19/04/2012 Daily Politics


19/04/2012

Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn are joined by David Laws MP. They discuss the Lib Dems' local election hopes, as well as the latest on the Abu Qatada deportation row.


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Welcome to the Daily Politics. Did the Home Secretary, Theresa May get

:00:47.:00:52.

her dates mixed up? Theresa May has been summoned to the Commons to

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answer questions about the confusion over the deportation of

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radical Muslim cleric, Abu Qatada. Had happened in the Commons, we are

:00:59.:01:02.

to bring you the latest. Reforms to the court are being

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discussed in Brighton today. As the British Government tries to push

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through what it claims are significant changes, but will it

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get its way? The Government narrowly avoids defeat in the

:01:15.:01:24.

Commons on plans to attack static caravans and today Joan Bakewell is

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here to tell us why the granny tax should be scrapped. The clock tower,

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to us, Big Ben, should it be renamed the Elizabeth Tower? All of

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that coming up. With us today, former Chief

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Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws.

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Now, we go to the breaking stories as we came on air, dramatic events

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in the Commons with the Home Office proving its reputation as a

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poisoned chalice for ministers. The case fr radical Muslim cleric, Abu

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Qatada, has proved a thorny issue for the Home Secretary and all of

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her Labour predecessors. This case goes all the way back to 2001.

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Theresa May was speaking in the House of Commons. Summoned there to

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answer an urgent question this morning, Yvette Cooper leading the

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attack for the Labour opposition. It looked like the saga was coming

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to an end, but now it unravels and it continues.

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So, the saga of deporting the radical Muslim cleric, Abu Qatada,

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goes on. The European Court of Human Rights blocked the

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deportation to Jordan in January, saying that whilst they were

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satisfied that the cleric would be treated well, that they could not

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see evidence of him not having tortured used against him in Jordan.

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Ministers believe that a deadline passed o on Monday night. On

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Tuesday, the Home Secretary, May May, told the Commons, she had

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received guarantees from Jordan that Abu Qatada would face a fair

:03:10.:03:14.

trial and he could be deported. Abu Qatada was arrested by the police

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and held in custody. On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights

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said they had recieved a fresh appeal who, argued that the

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deadline was a day later. A panel of five judges are to decide if the

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case goes to the court's Grand Chamber, causing delay and the

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prospect of Abu Qatada being released in the meantime. The 47

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countries signed up to the court meeting in Brighton are to discuss

:03:46.:03:50.

reforms as to whether there should be fewer appeals. Sir Nicolas

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Bratza, however, warned of the times that no magic wand would

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emerge. The Home Secretary has been summoned to the Commons to answer

:03:58.:04:05.

an urgent question on the issue. This farce has serious consequences.

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Additional delays, a risk that Abu Qatada is out on bail and a risk he

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could sue the Government. So did the Home Office get assurances from

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the European Court of Human Rights that the deadline was Monday night?

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If so, will they publish them, if not, why not? Why did they not pick

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up the phone to sort it out? The Home Office was told by a

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journalist on Monday, nearly 24 hours before Abu Qatada was

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arrested, that the European Court officials were saying that the

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deadline was Tuesday. Did they do anything about it? I hope that she

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is right, but at best there is uncertainty and several lawyers

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saying that they agree with the European Court. So why take the

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risk? What was the harm in waiting until Wednesday? Why create a legal

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loophole for Abu Qatada's lawyers to create.

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We have been clear that the process of deporting Abu Qatada is likely

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to take many months. It should not come as a surprise to anybody that

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Abu Qatada has intended to apply delaying tactics.

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I repeat, that it should hardly come as a surprise to anybody...

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That Abu Qatada has chosen to use delaying tactics. Afterall, he has

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been doing this since 2001. Well, that is Theresa May coming

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under fire then from the opposition benches and Yvette Cooper. I am

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joined by Clive Coleman. Can you clear up for us, once and for all,

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has Theresa May and the Home Office got the date wrong? Well, I've been

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speaking to a number of lawyers this morning. They would say yes

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she has. If you look at the wording of

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article 47, when it says is that you start counting from the date

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that the judgment is given. Now that was give no-one the Abu Qatada

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case, the chamber judgment was given on the 17th of January. You

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then count forward three months. Now going on that basis. So you

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start from the next day, as it were if you start from the next day,

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then that takes you to the Tuesday night, the 17th.

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So on that basis, the Government has got it wrong. Now, there is

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some case law on this. In relation to time limits for, not for

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applications in the Abu Qatada-type situation, but for applications to

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the court, for the court to hear a case. It is a six-month time limit,

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but there are two cases that could not be clearer, but as I say, you

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start counting the next day and count forward for three months. So

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on the basis of the wording of Article 47 and on the basis of the

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case law, although on a different time limit, but a time limit in

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relation to getting in an application to the European Court

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of Human Rights, on that basis, the Government seems to have it wrong.

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If that is the case, if it is shown to be the case, what is the

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likelihood of Abu Qatada released on bail while the legal process

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takes its course? I was in court to hear the bail hearing. What the

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judge was clear about, was that he said that he was to remand Abu

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Qatada in custody, as there seemed to be a fast-track, a potential for

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a really fast-track way of getting this all done and dusted. By this

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is under deportation through the UK courts. Now if Abu Qatada's

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application is successful, if he is successful in getting a full Grand

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Chamber hearing. That would be in front of 17 judges of the European

:07:54.:07:57.

Court of Human Rights. Then that could drag on. The judge was clear,

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if within a couple of weeks it looks like it will drag on, that he

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comes back to the court, that he will then consider the issue of

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bail. When he was previously looking at the case, when a long

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period was stretching ahead, he granted bail.

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Thank you very much. Andrew? This is going to develop as

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the day goes on. The Home Secretary is still answering questions in the

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Commons. That could be a long session it is all beginning to

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unravel. Let's see if we can pick where we are going. This is a

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complicated legal case. If the studio I am joined by Diana Johnson.

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In the Oxford studio, there is Michael Pinto-Duschinsky. He

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recently resigned by the body set up by the coalition to examine our

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relationship with the European Court of Human Rights and of course

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David Laws is with us. David Laws, if Theresa May got the dates wrong

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if she was out by a crucial 24 hours, is her job on the line?

