19/03/2012 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon and welcome to the Daily Politics. Private companies


running the roads, regional pay bargaining and a cut in the 50p


rate of tax. Could this week's Budget be the most radical and


controversial for a generation? But two days to go, how big is the


Chancellor's challenge? New research maps were business is


growing and where it is not in the What is so special about special


advisers? Do politicians need an army of political assistants to do


the job? I have not got quite... And how can politicians avoid


interviews turning into disasters? We will unveil the golden rules of


avoiding political interview help. With me on the programme, Peter


Hennessy. Welcome to the programme. You might think it is all over but


it is not. Not yet anyway. Today the Health and Social Care Bill


returns to the House of Lords. The Government hope it will then return


to the Commons and pass, badly mangled but still alive. Today


David Evan will try to force the Government to publish the Risk


Register, the document drawn up by civil servants to examine the the


civil -- the impact of the bill. Do you agree? I am very cautious about


risk registers. I have read a lot about them on the domestic front


and the military. We have a career civil service and not a politicised


one because they have to speak truth under power. They have to


spare ministers nothing and tell them what they need to know and not


what they want to hear. In a Risk Register, you have to have absolute


candour. I am reluctant for President to be set under freedom


of information. Normally I am all for Freedom of Information. But I


am not for this one. In that sense there has been a lot of opposition


from a lot of quarters. Would it help the Government to be more


candid by publishing this? Would this not be a special case? I can


see the argument for that. The whole bill is a special case and it


goes to the heart of so many things. It is not ordinary activity, the


NHS. It is the nearest we have ever come to institutionalise think


altruism and it touches all of us in a special way. But Mike Crawshaw


remains intact and I am not with David. You do -- my caution remains


intact. I don't think he will get the majority. He did not support


the bill initially. I wanted lots of changes. A have the changes


convinced you? Are you doing it with a heavy heart? This bill does


not warm my entrails, to put it mildly. The changes that were


forthcoming after the Lords efforts, making it unambiguous, and I wanted


the NHS constitution, the spirit of 1948, which is deep in my


generation, I wanted that in the bill and the amendment was agreed.


The Secretary of State will have regard to the NHS constitution now,


so there were changes. I think that Freddie how it should be peer of


the year. That has been a gold standard performance. Without him,


the bill would have been even more in the manure in the Lords than it


has been. Talking about it being in the manure, it has been a


disruptive bill, however you look at it. Looking at it historically,


how does it compare to bills that have caused trouble for the


Government? The problem with this bill is that it tries to blend and


makes and reconcile the two great systems of post-war politics, or


one is the free up the point of delivery announced by Clement


Attlee. The other great weather make-up was Margaret Thatcher,


individual market impulses. And in every great Bill, those two weather


systems collide and that makes things very volatile. I think


people will grab on to that. It is the clashing of two great weather


systems. We will sue. There will be lots of bumping and grinding!


will see. George Osborne has been meeting the


other members of the quad for talks this morning. There has been plenty


of speculation about what will be in the Budget box, as well as hints


from George Osborne himself. He is expected to cut the top rate of tax


from 50p to 45p. It is believed to form part of a deal with the Lib


Dems so that the Budget will accelerate movement towards a


minimum income tax threshold of �10,000. The Chancellor said


yesterday that there would be measures to aggressively deal with


tax avoidance. George Osborne also said that the Government wants to


suspend Sunday trading laws during the Olympics. Plans to scrap public


sector pay rates are also possible. Road expansion could also be funded


with private money. On the 50p tax rate, there has been so much mood


music and speculation that one presumes there will be some kind of


movement. How pleased we have is does be if it is gone? The CBI said


it was not a priority. The key thing is the type of business you


are talking to. John Cridland represents major businesses,


members of the FTSE 100 Group of leading companies, and their


priority is on big growth initiatives. Smaller businesses,


including people that go just into the threshold of the 50p tax,


owning more than �150,000 a year, they have felt very strongly about


it. There have been lots of small business groups saying that it


deters entrepreneurs and put some of investing because they have to


pay more tax. The critics are equally saying that if they find


ways around paying it, which seems to be the case, then what is the


problem? The vast majority of small businesses would praise any


initiative like that. It is politically charged if the


Chancellor does go down that route. Is the evidence anecdotal on this


idea that it actually affects entrepreneurial activity? Are there


figures to suggest that people actually take on fewer employees


and so on? We only have one set of figures to go on, the January tax


return data, which came in and was published in February. It showed


that self-assessed income tax brought in a bit less than the


previous year, even with the 50p top rate of tax, after the first


year of operation. Clearly some people would have paid late in


February. People probably thought that was not complete. With the


Budget we will get HMRC and the tax authority's assessment of what it


will raise. The Chancellor will announce what HMRC says and it is


widely expected that they will think it only raises a few extra


hundred million pounds, which sounds like a lot but is not. That


will probably give him the cover if he goes ahead with a cut to say


that he will not be losing very much if he cuts the top rate.


