12/03/2012 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon and welcome to the Daily Politics. The Labour's two


Eds are setting out their plans for the economy ahead of next week's


Budget. They are calling for fair taxes. We will ask the shadow chief


secretary to the Treasury of what it means.


Nick Clegg emerges from the spring conference battered and bruised


with the grassroots defying his pleas to support the NHS reforms.


Senior party figures are questioning his plans for a tycoon


tax. We will be assessing the fall- out for the Deputy Prime Minister.


David Cameron launches a new scheme to help homeowners with the promise


of guarantees for first-time buyers. We have the details.


Do you know you're standing committee from you select


committee? What does the Parliamentary Statutory Instruments


Committee actually do? Quentin Letts has his A-Z Guide to


Parliament. It is a jungle out there and sometimes what Parliament


All that in the next hour and with us for the whole programme today,


the historian Douglas Murray. Welcome back to the Daily Politics.


If you have any thoughts or comment on anything we are discussing, then


please go to a Twitter. Let's start with the announcement this morning


that the Government is announcing a new scheme to help new buyers get a


mortgage on properties that are new builds. Eric Pickles has been


promoting the NewBuy Guarantee scheme, meeting her couples hoping


to become homeowners under the scheme. Grant Shapps explained how


it will work. The person buying a home will need to put down a


deposit of 5% and then the industry itself, the developer, the


housebuilder, will put another 3.5% into a special account, which they


would lose if there is another repossession. That is with the


taxpayer guaranteeing the other 5.5%. We think we are standing


behind the market, using the weight of the Government, and in the end


it will not cost the taxpayer much money if any and it enabled the


generation to get onto the housing -- enables a generation to get onto


the housing ladder. Is this a new announcement? This scheme was


announced last November but today it has gone live. It is a reality


and you can actually apply for one of these mortgages. We have several


lenders and housebuilders that have signed up to the scheme. As you


heard, the idea is that the taxpayer stands behind these


mortgages, and the idea is that it will provide people that want to


get a foot onto the housing ladder to get and 95% mortgage, something


that is very difficult to find in the market at the moment. There


will be a fear because it was the housing bubble that burst that in


many people's minds contributed to the crash. Should the Government be


a encouraging people to take out 95% mortgages? The Government is


saying that the taxpayer's stake in this is third in line. The money


that the Government is putting up will only be at risk wants the


stake that the person taking out the mortgage it at risk and then


the building stands in front of the taxpayer again. Then there is this


worry about people being encouraged to take on and 95% mortgage. The


Government is pointing out that their rustic do -- there are


stricter rules in place to make sure that people can afford these


mortgages. The mortgages on offer are fixed rate, but only for a few


years. And yes, there is some risk because this era has very low


interest rates and everybody expects them to go up sooner or


later. There is always the risk in this labour market that is very


difficult of people losing their jobs. There is a riskier but the


Government is insisting it is not a question of going back to sub-prime


mortgages. It is about helping people get back into the housing


market. The risk is that if the housing market remains flat, then


the investment might not look like such a good idea in a few years'


time anyway. Thank you. On principle, bearing in mind what has


happened and how we are so obsessed with owning homes, is that the


right line to go down? Easy for us to say because many of us own our


own homes. Should we be pushing the idea that as soon as you can afford


to you should own your own home? is everybody's dream but for my


generation it has pretty much become a fantasy. It is extremely


difficult to get onto the housing ladder. Obviously this new


initiative is very good for the building industry. Is it better for


the building industry than it might be for people trying to get on to


the ladder? It might be. Lots of houses are unoccupied and I think


we should encourage people to buy them, do them up, move into areas


with empty houses and to do that before building new ones.


Particularly when the situation in the country is that there are huge


parts of the country that could do with an influx of people coming in


to do a property. What about the issue of the taxpayer subsidising


these mortgages, even if it is in a remote weight than one might


Essien? -- in a more remote way than one might assume? It is one


thing if we flat line but what if there is a housing collapse? There


are many lessons that we should have learned about the Government


are not getting involved in this area. Interest rates could be key.


At the moment it is affordable for many people to afford the mortgage


payments if their levels stay so low. But who can afford to pay them


back in the future? People will be trapped. If you have a 95% mortgage


you only have the choice of keeping interest rates at the rate they are


at or seeing massive amount of home repossession which everybody wants


to avoid. Let's move on. With one week to go before George Osborne


delivers his Budget, the arguments over tax are continuing. The


Liberal Democrats spent the weekend squabbling over whether mansion tax


or tycoon tax would be preferable in exchange for the scrapping six


of the 50p rate of tax. The two Eds are speaking in London about their


ideas for fair taxes. Next week's Budget will take place against the


backdrop of the highest unemployment in our country for 17


years, double the number of young people out of work for more than


six months than one year ago, a situation where growth has stalled


and an unprecedented squeeze on living standards. Wages stuck.