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is frustrating, but the first thing we need to find out is whether or

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not the ECH, whether our approach is right or the Home Office. We

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also do not know, frankly, in terms of advice that the Home Office gave

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to the Home Secretary, whether it was informed by the ECHR. Was it a

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consequence of the mistake made there. So until there is clarity it

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is difficult to be sure, but I think when this came out it came

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out in your report, that it is inconceivable, that this individual,

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seeking to prolong and delay this for years and years, would not have

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appealed any way. Although I find this, I am sure that the Home

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Secretary finds it frustrating, and -- but I'm not sure we would have

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gone through this type of a pale process.

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She, May May, may have been guided by Home Office opinion on this, but

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not by Strasbourg itself, so, I say again, if she has the crucial dates

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wrong, that opens the British Government, or opens Abu Qatada to

:10:10.:10:16.

being released on bail again, opens legal action by him against the

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British Government and could delay matters yet further, it her job on

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the line? No, I don't think it is. She has done a great job of getting

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us where we are now. Secondly, I think it unlikely that the even if

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there has been an error, that the Home Secretary herself is

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responsible. I suspect she has had clear advice, either from officials

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or possibly from her officials because of the advice given by the

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ECHR. A third point is that I am not sure that this is material to

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the fact that there would have been an appeal. So I think that her

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position is clear, but the Government and the Home Secretary

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will be furious about this and we have to get to the bottom of this.

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Let me come to Diana Johnson. In your view has the Home Secretary

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got the date right or wrong? Well, we have to look at what the ECHR

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says when they meet, but it does seem there is confusion over the

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date it seems that there, or it would have beenwiseer to wait to

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ensure if there was a risk if there was an additional day to lodge

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appeal, that was allowed to pass and then the action was taken. By

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doing what the Home Secretary has done, she has opened herself up to

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a claim of wrongful arrest, first of all, and possibly compensation

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claims and also, when the Home Secretary, when I heard her

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statement before I left the house, was one issue was that the hearing

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on Tuesday afternoon, that they, Abu Qatada, appealed later on that

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evening it seems to me should should have waited until the next

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day. Do you mean if she was advised,

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that she was entitled to press ahead, she would have been

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irresponsible to have left it, then she could have discovered an appeal

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comes in after that. It depends on how much credence you

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give to the record of that department.

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If you are a Home Office Minister you question everything that comes

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before you. You ask if you are sure. If you are the Home Secretary, on a

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case such of this with the national importance you definitely ask that

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question. Let's bring in Michael Pinto-

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Duschinsky. He is waiting in Oxford. I want to broaden this out to what

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is going out in Brighton, also with the wider reforms that are meant to

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be afoot there, but can you bring clarity to the issue of when the

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clock starts to tick for the time limit within which someone can make

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an appeal against a Strasbourg judgment? Well, I certainly can't.

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I am pleased these days that I am not a lawyer, but I do think it is

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a bit much for Mrs Johnson to attack Theresa May because for

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years and years every Home Secretary has had to rely on

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officials for different judgments. You will recall that Charles Clarke

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had to resign as there were hundreds of prisoners, foreign

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prisoners who should have been deported when their sentences in

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jail came up and they were not to be found.

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I think that many of them have not been found still. So I think that

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one needs a bit of realism and humility about what goes on in the

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job of a Home Secretary and indeed if Mrs Johnson ever becomes a Home

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Secretary, herself, then she will find factly -- exactly the same

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thing. There is an underlying problem of getting the Home Office

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working better as a department and that is a long-standing and

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important problem, but I do not think that this is something that

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could be blamed in this case on Theresa May.

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Let me ask you the broader issue, you know that the justice ministers

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from across the members of the European Council are meeting in

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Brighton. The British have a reform agenda. They have been pushing hard

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in the six months in the chair. They hope to get the 47 to sign up

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to it in Brighton this week, will they succeed in your view, fanned

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so, will the reforms make a difference? I am sure that they

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will succeed in getting a document signed up.

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There has been a lot of very good work, I may say, on this for all

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sides. But I don't think that it is going

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to resolve the underlying issue, which is where does the buck stop?

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Who has the final authority on deciding cases that come under the

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European Convention on Human Rights? And the document says

:15:13.:15:20.

clearly, that final authority rests with Strasbourg. So whatever

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cosmetic concessions are made, will really not mean very much.

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So, David Laws, whatever is decided in Brighton, my sung that the

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Government's proposals have been watered down, that nothing will

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change in Brighton to stop someone like Abu Qatada Maying the system

:15:38.:15:43.

like a fiddle since 2001 and the European Court coming up with a

:15:43.:15:50.

number of rulings that stop us from deporting him? Firstly, Michael is

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gloomy about the outcomes it is possible.

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Supposing so, let's be optimistic, the British Government gets

:15:56.:16:00.

everything that it wants, all 47 sign up to this, what difference

:16:00.:16:10.
:16:10.:16:17.

In his case I am not sure you would. There needs to be an understanding

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in ECHR by the type of people who were appointed to it, people with

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more experience rather than academics, about the sensitivities

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there are in countries in Europe that international law means not

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only protecting the rights of people like this individual but

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also the right of everybody else to be defended against people of his

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alleged nature. The only other alternative to making these types

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of change would be for us to pack up, leave ECHR, and give an open

:16:47.:16:51.

invitation to the countries we do know do not respect law in their

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own states, like Russia and Turkey, to leave as well. Although this

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case is damn frustrating and I feel as angry that this has gone on as

:16:59.:17:05.

anybody else, or the European Court of Human Rights is doing is trying

:17:05.:17:09.

to ask the UK to ensure that there are protections to make sure this

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man is not tortured when he goes to Jordan. Is that unreasonable to

:17:15.:17:20.

ask? I do not think it is but we won these processes to work quickly

:17:20.:17:24.

in the future. Many British people may think it is unreasonable. Our

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own Supreme Court, with some of the best qualified judges in the

:17:27.:17:33.

democratic world, has ruled this man should be sent back. So

:17:33.:17:37.

couldn't a reform take place where by the European Court says if this

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has been heard by a properly constituted, fully qualified courts

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of Human Rights, using the convention as its set of yardsticks,

:17:48.:17:51.

why doesn't need to go to Strasbourg? That is one of the

:17:51.:17:55.

issues that could be looked at in the conference in terms of if in

:17:55.:17:58.

the domestic courts they have had regard to the case of the European

:17:58.:18:04.

