21/05/2012 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon and welcome to the Daily Politics. Is the coalition


heading for another rocky ride, this time over workers' rights?


Controversial recommendations on the form of Britain's employment


laws are set to be published this week. It has been reported that


David Cameron may back plans to bring in no fault dismissal. Vince


Cable has allegedly called the idea bonkers.


Is your head in a spin over tax? Do you know your National Insurance


rate from capital gains? Proposals for complete reform of the system


today. Could we ever see Labour and the


Lib Dems smooching in the rose garden? We will be asking if the


two parties could ever form a coalition.


And the press of Westminster often get a bad press. Quentin will be


delving into their world. Someone once said that the relationship


between politicians and journalists was that of a lamp-post and a dog.


But who is the lamp-post? I will refrain from answering that!


All that in the next hour. With us for a first half is the former


Labour foreign secretary and now crossbench peer Lord Owen. Welcome


to the programme. Let's talk about the NATO summit in Chicago. World


leaders have the meeting there and Afghanistan was top of the agenda,


of course. -- have been meeting. They are talking about a road that


for withdrawal. Are you confident or in any way reassured, that when


the withdrawal comes, 2014 for America and Britain, that


Afghanistan will be able to run itself? Afghanistan will be able to


run itself but that is not the way we would like to be able to run it.


That is the trouble. We have gone in and tried to recreate a new


Afghanistan on the basis of Western attitudes to democracy and


everything else, and it has not worked, it will not work and it was


never going to work. So we have to get out. We are doing our best to


put the Afghan Government in a position where they can negotiate


with some measure of strength with the Taliban, but they are going to


have to live with each other. There are two Afghanistans. The North of


Afghanistan will largely be stable. The problem is Helmand Province,


the Taliban and the Pakistani military, overtly supporting the


Taliban. There are problems there around the USA and Pakistan, as


well, recently over closures of that supply routes because of the


NATO airstrike which killed lots of Pakistani soldiers. That is going


on as well. It is a very important issue. When you are withdrawing,


that is when you and your most vulnerable. Every soldier fears


withdrawal under fire and you need to have good access routes out. The


Russians have been rather helpful. I think a lot of material will go


out through the North. It is more expensive, longer, but relying


totally on the Pakistanis and coming out through Karachi is much


too vulnerable. Yes, and unreliable. What about the issue of Money? The


other matter they are talking about is the amount of money. 4 billion a


year was talked about to help build up the Afghan security forces and


maintain it. Who do you think should pay for that? We made a


great mistake really when we first went in. We did not have enough and


lightened aid projects. We had Western views about what we were


going to do about opium trading and everything like that and we


destabilised a lot of their economy. We can help them and we should help


them but a lot is now going to depend on the Afghans. I went to


that country when I was 21 and I lived in the mountain areas, with


the nomad tribes. These are very self-reliant people. They have seen


of many empires before and they will see of others. They will not


take occupation. They will find a solution. It will be different from


what we would come up with, but we can help them at least to have some


strength and not have the Taliban overrun Kabul with the disastrous


consequences that happened previously. All right. Thank you


for that. Instead of our usual quiz we are


going to be brave. Oh, no! It is a caption competition. Clock this and


send us your caption. This picture has made most of the national


newspapers and was taken on Saturday night at Camp David, when


world leaders took a break from saving the world economy to watch


the Champions League final. Exciting it was, too. Chelsea beat


Bayern Munich on penalties, of course. Tweed or email your best


suggestions, but keep them respectable! -- tweet. At the end


of the show we will read out the best ones.


A while ago the venture capitalist and Tory donor Adrian Beecroft was


commissioned by Downing Street to come up with ideas to cut business


red tape. He delivered his report in October but it has not been


published before now. Apparently because some of the suggestions


were too controversial. After receiving Freedom of Information


requests, the Government has now decided the report will be released


this week. The Beecroft Report has been gathering dust on Vince


Cable's shelf in the business department for months. But it will


be published this week potentially leading to further tensions between


coalition partners. Leaks from the report suggested calls for delays


on making parental leave more flexible, a cap on the amount of


money tribunals can award for loss of earnings, and perhaps most


controversially the introduction of so-called no fault dismissal. David


Cameron is said to be for this idea, speeding up the pace of reform. But


Vince Cable has dismissed no fault dismissal as bonkers and other Lib


Dem MPs are just as hostile. The director general of the Institute


of Directors, Simon Walker, is in our Westminster studio. Thank you


for joining us. Have company bosses been calling for no fault


dismissal? I think they have. They are certainly calling for a


simplification of the system we have got. Half of our members are


discouraged from taking someone on over the past couple of years


because they are worried about what will happen if it does not work out.


