government's -- challenges a government has to


deal with. We are where we are now, this man is at least under a very


tough bail conditions. We have three months in which to get it


right. They Now to Syria. Because the


Syrian army has resumed shelling opposition-held areas in the city


of Homs for the fourth day running. The UN says more than 5,500 people


have been killed by the Syrian regime since the uprising began.


Yesterday, in the Commons, the Foreign Secretary William Hague


condemned what he called the "doomed and murdering regime" of


Are Mr Speaker, the human suffering in so it is already unimaginable


and is in grave danger of escalating. The position taken by


Russia and China has regrettably made this more likely. But this


government will not forget the people of Syria. We will redouble


our efforts to put pressure on this appalling regime and to stop this


indefensible violence. There is clear agreement across


this house and across much of the international community that the


regime has no future and President Assad must go. The tragedy is, not


withstanding that, of the slaughter continues. For the international


community, condemnation is not enough. Diplomatic efforts are


required which is why the recent failure of which the Foreign


Secretary has just spoken to reach agreement in the secure eye dee


council is such a stain on the conscience of the world. Isn't the


immediate problem the anguish being paid by a those people. Do we not


need a broader strategic croaked -- approach? Kenny tell the House what


he thinks it is that animates the Chinese government are to support


these butchers? Isn't it the case that brochette is rapidly turning


itself into a pariah state? -- Russia. Wouldn't it be an


opportunity for the Conservative Party to part company with Putin?


I'm joined now by the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas


Alexander. And by the former Liberal Democrat leader, Menzies


Campbell. Thank you very much for joining us.


The Russian foreign minister is in its area, can he achieve anything?


There is a heavy burden of responsibility on him to prove


Russia's good faith in ensuring the slaughter is ended and the violence


is stopped. Do you believe that? am not hopeful but one has to wait


and see, he will be judged from what emerges from those discussions


in Damascus. There has been a hopeful sign where the Turkish


promise to make clear Turkey will take an initiative in the coming


days. The Turkish foreign minister will be visiting Hillary Clinton in


Washington. I welcome the fact, not withstanding the setback of the


failure to reach agreement on Saturday, that we do see an


initiative being taken by one of the regional powers, Turkey. Do you


think, the frustration being felt internationally at the fact Russia


and China vetoed that resolution, will there be more pressure for


momentum on countries like Turkey to find a solution? There will be


considerable pressure on Turkey which will want to respond, because


of its determination to be much more assertive in foreign affairs.


I had the advantage of listening to the Munich secluded conference, and


the objections to the resolution of which had not been put to the city


council, seemed to me to be pretty flimsy. They didn't stand up to any


kind of scrutiny. My cynical approach to this is that perhaps


the Russians were keen to portray themselves as the brokers in this


business. But of course, in the meantime, as some of us said


dramatically yesterday, the people are paying for this, the people of


Syria, their children, their parents. Indiscriminate shelling of


civilians. More and more are being killed as violence intensified and


they think the international community has let them down. Isn't


it the truth we in Britain are pretty powerless in this brokering


between nations who don't seem to be keen to be involved? I don't


condemn or criticise the British government's actions. What we saw


at the Security Council is a stain on the conscience of the world. We


need to work with our European Union partners. Yesterday alleged


that Foreign Secretary to facilitate a meeting with the


European Union and Arab League which has a key role to play. I


approached him to speak to the Russian foreign minister and urge


him not simply to speak for Russia but to communicate the global


average at the shelling of Homs. And they urged him to speak


directly to Turkey where the Prime Minister, partly for his reasons


and for regional reasons, has a strong interest in seeing Turkey


bring a resolution to this conflict. What about the option of support


for the opposition which William harry read -- William Hague talked


about? That is essential. It has to be political support. There is no a


authority under the United Nations Security Council resolution for


giving arms, or indeed for any kind of military intervention. One


Labour backbencher suggested there should be a no-fly zone but there


is no authority for that. That underlines the point Douglas


Alexander has made, which is we have to be realistic about what we


can achieve. The fact this is global is emphasised by William


Hague, he had a conversation with the Australian foreign minister.


The more we can assemble a coalition of the willing throughout


the world to bring pressure on Syria, the better our chances will


Do you really think the only solution is for us that to go?


Countries do not want to be seen to be advocating regime changed.


not think he has any legitimacy it whether within Syria or be on Syria.


