06/12/2012 Daily Politics


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Afternoon, folks. Welcome to the Daily Politics. It really is bleak


mid-winter. And don't expect any jingle bells until 2018. George


Osborne says austerity is now here to stay until 2018. That's getting


close to a lost decade. And it includes some cold, hard medicine


to swallow on taxes and benefits. We'll be asking, is Britain really


still a AAA bet? Amid all the gloom, the Chancellor gave his strong


backing for fracking. But is shale gas the answer to all our energy


problems? Environmentalists aren't so sure. What's the point of


reshuffles? A parliamentary committee has been asking just that


question. Apart from keeping the Daily Politics in work, do they


actually achieve anything? And, hark, the MPs sing! Here's a


Parliamentary Ding Dong Merrily on High you just can't afford to miss.


Yes. All that and more coming up in the next hour of public service


broadcasting at its austerity best. I think you'll find that this


programme's AAA status is not under threat. But then we never had one


in the first place. And with us we have the A Team. From Labour, we're


blessed by their Treasury spokesman, Chris Leslie, and from the Liberal


Democrats, Stephen Williams, who chairs his party's backbench


Treasury Committee. And the Tory? There is no one. They could not


give as anyone for the top of the programme but they promised one


will come later in the show. We can hardly wait. Now, first this


morning, let's briefly talk about the West Coast Mainline, because


Virgin Trains has been confirmed as the operator of the West Coast main


line for the next two years. The company had lost the franchise to a


rival but the bidding process was scrapped after serious flaws were


found in the system. The transport secretary asked Sam Laidlaw to


produce a report on the process and today he gave his response. I do


not hide from the seriousness of his findings. They make extremely


uncomfortable reading. They caused serious problems for the bidding


firms, including first group. They must and will be acted upon. The


department will ensure that all future franchise competitions are


delivered with a clear timeline, rigorous management and the right


quality assurance. We shall also create a simpler and clearer


structure for rail franchise competitions. They announced a two-


year contract with no competition goes to Virgin. It is that fair?


suppose they have no choice. Someone has to run the trains. I'm


not sure what they could have done. how much they have been paid in


order to continue that process. fare money is going to the tax


payer and not virgin. What tax payers will be worried about is the


cost of the problems over the bid. Can we really afford that kind of


mistake? I hope someone will be accountable, whether ministers or


officials in the Department of Transport. Someone has to be held


to account. It has had a knock on effect in other parts of the


country. I represent Bristol. Our franchise is up for renewal. That


has been stalled while the Department looks at the whole


franchise programme. There is great uncertainty. He deplane? Much is


made of the civil servants. -- who do you blame? The that is why we


need someone else to look into it. I'm not chairing a particular


inquiry. I do want to buy Dec who is to blame. Someone needs to hold


their hands up. No one ever seems to hold their hands up these days.


I want to ask you about the Labour policy and whether they will


nationalise the railways. Ministers decided to change the franchise


policy. Do you think ministers should hold their hands up? It is a


different team of ministers since the decision was made. Maybe the


ministers who made that decision should appear before the relevant


parliamentary committee and a camp for themselves. Her eye it agreed


with that. -- and account for themselves. I do agree with that.


You have Theresa Villiers and Justine Greening. The extent to


which they were involved in this massive cock-up, witches Of


phenomenal cost to the tax payer. We need to hear from them as well.


Nationalisation or not? There are no plans to do that but we need to


get a grip of the situation. We have seen what has happened in the


past with the East Coast main line. We need to squeeze every pound of


tax payers money. Back to the economy and the fall-out from


yesterday's Autumn Statement. Let's turn without further ado from that.


It felt more like a winter statement. Jo has the economic low-


down. Yes, Andrew. The OBR downgraded its forecasts for


economic growth. They now think that the economy will shrink by


0.1% this year with only modest growth of 1.2% next year. Then 2%,


2.3% and 2.7%. On borrowing, there was one bit of positive news for


year than it was last year. But, ignoring special one-off factors,


they now think the country will have to borrow more than they did


when they published their last forecast in March. �120 billion


this financial year, falling to 112 billion next year, and then lower


again in each subsequent year. And, on debt, the OBR says the


Chancellor will miss his target of having net debt, as a share of GDP


falling by the end of this Parliament. It will peak in 2015/16


at 79.9% and will only start falling in the following year. That


has led the Fitch ratings agency to The credit rating is important, as


is the market. That matters because, if you do not have credibility -


you cannot show the world you can pay your way - interest rates go up


for the Government and taxpayers have to pay more to fund the debt.