Court, they could say you have dealt with that so that is one of

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the suggestions. The problem with the Brighton conference is the

:18:07.:18:11.

proposals on the agenda are watered down. I am not sure what will come

:18:11.:18:15.

out of that conference but we would like to see reform, of course. We

:18:15.:18:20.

don't want to see this again. could avoid the number of cases

:18:20.:18:30.
:18:30.:18:34.

What would you like to see be done that would stop a case like Abu

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Qatada or dominating our judicial process and no politics since 2001?

:18:42.:18:47.

I think any individual case like Abu Qatada has to be considered

:18:47.:18:57.

very carefully. I do not criticise the Strasbourg judges on this, I

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think they have been very careful and have come to what seemed to me

:19:00.:19:07.

to be good judgment. So I don't want anybody to be tortured, or any

:19:07.:19:13.

risk of torture. The problem comes with much broader policy decisions

:19:13.:19:20.

such as should prisoners in general have the right to vote? And on

:19:20.:19:23.

those are essentially political decisions, they should be taken by

:19:23.:19:29.

our House of Commons, not by judges in Strasbourg. So I think we ought

:19:29.:19:35.

to move to a system where the House of Commons has, in exceptional

:19:35.:19:41.

cases, it right to override the Strasbourg court on matters that

:19:41.:19:47.

deal essentially with political interpretations. Thank you for

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joining us from Oxford. And to you. Ken Clarke said today that allowing

:19:57.:20:00.

Parliament to overrule a Strasbourg ruling would take us back to Tudor

:20:00.:20:10.
:20:10.:20:11.

times. Was that a rather crushing remark? Was Theresa May let down by

:20:11.:20:14.

civil servants at the Home Office over the deadline? Some

:20:14.:20:19.

Conservative MPs claimed she was an even before the current funerary

:20:19.:20:22.

there was growing discontent on the back benches that the pair of civil

:20:22.:20:27.

servant in the government. A frustration articulated in Prime

:20:27.:20:30.

Minister's Questions yesterday. recently asked the Prime Minister

:20:30.:20:34.

to what extent he believed the Whitehall machine, the Sir Humphrey

:20:34.:20:38.

factor, was frustrating reform stop he assured us it was not. According

:20:38.:20:42.

to the Financial Times in Malaysia last week the PM said as Prime

:20:42.:20:46.

Minister I can take you yes, Minister is true-to-life. Can the

:20:46.:20:55.

Prime Minister tell us what has happened to change his mind? There

:20:55.:20:59.

are few occasions where I think the Honourable Gentleman does need a

:20:59.:21:08.

bit of a sense of humour. Douglas Carswell, can we get a reaction

:21:08.:21:12.

about what has happened with Abu Qatada? Do you think Theresa May

:21:13.:21:17.

has been let down by civil servants? Within 24 hours of me

:21:17.:21:22.

making my comment, the Carry On Sir Humphrey episode in the latest

:21:22.:21:24.

shenanigans rather demonstrates part of the problem. If Sir

:21:24.:21:29.

Humphrey cannot even get the legal paperwork in on time and read a

:21:29.:21:32.

Callender properly what chance is there of Sir Humphrey being able to

:21:32.:21:36.

dig us out of this human rights mess? Again and again we find

:21:36.:21:40.

reforming administration that came to office with a coalition

:21:40.:21:44.

agreement that was meant to mean real change has been thwarted by

:21:44.:21:49.

the institutional inertia of the Whitehall mandarins. Are you not

:21:49.:21:56.

blaming too much civil servants? It is clear you think the officials

:21:56.:22:00.

made the mistake, we have been discussing whether Theresa May

:22:00.:22:05.

should have checked on such a big issue, although close to her on the

:22:05.:22:08.

political basis, that they had the dates right? I am not exonerating

:22:08.:22:16.

ministers. I think this is damning criticism of the ministers, I am

:22:16.:22:20.

not exonerating them. I do not want to comment too much on the Abu

:22:21.:22:24.

Qatada case but again and again and again in flagship Whitehall

:22:24.:22:26.

departments we see promises ministers made to bring about

:22:26.:22:33.

fundamental change and they are not delivering on it. An example - the

:22:33.:22:37.

government came to office promising to cut the deficit. It is not only

:22:37.:22:40.

spending more money in five years and borrowing more than Gordon

:22:40.:22:46.

Brown did in 13, it is not only going -- even going to meet

:22:46.:22:50.

Alistair Darling's target. It suggests to me Sir Humphrey is

:22:51.:22:56.

running the show and he never wants to cut his budget. You have a

:22:56.:23:03.

chance to respond to that. annual deficit 25% smaller when the

:23:03.:23:08.

government -- than the figure we inherited from Alistair Darling.

:23:08.:23:11.

But the government will have to borrow more over the course of the

:23:11.:23:15.

parliament. The borrowing projections are the end of last

:23:15.:23:18.

year, they were revised upwards from initial ones because the

:23:18.:23:21.

European economy is softer and therefore our growth outlook is

:23:21.:23:26.

different. We cannot blame civil servants for that. It is also

:23:26.:23:30.

blaming ministers. If you look at what they can be held to account

:23:30.:23:33.

for including ministers, in other words, how much we are spending in

:23:33.:23:37.

the public sector, the public sector has met all the targets the

:23:37.:23:42.

government met for cuts in public spending over the last two years.

:23:42.:23:47.

The Bonfire of the quangos seems to have gone out. I am told by a

:23:47.:23:53.

special adviser in the Treasury in the 1990s as civil servants would

:23:53.:23:57.

perennially suggest a caravan Tax, granny tax and these things had

:23:57.:23:59.

been slipped through because ministers are being run by the

:24:00.:24:04.

departments, not dead -- not running their departments. So what

:24:04.:24:11.

is the solution? There is our land mines the staff would have

:24:11.:24:15.

predicted, are you saying more political appointments? Let's not

:24:15.:24:18.

replicate the mistakes of Tony Blair. That sounds like what you

:24:18.:24:26.

want though. I would like ministers to be able to appoint a chief of

:24:26.:24:31.

staff. If they could do that, they could get a grip in a way they have

:24:31.:24:35.

not always been able to. I would like to see select committee

:24:35.:24:40.

chairman being held to account -- holding to account the Sir

:24:41.:24:45.

