05/03/2012 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon, welcome to the Daily Politics.


Vladimir Putin has swept back to power in Moscow. But here, at


Westminster, nothing is quite as certain. The Chancellor, George


Osborne, is under pressure to backtrack on plans to cut child


benefit for the middle classes. We won't find out until the Budget


later this month. But is the ground being prepared for some kind of


concession? His colleague Ken Clarke will be with us, to explain


why he thinks cuts to legal aid will not prevent the poorest having


access to justice. David Cameron's closest colleague,


Steve Hilton, quits government, for a sabbatical abroad. So, who will


the PM turn to now for advice? We'll bring you our guide to the


powers behind the scenes in Downing Street.


And, one former MP calls on Nick Clegg to stand aside as Lib Dem


party leader, in order to rebuild All that in the hour. And with us


in our Westminster dacha this Monday is the former Downing Street


policy chief James O'Shaughnessy, who now runs his own consultancy.


So, if you have any thoughts or comments on anything we're


discussing, then you can tweet your comments using the hashtag, #bbcdp.


But first, we've just heard that the Home Secretary Theresa May is


now in Jordan, where she is talking to senior Jordanian officials about


the possible deportation of Abu Qatada. He, of course, is the


radical cleric once described by a judge as Osama bin Laden's right-


hand man in Europe. And is now released from jail under a 22-hour


curfew, while the government seeks assurances that evidence gained


through torture would not be used in any trial against him if he were


sent back to the Middle East. She has got to come back with something


pretty significant from this trip. She has obviously gone up there


with the purpose of finding a way to send Abu Qatada over there. She


needs something to persuade the court that the Jordanian government


is serious about giving him a fair trial. It is in everyone's interest


here for her to do that. What would this be? Just having a verbal


assurance from the Jordanians, we will not break the rules, it won't


be that simple. It went but at the same time she will be well prepared,


the Home Office lawyers will know what needs to be done to satisfy


the judges. That will be private information in the discussions they


have. To reserve make is incredibly serious, well briefed -- Theresa


May. They will know the kind of things they need to do. Hopefully


she will come back here and we can get the legal process going.


will have to be swift. He is on strict bail conditions but in a few


months he could be released. Exactly, it needs to happen quickly.


It needs to be seen in the context of the British government's


attitude to human rights legislation. There isn't an


appetite to do anything dramatic, withdrawing from the EC AGR -- ECHR.


In terms of this individual case, it needs to be quick. And it will


be popular. Indeed. March 21st will see the Chancellor


George Osborne stand at the despatch box, and deliver his much


awaited Budget. There's been a lot of speculation over the weekend,


over what Mr Osborne's got in store for us. And one particularly


contentious issue is child benefits. Currently, the government plans to


cut child benefit for parents who are higher rate tax payers. However,


critics argue the move unfairly punishes middle income earners. And


particularly affects those households where there is just one


person earning over the tax threshold. There are rumours the


Chancellor is planning to water down the plans by raising the


amount people have to earn before they lose out. Speaking to the BBC


earlier, Nick Clegg said they are prepared to look at the plans.


We have said as a government, we are letting in difficult times, so


to ask people who are earning more money to give up child benefit is


fair. There is an issue about the cliff edge, one earning family who


would not get child benefit under that scenario but another... George


Osborne and the Prime Minister has said that is something we will look


at. Also in the frame are changes to the tax credit system. Later


today, Labour will lead a debate in the Commons calling for the plans


to be reversed. The party argues that, from next month, working


parents could lose thousands of pounds, because the new rules mean


couples with children will have to work 24 hours between them, instead


of 16 hours, to qualify for working tax credits. However, the


government claims that, when the universal credit is introduced in


October next year, this problem will be addressed.


Let's talk now to James Brown from the Institute of Fiscal Studies.