I think it is getting away from yes and them mentality, which applies


to so much of business today. -- Ahsan them. We have seen example at


General Motors of what you can achieve when you are showing


flexibility. I think no fault dismissal, like no fault the 4th,


it removes the stigma from a situation where you just cannot get


on. -- no fault divorce. No employer wants to get rid of a good


and productive employee who is delivering. But people are


frightened about taking on someone who does not work out and then


being hit with an unfair dismissal claim. On that basis, if you say


they are calling for it, are you also saying that you would see a


dramatic increase in the number of people being taken on by small and


medium-sized firms if this policy came into force? I think we


certainly would. We are not talking about firing people at will. Isn't


that what it comes to? necessarily. It is an agreed form


of compensation if it was decided between you and your and were that


it was not working out. There would be a statutory proportion. -- you


and your employer. You would not go to court, which costs thousands for


the employer, which is quite a deterrent. They know that �10,000


of legal fees can be the cost if you go to court. And some firms


have gone to court and gone and even though they have won. Do we


want a situation where people are frightened to take on people


because they are frightened they might not work out? Do you think


Vince Cable is an anti- Business Secretary? I don't think so. I


think he has some good ideas for business much of the time. I don't


think I agree with him on this but I don't know the exact scope of


what is in the report because we have not seen it yet. And I don't


know the exact scope of his opinion on it. But I am very hopeful that


there will be some common ground, perhaps allowing this to apply to


companies with fewer than 10 employees. For them it really is a


burden having to deal with complicated, bureaucratic


regulations. That �10,000 really hurts if you are running a business


with just four people and you incur legal fees. Thank you.


Chuka Umunna, the shadow Business Secretary, is with us now. Let's


pick up on that. You accept that the burden of regulation adds as a


deterrent to hiring staff? I will say a couple of things. There are


lots of different opinions on this. If you speak to the managing


director of Mars, Fiona Dawson, she has said she would not want to see


workers' rights being compromised. Yes, but that is a very big company.


What about... I was also going to say that before being elected I


acted as an employment lawyer and I have acted for many of Simon's


members. I don't think people are looking to fire at will, if you


like, and that is what no fault dismissal would allow employers to


do. We are talking about a lot of people watching this programme.


Over 90% of our businesses in this country are small businesses and we


have 3.6 million people employed in firms of fewer than 10 employees.


This measure would allow people to, regardless of your performance, to


fire at will with the payment of a set sum. This is not left or right,


it is wrong. And it misses the point. This is being done in the


name of growth. If you look at the plethora of different issues


affecting businesses... But Simon things it would result in growth if


people hire more people. If you are making a marginal decision and you


are a small company with 10 or 20 employees, that could be the very


thing, that makes you take on an extra couple of people because you


will not have to have a big battle if it does not work out. We already


have the third most flexible labour market. Only the US and Canada have


more flexible regimes than ours. It is the most flexible labour market


in Europe. There is no evidence whatsoever, if you listen to


leading economists like David Blanchflower, the former member of


the monetary committee of the Bank of England, they have all said that


there is no evidence of doing away with people's rights helping us out


of the double-dip recession and reducing the numbers of people out


of work. We should not even be talking about this. There are


bigger issues in business. If we look at the CIPD survey on big


concerns in business, 50% say that the lack of skills in the work


force is their number one issue. 28% of them talk about banking.


Let's look at measures that make a difference. A National Insurance


broker do much more to encourage micro businesses to take on more


employees. -- National Insurance break would do much more. I spoke


to businesses in the Midlands, and they said that regulation and


labour reforms would make a huge difference. It would make a huge


difference to their confidence to invest and employ people. You must


admit it must be part of the package and something can be done


to make it easier to hire and fire. In terms of the substantial rights,


which the Government is talking about doing away with, I don't


think they should be doing that because it is wrong. You can reform


how the employment tribunals are working, for example. And they have


set up a review and I think that is welcome. Looking at procedures is


one thing, but tearing away people's basic rights at work is


quite another. You agree with Vince Cable that it is bonkers,


basically? I think it is bonkers. Do you think it would encourage


business to take on more people? You are standing in a very


difficult area and it is probably not wise to choose a close friend,


contributed to the Tory party, the venture capitalist, to lead this


sensitive subject. Chancellor Schroder 10 years ago made the


German economy competitive even within the eurozone. He did it by a


whole series of measures, broadly by agreement. These sorts of


things? Yes. I have been an employer for 17 years. Nobody goes


to one of these tribunals easily. You also have to have them for


employers on your doorstep all the time, advising you on how to deal


with it. -- you also have to have employment lawyers. It is difficult


and it has to be done with trade union support and the Institute of


Directors, with delicacy and care, but this country has to be more


competitive in world markets. Our unit costs have got to come down.