Humphreys. I would like them to appeal for their money and their

:24:45.:24:52.

budget before they get it. You have been accused of being a right wing

:24:52.:24:57.

agitator, unhelpful to the Prime Minister, what do you say to that?

:24:57.:25:01.

I do nothing you can dismiss me as a typical right window. I want

:25:01.:25:06.

radical change in this country and one of the reasons I was excited

:25:06.:25:08.

about the coalition was because I believed it was a historic

:25:08.:25:13.

opportunity to merge traditional free-market Toryism with a

:25:13.:25:17.

political radicalism we find that the Lib Dems. But if you look at

:25:17.:25:20.

what the government is doing in health, education, the welfare

:25:20.:25:26.

system, there is no evidence that civil servants have held up plans.

:25:26.:25:30.

We have been criticised for the speed of reform in health and

:25:30.:25:36.

education and welfare. The idea this has been blocked is not true.

:25:36.:25:40.

In education and welfare and policing, we are seeing genuine

:25:40.:25:44.

reforms. But in so many other departments we're not getting the

:25:44.:25:49.

change we need. I have to stop you there. Have you got a sense of

:25:49.:25:58.

humour? I hope so. I think I do. Lovely. Thank you. Now, the first

:25:58.:26:01.

of our series of interviews with the seven candidates who hope to

:26:01.:26:04.

fill Boris Johnson's shoes as London Mayor, one of them is Boris

:26:04.:26:08.

Johnson, in fact. In a moment I will be speaking to the Green Party

:26:08.:26:13.

candidate for the job, Jenny Jones. She is hoping to make a

:26:13.:26:16.

breakthrough in London with policies including She'd also like

:26:16.:26:19.

to see a 20mph speed limit across much of the capital and she wants

:26:19.:26:29.
:26:29.:26:33.

to close London City airport to cut But her manifesto goes beyond

:26:33.:26:36.

natural green issues and includes pledges to try to introduce a

:26:36.:26:46.
:26:46.:26:48.

higher minimum wage and to create 150,000 apprentices. The party

:26:48.:26:51.

supports weekly bin collections but would like to see London sending

:26:51.:26:58.

nothing to landfil by 2030. When will all probably be gone. -- we

:26:58.:27:03.

will. The Greens have made some notable advances in recent years,

:27:03.:27:06.

including their first MP, and Jones has set her sights on overtaking

:27:06.:27:16.
:27:16.:27:16.

the Lib Dems to come third on May 3. You have been overtaken by you kick

:27:17.:27:26.
:27:27.:27:36.

on the pulse. What went wrong? What is your best poll recently?

:27:36.:27:41.

Previous polls have put us on 4% and the Lib Dems on 6%. We think we

:27:41.:27:45.

can do better. Green votes tend to come out late, I have no idea why,

:27:45.:27:53.

they just don't register early. one Green voters to give their

:27:53.:27:58.

second preferences to Ken Livingstone. If you feel like that

:27:58.:28:07.

why wouldn't you just give Ken your first vote? Because we do not think

:28:07.:28:11.

he is the best candidate, we think that is a green who can take London

:28:12.:28:16.

forward in a sustainable way. were his former deputy. He

:28:16.:28:23.

described your endorsement. As a key building block to a victory. --

:28:23.:28:32.

endorsement point. Miracles happen. When, I've never seen one. Read our

:28:32.:28:39.

manifesto if you have not already. I have even written your name in it.

:28:39.:28:45.

You signed it for me? What about me? Sorry, I did not know you were

:28:45.:28:52.

here. I appreciate that. But why are you so enthusiastic about Ken?

:28:52.:29:02.

We have had this row about his tax returns after talking about rich

:29:02.:29:06.

people and he always moans about the privatisation of the NHS and we

:29:06.:29:09.

discover this morning he uses private health care. Why are you

:29:09.:29:15.

keen for him to win? I am not going to justified Ken Livingstone.

:29:15.:29:20.

You're telling people to vote for him. I am suggesting is deport the

:29:20.:29:25.

Greens to make an impact, there are three ways to do it... You can vote

:29:25.:29:28.

for me as Meyer because that's a signal at everybody about the

:29:28.:29:32.

support we have, you can vote for assembly members having his strong

:29:32.:29:39.

green pack of -- assembly members, having a strong pack of Green

:29:39.:29:49.

members is a good way. And thirdly, if it has to be, go for Ken, we

:29:49.:29:54.

can't work with Boris. What about the congestion charge? Far too many

:29:54.:30:00.

people are paying it. How much would you put it up? We would put

:30:00.:30:07.

the standard congestion charge up to �15. And for gas-guzzlers we

:30:07.:30:14.

would make it �40. �40 a day?! With government ministers have to pay

:30:14.:30:24.
:30:24.:30:25.

that? Hopefully. But they would be Boris Johnson says that the

:30:25.:30:30.

transport plans have an honesty. I think that is his idea of irony.

:30:30.:30:37.

You want every new London home to have space to grow food, whether it

:30:37.:30:43.

is a garden, balcony, would a window box do? It probably would.

:30:43.:30:48.

And just to say, we have been joined by viewers in Scotland,

:30:48.:30:51.

they've been watching First Minister's Questions live from

:30:51.:30:57.

Holyrood. Now we are in London be, we with interviewing the Green

:30:57.:31:04.

Party candidate, Jenny yons. You were explaining, you would be

:31:04.:31:08.

satisfied if we had a window box? There is a need in lots of people

:31:08.:31:15.

to grow things. There is a shortage of allotments?

:31:15.:31:20.

Absolutely. We should close city airport and do something useful

:31:20.:31:25.

with it. That is not going to happen? Why not? It is a key link

:31:25.:31:31.

for the City of London for short- hall flights to Amsterdam,

:31:31.:31:38.

Copenhagen, Stoke home... We should start to understand that short-hall

:31:38.:31:42.

flights have to be overtaken by rail travel N other parts of Europe,

:31:42.:31:47.

they are expanding the intake from around the railways.

:31:47.:31:53.

That is because Charles De Gaulle has already built six runways, they

:31:53.:31:59.

have done their expansion! We live with a finite amount of resources.

:31:59.:32:03.

If there is growth in one area, there is recession in another. We

:32:03.:32:08.

are greedy. We must learn how to adapt and to survive.