Thank you for joining us. Can you tell us who are going to be the


losers in terms of child benefit? The policy as it stands is families


where one parent is a higher-rate taxpayer paying 40p, will lose all


their child benefit. Currently worth about �1,000 for the first


child, �750 for each subsequent child. If you're looking again at


tax credits, claims are being made changes might make it less


worthwhile for parents going to work. What are the changes? They


have been tapering this down. policy Labour is talking about


today it is, from April this year, you will have to work 24 hours a


week if you are a couple with children to claim working tax


credit, conditional on the working is certain number of hours a week,


then it is means tested. It means it becomes up less worthwhile to


work between 16-24 hours a week. You need to work 24 hours to


qualify. The government is saying the universal credit would mitigate


that. A universal credit will replace the current means tested


benefits and tax credits. That won't have any of these hours rules


in it. It won't matter how many hours you work each week, just how


much you earn. That won't come in for another couple of years. There


will still be people on the current system right the way through to


2018 because of the long drawn-out period. Joining me now is the


Shadow Treasury Minister, Cathy Jamieson. And the Conservative,


Nadim Zahawi. Should the government to drop their


plan to withdraw child benefit from higher rate tax payers? Why should


it be that someone on �20,000 a year should be subsidising child


tax credit for someone earning �800,000 a year? Polling evidence


shows people who are higher earners, are prepared to make sacrifices


because we are going through austerity, we are left a Treasury


without any money. The problem occurs is this anomaly. Wherever


you look, you will have to deal with that in some way. There is


lots of speculation, to increase the threshold up to �50,000. A


couple both Worthing on �42,000 would get tax credit, is in full


working household with �43,000 would lose it. But you are happy


with the original policy as outlined? I think it is worth


looking at, this cliff edge. We ought to look at it, if there is a


way of fixing it. The problem with all these things, with a massive


budget deficit, we came into office borrowing �500 million a day.


your Conservative colleagues are not happy and there is a lot of


pressure on the Chancellor. Are you disappointed the Chancellor looks


as if he may bend to pressure from your colleagues? If we can deal


with the anomaly. Not just to satisfy them? I think you will find


most of my colleagues are in favour of people better off paying their


share to get us out of the economic mess. But can you deal with this


anomaly to mitigate it? It is quite rightly been looked at. Labour


wants the benefit to stay. issue is the government has got


itself into a mess, we have warned them. Our principal position is we


do believe in the universal... Ian Ayres can still get child


benefit? There are other ways of dealing with that. There is this


cliff edge. I have heard speculation perhaps the threshold


will be raised, perhaps they will take it away one's children reach


the age of five but the government has not said. This is their mess.


Their own backbenchers are deeply unhappy about the state of play.


You have clarified you would like that benefit to stay. You would


deal with some of the issues a sweat in the tax system. If the


policy goes ahead, and the universal benefit is broken, will


you reverse it when Labour comes to power? What we have said about all


of the changes is we will have to see what the state of the economy


is at that time. The real issue today we are having to face also,


this is not just about hype earners, this government is cutting benefits


for some of the lowest paid people. We will come to that. If it is a


point of principle on child benefit, which is what some Tory MPs are


arguing. They say it is not a family-friendly policy. Surely that


is one area you can say, we will reverse it? We would want to keep


the principle. But we are in a situation where we have to see what


happens, how the economy will be at that time. I have heard the


Conservatives talking about the deficit and borrowing, the


government is borrowing more than we would have done. I would like to


pick up a few points. You have witnessed why Labour's economic


policy have no credibility. They say they want to deal with the


deficit. They will absolutely support the Cup's we are making.


But they are saying we are cutting too fast, too deep. We are spending


more. If you look... We are borrowing more. If you look at


Labour's own plans, they would have, this was decided by an independent


report, borrowing �200 billion more. The issue at hand, it has been very


contentious for your colleagues. They will be waiting to see what


George Osborne actually says. If you tweak the system endlessly, do


things which will keep people happy, it will be so complicated it won't


work and make savings. That is a judgment for the Chancellor, let us


see. The judgment has to be, you have to get the benefits from these


savings, �2.5 billion a year, rising beyond that. Can you


mitigate some of these issues, without losing the benefit of the


cost cutting you need to deliver? And your Tory colleagues will have


to be satisfied? It has to make the argument for it. Tax credits. You


have claimed it would be worthwhile for a couple working 24 hours, they


will be worse off than claiming benefits. But it will be mitigated


by the universal credit? A I do not think the government has realised


how serious this is for low-paid families. It is all very well to


say the universal credit will fix this. In the interim, the lowest-


paid families will seriously lose out. This is the government's


figures this is based on. Working tax credits go to families,


certainly before the coalition came in, people earning up to �50,000,


it has come down. You're looking at how these cuts will impact on, a


couple on the minimum wage with two children. Working 16 hours. If they


cannot get the extra hours, they will lose all of their tax credits.


It is due to come into place in April. They could stop it and a


look at it again. Two issues seen as bold policies by


the coalition government, on child benefit, do you think the


Chancellor will be seen as weak if there is a U-turn? You have to see


them together. Child benefit, go back to why the Chancellor made the


announcement at the Conservative Party conference in 2010. It was a


strategic choice, he doesn't do things by accident. He understands.