Prices rising, including the price of the weekly food stock and the


price of heating your home. In short, we have an economy not


working for the working people of this country. Does it look like


this is a Conservative-led Government that has answers to


those challenges? It certainly does not from what we have seen in


advance of this Budget. They have not been talking or arguing about


jobs and how we create jobs in this economy. They have not been talking


of arguing about how we get growth moving and change, George Osborne's


approach. They seem to have been agonising over whether to cut the


50p tax rate for those earning more than �150,000 a year. That is no


answer to the problems that the vast majority of the people of


Britain are facing. What do we need? We need a Budget for jobs and


living standards that does three things. First of all a Budget that


changes course on the short term, on the way that the Chancellor and


the Prime Minister have got about addressing the talent of growth and


deficit reduction. -- have gone about addressing the challenge of


growth and deficit reduction. We warned that cutting too far and too


fast would not work and we have been proved correct, unfortunately,


about what would happen. If you look at what is happening in the


United States with Barack Obama, growth is stronger and jobs are


being created more quickly in that economy. The result of him taking a


different approach. The first thing George Osborne should do in the


Budget is to change course. That was the Labour leader speaking in


the last few minutes. I have been joined by the shadow chief


secretary to the Treasury, Rachel Reeves. Thank you for coming on the


programme. What are you actually advocating specifically? We know


about the five-point plan. What is new about the economic policy from


Labour to stimulate the economy? have a plan for jobs and growth


which includes stimulus for employers taking on new workers and


cuts to VAT. There are also issues about fairness. We have seen that


with changes to child benefit, which means that a single income


households owning �43,000 stands to lose all of that child benefit from


next year, but a two income family earning �84,000 could keep all of


their child benefit. And with tax credits, from next month, in just a


few weeks' time families that can only work between 16 and 24 hours,


often because of the jobs and 80 hours not being available, they


stand to lose all their tax credits which would mean some families will


not be better off unless they go on to benefits. We want to reverse


that by reining in on the avoidance of stamp duty at the top. On the


issue of tax, the Liberal Democrats have been talking about it, too.


Labour want to keep the 50p top rate of tax. Would the party be


prepared to give it up to support a mansion tax, for example? We will


support the Government on a mansion tax. �2 million properties or lower.


We will support the Government if they go ahead with the mansion tax


and the talk is about properties worth less �2 million -- worth more


than �200,000. We do not want to affect families with the middle


income living standard. But what is the middle income? What is the


upper limit that you are talking about? Families earning �40,000,


�60,000 a year, families that are struggling. The priority should not


be families earning �150,000, you are in the top income bracket. That


money should be used to relieve pressure on ordinary families


facing cuts in tax credits and rising fuel and energy bills.


about the top rate of tax being brought in for families earning


�100,000 instead of �150,000? would keep it at �150,000. We think


that is the right policy right now. We don't think it should be the


mansion tax or the 50p tax rate, we think it should be both. What about


the tycoon tax? We are all about cutting out tax avoidance. Ed Balls


has spoken about cutting down on tax avoidance on stamp duty. Nick


Clegg is desperate to win back the support of his party, who have


abandoned him on changes to the National Health Service, as we saw


at the weekend. He has come up with this idea of a tycoon tax. But he


is in the Government, he is Deputy Prime Minister, and when he talks


about these things is he talking about a Liberal Democrat or is he


talking as the Deputy Prime Minister? We will find out about


that. How will you pay for these commitments? You want to keep the


50p top rate of tax and you want mansion tax. The basically want


more taxes at a higher level. but at the higher level. And child


benefit. And VAT. We would have a mansion tax to support tax cuts for


people on more modest in comes. but you still want to cut VAT and


keep child benefit. How would that be paid for? It is about priorities


and this Government is Pretoria's into tax cuts for the bags. We are


saying reinstate the bankers's taxes. There has been a scheme for


new businesses which has not worked. There is �100,000 left a mark which


we want to use. What about the proposal which has not been fleshed


out of tax relief on pension contributions for higher-rate


taxpayers? Reducing that would bring in an awful lot of money.


Alistair Darling's last Budget, we set out that people earning


�150,000 would get tax relief at the basic rate of 20%. For all


higher rate taxpayers? That is what Alistair Darling said, tax relief


at the basic rate rather than 50%. George Osborne reversed that in his


first Budget. Actually people in the top 1% are getting more tax


relief than they would have under a Labour Government. Is it fair to


hit the pensions of people but a higher rate taxpayers and still


allow them to get child benefit? -- that are higher rate taxpayers.


think that it is right that we have a universal child benefit because


there are costs... Higher rate taxpayers could afford that. There


are administrative costs and people paying into the system and it is


vital that they get something extra, whether it is the basic state


pension or child benefit, to support people when they have extra


It is a difficult process, made worse by the fact it has been


fleshed out in public and everybody is arguing. What is that doing, do


you think, to the process itself? First, toy not think we could refer


to it as a "confused budget." You are speculating. It is not just


we speculating. Government ministers are speculating. It is a


coalition. We don't normally hear people bidding in the same way.