:32:08.:32:14.

I would think it is tough, which is why some think you are not only

:32:14.:32:20.

unlikely to win, but you could lose seats in the assembly, but it is

:32:20.:32:25.

tough on the economic climate and these campaigning issues? Well, if

:32:25.:32:30.

I can tell you about one policy. Insulating homes. If we do 1

:32:30.:32:34.

million in the next four years we lower people's energy bills, that

:32:34.:32:40.

is good for them. We reduce the car emissions. We reduce the need for

:32:40.:32:43.

energy companies to invest in more energy, you know, infrastructure.

:32:43.:32:49.

That is why we have the Green Deal. If only it went far enough. It does

:32:49.:32:53.

and it will be. You can have a win, win, win

:32:53.:32:57.

situation on the environment and on the economy! Thank you very much,

:32:57.:33:00.

Jenny Jones, I will see you on Sunday.

:33:00.:33:04.

The debate is going out on BBC One on Sunday night after the news at

:33:04.:33:09.

10.25pm, when we have four of the main London mayoral candidates in

:33:10.:33:14.

the debating area plus others on video tape. Now, a full list of the

:33:14.:33:18.

candidates is on your screen now it is available on the BBC News

:33:18.:33:27.

website. Now, the Government is involved in

:33:27.:33:32.

a serious of rebellions, the most serious was the plan to impose VAT

:33:32.:33:37.

on static caravans used for holidays. The Government's majority

:33:37.:33:45.

was reduced to 25 on the issue. Clearly Margaret Beckett was doing

:33:45.:33:50.

the whipping. The Government also won on the so-called pasty tax, but

:33:50.:33:54.

with a considerable rebellion from coalition MPs. Let's give you a

:33:54.:34:03.

flavour of the debate. We have a Cornish coalition moving

:34:03.:34:08.

forward to try and protect the Cornish pasty. The paroles from the

:34:08.:34:13.

Government, I fear, are unfair. They are unworkable, they will be

:34:13.:34:20.

bad for the economy of Cornwall. The current rules mean that many do

:34:20.:34:24.

not know whether they are charged vat sat on hot food as the

:34:24.:34:29.

treatment depends on the shrier's purpose in heating the food.

:34:29.:34:32.

-- supplier. The new rules ensure a level

:34:32.:34:40.

playing food and we are removaling the sent tivity element.

:34:40.:34:45.

proposal on VAT on static caravans will have a serious effect on all

:34:45.:34:51.

of East Yorkshire and Hull, include ing the situation where it could

:34:51.:34:55.

dramatically cut employment in the area. At a time when we are trying

:34:55.:35:02.

to encourage growth and balance the books, this will not help to do

:35:02.:35:07.

either in the situation it will reverse both.

:35:07.:35:11.

It will destroy a purely British success story in the manufacturing

:35:11.:35:17.

industry. 95% of the caravans are made in the UK. We want a proper

:35:17.:35:22.

informed debate and consultation. I have heard the arguments about

:35:22.:35:26.

extending the consultation period. That is a reasonable thing to do.

:35:26.:35:30.

Rather than closing the consultation period on the 4th of

:35:30.:35:35.

May. We are to extend it now to the 18th 6 May.

:35:35.:35:42.

We want people to respond to these consultations, but it is right to

:35:42.:35:50.

address these anomalies. Today, the debate moves back to the

:35:50.:35:54.

region of the so-called granny tax. It is certainly the description

:35:55.:36:04.
:36:05.:36:12.

that we are using in the media. This is the plan to remove certain

:36:12.:36:22.

areas of help for the elderly. Age UK says, "It is all relatively

:36:22.:36:27.

small beer." Small amounts of money matter a great deal to older people

:36:27.:36:37.
:36:37.:36:42.

who have not got very much. Small amounts are being cut. So, this is

:36:42.:36:47.

not the poorest. It does not affect the richest. They did not get this

:36:47.:36:55.

tax relief? It affects those if they have their state pension which

:36:55.:37:00.

is about �5,000, plus a private pension of �6,000. They would

:37:00.:37:04.

therefore have a total income of �12,000. Not rich, you have to

:37:04.:37:10.

admit. That is not rich. That is middle? Well... I mean

:37:10.:37:17.

among the pensioners? These are the people, they are Tory voters.

:37:17.:37:25.

Not all of them. They tend to be people who have

:37:25.:37:30.

worked hard, have been putting things aside for pensions, they are

:37:30.:37:36.

good, hard-working people, who have earned a pension and are suddenly

:37:37.:37:41.

penalised by small beer to fund millionaires who have suddenly been

:37:41.:37:46.

given a tax rebate of �40,000. You say that, but that is the

:37:46.:37:50.

debating point. The real thing it has to stpund taking people on very

:37:50.:38:00.

low incomes out of tax all together. That is the real cost.

:38:00.:38:07.

But the fact is that many have a tax rebate of �40,000.

:38:07.:38:12.

They don't. It is true that higher earners benefit, but being a

:38:12.:38:17.

millionaire is a measure of wealth. Being a millionaire does not mean

:38:17.:38:27.
:38:27.:38:33.

you earn �1 million a year. However, that is a large amount, a

:38:33.:38:39.

large some of money that is benefiting the rich. The people who

:38:39.:38:43.

are small beer, losing small beer, it is a small amount that matters

:38:43.:38:48.

to them. The rising cost of fuel, the rise in travel, the rise in the

:38:48.:38:53.

cost of food. All of these are really hitting old people hard.

:38:53.:38:57.

But what they have not been hit by and some would say, those in the

:38:57.:39:02.

middle, they have been shielded, relatively so from austerity, as

:39:02.:39:06.

they get the winter fuel payments, they are not means tested. The

:39:06.:39:11.

state pension is going up by �5. Bus passes are still free. Travel

:39:11.:39:16.

is free. First of all, �140 a week is not

:39:16.:39:20.

great wealth. So let's not say that they are sitting pretty.

:39:20.:39:24.

No, I'm not saying that, but they have been shielded from austerity?

:39:24.:39:29.

Well, they are being shielded from inflation.

:39:29.:39:34.

The �5 rise is in order to let the pensioner keep up with inflation.

:39:34.:39:38.

Old people are hit by inflation, they are hit by VAT.

:39:38.:39:42.

