19/12/2012 Daily Politics


19/12/2012

Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn with live coverage of Prime Minister's Questions and the latest political news and interviews, including MPs Alan Duncan and Margaret Curran.


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Morning, folks, welcome to the Daily Politics. Relations between

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police and the Government have hit a new low after startling

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developments in the row over Andrew Mitchell. He was the trauma of --

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former chief whip. He now demands an inquiry into the affair that

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cost him his job after new allegations about the role of the

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police. A police officer was arrested on suspicion of misconduct

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in public office, something to do with the Mitchell affair, we are

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told. The government will announce that

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it is pulling almost half our troops out of Afghanistan next year.

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Does it make military sense or are we just cutting and running?

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Councils in England will find out how much cash they are going to get

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from central government later. Not a lot, I suspect, in these

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straitened times. Will town halls be able to maintain council tax

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freezes? Should we give MPs an early

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Christmas present, a pay rise? We will hear from the former civil

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servant who thinks that. expenses scandal was born in part

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from the fact that MPs' salaries have been fudged for far too long.

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All that coming up in the next 90 minutes of public service

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broadcasting at its very finest. To help us with his broadcasting tour

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de force, we scoured Westminster for two of the finest political

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minds in the business. But we couldn't find them! We settled

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instead for the International Development Minister, Alan Duncan,

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and the Shadow Scotland Secretary, Margaret Curran.

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Let's turn our attention to the latest twist, more than a twist, a

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dramatic development, in the row over the former Chief Whip Andrew

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Mitchell. He has now demanded a full inquiry after new revelations

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have emerged about the affair that cost him his job. You will recall

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he stepped down in October after the press got hold of details of an

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altercation with a police officer in Downing Street, it was about

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getting his bike through the main gates. It has now been alleged that

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a police officer has posed as a member of the public and falsely

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claimed to have witnessed the event. Number Ten says the allegations are,

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quote, exceptionally serious. In 20th September 12, Andrew

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Mitchell was involved in an argument with the police about

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whether he was allowed to take his bike out of the main gate in

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Downing Street -- September 2012. The police account of the incident,

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leaked to the press, accused Mr Mitchell of calling the police

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plebs. He admitted losing his temper and swearing but maintains

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he never used the word plebs. After much pressure... Pressure he was

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forced to resign as chief whip in October. Channel 4 News and

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Dispatches last night alleged another police officer posed as a

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member of the public and falsely claimed to have seen the events,

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which he then e-mailed to his MP, John Randall, Mr Mitchell's deputy

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chief whip. The Mel claimed there were other witnesses, including

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tourists. -- de Gmail claimed. But T C -- CCTV footage does not show

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crowds of people watching and listening. The Metropolitan Police

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Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe made clear it was an ongoing

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criminal investigation and that there was more to this than meets

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the eye, and he hopes people will support his actions once they hear

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the full story. The Police Federation, the organisation

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representing most officers, made a lot of the running on the story and

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called for Andrew Mitchell to resign. The Metropolitan Police

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Federation this morning said it unequivocally and categorically

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refutes any allegation that it was part of a conspiracy to unseat a

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cabinet minister. They have declined our request to be

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interviewed on the programme, but here is Ken McKay of the West

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Mercia Police Federation speaking back in October just before he met

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with Andrew Mitchell. I don't represent the Metropolitan Police

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officers. But we think the issue of integrity is significant. Society

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demands that police officers are honest and we should expect the

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same standards of Cabinet ministers, somebody is not telling the truth

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and we have to resolve this. you at risk of being accused of

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being political over an issue that has been gone over enough? This is

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absolutely not a political campaign of any sort. This is about

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integrity of police officers. We have officers' notes being

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described by a Cabinet minister as not being accurate. I would like

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that issue resolved. It is really as simple as that. That was the

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Police Federation back then. They are quieter this morning. In a

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moment we will speak to David Davies, a friend of Mr Mitchell,

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but first let's look at the CCTV footage first shown on Channel 4

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last night. This is Mr Mitchell on the left, he is going over to go to

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the side gate, having been told he can't go to the main one. The

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police log says this is when he Airth -- issued expletives about

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the police and call them plebs, but the CCTV does not look as if they

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are even talking as he goes out the gates, he does not look back, no

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body language suggests... It is not conclusive but no body language

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suggests the exchange took place then, as the Police Lock said.