growth, we have had this report looking at business growth over the


last two years. What does it tell us? It shows a wide variation in


experience of business creation. It looks at all types of businesses,


salt traders and so on, that stop operating, and taking out of the


equation anybody that goes bust. -- of sole traders and so on, that


start operating. There has been growth in Scotland, but Northern


Ireland. The report picks up winners and losers. Harlow in Essex


had the strongest growth. Merseyside had the biggest fall.


The growth picture is very varied around the UK. There is a lot of


Mike Crone information, if you like, about what is going on about their


in terms of the creation of wealth. -- minute information. Thank you.


Earlier I spoke to Mark Prisk, and suggested that the research shows


that growth has been patchy. would put it more positively. I


would say it is a huge variety. The idea that there is a neat divide


between North and South is out of date. What evidence have you got?


In Merseyside, they performed the worse. It was minus 21.4%, which is


pretty dreadful. But you show that Halton is better than the St Albans.


Instead of having big regional quangos, we are having local


enterprise partnerships, that deal with the local variations that you


get within each region and that is an important shift. What did that


mean? Looking at the figures across the board, it does indicate that


there is a North-South divide. There may be examples that buck the


trend, but in Belfast there is a decline of minus 1.9%, businesses


are struggling in lots of areas across the North and in Northern


Ireland. It means focusing policies on local priorities. Rather than


having one policy in Whitehall that we think fits the whole of the


North West, it means working with those partnerships. We have started


them and they are up and running. In Merseyside we are setting what


the priorities are. Whether they want to put export, training,


skills at the front of their agenda, then we provide them with the tools,


enterprise zones and so on. The difference between enterprise zones


now and in the past, we let local areas choose where they should be


in their locality. Are you expecting a big jump in growth in


the next two years in Merseyside and Belfast? I am very excited by


the small businesses and they have a great opportunity. I am going to


help them with a coaching growth package. So the figures will grow


up? We are looking forward for growth in many of those Areas.


Absolutely. But in positive figures? Well, it will still be


varied. Where are things growing? The last 10 or 15 years has not


been happy in manufacturing but significant investments stories are


coming through. That is affected by sector and by geography. Most of


the growth is expected in London and the South East in areas like


Financial, insurance and business sector areas. The enterprise zones


are not in the South East. They are in the North West? Yes, Halton.


That is just one example. Well, in the Tees Valley people think they


are struggling but it is actually very positive there. What will the


impact be on business of higher public sector pay, according to the


Government? I come from Cornwall are rigidly. I have found that if


one major employer can pay significantly more than the local


average, it crowds out smaller businesses from recruiting the best.


So it is battered to depress the wages in the whole area? -- it is


better? No. You have to make sure there is not any imbalance. There


are you saying that the brightest and the best are going to the


public sector in Cornwall? There is a real danger of that. You have to


make sure that the pay different is not as wide as in the past. You are


saying that the bright and the best go to the public sector. There is


no evidence that has happened so far. Come with me to the Welsh


valleys and the North East. They will tell you that in our area


people are making that rational decision that if they can get a


steady salary and a better pension with a public agency, why work for


a small business? We have to rebalance that. You are advocating


less wages? That is less money to spend in the community and less


growth. I will not prevent what the Chancellor says in the Budget. --


pre- empt. We want to make sure that start-up businesses have a


chance of competing, which will mean looking at wages so they get


the brightest and best, payroll. there would be less money to spend


in those areas? Not necessarily. Housing costs is the critical issue.


If you are paid a salary in London, you housing costs are radically


different to in the North East or whatever. We are looking at


disposable income, that is key. Looking at Sunday trading, is it


the intention to suspend Sunday trading after the Olympics if it


goes well? I cannot get ahead of what George Osborne will say. We


are looking at the Olympics because that is a one-off period and we


want to make the most of it. Retail in particular has been under great


pressure. It looks like that is what the Government will do. If it


goes well, they will expand it. have to look at the evidence. We


have been very clear on that. We have to make sure there is good


evidence. This is a good chance, the Olympics. Why is it being


brought in parts of Wales and England where there is not even a


sniff of the Olympics? It is a good, practical idea. That is not a real


reason for boosting retail as a result of the Olympics. There are


only a few areas where events are going on. It is not a good enough


justification for doing it across the whole country. The Olympics


will be in London but it is a national event that everybody wants


to be part of. Nobody is going to travel up North during the Olympics.


