17/04/2012 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon and welcome to the Daily Politics. Grannies, pasties,


charities and conservatories - George Osborne's Budget has turned


into a nightmare for the coalition. Do the Government have an economic


story that doesn't end in tax? And monkey business or a way to


reinvigorate local democracy? We'll discuss what directly elected


mayors would mean for the cities about to hold a referendum on


introducing them. Nato forces are preparing to


withdraw from Afghanistan - even amidst continuing attacks from the


Taliban. Has our involvement there threatened the stability of the


whole region? And it's not been a great couple of


weeks for the Government - so do they suffer from a lack of big


political beasts? I'll be asking a man who was perhaps the original


big beast. All that and more in the next hour.


And here he is, Lord Heseltine, with us for the whole programme


today. Welcome. If you have any thoughts or comments on anything


we're discussing then you can send them to us [email protected],


or tweet your comments using the Let's start with the eurozone.


Fears are growing that Spain may need a big bail-out as the cost of


government borrowing on ten-year bonds has hit over 6% for the first


time this year. The figure brings Spain closer to the 7% borrowing


cost that was seen as the tipping point for Greece and Ireland. But


with a �1 trillion euro economy, many are asking if Spain would, in


fact, be too big to save. Markets analyst, Louise Cooper, joins us


now. Thank you. Can those bond yields be brought down in any


realistic hope? Well... We have had massive amounts of ECB buying of


bombs, the peripheral country bonds. One could say that the bonds may be


hired it wasn't for the ECB buying. Today, Spanish borrowing costs have


come down. The 10 years Spanish bond got up to over 6%, today it is


about 5.9%. We have had a bit of a rally. If it was really crunch time,


it would be more like seven, 7.5%. We are not at crunch time. That is


the most important thing to say, for the time being. How worried


should we be? Even if we are not at crunch time, it sounds like we are


perilously close. We are getting close. The Spanish government tried


to sell short dated Dec today. When -- short-dated debt. When


government has problems financing bills, they sell short dated dead.


They have had to pay double the interest rate that they were paying


only a month ago -- short-dated debt. Spain's test comes on


Thursday when they have to issue 10 year debt, let's see how the


auction goes. The government has said it is committed to making


major budget cuts, even though it admits it is in a recession. Is


that going to convince the financial markets that Spain can


reach its targets? The key is growth, like in the UK. Spain is


expected to contract about 1.7% this year. My view is that


austerity, which is what they are imposing, will make the growth


forecast difficult. As you start to see, in the second quarter, gross


numbers weakening, you get to see economists start revisiting the


budget figures, the deficit numbers. What I fear is come late summer,


when we have seven quarter GDP, when the slowdown in the economy is


really becoming apparent thanks to fiscal austerity, you start to see


economists take red pens to the government's financial position,


and that is when it could all fall apart, in a really dramatic way.


it falls apart and Spain goes, does have the euro go as well?


problem for Spain is bailing out Greece, Portugal and Ireland, they


are pretty small economies. Spain is not. Spain is almost, not quite,


but almost too big to solve, too big to bail out. The latest news we


have from the bail-out funds is they are not large enough. The


permanent bail-out fund has not been implemented. It is not quite


Italy in terms of the size of the country, but it is a significantly


bigger challenge than Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Don't forget,


we have a property crisis in Spain, possibly just as big as Ireland. It


hasn't really blown up yet, but it will do. Thank you very much.


Michael Heseltine, it sounds as if the pressure on Spain is going to


be extremely difficult to reduce, or diminish in the coming months.


Some people have said that the murders and could kill the patient.


Do you see it in those apocalyptic terms -- of the medicine could kill


the patient. I think that this analysis we have just heard has


been current and well articulated now, for a very significant period


of time. Of course, there is a lot in it. You can't possibly say, you


are wrong. This is a crisis. The last thing that the people who


created the euro wanted. But against this, you have to balance


the determination of France and Germany to hold the thing together.


Is that determination not pointless? People have made even


more dramatic forecasts than you are implying. The argument that you


don't hear so much is the catastrophic effect on Germany of


the euro going. What has happened with the euro phenomenon, it has


had a very significant devaluation. If you were to go back to the


Deutschmark in some form, there would be a significant appreciation


in the German currency and a very serious threat to their export


markets. You have the vision of Europe, which is vital to them, but


you also have the economic freer of the consequences of the euro going.


Just before we go on, I think I have to ask you to turn off your


phone. They say you can hear it in the gallery. It is turned off.


will try again. Maybe if it is further away from the microphone,


it won't vibrate. You have two situations, neither of which are


desirable. In the meantime, the question arises, how much money


should the European Central Bank, or other economies, be putting into


what some people describe as a failed project? People who are


putting the money in in the main don't regard it as a failed project.