They spend their money because they have nothing else to spare it is a

:39:42.:39:47.

very good case. You have made a correct point. I

:39:47.:39:50.

come now to David Laws. We understand you had to finances, you

:39:50.:39:55.

are committed to the idea of taking people out of tax. Especially those

:39:55.:40:00.

at the lower end. We know it cost as lot of money to do so, but why

:40:00.:40:04.

would you get some of this money from the sort of pensioners that

:40:04.:40:08.

Joan Bakewell is talking about, they are on modest incomes. They

:40:08.:40:13.

are not rich, as she says. They have worked hard all of their lives.

:40:13.:40:18.

They are enjoying a modest affluence with the emphasis on the

:40:18.:40:22.

word modest, rather than affluence. Why take the money from them?

:40:22.:40:26.

accept this is something that we would rather not be doing, but what

:40:26.:40:30.

we are trying to do in in order to deliver austerity and get the

:40:30.:40:35.

budget on balance, is to ensure that those on the lowest incomes

:40:35.:40:39.

make a contribution. It has been said that so far the pensioners

:40:39.:40:45.

have been the one group we have not asked to make a contribution to

:40:45.:40:49.

dealing with the austerity. Many may say and you should not.

:40:49.:40:52.

That these people have give an lifetime of service to this country.

:40:52.:40:57.

They have worked hard. They have paid their taxes. They have ended

:40:57.:41:01.

up with pensions that are probably worth a lot less than they thought.

:41:01.:41:06.

Annuities have been hammered. Private pension schemes are no

:41:06.:41:10.

longer what they are. There are incredibly tough times

:41:10.:41:15.

for the public finances. We took the decision to go for the full

:41:15.:41:20.

uprating the state pension. But that is to keep apay -- apace

:41:20.:41:24.

with inflation. It is, but let's have a look for

:41:24.:41:28.

those people in employment what is happening. They are not getting

:41:28.:41:31.

inflation increase. They are getting significant cuts in the

:41:31.:41:33.

last few years of their real earnings.

:41:33.:41:37.

But that is not the comparison to make. What about the people earning

:41:37.:41:43.

more than �1 million who, are being treated out of all proportion

:41:43.:41:47.

generously? What about their contribution? Let me come back on

:41:47.:41:52.

that. Firstly for pensioners who are affluent or going to be so,

:41:52.:41:57.

were raising something like �3.5 billion by restricting the pension

:41:57.:42:01.

tax relief that goes to the highest people in the country. You were

:42:01.:42:06.

wrong in the Budget to say that the money was funding the tax cut for

:42:06.:42:11.

wealthy people. We have funded that five times over with other tax

:42:11.:42:15.

increases on wealthy people. In a world of dodgy statistics, you

:42:16.:42:20.

know that is in the premiere division of dodgy statistics.

:42:20.:42:26.

I tell you why. You are saying that the cut from 50 to 45 pence will

:42:26.:42:32.

cost the Treasury �100 million. That is the best estimate that the

:42:32.:42:34.

Government has got to make that decision.

:42:34.:42:40.

I don't know anyone who believes it. I don't want to get technical, but

:42:40.:42:45.

the indicator you have picked is the most generous to show you don't

:42:45.:42:53.

lose money? The Office for Budget Responsibility, he looked at this.

:42:53.:42:58.

He put out a report. He said that the revenue estimate is as likely

:42:58.:43:04.

to be in the opposite direction. Let me ask you the broader question.

:43:04.:43:10.

The day after the bulgt, you described George Osbourne as, "A

:43:10.:43:15.

grand strategist." Four weeks on, if that is what a grand strategist

:43:15.:43:22.

looks like, what does a useless strategist look like? Well, you

:43:22.:43:27.

return Gordon Brown, his Budgets would get great reception, then

:43:27.:43:33.

they unravelled over time. I think when we look back on the Budget, in

:43:33.:43:40.

three, six, nine months or a year's time, will see that the Chancellor

:43:40.:43:44.

has taken really important correct economic decisions to give us a

:43:44.:43:48.

competitive tax regime to take people on low incomes out of tax.

:43:48.:43:51.

The big decisions were the right ones.

:43:51.:43:55.

What was the last Budget? You can include all of Gordon Brown's in

:43:55.:43:59.

this. What was the last Budget, unravelling four weeks after it was

:43:59.:44:04.

unveiled? One of Gordon Brown's when he got the 10 pence tax rate.

:44:04.:44:08.

There was a riot over that, but let's get this into perspective.

:44:08.:44:17.

That is across the piste, the pasty piste! -- piste! We have looked at

:44:17.:44:21.

the decisions that the Chancellor has taken and realised that this is

:44:21.:44:25.

a good Budget, that has sent the message that Britain is open once

:44:25.:44:29.

again for business. The nonsense about pasties, charitable donations

:44:29.:44:35.

and all of the other bits and pieces we are voting on... Please,

:44:35.:44:37.

everyone over 65 condemns the Budget.

:44:37.:44:41.

Of course they don't like it, but the Government is having to do

:44:41.:44:45.

tough things and everybody in society, everybody single group has

:44:45.:44:49.

to contribute to this. You have to come back and see us.

:44:49.:44:53.

This could be unravelling in two months' time it could be the

:44:53.:45:00.

Olympics of unravelling! Stop being gloomy about this, Andrew.

:45:00.:45:03.

Joan Bakewell, thank you very much. Now, the Government's troubles have

:45:03.:45:08.

done nothing to improve the Liberal Democrats ratings. In some polls

:45:08.:45:17.

they are behind UKIP. So how bad can it be for them? As demonstrated

:45:17.:45:22.

by the website, the Lib Dem who is point, Lib Dems love pointing. They

:45:22.:45:27.

also love local governments that involves lots of pointing, but does

:45:27.:45:35.

local government love them? Right now across the UK they have about

:45:35.:45:39.

3,147 councillors and outright control of 13 local authorities,

:45:39.:45:45.

but last year, they lost 748 councillors and control of nine

:45:45.:45:50.

councils. See that they hope will not be repeated this year in Essex.

:45:50.:45:54.