I don't know the exact locations of every overseas Olympic team, but


many of them are dotted around the country. They are going to be in


the UK and it is important to have a national perspective. What about


the shopkeepers that want to watch the events? They will be restricted


now. The big question is whether they will be working for six hours


or that could be expanded. Some retail outlet will not changed at


all and they will remain closed. We are not for think anybody. It just


freeze it up over that period so that people can see the events and


We know that the idea Rob road- pricing is extremely unpopular.


What is clear is that we believe that in terms of new build, there


is an opportunity for looking at the private contractor or engaging


in this market. And you can assure motorists that it would just be


new-builds? That is what we plan. What about a new road being built


often existing road? The details will be set up by the Prime


Minister. And the full details will be set out to Parliament. Tempting


as it is to give my view as a sneak preview, the Speaker would rightly


say I should not do that. Tolls or no tolls? Quit and see.


So, not clear whether motorists will face new charges or not if the


government's plans on a road so off go ahead. A few minutes ago, this


is what the Prime Minister said. need to look at innovative


approaches to funding our national roads, to increase investment and


reduce congestion. Road tolls are one option, but we are only


considering this for new, not existing capacity. For example, we


are looking at how improvements to the A14 could be part funded


through tolling. But we need to be more ambitious. We should ask, why


is it that other infrastructure, for example water, is funded by


private sector capital through privately owned, independently


regulated utilities, but roads in Britain still call on public


finances? We need to look at the options for getting large-scale


private investment into the national roads network, from a


sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and other investors. That is


why I have asked the Department of Transport and the Treasury to carry


out a feasibility study of new ownership models for the national


road system and to report progress to me in the autumn. This is not


about mass tolling. We are not tolling existing roads. It is about


getting more out of the money that motorists already pay. We are


joined now by the Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle and Philip


Gomm from the RAC. Philip, will members be happy? We are part of


the RAC Foundation, an independent research charity. People will be


happy that the Prime Minister has at last grasped the scale of the


problem and is thinking about a solution. There has been a lack of


political will to grasp the road situation over the last few years.


We have heard about high-speed rail, but most of us use the roads.


Congestion will rise, mostly because of the population increase.


So it is welcome that he is at least recognising the problem.


Maria Eagle, he is welcoming this idea because they are finally


looking at the problem that exists on the roads, a lack of investment.


The devil will be in the detail. But you accept the principle?


will have to see what comes out of it. The Prime Minister is engaging


in double speak when he talks about a new road capacity. It has been


made clear that this could cover existing capacity. If you get a new


junction on existing roads, what happens? The other fear is that


this is a slippery slope, the thin end of the wedge to what will


happen down the line, when all motorists might have to pay a per


mile charge for using the roads. But you accept that something needs


to be done? When you look at what Labour tried to do, the Government


outlined plans for pay as you drive, and I remember the e-petition which


meant that plan was dropped. It would have meant charging drivers.


And it was dropped. They did not go ahead with it. There is no problem


with looking at ideas. But it is not usual that the Prime Minister


announces at a press conference that he will look at an idea unless


it is taken that something will go ahead. It is not just our roads


where the For Sale signs are going up. There is a plan to chop up and


sell off our rail. But this is leasing the roads, not


privatisation. I could say you are scaremongering. It remains to be


seen what happens. We will look closely at this. Motorists could


end up being clobbered, and they are already paying the highest


petrol prices they have ever paid. If while you say something needs to


be done in terms of investing in the roads, the figure of �1 billion,


sounds a lot but it might not be that much. But motorists already


pay quite big taxes. People may think, we will end up paying more


and more. We have never advocated any system of tolling on top of


existing taxation. If you are going to have a wholesale change, you


need to do away with things like fuel duty. Motorists pay too much.


But we have a hand to mouth existence for things like the


Highways Agency and the moment. Each year the Budget said,


politicians do not know if they are coming or going. The water industry


has to make plans for 25 years hence. The railway industry has to


plan for five years hence. We have nothing like that for the roads,


yet we are reliant on them. Why do people think there might be a


danger of skipping on maintenance? There would be no guarantee that


the companies involved would spend money on maintaining the roads.


They would take their profits, and that would be that. Fee I am not


here to support the Prime Minister. But my water is supplied by a


private sector company. My trap worked this morning. I read your


researcher this morning. That worked. I came on the railways this


morning. That worked. What is the alternative? What has happened to


the railway industry is that passengers are paying record fairs.