Interest rates in the economy go up, as do mortgage rates. One thing we


have been able to do as a government is keep those rates very


low because the world has confidence in us. Of course you


need to have tax rises and spending restraints. If you do that too


quickly, it will backfire. What we learned yesterday was our economy


has contracted this year. It has not grown at will. George Osborne


is borrowing more. The national debt is going up. His plan has


failed. I think if you are in a deep hole, you should stop digging.


Well, joining us from College Green, are two of Britain biggest economic


brains - Larry Elliott from the Guardian and City AM's editor,


Will Britain lose its AAA rating? Does it matter? Let's take these as


two separate questions. We could be going back into a dip in the 4th


quarter. That will be the time we will probably lose our AAA rating.


I think probably early next year. There is a good chance we could see


a double-dip recession. The economy could shrink again. There are two


or three really important factors. The OBR forecast for growth in the


next four, five years are too optimistic. There will be a


resurgence -- it is based on a resurgence of gross but I think


that is wrong. If my forecast is right, the national debt will be


even higher and deficits even higher. We are bound to eventually


you -- you lose the credit rating. Without the Bank of England pushing


down artificially the cost of government borrowing, the debt


would be much higher and much higher in the years ahead. It is


quantitative easing that has saved the AAA rating up until now. That


will not go on for ever. I think we will lose it. What is your for you?


I think there is a very good chance we will. -- ate your views. George


Osborne said he would get the economy growing. He said he would


get on top of Britain's debts and he would safeguard the AAA rating.


He has failed on the first two. The economy has flat lined and a


deficit reduction programme is of course. Yesterday's figures showed


only 50% of it well. The third element, maintaining the AAA rating


- he is hanging on to that by the merest of threads. Prospects for


the economy are quite bleak. Does it matter if we lose the AAA


rating? I would suggest that France has lost it and it still seems to


be there. America has lost its rating and is financing its debt.


Does it matter? I do not think it matters any more. Credit agencies


have been discredited in recent years. I do not think it matters to


match. It matters psychologically and shows the Chancellor has failed


to get control of public finances. We need to go through a wasted


decade when it comes to growth. I do not think it was inevitable. The


Chancellor could have booked through policies to really


transform the economy and boost competitiveness. Unfortunately,


that has not happened. We still have increasing national debt and a


very high government spending share of the economy. All these negative


factors are tracking down gross. Also the zombie companies which are


kept alive by very low interest rates and quantitative easing. The


Government has not taken the right measures. The overall picture is it


inherited a terrible situation from the previous government. Does it


matter? If it means that interest rates go up and the value of gilts


therefore goes down, that will affect banks balance sheets?


think D'Arblay is the new AAA because so many other countries


have been downgraded. -- AA. I do not think it matters one jot


whether Britain has a AAA or AA rating. Politically, it will matter


a great deal because the Chancellor has almost made this a fetish of


his time at number 11. It would be a very significant blow to the


Chancellor. I do not think the economic impact would be as great


as people think. The Chancellor had the choice yesterday. He could have


increased the austerity programme in the short-term to insure the AAA


rating was met. He said, rather than raise taxes or cut spending by


an additional 17 billion, which she would have had to do to bring down


debt on track, it would have been total economic madness. Final


question to both of you. It was a complicated autumn statement


yesterday. Partly because of the jiggery-pokery about borrowing and


deficits. Now you have had the night to go through the figures,


what has jumped out to let you which was not immediately apparent


when it was unveiled yesterday? -- jumped out at you. I am very


suspicious that deficits have gone down. It has become much harder to


compare it like for like. The Chancellor has fallen foul of the


disease that contaminated the previous Chancellor which was due


constantly change the rules. I think that is very disappointing.


There is over ambitious growth forecasts. I think the forecast is


wrong. Without that, you do not have the revenues and deficits.


Everything collapses. You end up with much bigger problems they will


realise. Constantly pushing back austerity, it used to be a seven-


year programme and now is a four gear programme. That is not


plausible. -- it four a year programme and now is a seven-year


programme. What has jumped at it you in the light of day? Two-and-a-


half years ago, George Osborne said that 92% of the recovery work on


the deficit would be done in this Parliament. Today it is only 52%.