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This is outside Downing Street, we can't be absolutely sure it is

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7:30pm but it is that night, there is nobody there, but the police log

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said several members of the public were present and that members of

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the public looked visibly shocked and somewhat taken aback by the

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language he used. As you can see, there is one person. We blotted

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:06:42.:06:45.

them out. But there certainly was not a crowd, as the police lock --

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log suggested, although we need to establish the timing of the CCTV.

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But taken together there is at least prima Farsi evidence that the

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police log does not quite stand up on that CCTV. We are joined by

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Conservative MP David Davies, a friend of Andrew Mitchell. Brian

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Paddick, the former Metropolitan Police commander of, also joins me

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in the studio. You have spoken to Mr Mitchell, what is his frame of

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mind? He wants an inquiry and to be vindicated, frankly. He admitted to

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swearing but none of what he calls the toxic language. We are now in a

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position where he was somebody -- where somebody masqueraded as a

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civilian deliberately to put him in a bad light. In the midst of all

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this we see that the actual log, at least be think it is, the one in

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the newspapers, makes claims about the existence of a crowd which is

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simply not there. I have looked at the footage which you have just

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shown, there was no footage at any points around when Mr Mitchell left.

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The timing of the second CCTV bit that we showed, showing almost no

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one outside Downing Street, you believe that timing is coterminous

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enough with what was going on inside the gates? A minute or two

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either side. There were one or two people walking by, nobody seemed to

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stop except one person turned and looked, I am not sure if that was

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the exact time, but that was it. They looked in the way that any

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tourist might look at Downing Street. There is no crowd that. The

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idea of a crowd being outside the gate and being visibly shocked is

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simply nonsense. I'd like you to imagine if this was in a court of

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law, what a defence lawyer would do with a policeman in the witness box

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with his evidence with something that was plainly wrong in the

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middle of it. Let me come on to the e-mail in a moment, let me stick

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with the CCTV. If you go back and read the police log, it is quite a

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long walk, if you read that and then watch the CCTV, does it not

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raise real questions about the voracity of the police log?

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looks implausible, it does not look like it fits at all. As you already

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pointed out, a position where Andrew Mitchell is supposed to have

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verbally assaulted the police, if you believe the log, he was walking

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away from the policeman for most of that period, he is looking at the

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gate, not turning to make any comments, he is simply walking away.

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It does not seem to add up. Let's put it no higher than there are

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doubts about the police log now in the light of the CCTV. Let's turn

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to the witness, it was this witness and the e-mail which paid such Jake

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-- played such a crucial part in Mr Mitchell losing his job, it is what

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really got the Prime Minister's attention. We now understand this

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witness is a serving policeman and has told Channel 4 that he does not

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stand by the e-mail that he wrote. He appears to be in the same group,

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the diplomatic Protection Squad, as the people in Downing Street. He

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may even work in the same place. We don't know, but he might. He is in

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a group which includes the same people, certainly. We don't know

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why he did it, who put him up to it, although there is an intimation

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that somebody date in Michael Crick's commentary last night. We

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don't know where he got the information. His e-mail is very

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similar to parts of this log. It looks almost identical in parts.

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You have to wonder where that came from. If you take these bits of

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evidence together, as we have been discussing with you this morning,

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we did not be fair at least to raise the question that there is a

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potential conspiracy by certain police officers against a cabinet

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minister? I hate to use the word conspiracy, it has legal meanings,

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but it certainly looks like collusion of some sort. This is

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what the inquiry need to establish. I have heard to complain before

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about surveillance States, we live an estate where pretty much

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everybody's telephone, text and the Mail records are available to the

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police. They should be able to work out who talked to who in a matter

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of days or, at most, weeks. There is no reason why it should take

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long to verify. And establish what the goings-on were. I don't want

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you to go away, I want you to come back in in a moment, but before you

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do, one more question. You say Mr Mitchell wants an inquiry, what

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kind of inquiry are we talking about to get to the bottom of this?

