22/03/2012 Daily Politics


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Afternoon, folks. Welcome to The Daily Politics. So Wallace and


Grommit are happy, but what do Victor Meldrew and his Missus make


of it all. It's the morning after the night before and everyone's


asking, is Boy George Robin Hood? Or the artful dodger with a grudge


against pensioners? Yes, not all the newspaper headlines made pretty


reading for the Chancellor this morning. Most have picked up on the


so-called granny tax. One of the few bits of the Budget not leaked,


there could be a lesson there. "Mugged", exclaimed one paper.


We'll have all the analysis. Chancellor's confident the economy


will avoid a double dip recession. We'll be looking in more detail at


the economic picture and asking what business makes of it all.


Osborne announced yesterday that we'll be saving over �2 billion in


Afghanistan. But what should our exit strategy be? And we'll be


talking to one army officer who wants to swap his colonel cap for a


All that in the next hour, and with us for quite a lot of it, to digest,


to cogitate and to mull over the budget we have a panel of the very


best. A kaleidoscopic panel, no less, of different political hues.


The Conservative back bencher, Elizabeth Truss, the Shadow


Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Owen Smith, and the Liberal


Democrat Treasury Spokesman, Stephen Williams. Welcome to you


all. Now, without further ado, let's get down to the Budget. In a


moment, we'll be looking at the detail. But first let's cast an eye


over the post-Budget morning round of political interviews. If you


take the changes this government has made, the tax changes we are


talking about plus the increase in the basic state pension, they will


be better off under this government. The policies of this government


have made them better off because of a really big increase in the


basic state pension. People don't have to take my word for it, and a


couple of weeks they will see the pension come in and can see for it


themselves. They have put the pension up because inflation has


been run high over the past year. The pension is going up because


dual is going up and food prices are going up. Pensions are worse


off because of a tax rise on pensioners. Pensioners will also


pay the extra fuel duty this August, the higher alcohol duty. There is


no granny tax. No pensioner will have any money taken away from them


that they currently have coming to them. They will be getting pension


increases in April. That will be �5.30 a week on the state pension.


Don't believe this new tag that has been coined in some of the papers,


there is not a granny tax. There is a change in the future in the


allowance is affecting a minority of pensioners, and for them, net,


there will be better off, because the pension gives far more than the


changing of the threshold takes away.


Your breakfast table this morning. -- that is what was being said over


your breakfast table this morning. For what will this Budget be


remembered? I think it will be remembered as a Budget for work,


for business, for making Britain competitive again. Before this


Budget we had the highest income tax top rate in the G20. I think


that showed business was not open in Britain, that we would not get


investment into our country, other thing that is a vital change.


Budget for business? I think it is important, a Budget for jobs, for


getting more people into employment. I think raising the threshold on


low earners will really help, give more people an incentive to work.


am going to hold back until later. Owen Smith, what do you think this


Budget will be remembered for? things. It will be remembered for


giving a big tax bung to the wealthiest 1% in our society.


�10,000 per man and woman, earning over �150,000. It will be


remembered for paying for that by introducing effectively a stealth


tax on pensioners. And the Lib Dem, Stephen Williams. I am a keen


student of studying budgets, back to my degree in economic history.


At Bristol University. There's a university, there? There is, one of


the best in the country, I can assure you. This will be remembered


for one of the biggest tax breaks in a generation. For 30 years, the


largest rise in allowance, and a tax cut of over �500 for 24 million


people. Finally, on the leaks, I understand the Speaker has allowed


Chris Leslie to debate this morning. Do you think the Chancellor will


have learned that if in the end, he looks everything except the bit


that is controversial and is going to cause problems, he will end up


getting the headlines he deserves. Which is what he got this morning.


I think what we have seen under the coalition is a real debate about


the kind of measures that should be in the Budget. Income versus wealth


taxes, consumption tax, how do we make our country more competitive.


I am talking about the leaks, why didn't he leak the bad bits as well


as the good bits? I don't necessarily think... I guess it is


an improvement on the day when Gordon Brown would not Lee go to


the Prime Minister what was in the Budget. -- would not leak to the


Prime Minister. We saw an arms race between these two last week, trying


to get out of their version of events, until they got to the point


where there was nothing left to leak apart from the bad news.