First of all, the Liberal Democrats are doing what the Labour Party is


doing. Labour are the opposition. noticed that. But the fact is that


every party at the moment is trying to make clear water between itself


and other parties. It is difficult for the Liberal Democrats to do.


Nick Clegg is trying to hold a voter base together, so has to do a


dog whistle politics. The Labour Party, to a great extent, are doing


the same. I think, watching that clip of Ed Miliband, it's hard not


to pity him really in a way. He is trying desperately to create a


policy that sticks and means something. Most of this is debating


around the same terrain. They are debating. Row are trying to grab


the same people. You debate who the average household are.


Conservatives want the average household to be on their side.


Everybody does. It is a terrible mistake for Mr Miliband to cite the


situation in America. Yes, there has been a slight upturn in the


number of jobs being created. Look at the debt and the deficit in


America. America is in more debt than it has been any time since


World War II. It won World War II. What has it got this time?


Government are borrowing �158 billion more than they planned


because unemployment is growing. The reality is unless the


Government get a plan for jobs and growths they will not be able to


get the deficit down, reduce debt. That is the predicament that George


Osborne finds himself in and why we need a plan for jobs and growth.


There is a predicament. It is a predicament your party left this


Government. David Cameron says he wants the


Human Rights Act to be replaced by a British Bill of Rights. Last year


the coalition set up a commission to look at the idea, which the


Prime Minister says, would restore the sovereignty of the British


Parliament. Now one of the commission members has resigned,


saying Nick Clegg and the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, have been


working to frustrate plans for reform. Michael Pinto-Duschinsky


set out his frustrations to Andrew Neil on yesterday's Sunday Politics.


It sound like you have lost faith in the commission to deliver any


real change - where does that leave your position? Well, I am afraid it


leaves me with no alternative but to resign because I think the cause


is so important to look in a mature way at human rights and to make it


consistent with parliamentary sovereignty that I do need to


pursue it, but not on the commission. Well, that was Andrew


Neil yesterday, talking to Michael Pinto-Duschinsky. Let's join our


political correspondent, who is outside Westminster. It is an


interesting debate. On one hand you have a gentleman who has resigned,


who many will not have heard of and resign from a commission many


people will not have heard of. Underneath that is an issue that


very much gets people going. Who ultimately is responsible for


deciding whether prisoners get the vote for instance? Or whether the


radical Muslim preacher should get deported? That is where you get a


tussle about whether it is a decision made by Parliament, behind


us, or by judges in Strasbourg. A sense from speaking to people


around the commission in the last 24 hours that yes they might have


found Dr Michael hard to work with, but others say some of what he was


saying resonates. It matters. It's effectively a reflection of


difficulties around that commission. A sense that you have people there


reflecting the commission of a liberal bench -- bent. It cannot


conclude anything when it reports at Christmas. One person suggested


to me that those of a right-leaning persuasion might publish a minority


report when this commission reports at the end of the year. We have two


guests here. Douglas, I was looking at the terms of reference of this


commission this morning. It will investigate the creation of a UK


Bill of Rights, that it incorporates and builds on our


obligations on the European Court of Human Rights. It sound like a


fudge. From the beginning when I saw the terms of reference I was


suspicious. I thought it was perhaps designed to kick this into


the long grass. It turns out the grass was not all that long, after


all. It is unfortunate Michael Pinto-Duschinsky has stood down. He


was an independent voice on a commission, otherwise dominated by


retired judges, human rights establishment figures. He has gone.


This shows this commission is not up to the job to review our


position. He's not up to the job? This was always an interesting


beast. Let's not forget going into the last general election, the


Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives had opposing views on


the Human Rights Act. On the issue of his resignation - of course we


don't know the particular dynamics behind the scenes and conservices.


From his public statement -- conversations. From his public


statement, it seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding on his


part about the role of this commission.


I think ultimately you cannot reconcile the idea of judicial


supremacy with democracy. The human rights establishment, those who see


themselves as modernising want us to go back to a pre-modern idea,


where ideas are made on an elite rather than what the people want


democratically. The architects of human right rules, we cannot


reconcile what they want with democracy. Is this a problem of


personnel in the Government? One of the suggestions was that Ken Clarke


was leaning on this position. That is denied by others. Is Ken Clarke


the right person for the job? Prime Minister in Number Ten finds


themselves with a reform. You have to decide do you remove the road


block or have the reform. David Cameron needs a clear choice. He


either takes on the establishment and gets serious or go into the


next election and explain why. Where will we be in 12 months' time


when we have the results of this commission? What do you think will


happen? Who knows? It is a serious commission. There are eight members


of it now that Michael Pinto- Duschinsky has been replaced.