What is the alternative? We need to look at all options. It is not fair


to say there has been no investment in our roads. Fay but the


concentration has been on the big projects like high-speed rail. A


lot of Transport reports over the years have said what is needed is


something unglamorous to deal with the current system of roads. This


is about the future of our economy. Without good transport


infrastructure that is affordable, people can't get to work. It is not


just about a utility. They can't get to work if the road network is


at a standstill. We have to tackle the problem, so we welcome the


statement this morning. Despite what Philip Gomm has said,


traditionally, people do not like the idea of road pricing. Would


there have to be a big change in public attitude to make this


successful? I think so. But I detect two impulses behind this.


Mrs Thatcher's government hoped their financial position through


the big privatisations. There is nothing left except the Post Office.


So this is another way of easing public finances. And there is a


huge under-investment in the roads. But I preferred this route that is


being floated to the private finance initiative, whereby we


shove the debts for our cousins -- consumption today on to our


children and grandchildren. devil is in the detail. If it was


very clear that it will not affect the existing network, would you


support that? Rebuilt the M6 toll on that basis. This is about


charging people for using junctions or existing -- new lanes on


existing roads. It is a slippery slope to fall charging. People say


we have to do something, and using to be frightening the horses before


the details have come out. We have to look carefully at what comes out


of this proposal. There will be certain principles to bear in mind.


Now, in opposition, David Cameron criticised the number of political


appointees known as special advisers recruited by Gordon Brown


and his ministers, and promised to scare them back. In fact, the


number employed by government has gone up under the coalition. But


what of those who become spin- doctors, those who monitor the


media message? Are they good or a bad thing for British politics?


Today's specialist media advisers for ministers and shadow ministers,


what we somewhat lazy describe as spin-doctors, do do an important


job. They make sure their bosses are heard. They make sure that what


is written is written fairly, and when they are not, that they are


rebutted quickly. They are there to make sure that interviews go


properly, that the message is boarder cross, that kids are not


taken out of context, and that questions are fair, and that the


journalists and their boss have some background before they start.


The Prime Minister's personal press secretary has been working with him


since the days he was Shadow Education Secretary. Once selected


by GQ magazine as one of 100 things you can't live without, she proved


her worth and loyalty to David Cameron, and commands the respect


of many journalists. She worked closely with Andy Coulson and now


Craig Oliver as director of communications of damage it. Ed


Miliband looked to Bob Roberts, on the right, and Tom Baldwin on the


left to address the press. People say they are tabloid and broadsheet,


Roberts the shop message maker who tells it like it is, Baldwin the


more considered strategic thinker. Internally, Baldwin's dog has


changed to head of strategy, although some say that is being


sidelined. But Roberts is still part of the day-to-day operation.


Nick Clegg has traditionally relied on to a party press officer before


he became leader. She became visible as the media adviser to the


Deputy PM, but his count John maternity leave and has been


replaced by Olly Grender, no stranger to TV cameras, as she


swapped being an informed pundit to informing pundits with ease. Nick


Clegg also has James McGrory. a parliamentary researcher. Don't


know how he fed on Eggheads, but he is smart enough to get out of shot


when his boss is about do a photo op. In 2009, Chancellor George


Osborne headhunted his adviser. He is thought highly capable by


colleagues and his boss says he never sleeps. Long and loyal


service is a traitor in these media adviser positions, and Alex has


been working for shadow Chancellor Ed Balls for six years, in


government and opposition, which he says differs in that now it is


about getting your boss heard as much as how he has had. He says the


role is 24/7 and his boss says he is trusted and one of the people


with him who can tell him no. If you have never heard of these


people, that is good. They are doing their job. Those that become


the story do not last, such as Damien McBride and Jo Moore, she of


"Berry bad news" fame, and of course Andy Coulson. But why should


you care? Well, those who wear the -- walk in the wake of one and


politicians, who watch their backs from the background, have a habit


of popping up front again in the future.


John in my hours Patrick Diamond, policy adviser to Tony Blair and


Peter Mandelson, now a Labour councillor in the London borough of


Southwark. Peter Hennessy, the rhetoric was all about fewer


special advisers, but they have got more than before. That suggests


that they are a vital part of the operation. People have become used


to them as part of the entourage. I have always been spectacle about


special advising. I have no Popple -- I have no problem with people


being recruited who have special knowledge. But those who have no


experience, all they can do is reinforce the prejudices of their


Secretary of State. The one attribute that politicians are not


short of is raw political prejudice. Award not touch them if I was a


Secretary of State for unless they really knew something. The test is


between those who know and those who believe. You defend special


advisers. Some of those points do need to be taken seriously. There


are issues about the quality of policy advice provided by civil


servants and special advisers. When we discuss special advisers, we


tend to look at extreme examples like Jo Moore and Damien McBride.