will give you the last word since your side was doing most of the


leaking. I think it is public negotiation. What the blue bits


were in the Budget and the yellow birds... This is coalition politics


and we better get used to it -- the yellow bits. Not the way that


coalitions work in Germany, Italy, Sweden or Norway, but that is


another issue. It is measures over your money and mine that have been


creating the headlines. It's the first thing we look for,


those all-important tax measures. Of course, the world's worst kept


secret was that the top rate tax for those earning over �150,000


will be cut from 50p to 45p from April 2013. The measure that both


parties in the coalition are keen to take credit for is the rise in


the personal income tax allowance to �9,205. The higher rate tax


threshold, which is the level of salary you need to earn before


being drawn into the 40% tax band, is to be reduced from �42,475 to


�41,450, and there's going to be a new stamp duty rate of 7% for homes


worth over 2 million, as well as new measures to clamp down on tax


avoidance. And finally there's the controversial measure that's been


dubbed, granny tax. The extra tax allowance pensioners currently


receive will be frozen until the personal allowances of those in


work catch up, and the allowance will be scrapped altogether for new


pensioners from 2013. Let's get the thoughts of Andrew Lilico from the


Institute of Economic Affairs, who's enjoying the sun in


Westminster. The headlines say it all, this doesn't look pretty for


George Osborne, with his granny I think the most important measure


is the big rise in personal allowance. I think we have seen


quite a profound shift politically, from a time in the late 1980s


through to three or four years ago, went whenever you thought of


cutting taxes and particularly income taxes, you were going to be


cutting the basic rate. We had shifted decisively to a concert


where if you want to cut income tax you raised people out of tax


altogether by increasing the personal allowance. I think the


government will be remembered for deficit-reduction and a rise in


personal allowance. Do you agree that George Osborne did the right


thing in terms of freezing allowances for pensioners? I think


it is philosophically indefensible to have a lower tax rates for


pensioners. I think they were introduced in a very different time


when there were not really state pensions in the 1920s, when these


ideas first came in. I think they are long obsolete and there was a


very strong argument for increasing the basic state pension and also


means-tested pension allowances, and taking away these tax


allowances, which is what they have done. The mistake that the


Chancellor made was not to face up for that but to bury it away in the


detail. Looking at what he has done, there is a sort of unspoken rule,


as Gordon Brown found out, that if you do anything that is viewed as


heating, or reducing the benefits to pensioners, you run into trouble.


That is absolutely right. He would have been better to have argued for


it directly. I think he had a very strong case to make, that when you


thought about the increases in the state pension and means-tested


allowances, and also the ways in which pensioners themselves might


have gained from other kinds of tax measures, they were gainers out of


these measures overall. To make that argument he had to argue it


directly. Instead, he has buried it in the detail which has allowed


people do have a exaggerated notion of the granny tax. Much of the cost


associated with this granny tax idea is the inversion in the rise


of personal allowance, because otherwise they would have gained


Let's talk to our panel about the tax. Let's come on to what you said


it was the real point in the Budget from the Lib Dem perspective, of


raising the threshold to �9,205. There will be no tax for most


people on the first sum that they earn of that amount. Were you aware


that one of the prices for that would be that 300,000 people would


have to be swept into the 40% tax One of the things I was advocating


a few days ago, you said, how am I going -- how are we going to pay


for the proposal and I said, one of the issues is clawing back on


pension tax relief. Is this a price worth paying? That 300,000 very


middle income people, with the families, who are not rich by any


strength of the imagination, particularly if they live in the


South East, where costs are much higher, were you aware that for


them, their marginal rate would become 40%? What the government has


done is precisely that measure, that we have wanted to make sure


that the raising of the threshold, the majority of the benefit was


failed by basic rate tax payers rather than at more exclusively


higher rate taxpayers -- was felled by. Pulling back the threshold


means higher rate taxpayers benefit but only to the same percent.


you happy that a tax break which was originally set by Nigel Watts -


- Nigel Lawson for the wealthy, is now faced by Derek middle income


earners, by long-serving -- long- serving policeman, the head of an


English department in a small comprehensive. Are you comfortable


that these people should be paying 40% to pay for your threshold?


Happy would be the wrong word. I am not in favour of heavy taxes on


people who go out to work. That is what you have done. The philosophy


is raising people out of income tax and giving a break to the people


who do go out to work. Higher-rate taxpayers will benefit, it is just


they will benefit at the same rate as basic rate taxpayers. Let's


stick with middle earners. Under your skin, if you are earning


between 50 and �60,000 -- under your scheme... In London and the


South East, that is not an unusual income, and you are a family of


three, what is your marginal tax rate going to be now? Be higher


than it was before any idea how Have you will have 42% tax and


National Insurance, and 24.5% clawback from the child benefit.


Let me finish. If you are earning between 50 and 60,000, every extra


pound you earn between that gap, you will lose 66.5% of that �1. Are


you happy with that? It is not ideal but we face a very difficult


situation with the deficit. It is certainly preferable to the


previous situation, which was a straight cliff edge that we faced


just at the higher rate tax band. The people that may be trying to


better themselves and get on well be facing a 66.5% marginal rate of


tax? I completely agree that it is not ideal and in the long term, we


should seek to sort these issues out. The fact is that we are facing


a massive Budget deficit, we need to find the money to deal with that


deficit. And that we have tapered the withdrawal of child benefit


that -- in a way that hadn't been done before. The situation has


improved. Is it right that we ask the people lower down the income


scale, earning 20,000, to pay for the child benefit of people owning


Look at the time from �100,000 and upwards. There is a very high.