You are putting a eurosceptic view. If you're sitting on the continent,


you would see this as a vision born of the war processes that have


wrecked Europe so often. They are going to cling on to this. Britain


has this very difficult approach, where we were never convinced, we


didn't want to join, we had to join because circumstances overwhelmed


us. And we have been on the touchline ever since. The moment


anything goes wrong, all of the headlines scream euro crisis, euro


collapse, euro over. They are not the same headlines on the continent


of Europe. You don't think Britain should still join the euro, or do


you? I think we will. My guess is it will survive, and in the future,


not this week, or next year, we will do so. The whole process of


European isation, we have resisted and failed at every turn. If you


look at the history of it, we were asked to lead it and we refused, at


the Messina conference, we said no. We thought we could compete, we are


what, pray -- we would create the European Free Trade Area. That has


been absorbed by the European Community. Every time we have had


these arguments, it has always turned out to be unworkable from


our point of view. The big problem suggested by Louise Cooper is this


lack of growth. How can there be lack of growth in an economy like


Spain's, when they are carrying out, a bit like Greece and Ireland,


severe austerity. But look at the UK. We are carrying out massive


austerity. Not to the same extent. But it is still big and the growth


rates are very small. But we are not in the euro. So you could argue,


we have the ability to devalue the currency, which is what we have


done, and it hasn't seriously helped, yet. We have massive


indebtedness in this country, as parts of the eurozone. And yet, the


same sort of escape hatch, the devaluation process, which is what


people say Spain should do, hasn't really help us. We will talk about


the budget shortly. Before that, it's time for our quiz. The


question for today is, which biscuit has Boris Johnson compared


himself to? Was it Jammie Dodger, a custard cream, a chocolate


digestive or a bourbon biscuit? At the end of the show, Michael will


give us the correct answer. This one's just for fun - no prizes, I'm


afraid. Now, George Osborne delivered his


Budget nearly four weeks ago, but it seems to have caused no end of


trouble over the last month. Indeed, the Budget has become a bit of a


nightmare for the Government. Yesterday, the Prime Minister


signalled a partial climb-down over plans for what's been dubbed a


charity tax. The Budget proposed a cap on tax reliefs, including those


on charitable donations, at �50,000 or 25% of a person's income,


whichever is highest. But the PM said yesterday these plans could be


altered following a consultation. The Prime Minister has also


intervened on the so-called conservatory tax. He's blocked the


compulsory elements of the Government's green deal, which


would have forced homeowners to make their homes more energy


efficient if they were carrying out home improvements, such as building


an extension. All this comes after the damaging rows about the so-


called granny tax - the move to end some tax reliefs for pensioners -


and the so-called pasty tax, which arose from a desire to close the


VAT loophole on hot takeaway food. Well, the issue of charitable tax


relief was the subject of sharp exchanges in the Commons yesterday.


Many charities, including the Suffolk foundation, estimate that


this cap on tax reliefs will lead to a 20% reduction in their


charitable donations. I wonder if the Chief Secretary could tell us


whether or not he would consider exempting charitable donations to


UK charities. It would be comparatively inexpensive and would


be terribly important to the charitable sector. I think it is


important for the house to be clear as to what is being proposed. What


we are proposing is a limit on the currently uncapped tax reliefs, a


limit at �50,000, or a court of someone's income, whichever is the


higher. -- a quarter. Someone who is earning �10 million a year can


still receive tax relief on donations of �2.5 million to


charity each and every year. But as I say, we are going to talk to


philanthropists and charities about this. Those discussions are going


on. It is being reported that the government are doing a U-turn and


perhaps we may get clarification from the Secretary, if he is


bothering to listen to anything this afternoon, of whether there is


a U-turn. Can the Chief Secretary confirmed that there is a U-turn on


the charity's tax relief? The government doesn't seem to know


what is going on, the Prime Minister doesn't seem to know what


is going on and we have no clarification in the House this


afternoon. In the studio with me now are the


Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rachel Reeves - we saw


her talking just there - and the Conservative MP, Harriet Baldwin.


Lord Heseltine is still with, us of course. Can I start with you,


Harriet Baldwin? It looks as if we are in for a series of U-turns.


Let's start with the charity tax relief, the hint is it is going to


be altered, they are going to have this consultation, so they are


going to back down? It was always in the Red Book that these measures


would be out for consultation. They are due to come into force for 2013.


I think everyone wants to really encourage philanthropy. I think the


point that the Chancellor is trying to make with these limits is, is it


right for a philanthropist to be able to pay zero tax in any given


year? Why, when the rest of us play the PAYE and it goes to general


taxation, should it be a special case for someone who is very rich


to build a wing of the Royal Opera House in their men, and not pay any


tax that year, subsidised by the rest of us -- in their name. Do you


think the cap is going to be moved? There were remarks about modelling


this on the American approach. I think it is incredibly important


that in this consultation that was announced at the time of the Budget,


that all the charities that benefit from the generous philanthropists


in this country continue to have the reassurance... But they are not


reassured, they have come out one after the other.... The tax breaks


we will continue to give them. I think there has been a certain


amount of exaggeration. We are You can still give �1 million to


charity if you make four million pounds. Don't you need to have a


consultation before the policy is announced and the savings are


scored in the Budget? It is a shambolic way to make policy. You


have got a government that announced something in the Budget


because they are trying to look at ways to raise money, because they


have given a �40,000 tax cut to millionaires. They are trying to


make up the difference but they have done it in a way that


penalises older people, who are losing their tax allowance, and


penalising charities. Do you support the principle of clamping


down on tax reliefs? Absolute belief. Including charitable


donations. -- absolutely. We cut down on tax avoidance to the tune


of CoP million pounds. The tax avoidance measures in this Budget


But to clampdown on tax reliefs? Clampdown on tax avoidance, but


giving money to Macmillan Nurses, the National Trust for hospices is


very different from avoiding taxes. We should be encouraging people who


want to give money to importance charities that do important work.