The reason is they needed to make a case for cuts. They didn't come


into government to do cuts but they needed to. They came in knowing


they would have to make cuts, the emergency budget, that was clear,


the Comprehensive Spending Review laid it out. Everyone needs to feel


some pain. People in Labour say, they are all in it together. I


genuinely think everybody needs to make a contribution to this


tightening of our budget, which is why the decision was made. The


Prime Minister himself has said there is an issue around this cliff


edge. They probably are looking at ways of Amelia rating that. That


doesn't take away from the fact they will be looking to make sure


well be people are making a contribution to reducing the budget


deficit. Look at the tax credits. If you look at the welfare state as


a whole, there is less money going You have to make sure everybody is


taking a piece of that and that is where you have to see these things


together. OK, thank you both very much. One piece of news set the


Westminster village a flutter last week. That was the departure of


David Cameron's closest advisor, Steve Hilton, on a year-long


sabbatical to the West Coast of California. Sounds lovely. So why


did the career-break of a man who is not exactly a household name get


everyone around here frantic with excitement? Well, it's because the


inner circle of advisers are often just as powerful, if not more


powerful, an influence on Government policy as a Cabinet


Minister or even three. So we sent Giles out to lift the lid on who


pulls the strings behind the scenes In terms of the political discourse


of this country, you could be for given for thinking this House, this


building, is one single human entity. You often hear, "The


feeling from Number Ten is...: it is populated by a number of people


working around the Prime Minister, but who are they? The Prime


Minister's closest advisor has been Steve Hilton, conspicuous for his


dress down attitude but perhaps fine if you shun the spotlight as


he does. Not the hippy satire likes to make out. Alongside Rohan Silva,


he's been focussed on pre election pretty much anything. Recently on


policy implementation. He is the PM's blue sky thinker, and Big


Society champion. What people say about him is that, for every


brilliant idea he has, there's 10 which are not going to go anywhere.


Now he's leaving for a year to go to California. His wife works for


Google. On sabbatical. There maybe other reasons. Let me explain.


Chief of Staff is Ed Llewellyn. He ran the leader's private office in


opposition having worked on Cameron's leadership bid. He is


very close to the PM, a friend and colleague. Alongside Kate Fall


they're the very loyal Praetorian guard and all get on well. The big


problem is that when things get very difficult, and you need


advisers to genuinely speak truth to power, and it to say, hold on,


there is a major problem here and we need to think again, sometimes


it seems those people who work around them can't quite do that.


But the critics say he isn't Chief of Staff. You need somebody in


there, can salary figure who has the full authority of the PM, and


when they pick up the phone to a minister, but minister is nervous,


start shaking because they think this chief-of-staff has the


authority of the Prime Minister, and the prime minister is not happy.


In fact Number 10 does have a big beast. Top Civil Servent Jeremy


Heywood. The Cabinet Secretary who's increasingly key to how


Downing Street now works. He has the position and experience to make


decisions himself. Indeed reported tensions with Hilton about how


things get done may explain that sabbatical. Director of


Communications Craig Oliver worked for ITN and the BBC, and came into


Downing St after Andy Coulson was forced to resign. There were


questions over his knowledge of the print media, but his planning is


display here. These pictures seen around the world. His job's to


control the messages coming from Number 10. Andrew Cooper is


Director of Strategy. Seen here on our programme when he worked for


Populus. He's the PM's pollster but also to bring home strategic and


political home truths. Telling it how it is, and as a moderniser,


trying to change traditional mindsets. Steven Gilbert's the PM's


Political Secretary the man in charge of what George Osborne calls


"Ground War". He provides intelligence and campaigning


insight. How to win hearts and minds on the doorstep. Co chairman


of the Conservative Party Baroness Warsi may be visible in the media,


but around the PM it's the other Co Chairman Lord Feldman who has the


influence and access. Oliver Dowden is the PM's political advisor


responsible for day to day fixing, briefing and managing any crises.


He is Number 10's link to CCHQ and described as "quietly effective".


Gabby Bertin, the PM's Press Secretary worked with him when he


was a shadow minister and ever since. She is very close,


influential. These are who The Prime Minister calls "the wiring".


The unseen people that make the machine work. Of course two of the


most crucial people of all live in the street but don't work in number


10. Samantha Cameron does have political influence. The other, the


Chancellor George Osborne may live next door but he's perhaps the


lynch pin to how Number 10 operates today, possibly because he might


like to move in one day. Giles reporting there in the first


of a little series lifting the lid on the Westminster village. And


with us now is Nick Pearce who used to be the Head of Policy at Number


10 under Gordon Brown. And, I'm tempted to say, is now recovering


from that experience as the director of the Institute of Public


Policy Research. Welcome to the programme. And going to come to you


first of all, James, because you know Steve Hilton. You worked with


him. Do you think his departure is as significant as has been played


out in the papers? Has the Government run out of steam?