There is nothing about that. point is... No. No. You made the


point. I want to ask you, what is the justice of people on �50,000


paying a tax rate of .66.5%, when those over �140,000 will be paying


55%. Where is the justice? Those people earning over �150,000 will


be paying more money on property. Only if they are selling or buying


a house? Which is only 1% normally of the people in that bracket.


That group will be paying more and we have seen the �150,000 tax rate


didn't raise any money. The 50% tax rate... That's not true.


It raised no money. We saw a 25% drop in the level of income amongst


that group. Well, let's come on to that.


It was a tax that didn't raise any money.


No. No, you have had your say. Let me come on to someone else now. Are


you comfortable that Labour's main critique of this Budget which Ed


Miliband went on yesterday is the cut from 50 to 45 pence when HMRC


and the OBR say it cost about �100 million a year? Well, let's look at


the �100 million number. It is a number on which lots of the aspects


of this Budget hang. It is calculated on page 52 of the HMRC


report, table A2, the calculation shows that the HMRC anticipate


getting �3 billion a year steady state from the 50 pence rate, but


in the previous 51 pages of that document, in theoretical, under


graduate style economics, it suggests that the basically


principle would result in behavioural change that will


realise �2.9 billion. That's where the �100 million comes from, but in


the first year we netted �1 billion extra, not �100 million, �1 billion


and they concede that going forward it would be �3 billion. They don't


concede that? No, they do. They don't concede that. What they


say is that the transitional arrangements mean that �100, maybe


too low a calculation because people are ducking and diving, but


that going forward, you would get nothing like �3 billion. Now for


the sake of revenues... Well, if I can come back on that.


What I really want to get to you, is it really Labour's policy that


once again this country should have the highest top rate of income tax


of the G20? Is that Labour's policy? We think it is right now,


completely the wrong thing to do to cut the 50 pence rate.


We think they could have kept it. They could have recouped �1 billion


a year. And that would have been a fair way, but to use that money to


use that money to give a big bung, �40,000 to 14 millionaires, 14,000


millionaires, it is crazy. It is the wrong priority.


The money is being recouped by property taxes on that group.


it is not. Yes, it is. It is five times the amount raised by that tax.


It is complete smoke in mirrors. You shouldn't even report this...


When income is mobile that time to tax that is fruitless, it is better


to put put those taxes on property and to reform our tax system in


that way. Why is it that every other country in the G20, why is it


that every other country in the G20 doesn't have a top rate as high as


that? Are they all wrong? Are they all wrong? What is the answer to


that question? It was a scorched earth policy. Let me answer it. The


reality is yes, we have got a high top rate.


You have got the highest? Yes, and what point does it kick in, at


�150,000. At what point does it kick in in trance 72,000 euros. The


top rate in this country was was only being levied on people earning


over �150,000. That's a large amount of money and those people


have been given a big bung. It is interesting to get a straight


answer. The Government is banking on the private sector to get the


economy back on track. Let's look at how they they plan to do it.


George Osborne has been proudly trum trumpeting that his Bug has


been designed to give businesses a helping hand. Let's look at the


details, corporation will be cut -- corporation tax will be cut to 24%.


By April 2014, it will be 22%. More enterprise zones are to be created


in Scotland and Wales and there will be tax relief for video games,


animation and so high end television productions. Good news


for this programme! �130 million is to be earmarked for


improving the rail network in the north of England and there will be


a consultation on simpifying the tax system for small businesses. We


will all be able to shop until we drop during the Olympics with the


relaxation of the trading laws. Joining us now is Dr Adam Marshall.


Was it a Budget for business? it depends what size business you


are. Many of the smallest, the one man bands will be happy about


simplification of taxes, but there is a lot of solid citizen companies,


small and medium sized companies up and down the country that would


have looked at yesterday's Budget and said, "There is not a lot in it


for me. No relief on business rates. No relief on investment allowances


when a lot have plant and machinery they want to buy." No help to get


young people into work. A lot of of those companies are scratching


their heads and saying, "I think the Chancellor could have done


more.". I spent the day with small and medium sized businesses in the


Midlands and they echoed what you said. If the Government wanted to


encourage us to take on new employees and want us to grow,


there wasn't anything tangable enough for them? That's right.


There is a huge number of companies up and down the country, some some


with 50 or 150 employees, many will have been in business for


generations and they will say, "This feels like a Budget for big


corporations and the smallest of businesses." While companies will


be happy to see the back of the 50 pence tax rate, while they will be


happy to see corporation tax coming down, they wanted more immediate


help on growth and more reassurance and confidence from Government


policy. Business I spoke to yesterday were


disappointed that not more was done by fuel duty. They were united in


that? Abouts A bugbear for many companies particularly outside the


South East where the car is the key mode of transport for so many


people, not just for getting to work, but for conducting business.


