24/02/2012 Daily Politics


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Afternoon, folks. Welcome to the Daily Politics. Can anyone stop


Syria's dictator from killing his own people on an increasingly large


scale? Delegates at an international conference in Tunis


are hoping to ratchet up pressure on Damascus to agree a ceasefire.


They are expected to call for humanitarian workers to be given


urgent access to Homs and other areas where Syrians are being


attacked. We will have the latest. At the Speaker of the House of


Commons of the tax payer is being fleeced for the cost of trees at


Portcullis House. In an interview he defends his timekeeping at PMQs


and declares himself a happy man. The Tories are having an awayday.


Yes, they are. We will be asking what they should be talking about.


And we will be revealing the longest ever word to hit Hansard.


Why does that remind me of an episode of Blackadder? All will be


revealed. That and much more in the next hour. With us for the duration,


Nick Watt of the Guardian and Peter Oborne of the Telegraph. Let's


start with the ongoing row over the Government's work experience


programme. The High Street shop can Brant said it had decided to


suspend the Government's mandatory Work Programme while the Government


clarifies its scheme and introduces other youth employment initiatives.


-- Poundland. The picture is rather confused. Let's see if our


correspondent Louise Stewart can enlighten us. What has hound land


done? You are right. It is very confusing I spoke to the company


earlier and they said can we get back to when we are 100 % sure


which scheme we are pulling out of! They have said they are pulling out


of one of the Government's work programmes. It seems to be their


problem with it is the fact that there could be if somebody signs up


for one of these schemes to get them back into work, there could be


sanctions imposed which would mean if they decided not to continue


with the scheme after a week or two, they could end up losing some of


their benefits. Poundland said to me they believe it is wrong that


people have to work for their benefits. They say they will


continue to offer voluntary work schemes, they say it is successful


and they have had over 1,000 people who want to get into retail and


they want to offer some of them jobs, but they are concerned about


elements of the Government scheme. This comes on the back of other big


retailers also voicing concerns about it. We tried to get


clarification from the relevant government department. Have you


been more successful? I have been calling them all morning. They said,


yes, Poundland have confirmed they are pulling out of one of the


schemes but they will continue to provide work experience on a


voluntary basis. But then the Employment Minister Chris Grayling


came out this morning. He has been defending the scheme. We were going


to do an interview with him but he seems to have pulled out. He


defended the scheme saying it was a good way for people who have been


out of work to get back into work and for young people to get work


experience. He says he has a meeting on Wednesday with C E Ls


from some big companies. Greg's voiced their concerns last night on


Newsnight. The chief executive there will be meeting Mr grayling


and leaders from Matalan and Waterstone's. These are all


companies which have expressed concerns about some elements of the


Government's scheme. I think politically what this says is that


some companies are getting cold feet, if you like, about being


involved in these schemes. There have been terms bandied around of


slave labour. Tescos were involved in that earlier in the week. Some


companies are getting cold feet about being involved in the schemes.


Thank you, I think you have clarified it as well as you can in


the circumstances! Peter Oborne, is this government losing its grip?


This is a scheme which has support from all of the coalition. Labour


is not against it. The public overwhelmingly supports it. There


is a well-organised come -- campaign against it but the public


think if you are on benefits and there is a chance of work


experience, you should take it and yet it is a complete Horlicks.


do not know what has happened but judging by the report we have had


their and judging by what I heard on the today programme, Poundland


seems to be not objecting to the cock-up by the Government, it seems


to be taking a principled stance by what the Government is doing. This


is an elected government. It has the support of the opposition and


there is an element of compulsion to the workfare scheme. As far as I


read it, pounds land, the chief executive of it, is taking a


principled objection to that part of the scheme. Shouldn't he have


worked it out before he signed up to it? We do not know the full


facts. It sounds like he has gone off and joined, not the Labour


Party but the Socialist Workers' Party. It looks like Poundland is


taking a far left point of view that we should Molly coddle people


who are out of work. Good for Pam bland but I do not think it is


appropriate for a chief executive of a public company to take that


view -- good for Poundland. looks like companies are running


scared of the campaign. They say they are pulling out of a mandatory


scheme when it is a voluntary scheme and there is a reason why


they call netminder a tree which is somebody took part in this scheme,


worked in Poundland and then after three weeks left and sued the


Department for Work and Pensions sake I had been forced to take part


in it. The DWP had to admit that this person had been wrongly


advised. It is voluntary that you take part but it is Monday tree


that you lose your benefit if you pull out of it. I think the problem


for Poundland is they are the victims of a very effective


campaign saying essentially people are being forced to work for


virtually nothing. The governors say it is voluntary. In a


recession... You only lose your benefits if you take part and


withdraw. A lot of people would say if you turn this down, you're not


sure you should get benefits. point is, we are in a recession.