There is an awful lot of pain still to come. That was not be easy to


sell at the next election. In the OBR report, in their scaled down


forecasts, they have pursued consumers will get into more debt


over the coming years. That seems a very optimistic forecast. I think


consumers are debt saturated and want to pay down their debts. The


chances of consumers borrowing their way back to prosperity are


With us now is the Treasury Minister, Sajid Javid. I am glad


you made it. Was this a budget for growth


yesterday? Yes, it was, it deals with a biggest problem, the size of


its deficit. The government is still dealing with that challenge,


the deficit is still coming down which is important, to keep on


creating jobs. How come, the official and unofficial estimates


say it will add 0.1% in 2013, another 0.1% to growth in 2014?


Those forecasts, the these are our independent. They say anything done


yesterday will add 0.1% to growth next year. That is a Budget for


growth? It is. You have to think about the alternative. If this


government didn't deal with this problem of deficit, we would lose


confidence. If interest rates went up by just 1%, the average mortgage


payment would go up by �1,000 per annum. But we have lost our triple-


A status. You have made deficit reduction and


cutting the amount of borrowing the centre of your economics - G.


Absolutely. In June 2010, you told us in the five years afterwards,


until 2015, you would borrowed a total of �22 billion. Do you know


the figure? Now, you are going to borrowed �539 billion in these five


years. That is �217 billion more than you envisage only two years


ago. You are planning to borrow 67% more than you said you were


borrowed 2 1/2 years ago, expect again how you're dealing with


borrowing? First of all, before you can deal with a stock of debt, you


have to deal with a rate of borrowing. The deficit in two years


is already down and will keep falling in cash turns and as a


percentage of GDP. You mentioned 2010. Let us look back. Since that


time, the independent report said the assessment of the shape Britain


was in has turned out to be a lot worse. The recession the country


faced in 2009 was a contraction in GDP, the worst since the Second


World War. An on going euro crisis. And a peak in oil prices in 2011.


Britain is a global trading economy. The IMF downgraded forecasts for


every single country and Britain is not exempt. However tough it is,


this government is dealing with the challenges. If there was a plan by


an alternative government that was going to mean even �200 billion


more of borrowing, spending and debt, how would that change your


numbers? You have put borrowing at the heart of your strategy. How can


you credibly claim to be getting on top of borrowing when you are


planning to borrow �200 billion more than you said you would 2 1/2


years ago. It is out of control, five had and �39 billion you will


borrow. Because we are dealing with a deficit. You need to deal with


the rate. When this government came to power, that deficit was �159


billion, the highest of any industrialised country. That was


then, you said you would get on top of that. Instead you are borrowing


over �100 billion more than Alastair Darling had said.


we're getting on with cutting the rate of borrowing. A I will try one


more time. I don't understand how you are cutting the rate of


borrowing when you just added City 7% to the map you said you would


borrow? I can explain, the deficit, the amount you borrowed every year,


that was �159 billion. It was �121 billion last year. This year before


cost is �108 billion. It is over �120 billion if you account on a


like-for-like basis. You can selectively take what you want. The


report... It shows if you take these things out. I think you're


missing the point. The budget deficit is falling. That means the


rate of borrowing is falling. would suggest that, given the shed


loads of dosh which have been borrowed by his government, for


Labour to credibly say you would borrow even more is absurd. We have


got to deal with the borrowing situation. But, ultimately, the


government is failing. What is the alternative? He talks about his


priorities. Ours would be growth. It is a fundamental truth the


government seems oblivious to, if you don't have a healthy economy


generating new revenues for the Treasury, reducing welfare costs,


you'll see borrowing getting higher. But, you would borrow more?


debt will increase. But you would borrow more. There are certain key


short-term investments necessary to stimulate the economy. We talked


about for achieve revenues -- 4G. We could talk about the E E banker


bonus Levy, pay restraint, which is necessary. The �3 billion giveaway


to the wealthiest and people. is a propaganda tool you are using.