don't think so, chrome know. He is an unbelievably influential figure,


no doubt about that. The driving force behind a lot of radical stuff


which David Cameron did in government. I can totally


understand why he has gone. He managed to stay in touch before and


did a decent job in opposition when he was having that kind of


arrangement, so I don't think it's significant at all. It's more about


family than anything. Not a sense of frustration then? It's been


talked about a lot but he was the big vision man and was being


restrained by a Whitehall and the machinery. Well, I think Number Ten


is all about frustration, in a wave. When we came from opposition, we


were very tight-knit, big change going forward, a tight-knit group,


a couple of dozen people could make the decisions you wanted to, but in


government, it doesn't happen like that because you are responsible


for things. There is a sense it always goes slightly slower than


you would want, so there is always frustration. Steve was always


challenging you to go further so that was built into his DNA. I


don't think that anything particular about it. Is that what


happens? You do get a sense, Tony Blair used to complain that just


because he was prime minister, he could not wave a magic wand and


things happen in an instant. Is there a deeper problem? It's


certainly true that when you're in Number Ten you after worker cabinet


ministers, the Treasury, you can't just do things yourselves. I've


worked in departments and you can often do more because you're


directly in charge. At Number Ten, you have to negotiate more than you


would have to expect. I think the Government has a problem with


strategic direction. A lot of the initial impulse for the coalition


was defined against Labour's legacy, the first wave of legislation, it's


not obvious where the new ideas are coming from, particularly on the


conservative side, actually. The Government as a challenge with the


spending review, with an agenda which can look directionless.


small team came across but a bigger team under Gordon Brown. Do you


need a bigger team? Cannot be harder to get your policies


through? There was a mistake made when David Cameron came in that he


got rid of the large department. People with policy expertise but


politically appointed. They would have spotted the health bill coming


through, I think. It was an effective organisation which could


have done long-term thinking. it's just too stretched, with a


bigger unit you would have foreseen problems, big problems, like the


health bill which wouldn't have made it as far down the line as


they have under this coalition government. As a representative of


Uley of special advisers, obviously, if we should have more of them. I


think it is true that we came in with fewer policies special


advisers than we need it. In government, obviously, there are


lots of capable people but you need somebody on the same political


mission as you. That actually is what creates the drive and dynamism.


I think there is a question about whether there are numbers of people


in there who can help push the agenda we want to see. Do you have


the same fear that, without somebody like Steve Hilton, who was


agitating on a daily basis, who had a vision for Parliament, but that


is just going to go and it will come down to 24 hour news, the


short term gains which are needed and the vision goes? No, I don't


think that's true. The Conservative Party came in with a broad


manifesto which we have implemented. There have been a lot of your terms


and child benefit could be another one of those. They have been some


new terms, but the general direction of policy is as we


intended it. They happen under all governments, not least Gordon Brown.


When you make mistakes you want to go back on them. A government is


successful when they have a clear strategic direction, with will


momentum behind your reforms. The Government doing well politically


on education. The they have moved fast, haven't they? Nobody would


contest the fact Michael Gove knows where he is going and is going


forward with that agenda. The Government can't say that about


many things. And actually, on Steve Hilton, there's no point in being


bold and radical if your ideas are stupid. You should have a purpose.


You get that when you know where the long term is going to take you.


That's what Tony Blair had at its best. Gordon Brown knew what he


wanted to do with the economy. Less in other areas like public services.


Well, you mentioned Michael Gove as a big success story. If you look


across welfare, the police commissioner, complete innovation


will transform the way we think about policing. Prison reforms. But


then this going back to prison. Even health, where the Government


has run into trouble, giving patients choice, ideas started


under Tony Blair, in many ways, developing those, it's still there.


I think there is that agenda. It's a clear idea. It owes a lot to Tony


Blair, in a funny sort of way, but a lot can be developed. I don't


think they will lack ideas. This is a coalition government which makes


it more difficult. People in departments are due, they have got


a coalition government to do with as well. I agree with that. It's a


major difference. Labour was an internal coalition. Yes, people


would argue that for the there were plenty of factions around.


George Osborne is right next to David Cameron, and that's different


from any moment in the Labour years. Because they work better together?


Politically they are joined at the hip and that's a huge difference.