Fuel duty is a big issue and it reverberates across rural


businesses communities and in many cities and towns outside the South


East. Let's look at this business of


corporation tax cut. It has been speeded up, it is down to 24%, the


idea is to go to 22% by 2014 and a longer term goal of getting to 20%


is the Government's position. What is the estimate of how much this


cut in corporation tax will add to business investment?


Well, I don't know what the precise estimate is. It is 1% by 2016. It


will increase business investment by 1% by 2014. What will that do to


growth? What will that do to growth? It will add 0.1% to the


national income. So what is the point? That's an estimate.


Yes, it is the OBR estimate. Well, it is your office of budget


responsibility, you set it up? rates are one way of helping


businesses, but there are other things that we are doing in the


Budget so the airport capacity in the south-east is very important.


The reform to roads, roads tolling, moving tax, I hope, away from fuel


duty in the long-term. But how much will business


investment rise this year? Well, how much, we don't know at


this stage? Well according to the OBR it will be 7% less than the


original estimate. So it is 7%, it is growing by 7% less than it would


have done only a year ago. So it is down by 7% this year and will rise


by 1% by 2016, so where is the supply side breakthrough?


Well, what we need to do, we need to do more on jobs, specifically,


on exempting small businesses from employment regulations on those


steps, we need to take forward and that is being consulted on by the


Government at the moment. didn't mention for for jobs for


young people yesterday? Why did he not do that? All right let me ask


your coalition colleague here. Do you believe this is a Budget for


growth? Yes. The eurozone growth forecasts have been downgraded by


the office for budget budget responsibility and the British


forecasts have been upgraded. But that's a joke.


But it is still going in the right direction.


Actually, it is not because they have downgraded the forecast for


2013. They have downgraded that? But still showing growth.


No, if you add the growth this year and next year, according to the


office of office responsibility it is flat? And unemployment falling


throughout that period as well. I need to get awe copy of the red


book. If If this is a Budget for growth, why has the OBR not changed


the growth projections? The OBR is is showing stagnant growth this


year. It has reduced growth for next year and it has kept it the


same for 2014 and 2015, if it was a Budget for growth, why was the OBR


not able to uprate its growth projection? You have to take


account what is going on in the rest of the world. Our friends from


the Labour Party for the last two years they have been predicting a


double-dip recession. That has not happened. Our independent... So it


is the eurozone's fault, is that what you are saying?


Well, the eurozone has... And this is the same eurozone I believe that


your party used to want us to join? Well, if you want to go back 13


years and rehearse the arguments between 1997 and 1999 about whether


it was right to join the eurozone, we can do that. What would Labour


do to encourage business to invest? We would have introduced measures


for small businesses, the NIC holiday, we have talked about would


have stimulated the economy. It would have been something as we


heard earlier on that would have helped small business take on new


workers. We would have cut VAT across-the-board which would have


been a stimulus to the retail sector. It would have been...


Interest rates would have gone up? I don't think interest rates would


have gone up. Really, don't you follow the bond


markets? If we introduced a 2.5% reduction in VAT.


A big risk? No, I don't think that would have been a big risk.


Really? No, in the current climate? You can't guarantee that? I don't


think most economists would suggest if you made a temporary cut to VAT


you would see the bond market... Most analysts would say if the


Government was to leave its deficit reduction plan.


That's different. They are having to borrow more


money as a result of more people being out of work. We know the


truth it is �158 billion extra. OBR factored the measures in the Budget


and it is projecting flat growth. We have to move on. We have a lot


of ground to cover here, you know! I will be looking for a bonus. Oh,


you are not allowed bonuses anymore! Let's hear what Mr


Osbourne said about the economy. Yes the office for budgetary


responsibility has been looking into its crystal ball. The growth


forecasts for this year have been revised up. The forecasts for 2013


is 2% and for 20 shrks the OBR thinks it will be 2.7%.


Unemployment is forecast to peak at 1.67 million by the end of 2012 and


it is thought inflation will fall during the rest of this year and it


will be close to the 2% target by early 2013. Those borrowing figures,


this year we are set to borrow �136 billion. It could be as low as �21


billion by 2016/17. This will mean our total debt could be nearly �1.5


trillion. Eye watering. We can speak to Allister Heath. Thank you


for coming on the programme. Let's look at the borrowing figures. Only


�1 billion than was forecast, disappointing for the Chancellor?