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I'm perfectly comfortable with a police inquiry so long as it is

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clearly fair and independent and does not treat the police as

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different from Mr Mitchell. would carry it out? I don't mind.

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You might have the Met Police carry it out. They would be investigating

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themselves? Under IPCC supervision. Or possibly another police force,

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that is what normally happens in these circumstances. From my point

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of view the key issues are it has to restraint -- Swift, we have to

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resolve this issue before Mr Mitchell's career disappears into

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history, and it has to be fair. David Davies, I would like your

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reaction. I turn to Brian Paddick, a former senior officer in the Met

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Police. What do you make of this? Certainly there seemed to be an

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element of doubt raised by the CCTV. There is no audio track, Mr

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Mitchell has said some of the things he said were under his

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breath, even the comment that he admitted to, and it could possibly

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be that even when he is walking away that he could be saying these

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things. We don't know. He can't be saying them under his breath if the

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police lobby is accurate, it says that members of the public were

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visibly shocked. -- if the police log is accurate. That is a separate

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issue, the members of the public who were shocked... They could not

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be shocked because they did not hear him. That is the thing. If the

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CCTV is from the right time, it does not show any body outside the

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gates, or one person walking back and forth. That seems to be

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inconsistent with what is in the police log. The things we can be

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certain about are that there is a definite question over whether

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members of the public were present and shocked by what was said.

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can also be sure if the fall-back position is he was muttering that

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toxic phrases about plebs and you should know your place and all the

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rest of it, if he is muttering under his breath, even if they had

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been people there, they could not have heard him. -- even if there

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had been people. We don't know how loudly he was saying them. You said

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he could have been muttering them, but I am saying that if the police

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log says he was muttering them, the other parts of the log that members

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of the public were visibly shocked could not stand up. Is that not

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right? From a CCTV we cannot concludes that he did not say the

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things he is alleged to say, there is no soundtrack. We can't see his

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lips moving or not moving. We have to rely on other evidence as far as

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VAT is concerned. Where there is a question of doubt is whether the

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members of public were outside and were shocked, because the CCTV

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appears to have shown none. We will lose David Davies in a moment, so I

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will go back to him. If the CCTV is coterminous with events, it means

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the police log is clearly wrong, and if it is wrong on that it could

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be wrong about other things? would like you to think about what

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would happen in a court of law of a defence lawyer was questioning the

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policeman. Did you make this up? Why did you say people were shocked

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when nobody was there? The evidence would be torn to shreds, Brian

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knows that. He has seen that sort of thing happen elsewhere. I am a

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phrase it causes a great shadow to forgo their this piece of evidence

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:15:35.:15:35.

Alan Duncan, you were a colleague of Mr Mitchell. Tell me what you

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make of it. He was my Secretary of State for two-and-a-half years.

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I've known him for 35 years and my judgment is solid. If he says that

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all he said, I believe him. He has been through the mincer for two

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months and I agree with every single word but David Davis has

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just said in his analysis and in his call for an inquiry. It turns

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out to be the case a Cabinet minister has lost his job because a

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serving police officer has false abide evidence in any mail to the

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Deputy Chief Whip, this is a scandal and a disgrace and it needs

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a full inquiry that David Davis and others are calling for. We have got

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to get to the bottom of this and I don't quite simply understand what

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position Brian was trying to adopt just now. An inquiry is going to

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take place and we shouldn't prejudge that inquiry. No one is

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prejudging it but we are raising the issues of the inquiry has to

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address. Let me come to Margaret Curran. We are looking at the

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possible, a potential collision of various elements of the police

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against a Cabinet minister. This is an extraordinary development in a

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story which is astonishing. I'm sure people across the country will

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be aghast at that possible outcome. What really concerns me is why did

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it take Channel 4 documentary to bring this all-out? We have had

:17:10.:17:14.

some words from Number Ten Downing Street for that do you think they

:17:14.:17:18.

handle it properly at the time? There was an inquiry carried out by

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Jeremy Heywood. Yes, let's face it, Andrew Mitchell have stayed there

:17:24.:17:27.

for months defend himself with the support of Number Ten, so I don't

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think there is any criticism here. They had the CCTV footage. The

:17:34.:17:40.

investigation included a review of the CCTV evidence. They will have

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seen that do so why didn't they make the most of that footage?