When you look at what is happening, the Minister has made a decision


about what he regards as the Ellesse dusty of taxation. --


elasticity. One quick point, if you'll let me. They have been


against every spending cut this government has introduced. They are


against every tax rise. Somehow they think by some miracle they


will balance the books. Of course we need to make adjustments. We


have said topper cent. With Yorke NHS cuts, I suppose? How much is


the Home Office budget going to be going down as a result of your


extra borrowing? You must be glad you joined this coalition, it is


going well for you!? Actually, what joins us together, there are things


we disagree about, it is the central purpose of getting the


country back on track. If you are comparing a forecast with actual


figures. The forecast has been blown completely off course. But


the actual trajectory of the budget is coming down. We are no closer to


borrowing the books -- balancing the books. Are you any closer to


balancing the books? Yes. Absolutely, we are. You said that


the deficit would be �60 billion by 2013. That was a forecast. A You


are now telling us it is �112 billion, twice as big. The nation


is still borrowing less than the year before and the year before


that. You can't say it is dodgy. can. Including that capital receipt


from the auction which is happening next year, that is entirely normal


in accounting turns. I can state a few more minutes. Let us move on,


do not go away. The shall we carry on? The report


says the economy will decline again in his 4th quarter. We all know


that in January. The OBR can be wrong, usually more optimistic than


pessimistic. If you look at what the Chancellor said in 2010, he


said, he would be judged by meeting his debt reduction target by 2015.


That has been abandoned. He said he would get the structural deficit


into balance by 2015. That has been abandoned. He said that he would


maintain our triple-A credit rating. I would suggest on the basis of


history that will soon be abandoned as well. I do not agree with your


overall analysis. I take your general point which is all linked


to a slower rate of growth. You are surely not suggesting a government


controls its growth rate. We have a huge influence on growth but we are


open economy, 50% of our exports are with the EU. We are impacted by


the rest of the world when they have problems. We have got to deal


with the challenges we face, confront them head on. You can be


like the previous government and hope everything goes away. You talk


about fiddling the figures, Gordon Brown set his targets and then he


came up with his own figures. learn from the best. You learned


from the master. Are you challenging the independence of the


OBR? I am challenging its competence. Is Chris challenging


it? I don't think so. The you can ask me any question you want. Also,


we have talked about the growth figures and deficit. Ordinary


people what they want is jobs, over 1.2 million private sector jobs


have been created in the last two years. In the last 10 years of


Labour, do you know how many were created under Labour? It was about


600,000. The private sector has created more jobs than Labour


created in the last 10 years. wanted to ask if he was in the room


with the Chancellor when he decided to look at the statistics on


borrowing this year and post that revenue at 3.5 billion, to also


post in the profit from the banks in public ownership, to also posed


in -- poster in... Let me finish. I want to know the answer. If I would


said -- it if I said I was there, it would be a fiction. This


fictional meeting. Chris knows full well the OBR has to credit all the


decisions made by the government. The way government gives these


statistics... Are you happy that the benefits including working


benefits on people below average income has, will rise at below 1%


when inflation is double. And the things these people have to spend a


big chunk of their income on, food, heating, will rise by a lot more


than 1%, are you happy with that? Of course I am not happy with that.


These are difficult things. When you go into politics, you don't


think your life will been spent making easy decisions and to take


difficult decisions over all in the best interests of the party --


That is what the Conservative manifesto of 2010 said. The Liberal


Democrat manifesto said we would have a broad tax perk for people in


work. That is what the coalition government is doing. The only tax


cuts Conservative support up for the very rich. Do you believe that?


We thought the tax cut for Middle Britain was the way forward.


that would you believe? That is what a lot of his colleagues would


still like us to believe. Because they're not in a coalition, they


cannot do it. I do not own whose name the press release was issued


in. It was actually issued as a mistake. It had to be withdrawn.


Why will Labour not tell us whether they will support a 1% rise in


uprating of benefits? We have not seen the bill yet. Hold your


horses! When you look at what the Chancellor is doing, it is a


political trick. He is trying to say that Labour tradition a cares


about the poorest in society. -- traditionally carers. They are


going to say, how do you feel about real-terms cuts? You must vote


against it. I have a very bitter taste in my mouth. You must vote


against it. How can you be called the Labour Party and vote for


something like that? I accept it is very distasteful, what they are


doing. Excuse me. We have already done what they are doing. If it is


that distasteful, will you vote against it? If we see the bill, we


will vote against it. Can I ask about what is in the Bill? We have


run out of time. We have run out of time. Next time I'll get you the


proper press release. Some Prime Ministers use reshuffles all the


time to shake things up. The politics of promotion and demotion


can cause big problems though, perhaps, that is why David Cameron


held off for more than a year before moving his ministers around.