These big stores are having to fight for every single customer. It


does not look good for them if their stores are being occupied.


looks like a blatant political intervention, caving in to fire


left pressure from Poundland and I think that is reprehensible and


disgraceful. We may not have clarified it but struck -- some of


us have strong opinions! Urgent talks are due to take place


in Tunisia later today to try to force the Syrian president to call


a ceasefire and allow humanitarian aid into the country. Fighting is


continuing around the city of Homs and the Red Cross said it had


received no response from the Syrian government for its request


for a pause and the fighting to allow aid to be taking in.


Commentators have expressed fears that because China and Russia are


not attending a conference, the chances of a breakthrough Arslan.


Just before we went on air, I spoke to the BBC diplomatic correspondent


Jonathan Marcus. He is in the Tunisian capital of Tunis. I began


by asking him what the conference was trying to achieve. The genesis


of this conference is really the blockage of the United Nations, the


Chinese and Russians have vetoed any combined effort of the UN


Security Council. This conference is trying to get around that


roadblock. It has three main aims. One is to issue an urgent call to


get humanitarian assistance in two cities like Homs which are under


attack by Syrian government forces. They will need an immediate


ceasefire to do that. Secondly, they want to try and encourage the


Syrian opposition forces, they want to engage the Syrian National


Council, the main opposition grouping. They are likely to


recognise it as a legitimate representative of Syrians who want


a change in their society. Interestingly, not the


representative, they want it to become more inclusive, to put down


better routes in Syria itself. And thirdly, there will be an attempt


to increase the pressure on the Syrian regime, both by focusing and


co-ordinating sanctions, but also by putting the regime on notice.


You will remember yesterday a un Human Rights Commission report was


delivered which alleges war crimes have been committed by a senior


Syrian officials and there is a responsibility to the highest


levels in Damascus. The message that will come from here is they


are on notice. Evidence is being collected. What they are doing is


being closely watched and there will be a day of reckoning at some


point mackerel in the future. they think they can do all of that


in a meaningful way without the involvement of China and Russia? Do


they expect China and Russia to look the other way or block what


they are doing in practice? I think it will work up to a point. The


problem is diplomatic sanctions is a cumulative process, it is a


question of taking time and clearly time is not on anyone's side. I


think the difficulty is this meeting is essentially watching


from the sidelines. The real events are tragically taking place on the


ground in Syria. You have to remember that this is a regime in


Syria which is fighting for its survival. It believes its back is


to the wall which we have clearly seen in Homs and elsewhere. It


needs to do what is required to maintain itself in power. It is


also important to realise that there are significant groups of the


population in Syria who may not be happy with what is going on at the


moment but perhaps they are still willing to give President Bashar


al-Assad the benefit of the doubt. They prefer the guy they know to


the potential chaos which might come after. Is a hugely complex


situation and that complexity is one of the reasons why outside


military intervention is not been cancelled as it was in Libya.


was Jonathan Marcus in Tunis. We are now joined him in London by Bob


Stewart from the commander of UN forces in Bosnia now a Conservative


MP, and Mousab Azzawi of the Syrian Network for Human Rights. Let me


start with you, Mousab Azzawi. Humanitarian aid, some kind of


temporary ceasefire, it does not sound to me like that will be


anywhere enough to please the rebels in Syria? No, at all, that


is not enough because it is not realistic. The regime methodology


is to accept every initiative and then emptied. If the regime will


accept that, it will not be a permanent solution to deliver


humanitarian aid for those pockets of geographical places with people


trapped there. Many people died every day because they do not have


fuel, they do not have clean water, they do not have fluid or access to


healthcare. This is not enough and I do not think it will not be


accepted for a temporary remedy for the crisis -- they do not have food.


What would you be telling this organisation to do? I would be


telling them to do three steps. The first step is the humanitarian


corridors which needs to be done through the United Nations with a


very clear plan to deliver this aid. The second thing which is buffer


zones with the borders with Turkey to allow the Syrians who are end


trapped to flee to a safe haven. The third step which might be


controversial is the no fly zone because the biggest proportion of


the Syrian army is waiting for the right moment to desert the army but


they do not want to be easy targets. How do you know that? Basically,


there are signals coming from those ordinary people who serve in the


army. They are not professional soldiers. They are just ordinary


people serving in the army to do their national service the two


years. They tell their families we are waiting for the moment to


desert the family -- to desert the army but we do not want to be easy


targets for the military aircraft as happened in August last year.