Most would agree that they are extreme examples of what can go


wrong. But if you talk to a lot of civil servants, they will tell you


that special advisers are often very valued in government


departments, because they help provide steers on what the Minister


thinks and can bring new ideas into the policy process. Peter Hennessy,


isn't it a point that some of the political problems that the


coalition have come up against, like the NHS Bill, like forests,


the things that have caused U-turns, political advisers have said to me,


that would not have happened if I had been there. We would have


foreseen that -- how that would have paid out politically. That


intrigues me. I was a political journalist in the '70s. The


politicians then did not need some EUR24 to smell problems in a bill


that was forthcoming. -- they did not need a 24-year-old to smell


problems in a bill that was forthcoming. A lot tougher special


advisers have risen without trace. It is the only job they have ever


done. You can't legislate, but I would want people to have done


proper jobs where evidence is the main determinant of what you do


before you advise government. But We will not pass to a side! The


other important thing about special advises his relationship with the


Civil Service. Are they not there to try and advance policies because


some people would argue that the Civil Service can be a block to the


sort of narrative the Government wants to put through? That is where


special advisers come into their own, whether they be in experienced


or not. But quality ones could push the direction of Government policy.


I would not draw this black-and- white distinction between what


special advisers do and civil servants. But aren't they supposed


to be distinct? There should always be attention to evidence, an


examination of what the best policy ideas available are, in this


country and abroad, and there should always be attention paid to


what we can bring to the policy process. There are clearly some


exceptionally bright civil servants that do that and anything special


advisers have also contributed in that way. It is about getting the


best out of both. If you speak to senior, experienced civil servants,


they will say that special advisers can help to prevent the civil


service from being politicised. If you have advises there in a clearly


political role, then civil servants cannot be put in a position where


they have to handle political issues that are not good for


holding up the best positions of civil servant neutrality. But it is


people just bringing in people that will make them feel good. How can


they add to the total of the political process? And not just be


that he or she is a sycophantic, we will help the minister feel better


and say what they want to hear? will not defend my own appointment


as a special adviser in the light of those comments! I think any


Secretary of State recognises that they need people around them that


are capable of speaking truth to power, in the immortal phrase, of


putting arguments that are contrary to the position of the minister.


When we have had a good Secretary of State, they have assembled a


team of political advisers and civil servants that are capable of


challenging them and bringing new ideas to the table and bring


forward new solutions. That has to be part of the governing process.


And a good training ground for future leaders? Ed Miliband, David


Cameron, Nick Clegg, they were all advisers of one description or


another. I wish they had all done a proper job first. With this stellar


political class now, I am breathless and in all, but they


would be even better if they had done a proper job at some point


between adolescent days as student politicians and now. Rather than


being career politicians? Yes. Let's come on to briefings. Special


advisers do that, successfully sometimes and not so in others.


This has been discussed and argued over, this Budget, more than any


other. I think it is the most elite. Verging on the Continent. -- the


most leaked out. Verging on in Continent. The Conservatives are by


and large carnivorous and they find it difficult to live with the Lib


Dems. That is the big divide in politics, left and right, herbivore,


carnivore. I think the coalition will ensure but it will get harder


and there will be much more of this. -- will endure. A Labour are


slightly crowded out of this, aren't they? It is quite hard for


Labour. The fact that there is a coalition Government will make any


Budget announcement process different to that of previous


governments. I think the level of briefing has been extraordinary and


it is a problem and it raises questions about parliamentary


accountability. Having said that, there were allegations that...


allegations! That Tony Blair did not know what was in the Budget


before Gordon Brown announced it. But people will wonder what George


Osborne will say on Wednesday that is different and you compare to


what has been announced. A fear of an anti-climax, perhaps. -- new


compared to what has been announced. This week is a big week in


Westminster. The Queen will make an address to


both Houses of Parliament as part of a Diamond Jubilee celebrations.


On Wednesday, George Osborne will deliver his third Budget. MPs will


then debate it in the days that followed. On Friday, David Cameron


is expected to rally the troops at the Scottish Conservative


conference. To get some perspective on all that. -- of all that, I am


joined by Anushka Asthana and Andrew Pierce. Political problems


of scrapping 50p. David Cameron desperate to get away from the idea


that the Tories are the party of the rich. The political problem has


always been a problem. Most Conservatives think that it should


be scrapped immediately and down to 40p, not 45p, which still makes us


one of the highest taxed countries in the world. It is a compromise,


and not just in a court of public opinion. They have to compromise


with the Liberal Democrats, by instinct they prefer to keep the


50p tax rate and have the mansion tax which would hit many properties


in David Cameron and George Osborne's affluent constituencies.