If the government go-ahead with their proposals, the losers are not


going to be multi-millionaires. The losers are going to be the


charities and the vulnerable people, whether you have cancer and rely on


Macmillan nurses, people in the developing world who rely on the


help of Oxfam. When Ed Miliband was Minister for the third sector, he


said tax breaks could boost charities by up to �600 million.


You say you want to clamp down on that, but he was encouraging people


to use them. There is a big difference between tax avoidance by


converting income into capital, by moving tax from one year to another,


by setting offshore accounts. That is different from giving to


charities, and the Government have got very muddled in their thinking.


You have been criticised from almost every quarter over this


policy. It is really important that the message gets across that giving


to charity is exactly what we want to encourage, and there are


generous tax breaks for that. They are not fully used by the wide


majority of the population. Let's make sure that everyone is giving a


lot to charity, but for those who want to use the charitable tax


break to reduce their income tax, they are effectively being


subsidised by everyone else and not contributing to general taxation.


How has the Government handled this from its message point of view? It


seems to have got rather lost in terms of policy. Yes, I think that


is probably fair. It is inevitable, because what the Government is


doing, amongst many other very good things in the Budget, is to attack


tax evasion. We are all in favour of that. But this is tax avoidance,


of course, which they are saying is perfectly legal. Well, the problem


is that there is a very difficult area, and the real problem in this


case is that nobody knows who the people are the one taking advantage


of this, and no-one knows which charities are going to suffer.


Therefore, the charity world blows up. There is no evidence that they


are going to suffer. They might! But there is no evidence for it


because we do not have the facts. There is evidence, because the


Government have put the savings in the Budget. But they have not put


in, I am sorry, figures showing which charities are going to suffer.


In the Budget debate yesterday... Don't talk over each other. They


said there will be savings in the proposals they have introduced.


What they have not said is who is going to suffer from the savings.


It flies in the face of the Government's big push for the Big


Society, where it expected and encouraged people and individuals


to play that part in terms of support because they do not want


the state to do any more. It is a confused message. There are still


very generous tax breaks for giving to charity. I would not want people


to think they have articulated savings in terms of tax revenues,


because that assumes every generous person will not give to charity if


they do not get a tax break. �100 million, the government is saying,


charities will lose out. Macmillan, hospices, Oxfam says it will cost


them dearly. But they do not know, that is the point. The conservatory


tax, it looks as if it has been dropped. I do not think it was ever


a real threat. It was agreed in the coalition, the Liberal Democrats


wanted it to be compulsory that people would be made to take on


energy measures if they were fixing their boiler. Another U-turn.


have never seen any substantive proposals on his. I understand


there was a consultation picked up by the Daily Mail. The Green deal


is a very good policy idea, where you can invest and save, pay for it


through the savings on your energy bills. The granny tax, should there


be a U-turn? The 24 million people who are on low or average earnings


in this country to benefit from the fact that we have greatly increased,


the largest increases in the personal allowance that we have


ever had in history, those people ought to be strewing palm fronds of


happiness, but of course what you do hear about is the fact that


there is a freezing of the allowance that people... Was it


right to target pensioners? I think that we recognised the fact that,


in increasing the personal allowance for 24 million people,


that it is right to think about civil find that and bringing


everyone's tax allowance into line. -- symbol of fine. 4.4 million


pensioners will be worse off, and you call it simplification? These


are people who have made sacrifices in their working lives, they have


put things aside for retirement, and the government will take money


from them. You're not looking at the whole picture, because the


state pension has been greatly strengthened. It is going up in


line with inflation. Higher than the proposals we inherited from


Labour, which was for average earnings. Was it a good idea?


depends entirely on what the actual losses for people whose income is


up at low levels, and as we have just turned, many of them have been


compensated in other ways. Politically, though. Well, look,


George Osborne is a very courageous Chancellor. He has a nightmare on


his hands, an absolute nightmare, and everybody says, good old George,


you are doing the tough things, you are absolutely right, but every


proposal you make is wrong. The Labour Party, who created the mess,


are having a field day, say, we would not have done this. As you


said earlier... I am sorry, my own view is that you have to see what


George did in his Budget. He kept his nerve, he cut corporation tax


to get companies investing, he raised the thresholds for a very


significant number of poorer people, and these are the bigger issues.


