19/03/2012 Daily Politics


19/03/2012

Jo Coburn is joined by constitutional historian Peter Hennessy. There's a look ahead at the Budget, including an interview with business minister Mark Prisk.


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Transcript


LineFromTo

Good afternoon and welcome to the Daily Politics. Private companies

:00:41.:00:45.

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

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

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

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Chancellor's challenge? New research maps were business is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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systems collide and that makes things very volatile. I think

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

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

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will see. George Osborne has been meeting the

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

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

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

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

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Dems so that the Budget will accelerate movement towards a

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

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yesterday that there would be measures to aggressively deal with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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are talking to. John Cridland represents major businesses,

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

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priority is on big growth initiatives. Smaller businesses,

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

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

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

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deters entrepreneurs and put some of investing because they have to

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

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

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problem? The vast majority of small businesses would praise any

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initiative like that. It is politically charged if the

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

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idea that it actually affects entrepreneurial activity? Are there

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figures to suggest that people actually take on fewer employees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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had the strongest growth. Merseyside had the biggest fall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Instead of having big regional quangos, we are having local

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enterprise partnerships, that deal with the local variations that you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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enterprise zones and so on. The difference between enterprise zones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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been happy in manufacturing but significant investments stories are

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

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

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Financial, insurance and business sector areas. The enterprise zones

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

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

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

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

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

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one major employer can pay significantly more than the local

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the intention to suspend Sunday trading after the Olympics if it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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justification for doing it across the whole country. The Olympics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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is an opportunity for looking at the private contractor or engaging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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approaches to funding our national roads, to increase investment and

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

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

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

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

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

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private sector capital through privately owned, independently

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regulated utilities, but roads in Britain still call on public

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

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private investment into the national roads network, from a

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

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

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out a feasibility study of new ownership models for the national

:17:44.:17:50.

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

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

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

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joined now by the Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle and Philip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Congestion will rise, mostly because of the population increase.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:19:22.:19:26.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:19:57.:20:02.

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

:20:02.:20:08.

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

:20:08.:20:12.

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

:20:12.:20:18.

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

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

:20:23.:20:26.

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

:20:26.:20:30.

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

:20:30.:20:38.

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

:20:38.:20:42.

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

:20:42.:20:47.

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

:20:47.:20:52.

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

:20:52.:20:56.

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

:20:56.:21:01.

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

:21:01.:21:05.

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

:21:05.:21:09.

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

:21:09.:21:13.

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

:21:13.:21:18.

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

:21:18.:21:21.

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

:21:21.:21:25.

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

:21:25.:21:30.

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

:21:31.:21:33.

the companies involved would spend money on maintaining the roads.

:21:33.:21:39.

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

:21:39.:21:42.

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

:21:42.:21:46.

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

:21:47.:21:51.

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

:21:51.:21:58.

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

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the railway industry is that passengers are paying record fairs.

:22:04.:22:10.

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

:22:10.:22:15.

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

:22:15.:22:19.

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

:22:19.:22:23.

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

:22:24.:22:28.

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

:22:28.:22:32.

is about the future of our economy. Without good transport

:22:32.:22:36.

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

:22:36.:22:42.

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

:22:42.:22:46.

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

:22:46.:22:51.

statement this morning. Despite what Philip Gomm has said,

:22:51.:22:56.

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

:22:56.:22:59.

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

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

:23:05.:23:09.

Mrs Thatcher's government hoped their financial position through

:23:09.:23:14.

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

:23:14.:23:20.

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

:23:20.:23:28.

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

:23:28.:23:32.

being floated to the private finance initiative, whereby we

:23:32.:23:41.

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

:23:41.:23:47.

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

:23:47.:23:52.

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

:23:52.:23:59.

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

:23:59.:24:04.

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

:24:04.:24:10.

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

:24:10.:24:14.

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

:24:15.:24:19.

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

:24:19.:24:27.

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

:24:27.:24:31.

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

:24:32.:24:34.

appointees known as special advisers recruited by Gordon Brown

:24:34.:24:38.

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

:24:38.:24:42.