It is not great news. For the first six or seven months of the year,


the Chancellor spent a lot less money than he was expecting to and


the figures look better, but suddenly yesterday, one of the


additional figures that was released in addition to the Budget


showed there is a lot of borrowing going on in February. It is not


really improving at any faster rate. My big worry however is the growth


figures. The growth figures for this year are probably realistic,


but for next year onwards, they are hopeful and in four years time,


they are optimistic. Anyone talk being 3% growth. That's a massive


gamble on growth. You have this big problem which is all the forecasts


rely on the large rebound in activity in three or four years and


not enough on spending cuts at the moment. I don't think that the


Chancellor did enough to boost growth in his Budget. There were


some good measures like on cutting the top rate of tax and corporation


taxks but too few people saw their marginal tax rates fall. Only 7% of


the public saw their marginal tax rates fall and a lot of people saw


it increase because of the way child benefit will be taken away


from people. What do you think would be more


realistic in terms of growth prospects? How much lower do you


think they will be? It is impossible to gauge these things


accurately. It is unrealistic to think that you will get such a


rebound in growth. Anything could happen. The the eurozone crisis


could continue. China could slow down. There is huge uncertainties.


The whole of the long-term public finances of this country rely on


growth forecasts and the Government has not done enough to achieve the


growth forecast. There was good good stuff in the Budget when it


came to growth. This was a Budget for growth, but a Budget for growth


because he should have cut more things and cut more taxes.


We are joined by viewers from Scotland, welcome to The Daily


Politics. We have been asking questions about the state of the


economy. Let me come to you, Owen Smith. The coalition inherited a


deficit of over 11% of GDP. By 2016, they will have got that deficit


down to about 1% of GDP. That is a result, isn't it? If they achieve


it. It is reliant on them achieving growth numbers that most people


think are pretty heroic in their assumptions. These are the growth


assumptions that Alistair Darling made in his four-year plan, they


are no different from yours. That is not quite true. We were


anticipating that the trajectory was going to be a lot fluttered


towards the 3%, as opposed to where we are right now, having gone into


a trough, anticipating this great big bounce back. There is a very


big difference between the level of growth we were anticipating. Our


economy was growing as we left office, at 2%. It is now growing at


0.8%. That was before the eurozone crisis, where every economy has


been downgraded. Absolutely true. I was at a business breakfast myself,


business people don't feel this was a Budget for growth. I don't


understand how your policy is any different from the coalition's. If


you take a graph of how debt, which is a key motive... The Chancellor


mixed up the debt and the deficit yesterday. If you take a chance --


chart of how debt was to accumulate and Alistair Darling, it peaks at


1.4 trillion by 2016. If you take this government's chart, it pizza -


- it peaks at 1.4 trillion in 2016. Your trajectories are the same and


I sometimes wonder what you are arguing about. We are going about


the manner in which we would have tried to bring down the debt over


all. You are not bringing down the debt. They are borrowing an extra 6


billion this February versus last February. They are borrowing in


order to pay for more people out of work and fewer people paying tax.


If we were in power, I think we would have seen more stimulus in


the economy. Is the Darling plan still Labour policy. Yeah. Yes, of


course, we would be halving the deficit over this Parliament. The


status of this economy that we are going to inherit is very different.


What happened under the Labour government is that we saw a


reduction in productivity, of growth that was fuelled by debt and


public spending. We have had to put a stop to that. It was fuelled by


public spending and now we have got a debt which is higher than it has


ever been before. I think the point is, there is no magic bullet.


had a pound bought some time -- every time somebody said that, I


would be able to buy a magic bullet. Can you let your coalition partner


speak? Having sat through umpteen debates for the last few years,


every Labour backbencher who speaks opposes one aspect of what the


coalition is doing, whether it is the VAT rise, changes in tax rates,


what we are doing to reform the benefit system. There is no


coherence amongst the Labour Party. Or what on earth they should do to


tackle this deficit. You may say you want to reduce the deficit.