There's one generalisation that I can make. The popular budgets are


the ones that are failures. The unpopular ones are the ones, in


retrospect, which are seen as good. Would you accept the government has


failed to get a positive message across on his budget? To be frank,


I have never known a government, in mid- term, that does not have a


message crisis. From its own side. No, you say, sorry, you save from


its own side, but look at its own side, analyse the motives of the


people behind the government. They are not a collective group of


people all saying whoopee! They are all sorts of pressure groups,


subdivisions, and they are people with their own agendas. It always


was like that in midterm. Do you think the message needs to move


more onto the subject of growth and away from austerity and tax? All we


have talked about in this is tax. When people get their pay cheques


this month in April, and they benefit from the higher personal


tax rates, when next year they get another higher personal tax rates,


he will see people realising they have been given more money in their


pockets to spend on more things, and that is important. It will


transform the legacy of the Budget could Stimac it is entirely


disingenuous. The Institute of Fiscal Studies show that the


average family will be �511 worth of as a result of all the changes,


including the tax allowance. The Ernst and Young ITEM Club yesterday


forecast that the economy is going to grow by 0.4% this year, half the


growth we saw last year. Nothing in his Budget will help get young


people back to work, and that is what we desperately need. On the


issue of sluggish growth, what can the Government to, Michael


Heseltine, to win the argument? It has tried to come off austerity and


go to growth. They should just call back Liam Byrne and say, what did


you mean when you said to the incoming colleague, there is no


money left? What he meant was any government would have had to cuts,


and cuts are unpopular, and we have got to face it, there is no choice.


But growth has to be the key surely, as you said for Spain. I agree with


you, and I tell you that when the 2015 election comes, this


government will be re-elected, either as a coalition was a Tory


government, because growth will have been restored. That is what is


going to happen. The forecast says 2 million people will still be


unemployed, that will be the legacy. So 600,000 less than now! Thank you


both for coming in. Dr Home Secretary is due to make a


statement later today in the Commons Updating MPs and government


efforts to deport Abu Qatada. The European Court of Human Rights has


so far blocked efforts from the UK government to deport the


controversial Muslim cleric. Norman Smith joins us from Parliament with


the latest. What can we expect if we know what Theresa May might say?


The Home Office are giving no clear guidance before and, and my


expectation is that Theresa May will be able to tell MPs that there


are now assurances from the Jordanians which will allow the


government to begin the process of trying to deport Abu Qatada. The


language I am hearing is that very good progress has been made in


talks with the Jordanians. Similarly, Keith Vaz, chairman of


the Home Affairs Select Committee, says he has spoken to the


Jordanians and they have given assurances that they wanted. It


seems to be politically implausible that Theresa May would come to the


Commons and say, I have failed, I have not got these assurances, bad


news, Abu Qatada will have to stay. That would be the political


equivalent of wandering up the M1 in the wrong direction. I think she


will come and say, we have got the assurances, we can move to deport


Abu Qatada. Does that mean he is going on a plane at the end of the


week, warned that he can be held in custody between now and when he


does get deported? Bluntly, it means nothing is happening any time


soon on the deportation. The sequence of events is this. The


government will present its case to the Special Immigration Appeals


Commission. His lawyers might then challenge that. That would go to


the High Court, the Supreme Court, and then all the way up to the


European Court, which could be months down the line. Deportation


could still be many, many months away, but crucially, as I


understand it, it is possible if the government believes it has a


strong case, they could ask for Abu Qatada to be sent back to jail, and


that could happen much more swiftly. It is possible that although you


may not be deported, he could actually be behind bars much sooner.


What about plans by the government to reform the European Court of


Human Rights? The reports today are saying that those plans, the


Government was quite gung-ho about what it would be able to do, are


actually going to be watered down. What are you keirin? Talking to


those around Kenneth Clarke, they have a very different


interpretation of what is going to happen. Ken Clarke has a meeting


with 47 members of the European Council on Thursday to hammer out a


deal on reform of the European Court. What they are saying is that


the signs are very encouraging and they are quietly confident that


they are going to get some sort of deal. One big caveat that we have


to end their here is that to get any deal, you have to get the


agreement of all 47 members, which seems to me to be nigh-on close to


Mission impossible. It is an extraordinarily difficult task to


get that sort of agreement. But for what it is worth, Ken Clarke's


people are saying that they are confident they can get some sort of


a deal. A well, we are joined now by Conservative MP Dominic Raab,


who worked as a lawyer and advised their EU before becoming an MP. Are


you here in optimistic noises as well coming out of the Ministry of


Justice? Are they right to be thinking something is going to


happen? Because everything I have seen has said none of those


proposals are going to go through in terms of restricting the scope


of the European Court. First of all, I think the government is


absolutely right to the other front foot, bringing a modest, sensible,


moderate reforms to the Strasbourg court so that it intervenes a


little bit less, so that it focuses on the most serious violations. Now,


look, we have not started the conference, the negotiating text,


as I remember from my time, gets bandied around. He will clip was


far too sceptical about the prospects for consensus. Look at


the declaration as to which had quite a strong resolution on


deportation cases. There are two things to look out for. Will it


reform Strasbourg so we have an amendment that spells out what the


margin of appreciation is? A bit more respect when the Supreme Court,


like in the Abu Qatada case, has already looked at the issue.