Let's say they were to scrap it, be getting a 45p, how much goodwill


does that give George Osborne from the backbenches? It would cheer


them up no end. There are some of them in more working-class


constituencies, like Harlow, where they would be worried. But it would


cheer them up because the Liberal Democrat tale is not wagging the


dog. But this has been so well leaked, that I think it will happen.


I have never seen a Budget like this. What about purdah? No wonder


there are hosepipe bans because this lot have been leaking like a


large service! And for weeks, it seems. The downside is that after


all the speculation, if they don't get some of the policies they have


been pushing for, their mansion tax for instance, the political fall-


out for the Lib Dems will be even greater. We are pretty sure they


will not get the mansion tax. You can tell by the way the leaking has


shifted slightly into. They are trying to argue that the tax


avoidance measures may be packaged up as a tycoon tax and that is the


equivalent. Whether the backbenches and grass roots can be convinced, I


am not sure. They will get the raising of the threshold, even if


it is not as much as they like. And the tycoon tax, is it really


credible? It depends what you mean by it. When people originally


talked about the tycoon tax, they thought of it as the minimum rate


of tax. What they are talking about is a limit on tax breaks. To be


honest, I think that will be very difficult for them to implement. We


will have to see what they say on Wednesday. I spoke to some


grassroots members the other day, and they were not ready to stick


the knife in yet and they wanted to see the details on Wednesday.


child benefit, what is the latest? Where could this cliff edge be


raised to, presuming it is raised? There will be a cliff edge and they


cannot get round it. The policy was first floated one year ago and they


are still scrabbling around with figures. There has been a


compromise to placate Tory rebels again and this will please the


Liberal Democrat, who are keen on this policy. The opinion polls


suggest that George Osborne is not women-friendly and child benefit is


the one benefit paid directly to women. He is aware of that. Will it


be enough to alleviate the political problems? They will still


go ahead with the policy. I think they have still got a problem. If


they raise the threshold to �50,000, there will be a position when it


your income families earning �19,000 will get it and those on


low incomes will lose it. -- �90,000. George Osborne said he was


for the policy. He said that even if you do not feel rich, you are in


the top percentage of income. He said that if they did not take


charge benefit of those families, then those people would hardly


contributed deficit-reduction battle. I think the reason they


will keep it is that otherwise they graphs would turn on their head and


that is the problem they are facing. Looking at this road policy idea,


what is the up side politically? You can talk about investment and


the roads being staff, but headlines say that motorists pay


for road pricing. -- being staffed. Yes, and this has been kicked


around for some time. Labour looked at this and put it away. Unless


there is private money injected into the crumbling road structure,


that will happen, it will crumble. But the problem is if existing


roads get a charged and private companies can improve tolls across


the country. They will look and countries like France, where


motorists routinely pay tolls. But you have to remind people here that


they do already pay road tax. It is a pity that the Government never


spent any of the money on the roads. That will be the big question,


putting it back into the roads. Do you think there will be any


surprises?! There has to be! We found that we could write pretty


much everything that was in it this morning, as far as we could tell.


George Osborne is a very political Chancellor. Surely he will have a


rabbit to pull out of his hat. most popular one would be something


to do on fuel duty which has gone through the roof and is affected by


issues like the Middle East. They are moving away from that, which is


all the more reason to suggest that is what they are going to do.


course! Thank you. Joining me for the rest of the


programme of three of Westminster's finest. Andrea Leadsom, John Leech


from the Lib Dems, and Heidi Alexander it from Labour. Should


the 50p rate go? On a fiscal basis, yes, but on a political basis I


think it can only go at the same time as the public sector pay


freeze ends. You would not like to see it go in this Budget? He needs


to set the direction of travel. There is research that shows that


high rates of tax causes uncertain consequences and people used legal


avoidance measures. If you keep it at a level that people consent to,


you will generate more taxes. girly it is the right thing to do?


-- in fiscal terms? It is not the right thing to do. Ordinary


families are really struggling. A young people cannot get jobs. To


give a tax break to the richest 1% of people is not right. How do you


announce it on the doorstep? More I argue has always been that we


should be increasing the personal allowance. That should be the


number one priority. Personally, I think we get the debate about the


50p tax rate wrong. Yes, people are avoiding it, but rather than


scrapping it because people are avoiding it, I would like to see us


stopping people avoiding it in the first place. So you would keep it?


Yes. I don't think people are avoiding the 50p tax rate. The


point is that people have legal avoidance opportunities in their


general taxation. That is what we need to clamp down on. If you


wanted to define a tycoon tax as stopping wealthy people from being


able to avoid taxes, I don't think the 50p tax rate is one that they


can easily avoid. For most people it is the straightforward measure


of total income. So it is a good thing. You have just argued against


the idea that people will pay it. The Government has always said


people avoid paying it. What happens is that over a period of


time, companies and individuals put in place measures to avoid it.