Among still parliamentary colleagues, none of them support


any of the measures that the government is doing. One thing we


are clear and coherent on, it is the wrong thing to do yesterday, to


cut pensioners' income in order to give a tax benefit... Their incomes


have not been cut. The allowances How do you feel about �10 billion


more of welfare cuts? That is possibly going to happen towards


the end of the parliament, or early in the next Parliament. But of


course, we can have a major reform of the welfare system through


Universal Credit, starting next year, in order to deal with the


labyrinth of benefit entitlements that Gordon Brown has left behind,


and to make it clear with tax reforms that being in work really


does pay. I think we better leave it there. Plenty more to talk about


in this Budget. The interesting thing for the newspapers will be


not how bad it was today, but what it looks like at the weekend. Iain


Macleod used to say that a Budget that was well received the day


after would be trashed by the weekend, and warned that was


trashed the day after would be well-received... We will see... If


that maxim holds up. Thanks to all three of you. Now to Afghanistan,


an issue that came to the fore at yesterday's PMQs. Lets take a look


Following the Prime Minister's recent trip to Washington, we now


know that the timetable for the withdrawal of British and other


international combat forces in Afghanistan will be reviewed at the


NATO summit in Chicago in May. The Prime Minister has previously set


out a timetable that would see combat operations for British


troops seized by the end of 2014. Given the recent statements by the


US Defence Secretary and the French President about an accelerated


timetable for their trips, can the Prime Minister confirm the British


Government's position? -- their troops. What I had said absolutely


stance which is that we will not be in a combat role in Afghanistan


after 2014, nor will we have anything like the number of groups


we have now. We will be performing a training task, particularly


helping with the officer training academy. Between now and 2014, it


is important we have a sensible profile for the reduction in troop


numbers. That should be largely based on the conditions in terms of


the three parts of Helmand Province that we are still responsible for,


and the transition that takes place. Can the Prime Minister tell us what


his assessment of the significance of the Taliban suspending talks is,


and does he agree that we owe it to our troops to be more focused on


securing a lasting settlement. Since taking office, and the last


government took this view as well, the British position has been put


that we need to have the best possible solution for the people of


Afghanistan. Britain has been pushing for reconciliation and


integration and I had very productive talks with President


Obama last week, because the American do is the same. They want


to support that political process. Of course, the Taliban have said


what they said last week. I would make this point. We are committed


to handing over to the Afghan government, the Afghan military,


the Afghan police, and the numbers of Afghan military and police are


on track. We are committed to doing that at the end of 2014. We believe


it can happen with a satisfactory outcome for the United Kingdom. It


would be better for everyone concerned if it was accompanied by


a political settlement. And joining us now for the rest of


the programme is Colonel Tim Collins, who served in the Iraq War


and is now a member of the Conservative party. Welcome.


not a member of the Conservative Party. Thank you for correcting us,


we will get rid of the researcher who put that down! Bid was probably


And we're also joined by the Shadow Defence Secretary, Jim Murphy. Is


it an exit strategy that you think will work? After a fashion. If --


it is Afghanistan after all. The question is, is the government and


military going to be more robust than the one that the Russians left


behind? I think it will be. There is a great deal of effort going


into training and I know it is the main focus of the I SFA if -- is


You think you will be ready to handle their own affairs when


combat troops leave in 2014? difficulty they have is there is a


balance between people who have been professionalised and the bulk,


as in large numbers of Afghan police. With some of those, the


quality is not there but at the heart of it, there is quality. The


difficulty is convincing the population do have faith in their


armed forces and their police force -- convincing the population to


have faith. Do you think the exit strategy is going to work from a


timetable point of view? That the bulk of police and armed forces in


Afghanistan will be strong enough to hold the country where it is?


just don't know yet. We hope so but we don't know so. I agree with what


David Cameron and Ed Miliband was saying. I thought David Cameron was


a little cavalier when he said that we can leave without a political


settlement. I find that really difficult to understand. If that is


now the government's policy, it is quite a significant shift. When the


Soviets left, it lasted three years. We have been in four was in


Afghanistan, this is the 5th. point is, everybody is talking


about politics and they have missed the point. Why go there a lot, I


employ people there. It is not about politics. The Taliban doesn't


exist. The Taliban is a blanket term. There are networks and groups.


These people have become criminal entrepreneurs. We don't see any


evidence and I work closely with the police, of anyone with any


desire whatsoever to roll tanks and takeover couple like Saigon, there


is no desire there. -- takeover Kabul. They would like the regime


in place to continue them to make money and I think that would go on.


In a sandwich in between, there are enough decent Afghans and decent


policeman who want to tackle the crime. It is all about crime, not


war but crime. Would they be in a position to deal with that? If


warlords start taking over parts of Afghanistan... Why would parasites


kill the beast they live off? you say there is no need for a


political settlement... I am not saying that. Politics are not a


higher priority in modern Afghanistan. Should they? Of course,


but... What sort of political settlement should there be? If


David Cameron is saying we could live without a political settlement,


is it to cavalier? The Taliban, to use the broad term, and the various


other smaller groups, criminal groups, they rank and file follow


their leaders. The rank and file know what they are fighting against.


They have no idea on earth what they are fighting for, there is no


political aspiration. If we had a political aspiration, we could talk


to them but they don't know what to ask for. There is a politics that


tolerates the degree of corruption that you are speaking about and we


have to make some progress in that. There is a politics that allows and


governed space to develop again, where malevolent elements can


strike against neighbours and others across the world, and that


is why politics is very important. Not the Westminster Classic


democratic model, none of us think it is that sort of thing. It still


sounds very vague. It is a distasteful thing to say and we are


not having the conversation with the public debt, but a degree of


Taliban involvement in the government of Afghanistan now seems


inevitable. How do we achieve that in a way that on us what the UK


forces have been through in the past decade, -- a way that honours.