:17:47.:17:50.

remember there was nothing in the CCTV which in any way suggested

:17:51.:17:58.

that Andrew Mitchell had behaved badly at all. It was inconclusive.

:17:58.:18:04.

Margaret Curran, the Labour Party has dined out on this because it is

:18:04.:18:07.

playing to a narrative that this Government is run by a bunch of

:18:07.:18:12.

posh, out of touch lads who looked down on the rest of us. I think we

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have to stop using the word pleb until we get to the bottom of this,

:18:16.:18:23.

correct? I still think the Government is run by a posh, out of

:18:23.:18:28.

touch lads are but it's not just about what Andrew Mitchell said

:18:28.:18:33.

will the at your party conference, the word pleb was everywhere.

:18:33.:18:36.

were making a huge fund it at the expense of a minister which may not

:18:36.:18:42.

be true. We need to establish the facts. I don't know if it's true or

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not. You have admitted there are serious doubts. In terms of our

:18:48.:18:51.

criticism of the Government, that might have been an illustration of

:18:51.:18:58.

it, but the substance of that still remains. Nonetheless, that's the

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main point. What's happening here is very serious but it's not just

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about did they exam the CCTV images properly. It looks as if the

:19:09.:19:15.

witness statements were not properly taken. It's an incumbent

:19:15.:19:25.
:19:25.:19:25.

inquiry. It does seem as if it wasn't done properly. CCTV is open

:19:25.:19:30.

to interpretation. What is not, if it is true, if this so-called

:19:30.:19:36.

witness turns out not to have been there and a serving member of the

:19:36.:19:42.

same part of the police that were on the gate, it's very serious.

:19:42.:19:46.

This is just a theory. We don't know. We have to wait for the

:19:46.:19:51.

inquiry. My theory is, these guys on duty in Downing Street at the

:19:51.:19:54.

time, though and their mate, who was part of the same outfit, wasn't

:19:54.:19:59.

there, and for some reason, that person then masqueraded as a member

:19:59.:20:03.

of the public and repeated the story. That is a possible

:20:03.:20:08.

explanation for what has taken place. To talk about a conspiracy

:20:08.:20:13.

amongst the police to unseat the Cabinet minister is wrong. It over

:20:13.:20:21.

the top. What about collusion? is, at best, a few officers

:20:21.:20:26.

discussing with each other how best to get this into the public domain.

:20:26.:20:30.

What about leaking the log to the press? Do Bernard Hogan-Howe said

:20:30.:20:35.

there is more to this than meets the eye. Mr Mitchell says it's got

:20:35.:20:39.

no confidence in the police but has full conference in Bernard Hogan-

:20:39.:20:44.

Howe investigating his own officers. There is much to meet the eye to

:20:44.:20:48.

this. We have run out of time. Thank you. Now Alan, what would you

:20:48.:20:53.

like for Christmas? Don't tell me yet. Margaret? How about a pay

:20:53.:20:57.

rise? Well, that's exactly what our next guest, former civil servant,

:20:57.:21:00.

Martin Narey, thinks you should get. You'll have the chance to thank him

:21:00.:21:10.
:21:10.:21:24.

in a minute. But first, here's his It's Christmas at Westminster. But

:21:24.:21:31.

there's little evidence sign of warmth towards MPs. If you years

:21:31.:21:33.

have passed since the expenses scandal which damaged the

:21:33.:21:38.

reputation but the ghost of it remains. Last month, a jury found

:21:38.:21:46.

that Margaret Moran falsely claimed �53,000 of expenses. Denis McShane

:21:46.:21:51.

was forced to leave this place after being proven to be both a

:21:51.:21:57.

fraudster or and a forger. And more recently, Nadine Tories took part

:21:57.:22:04.

in I'm a celebrity. MPs are give plenty of material to those who

:22:04.:22:14.
:22:14.:22:16.

think they are already pretty So, although this is a time of

:22:16.:22:23.

giving, it might appear time for an ex civil servant who has had his

:22:23.:22:28.

fair share of runnings with MPs to argue we need to pay MPs more. A

:22:28.:22:38.
:22:38.:22:42.