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

:24:42.:24:46.

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

:24:46.:24:55.

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

:24:55.:25:00.

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

:25:00.:25:03.

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

:25:03.:25:09.

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

:25:10.:25:15.

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

:25:15.:25:18.

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

:25:18.:25:22.

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

:25:22.:25:27.

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

:25:27.:25:31.

journalists and their boss have some background before they start.

:25:31.:25:35.

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

:25:35.:25:39.

since the days he was Shadow Education Secretary. Once selected

:25:39.:25:43.

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

:25:43.:25:47.

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

:25:47.:25:51.

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

:25:51.:25:55.

Craig Oliver as director of communications of damage it. Ed

:25:55.:25:59.

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

:25:59.:26:05.

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

:26:05.:26:09.

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

:26:09.:26:14.

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

:26:14.:26:18.

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

:26:18.:26:22.

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

:26:22.:26:27.

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

:26:27.:26:31.

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

:26:31.:26:35.

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

:26:35.:26:39.

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

:26:39.:26:43.

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

:26:43.:26:49.

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

:26:49.:26:53.

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

:26:53.:26:58.

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

:26:58.:27:06.

Osborne headhunted his adviser. He is thought highly capable by

:27:06.:27:11.

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

:27:11.:27:15.

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

:27:15.:27:18.

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

:27:18.:27:22.

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

:27:22.:27:27.

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

:27:27.:27:31.

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

:27:31.:27:35.

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

:27:35.:27:39.

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

:27:39.:27:46.

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

:27:46.:27:50.

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

:27:50.:27:55.

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

:27:55.:27:58.

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

:27:58.:28:03.

of popping up front again in the future.

:28:03.:28:06.

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

:28:06.:28:10.

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

:28:10.:28:14.

Southwark. Peter Hennessy, the rhetoric was all about fewer

:28:14.:28:21.

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

:28:21.:28:24.

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

:28:24.:28:28.

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

:28:28.:28:34.

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

:28:34.:28:40.

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

:28:40.:28:44.

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

:28:44.:28:47.

Secretary of State. The one attribute that politicians are not

:28:47.:28:53.

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

:28:53.:28:57.

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

:28:57.:29:01.

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

:29:01.:29:05.

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

:29:05.:29:11.

are issues about the quality of policy advice provided by civil

:29:11.:29:16.

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

:29:17.:29:20.

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

:29:20.:29:25.

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

:29:25.:29:29.

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

:29:29.:29:33.

that special advisers are often very valued in government

:29:33.:29:36.

departments, because they help provide steers on what the Minister

:29:36.:29:44.

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

:29:44.:29:48.

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

:29:48.:29:53.

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

:29:53.:29:58.

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

:29:58.:30:02.

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

:30:02.:30:06.

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

:30:06.:30:13.

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

:30:13.:30:18.

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

:30:18.:30:24.

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

:30:24.:30:30.

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

:30:30.:30:35.

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

:30:35.:30:38.

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

:30:38.:30:42.

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

:30:42.:30:52.
:30:52.:30:53.

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

:30:53.:30:57.

other important thing about special advises his relationship with the

:30:57.:31:04.

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

:31:04.:31:09.

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

:31:09.:31:12.

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

:31:12.:31:16.

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

:31:16.:31:21.

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

:31:21.:31:26.

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

:31:26.:31:29.

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

:31:29.:31:34.

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

:31:34.:31:38.

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

:31:38.:31:42.

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

:31:42.:31:46.

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

:31:46.:31:49.

exceptionally bright civil servants that do that and anything special

:31:49.:31:53.

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

:31:53.:31:58.

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

:31:58.:32:02.

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

:32:02.:32:06.

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

:32:06.:32:10.

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

:32:10.:32:14.

they have to handle political issues that are not good for

:32:14.:32:20.

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

:32:20.:32:24.

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

:32:24.:32:28.

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

:32:28.:32:32.

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

:32:32.:32:37.

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

:32:37.:32:42.

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

:32:42.:32:45.

Secretary of State recognises that they need people around them that

:32:45.:32:50.