The first step is the cessation of violence, the second is his


departure, but there is a burden of forces in Syria, and this is why I


hope the British Army is talking about putting in credible plans for


transition. That is a key part of the plan. Thank you very much for


joining us. Now, a question, our Liberal Democrat peers naughty?


Perish the thought! They are thought of as a quiet bunch, not


troublemakers, but 62 have voted against the government at least


once in this Parliament. Here is a flavour of them in action. In the


past, I have congratulated the noble Lord on the eloquent and


ingenious way he has defended the indefensible, but this is Alice In


wonderland stuff! I have liked riot my protest to what is going on here


this evening. We have just spent several hours on what many people


in his house considered to be a completely useless bill and totally


unnecessary. The Bill, in its current form, will cause dire


consequences for 670,000 households across the United Kingdom. I am


very concerned that the evidence base for making this change is


incredibly thin and the consequences of implementing it


have not been thoroughly researched for properly thought through.


hope the minister will listen to our consent and give us some hope


of substantial movement in the later stages of the bill. -- our


concerns. If he doesn't, let me give in a word of warning. Anyone


who mussy Lord Falconer resplendent in his beach shorts directing


operations in the village sports which take place in front of our


cottage in Seagrove they will know that you cross him at your peril!


Yes, an image to remember, Lord Oakeshott ending that these, and we


are joined by Quentin Letts. Are you a naughty Lib Dem, Susan?


have moments of being naughty, but I think we are quite constructive


with our naughtiness. People think very carefully before they make a


decision that they might not support the government, and I also


suspect that the rebellion is usually exaggerated, quite frankly,


in the media. In terms of numbers? Typically, most rebellions have


been two or three people, and it is not something that... But on key


policies, benefit cuts something that peers do not agree with the


government on. You will get one or two people who fundamentally


disagree. We are not robots. If you want Liberal Democrats in either


house, you will not get automatons. A lot of us feel a responsibility


to make sure that the coalition works because there are more gains


and losses in all of that. A lot of the most constructive people have


discussions behind the scenes, because changing bills in the House


of Lords should not just be seen as confrontational. It actually is the


point where you work on a lot of the detail of legislation, and the


government comes forward with amendments, and most of the change


does happen behind the scenes. Quentin Letts, they are not robots.


I am rather in favour of beers causing trouble! Or at least...


you are a naughty sketch writer. Isn't that what Parliament is there


for? Where I think it is a little rum is where the Lib Dem ministers


plainly relish what is going on, and yet at the same time they


accept ministerial cars and salaries. There is a bit of that


going on, but the backbench peers... They are doing a good job,


scrutinising legislation. That is what they are there for, but they


are sometimes useful idiots for the Labour Party, which is glad to see


them doing the dirty work. That is what was going on with the dear old


bishops, stepping on a landmine with the welfare bill. I think


there are times when the Labour Party looks at them and says, thank


you for doing it, guys. Isn't there truth in that, that there is a


divide between ministers and Labour peers themselves? They signed up to


the coalition... Sorry, Liberal Democrat peers! They signed up to


the coalition, you are tearing it apart on principle. I actually


think if you take a look at the Liberal Democrat peers, you will


see that overall it is very supportive of the coalition's


underlying goals, certainly the coalition agreement. But they are


wrecking bills, welfare and health. The moment one wants to snap once


pencilled in heart this when Paddy Ashdown stands up and starts giving


a moral lecture. -- wants to snap one's pencil in half. He is a


classic example or being happy to be rejoicing in the grandeur of the


Lib Dems being part of the coalition, but at the same time


stepping apart from the collision. He tries to have it both ways. --


the coalition. Quite frankly, when I have worked with ministers on


bills, there is a lot of appreciation of the work that goes


on, because people want good legislation on the end of this.


There is often fundamental agreement on the philosophical


underpinning of issues it is how you implement it and how it can be


done. There are occasions when I did not support them, I do not


support those who rebelled along with the bishops, because quite


frankly where were we going to find the extra billions in order to


achieve that particular policy? I could not see. But in a lot of


cases, it is raising issues, ministers look at it and think, you


have got a point, so let's make this work, and the give-and-take


has really impressed me in the House of Lords. I never saw it and


a Labour in the Commons, but in the Lords it really does happen. -- I


never saw it under Labour. crossbenchers, the supposedly


independent ones, are becoming quite politicised, acting almost as


a block at times, and that is interesting to watch. There are a


few rumblings about how they are almost being whipped, being


encouraged. They are not just being independent? That has been going on,


and there is discomfit in concern for the -- Conservative circles


about this. Paddy Ashdown may not be a favoured Liberal Democrat peer.