Are we going there to take those people on, deal with Al-Qaeda and


take those people on. That is absolutely the point. The criminal


elements, the criminal entrepreneurs have been allowed to


set the pace. The Taliban, and other groups, whatever they are


called, need to have a political agenda that is other than someone


else's agenda, other than the Pakistani intelligence services


agenda. They need a Pashtun, or northern alliance agenda. That does


not exist. I think we might have missed the opportunity to help them


develop that. We have to move on, you have only got a few minutes


left. What is your response that Two this idea was put forward by


the Labour government, that they want to look at the plan on carrier


jets. Your viewers would have followed this in detail yet. When


the new government came in, they inherited a plan of two aircraft


carriers, the biggest in the Royal Navy's history, three times longer


than a football pitch. That was the traditional thing that people will


have seen, Harrier jump jets, vertical take-off and landing. The


government said, let's go with an American-style, Top Gun traditional


take off. They look as if they are going back to the original plan.


What is the evidence they are looking at this again? They are no


longer defending their own policy. The media was full of stories, a


soft landing of a massive U-turn. It is a huge embarrassment,


political hubris. A sense that they have wasted possibly hundreds of


millions of pounds in coming up with a third policy, when there are


rarely any two options. The difficulty here is they sold the


entire carrier fleet. All 72 of those planes have been sent to


America. How long have we got this period of time without question I


asked for an urgent question today, it was not granted. I think it is a


real worry that an island nation cannot put an aircraft carrier to


see, because the one we have crashed into a tug last week.


Is this worrying? It is worrying. All three parties would like a


European-style defence force as opposed to an expeditionary army.


Does it leave us vulnerable? intention is to hide amongst the


Europeans. That we would have an aggressive camping organisation


like the other Europeans and when things went wrong, hiding in large


numbers would protect us. We would have no cas pit why toe why -- pa


pa passity to -- capacity to project power.


We are not going to have aeroplanes flying off it. I keep saying you


don't have to be a military strategist to know what aircraft


carriers are meant to do. The jump jet would be more


flexible? It doesn't have as much power. It doesn't have long legs,


but it can land wherever you wish and the Government got involved in


a Defence Review which was rushed. It seems after a lot of money and


time, they have gone back to a more expensive option of what we had


before. If you told the Speaker that he was


going to ask a kaleidoscopic question he might have allowed it!


Who would want to be a police commission sner. -- commissioner?


Our guest, Tim Collins does! We sent Giles out to find out what the


job intales. -- entails.


Across the wide range of duties our police have, there is always that


question of to hom are they accountable -- whom are they


accountable when we are unhappy, a Chief Constable, a police authority,


a mayor or a commissioner? In Opposition, the Conservatives


propose add new role of elected police and crime commissioners in


England and Wales. At the time it is fair to say it was hard to find


people, including police, who would warm to the idea. Nonetheless, the


post will exist and in November this year elections will take place.


In 41 force areas outside London where the mayor is the PCC.


Commissioners in the biggest force areas will receive salaries of over


�100,000 to set priorities for their police force, oversee budgets


and hire the Chief Constable. So far emerging candidates have


something in common that begs questions. The main problem with


this idea is that the risk that elected politicians will interfere


in police operational matters and that's the big challenge and of


course, what we have seen so far the majority of people who have put


their name into the frame are, of course, politicians or perhaps past


politicians. The Conservatives made it a


political role and if you have political office, you have to be


accountable. You have to be accountable to the public, but it


is right to have accountability back to the party structures.


Lib Dems will not be giving central party funding to their candidates


who may wish to stand. They will not stop them standing, they will


not support something they never supported in the first place.


Labour are deciding to contest many of the elections because in certain


parts of the UK they have a good chance of winning, but there is an


elephant in the room. What we hope of course, that will happen, we


have strong independent candidates who are not attached to a party,


who may have a background that is relevant in terms of policing who


may want to come forward. So far there is no real signs that


happening and for some the party angle presents a dilemma for number


five of the 1829 principles of the police, to seek and preserve public


favour not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly


demonstrating impartial service to law in complete independence of


policy. Whoever wins the roles will need to demonstrate they can let


police do that from Chief Constables to beat officers and


preserve the manifestoes upon which they stood.


Tim Collins is is hoping to stand as a Conservative candidate. Why


aren't you a member of the Conservative Party? Because I have


never been a member of any political parties.


Don't you have to be a member of the Conservative Party? We will


find out after the local elections in May whether the Conservatives


want to nominate me as their candidate. They may not. They may


have other members who are better candidates.


Now, why do you want to do it? One would argue that you are going to


come in at a time, presiding over severe cuts to a police force?