Six officers deserted the army with their tanks, they were very easy


targets. That is the key solution to sort out the Syrian crisis as I


see it. Bob Stewart, I do not get the impression that we in the West


are anywhere near a no-fly zone or a safe haven on the border with


Turkey? That is correct. The big problem, of course, is that the


Security Council of the United Nations requires a resolution and


there are two people on the permanent Council, Russia and China,


that won't agree it. In order to set up humanitarian operations at a


United Nations level, you have got to have a Security Council


resolution. Even if we had the UN on side on this, I'll be even up


for those? I'm not sure who I am talking about, the British, the


French, the Americans in a presidential year? Are they going


to put a no-fly zone over Syria? Are they going to back UN troops


going into a safe haven with the border with Turkey? There is no


wish for us to get involved in this situation. And indeed, it may be


time in my view for the Arabs to start doing a little bit more.


Who'd you mean by the Arabs? I mean Saudi Arabia, Jordan. Their troops


are not going to fight. But why is it always ask? As a politician, I


am saying, there is a limit. Each time we going, what is our national


interest in going in there? Apart from the fact we have a


humanitarian desire to try and stop people dying and that is quite


right, but it is us again, the Americans. If people turn to us and


say, can you do it and the answer is, I don't think we can. I suppose


we could if we put more money into it but that is it. Again, more


money is required. Defences at its It sounds to me that the brutal


reality is, if you are hoping for help from the West, you will be


disappointed. The point is that any open civil war in Syria will not be


limited to the band a series of Syria. The risk for the Western


powers, if they leave this crisis without supporting the Syrians and


facilitating the transition to democracy, this civil war is easily,


because of the tribal clans interlinking, it may move to the


neighbouring countries quickly. Then, if they pay $100 for a barrel


of oil now, they will pay $400, because it is easy to move to Saudi


Arabia. There are signals coming from those tribes in Syria. They


are saying, if you are going to fight on a sectarian background, we


will fight with you. That is something we do not want to see.


Peter Oborne, rightly or wrongly, there is no appetite to intervene,


is there? Yes. I think the West miss reports what is happening in


many ways. Absolutely, there is a popular uprising against President


Assad. And he is absolutely a frightening dictator and becoming


more so. But it is worth remembering that he has a lot of


popular support. How do you know? have looked at surveys from the


Russians, for instance. They say 60% of people are defined -- behind


him. That suits the Russian narrative. Yes, but I do not think


we should assume that the Russians talk nonsense. But there are two


different things. That is an interesting we writing of what is


going on in Syria to say that President Assad has support. What


is sustaining him is an alliance with his tried and the Sloaney


middle classes, who are uneasy about what is going on. The reason


why Russia are saying they do not support action is because they were


badly burnt by what went on in Libya and they do not want to


sanction an action against Syria because they thought it would be a


simple military operation, and it turned into regime change. Russia


do not want a repeat of that. do you say to Peter Oborne, who


says that President Assad is more popular than we report him to be in


the worst? This is not correct. We rely on evidence and statistics. In


Syria, there are 1200 villages and towns. Last Saturday, more than 684


places off demonstrations existed. The total number of demonstrators


in a country in which 60% of the population is under the age of 18,


was more than 1 million in all the cities. There is no spare city


whatever. There is a very small Shiite community. 20%? No, less


than one in 1000. President Assad's supporters are less than 1%, that


tried it. They do exist. But many of the people who participate in


the uprising are also from that stride. It is not true that it is a


sectarian issue. The most important thing is to stop people dying. That


is the most crucial thing. We all agree with that, but how? That is


what the conference should be thinking about. So you are saying


we have to get rid of him? They remain in power by mowing down


their opponents. There are a lot of reports. Again, there is over-


simplification of the conflict from the start. There has not been a


civilised opposition movement. We have had armed men from the start.


Al-Qaeda did those atrocities in Damascus a couple of months ago. I


am sure they are involved with that now. This is not true. The main


body of the revolution, which is named the Syrian revolution General


Commission, comprises 200 Revolutionary members on the ground.


They are similar to the French Revolution. They have stated, we do


not have links with any fundamentalists. We do not like Al-


Qaeda. We have to leave it there. Let's hope it works out better than


the French Revolution. Now, cast your mind back to the


days of Super tomatoes, trampled fields and even an accusation that


we had a Prime Monster. That was the GM debate of the 1990s, but


have things moved on since then? The men in white coats are still


quietly at work and preparations are almost complete for a new GM


wheat field trial in Hertfordshire. Imagine the perfect fruit - not


just began juicy, but actually better than nature itself could


provide. That was the idea. In the late 1990s, two letters struck fear


into the hearts of public and media alike - GM. Campaigners wrecked


crops and took their protests to Number 10. Tony Blair was AGM fan,


as were many of his ministers, but there was one unbeliever. I think I


was a lone voice. I found I had no other ministerial support. I found


myself isolated. But I resisted. That could have been the reason why


I was sacked. Despite the protests, Labour allowed the commercial


planting of GM maize in 2004. But the firm behind the project pulled


out shortly afterwards. So is the former minister happy with where we


are now? I think we are in the right place in the sense that there


is now much greater concern about the possible long-term effects of


GM, and therefore there is an inhibition against spreading it


indiscriminately across the world. There are checks and balances. And


that is right. GM crops have never been grown commercially in this


country, but that is not the end of the story. This is one of a tiny


number of scientific trials currently under way in the UK. The


scientists here hope they can change the way we think about GM.