We have devalued, which has helped us. We have not had as big an


advantage from that devaluation as I had hoped. Our growth has been


appalling in the last two years and it has been a very bad thing, the


way the economy has dipped down. you do think it would help? I think


there are a halt range of measures. These are small but important


measures. The fundamental thing is austerity being the dominant


element or growth? Demand. That is the problem businesses have. Demand


is basic. The thing is about this, it is a distraction. Demand is the


problem. We are seeing issues with access to finance, which is why we


are looking at plans for British investment bank, which the Chambers


of Commerce have argued for. Things like sorting out finance, and


National Insurance brick, getting infrastructure spending going,


those have been argued for more prominently by business. Not


tearing away people's rights. We are not in a double-dip recession


because of the unfair dismissal regime. Listening to ministers and


the Treasury and Number 10, you would think that because people


watching this programme have rights at work that that cause of the


problems that we have. So you will not support any of the issues


surrounding it no fault dismissal? Bring the consultation period down


Lord Owen is right. We have not seen the small print.


Is it true that Vince Cable has discussed his views and you know,


response to this with Labour, with Ed Miliband?


Well, we have discussed it with him in the House of Commons. But what


about privately? There are reports now, you know, you said, you agree


with with Vince Cable, the idea would be bonkers, so you share


views in response to Beecroft. Are you talking to Vince Cable? I speak


to Vince regularly, but I know nothing about the conversations to


which you have referred now. Would you be pleased if Vince Cable


was talking to Ed Miliband about this privately? I think where we


agree on things, it is good to work in a cross party basis. We have in


too much of a dire situation, looking at the economy, an economy


which hasn't grown for so long. Where I can work with Vince and


I've done that around executive remuneration and he is struggling


to get anywhere with the road blocks to reform in the treasury


and Downing Street and I will work with him on this issue.


Is that what he said? He is struggling, he is worried that


deatial and the coalition -- David Cameron and the coalition will take


on these issues? It has become a back water because he doesn't have


the backing of treasury. He doesn't have the buy in in Number Ten, they


are wedded to the old thatcher right orthodoxies.


Now, with fresh elections in Greece called for 17th June, but with the


crisis showing no signs of abating, spare a thought for my counterpart


on the Greek version of the Daily Politics. Here she is, on Focus TV,


trying to keep the peace in a discussion between Petros


Tatsopoulos from the left-wing party Syriza and Stelios Stavridis


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 48 seconds


Well, I'm thankful to say that hasn't happened to me yet. Chuka


Umunna left happy and Lord Owen is still with us. Here to talk about


the situation in the eurozone and Greece, do you think Greece will be


in the eurozone by the time of the next election? I doubt it. I think


quite a few country, we will have a eurozone. Germany won't go back to


the deutschemark. There will be a eurozone, like economies, the


present variation within the eurozone of the economies I think


is probably unsustainable. I am against us predicting what will


happen. The Greek people are having an election. They will fight


against austerity. That's the big issue.


Should it be seen as a referendum in the way David Cameron


characterised it as to whether or not they stay in the euro? David


Cameron needs to be careful. His job is to look after British


interests. It is not to grap headlines. -- grab headlines. The


thing Europe wants to know from Britain and America, what structure


from Europe would be both in the interests of the eurozone and in


the interests of the single market. The single market is very important


to the UK. In fairness to Angela Merkel, she said she understands


we're not going to go for a federalist. There is no majority


for federalism. This in or out issue, we need to restructure the


European future and there will have to be a referendum and fairly soon


in this country, but it will be on a very different question to the


one of in, out. What would be the question be on


then? I'm clear. It is a British interest to remain in the single


market and the single market ought to embrace and does already embrace,


more than just the EU. Norway is a member of the economic area. I


would like to see Turkey becoming part of this. At the moment it is a


a associate member. We could have them in the single market and it


would be an ang advantage. -- advantage. I want to see the


British Government talking more about what Britain is going to


contribute to the problems, in some sense we are right to say, "The


eurozone is yours. Do what you like with it. "I thought it was flawed.


I campaigned against it when Tony Blair tried to take us in. We


ensured he couldn't win a Forum because public opinion stayed


against it. Public opinion will not take nuse a federalist -- us into a


federal Europe or a eurozone. The Government would argue that


they are to some extent shouting from the sidelines because what


happens to Greece, will affect British interests. If Greece does


fall out of the euro and it is disorderly and there are the issues


we have talked about which are contagion. It is not standing and


trying to be heard on a subject that wouldn't affect Britain?


he had a very good opportunity now in G8, in Washington in the Camp


David and also in the margins of the NATO meeting in Chicago to have


quiet talks with Angela Merkel inside the eurozone. It tale ci and


erm erm -- Italy and Germany. He had an opportunity to talk to the


new president of France who is against the undue austerity. He


wants a balance between austerity and growth. Quiet diplomacy, making


sure they understand what Britain is ready to put up with, otherwise


we're going to have a nasty argument inside the European Union


in the next two or three months. We will be talking about this over


the coming weeks. The Parliamentary Commissioner for


Standards, Sir John Lyon launched an investigation into whether


Jeremy Hunt failed to register several donations from media


companies. Ben Geoghegan join us now. Can you give us more detail,


Ben? This goes back to the days when the the Conservatives were in


opposition. There were a series of meetings set-up by private


companies, media companies, companies in the creative


industries and they were set-up in order, it seems, to brief the


Conservative frontbench teams about developments in the industry. Now,


one person who was at eight of these meetings was Ed Vaizey, Mr


Hunt's deputy and in the register of financial interests, he declares


these various meetings and he says that they amounted in value to


about �27,000. Now these are not cash donations, but the cost that


it would have been for the companies to set-up these meetings.