Anyone who believes in human rights in this country should take the


threat to our current human rights arrangements seriously. I believe


passionately in human rights. The way to secure it is through


democracy and real liberalism, not giving power to a technocrat elite.


-- Thank you for your time here on College Green. A new commissioner


has been appointed to replace Dr Michael. Another lawyer. So all the


commissioners will now be lawyers. As I say, their report, whether a


majority or minority report will be published at the end of the year.


Thank you very much. Let's pick up, Douglas. The other Douglas said Ken


Clarke should go, we need a new Justice Secretary. Do you agree?


is strong from a Conservative backbencher. I am not sure whether


Ken Clarke himself is the problem. There is a problem in the


Government about how it is approaching this. The nature, the


parties had different views about this. There are terrible problems


with the convention and the court though, which I think should not be


avoided. There are very few options open at the moment. There is the


option I raised the other week of ignoring the court when it comes up


with crazy decisions such as Qatarda. In the long-term you is to


negotiate in some way or get out. There was a report by another


commissioner saying that there could be a protocol added to the


convention and that could be a way around it. Realistically, as you


said yourself, we're in a coalition. There will not be the progress that


you and some in the Government would like to see. As was said the


grass is not as long as when they kicked it in. You cannot say strong


enough the convention of the European Court because it is more


about laws. It is about sovereignty. It is about whether Parliament in


this country can be dictated to or whether it decides for the people.


That isn't a small question. It's not. As you say may not be one that


is answered in the near future. Now Kosovo, Sierra Leone and of course


Iraq and Afghanistan - just some of the places where British troops


have been involved in active combat in recent years. The policy is


called interventionalism. The idea it can be used if it is to bring


peace to the civilian population. Does that doctrine hold true? If it


does high not apply it to Iran and Syria?


David Thompson reports. Britain's conflict s are seen at


the national army museum in London. Many of the conflicts remembered


here were fought by Britain under the banner of using forbs to bring


about a greater good. Liberal interventionalism. These days the


possibility is on the possibility of military action in Syria or Iran.


Could we and should we? Syria and Iran are both very oppressive


regimes. Syria far more so. Iran is also a danger to its neighbours and


particularly to Israel. To take force, the use of military force


from outside out of the evasion I think would be irresponsible and


dangerous. The doctrine of liberal intervenalism is one that is still


value yoobl. We should inter-- valuable. We should intervene if we


think we can make the world a safer plails. What about now -- place.


What about now? Although the loss of life in Syria currently is a


moral outrage, I still think the circumstances make intervention


extremely difficult. The difficulties of a military attack


on Iran is to know precisely what needs to be attacked to reduce or


remove or render incapable their developing nuclear weapon


capability. If not Syria, where the regime is killing its own people,


or Iran, which is widely suspected of developing a nuclear weapon,


where? The one thing mader than using military force would be


allowed for Tehran to acquire new nuclear weapons. That would be


dangerous for Israel and the world. I think you have to retain the


option of military force. Maybe there is something for that - a


failed military attack on Iran. Which is why some experts think it


may be better to think the unthinkable. If we have tried to


bomb Iran, not to have a bomb, we will wind up with a bombed Iran,


with a bomb. A country that's angry, that has been set very much against


the West. That could be the worst of all options. Maybe the least


worse option is to accept that we cannot stop them having a weapon,


even though we have tried diplomatically, economically,


perhaps ruled out military means and therefore live to -- learn to


live with Iran with a bomb. War, whatever the pretext is not about


theory, it is about people. Be they Iranian, Syrian or British,


ultimately they pay the price. Douglas Murray is still with me. We


have been joined by Mehdi Hassan from the New Statesman. Let's start


with you on the humanitarian situation. It is dreadful,


whichever way you look at it and the scenes are distressing,


particularly in Homs. If you look at the justification for the


intervention in Libya. Gaddafi could not slaughter civilians


looking for democracy. Have we got to that stage now however


complicated the situation in Syria, an argument for intervention to


help civilians? In terms of killing civilians. Ast ast is giving


Gaddafi a run for his -- Assad is giving Gaddafi a run for his money.


true, Syria is not Libya. You cannot, even if you want to do what


you did there the options are not there. Why? You would take on


Syrian anti-aircraft batteries. Syria has an army of 300,000-


400,000 men. Assad is a stronger leader than Gaddafi was. It's not


just people like me who criticise a lot of foreign interventions.