If the Treasury and Number Ten are close together, it makes a massive


difference also if you have problems between them, it's a


problem. In your package, you mentioned Jeremy Heywood, a very


powerful figure, a remarkable man. People say about him, he has


blocked reform. And Steve Hilton was a frustrated with him. Jeremy


Heywood is the last person to block reform for the peas a radical


character. Sometimes saying no is the right thing, standing up to


somebody. Exactly. OK, thank you both very much. Well, spring is


finally here so we'll be going outside to speak to our top


political pundits. I think it's delivered cold, actually. But first,


let's take a look at what's on the radar over the next few days. Home


Secretary Theresa May is currently in Jordan to negotiate the


deportation of the Abu Qatada. The government is seeking assurances


that evidence obtained through torture will not be used in any


trial against the radical cleric. The legal aid, sentencing and


punishment of offenders bill is before the Lords today, campaigners


have expressed fears that the changes will affect the most


vulnerable in our society. The health bill will be once again in


the spotlight as there are more amendments being debated in the


Lords tomorrow. This time on competition. All eyes will once


again be on how the Liberal Democrat Peers will vote. And no


doubt the bill will be one topic discussed at the Liberal Democrat


spring conference that starts on Friday. The party leadership will


be nervously gauging the mood of activists who are said to be


unhappy with a number of key coalition policies. Well, joining


me from outside Parliament now is the Guardian's Polly Toynbee. And


The row over legal aid, will it be successful? There have been a


number of changes introduced. But broadly, this is about Ken Clarke


trying to find savings. Listening to him this morning, he was pretty


robust. On the whole, the entire legal profession is starting to


stack up against it. There are many of their representatives in the


House of Lords, it will be a bitter fight. So are some politicians on


the conservative side? Both houses are packed with lawyers, they


really understand what this means. Ken Clarke is being robust about


how overpaid lawyers are. But, not legal aid lawyers, who work in law


centres, mostly on salaries, low salaries, who do it because they


believe in it as a social service, not because they will make fortunes.


Also, a question about domestic violence. Baroness Scotland is


moving an amendment on this. Women who suffered domestic violence will


find it very difficult to get legal aid. These sort of level of proof


they will have to provide, to show they have suffered violence before


they can get to see a lawyer will be very high. There will be a lot


of anger about that. It points to a wider problem facing the coalition.


The government partners are being attacked by their own sides, be it


in the House of Commons with the Tories of child benefit. Is that


becoming a pattern? It is, rather. There is a strong court at the


centre of the coalition -- core. But if you look at history, the way


coalition's normally come apart is not because the centre falls apart


but because grass roots starts to distrust their leadership. What we


are seeing on both sides is MPs attacking their own leadership with


increasing vigour. We will see more of this at the spring conference


this weekend. It would be wrong to dismiss some of the complains as


irrelevant. Eventually, there will come a tipping point. Where they


become so strong, the ability of the centre to stay part of the


coalition will become jeopardised. In some of the things like child


benefit, they may bend when it comes to the Budget. Looking at


health, the bill, it probably is going to happen so in the end


central government will get its way. It looks as if Shirley Williams,


the leader of the revolt in the House of Lords, yet again, folded.


And as if the Liberal Democrats, they have got some changes but not


the important ones. The big debate is about the competition question,


whether the -- the NHS will be opened up to any private provider.


That seems to have survived intact. Some in the Liberal Democrat


conference will be upset about it. But basically, most people seem to


be the government will get their bill, just as they got their


welfare bill despite a bit of protest, and even the legal aid


bill. Although that causes less public outrage because people don't


understand it that much, it will cause more trouble in both houses


because of the Shia number of lawyers. -- sheer. Is Labour


becoming a one-trick pony on health? Labour feels they are


laying their cards on the table. Most people will not notice what


will happen in the health service for another 18 months, dangerously


close to the next election. The cuts will kick in. People's minds


will see this. People will see waiting-lists soaring, local


hospital unit closing, and Labour will feel that is when people will


turn up to them. The For the rest of the programme,


we're joined by our Monday panel of MPs. For Labour, John Woodcock. For


the Conservatives, Alun Cairns. And for the Lib Dems, Duncan Hames.


Letter has picked up on health. We have talked about it so many times.


-- let us pick up. The damaging bits are particularly on


competition. For let me correct her, she was talking about the cuts in


health digging in, in 18 months. There are no cuts in health. There


are savings but that is being reinvested into frontline services.


There's only one part in the UK in Wales where health is being cut. By


Labour. So that is a bit rich. is your message to Liberal


Democrats, is it time to shut up? think so, there have been


significant concessions. The Health Bill is bringing about exciting


reforms, new innovations. In 18 months, the proof will be in the


eating of the pudding when we will be able to show these are the


changes, improvements. We can always compare with what is going


wrong in Wales with the way Labour is running it there. Is it time


they shut up, Liberal Democrat Lords, it needs to get onto the


statute book? I thought Polly Toynbee was rather rude about


Shirley Williams, she has been very good at getting concessions to the


bill. If you are working to make something better, when you are


successful, you need to lock that into the legislation. There is


still work being done on the health bill. One of my colleagues has been


working on the competition elements, making sure competition is the


servant of patience and not the master -- patients. There is a


constructive approach being taken to make sure we have a better bill


at the end. It is time for Labour to come along. They are still


opposed to the bill in essence, saying it should be scrapped.