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

:32:50.:32:55.

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

:32:55.:32:59.

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

:32:59.:33:02.

team of political advisers and civil servants that are capable of

:33:02.:33:05.

challenging them and bringing new ideas to the table and bring

:33:05.:33:09.

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

:33:09.:33:14.

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

:33:14.:33:18.

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

:33:18.:33:24.

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

:33:24.:33:27.

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

:33:27.:33:30.

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

:33:30.:33:35.

between adolescent days as student politicians and now. Rather than

:33:35.:33:40.

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

:33:40.:33:46.

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

:33:46.:33:51.

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

:33:51.:34:01.
:34:01.:34:03.

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

:34:03.:34:10.

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

:34:10.:34:14.

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

:34:14.:34:18.

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

:34:18.:34:24.

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

:34:24.:34:30.

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

:34:30.:34:34.

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

:34:34.:34:39.

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

:34:39.:34:42.

Budget announcement process different to that of previous

:34:42.:34:45.

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

:34:45.:34:49.

it is a problem and it raises questions about parliamentary

:34:49.:34:54.

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

:34:54.:35:02.

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

:35:02.:35:07.

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

:35:07.:35:11.

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

:35:11.:35:21.
:35:21.:35:21.

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

:35:21.:35:25.

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

:35:25.:35:28.

Westminster. The Queen will make an address to

:35:28.:35:31.

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

:35:31.:35:35.

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

:35:35.:35:40.

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

:35:40.:35:43.

is expected to rally the troops at the Scottish Conservative

:35:43.:35:53.

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

:35:53.:35:56.

joined by Anushka Asthana and Andrew Pierce. Political problems

:35:56.:36:00.

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

:36:00.:36:03.

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

:36:03.:36:07.

always been a problem. Most Conservatives think that it should

:36:07.:36:12.

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

:36:13.:36:16.

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

:36:16.:36:20.

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

:36:20.:36:24.

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

:36:24.:36:28.

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

:36:28.:36:33.

in David Cameron and George Osborne's affluent constituencies.

:36:33.:36:40.

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

:36:40.:36:44.

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

:36:44.:36:49.

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

:36:49.:36:56.

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

:36:56.:36:59.

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

:36:59.:37:04.

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

:37:04.:37:09.

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

:37:09.:37:13.

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

:37:13.:37:21.

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

:37:21.:37:25.

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

:37:25.:37:30.

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

:37:30.:37:34.

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

:37:34.:37:38.

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

:37:38.:37:44.

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

:37:44.:37:51.

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

:37:51.:37:55.

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

:37:55.:37:58.

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

:37:58.:38:03.

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

:38:03.:38:08.

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

:38:08.:38:12.

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

:38:12.:38:16.

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

:38:16.:38:20.

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

:38:20.:38:23.

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

:38:23.:38:27.

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

:38:27.:38:31.

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

:38:31.:38:36.

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

:38:36.:38:40.

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

:38:40.:38:44.

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

:38:44.:38:49.

are still scrabbling around with figures. There has been a

:38:49.:38:56.

compromise to placate Tory rebels again and this will please the

:38:56.:39:00.

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

:39:00.:39:03.

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

:39:03.:39:08.

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

:39:08.:39:12.

be enough to alleviate the political problems? They will still

:39:12.:39:16.

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

:39:16.:39:21.

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

:39:21.:39:25.

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

:39:25.:39:32.

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

:39:32.:39:36.

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

:39:36.:39:40.

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

:39:40.:39:44.

charge benefit of those families, then those people would hardly

:39:44.:39:47.

contributed deficit-reduction battle. I think the reason they

:39:47.:39:56.

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

:39:56.:40:03.

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

:40:03.:40:07.

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

:40:07.:40:13.

the roads being staff, but headlines say that motorists pay

:40:13.:40:21.

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

:40:21.:40:25.

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

:40:25.:40:28.

there is private money injected into the crumbling road structure,

:40:28.:40:33.

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

:40:33.:40:36.

roads get a charged and private companies can improve tolls across

:40:36.:40:41.