Today, the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee are


asking how effective reshuffles actually are. In a moment, we will


be hearing from Chris Mullin, who has been giving evidence. But,


first, here's a flavour of the wonderful world of reshuffles.


morning. Are you ready for a new Music Sign O, the hokey pokey. -- #


Good to be back, Mr Mandelson? Third time lucky. A lovely day for


a walk around Whitehall. I am honoured and very much rigging


forward to getting on with the job. And the former Labour MP, Chris


Mullin, is with us now. What is the point of reshuffles? There are too


many of them. I was the 6th African minister. There were nine in 13


years. There were 13 Europe ministers. There were eight Work


and Pensions Secretary has been 10 years. That is quite a complex


subject to get your head around. Health and education has been


turned inside out on an annual, biannual basis. It is not good for


government. In terms of policy, if you are looking for consistency and


stability, the figures you have just reeled off, you get neither.


It is destabilising and demoralising for those concerned.


The present government has been more sensible. I have only met the


Prime Minister once since I left Parliament, about six months after


the election. There is only one piece of advice I would offer due -


the Prime Minister - and that was not to have annual reshuffles. He


waited two years to have his first reshuffle. Let's welcome viewers


from Scotland who have just joined the Daily Politics. They are


talking about reshuffles. When reshuffles happen, it is not


because there is a change of policy, it is usually because it is forced


upon prime ministers politically - either someone has done something


and you have to get rid of them and that forces a reshuffle. Do you


think it is forced upon a leader? Sometimes it is. An individual


Secretary of State gets himself into trouble, like Liam Fox, and a


mini reshuffle has to be held. You do not have to throw all the pieces


into the air and sea where they land. Unfortunately, in recent


years, they have got into the habit of annual reshuffles. The media


stars to speculate months and weeks in advance. What is that like for


ministers' careers? There is lots of briefing about who will go and


unbearably it does not happen the way the press predicts. How


destabilising is that? Very destabilising. If you are presiding


over a big department, you need to get to know the subject. If you are


only going to be there the year, you have just reached a point where


you might be useful when the man in Downing Street says, you are gone.


Often the department has to start all over again. That seems


ridiculous. There are subjects which are pretty difficult and the


Treasury is one of them - getting a head around all those figures. We


do say people should stay for at least two of to three years? I was


first reshuffled 11 years again. -- ago. I was told to walk up Downing


Street. I went into the office of Tony Blair. He was doing the


reshuffle. By the time he had got to the junior level, he said, I


would like you to go to the Cabinet Office. I said, thank you very much,


Prime Minister. He said, actually... I said to him, everyone will say


that, when they? He said, you are one of the only people who has said


they will take what they are given. People do actually argue with the


Prime Minister as he is trying to grapple with his dozens of


appointments. It shows that prime ministers are either week when


giving news they do not want to here or there are ministers who


fight their corners. There were reports that Iain Duncan-Smith did


not want to move when the Prime Minister wanted him to move. Is it


hard to tell colleagues they are out? I think Tony Blair got quite


experienced at it. He used the phrase, Surrey, Chris, I am going


to have to let you go. I'm sure he said that to everyone. I actually


turned down my first offer. He said, it is only for a few months and


then I will find you something more in the Home Office of Foreign


Office. I fell for that. Do you think it would be better if people


were experts? In other countries, you do need some expertise before


you take on health or education. Do you think there should be a level


of qualification before you are given a ministerial post?


painful lesson we have all learnt is it is not a meritocracy. It


depends how friendly you are with your party leader as to whether he


picks up the phone or not. I do not think the Prime Minister goes


through everyone's CVs and says, this person has done this and


spoken on that while in opposition and they should go there. That is


how business with work but not politics. With the Liberal


Democrats come up we have fiftysomething. They are turning


them all through. Everyone gets a go. That is probably good for


pensions, it is it not? I am afraid at this point we have to reshuffle


you out of the studio. It has happened the fog but I will come


back. -- happened before. He went in to resign and David Cameron said,


you're doing a great job, thank you for coming to seamy and he walked


out. I said to Tony Blair, he said, we are not very good at this, are


we? I thought, who is the week? Some good news, energy giants have


found a cheap ways of supplying electricity. A nice big fracking


plant might well be coming to a town, village or slice of green and


pleasant land near you. I can hardly wait. Giles has been to


visit a village who are a little less pleased. Underneath the arches,


a dream of gas is under way. Not far from this viaduct, near the


village of Balcombe in Sussex, there happens to be a 20-year-old


oil drill shaft, which drilling company Cuadrilla has planning


permission until September next year, to survey for shale gas and a


test frack. To nearly all the residents of Balcombe, that does


not smell right. It is not so much that this Sussex village is sitting


on a goldmine of shale gas. That is what the drilling company wants to


find out. The community has had to come to an opinion about a fairly


new process that many others know The process involves underground


explosive fracturing of rock strata and, if suitable gas pockets are


there, driving that gas out, by pumping water in, lots of water.