William Hague is saying, we wish we could do something in Syria, but


the military options are not there. A lot are saying we cannot do it in


Syria. Who are these opposition groups? Who would the West, if you


like, or the Arab League, who would they do it with against Syria? How


would you bring down, which is whait would be the Assad regime?


suggest a no-fly zone is intervention of a kind. A no-fly


zone means at some point you will shoot down a helicopter gunship.


There is retally yea Tory fire. Before you know it you have an air-


scale intervention. I don't think anyone is talking about a ground


force intervention. There is talk in Washington and elsewhere of


potentially arming rebel groups. Of course then you have to be specific


We are talking about the religious country full of complexities. Who


would we be arming? The army is split. Their opposition groups that


do not want Western intervention, rightly or wrongly. They think it


will make sectarianism worse. Leading members of the opposition


on the ground do not want intervention. Then there is the


Free Syrian Army. They have a loose conglomeration of armed groups and


they do want arms. Some say that Saudi Arabia is already arming them.


Do we want to arm them? Go and ask Human Rights Watch what is going on


in Libya now, with torture and alarming murders and raping. We


cannot just arm violent groups without knowing who they are.


should not harm anybody if we do not know who they are. We do know


some more about people in the Free Syrian Army and they would be more


desirable than the President Assad regime. Whenever human rights


abuses go on around the world people always say that something


must be done and I tend to be one of the people saying that, when


massive amounts of civilians are being massacred I think something


should be done. But we have to be clear what something means and what


the being done means. To my mind, it would be desirable to get rid of


the President Assad regime and to get rid of their supporters in


Tehran as well. Because it would hit Iran? That is not liberal


intervention. Lots of people are saying it is not about


humanitarianism and liberal intervention falls apart. Western


governments use it for their strategic interests. Why intervene


in Syria but not Bahrain? They are our ally and that is why. I am very


critical of the non-intervention in Bahrain. I put it this way. There


are two key reasons to intervene anywhere. Firstly, humanitarian


concerns and secondly strategic concerns. Sometimes one of those is


not enough. You cannot intervene everywhere that you want to for


strategic reasons or for human rights issues. But sometimes the


two things come together and it could be desirable. And you think


that is the case in Syria. If humanitarian aid get through and


the President of that regime falls, then we are looking straight down


the barrel at Iran. You say it would be desirable to hit Iran in


that way. Would it be desirable or would we be escalating the violence


and conflict? I just think that the regime in Iran should be encouraged


to fall. They have been an enemy of hours for 30 years. They have


wrecked the country. We are talking about a regional conflict that


would spread. It is not a regional conflict. I am not suggesting that


we intervene in Iran. That is a slightly potted history. Both sides


have demonised the other. We overthrew the Government in 1993


and we backed Saddam Hussein when he was gassing Iranians. Let's


understand why the other side might hate us a little bit. The logical


end step of Douglas's rhetoric is intervention. That is what has been


going on, ratcheting up the temperature. Either you


deliberately go to war or you end up with a conflict accidentally and


that would be a disaster and it would make Iraq look like a walk in


the park. That is not necessarily the end point. If the sanctions


continue to bite, then the opposition that most of us would


dream of, that the Iranian people get their country back from the


tyranny, that would be a real possibility. Then at the Green


movement could finally come to power. That movement also backs


nuclear power and in Richmond. Do you back that? If they wanted to an


irate member states, then I would back that. -- to annihilate member


states. Thank you. Let's look at the week ahead. David Cameron is


jetting off to the United States to meet Barack Obama and discuss Iran


and Syria among other pressing international matters. It is not


all work because the President is whisking him on Air Force One to


Ohio, a key swing state in the presidential election to watch a


basketball game. After the commissioner from the British Bill


of Rights resigned on our programme on Sunday, the issue of human


rights comes under scrutiny this week. The Joint Committee on Human


Rights takes evidence from Sir Nicholas Bratza, President of the


European Court of Human Rights. It is an early start on Tuesday, 11


o'clock, to discuss the Health and Social Care Bill. Will the


turbulence at the Lib Dem conference shake peers into


ditching the controversial bill? With the Prime Minister across the


pond, both parties have their deputies stepping up to the


dispatch box. Watch out for William Hague versus Harriet Harman on


Wednesday at midday. Pippa Creagh from the Evening Standard and Paul


Waugh from PoliticsHome joined us now. And I just have to thank my


guest for coming onto the programme. Now, this trip on Air Force One,


glamorous meetings with Barack Obama, does that mean the special


relationship is live and kicking? It is certainly useful for the


President and hopefully for the Prime Minister. He will get a lot


more out of this trip than was previously imagined. It seems that


the USA finally appreciate that Britain's role in the world,


particularly given a Iran and Syria in the Middle East, is crucial.