Absolutely. Duncan as the test ultimately for the Lib Dems will be


whether they are prepared to stick with us and boat this bill down, as


a party, and not... We are clear this Bill is fundamentally flawed.


But where exactly? You are in favour of GP commissioning, reforms


to the health service. There was already competition in the NHS.


real disaster of this Bill is you have actually wasted nearly two


years on something which not only do an increasing number of


professionals sake is and necessary, but actually, importantly, the real


reformers of the NHS under the last Labour government, the likes of


John Hutton, Alan Milburn, are saying this Bill is not necessary,


and it as to a level of bureaucracy and complexity, when we do need


real and sustained reforms to match the challenges in the NHS. But some


of those Labour lords have been working with us to get those


amendments, they clearly think they are worthwhile. To have an attitude


to say the Bill should fall whatever... Are you happy that


almost every Royal College, broadly, that they will not be on board, and


it would still be able to sell it to patients and your constituency?


Some of the Royal Colleges, a small proportion of their members will


have voted to express opposition. We need to take the totality. If


there was absolute anger, I would have imagined it greater proportion


of members of those colleges would have insisted on changes. Are you


happy you are going ahead with is built, but basically without their


support? This bill has changed so much over time, it is hard to keep


up with that. I dare say some of the people concentrating on looking


after patients rather than politics are there. Many things people have


been worried about, have been addressed. 1000 amendments have


been made. People will be relieved a lot of the stories they have been


hearing did not actually happen. Can I come on to legal aid. We may


be talking to Ken Clarke in the programme. Strong words from Labour


on this. Devastating consequences, some have said. What is the big


scare about? I don't always agree with Polly Toynbee but on this


occasion, she is absolutely right, particularly when she picks up on


the consequences in terms of victims of domestic abuse. There


seemed to be concessions this week, but not on the area of the evidence


which would be eligible for legal aid, in terms of victims of


domestic violence. This fundamentally is not right.


Conservatives in the old days, people used to say, they're unfair


but a least they are fairly efficient. But here, they are both.


They jumped at proposals to reform the delayed which would have


generated substantial savings, but denying legal aid to many thousands


of people who will need it. If it would be the poorest who would be


affected. Legal aid is to assist those who need it. The legal aid


bill costs up to �39 per head per person across the UK. In France,


Spain, it is about �6 per head. It is about 23% of the department's


budget. If you compare that with where it started, it has grown


exponentially. In these times of austerity it needs to be cut. Let


us not forget, a lot of this legal- aid money goes to law is, many


earning significant sums of money, and we can't justify that. Can't


you do something about that without reducing the legal-aid budget?


think we are. I think these are sensible measures. I have had an


issue and raised this with the minister, around domestic violence.


The definitions over that. The Law Society and other groups have come


up with different figures, and say the Ministry of Justice figures, a


third of the entire legal aid budget, �700 million, is spent on


the most serious criminal cases, not civil legal-aid cases Ken


Clarke is talking about. You still can't get away from the scale of


differences between the legal-aid bill in the UK which is much bigger


than any other nation in Europe. Even a former Commonwealth nations.


We are spending a lot more on employers here than other nations.


It's not the most efficient way of solving problems.


We can now talk to the shadow justice minister. We have been


talking about this issue of costs. �2 billion is an awful lot of money


and needs to be cut. Am not sure it is much greater than anywhere else


in the world, to be honest. It does need to be cut back. We, in


government, started cutting it back. What we wouldn't have done is what


the government has chosen to do, to attack a small part of legal-aid,


social welfare law, which is a law which protects very poor, very


vulnerable, often disabled people, from getting their rights. In the


field of housing, employment, welfare benefits. All of that


advice, largely advice, is a to be taken away from them, so they will


not have that access to justice, which they have enjoyed under


governments of all colours and the support of all political parties.


There is a view that legal aid has mushroomed way beyond what it was


intended to deal with. Criminal legal aid tips up �1.2 billion of


the �2.1 billion that you mentioned. In the last few years, it has


always been an emphasis on criminal legal aid where clearly there are


more cuts which can be made. 14% of criminal legal aid is spent on 1%


of cases. To attack social welfare law and take away 53% of social


welfare law spend is outrageous. Thank you very much for joining us.


We can now speak to Ken Clarke, thank you for coming on to the


programme. You will have heard the final comments, and this idea that


you are hitting the civil legal-aid budget disproportion late and will


harmed the poorest who need that money?