What has sent shockwaves through this village is, when it was tried


in Blackpool last year, it caused two earthquakes. The Government


halted test fracks as a result. Now they seem keen to lift that ban.


Balcombe is worried. The increased risk of pollution, the increased


risk of traffic which were becoming past my house. The risk to the


environment. The risk of earth tremors. Generally, I am very


concerned about it as a whole. in the US, shale gas extraction is


transforming their energy dynamic. The UK Government may want the same.


We are not America. We are a watery country. Just to have something


like fracking, it seems that a last resort for the Government to go


ahead with this. I cannot believe we have not be searched any other


alternatives. -- researched. Balcombe is a blooming traditional


English country village. You would be forgiven for thinking they would


be upset if you asked to build anything near - or under them.


is an issue that affects the whole of the UK. People do not realise


how serious a problem this is. Cuadrilla say Balcombe should not


flap. Their focus in on Lancashire and have no current plans to test


frack. Balcombe stresses the liquid nature of the word current. And, as


other areas may well be perched on shale beds, they seem to have built


a platform as campaigners not against a development but a whole


technology. I really pity people in other countries. They have had


lives ruined. Whatever engineers and geologists say, some have these


companies are ruining people's lives. Are you prefer that not to


happen in the UK. -- I would prefer. For those in Balcombe, and nearby,


the hunt for cheaper gas is a bridge too far. Joining me now is


the Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, and Dan Lewis, who is energy


adviser for the Institute of Can we go back to the big picture,


we import 49% of our gas, forecast to rise up to send the cent. -- 70%.


The nuclear programme is off to a very slow start. We needed to buy a


lot of gas. Do we actually wanted to buy it at a premium from abroad,


or exploit our own revenues, get some tax revenues and regional


development opportunities? It is posing the wrong dilemma. If we go


down another dash for gas, we will see higher energy bills, we all


seek our climate emission reduction targets busted. The actual question


is whether we go for a big investment in offshore wind, or gas.


A report this week showed if you went down the offshore wind route,


we would get 70,000 more jobs, look -- we would have lower fuel bills,


and emissions. Why has the dash for gas not resulted in higher prices


in the United States, they are now a third of Europe's? They let me


correct one thing, George Osborne is making up facts as he goes along.


It is not the gas -- not the case, gas prices have doubled in the US.


Not natural gas prices. Yes, they have. They are falling in the


United States, I promise you. That is why industries are relocating


there. If you listen to the chief executive of Bloomberg, he is


saying gas prices have come down. Irrespective of that, in the UK, it


is the case a big investment in offshore wind would get our bills


done much more effectively without the negative side effects. Can we


really import what has happened in the United States? If you take


North Dakota where one of the big shell gas fields are, if you look


at North Dakota, it has 10 people per square mile. In England, 1,000


people per square mile, often more. Can you really do in this small


island what they have done in a Continent? We are not going to do


anything on the same scale. On natural gas prices, it depends on


your starting point. Prices four years ago were the same as the UK.


They Arnaud three times lower. The starting point which Caroline chose


at the beginning of the year, they have doubled, but they are still


three times lower than here. cannot try to compare the US price


system two hours. We need to look at prices in the UK. If you look at


our overall energy bills, gas is driving up bills which is why they


are so expensive. Not just me, CBI, a butcher bank, they are all say it.


If I could come back on that, we need to do the same thing as


America were in large amount of Shell Gas is de coupled from


natural gas and oil prices. what about climate change, we are


forgetting this, we will bust our legally binding emission reduction


target. It doesn't matter what is happening in America. The UK has


legislation. Let us concentrate on the UK. The committee on climate


change cut abruptly said if we go down this route we will not meet


the targets in our legally blinding -- binding legislation. My response


is to get the moratorium lifted and find out more. A serious point is


this is an economy in trouble. Incidentally, you are going to have


used yelled -- going to have to use a shell gas... We are going to have


to go. Thank you very much for that. I have never felt more redundant in


my life. The Chancellor has got this shale


gas bit between his teeth. He really thinks this is important.