This is roughens their research in Harpenden. They are tried to create


a breed which will be resistant to greenfly. This new approach is


taking naturally occurring genes which occur in other plants, and


immobilising them in a way that mimics what happens in nature,


because at some plants do deter insects from landing on them. So we


have taken it to a new level. We call it a Green GM. The work they


are doing is cutting edge, but these scientists believe that


Britain is running to catch up on what could have been a


technological and economic opportunity. We have exported


thousands of jobs over the years to the US and South America that we


could have had at a time when, from an economic point of view, we are


hoping to develop economic growth through technology and innovation.


But is that a reason to pursue something which has consistently


divided public opinion? difference is not for its own sake.


If it is not doing something useful, we should take a sceptical view.


has never been a place in the world where the consumer, given the


choice of being able to say, we live by it or not, as uniformly


said, we will not touch a GM product. So the argument goes on.


The science of GM may be moving into a new future, but the debate


is always likely to be influenced by its past.


The government's former chief scientist David King is with us now.


You were broadly in favour of proceeding with GM experiments and


moving to their commercial exploitation. Tony Blair was in


favour. The then science minister, Lord Sainsbury, was in favour.


Given these powerful and well- informed voices, how did you manage


to lose to a coalition of the Daily Mail and the Greens? Firstly, yes,


I was in favour. Lord Sainsbury and I were clear about this. We were in


favour, but within a regulatory environment in which each new food


product was carefully regulated. The line we took was, don't ban the


technology, ban the products that might be risky to the environment


or to human health. A reasonable line, but you still lost the


argument. Unfortunately, I think the argument was initially framed


as a result of a very vigorous campaign of advertising by one


company in the GM field, Monsanto. And this created a backlash against


this rather brash American company that seemed to be taking over the


world of agriculture and plant foods. The issues around


environmental and human safety got caught up in that. But if you


examine those issues, they were not dealt with in the sort of detail


that one might expect, except to show that no GM products in the


market has yet shown any negative impact effects. So even though GM


food is now quotidian in the US, there is no evidence, you say, of


any detrimental effect on Americans' health? Correct. The


United States and South America, Canada and Mexico, that entire area


has gone heavily over to GM products for the simple reason that


those products are very efficient at producing good crops. You can


produce resistance to disease. You can also produce resistance to


drought and flooding. There are real advantages in this very


refined technology. I would also point out that most of the soya


that we can get in the world is now produced by GM techniques. It is


difficult to buy soya anywhere in the world that has not got a large


percentage of GM products Dinnet. - - in it. Rightly or wrongly, the


other side of the argument won. Is it the blunt truth now that


although we at one stage as a country were not at the cutting


edge, but pretty well into the science, but we have fallen so far


behind now that we will not catch up? There is a good argument to be


made around that. Britain invented molecular biology. We were the


leaders in this field. Two companies, Unilever and Astra


Zeneca, invested heavily in second- generation products which would


give health to people who ate them. All of that has been closed down.


But that strength in the science base of molecular biology still


exists. If there was a change in public opinion, I think the


situation would change. The other factor that is important - while we


can say that we know of no human being who has suffered from eating


GM products, we know of many who have suffered from not having


availability of GM products. I am referring largely to the developing


world, where GM products could have met malnutrition problems that


still massively exist, especially after 2007, with the big food price


rises that have occurred. Now, the Speaker of the House of


Commons has entered the row over a dozen fig trees which are being


rented at an office block for MPs at a cost to the taxpayer of


�30,000 a year. Writing in Westminster's House magazine, John


Bercow declares that the contract to supply and maintain the trees in


Portcullis House should be terminated as soon as possible. We


wanted to speak to a correspondent live from Portcullis House, but the


powers that be will not let us in because Parliament is not sitting


today. And why should they? After all, it is only our Parliament. We


paid for the building. This is a democracy. But we are not allowed


it. Anyway, we probably cannot manoeuvre there because of the


trees. But we are joined by Vicki Young on College Green. She has


tons of room to manoeuvre. What is This does date back to when the


building was put up. The fig trees cost �30,000 a year. The tax payer


is renting them from a company which goes towards the upkeep. John


Bercow is making it clear that the contract should be terminated as


soon as possible. It is up for review in September. In the last


hour, the Prime Minister's official spokesman has waded into the


argument. He said it is right that the whole of the public sector


should be looking at cutbacks and Parliament should be no different.