We pay them a �65,000 a year. That is much more than the average UK

:22:42.:22:50.

salary. But it's much less than we pay thousands of individuals in

:22:50.:22:56.

jobs much less important. I know of one talented local councillor who

:22:56.:23:00.

has abandoned her ambitions to enter Parliament, because she knows

:23:00.:23:07.

many of her officials in more than an MP. The reality is, the expenses

:23:07.:23:10.

gamble Osborne, in part, from the fact that MPs' salaries have been

:23:11.:23:17.

fudged for far too long. MPs have to hold Government to account.

:23:17.:23:25.

Ministers who are on multi-million- pound apartments, are drawn from

:23:25.:23:28.

their ranks. Too many people from all political persuasions think,

:23:28.:23:33.

for a job which offers little security and involves a persistent

:23:33.:23:39.

scrutiny of everything they do, the �65,000 in year is not enough. We

:23:39.:23:48.

are going to have to be more And Martin Narey joins us now. How

:23:48.:23:53.

much more generous would you like their salaries to be? I wouldn't

:23:53.:23:58.

like to put a figure on it, but I think we should pay MPs nearer to

:23:58.:24:07.

the salary of GPs, �104,000. Head teachers in London, �112,000.

:24:07.:24:12.

Certainly a lot more than 65,000. You are worried that Parliament is

:24:12.:24:16.

not going to attract enough talented individuals for that do

:24:16.:24:19.

you think that is already happening or is that a prediction for the

:24:19.:24:23.

future? It might already be happening. I know people who are

:24:23.:24:28.

decided not to go for parliament. We know one third of the 2010

:24:28.:24:34.

intake lost more than �30,000 to into Parliament. People may have

:24:34.:24:39.

done that when it was a job which offered status but now it's a job

:24:39.:24:44.

which involves being held in contempt. Before the 2010 election,

:24:44.:24:49.

I chaired a debate with three MPs. Ed Balls, David Willets and David

:24:49.:24:56.

Laws also Ed Balls was a Kennedy Scholar at 20 treat. A 24, David

:24:56.:25:01.

Willets was heading a monetary unit in the Treasury. A 23, David Laws

:25:02.:25:07.

was a President of JP Morgan. We won't get people of that colour but

:25:07.:25:13.

at �65,000 a year. Do you agree? It's to do good for an MP to talk

:25:13.:25:17.

about salaries, particularly in the residual climate of expenses, so

:25:17.:25:21.

first of all, Martin, Foyle seasonal generosity of spirit. I'm

:25:21.:25:27.

not expecting a pay rise. I would say, if we're going to have a

:25:27.:25:31.

parliament of Merit, in the long term, we will have to approach this

:25:31.:25:34.

issue in the spirit of enlightenment and ask what is going

:25:34.:25:38.

to underpin a working Parliament which can serve the needs of this

:25:39.:25:44.

country. Mia denigration is not going to achieve that. Do you agree

:25:44.:25:50.

with that? Do no, this is my only income. I live a reasonable life.

:25:50.:25:53.

It's not the most privileged life but I have a good standard of

:25:53.:26:01.

living. You need to be careful with the odd would that the only talent

:26:02.:26:06.

you won't attract are people who can get better paid salaries. We

:26:06.:26:11.

get people who perhaps come through ordinary working life, not

:26:11.:26:14.

necessarily achieving the greatest in society, but has a great deal to

:26:14.:26:19.

offer in terms of parliamentary life. And also, if I could quote

:26:19.:26:26.