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

:40:41.:40:44.

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

:40:44.:40:48.

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

:40:48.:40:52.

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

:40:52.:40:59.

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

:40:59.:41:04.

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

:41:04.:41:08.

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

:41:08.:41:12.

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

:41:12.:41:16.

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

:41:16.:41:20.

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

:41:20.:41:24.

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

:41:24.:41:28.

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

:41:28.:41:33.

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

:41:33.:41:37.

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

:41:37.:41:42.

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

:41:42.:41:47.

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

:41:47.:41:50.

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

:41:50.:41:59.

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

:41:59.:42:05.

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

:42:05.:42:09.

high rates of tax causes uncertain consequences and people used legal

:42:09.:42:13.

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

:42:13.:42:19.

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

:42:19.:42:24.

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

:42:24.:42:28.

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

:42:28.:42:36.

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

:42:36.:42:41.

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

:42:41.:42:44.

should be increasing the personal allowance. That should be the

:42:44.:42:49.

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

:42:49.:42:53.

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

:42:53.:42:57.

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

:42:57.:43:00.

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

:43:00.:43:07.

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

:43:07.:43:11.

point is that people have legal avoidance opportunities in their

:43:11.:43:17.

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

:43:17.:43:20.

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

:43:20.:43:24.

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

:43:24.:43:28.

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

:43:28.:43:32.

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

:43:32.:43:38.

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

:43:38.:43:42.

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

:43:42.:43:48.

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

:43:48.:43:52.

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

:43:52.:43:55.

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

:43:55.:43:59.

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

:43:59.:44:03.

avoidance measures. Your total tax take reduces permanently and I

:44:03.:44:10.

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

:44:10.:44:13.

Generally speaking the Liberal Democrats are in favour of

:44:13.:44:17.

increasing the personal allowance and that must be the priority.

:44:17.:44:21.

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

:44:21.:44:25.

is in the Budget before we speculate about how Liberal

:44:25.:44:29.

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

:44:29.:44:32.

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

:44:32.:44:37.

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

:44:37.:44:42.

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

:44:42.:44:47.

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

:44:47.:44:51.

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

:44:51.:44:55.

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

:44:55.:45:02.

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

:45:02.:45:10.

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

:45:10.:45:14.

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

:45:14.:45:19.

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

:45:19.:45:24.

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

:45:24.:45:30.

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

:45:30.:45:34.

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

:45:34.:45:38.

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

:45:38.:45:44.

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

:45:44.:45:54.
:45:54.:45:54.

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

:45:54.:45:59.

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

:45:59.:46:04.

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

:46:04.:46:09.

not work have benefited from a reasonable increase in their

:46:09.:46:12.

benefits that people are working have not benefited from. Which

:46:12.:46:16.

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

:46:16.:46:21.

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

:46:21.:46:28.

the lowest incomes, will in future benefit significantly. The

:46:28.:46:32.

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

:46:32.:46:37.

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

:46:37.:46:43.

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

:46:43.:46:46.

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

:46:46.:46:50.

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

:46:50.:46:54.

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

:46:54.:47:00.

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

:47:00.:47:04.

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

:47:04.:47:12.

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

:47:12.:47:16.

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

:47:16.:47:20.

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

:47:20.:47:24.

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

:47:25.:47:31.

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

:47:31.:47:36.

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

:47:36.:47:40.

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

:47:40.:47:46.

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

:47:46.:47:48.

fairness about increasing the amount of hours that a couple have

:47:49.:47:53.

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

:47:53.:47:58.

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

:47:58.:48:03.

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

:48:03.:48:08.

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

:48:08.:48:12.

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

:48:12.:48:16.

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

:48:17.:48:21.

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

:48:21.:48:25.

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

:48:25.:48:29.

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

:48:29.:48:33.

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

:48:33.:48:37.

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

:48:37.:48:42.

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

:48:42.:48:48.

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

:48:48.:48:56.

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

:48:56.:49:01.

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

:49:01.:49:04.

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

:49:05.:49:08.

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

:49:08.:49:12.