There are issues, if you're going to get rid of them, they belong to


this company, they would have to get them out of the building and


someone said you would have to take the roof off of Portcullis House.


But I think they will be going cheap and you could get one for


your living room. I could do that, I would just have to put a hole in


the ceiling of my living room! Can explain why these trees cost so


much? We don't actually own them so the problem is this money is not


going towards the taxpayer at the end of the day even owning them. It


is some thing where people say it was signed off by officials many


years ago. That will be the problem to get out of if it is a contract


which cost more to get out of. It is up for review in September and


John Bercow is strongly hinting that some changes will have to come


about. And finally, will I understand the Speaker has some


views on party conferences. What is he saying? He basically said that


Parliament should be sitting in September and if the conferences


are going on, they should be held over the weekend so they should


start on a Friday and go on Saturday and Sunday. He says MPs


should be working in their workplace in September which is


what most people expect given that they go on their holidays in July.


I do not think that will be popular. Particularly because the parties


make a lot of money out of the conferences with the stalls and so


one. We will have to see if that changes in the future. Thank you.


People watching this must think, you rent fig trees? You rent a


tree? Does anybody in the country do that except parliament and you


rent it for 30,000 quid a year. Who is the landlord of these trees? I


would like to get into this business. I do think Speaker per


cow is in charge of the House of Commons and these views of


annoyance, he was responsible for these -- this contract. Micheal


Martin would have been speaker at the time, Portcullis House went up


in 2001. As Speaker he is responsible for every conference --


aim -- every contract. That idiot Micheal Martin was probably


responsible. There was that huge hubris of the House of Commons as


the political class that they regarded themselves above reproach,


worthy of the best of everything. think it reminds us of an era when


the taps were on and there was not a great deal of monitoring money


which will spend. George Osborne has this lovely story that he


decided he would say something like �5,000 by not having the designated


Christmas tree in the Treasury and he went down the road and spent 20


quid on a Christmas tree. The health and safety rules meant that


only one person was in -- able to put the start on the top of the


tree and that had to be the permanent secretary. Can I just


point out that Speaker burka has spent several thousands of pounds


of money on his portrait -- John Bercow. People have been able to


see a picture of the Speaker. Maxwell famously half inched the


wind from the House of Commons cellar. There are things the


general public would be amazed at about. Portcullis House has a


portrait of almost every third-rate politician. We may joke about the


Speaker but one thing he is really doing is holding this executive to


account. In this interview he said he made George Osborne answer


questions for three hours because he was so angry with him for the


way the Autumn Statement had been leaked out before. The excepted do


not like it because he is making them be held to account. If anyone


is interested in several fig trees, I would get your bid in now because


I have a sense they will not be there for much longer. No one has


any record of them producing figures but that is another matter.


They have been lots of things happening this week but the only


things MPs have been talking about is the rest of the MP for Falkirk,


Eric Joyce, who is alleged to have started a bit of a fracas in House


of Commons bar on Wednesday night. That is what happens when you


subsidise cheap drink. You are watching pictures of Mr Joyce


leading central London police station in a car late last night.


He was charged in the end. No doubt our guests would like to talk about


the alleged incident but first, let's take a look back over the


last seven days of proper politics. Here is Max with the Week in 60


Seconds. The week began badly for Andrew


Lansley. Date you dare lie to me! Another battle, this one between


the men who resigned for personal reasons as Liam Fox and David Laws


disagreed about whether the low- paid or business should be the


beneficiary of the Chancellor's largesse at next month's budget.


Professor Les Ebdon is the new man charged with trying to make higher


tuition fees at universities fairer. His appointment is seen as one up


for the Lib Dems. RBS announced that it lost a


further �2 billion last year. As yet, the money has not been found.


Big losses in a very strange way are a sign of success.


And finally, a girl from West Norwood with a lovely voice caught


the attention of an ancient willow read baronet from Ealing. I shared


her disappointment that her speech was cut short by what she called


the suits. Now, he has been charged so my


learned friends are telling me to be careful what we say but no one


is talking about anything except Eric Joyce. They have been over the


years plenty of fracas in the Strangers' Bar which is normally


fairly quiet but this is something which by all accounts was a truly


spectacular outburst. Five policemen carted him away. The


broken windows. It is a magnificent mess. It is interesting that


Parliament has really changed with the sitting hours. In the old days


it would not start until after lunch and it would be going until


10 o'clock at night and there would be votes and people would be


drinking late at night. That has changed since parliament started


sitting earlier. This has gone back to an era we thought we had moved


on from. Eric Joyce is a decent man. I suspect he has got a problem and


we should not really be... I think it is a very sad story. Lots of


people get these sorts of problems. I'm not going to mention names, we


know who they are but I think he needs help rather than... I agree.