Tony Blair, talking about his son going into Parliament, he said by

:26:27.:26:31.

far and away the biggest factor in determining this for an individual

:26:31.:26:36.

would be your vocation. It's a cause, not a career. If you only

:26:36.:26:40.

judge it on a salary, I think you're in for a big disappointment

:26:40.:26:46.

because the motivation for this job is gone. Why have the salaries

:26:46.:26:51.

slipped behind council leaders, head teachers? No government, MP,

:26:51.:26:56.

wants to suggest they want to be paid more. I don't know. Some of

:26:56.:27:00.

the behaviour in the expenses scandal was indefensible. It's the

:27:00.:27:05.

case MPs were told their expenses would be treated liberally because

:27:05.:27:09.

their salaries were so low. I was a senior civil servant. By the time I

:27:09.:27:13.

left, I was earning far more than MPs. In the Department of help

:27:13.:27:19.

alone right now there are 40 civil servants earning �150,000 a year,

:27:19.:27:25.

but MPs have to hold people like that to account. Thank you so much.

:27:25.:27:31.

Now, you're all set for your big day out. You've got your best

:27:31.:27:34.

outfit on and your winning smile, as you grip and grin your way

:27:34.:27:36.

through that line-up of Westminster's leading political

:27:36.:27:39.

lights. And what did the Queen get from her loyal Cabinet as her

:27:39.:27:47.

Jubilee present? 60 coasters. Very useful, no doubt, in protecting the

:27:48.:27:52.

palace Chippendale from those unsightly coffee rings. I certainly

:27:52.:27:56.

hated when my Chippendale gets coffee rings. I thought they were

:27:56.:28:00.

dancers, actually, the Chippendales? But, really, we can't

:28:00.:28:04.

help thinking that Her Maj would have preferred one of these. That's

:28:04.:28:07.

what she really wants. Sadly, she'll have to wait for another

:28:07.:28:16.

anniversary. But you don't have to. Because this fine gift, almost

:28:16.:28:19.

certainly not by Royal Appointment, can be delivered to you. And all

:28:19.:28:22.

you have to do is win our Guess- The-Year competition. We'll remind

:28:22.:28:26.

you how to enter in a minute. But let's see if you can remember when

:28:26.:28:36.
:28:36.:28:54.

# Freedom, freedom, give me some To enact legislation of this kind

:28:54.:28:58.

of thing that before Parliament at the moment is like throwing a match

:28:58.:29:08.
:29:08.:29:16.

# Take my hand, don't be afraid, I want to prove every word I say...

:29:16.:29:26.
:29:26.:29:27.

# Hay, a little girl, Mamma, I'm so hot to handle now...

:29:27.:29:32.

# I Love You Baby and if it's quite all right, I Need You Baby, to warm

:29:32.:29:39.

the lonely nights... # Trust in me when I say...

:29:39.:29:49.
:29:49.:29:50.

# 0, pretty Baby, don't bring me down, oh, pretty Baby, let me love

:29:50.:29:58.

To be in with a chance of winning a Daily Politics mug, send your

:29:58.:30:07.

answer to our special quiz email address. And you can see the full

:30:07.:30:17.
:30:17.:30:21.

terms and conditions for Guess The This programme is full of coasters.

:30:21.:30:25.

It's coming up to midday here. Just take a look at Big Ben. There it is

:30:25.:30:30.

behind me. Yes, Prime Minister's Questions is on its way. There's no

:30:30.:30:33.

Nick Robinson today but we've found another Nick. The Guardian's Nick

:30:33.:30:43.
:30:43.:30:45.

Watt joins us. We have got to go I am sure the whole House will wish

:30:45.:30:51.

to join me in sending our best wishes for Christmas to our brave

:30:51.:30:54.

armed forces in Afghanistan, to their families who will be missing

:30:54.:30:58.

them and to service men and women around the world, you are always in

:30:58.:31:02.

our thoughts. We owe you a deep debt of gratitude and send

:31:02.:31:06.

heartfelt thanks at Christmas time. This morning I had meetings with

:31:06.:31:10.

ministerial colleagues and others, and in addition to my duties and a

:31:10.:31:13.

house, I will have further meetings today.

:31:13.:31:17.

Can I thank my right honourable friend for his comments about

:31:17.:31:23.

wishing a merry Christmas to our service families and their

:31:23.:31:28.

families? Could he also tell me what progress has been made by Sir

:31:28.:31:34.