Turning it into capital gains, equities, whatever it is, to avoid


paying it over time. The problem if you have a top rate of tax that is


too high is that when you come to reduce it, you do not lose his


avoidance measures. Your total tax take reduces permanently and I


would be worried about that. Will other Liberal Democrat be unhappy?


Generally speaking the Liberal Democrats are in favour of


increasing the personal allowance and that must be the priority.


you vote against the Budget if the 50p tax rate goes? Let's see what


is in the Budget before we speculate about how Liberal


Democrat MPs might vote. There seems to be some movement on it


otherwise there would not be all the speculation. You want to see


some balance. If they raise the bottom threshold a bit, will that


be enough to mitigate your fears? My view is that if there is to be


movement on the 50p rate, there needs to be a mansion tax, or and


alternative tax that will take money away from the wealthy. Will


Nick Clegg have failed if there is no mansion tax? Let's wait and see


what is in the Budget. I am confident that there will be


measures to stop richer people avoiding tax payments. Just to stop


them avoiding? Nothing more substantial? I am not privy to


those discussions but I would like to see that. Would you be happy


with a mansion tax? This has come down to the debate that is either


or, mansion tax or 50p rate. you want both? We need the 50p rate


to stay and to be enforced. And people cannot afford it. I have


always thought that the upper rate of council tax band could be


differentiated for. That could be another way around it. There should


Looking at the idea of raising the threshold, that does nothing for


the poor who do not work. And people higher up the income scale


will benefit more than those at the bottom. For a start, people who do


not work have benefited from a reasonable increase in their


benefits that people are working have not benefited from. Which


benefits? A unemployment benefit has gone up by inflation, which


other pay hasn't done. People who are working, on the other hand, on


the lowest incomes, will in future benefit significantly. The


Chancellor will want to adjust bands to make sure those at the low


end benefit most. Last time round, more people were dragged into the


top rate of tax. That will stop any growth prospects at that level,


which the Chancellor wants to encourage. I don't think so,


because if you increase the tax- free threshold for the poorest


workers, it makes it fiscally neutral for those on a high income.


That helps the least well-off and makes it not worse offer for the


higher earners. But you also need to look at the shorter working tax


credits. In the last couple of weeks, we have seen people earning


�80,000 who could lose out as a result of changes to working tax


credits. The proposals that if you are working for 16 hours per week,


you have to increase that to 24 hours per week or risk losing those


working tax credits, that could mean thousands of pounds lost for


families. You have got to bear in mind that this is currently unfair


on single parents who have to work 16 hours to get the tax credits,


whereas a couple only have to work 16 hours. So there is an element of


fairness about increasing the amount of hours that a couple have


to work. But you can't just look at thresholds, you have to look at the


whole system of support to people in work. People in low-paid work at


the moment are struggling the most. Let me ask about regional pay. Is


this something you would support? Let's see what is actually said in


the Budget. In principle, do support the idea that different


parts of the country should have a lower pay? In principle, no I do


not agree. In practice, you have to accept that in the south-east,


there has to be an additional amount of money for people to be


able to live on in places like London. But in principle, I am not


in favour. Do you think it would depress wages overall in these


areas? Apart from the fact that we are trying to encourage departments


to move from the south-east to other regions of the country, how


can we do that if we say people will be expected to be paid less?


disagree. In some regions of the UK, the private sector is crowded out.


Whatever does is there that the private sector, in places like the


north-east, where there is not much private sector, what evidence is


there that it is being crowded out? If you look at the average public


sector salary compared to a private sector salary for a similar job,


the one is considerably higher than the other. Wide-eyed at all down,


then? You would not drag it down, you would be freezing pay. Where


the debate has gone so wrong in this country is, the private sector


pays for the public sector. Without the private sector, we don't have


any public sectors. If we simply say the private sector cannot


compete with the public sector in the regions, we are on a hiding to


nothing. Surely pay rates have to reflect local circumstances?


London, we already have London weighting. That is because the cost


of living are so much higher than elsewhere in the country. But my


problem with this is, why should a teacher in Sheffield be paid


differently from a teacher in Swindon? Are we talking about


frontline services in the same way? Are you talking about teachers and


nurses and so on? I agree that if your house costs you �50,000 for it


three-bedroom house in the north of England, versus your three-bedroom


house costing you �1 million in London, a London weighting is not


enough of a differential to encourage a level playing field.


does not sound like you will like much in this Budget. We will have


to see what is in the Budget, but I am confident that we will see


movement in the direction I would like to see on the personal


allowance. Let's hope so after all the speculation!