Like this place was for the Normans, kolchest ser a bit of a Lib Dem

:45:54.:45:58.

stronghold. They are the largest party on the local council. They

:45:58.:46:02.

have a firm grip on the Westminster parliamentary seat. If they fail

:46:02.:46:08.

here it is bad news. Benjamin Ramm says that bad is a good way of

:46:08.:46:18.
:46:18.:46:19.

describing the mood among the Those activist are committed,

:46:19.:46:23.

resilient, but it is different when you're in coalition with a party

:46:23.:46:30.

night the Conservatives who, in so many social and economic issues

:46:30.:46:34.

that the Lib Dems have put themselves against while

:46:34.:46:41.

campaigning. The Lib Dems are not putting up full slate in municipal

:46:41.:46:44.

elections, this is problematic for the party. It is in part caused by

:46:45.:46:48.

the fact there are not the activists pushing for greater

:46:48.:46:53.

representation. On a cold Tuesday evening in February it is hard to

:46:53.:46:57.

motivate yourself to go out with a yellow rosette. The Poles are

:46:57.:47:00.

depressing, too. Some have the party on, or close to single

:47:00.:47:07.

figures, another put them on level pegging with UKIP. It is not clear

:47:07.:47:10.

how that will translate on the ground in places like Colchester.

:47:10.:47:14.

Although it is a coalition I feel the Tories are the stronger part of

:47:14.:47:21.

it. What they have been doing lately has not gone down well. I

:47:21.:47:30.

feel some of that disillusionment might rub off towards the Lib Dems.

:47:30.:47:37.

They go along with the Conservatives in lots of issues. So

:47:37.:47:43.

people don't trust them, I don't think. Well that feed down to

:47:43.:47:46.

politics at the council level? think so. The it is why you will

:47:46.:47:50.

see Lib-Dems constantly pointing out popular policies based a are

:47:50.:47:55.

there idea. Like the rise in the income tax threshold. It is an

:47:55.:48:03.

effort to avoid another set of glum results in the local elections.

:48:03.:48:09.

Well, David Laws is still with me... Let's pick up on another point

:48:09.:48:14.

there where they say they are not fielding a full slate so. In some

:48:14.:48:16.

areas we are targeting our resources which is something all

:48:17.:48:23.

parties do. It is unusual for a party not have a full slate of

:48:23.:48:26.

candidates, particularly for the Liberal Democrats. In the last

:48:26.:48:30.

Parliament and probably in these elections there are many places the

:48:30.:48:35.

Conservatives do not necessarily have a full slate. The Labour Party

:48:35.:48:39.

in the last Parliament often did not contest seats. In my area,

:48:39.:48:43.

Somerset, I would say sometimes three quarters of seats do not have

:48:43.:48:48.

a Labour candidate in them. Last year the Lib Dems had what Nick

:48:48.:48:52.

Clegg described as a very bad election. The polls have not

:48:52.:48:58.

changed much since then. So what are your expectations? It will

:48:58.:49:04.

inevitably be tough. Worse than last year? I am not going to make

:49:04.:49:07.

forecasts on this programme for a number of weeks out. There are

:49:07.:49:11.

signs things are looking better than last year but it is too early

:49:11.:49:16.

to make definitive judgments. We all knew when we went into a

:49:16.:49:24.

coalition government that things would be difficult, that poll

:49:24.:49:28.

ratings would go down and inevitably that filters through to

:49:28.:49:32.

local elections even though those should really be about local issues.

:49:32.:49:36.

But that is the problem. You're not getting any message through locally

:49:36.:49:41.

are either. Last year the Lib Dems lost every seat contested in

:49:41.:49:44.

Manchester, the best performance was the Cotswolds, does that mean

:49:44.:49:49.

Lib-Dems are going to end up being a party of the rural south? I don't

:49:49.:49:55.

think so. If you look that -- back at many by-elections since the

:49:55.:50:00.

election last year they have had a different pattern. In Somerset we

:50:00.:50:05.

gain seats of the Somerset -- the Conservative Party. In the North it

:50:05.:50:08.

has been more difficult because Labour has traditionally had a

:50:08.:50:12.

greater strength there. They were very unpopular at the end of the

:50:12.:50:16.

last government, they are up in the opinion polls significantly since

:50:16.:50:20.

the last election. Of course that will be difficult for people at a

:50:20.:50:24.

local level. My frustration is that in many of those areas we have had

:50:24.:50:28.

a Lib Dem councillors do a great job after years of complacent

:50:28.:50:33.

Labour administration and I think people need to make sure they vote

:50:33.:50:37.

in local elections on local issues in order to get the right decisions

:50:37.:50:44.

locally. But if they don't and if they punish the party like they did

:50:44.:50:52.

last year, what will happen? All happened to the party if locally

:50:52.:50:55.

York-based is diminished ever further, that is what the party was

:50:56.:51:04.

about. We will continue to fight locally and on a local record, or

:51:04.:51:08.

to highlight problems in particular areas. At a national level we have

:51:08.:51:13.

always known what we were doing was difficult, was the right thing, but

:51:13.:51:16.

that would we were -- but that we would be judged over a five-year

:51:16.:51:23.

period. We will be judged and are happy to be at a national level in

:51:23.:51:30.

The National polls over five years. If we do live on the economy on the

:51:30.:51:38.

four pledges then my hopes and expectations for 2015 in the

:51:38.:51:43.

general election are not at a 10% opinion rating that was seen to

:51:43.:51:50.

date. Are you happy going into that election taking a �10 billion slice

:51:50.:51:54.

to the welfare budget? We are happy to going on spending plans will be

:51:54.:52:00.

agreed by the coalition as a whole. But there was a Budget announcement.

:52:00.:52:03.

George Osborne did not say there would be a certain amount of

:52:04.:52:08.

welfare cuts, he said if the next spending review looked like this

:52:08.:52:13.

one, or if we protected particular areas, we would have to make bigger

:52:13.:52:19.

welfare cuts. You would be happy to go along with that, to say we have

:52:19.:52:23.

to make more cuts and it could mean something like �10 billion worth of

:52:23.:52:32.

cuts to the welfare budget? We are not picking out precisely where we

:52:33.:52:38.

need to make savings in public spending. We are saying last year

:52:38.:52:41.

Danny Alexander and George Osborne announced the new spending totals

:52:41.:52:45.

to take us be on the next election, we are committed to those of the

:52:45.:52:50.

government. When we have the next spending review we will set out how

:52:50.:52:55.

we deliver the plans. What happened to the policy of differentiation?

:52:55.:53:00.