And he also says that Jeremy Hunt was at these meetings with him. But


when you look at Jeremy Hunt's entries, these meetings do not


appear and so, that led to a complaint a few weeks ago by Steve


McCabe and it is that the commissioner is looking into.


So more pressure on Jeremy Hunt and coming weeks before he is due to


appear, no it must be days before he is due to appear at the Leveson


Inquiry? Yes, Adam Smith will be appearing this week and Labour have


been calling on the Culture Secretary to resign saying that he


has probably misled Parliament and so on. Remember though, that he


thinks that he has acted with integrity. On this issue about the


declaration in the register, he says that he only went to three out


of these eight meetings and he wants to amend the register so it


seems as though his argument will be there has been some kind of


mistake in recording the details. Ben Gay dan, Ben Geoghegan, thank


you. Let's look at May 2015. What's that,


I see, Ed Miliband and Tim Farron walking through the Rose Garden?


Surely not. The two parties appear to be at jagger's drawn or --


May 2010 and everything in the garden, was, you know, rosy. It


seemed like everyone agreed with Nick. Well, almost everyone.


Ma Vast majority, dislike and despise the Liberal Democrats.


LAUGHTER You might, Ian, but the boss


doesn't. I hope the Liberal Democrats will


recognise that the Government is taking the country in a a direction


which many people did not vote at the general election. I hope they


will come and talk to us and work against the direction of this


Government. Senior Labour figures are reaching


out to the Lib Dems in an attempt to find the kind of common ground


which could pave the way to a coalition should the next election


produce a hung parliament. The thing is, there is more than a few


Lib Dems out there, who are ready to play ball. Richard Grayson is a


speech writer to Charles Kennedy. Most recently however, his policy


input has been to the Labour Party. I accepted an invitation from Ed


Miliband after a discussion with him to encourage Lib Dems to have


dialogue with Labour, that happened. We talked to people like Liam Byrne,


we talked to a number of other Labour MPs in policy groups so


there was a dialogue between grass- roots Liberal Democrats and people


at a fairly senior level of the Labour Party. It is not just about


shared values, this is about power. Ar hung parliament again -- a hung


parliament again is a likely prospect, I think. And that means


the Liberal Democrats, although they will suffer badly at the polls,


could play a role and their natural place, their natural allies


historically have been Labour. the Lib Dems get into bed with with


Labour, what does that mean for the future of the party and its leader?


I think it will be difficult for Nick to do a deal with Labour. I


think that's partly because he is just ideologicalically closer to


the Conservatives. And maybe there does have to be a change in


leadership, but strange things happen in politics.


Well, I can't see how the Lib Dem, the current Lib Dem leadership,


having sold the past to the Tories on this right-wing agenda can do


another backflip and go in with Labour. So I would have thought


they will go in one direction and the party will resume its historic


radical liberal tradition and go to look for alliances with progressive


forces particularly Labour after the next election.


Any alliance with Labour could come at a high cost to the party's


current leadership. But would it be worth the price? I think for the


Liberal Democrats, we have always wanted to influence policy and see


that centre-left policies get implemented. Sadly we are


influencing policy on the margins and collaborating with a broadly


centre-right economic agenda at the moment. If we want to see our most


important policies implemented, then we have to have dialogue with


Labour. Tony Blair and Paddy Ashdown trying to work together in


1997, but their parties won't wear it. The lib-lab pact of the 70s and


that didn't work. A deal with Labour in 2015? Well, three years a


long time, but it is a work in Phil Collins joins us now. Looking


to your crystal ball, could you see Labour and the Liberal Democrats


doing a deal ahead of or into the next election? Not ahead of, but I


could see it being a necessity after the election. There is a


couple of long-term trends that make hung parliaments more likely.


The two main parties, Labour and Conservative don't get as large a


share as they used to in the 50s and 60s and there are nowhere near


as many marginals. So it is much harder to win. And that makes a


hung parliament a possibility and the arth ma particular looks like


it is -- arithmetic looks like it will be a coalition. If the ar rith


ma particulars -- arth ma particulars work. We heard from one


Labour MP saying how much distrust there is, but there is dislike and


contempt from senior Labour figures for Liberal Democrats or is that


just public rhetoric and actually they would be happy to work with


them? Well, both things are true. There is serious dislike... Does


that not prevent that coalition? it dissipates quickly if the


prospect of power is looming. For the Liberal Democrats there would


be something remarkable on the table, they would have ten years in


Government. People in their early 20s who would say, I have known


nothing but a Liberal Democrat Government all my chance. For


Labour, there would be a chance to come back. That sense will change


if that were the option on the table.