And he has overcome the objections of the Liberal Democrats, am I


right? I think he has. It was interesting to hear this debate


that went on. We needed to get away from just focusing on just what


alternative energy is. Wind energy plays an important role but if we


have a supply of gas using the new technology available, to use our


own resources, to try and bring down the price of gas,... So you


are in favour? I am, yes. And your party lost the argument? A over


wind, there has been an argument between the Secretary of State and


Ed Davey and his junior David -- junior minister. But, you hit the


nail on the head by saying we need to be wary of fracking. In North


Dakota, there is plenty of land where you can risk perhaps


contaminating the water table. In Cumbria, you would have to be very


careful. There will be lots of protests.


Does Labour have a policy on Shell Gas? We recognise we always have


some gas in the mix. You have to try to grow the renewable side of


things, we were disappointed they dropped that target... Are you on


fracking? There are safeguards, the toxicity of Chemicals plant into


the ground, watching the water table, model train what happens. It


will cause structural change to the earth beneath. With proper


safeguards, which should go without saying. You would be in favour?


safeguards are a critical point. We need at least a year to measure


what is happening in the ground before obtaining a licence for


fracking. A report did say that this was a red herring. 125,000


fracks in the United States last year. The environmental protection


agency says that not one has contaminated the ground water.


we have our own environmental standards which I would hope are


quite high. Now, enough of the doom and gloom. Let's have a little bit


of Christmas cheer. Because, last night, there were lords a leaping,


and some melodic sounding MPs. Yes, Parliament's Got Talent, you know!


But don't worry, they're not gearing up for the next reality TV


show. The Parliament Choir, yes, Parliament has a choir, has been


singing its heart out at its annual carol service. And we sent Susana


to St John's Smith Square to see if they were any good. # Ding Dong


merrily on high. Recognised them? These are parliamentarians united


in song, with a conductor as chief whip. We are under the control of


the conductor. Her there is a great deal of solidarity about what we do.


They come from all sides of the political spectrum, about one third


are at MPs and peers. A time of year when they like to get into the


Christmas spirit. 12 years since the choir started, it can pull in a


decent crowd. If we have come a long way from the


days when we used to basket with a few mince pies. -- busk it. I am


doing a duet with a Tory! Bernard Jenkins. That is a bit weird. It is


quite nice. The thing about music is it just brings everybody


together, and lifts everybody's soul, however bad your day, however


angry you feel about the Chancellor's Budget, this is an


occasion to saying, to enjoy, to the Christmas tree. Come on then,


give us a song. A contender. But who is the best sinner? Bernard


Jenkins has a fantastic Boyce, we all turned around to listen to him.


He is a member of her own party, is buried party-political reason?


is simply perhaps more rehearsed. Time for the scores now. A I would


probably give Bernard nine out of 10, he is pretty good.


Carol line is a very strong sinner. -- singer.


Lord german? He leads the choir so I had better give him eight! Let us


hear him then? You know the words but I am going to sing the third


first and I did remember the words. A likely tale. Here is the real


thing. Doesn't it make you want to roast a chestnut!


We're joined now by Alexander L'Estrange, who is a choir master!


Do you think they are any good? sounded pretty nice, what did you


think? I thought they surprisingly sounded quite good. What would you


give them? Some definite sevens. Would you like to have a go


conducting them? It would be a lot of fun. Which of the individuals


did you like the best in turns of their voice? I rather liked Lord


German. Our Ranya view in this quiet? -- Are any of you in this


choir? Then I was in my school choir. Her


you were talking about your colleague, Bernard Jenkins, who has


a lovely voice. He has an excellent voice. His sister was a


professional singer. Bernard was a constituent of mine for a while. He


certainly has a great voice. I thought David was excellent as well.


For could this be the key to more cross-party harmony if they sang


together more regularly. Music is a metaphor for politics and everyone


coming together. Singing in community choirs is great. Lots are


doing stuff they are learning by beer -- ear.


You could put the Autumn Statement to music! A bleak midwinter!


Thank you very much. That's all for today. Thanks to our


guests. The one o'clock news is starting over on BBC One now. I am


on, after Question Time, talking about the royal baby, and social


mobility, with Tony Parsons. Discussing reinvention with


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