Secondly, a screening mechanism so that Strasbourg is focused on the


really serious abuses of human rights. They are saying that is not


what is going to happen. Then maybe a little bit more edging... Who is


they? Well, the commentators, but also sources who have been working


on this, and they obviously take a keen interest, and they are worried


you are going to get words and rhetoric but there will not be


anything written down which says, we are going to limit the number of


cases, we are going to reduce the caseload. Argos sources and others?


Probably! I don't know, I have seen some of the texts flying around.


You are optimistic. Look, I don't know what the negotiations will


produce. I have spelt out to you the two benchmarks for success.


They have cross-party support. The bill of Rights Commission support


it. Let's see whether they are delivered. Do you agree with that?


There is a case for reform, do you agree that there should be reform


of the European Court of Human I will go along with that.


don't have to! I have huge sympathy for Teresa May. She is a tough,


articulate Home Secretary. I would guess she is spitting blood in that


department. If I was in her position, I would be certain way.


What I would be -- I certainly would be. The French ignored this


position in deporting someone the other day. How can the French do it,


and we can't? Can countries actually be in breach of the rules


that govern human rights and get away with it in that sense?


Italians are doing it as well. I think we are very close. Let's take


the Abu Qatada case. This was not about torture fundamentally but


about saying Britain was responsible for the Judea and


justice system. What I think the government must now do, Teresa May


has gone out of the way to provide assurances on that. I think were at


the point where we need to be moving swiftly to deportation.


Given the way we implement international law in this country,


I think we could do so. The Supreme Court has upheld the deportation.


Is there a risk of going so far along the line that you can end up


tearing up the treaty that enshrines human rights in law? That


is what people will be worried about. They are right to be worried


and one has to remember that the reason this treaty exists is


because it was designed in the 1940s, quite apart from the


European Community, in order to give a beacon of hope to the people


subjected to the Russian domination, that there was a rule of law and a


code of behaviour, and we signed up to it. I remember being confronted


as a secretary of state, do you want to give that up? Of course,


you don't, because we are a great liberal democracy. But the process


is out of control. Personally, if I was Teresa May, I would say if the


French can do it, why can't I? are calling for a breach of the


very treaty which you say must be upheld. You are in a difficult


position, is it a breach? Is this what the treaty is all about? And


you will say the judges say it is. I realise the weakness of my


position in a court of law. In the position of Teresa May, and the


Home Secretary, and a democratically elected government,


I think there's a point at which you can say, no, I'm sorry, this is


not what we have signed it certainly wasn't what we signed up


to. When we signed up to the European Court of Human Rights,


none of these issues of asylum and caused by terrorism existed.


whole agenda changed? Yes. support what Dominic Raab said the


government is doing, without any fear of losing... My guess is if


you put it to the British people want a referendum, heaven forbid,


but if you did, there would be virtual unanimity. Thank you.


Research out this week says the powers that'll be handed to elected


mayors aren't clear enough and should be extended beyond city


boundaries. The Warwick Commission report comes just weeks before


people in ten English cities will vote on whether to switch from a


council leader and cabinet system to a directly elected mayor running


their councils. Our reporter, Susana Mendonsa, has been to


Birmingham to find out what people They're setting off for cities


where council leaders are in the driving seat, but elected mayor


might be taking the wheel soon. I think it is a fantastic idea and


it improves things. I think it works well in London but I don't


know about anywhere else. snapshot of opinion from Birmingham.


This city, along with Bradford, Bristol, and Coventry, is holding a


referendum next month on whether to switch to a directly elected mayor.


Doncaster's the odd one out, where there's a referendum to scrap the


existing mayor. Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham will also be asking


whether voters want an elected mayor, as will Newcastle-upon-Tyne,


Sheffield and Wakefield. But Birmingham's the first on that list.


So I've come to the city's Jewellery Quarter. The clock up


there commemorates Joseph Chamberlain who, as a former "non-


elected" mayor of Birmingham, used his position back in the 19th


century to clean up the slums and put Birmingham on the map. And some


here think a directly elected mayor could raise the city's profile.


These days, it's commissions like this that do that. Toye, Kenning


and Spencer is one of only three firms making official medals for


the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. It didn't need an elected mayor to win


that contract, but could one help? Companies like this can't stand


still, they know they have to win new orders, they have to go


overseas, they have to have profile behind them to promote what they


are doing. A mayor will come in with authority, 600,000 Brummies


having elected them, with clarity, with powers from London, with the


ability to go and punch above our weight on a very fiercely


competitive market. What about the accountability behind council house


doors? A report from the Warwick Commission this week says that's an


issue of concern. It is always the case that if you give people enough


powers... Lord Acton said power corrupts and absolute power


corrupts absolutely. There is always a danger you can have an


individual who does that kind of thing. That is why it is important


we recognise what scrutiny systems we have in terms of accountability,


and also try to ensure that the electorate is absolutely clear


about who they are voting for. one knows what powers the mayors


will have yet, although transport might top the list. On a tram ride


into the Black Country, I hear why that could be a bad news. We're


standing on a tramway going off to Wolverhampton from Birmingham,


which actually covers three district councils. It covers


Birmingham, it covers Sandwell, it covers Wolverhampton and therefore


there's a need to coordinate transport right the way across


those three administrative boundaries. And would a mayor not


do that? What we're saying is the challenge for the city mayor is how


do you do that, when he's only got a mandate just for Birmingham.


cities like Liverpool and Salford have already decide to hop on board


- they'll elect their mayors next month. The rest will let the public


decide whether they should head in the same direction.