Would it be possible if Nick Clegg was still leader of the Liberal


Democrat Party, would it be the case, I am not asking for


predictions of how well or not the Liberal Democrats will do, but


would it have to be a different person at the helm of the Liberal


Probably, but I don't think one should get tough on this issue. A


much more important thing is what is happening with the British


economy. I think that if you have the opportunity to form a


Government, and say Labour has the largest number of MPs, with the


largest number of votes, they will obviously work with whoever is most


compatible. That would probably be almost certainly the Liberal


Democrat. But they have been at opposing end of the spectrum


economically, haven't they? It is an aberration. On whose part? The


Liberal Democrats? A did not join the Liberal Democrats, but I worked


with them. I was part of the Government, and foreign secretary


at the time of the Lib-Lab pact. There was a fairly good and open


relationship at that time. David Steel chose to end it before the


election and he thought that was an important thing and to this day he


does. I don't think it is necessary to see this coalition carrying on


for full five years. They could split away, while still supporting


the Conservatives. Or if they found on the economy that the


Conservative policies were so antipathetic to them, then they


might decide to allow Labour to come in. We have a fixed term


Parliament. Tories talk as though David Cameron can have a general


election whenever he wants, but he cannot. I think this coalition is


coming under ever increasing strain. They have failed on the basic issue


of the economy. We are now in a double-dip recession. In my view,


we probably have six months more of the general public giving them the


best... Of then you think it will fall apart? If they are still in


economic difficulty in six months' time, there will be big questions


about whether or not this coalition can continue. Just listening to


that, at in terms of whether or not the coalition can last until 2015,


on this core economic message, if Liberal Democrats signed up to


austerity, then they could have an agreement with Labour? I do. Nick


Clegg often says that �7 out of every �8 would have been cut under


Alistair Darling's plan. You have to think of this from the Liberal


Democrat point of view. They don't see themselves as an adjunct to


another party, in complete agreement with either of them, but


as the liberalising influence on them. I do not see this as an


overwhelming barrier to them changing sides and we will probably


have to get used to that. briefly, Ed Miliband and Vince


Cable's conversation? Not surprising? Not at all. I think


they share a lot, as people in lots of parties do. And a good social


democrat. We can no longer assume that one party will be elected with


an overall working majority. The last election, I was part of a


group which had a website dealing with a hung Parliament. It was


obvious it was going to be a hung Parliament for three months before


the election. To David Cameron's credit, he offered a generous offer


of coalition and Miliband would do the same. Thank you. We let you go


at this stage. We have got VAT, National Insurance,


CJ tea and a whole alphabet spaghetti of taxes. Enough to leave


even Carol Vorderman confused, bemused and discombobulated. They


are trying to make the trip up! How about simplifying everything to the


30% rate of income tax? And omnitax, if you like. The Institute of


Directors has suggested just that. Mathew Sinclair is from the


taxpayers Alliance. Isn't it just and fair in the end to have this? -


- not fair. If you earn twice as much, you pay twice as much. If you


earn 10 times as much, you pay 10 times as much, and that is what


would beat the case under our system. -- would be the case. It


would be advantages to the poorest. What is really not fair, is that


people, by paying in a certain way, through a company, through share


buy-backs, pay less. The critical thing is to have a single tax rate


which applies however your income comes. However that income finds


its weight to the end consumer. higher earners benefit more than


lower owners, don't they? Yes, they do. They deserve to pay twice as


much. We are talking about a proportionate tax. This term can


throw people but we are still talking about a tax system that


would have a very heavy contribution. I think that we


should be looking towards a system that would make sure that everybody


pays less. That is why we should not be going down at the root of


revenue neutral reform. -- down the route. The real basic rate is not


30%. Including both forms of National Insurance, it is 40% and


we think that should be cut to 30% to give everyone a better deal.


Thank you for joining us. We are joined by the Lib Dem Lorely Burt,


James Morris from the Conservatives and their Alan Sugar from Labour.


Is that music to your ears? -- Gavin Shuker from Labour.


really. They want to raise the personal tax allowance even more to


�10,000, which is building on what the Chancellor announced in the


Budget. They want to devolve financial autonomy to local


authorities and allow local authorities to build up more tax.


Just on the income tax rate, is that something you would like to


see in theory? Some sort of flat rate of tax? I think it is an


aspiration over the long term. We have a lot of very profound


difficulties in the economy at the moment that we need to deal with.