You cannot think of another one! That is very nice that he thinks


isn't it your favourite. I paid him earlier! -- that you think Susan is


your favourite. The danger is that an elected House of Lords would


create mayhem. I am very much in favour of an elected House. We are


changing legislation in ways that really invites people's lives.


think we ought to be accountable. So they should not pipe down.


should not pipe down, but they should be elected so they are


accountable. They will be a lot of hype about Charles Dickens this


week because it is 200 years today since he was born. What you may not


know is that one of his first jobs as well as as a parliamentary


reporter. He did not like MPs much, he thought they were a bit pompous,


and he would probably be shocked to find out that not many of the


traditions have changed over the road. Since Quentin Letts is with


us, we thought we would return to Parliament to look at another


ancient tradition, the Division Eight division is the term used for


the moment at which the House of Commons splits for a vote. MPs need


to be physically on the premises to cast a preference, jolly in


considered, they do not want to be there all the time. The division


bell will ring when a division is called. You might say why, in this


day and age, do they need to be there in person? Having MPs in the


voting lobbies in person means that they can, the Secretary of State of


the minister and express their concerns. Here she is, this is the


division bell. From the moment this rings, they have eight minutes to


get to Parliament and cast their vote. You have these things in


private homes around Westminster, pubs and clubs, and also in other


places you might find MPs. They do not have to take part in a debate


in order to be able to vote. They quite often will not have heard a


single word, and you can tell, if you're watching on TV, when the


Speaker shouts, clear the lobby's! Division, cleared the lobby's!


we are in a restaurant four minutes from the House of Commons. If you


come for lunch or dinner, you will find MPs eating. There is a


division bell on the war, when it rings, it is like the start of the


It is an offence to impede and MP on his or her way to vote. The


result of the division is announced immediately afterwards in the


chamber. The ice to the right, 111, the noes to the left, 483, so the


noes have it. The key ones to find out how your MP voted, just look at


next day's Hansard. -- If you want to find out. It is online these


And Quentin Letts is still with us. You were very good, I thought. How


did you get that bike out so quickly? I am very good with those


things! I wonder how many lunches have been left cold. Dickens, I am


being told, what you think about Dickens? Do you think he would be


thinking, nothing much has changed? He would think very little has


changed, but he would not be surprised. He was fully alive to


the satire of the House of Commons. Gk Chesterton wrote a biography of


him in which he said that Dickens was very little overpowered by the


dignity of Parliament. How very crushing! He took the rise out of


them, he invented the Office of circumlocution, and it is still


operated by the barnacles, the civil servants. Public life has not


altered. We have got the same characters pretty much in our


Parliament. That is human nature. Isn't it shocking to some extent?


Shouldn't it have moved on visibly? I would like some things to move on.


It is incredible that we do not get lots of good professional advice


and those things that we need, but it would be tremendous to have


Dickens do something like examine the media in Parliament. I can


imagine him with a Murdoch equivalent character. Trollope did


that, much better than Dickens in Parliament. Dickens was a


parliamentary reporter at the age of 19, and the only did it for a


short time. He worked for a paper called the Mirror, not the same as


the Daily Mirror. He would have enjoyed some of the characters.


What would he have made of our speaker, John Bercow? Great


material! He would have been terrific material. What would he


have made up Nick Clegg? He might have been one of his heroes! Well


done, Susan. The Prime Minister, so sure in his comforts, I think


Dickens would have loved it. might have looked at the sketch


writers and deflated them. Would he have sat way you sit, those premium


places? They would not have been seated, they had to stand. He had a


very good short and, and he would stand there doing it on the palm of


his hand. At least he covered it, and today, frankly, other than when


people think there's going to be Punch and Judy, there is barely any


coverage at all. I will have to leave you, we have got to be the


answer to our quiz. Which of these has Ed Miliband been compared to


question --? Which one? A oh, my God! Wallace? I think it is all of


them, isn't it? I think he has been portrayed... Sorry, thank you, that


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