Joining us now from Bristol is the Liberal Democrat leader of the City


Council, Barbara Janke, and with us here in the studio still is Lord


Heseltine, who is a strong advocate of elected mayors. Let me come to


you, Barbara Janke. What is wrong with giving everyone in Bristol a


say over who leads the city? Nothing at all, except that when I


speak to people in my area particularly, they don't know what


they are voting for. They don't know what the powers are going to


be, they don't know what the cost is going to be and they don't


really see how it is going to work. As your interviewee said, with


Bristol having the mayor, and the whole of the travel to work area


being outside that jurisdiction. just sounds like they don't have


the information to make that decision. They could, if given that


information, think it could be a great figurehead for Bristol.


400,000 for an election and referendum, a mayor's office on the


scale that we have in London, powers that are actually


unspecified, seems to me to be something that people should


rightly question. And I believe that there is a bit of a feeling


that people are being blackmailed, being told that they won't be


listened to by Downing Street. I don't see how that could be


possibly right. And somehow that they won't have any say and they


won't get any powers. I would not have that any government can be


discriminate three in that way. But this is the kind of impression we


are getting from government ministers. Let's look at the cost.


What is the advantage of holding a costly referendum and having


another costly election for a mayor several months later, to elect


somebody who people don't seem to know what they're going to do, and


they might not be any good. Bristol's case, they have had six


leaders in 10 years. I can tell you that is a formula for disaster. But


it is much wider than that. We are talking about the monopoly of


London. Over my lifetime, I have seen more and more power taken away


from the great English cities, and centralised in London. Where London


makes the decisions. These councillors think they are in


charge, they are not. The ministry of transport, housing, education,


they are the people who make the real decisions. There is no other


economy like us in the world that allows this monopolistic approach.


They have all got directly elected people that are identified locally,


that are powerful. If you really want to understand the argument,


just look what has happened in this country with Boris Johnson and Alex


Salmond. Our great English cities are being squeezed out of pressure


by these two giant politicians at either end of the country. Michael


Heseltine says council leaders are not really in charge of their


cities, with respect, people don't know who you are, you don't have


the profile that a figurehead would have. People say that and I am not


going to comment on my personal position. I would say that as far


as we are concerned in Bristol, we have very good international links.


We have just been shortlisted for the green capital with Frankfurt


and Copenhagen. Equally, as Lord Heseltine says, power has been in


the centre in this country for so long, that we don't really believe


that the government are going to give powers away at all. But surely


this would be a start. If you accept that London dominates, which


it does, why not give Bristol the chance to punch above its weight?


Because we want the powers. We have been saying for a long time, we


want the powers. It is immaterial, putting a figurehead over a


situation where central government makes all the decisions. We would


like the government to put its money where its mouth is. You have


just conceded the case. You said, we don't believe that the


government will give us the powers. Alex Salmond and Boris Johnson


don't believe that at all. They are determined that they will get


powers from London. And the problem with people in your position, it is


not a personal attack, is that you have given him. You have accepted


the status quo. What people like me want is to have directly elected


leaders in those great cities, who thumped the table and say, we will


not tolerate this dominance from London any more. That is all it is,


thumping the table. Barbara is saying that they once the powers


listed. I am sorry, what she is saying is we don't believe we will


get them. I want people who are determined to get them. What powers


should they be given? This will be an evolving process and the


ministers for cities it is discussing with the cities, what


powers they want. He is saying, what powers do you want and they


are coming forward with ideas. They will get the first tranche and it


will build. What powers would you like? What we have asked for for a


long time his strategic powers over transport, to be able to raise


money to fund transport schemes like the other great European


cities, like in the United States. To be able to raise money in bonds,


to look at what we can do in terms of revenue raising. 80% of all


taxation in the city goes to central government. We say if we


are allowed to keep more of our taxation, we could be self-


sufficient. Successive governments have talked about this and this


But to compare with Alex Salmond who is the Secretary of State for


Scotland seems completely absurd. As far as the mayoral referendum is


concerned, 40% turnout is what they get, which is no different from


local government elections in Bristol. Those are valid points.