Getting the deficit under control, dealing with the eurozone crisis.


In the long term it is an aspiration and I would be


interested to read the detailed recommendations in the report.


Would it help the economy to do something as radical on income tax?


There are other things that we can do. We cannot that the supply-side


of the economy. I think we need to focus on employment law. What do


you think about having a simpler tax system? Gordon Brown was always


criticised for having an over the complicated tax system. Is it the


Government's role to redistribute at that level? The key question is


what would it do for the economy and on that question, I think


Matthew is out of touch. The report is saying that we should cut back


the size of the state. He is saying put more money in people's pockets.


If more money is in their pockets and they can spend more of their


income, doesn't that help the economy? Chuka Umunna has just said


the real problem is demand. Doesn't that boost demand? Absolutely,


which is why you need to target tax decreases in areas where it get


people spending. Reducing VAT, for instance. A lot of people out there


now feel that because they are paying National Insurance and


income tax and various other stealth taxes, that they are not


keeping enough of their own income to spend up there. We are talking


about how you divide up the pie, and we can have that conversation,


but the Tax Payers Alliance is saying that we should reduce the


price so extremely that public services will go. -- the eye.


want those with the broadest shoulders paying the greatest


proportion of tax. So a flat tax? understand that it will cost �50


billion to implement, which goes straight into the deficit, so I


don't think that is a particularly good idea. I think we should have


fairer taxes for people on higher earnings. And lower taxes for


people on lower earnings. It does not fit in with that. Which tax


would you get rid of? National Insurance? Golly, I don't know! Yes,


why not? National Insurance does not do what it says on the tin. It


does not do what it was set up to do. Would you get rid of it?


necessarily. We need to reduce business tax is much more radically,


corporation tax, which we have already reduced. I think there is


more scope for further reduction in corporation tax. Would you like to


see more wealth taxes? More tax on unearned wealth, as they


characterise it, rather than on income? I prefer that to the system


we have at the moment, giving a tax break to millionaires were people


on low incomes are suffering. Conservatives are suffering because


that rhetoric has just come home. The reality was that in the Budget


we brought in stamp duty on properties over �2 billion and we


are bringing in more taxes than were ever raised by the 50p rate. -


- over �2 million. We need to reduce the rate of income tax that


low earners have to pay and that should be the focus and it is the


focus of the coalition Government. But you want to see more wealth


taxes, don't you? We don't want people to be punitively taxed, but


I think everyone should pay their tax fairly. Just going on to this


mythical 45p, in actual fact, the OBR have calculated that our tax


changes will increase the amount of money that the rich pay by five


times. Labour only introduced it a few days before the last general


election, and quite a cynical attempt, I think, to put us in a


difficult position. The key question is getting growth going in


the economy and if you can do that in a fair way, let's do it, but


this is not the right way. Traffic wardens, estate agents, second-hand


car dealers, who is missing? Journalists and politicians! You


can find both of these in abundance in the dark corridors of


Westminster. Is it a world of backbiting, schmoozing, scheming?


If anybody knows, Quentin Letts does.


J is for a journalist. Parliament and the media, not an easy marriage.


Someone once said that the relationship between politicians


and journalists was that of a lamp- post and a dog. But who is the


lamp-post? A little light reading. This is the


BBC office in the House of Commons press gallery. Many of the offices


are shared. The Financial Times used to share with the News of the


World! It is a right little rabbit warren of offices. Not much has


changed since Charles Dickens worked here as a parliamentary


reporter in 1831. Around 200 media swaps toil at the Palace of


Westminster, including little old me. I am a gallery reporter. That


means I sit in House of Commons gallery, watching events. Others


are in the lobby. That means that they have more intimate access with


MPs. The lobby! They are a secretive lot. The chief privilege


of being a lobby reporter is having access to the House of Commons


lobby just outside the chamber, where they can mix with MPs and be


told things on lobby terms. We don't get to know who said what.


The other privilege of being a lobby reporter, daily briefings


from 10 Downing Street. Hello? Two pints of something very bitter,


please, and a discreet table. Thank you very much. Much of our work is


done around the Westminster village in pubs like this, maybe. A quiet


pint with a disgruntled former minister, or some thrusting Schema,


and you can learn interesting You could argue that journalists


are sly, skivvy creatures, and you could be right. -- scurvy. But


could the same adjectives not be applied to politicians, too? Set a


thief to catch a Thief, that is the How very informative, as always,


from Quentin Letts! Do you describe journalists as sly, skivvy


creatures? Not to their faces! -- scurvy. To paraphrase, some of my


best friends are journalists and we do get along. Do you have lunches


with journalists? No, but I am open to invitations! I am sure we can


set something up! Are you friendly with journalists? Do you avoid


them? Of course one is friendly to journalists. It is an important


part of the parliamentary progress and it has a long history and you


have to be careful about what you say. Do you give stories to them?