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

:49:12.:49:16.

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

:49:16.:49:23.

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

:49:23.:49:27.

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

:49:27.:49:31.

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

:49:32.:49:36.

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

:49:36.:49:39.

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

:49:39.:49:44.

nothing. Surely pay rates have to reflect local circumstances?

:49:44.:49:49.

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

:49:49.:49:54.

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

:49:54.:50:00.

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

:50:00.:50:03.

differently from a teacher in Swindon? Are we talking about

:50:03.:50:07.

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

:50:07.:50:16.

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

:50:16.:50:21.

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

:50:21.:50:25.

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

:50:25.:50:30.

enough of a differential to encourage a level playing field.

:50:31.:50:34.

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

:50:34.:50:39.

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

:50:39.:50:42.

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

:50:42.:50:46.

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

:50:46.:50:52.

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

:50:52.:50:59.

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

:50:59.:51:03.

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

:51:03.:51:11.

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

:51:11.:51:14.

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

:51:14.:51:22.

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

:51:22.:51:26.

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

:51:26.:51:31.

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

:51:31.:51:36.

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

:51:36.:51:39.

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

:51:39.:51:43.

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

:51:43.:51:47.

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

:51:47.:51:57.
:51:57.:51:57.

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

:51:57.:52:04.

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

:52:04.:52:14.
:52:14.:52:18.

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

:52:18.:52:22.

something substantial. What did Christchurch achieve? That is a

:52:22.:52:32.
:52:32.:52:37.

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

:52:37.:52:45.

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

:52:45.:52:55.
:52:55.:53:01.

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

:53:01.:53:05.

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

:53:05.:53:15.
:53:15.:53:27.

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

:53:27.:53:33.

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

:53:33.:53:38.

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

:53:38.:53:44.

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

:53:44.:53:49.

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

:53:49.:53:54.

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

:53:54.:53:59.

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

:53:59.:54:04.

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

:54:04.:54:07.

case anyone says anything obscene or libellous. You have seven

:54:07.:54:13.

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

:54:13.:54:16.

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

:54:16.:54:21.

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

:54:21.:54:26.

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

:54:26.:54:30.

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

:54:30.:54:35.

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

:54:35.:54:40.

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

:54:40.:54:45.

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

:54:45.:54:50.

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

:54:50.:54:57.

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

:54:57.:55:05.

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

:55:05.:55:09.

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

:55:09.:55:14.

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

:55:14.:55:17.

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

:55:18.:55:23.

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

:55:23.:55:27.

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

:55:27.:55:32.

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

:55:32.:55:37.

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

:55:37.:55:40.

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

:55:40.:55:46.

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

:55:46.:55:50.

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

:55:50.:55:55.

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

:55:55.:55:59.

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

:55:59.:56:03.

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

:56:03.:56:08.

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

:56:08.:56:13.

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

:56:13.:56:17.

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

:56:17.:56:21.

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

:56:21.:56:26.

politicians and interviewers. those interviews, you are asking

:56:26.:56:29.

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

:56:29.:56:34.

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

:56:34.:56:38.

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

:56:38.:56:41.

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

:56:41.:56:47.

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

:56:47.:56:53.

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

:56:53.:56:58.

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

:56:58.:57:04.

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

:57:04.:57:09.

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

:57:09.:57:13.

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

:57:13.:57:18.

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

:57:18.:57:24.

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

:57:24.:57:32.

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

:57:32.:57:38.

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

:57:38.:57:43.

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

:57:43.:57:48.

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

:57:48.:57:52.

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

:57:53.:57:57.

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

:57:57.:58:04.

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

:58:04.:58:08.

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

:58:08.:58:12.

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

:58:12.:58:18.

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

:58:18.:58:22.

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

:58:22.:58:28.

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

:58:28.:58:35.

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

:58:35.:58:43.

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

:58:43.:58:47.

Jo Coburn is joined by constitutional historian Peter Hennessy. There's a look ahead at the Budget, including an interview with business minister Mark Prisk. Guardian sketch writer Simon Hoggart talks about television gaffes.


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