For Westminster is hopeless at noticing this. Indeed, it looks the


other way and offers you another drink. Quite right.


Andrew Lansley and the health reform, Peter, does the health


reform get through in the end. It is back in the Lords where it seems


to be ravaged by guerrilla warfare at every turn. Does it get through


in the end bruised and battered and does Mr Lansley get through bruised


and battered as well? I thinks so. At the end of the day, you can look


at Andrew Lansley and I think he is a well-meaning man and I think he


passionately cares for the health service. I think a lot of


opposition comes from vested interests. The BMA is a vested


interest of the worst kind. It opposed the original formation of


the health service. I think Mr Lansley may well win three. His


reforms are supported by the Labour Party. The Labour Party is


opportunistically causing mischief but basically it supports bringing


markets into the health service. You get the feeling that a lot of


Tories, whatever their views on the reforms of health think we have got


welfare to reform, education reform, deficit to cut, I wish we had never


been down this road? Yes, they have mixed emotions. They are annoyed


with the Liberal Democrats who signed up to the Bill eight days


before it had its final reading. Nick Clegg described it as a fusion


of Liberal Democrat and Conservative thinking. But on the


other hand they are worried that if this Bill does become an Act of


Parliament, three years before the general election, every single


problem which happens in the NHS, and there will be problems because


of the inevitable squeeze on spending and the ageing population,


with every problem, Labour will say I know what caused that, this bill.


It is the Greens' spring conference. They are in Liverpool. The Deputy


Leader Adrian Ramsay joins us now. Welcome to the Daily Politics.


Thank you for joining us from our BBC offices up there. You must be


very enthusiastic about the Government's economic policy. You


do not believe in economic growth and that is precisely what the


Government has achieved, no economic growth. You're at one with


Mr Osborne? Far from it. The Government's policies are


increasing the gap between rich and poor and what the Green Party is


saying is we can and must be protecting the services that


vulnerable people rely on. There is a �2 billion a year that we could


be getting in if we clamp down on corporate tax avoidance, make


people pay the taxes that I do and that is about the same amount of


money that was taken out of public services in the deficit reduction


last year. The Green Party is alone in politics in saying there is a


different approach from the one the Government is taking in slashing


and burning things. You say you want to allow negative growth to be


feasible. Your leader, I'm not sure you call her the leader, Caroline


Lucas has said economic growth is becoming an economic, you do not


believe in growing our economy, do you? We are making a very serious


point about how you measure success in the economy. If you make it


clearly based on GDP, you're treating all economic activity as


the same, whereas some like building a school a good, other


economic activity like clearing up after a car crash is bad. Lots of


economists are saying we need a far greater range of measures to see if


our economy is successful. A far more sophisticated approach which


looks at the level of inequality in our society, the impact of the


Environment on health and well- being. Even David Cameron said he


things well-being should be a measure of economic success. My


question is what is the Government doing in taking on board advice to


make that happen in practice. Their policy on cutting public services


and building over the green belt and destroying public spaces is


taking us in the wrong direction. Your policy statement also says


there must be an optimum population for the UK, what is an optimum


population? What we need to do is make sure that all our policies are


about living in harmony with the planet and we need to have a debate


about population levels and lots of respect. But what should be, what


is an optimum population as I don't have those figures to hand myself.


But your party policy says you need one and it must be introduced to


the UK so what is it? It is one of the factors about living within the


sustainable means of the planet. What is it? I cannot tell you of


the top of my head. We need to make it easier Thrupp whole world, it is


not just about population within the UK, but it is about the whole


world. We need to make sure we are promoting birth control and women's


writes in developing countries, we need to make sure we are reducing


the gap between rich and poor globally, getting the food to where


it needs to be, rather than countries exporting foods which


they cannot afford to buy themselves, that we are taking


seriously the fact that we need to feed the world. We need a very


different economic policy if we are to do that. Thank you. Enjoy


yourself in Liverpool. You may or may not know that the


Tories are holding an away day today. I'm sure you did not know,


why would you care? In leafy and I emphasise the word leafy,


Portcullis House. Yes, that is right! The one with the expensive


trees in it. Last night, they all went out for dinner, 300 of them.