Certainly not. Nobody is going to take you out for lunch! What about


you? Do you give stories to journalists if you go out with


them? Absolutely. I am just waiting for the drinking invitations to


come rolling in. I generally get my phone calls from my favourite


journalist when I am in the middle of doing the shopping in a


supermarket, you know. You just say the first thing that comes into


your head and afterwards you wonder if you should have said it! They


have worked out the best time to call you! They have! The Leveson


Inquiry has put a serious spotlight on the relationship between


journalists and politicians. Do you think it will fundamentally change


that relationship? I don't think fundamentally. There is a parallel


with the MP's expenses crisis. The pendulum swing, the clear up, and


then interest goes down. It may be the same as the leather CERN


inquiry clears itself up. I think there ever -- as the Leveson


Inquiry clears itself up. I think that we will have to respond to the


Leveson Inquiry. The point is that you do not want to be transparent.


We are not supposed to reveal our sources. From the public point of


view, I think the Leveson Inquiry is raising the issue of the


relationship between politics and the media, which is helpful in a


sense of shining a light and getting transparency on the issues


that we need to confront. Now we go to College Green, where we have


bagged ourselves a couple of sly, scurvy creatures. Actually they are


very nice! And I don't think they have got scurvy. Helen Lewis from


the New Statesman and the editor of James, David Cameron shouting at


the Germans, are they going to listen to a British Prime Minister


and what to do about the the eurozone? David Cameron on the one


hand pressuring Angela Merkel to do more and on the other hand trying


to do her dirty work in saying to the Greeks if you vote for the


anti-bail out parties. What the Europeans want the message to the


Greeks, if you vote for an anti- bail out party, you are voting to


leave a currency that you don't want to leave.


When it comes to the Greek election in a month. Is David Cameron in a


place where he can't do anything except shout? I don't think we can.


Merkel's intervention in Greece goes down badly. She is seen as a


domineering German figure. Cameron outside of a currency and Britain


with its detached relationship from the eurozone is more able to make


the arguments to the Greeks. How well they will go down in Athens


remains to be seen. The view of the of the euro crisis,


as far as Britain is concern, is the worry about a run on the banks.


Is that where the concern should be? Well, it is hard to look


forward when everything is up in the air. We have seen a lot of talk


about the possible default and the elections will be the next thing


that people are looking to, but the trouble is you have got a situation


where Nobel prize winning economists don't have an idea. No


one knows what is going to happen next.


They are trying to look at how to to boost growth, that's the other


part of this equation in the eurozone to make countries more


competitive and here with the Beecroft proposals due out this


week, is this another focus of coalition tension that will be


difficult for David Cameron? think it sounds - it sounds like it


will be kicked into fairly long grass. Vince Cable's remarks have


been strong and the the noises coming out of his coughs calling it


"bonkers" the more contentious suggestions will be shelved and a


few of the smaller ones will be put through.


Do you think it will be shelved? We keep hearing that David Cameron is


favourable to the ideas. The controversial ones being no no no


fault dismissal? The interesting thing is this has been a long


running row between Vince Cable and Steve Hilton. Steve Hilton has left.


In the last few days people close to Nick Clegg and David Cameron


have been suggesting there will be a more co-operative attitude to


coalition growth. There will be some deregulation and maybe some


things to promote infrastructural spending. Like project bonds for


Britain. I think what is is interesting, Vince is out of tune


with the mood music that Nick Clegg is pushing. It will be interesting


to see if Clegg pushes Cable back and bit and tries to take on on


some of the things in Beecroft. When you mention the Beecroft


report, you get this reaction from the Liberal Democrats now.


Helen, we were talking about chillax, about how hard the Prime


Minister is working. A bit unfortunate. At one time it was to


his advantage to look like a normal bloke. You heard William Hague


saying bosses must work hard. You hear about him him playing Fruit


Ninja and having a nap. People don't work at their best when they


are spending all hours of the day. On the other hand, I think for him,


this has been an image problem. Has it become an image problem,


James? People are thinking he is complacent or is it a timing issue?


There is a perception problem. Our attitudes to politicians is


contradictory. We want them to be well-balanced normal people with a


family life and want them to work 24/7 and strain every sinew, but


there is an issue that, Cameron needs to do more to show that he is


getting a grip and it comes back to this competence question which has


been rolling and riling in the coalition in the last few months.


Now, just time before we go to give you the results of our caption


competition. This was the picture and here are some of our favourites.


I did love these! From Calum May, "Word leaders await


the election results.". David Cameron comes in on top in G8 Fruit


Ninja knockout. Angela Merkel a distant seventh. Trevor Ottaway,


"Put your hand up if you are a posh boy." Rich Williams, "Joy for


Cameron as Boris gets run over by a new Routemaster bus.". What do you


think? I was worried about how many Tottenham Hotspur fans weren't


happy because they were looking for another result. We have got to


expect politicians to relax. Prime Ministers need to relax. People


need them to relax in order to make the right decisions tor the country.


