Political magazine with Jo Coburn and Andrew Neil. A look at the impact of the Budget. Plus, Tim Collins discusses his bid to become an elected police commissioner.
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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.
Presented by Jo Coburn and Andrew Neil.
What does the Budget mean for families, individuals and businesses across the UK? Plus, former British Army officer Tim Collins discusses Afghanistan and his bid to become an elected police commissioner.