We are in a coalition working well together but of course occasionally

:53:00.:53:04.

issues of differentiation come up where the Conservative Party will

:53:04.:53:08.

have a strong view on one area, where we will. Most of those get

:53:08.:53:17.

resolved behind the scenes. Would you agree with that briefing? The

:53:17.:53:21.

leaking the Lib Dems have been blamed for? Whether they are blamed

:53:22.:53:31.

on not, it does not mean we are responsible for the briefing. Both

:53:31.:53:35.

parties should be free to breed in a coalition but it is also

:53:35.:53:39.

important some of the legitimate debate and attempts to

:53:40.:53:42.

differentiate in particular policy areas should not lead to a chaotic

:53:42.:53:46.

process which gives the impression to people that the coalition cannot

:53:46.:53:51.

govern effectively together. I pick a competition of ideas in the

:53:51.:53:54.

coalition should be about how we deliver the proposals and policy

:53:54.:53:58.

ambitions we have already agreed on, in other words, they should be

:53:58.:54:04.

about how we go forward, not about different destinations. When do you

:54:04.:54:07.

expect to come back into the government? I have no idea whether

:54:07.:54:12.

or it will have other responsibilities. I am happy to be

:54:12.:54:15.

a backbench support of the government, I think the Prime

:54:15.:54:18.

Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are doing a good job, the coalition

:54:18.:54:22.

will deliver on its bold ambitions, it is not for me to speculate on

:54:22.:54:32.
:54:32.:54:36.

other issues. We moved to the big Should Parliament's Clock Tower,

:54:36.:54:39.

which most of us would know as Big Ben, be renamed after the Queen to

:54:39.:54:43.

mark her Diamond Jubilee? That's what one Tory MP is calling for and

:54:43.:54:45.

Tobias Ellwood's campaign has received cross party support from

:54:45.:54:48.

MPs. But what's the feeling on the streets of Westminster? We've sent

:54:48.:54:54.

Susana Mendonsa out to see what people think. That is the Victoria

:54:54.:54:57.

Tower, the only tower at Westminster named after a monarch,

:54:58.:55:02.

Queen Victoria, for her yuk -- for her years of service. Some think

:55:02.:55:05.

Queen Elizabeth the second should receive the same on and they have

:55:05.:55:09.

their eyes on the Big Ben, or the clock tower as it is officially

:55:09.:55:14.

known. But should it become the Elizabeth Tower? It really ought to

:55:14.:55:17.

stay as Big Ben and they should name something else after the Queen.

:55:17.:55:21.

It is so well-known I don't think you can change it after all these

:55:21.:55:26.

years. It assure name is the clock tower. We all know it as Big Ben.

:55:26.:55:30.

It is iconic to London. You can't change it. It should not be renamed.

:55:30.:55:36.

It is Big Ben for a good reason. is not its real name. I know but it

:55:36.:55:40.

is the bell inside it. It is what it is known as. You can't remain

:55:40.:55:45.

something so famous. It is a lovely idea. Would you still call it Big

:55:45.:55:51.

Ben? Possibly but I think that our's name is for her, she has been

:55:51.:55:55.

a wonderful Queen. The clock tower is named after the bell but I don't

:55:55.:55:59.

mind them changing the name of the tower to celebrate the jubilee.

:55:59.:56:06.

Fantastic idea. Would you still call it Big Ben? Yes. If they

:56:06.:56:10.

renamed it what would you call it? I would not rename it. I would

:56:10.:56:14.

still call it Big Ben. They were asked us where is the Elizabeth

:56:14.:56:18.

Tower? We would say there and they would say but that's Big Ben. They

:56:18.:56:23.

would be an argument. A group of MPs want to it rename it the

:56:23.:56:33.
:56:33.:56:34.

Elizabeth Tower. Stupid idea! joined now by Kate Hoey MP who is

:56:34.:56:37.

one of the signaturees of this early day motion to change the name

:56:37.:56:41.

of the Clock Tower. So people will just still call it Big Ben, when

:56:41.:56:44.

they? Of course because they don't call it the clock tower, or the St

:56:44.:56:49.

Stephen's Tower which some people think it is. This is about formally,

:56:49.:56:53.

constitutionally changing it to the Elizabeth Tower so it is opposite

:56:53.:56:56.

the Victoria Tower over the House of Lords because it is the diamond

:56:56.:57:00.

jubilee and it would be a celebration of the Queen's rain.

:57:00.:57:04.

But everyone would know it as Big Ben because Big Ben is the clock

:57:04.:57:09.

and we all call it that. Is it worth changing the name? It is no

:57:09.:57:16.

big deal. But it is a nice bit for the end of the programme and I

:57:16.:57:20.

think it would be a nice gesture. There is a lot of party support for

:57:20.:57:25.

it but the person who will decide it is Her Majesty the Queen. So you

:57:25.:57:31.

think it will happen? I don't know how these things happen. If

:57:31.:57:35.

somebody somewhere so is it is a good idea behind the scenes, it

:57:35.:57:38.

could happen, but there is big support for it. But it will still

:57:38.:57:43.

be Big Ben. What about people who say we have the Victoria Tower,

:57:43.:57:46.

parliamentary democracy, we should not have the unelected head of

:57:46.:57:49.

state, some might say, being part of the Houses of Parliament. Nobody

:57:49.:57:54.

said that on your programme. That is not an issue. We are royalist

:57:54.:58:04.

I have always been a great royalist. The idea of having an ex-prime

:58:04.:58:09.

minister like Tony Blair as President, or something like that,

:58:09.:58:16.

it is not sensible. There was a panel on 26th March saying we

:58:16.:58:20.

should rename St Stephen's Tower as the suffragette power, or Big Ben,

:58:20.:58:25.

as in Tony Benn. Did you support that? I did not. I don't know even

:58:25.:58:34.

put that up. Two Towers, 1 Victoria, one Elizabeth. Big Ben still there.

:58:34.:58:42.

What do you think? A nice bit of symmetry. That's it. Thanks to our

:58:42.:58:47.

guests. I am back tonight with Alan Johnson, the man with the shirt,

:58:47.:58:51.

Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn are joined by David Laws MP.

They discuss the Lib Dems' local election hopes, as well as the latest on the Abu Qatada deportation row.

And Baroness Joan Bakewell reacts to the granny tax.


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