-- doctor the country. What do you think? The only thought


I was was maybe Theresa May had booked the return tickets back to


the UK and they got an extra day out of it!


Very good. Very good. I was going to go with the Fruit Ninja. Showing


that football match, you know, with Cameron and Merkel sort of standing


next to each other, perhaps was not the best thing for the entente


cordiale, but it is only a game! On the entente cordiale, we spoke


to the two journalists about the situation in the eurozone. Do you


think David Cameron's strategy of standing outside the euro and


trying to tell them what to do now is going to do anything? I think it


is the right approach. Britain's not in the eurozone and we are


approaching a crisis point. We are in the middle of a crisis. We need


to do everything we can to get the eurozone stabilised and he is right


to say what he is saying and the most important thing is we need to


protect Britain's national interests and be prepared for any


eventuality. How can they protect the national


interests? On the broad point, Britain is an outward facing


country. We need to be continuing to drive exports to emerging


economies. Well, that's long-term. What can


they do now? If Greece drops out of the euro and there is a run on the


banks or the pressure on Spain. What can Britain... The eurozone


countries need to ensure that we have a correct firewall to prevent


con tainlg oon, -- contagion, but we need to be preparing for all


eventualities. The problem is, you can't do any of


this stuff without growth. You are seeing the reaction in the UK as


well. That's not going to save Greece either, is it? We should be


doing all we can to keep Greece in the euro and it would be easier if


David Cameron was around the table leading as in 2008 when we had the


last big financial crisis rather than standing on the edge of Dover


and shouting across insults. Is that what the Liberal Democrats


want to see, David Cameron shouting at the European counterparts?


with the G8 doing as much as he can to try to encourage the right


result in Europe. What is the right result, Greece


staying in or Greece going out? Well, it is difficult. I would


suggest it is Greece staying in. Why? Why? Because as far as


Britain's interests are concerned, 60% of our exports and our trade is


with Europe. But what difference Greece being in


or out make? I think because if you get a collapse then that's going to


have very bad repercussions. Greece won be able to buy our -- won't be


able to buy our products and the whole thing is in danger of


actually collapsing. You are saying David Cameron and


privately, the leadership would like Greece to go? It is not in


Britain's national interest for there to be a disorderly default


from Greece. It is not in anyone's interests so we need to be working


in our position, not part of the eurozone, but as a key influence


and player to ensure that a solution is found. However, we need


to be preparing as a responsible Government should do, for all


eventualities in relation to the Greek situation given the


volatility and the elections. The subject of growth has come up,


you know, here with the Beecroft proposals that will come out this


week. Do you agree with the main thrust of them? Would you like to


see those come into place? should be looking at deregulation


in that particular area. I mean I ran two small businesses before I


got into Parliament. I know the difficulties of take on people. The


amount of effort you need to put in to take on people. We need to sure


we look at these proposals. We need to create more private sector jobs


to get the growth that everybody wants.


Only with this Government, the way to boost employment is to make it


easier to sack people. There isn't business confidence.


Do you agree with James and with a lot of Tory MPs that deregulation


is what is needed and making it easier to hire and fire people is


what is needed? There is a lot of stuff in Beecroft which is fine. I


have had my own businesses as well, as well as having an HR background


and I don't think anybody ever worked harder or or more


productively because they were under threat of having the sack.


Nobody is arguing for fire at will. Anybody who has run a small


business will know one of the first things you need to do is create a


good cull do you remember in your company -- culture in your company.


One of the problems with employment law it created unintended


circumstances and that has held British small business back.


We are doing that already with with a lot of the legislation, there


will be more con sillation before this aspect starts to kick in now.


He is talk being growth and this is getting private sector employment,


stimulating enterprise is how we're going to grow the economy and he is


silent on what his plans would be. Where is the growth? Ellesmere Port,


motor manufacturing is booming. all the the factors and measures of


the economy, yes, there is is not growth. There hasn't been.


Unemployment fell last week. Gavin is not welcoming the fact there has


been huge investment in manufacturing in Ellesmere Port.


Do you agree with Vince Cable that it is bonkers to be looking at fire


at will and no fault dismissal. I can't see how it would help. It


would hinder the situation and lot of the stuff that we are bringing


in will really be the helping factor for business and for people


as well. It has to be a balance there.


We're going to be glutons for punishment and go back to the to


the caption. Let's look at that picture from the G8 Summit. Nick


says, "Tony Blair's return to front-line politics will the USA.".


Ian, "The euro suffers another slide against the pound." "English


football hooligan breaks into G8 Summit.". Which one? The first one.


The leaders wait for the election result.


I have thought thought - Gordon Brown makes a surprise appearance.


Thank you to our guests and the One O'Clock News is starting over on


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