First of all, what is the evidence, outside of London, places like


Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, I any better off with elected mayors? --


are any better off. They haven't been through the process of getting


more power. The elected mayors of today haven't got sufficient power,


in my view, but the government is committed to reversing that process


and devolving power. You have to have someone to fight for it, and


secondly, a method of administering that power, which doesn't exist in


the present local arrangements, which are branch offices of the


central government spending departments. Hartlepool and


Middlesbrough have got mayors, they have been thumping the table and


they haven't got those powers, which is perhaps why we hear


scepticism from someone like Barbara Janke. I can't answer for


what the last Labour government did in devolving powers. I can only


tell you what this government is committed to do. As I made the


recommendations on which the policy was built... You want the


government to give those powers? am convinced, you have to go back


to the position where these great cities mattered in the way in which


this country is run. London was not always this great dominant centre.


Barbara Janke, thank you for joining us.


Next, Afghanistan. Yesterday, Taliban militants launched several


attacks across the country as part of a spring offensive, showing they


are still a powerful force. Militants attacked a number of


sites including the Afghan Parliament. The NATO building and a


number of foreign embassies. President Hamid Karzai of


Afghanistan blamed a failure of NATO's intelligence services for


the attacks. Officials say 51 people died in the fighting.


This morning, Australia announced it will pull most its troops out of


Afghanistan a year earlier than planned, in 2013. American and


British troops are due to withdraw in 2014. What is the future for


Afghanistan and its volatile neighbour, Pakistan? I am joined by


Ahmed Rashid, it respected author about the region, who has a new


book, and Douglas Alexander, Shadow Foreign Secretary. We saw this


spring offensive from the Taliban. Does that really showed that not


much progress has been made and the Taliban are just sitting and


waiting for the withdrawals we have It shows a lot of things, including


the lack of intelligence that NATO and US forces have had about the


Taliban. They output so many defence mechanisms between the


Pakistan border and Kabul, and yet 30 or 40 Taliban were able to come


in with suicide best and all that. It shows an enormous weakness of


intelligence and military capability by both the US and


Afghan forces. But the other side of the picture is, remember the


Taliban are in talks with the American's right now? They are


temporarily suspended, but there has been a lot of dissent from


Taliban commanders on the ground, saying, why are we talking to them


when we are about to leave? We should be preparing for victory. So


this attack was meant to impress their own commanders that they are


still fighting. So the confidence is there, and they are basically


confident that the Afghan army is not ready to take over and probably


will not be when British and American forces withdraw by the end


of 2014. I think they are very confident. I think the American and


NATO assessment that we are winning and that somehow the Taliban are


being depleted is completely wrong. What do you say to that, Douglas


Alexander? Under Labour and his government, there is a feeling that


our troops are out there, that we can win it, if you want to use that


simplistic term, and when we pull- out, we will be able to hand over


to a relatively stable Afghan army and police force. That does not


sound like it is achievable. I have a great deal of sympathy with what


we have heard. My concern is that we have an end date for NATO forces


to transition out, but we have not got an end state, which is judged


to be sustainable. They have said they will build up Afghan forces,


but my conviction is that only politics can be the bridge between


where Afghanistan is today and where it needs to be, and that is


why, as well as ensuring that Afghan forces are built up and


running for military draw down, there needs to be a much greater


effort by the international community to ensure both an


inclusive political settlement, with Al-Qaeda out and the tribes


within, and a great deal of thought given to how we can bring in


regional neighbours, countries like Pakistan and China, even countries


like Iran. Because that is the basis on which you could have a


more sustainable future for Afghanistan. Is that really


credible, bringing in people like Pakistan? The West has struggled to


have any sort of stable relationship with Pakistan in terms


of dealing with the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan and


dealing with the Taliban, who many people say that Pakistan supports.


The reality is that border, in many areas, does not exist. The line


involves people living on one side of the border and farming on the


other. One of the challenges is to betray the Pakistani leadership


that the existential threat to Pakistan is not India but the


insurgency within its own borders and potentially from outside its


borders within Afghanistan. doesn't Pakistan say that it needs


to have a relationship with what they see as the future government,


the Taliban in Afghanistan? That is the long game it is plain, which


means that there is no real chance of getting Pakistan onside when


they are thinking ahead to who they might be dealing with after 2014.


The Pakistan military, Bridge conducts the country's foreign


policy, is very key that negotiations are successful between


the Americans, the Taliban, Hamid Karzai and the Taliban. If those


negotiations are successful, they would be some element of sharing


power in Kabul between Taliban and Hamid Karzai. Before 2014, after


2014, such negotiations might take longer than 2014, but if it happens,


Pakistan can live without. That is the endgame. Pakistan's endgame is


not to bring the Taliban back to power. Pakistan is faced with its


own Taliban insurgency, and it does not want to deal with a rabbit


Taliban government in Kabul. A sharing of power between the


present Afghan government and the Taliban is the best outlook. But


frankly, the problem is that the Americans are not taking the talks


seriously. What you think the Americans should be doing? The next


main date is going to be the NATO summit which takes place in May. I


think we do not just want to see a Status of forces Agreement, an


agreement in terms of the funding of the Afghan military, or indeed a


timetable for military transition. We need to see a serious engagement


with the regional players and the Taliban. We need the diplomatic


efforts to match the military sacrifice. The real problem has


been that President Obama has not put his foot down. There are huge


divisions between the Defence Department and the State Department,


the US military saying that they want to push ahead and continue


fighting indefinitely until the last militant is dead. State is


saying that we should be talking to the Taliban, and we have not seen


assertive American leadership in going ahead. Obama and Hillary


Clinton support talks, but they have not put their weight behind it.