The mind boggles. 300 Tories at dinner in the same place. One of


the MPs we spoke to could not remember where the dinner was held


but he thought it was over the river and good fun. We tried to get


hold of today's agenda but to no avail. We have made up our own.


First, how to achieve the biggest U-turn since the poll tax and ditch


the health bill. Next, how to make the Chancellor


George Osborne a real Tory hero and deliver tax cuts in the Budget.


And then be pressing question which always gets them going, should they


be nice or nasty to our European neighbours.


And then be difficult one, working out whether Nick Clegg is a goody


or rave baddie. To answer all of these and more


systemic questions, I'm joined by the Conservative MPs Matt Hancock


and Peter Bone. Welcome to both of you. I remember you used to go away


on away-days. Was it good for you? Was a lot of group hugs and paint


balling? No. No group hubs but self deprecating humour was the key to


it all -- group hugs. We talk about our coalition partners as well. In


the sporting language that stop was there a lot of agreement in the


wigwam of trust? It was the Portcullis House of trust today.


What did you discuss? We are not going to go into what was in a


private meeting but it was a bigger picture than the one you mentioned.


It is about showing Conservative values in action. For instance, how


to tackle Labour's something for nothing culture which a lot of our


politics -- policies are aimed at. Why do need an awayday if you are


doing that? We have got to come together from time to time. I'm


sure you do it at the BBC. I tried Did you get an answer as to whether


Nick Clegg is a goodie or a bad day? It came up, but I am not sure


what the consensus of opinion was. What is your opinion? You know that


I think the coalition is there for a purpose. But Nick Clegg?


coalition should be got rid of. Nick Clegg has been brave in


leading his party to oblivion. These two are telling us nothing.


They are not telling us a lot, but I understand their predicament. The


BBC is every bit as given to these self surging... I have never been


to one. The Conservatives have made real progress. 15 years ago, when


there was a Conservative awayday, it would be at an ancient Hotel in


Eastbourne. And they would all be lined up in their embarrassing


woollies. Look at Peter and Matt, beautifully turned out. The only


person with a woolly is Peter. But where is Mrs Bone? The government


is telling us that she is more on- message than you these days.


was there in spirit. Last night, that was probably the view of our


host, that Mrs Bone was more on- message than I sometimes am. What


was the consensus on the Health Bill and Mr Langley? There is


strong backing. There is strong backing for getting this bill


through, because it will improve outcomes for patients and put power


in the hands of doctors. By you have not convinced anybody. This is


why there was strong support... We have strong support to get this


bill through. But when you fought the election, the polls showed that


on a matter of who you could trust with the NHS, you were on even


Stevens with Labour. At one stage, you were even ahead. Now you are


back to your historic gap. People trust Labour much more than the


Conservatives on this, because of these reforms. Didn't you talk


about that? The biggest cheer of the night and the most applause was


for Andrew Lansley. But that was a sympathy gear. No, it wasn't. When


you are trying to reform a state monopoly, you will get interested


groups opposing it. It is clear that we are doing something in the


interest of the patients. It is unpopular, so the idea that we just


do popular things is nonsense. Didn't the three Cabinet ministers


who had briefed Conservative home with their reservations, didn't


they speak up? Or almost all of the Cabinet were there, and there was


strong support. Andy polling is not conclusive on this. What matters is


improving the health service, getting rid of a lot of the waste.


It is conclusive that you have lost the trust of the people on the


health service. If you want to look at polling, you should look at all


polling. There are poles that say, or would you trust Labour any more?


And they are level pegging. More importantly, it is about whether we


are improving the NHS so that it is free at the point of use, and


available to everybody. Can you give us any indication as a result


of this awayday, which seems to just be an excuse for a dinner...


Of a new direction you might be taking? Was there any concern


expressed that the Prime Minister or the Chancellor listened too much


to the Lib Dems and not enough to the people at this awayday? Are I


do not think that was brought up. Why not? It is what you think.


my table seemed to be an awful long way from where the Prime Minister


was sitting. I wonder why. No idea. But we were talking about running


the country, not the Liberals, because they are irrelevant.


would not be in government without them. He said there was lots of


talk about the Lib Dems. You should get your story straight. I did not


say there was much talk about them. Maybe you should spend more time


within the wigwam of trust. broader point is that the Liberal


Democrats support the Government in doing what needs to be done in the


national interest. A party believing in the national interest


- it will never catch on. I think it was a waste of time. I suspect


that there is a divide in the leadership between Cameron in


particular and his troops. They feel neglected. But the love here


between Peter and Matt does show that the mood is much less scratchy


than at the end of last year, when there was real anger over the


Europe vote. People like Peter were delighted when David Cameron will


do that veto. That was the biggest cheer, actually. When it was


mentioned about the veto, that was the biggest cheer of the awayday.