There was a tilt towards the Pacific but now the US they seem to


have -- the USA seems to have realised how important we are.


will not be meeting up with politicians at the Republican Party.


Is that a surprise? It is not a surprise. I expect the Liam Fox


would like him to be meeting the Republican front-runners. It is not


all fun and games were the Prime Minister. He will be having serious


discussions about defence strategy. And also about what is happening in


Afghanistan. In recent days we have seen the terrible events going on


there, particularly with the murder of civilians and children. That is


bound to be the top of both of the leaders' agendas. And we will be


talking about that in a few moments, too. Can we look back at the


Liberal Democrats' spring conference? All right, Nick Clegg


lost the vote, it will not change Government policy, but what does it


saved about the relationship between him and his party? -- what


does it say? It is embarrassing for Nick Clegg. What it will not do is


stop Lib Dem peers from supporting the bill in the Lords. It will give


Labour the opportunity, of course, do so that it is not fully behind


the bill. -- to say that it is not fully behind the bill. Health has


been a hugely controversial issue for the Liberal Democrats. Now we


have an interesting line on tax. This idea of the tycoon tax. Lots


of senior Lib Dems did not seem to know about it. Do you think it has


been roundly rejected? This afternoon, the famous Quatt, the


Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, George Osborne and Danny


Alexander, they will all be meeting in the Cabinet room for what I am


told will be a very long meeting, the final meeting ahead of the


Budget when they will hammer down the issues on tax for the higher


and lower paid. The question is whether the tycoon tax will survive


beyond this weekend. It will not be in his Budget and it has been


quietly doused down by the Treasury overnight. Even within the Lib Dems,


there is obviously division, with the Deputy Prime Minister deriding


Lord Oakeshott for being one of the tycoon's within the party that does


not like the tycoon tax. Right! And finally, William Hague versus


Harriet Harman? Looking forward to it? I am. William Hague has


reputation for being a great showman but Harriet Harman has


always held her own. She has lost her chief stand-up jokes from her


team, but we will see how she gets on without that. The vast majority


of people's eyes will be on what is happening over the pond rather than


in the House of Commons. You could be right! Thank you.


I have been joined by a Rehman Chishti, Owen Smith and Eilidh


Whiteford for the rest of the programme. Can I start with


Afghanistan, because that will no doubt be discussed with Barack


Obama? Do you feel we are safer with the mission in Afghanistan?


think we have no choice but to go into the mission in Afghanistan. We


went into the country for our national security. So you think it


has worked? David Cameron says we are safe on the streets because of


our boys up there? I did eight years of foreign policy with


Benazir Bhutto before I came into policy in this country. The attacks


in 2005 were linked to that region. The money we have spent on


education, changing attitudes from radicalisation to education, to fit


in with the broad approach, that is absolutely right. But links in with


military action but we do need the political settlement as well.


is the point people are making. If we are keeping our streets safer,


that is one thing, but if we wanted to create democracy in Afghanistan,


that was not the point and we have strayed. Absolutely. In 1989, the


international community left Afghanistan in a vacuum and the


Taliban came in. We have to make this sustainable and linked to our


community over here. Do you back that? The idea that troops are not


just fighting the Taliban but also Al-Qaeda. Is it an imaginary enemy


in that sense? I think that Rehman Chishti is right. We are safer as a


result of what we have done in Afghanistan. There is no doubt


about that. The plan was obviously that Afghanistan had become an area


of the world where Al-Qaeda was harboured and now it is harder for


them in Afghanistan. Therefore we are safe in the West. We also


always said that installing democracy, and seeing a safer and


more Deborah -- democratic country it would always be in our interests


and it is about that. And it is about supporting our troops in


difficult circumstances. But following the death of the 16


civilians and the six servicemen, will the public be questioning when


the troops come home? Yes. We must always ask that question and as


politicians we must always ask that question on behalf of the public.