He has obviously not been talking to come of Goya's, and affected by


lobbying by the Law Society. Criminal legal-aid is the heart of


the system. If you are going to punish people as everyone wants to


do for a serious crime, you have to make sure you have the right guilty


person you're punishing. Also, that anything that can be said by


someone articulate on his behalf is said before he is sentenced. That


is why most of it goes on legal-aid, because we have a very good system


where it is proved beyond reasonable doubt after being tested


by a lawyer, we can deal with someone as a canal. -- as a


criminal. On welfare law, employment law, we give a lot of


legal aid where legal advice is not what is required. Citizens Advice


Bureaux or solicitors can be used. I do not charge legal aid, it is


not legal, the advice you give, it is sorting out the social-security


system. It does not lead -- need No one will mind if you reduce the


amount of money lawyers will make from this, but they are worried


about victims who will lose out. The victims of domestic violence,


for example. How will you ensure that people like that are still


going to access? Many of my best friends are lawyers. They are not


arguing about victims, but they are worried about the amount of money


which goes to lawyers. The savings we are going to make are at the


expense of the lawyers getting legal aid, and a lot of the costs


are not just in my Budget but the National Health Service is paying


out very large sums of money to lawyers, expert witnesses, claims


managers, as well as compensation. The compensation culture and the


ambulance-chasing practices make a lot of money, and it all comes out


of the NHS budget. It should be spent on patient care, and that's


why we are making savings. It's not just lawyers opposed to this. Peers


across the House of Lords, including Tory peers, are also


seeking this, thinking, this is a great idea, why isn't everybody on


board? It's going to a Greek parliament phase at the moment. I


have many friends and House of Lords. Every lobby seems to have a


triumph there at the moment, are doing that �25,000 is not enough


for large families on benefits, or listening to clinical trade unions


on health reform and now the Law Society appears to have descended


upon them. Yes. We are giving legal aid in domestic violence. Of course


we are giving legal aid for that. It is disingenuous this argument


about domestic violence. We're talking about people with a history


of domestic violence. But property, children, you don't need legal aid


were it not relevant to the domestic violence. What about


coalition partners? Have you managed to convince them? I keep


meeting Lib Dem peer has, and we got it through the House of Commons


making several changes. Since I first consulted on this package,


many, many months ago, we have moved and the House of Lords will


still listen to some of the points which are left on different subject,


but these big claims that somehow vulnerable people are going to be


injured if you don't have so many lawyers involved in various types


of less important litigation, I'm afraid have to be resisted. No


other democracy in the world would think this was remotely sensible


for the taxpayer to pay for so much litigation. Theresa May is in


Jordan trying to get some sort of deal on Abu Qatada. We've just had


this statement come through saying the Jordanian government will


continue to work with the Government here and talks today


have been positive but we have more work to do. It doesn't sound like


much progress was made. Were you hoping for something more concrete?


Of course she may get the assurances she is seeking. When he


goes to trial, the evidence against him must not be obtained by torture


which is an important human rights principles. I'm sure Theresa May


will be pressing them on that and get incredible assurances. She's


already got Strasbourg to agree. This last point will happen in this


trial when it happens. It will be disappointing if he does not get


deported. It will be disappointing if the Jordanians won't agree that


they will not use evidence obtained by torture. The British have always


been against torture. In criminal justice or any other way. It's an


essential principle. No British court would deport anybody who was


going to be tortured. The obvious outcome which Theresa May is


working hard to achieve his for the Jordanians to give credible


assurances. What would that have to look like? I'm not negotiating it.


I will leave that to Theresa May. You are there just a secretary.


Credible means a lawyer in Strasbourg or the UK with some


experience of human rights actually believes the assurances given. The


court in Strasbourg believes the assurances were given that Abu


Qatada was not going to be tortured, assurances as good as that will


suffice and the Jordanians I hope will be persuaded to give more


assurances. Ken Clarke, thank you very much.


There's a new book out today called the Alternative View. And subtitled


- The Way Back For The Liberal Democrats. It says that Nick Clegg


should stay on as Deputy Prime Minister. But stand aside as Party


Leader in order to let someone else rebuild the party's electoral


fortunes. It even goes as far as to hint that the best thing all round


for the party is for Mr Clegg to go off and be a European Commissioner


before the next election. Well, that book is written by the former


Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik who joins us now. Do you think that's going to


happen? I hope so because we went into writing this book to work out


why we had a catastrophic performance in local elections and


by-elections since 2010. The conclusion surprised even as, but


by splitting the roles, we find a solution where Nick Clegg can


fulfil his promise to carry out his five-year term as Deputy Prime


Minister, but the party can rebuild. But no one will understand a deputy


prime minister couldn't be anyone other than the leader of the party.