I think, the first thing which is that, you know, I am not massively


keen to do it, but I have been asked by a number of friends and


rank and file policemen saying, "We are worried about this. Will you do


it?" I said yes perhaps rather precociously. I was in Gravesend


last week on one hand talking to victims of crime which I run a


company that employees policemen and I was able to ask them what


they would regard as would be without a doubt attempted murders


or indeed for uninvestigated. In one case a man who was bitten and


covered in is a in saliva. Policemen say that morale is very


low and the policemen are not encouraged to do their job and


there is no support. What sort of politician


commissioner -- police commissioner would you be. There are references


to you wanting to be like one of the New York-style commissioners?


What I would like to see with myself as the chairman of the of


the board, the Chief Constable getting on with doing the job


without having to look over his shoulder with some bloated


authority looking for statistics. What I would like to see and I grew


up in Northern Ireland. We had an effective police reserve. I would


like to see the specials turned into a police reserve. I would like


to see more people coming from communities and volunteering to


become involved in policing. Do you think the country needs all that


concentration of policing power in the hands of another elected


politician? The country doesn't. It is rejnal.


It is -- regional, it is each police force. Do we really need


that? As opposed to an unelected councillor. In Kent what we receive


from our police authority is a glossy magazine which most people


recycle and lots of statistics with any amount of photographs of the


lady in charge. Does that do us any good? Independence, that's what


Labour has been arguing about, why they don't think it is a good idea.


Who would be scrute nidsing -- scrutinising you in that position?


Who would be saying, "You have become too politicised." There


wouldn't be a strong enough body to say that you overstepped the line?


It is what we call democracy. It is the the voters who decide, whatever


happens on the 15th November, you can be certain of this, the people


of Kent and everywhere else will get the police force they deserve.


Briefly, the cost, is it the right time to spend because it will cost


a lot of money to run the elections, the pay the salaries of the police


commission commissioners and the figures are out there that say it


would fund 3,000 police officers? Well, what is going to happen to


the police authorities. There are 16 people doing the job. I have


said I won't accept a salary. I am Irish and my maths aren't great,


but that looks like a saving! I haven't worked it out. Trust me,


it is. When you meant the the Specials,


you didn't mean the B Specials? will call them the B Specials if


you like. We sent Adam Adam out to read the


It is a case of bad headlines for the Chancellor. The Guardian


calling his Budget scth cynical and deluded." The Daily Telegraph are


furious about the granny tax. Could that headline be any bigger or


angrier? They are angry about it in The Daily Mail saying that George


Osborne picked the pockets of pensioners, but they are angry that


he wasn't wearing a tie hours just before delivering the Budget. The


Daily Mirror have have gone for a theft theme as well with George


Osborne and David Cameron dressed up as muggers. The Sun have gone


for humiliation, with the chancellor depicted as Wallace, a


reference to the tax break he introduced for animation companies.


The prize for best gimmicks goes to the Times. Not only have they got a


50 pence with George Osborne and the taxes chainsaw massacre on it,


but inside they have a monopoly themed explainer of the Budget and


best of all, how the characters of Downton Abbey will be affected by


the Chancellor's decisions. We are joined by John John Pienaar.


I can't remember in recent times a worse set of front pages for any


chancellor than this morning? nor can I. You look at the Daily


Telegraph, the Conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph by describes it as


a Budget that Gordon Brown would have been proud of and no part that


is meant as a compliment, they mean shifty, deceitful, full of tricks.


My sense of this is they have spun themselves into a tangle. So much


of the bUlght was leaked. A lot -- Budget was leaked. A lot came out.


There was industrial leaking of the Budget. The bit they didn't leak


was the bit about pensioners which amplified coverage of that story


and it was a big big enough story. There are Deeper currants at work.


A lot of the attack from what you might call the Tory press or I


think more accurately the Tory inclined press, has hostility to


Cameron as well. The Telegraph, The Mail, they are not cheerleaders for


Mr Cameron, they like an opportunity to give him a kicking


as they have done this morning? There is a certain amount of that.


The Sun as well? Include The Sun. There is a feeling on the righter


end of Fleet Street that maybe the Government could be a bit more


Euro-sceptic than it has been, that it could be more truly Conservative


and we call them them Conservative supporting papers, they like to


make them jump every now and again, especially this far out from a


general election. But just now, you get an


opportunity and a chance to... show you are independent.


Just before we go, Chris Leslie, he is in front of Parliament almost as


we speak, complaining about the leaks. He has been complaining.


What do we make of that? He is complaining about the leaking of


the Budget. I was watching this and remember the scene in Casablanca


where the police chief says he is shocked, shocked to see there is


gambling going on in here! It has always happened. It happened under


Gordon and Tony and long before that.


Tony Blair would have liked a few more leaks under Gordon Brown.


wasn't told anything! "I'm Not telling you anything."


John Pienaar, you too colonel. Thank you to our guests. I am back


tonight with Michael Portillo and Alastair Campbell and Channel 4's


Sarah Smith and David Gorman. Anyway we are on BBC One at 11.35pm.


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