Why do you think that is? Is it because they have decided they are


going to withdraw and wash their hands of it? I do not think the


Americans can wash their hands of Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda may be


defeated, but there are still enough extremists around in that


region to worry both Europe and the Americans. Michael Heseltine, in


terms of his end date, to pick up on what Douglas Alexander said, to


think it has just given the Taliban a date to wait for and then move


in? If you were sitting in the senior counsels of the Taliban,


that is what you would think. It is the only conclusion you could come


to. So you would not agree to British troops withdrawn at the end


of 2014. I would not have agreed to put them in in the first place. I


do not understand, I cannot understand how the mission creep


took place. I think it was 100% defensible of the Americans to go


in, to get Bin Laden. But that was a very limited objective, highly


justifiable. But what they are doing, trying to turn one of the


most difficult states in the world into a civilised democracy, I just


find extraordinary. And it is not going to work, you know. You are


damned if you stay and you are damned if you go. And on that note,


thank you very much to both of you for coming in. Before we move on,


son used to say that Abu Qatada has been arrested, the Muslim cleric we


have been hearing about. We are going to hear from Theresa May this


afternoon, but he has been arrested in the meantime. It has not been a


great couple of weeks for government in presentational terms.


Some are blaming their woes of a lack of political prowess in


Cabinet. Where are the big beasts that characterised previous


government? A reminder of some of the talent and trouble they brought


I have resigned from the Cabinet. I will make a full statement later


That conflict of loyalty has become all too great. I know longer


believe it is possible to resolve that conflict from within his


That is what I'm going to negotiate for, and that the conference to


support me in that task! -- and I Here, Gordon. It is not often I get


a chance to give you something for Smiles all round, I wonder what it


was really like behind the scenes. Joining is now his chief political


commentator of the Express, what is a big beast in political terms?


Well, I think a big beast is someone who has his own... It is


usually a him, but Mo Mowlam was the last female babies. Somebody or


has self-confidence, a ability to attract a following but by


definition is not the party leader. But if you ask what are the


consequences should this person walk out in a straw or turn hostile


and the consequences of big, that is a big beast, at which point I


think Lord Heseltine might be eliminate us on his definition.


you agree with that? I think every generation produces their big


beasts in that respect. Really? Not at the time? We are not described


as a big political beast? Ken Clarke is still described as one. I


have the highest regard for Ken. He is at the end of his political


career. He certainly is a big beast by any standards. The great problem


is that you do not see your contemporaries as big beasts.


don't? No, you don't, and I certainly, having served with


different generations, I do not remember ever being in tow or of


any of my colleagues. Maybe people were in awe of you. I remember at


the time, he did have quite a lot of Conservative MPs whose primary


loyalty was probably to you, rather than the leader of the party. I am


thinking of Michael Mates and Peter Temple-Morris, who saw you as their


contemporaries. You had a following as a result. I certainly had a


following, but plenty of people in the House of Commons today have


followings. I'm not close enough, but I know it to be the case. You


constantly read about them in the papers, the ones that the press go


to. Do you think the government is a big beast free? I know that you


look at it retrospectively, but as an observer, apart from Ken Clarke,


who will be known as a big beast of this government? Well, in my own


party terms, David Cameron will be seen as the man who brought the


Tories back out of the cold. I think George Osborne could well be


seen as an outstanding Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think William


Hague is highly regarded. I say William Hague could be regarded as


a big beast. He is closer to it, but I think I am right in saying


that he is no longer seen as being on the ladder up. No, indeed.


has got to the top of his ladder, and you have to get to the top of


your ladder to be a big beast. I think you have to have the


capacity or potential to cause trouble, and I think William Hague


is 100% ile loyal to David Cameron. If I had to pick a big beast in the


Tory party, you would have to look at David Davis, who is outside the


Cabinet. But then you are talking about troublemakers. Do you need to


have to have a big personality, somebody with that charisma, if you


like, rather than perhaps a political leader? There are not


many of those in the current government. They are not many in


politics in general, partly because the status of the leader in


relation to the front bench has skewed a lot in a last 20 years, so


we have become more presidential. It is hard for anyone in the


Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet to have that. Go back in 1979 when Margaret


Thatcher was elected. Now, basically, their senior team were


Ted Heath's government. They had been there for four years, big


names. They were. By any standards, Quentin Hailsham, Willie Whitelaw,


Geoffrey Howe, Peter Carrington were big beasts, but the government,


after 18 months, was absolutely at the bottom of the opinion poll


ratings. I'm not sure about the correlation between the two. We


have only got seconds left, the biscuits that Boris Johnson


compared himself to, do you know what it is? No idea. Chocolate


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