Surely that's how it works, isn't it? Once they have read the book,


they will understand it for the how does that work?


Nobody could understand the idea of the Lib Dems being in coalition


with the Tories. There's no constitutional reason for that.


None whatsoever why he could not split that rope, and unless we do,


we have a problem that the Tories don't seem to have. The it seems


far-fetched and may look good on paper, but in the practical world


of politics, it's just not going to happen for the Nick Clegg says I


would like to hand over the leadership for a leadership


election in 2013. And he will carry on as deputy prime minister. This


is not a new idea but fundamentally, if this does not happen, our


analysis suggests Nick Clegg leading the party into the next


general election would be detrimental. If you want to be a


collectivist, and on what he has promised to do for the coalition,


this solution is the only way to move forward. It's an elegant


solution and you should expect Nick Clegg to stand down? Listening to


this alternative view, it's more successful than his alternative


comedy. The bouquet, let Duncan respond. I want to see Nick Clegg


leading the party into the next election and they don't want to see,


however great this edition is,... Yes, but what do so that the


disasters polling results? Could something as radical as this change


the fortunes for the Lib Dems? Dem policy needs to be implemented


by the coalition government, cutting taxes for ordinary working


people, more money into schools, children being taken from the


poorest families, rebalancing the economy, these are difficult pieces


of working government, but at the end of this term, if we can show


for the first time in generations the Lib Dems have done things to


make life fairer as a result of being in government, I think Nick


Clegg is a record will be one we want to take to the voters at the


election. With my solution you can carry on working in the coalition,


but, at the same time, differentiate the nature of the Lib


Dem movement from its apparent merging with the Tory party. The


Tories don't have this problem. We clearly do. We can rebuild


community politics, which is a big problem for us at the moment, and


move away from the Orange Book malaise. Nick Clegg is more popular


than the part disordered understand this logic. The difficulty with the


theory is you would have a divided party, for example, a more left-


leaning Lib Dem party leader, for example Simon Hughes, and Nick


Clegg as a deputy prime minister, and the party would split. There


will be tension between the Lib Democrats and the Tory government,


or the Lib Dem leader and the Liberal Democrat deputy prime


minister. One of those will happen but it's my judgment we can live


comfortably with either. Quite simply, if we don't do this, the


Lib Dems will be consigned to a disastrous general election. This


is not an anti- Nick Clegg proposal. He may not see it that way. It's


uncomfortable reading but we are suggesting the only way Nick Clegg


can fulfil his promise to the country and the coalition partners,


and my colleagues in Parliament can do that, without destroying the Lib


Dems are the same time is by splitting the roles. It may seem


radical. I'm trying to see it there is a definite suggestion. Cometh


the hour, cometh the Lembit Opik. Me? Rumours of my aspirations there


are wilfully exaggerated. Would Labour be happy with him as did the


Prime Minister? The problem for the Lib Dems, clearly in Nick Clegg is


a discredited but the problem for the Lib Dems, as I think you will


see at your conference at the weekend, they are finished as a


progressive party. So you agree with Lembit Opik? The Labour Party


Of as a solution, for the Lib Dems, is it an idea which could be


discussed and debated at higher levels? I can't see how they can


hold it together without having their lead at the top but, frankly,


I don't understand how the Lib Dems are continuing to prop up what is


one of the most volatile Tory governments in history. Would you


be happy to negotiate more Simon Hughes at the top of a rather than


someone like Nick Clegg? I want to see a majority Labour government.


Once you read my book, it will pin you down. You're in the coalition


with the Lib Dems and a lot of work is being done now which says, in


order for the Tories to get a majority, they will have to target


Liberal Democrat seats. That's quite obvious. The deal is that


this coalition will last for the full five-year term, that the


arrangements. There's lots of work being done obviously at


constituency level and leadership level to seek to deliver a


Conservative majority of the next election and that's when we can


generally be radical rather than being limited by the negotiations.


But your seat could go? Your party is upset, you wallow in the polls.


One might argue something radical is what you need. They may try to


take my seat in Will Show. If the first time in over 80 years the Lib


Dems won the seat, but they will have to try harder because only


last Thursday, the Lib Dems polled over 56% of the vote in my


constituency, so they have got their work cut out. Boundaries will


have changed by the next general election. The point being, when we


talk about specific seats, they are likely to be different to the ones


which are there now. Therefore, the current strength of any existing


member parliament might have through his incumbency will have


gone and it's fair game for everyone. I'm sure copies of the


book Lembit Opik will give you. A signed copy. Thank you for all of


you today. That's all for today. Thanks to our guests. The One


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