Do you want it to be sooner? We all want them to come back as soon as


possible and we all aspire to that. We need to make sure that they


finish the job. If you talk to people, and I do regularly, that


are fighting in Afghanistan, then they want to feel like they have


finished the job. They do not want to leave prematurely. Because the


risk is that if they leave to sin than the Taliban will move in and


their work will be damaged? -- leave too soon. I think that is


right. We have to come back to the reasons why we were in Afghanistan


in the first place and why many years on whether those objectives


are still being met and if they are still being met through the


military response. Do you think they are being that? I have real


questions over it, I must confess. Clearly there were national


security reasons for going in there, but I do question what our troops


are doing now and if that is really going to strengthen civil society


effectively in Afghanistan? We are not releasing the evidence of that,


I don't think. How -- we are not really seeing the evidence. I think


all the families want to see our people brought home. I think they


want to see that conflict brought to some sort of sustainable


resolution for the people of Afghanistan, too. We have debated


this in Parliament. When the Prime Minister comes back, a statement


will be made on that. Looking at the situation in Afghanistan,


180,000 members in the Afghan army and members of the police force as


well, linked to education and infrastructure. We are giving


Afghanistan an opportunity to master their own destiny. There


needs to be more political work as well as military work to make sure


Afghanistan can play a key role in the international community. Thank


you. If you caught the train from


Gateshead this weekend you may have seen some sullen Liberal Democrat


faces on the way back from the spring conference. But one member


was more silent than the others. Nick Clegg suffered a series of


blows, after 10 party activists to rip off the rear view mirror on the


health you. -- telling party activists. They still rejected the


bill in a non-binding vote. Nick Clegg's attempts to steer


conversation away towards tycoon taxes did not go very well because


he had not of the Business Secretary about the plans. Vince


Cable commented that he had not seen the details of the proposals


and could not give a very informed. Very honest of him. He said the


idea is interesting for and taxing the wealthy has been a popular


discussion point among Liberal Democrat but the mansion tax has


long been seen as the favoured plan and the tycoon tax seemed to take


people by surprise. With the Budget a week away and negotiations in the


final stages, the big question is what Nick Clegg will be able to


We'll have to wait for the Budget for the Chancellor to lay that out.


I am now joined by Andrew George. It was a surprise to you the tycoon


tax? We enjoy a good debate. One of the great things about the Liberal


Democrats is we have very open debates. It was hardly a great


weekend for Nick Clegg, was it? spoke extremely well. The fact is


the values of the party were presented very well. And the fact


is that we have debates which other parties would rather we kept behind


closed doors. You are having open debates. You are not supporting a


basic thread of Government policy. People need to grow up. After the


2010 general election election and reg naiz debates is about in public,


enjoying the wider community. Not having the Blair type control


Government we had in the past. We have a very open and democratic


system. You would like Nick Clegg to start again with the health


bill? I think Nick has done an excellent job in securing some


important amendments to the Health Bill. Not enough? Not good enough.


I am clear on my view on it. I am pleased the party supports my view.


We're having an open debate about this. We have a healthy party. We


welcome healthy debate. In terms of the Bill itself, you want it ripped


up, you want it scrapped, you want it withdrawn? You can use whatever


terms you wish. But the fact is, yes, it should be withdrawn, in my


view. If we are to take the health's profession with us and the


Patients Association and other groups then it is clear the Health


Bill, what we ought to do is go back to the coalition agreement. I


signed up to a coalition agreement. It will not happen this idea of it


being withdrawn, just from a political point of view.


Westminster politics at the moment is dominated by this contest in the


environment. Partly fuelled by the media itself. Actually it's not


possible for Cameron or anyone else to actually withdraw the Bill at


this stage without media headlines saying humiliating climbdown. We


have to find a mechanism by which we can achieve a dignified exit.


this appropriate at this time, on a bill like the Health Bill? I don't


think we can say to the Lib Dems how they should have their


conferences. They have their conference, they have their debate.


Do I think the coalition is working well? I think it is working well. I


think the Health Bill is the right bill. We are in a position where


the party activists don't support it and peers could cause trouble.


At the end of the day, the Lib Dems having a debate, it is right and


proper for democracy. But should be ignored? Not at all. Let them have


their debate. We've had a debate in Parliament. It is the right Bill.


You are pleased - will you join one the Lib Dem peers in trying to get


this withdrawn and rewritten? hope so. I think Andrew George has


fought a one or two man liberal rather-guard action against the


Bill. I share many of his views. It is an unmitigated disaster. The


Government ought to withdraw it. I hope in tomorrow's debate we will


see further changes. Do you welcome the support for your campaign?


fact is that the legacy which the Government inherited is one which


did mean there were further reforms required to the NHS. That was in


the coalition agreement. Going as faur as the Government proposed is


a major disruption to the NHS and quite disastrous as far as taking


it forward. This debate is about the NHS in England and does not


affect you in that way. What is your view from the outside of what


Cameron and Lansley are doing? may not affect us directly. The vau


in Scotland is we're very relieved we are not having to have this Bill


on us. You don't think that there should be any reform? There are


other ways to do costs N Scotland we have seen investment in


preventative services. Our conference was around erltly


detection in cancer, for example. The -- early detection in cancer,


for example. What has worried us is it could see cuts in the overall


budget of the health service. That could have a knock-on effect in


terms of the overall grant to the NHS. That is the big concern. In


terms of the policy direction, what has struck me has been the


opposition from health care professionals in England and their


deep concerns about the direction of travel this Bill has taken.


Where did the idea of tycoon tax come from? As far as this issue is


concerned and I think that the -- I think that Vince Cable has been


clear and he has persistently floated the idea of a mansion tax.