Everybody in the room cheered the Prime Minister. The veto that he


then reneged on? He then said yes. No, he didn't. Well, it allows me


to say goodbye to itchy and scratchy. I have never been called


Scratchy. I have called you It chief.


Now for the most difficult question of the day other than which one is


itchy and scratchy. Can any of you pronounce this? Neither can I. I


can, but I am not trying it live on air. But I know a man who can.


requirement not to be rude about judges only applies to judges in


this country. It does not apply to judges in the European Union. So


let me be rude about them. Let me indulge in the


floccinaucinihilipilification of judges of the European Union. Let


me quote from the Book of Amos about judges of the European Union.


We know their manifold transgressions and our mighty sins.


They afflict the just, they take a bribe, they turn aside the poor at


the gate from their right. These are the judges of the European


Union. Her Majesty's government is right to stand up to them. They do


not deserve their money and it is iniquitous that they have allowed


themselves to be judges in their own cause. It is a breach of


justice and ought to be criminal. come Rees-Mogg in the House of


Commons. That is the longest ever entry in Hansard, that word. For


those of you who have no idea what Hansard is, here is Quentin Letts


without to Z of Parliament. -- our to Z of Parliament.


The letter H is for Hansard, available at 7:30am every day. This


publication records what is said in the Houses of Parliament by our


legislators. Parliamentary reporting only goes back to


Napoleonic times, when William Cobbett, that terrific journalist,


decided it was an outrage that the people did not know what went on in


Parliament. He produced glorified histories of law-making in the


British Isles. In 1811, he sold his interest to Thomas Curzon Hansard,


son of the printer who served the House of Commons. Slowly, you get


the arrival of verbatim reporting in the House of Commons. The people,


at last, could find out how the laws were being reached at. Here we


are in the parliamentary archives act room, with all the ancient


statutes stacked up. This is vellum, animal skins. But if these are


impressive, what about this? The Daily Hansard. Thousands of words,


ensuring that we have an accurate verbatim report of what our


legislators say. A pretty good. MPs have the ability to tidy up a bit


of what they say. Some of their hesitations get taken out. On


Prescott's words used to be given major surgery by Hansard. It does


not always capture the full atmosphere of the House of Commons.


When there is terrible raucous laughter, it just says laughter.


When people are heckling, you just get "interruption". But this daily


publication catches the arguments that are used in Parliament to


produce these laws. It also catches ministers' answers. They can't


wriggle off the hook after this. Hansard employs dozens of reporters


and sub-editors with brilliant shorthand skills. You ought to see


their fingers flying across the stenographer keyboards. They turn


this thing around in record time. It is now online, too. At a time in


our history when journalism has a slightly spotty reputation, the


people from Hansard are keeping the side up. Well played, lads.


Jacob Rees-Mogg is with us now. What does this would mean?


habit of estimating that something is worthless. What was the word,


remind me? Give me the Latin derivation -- the Latin derivation.


I can't, not of hand. I don't always have to give the etymology


of every word I use. It comes from a word meaning a piece of wall and


a trifle and another word meaning nothing and another word meaning


something insignificant. Everyone knows that. I could not give a


straw. That is the literal interpretation. Why did you not use


a small a word? I did not think of it. Floccinaucinihilipilification


came to mind, as it does from time to time. But it often come to your


mind? It is one of those words I have known since I was a schoolboy.


When it comes to your mind, is their room for anything else?


particularly pointing out that we wanted to indulge in the


floccinaucinihilipilification of the European Court of Justice,


which is the key point. The ECJ ruled to their own benefit that the


pay rises of European officials had to go through, and that included


their own pay. This is against one of the most important principles of


justice that you should not be a judge in your own cause. Thankfully,


using this odd word has got some attention to that tremendously


important point of corruption in the law courts of Europe. You have


made that point. The Big Issue I want to know - did the Hansard


people have to ask you to spell it? No. And Saab are fantastic, as


Quentin Letts was saying. They improve my speech. They take out


the um-ing and ah-ing and make what one said make better sense.


spoke at this Tory dinner last night. I did. It was just on the


other side of Lambeth Bridge. Whereabouts? On the other side. The


Plaza Hotel. You spoke as a new MP. What was your message? My message


was that the Conservatives are wonderful and the Liberals are not


as good. So it was controversial with the audience. It was a hard-


hitting message. Do you expect promotion afterwards? I do not


think so. Why aren't you in the government? Because I am a


backbencher. I love representing the county of Somerset. How many


more letters does your favourite word have an


antidisestablishmentarianism? 1. Correct. He is good. I do not want


to show off. We have now run out of time. We have used such big words.


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