Now, if you saw Friday's programme, you might remember this. I have not


got that figure to hand, but I can assure you that Ed Balls, as our


Shadow Chancellor, has. So has Ed Miliband. But the costs are


important. Yes, they are. If you say they are going to be covered by


the Bank of's bonus, people have to be assured that it will raise


enough money and it will cover this real jobs guarantee. I think it is


�600 million. I have not got the fingers at my fingertips. I


apologise for that. The deputy Labour leader's problems are a


reminder that mixing TV and politics can go wrong. Ms Harman's


mistake was much you -- what you might call a schoolgirl error -


never attempt a policy interview if you don't know the policy. In a


spirit of generosity and a desire to help our guests do their best,


here is our guide to the golden rules of political television.


You are a transient, here today and gone tomorrow politician. This is


If you look at our by-election wins, most of them have achieved


something substantial. What did Christchurch achieve? That is a


good question. What is the answer? You are talking in the region of


20... Yeah. I mean, if you take a double income couple, �20,000 each,


that is what you are talking about. It is three agencies of government


when I get there, that are gone - Commerce, education and, what is


Oh, commerce education and um... Can you name the three of them?


Look, what I say is, Tom Harris, Joanne log on, and the third


candidate, who is also putting himself forward. The front-runner,


Ken Macintosh. The Guardian's Simon Hogg it is here, along with our MPs.


Isn't it a bit unfair to expect so much of politicians? They are


interviewed all the time. They have to feed the beast that is 24 hour


news. We can't expect them to remember every detail. Of course. A


lot of politicians have a seven second loop on radio phone-ins in


case anyone says anything obscene or libellous. You have seven


seconds for the host to cut them off. And most politicians have that


loop in their head - am I going to offend my leader or upset someone


in my constituency? And it is one that loop breakdown, when someone


gets too relaxed. David Frost was such a good interviewer because he


made them feel almost soporific he happy. Another problem was not


understanding the way TV works. Keith Joseph, the late and lamented,


was once interviewed and he said, that is terrible. Get rid of that.


And the chap said, that has just gone out live to thousands of homes.


And he said, I don't want any of your technical excuses! I do not


think people would make that mistake now. John Prescott did.


remember that. Cut. Sorry, too late. But people are only human, even


politicians. But are other ways of avoiding being pushed down that


sort of dead-end alley or being asked very specific questions that


need a specific response, like figures and names, that you can try


and avoid? You need a special adviser who says, these are the


questions you will be asked. This is Jeremy Paxman. He takes no


prisoners. This is what you have to say if he asks that. Michael Howard


would not be in such trouble when Jeremy Paxman asked him the same


question 11 times. You have to be prepared. Harriet Harman waved her


hands and said, the figures are over there, as if they were hiding


behind the daffodils in that clip. You can't do that. You have to know


what is going to come up. How much preparation do you do before


interviews? Is there a sense of, you can't remember everything, or


you are vaguely across the issues so that you come on to programmes


knowing enough? I always do some homework and get a brief on the


subject. But in reality, you could always catch me out. You could ask


me, what is the capital of wherever? And I would not know and


I would look stupid. There is an element of trust between


politicians and interviewers. those interviews, you are asking


about the policy on the day. It seems fair that you should have the


figures at hand. But politicians often try and pretend they know


everything. If we are more honest that we don't know everything and


can't be expected to know everything, people would accept it


when we get it wrong. What about party political views, what did you


think when you saw Harriet Harman struggle? We are all human. But


there is that old saying that if you fail to prepare, you prepare to


fail. As far as possible, you have to think through what the obvious


questions will be and try and no those key figures. But as Andrea


said, you always run the risk of being caught out. Worst moments?


worst moment was as a transport spokesperson in the last Parliament.


I forgot to pay my road tax. Did it come out? Yes. From your local


paper? It was hopefully spread in the paper by my opposition. That is


a bit unfortunate. For you, Andrea? At the moment, it is the fear of


that awful day that keeps me on the straight and narrow. But in


response to what John said about needing to show that you don't


necessarily know everything, I do not think the public offer giving


off politicians. As you said, even politicians are human, as if in


slight astonishment. Is it better to just say, I don't know, sorry?


And then try and move on? That is fine, but if you are leader of the


opposition and you do not know your policy on the Budget, that is not a


good idea. It is better to go into a higher level of BS. You know what


that stands for. From a credibility point of view, what does that sort


of faux pas do to make Punshon? Or can a politician just move on?


we have said, with politicians been human, voters do not mind in the


long one. Remember Rochdale, Gordon Brown, Labour took Rochdale from


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