The tycoon tax has been debated within the party on a number of


occasions. Were you surprised it was brought up before the Budget.


We're having a Spring Conference. It is reasonable for Nick Clegg to


flot it in the way he did. -- float it in the way he did. Of course


with a more open style... Row are doing very well here on the open


style. Do you not think it is a trade-off? He's not going to get


the mansion tax is he? We are actually... It is not fully-formed.


I did not say that. I was talking theatrically that if we are move


from a situation of actually very controlled and restrained policy


debates, which people cannot take part in. Is it a good idea? I think


what we have to do, we have to have, we have to be pragmatic about it -


is it deliverable. The principal is fieb. It is one thing, but I --


fine. It is one thing, but I suggest the details have not been


worked out. Would Labour support it? I think if Andrew or Nick Clegg


could explain what they mean by it and make us and everybody else


understand what it would mean and how it would work then we would


back it. It is the rate at which it would be set F you were going to


set a tycoon tax, where would you set it? When Nick Clegg saw the


debate in the US about what the effective rate of tax was, and


decided he would transpose that to the UK, without any real thought


and it was clearly on the back of a fag packet. You said the principle


of ensuring that millionaires have a sort of minimum floor, they


cannot fall below in terms of tax, to take that analogy from America,


what rate would you set it at? think we need broadly what we have


got, which is a prg sieve taxation system. -- progressive taxation


system. Clearly, the problem is you have a Deputy Prime Minister who is


floating this out of the wide blue sky, who is supporting a Government


to cut the rate for those earning over �150,000. Just very briefly,


tycoon tax will not make it, do you think mansion tax will make it?


are seeing it is different being in opposition than being in Government.


The Liberal Democrats are in Government. My colleagues, the Lib


Dems, they come out with ideas. There is a difference between being


in opposition than in Government. We will have to wait. We will. Now,


and Andrew George thank you very much for coming in. That is right.


In Quentin Letts's guide to the workings of Westminster here's our


parliamentary insider with the low- down on committees.


C is for committees. Carer said it was a committee with four back legs.


Well, they know about animals here. It is the natural history museum.


Lots of dinosaurs in there, just like the Palace of Westminster.


Committees ideally are held in sterile, almost scientific


environments. They allow a Government and a Parliament to


assemble information without the who what of politics. Parliamentary


-- the ho-ha-politics. There are those which the MPs and the


parliamentarians draft the lays line by line and those which


scrutinise and interrogate public servants and ask them for their


opinions about proposed thoughts. These magnificent presses are used


to flatten biological specimens. Select committees do the same job.


There are 90 committees in all in the Houses of Parliament. They are


aseemabled according to the general election result. In the old days


the pwhips used to decide which MPs would sit on which committees. Now


they are voted for by the House. This has given MPs more kf about


the way they go about their -- confidence about the way they go


about their committee work. They are more beastly to people.


have destroyed a great British bank, cost the taxpayer �20 billion. How


would you summarise that deal? deal was a bad mistake. They are


rather dull N all the time I have reported Parliament, about 20 years,


I must have covered at least four of them. Bill committees are where


legislation is drafted line by line. It can allow MPs to show they have


a head for detail. On the whole, they are avoided. It


is select committees which are show time. This is when public figures


in British life are brought before Parliament to account for their


actions and to give their opinions. I would like to say one sentence,


this is the most humble day of my life. British public life is a bit


of a murky undergrowth. It is a jungle out there. Sometimes what


Well, from the gore of parliamentary committees, that was


Quentin Letts, with his lowdown on committees of Parliament. Let's


come to you guys. What is your favourite committee? I sit on the


Joint Committee on Human Rights. We have the President, Sir Nicolas


Bratza, giving evidence tomorrow. It will be great. It was billed


that they would make Parliament more powerful, more accountable.


Are these powerful, these select committees of MPs? They have taken


it on because of the election and the strangeness of our politics,


given the coalition. Maybe it has been the issues and the fact you


have had Murdoch and others appearing in front of them. That


attracted a lot of attention. Do you think the questioning is


improving? They have always been forensic. My favourite committee is


the Welsh grand committee. It is unique, it is neither grand Orwell


sh, given that Cheryl Gillard is in control. What is interesting for


the House of Commons committees have evolved. When the Scottish


Parliament was set up they were given a central role. Do you sit in


these committee? No I am in the Westminster Parliament. They work


in a different way. Because they can change legislation, it becomes


a very powerful means and actually a very effective means of


governance. Perhaps if more of evolution to happen here in terms


of how committees efleckively influence the process. Which


committee would you like to be on? Foreign affairs. They get all the


nice trips. It will be Nick Clegg verses Harriet Harman because


William Hague will be away on that trip. This researcher will be shot


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