John Holmes in his review of medals, especially for those who served on

:31:34.:31:40.

the Arctic convoy? I thank my honourable friend for his remarks

:31:40.:31:44.

about our troops. On the issue of medals, which has gone on for a

:31:44.:31:48.

very long time, I am delighted to tell the house that we have reached

:31:48.:31:53.

a resolution. I asked Sir John to conduct a review not just into

:31:53.:31:57.

medals in general but to look at one of the most important cases.

:31:57.:32:01.

More details will come from the Ministry of Defence in the New Year,

:32:01.:32:06.

egg -- including how veterans can reply, but on the Arctic convoys,

:32:06.:32:11.

Sir John has recommended, and I agree, there will be an Arctic

:32:11.:32:15.

convoy A* met all. I am very pleased that some of the brave men

:32:15.:32:19.

of the Arctic convoys will get the recognition they so richly deserved

:32:19.:32:24.

for the dangerous work they did. On Bomber Command, Sir John concluded

:32:24.:32:27.

they had been treated inconsistently with those who

:32:27.:32:32.

served in Fighter Command and he has recommended, and I agree, that

:32:32.:32:39.

they should be awarded a Bomber Command Class. I pay tribute to my

:32:39.:32:45.

right Jean-Marc Ayrault -- to my right honourable friend to have

:32:45.:32:49.

complained over these issues and I am glad that we have reached a

:32:49.:32:57.

resolution. Ed Miliband. I want to start by joining the

:32:57.:33:01.

Prime Minister in paying tribute to our troops in Afghanistan, who

:33:01.:33:05.

continue to show such courage and bravery. It is particularly

:33:05.:33:09.

important at this time of year to remember them and, indeed, their

:33:09.:33:14.

families, many of whom will be separated from them. They are in

:33:14.:33:18.

our thoughts. I want to welcome the Government's expected announcement

:33:18.:33:23.

today on reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan during 2013,

:33:23.:33:28.

we await that statement. Can the Prime Minister tell the House how

:33:28.:33:34.

many British troops and civilian staff will be left in Afghanistan

:33:34.:33:38.

after the 2014 deadline, and can he confirm they will be under Afghan

:33:38.:33:44.

LED command? I join him in welcoming what our troops do. At --

:33:44.:33:47.

specifically on Afghanistan, we must decide about the draw down of

:33:47.:33:52.

trips between now and the end of 2014, and what the Defence

:33:52.:33:56.

Secretary will announce his because of the success of our forces and

:33:56.:34:01.

the Afghan national security forces and the fact we are moving from

:34:01.:34:06.

mentoring at a battalion level to a brigade level by the end of 2013,

:34:06.:34:12.

we will see troops come home in two relatively even steps, 2013 and

:34:12.:34:19.

2014, leaving probably around 5200 troops at the end of 2013, compared

:34:19.:34:26.

to the 9000 we have now. It is good to pay tribute again to them, many

:34:26.:34:30.

going back for tour after tour. Many of those I have spoken to have

:34:30.:34:36.

been impressed with the Afghan national forces. PO's 2013, we have

:34:36.:34:40.

said there will be nothing like the number of troops now, we promised

:34:40.:34:44.

the Afghan that we would provide an officer training academy that they

:34:44.:34:48.

have specifically asked for and we are prepared to look at issues

:34:48.:34:53.

above and beyond that, but that is the starting base line.

:34:53.:34:57.

Can I thank the Prime Minister for that answer? Given that thousands

:34:57.:35:02.

of British troops will still be in harm's way in Afghanistan, can he

:35:02.:35:06.

say what specific effort the government is making with the

:35:06.:35:09.

international community to match the continuing military efforts

:35:09.:35:12.

with the greater diplomatic efforts which I know he and I both think

:35:12.:35:17.

are important? This is what gives us our best chance of leaving

:35:17.:35:21.

behind an inclusive and durable political settlement in Afghanistan,

:35:21.:35:28.

which is so important. He is entirely right. As well as a

:35:28.:35:32.

military track, there has always been a political and diplomatic

:35:32.:35:36.

track. After 20th December 14 there will still be some troops involved

:35:36.:35:43.

in returning equipment and dealing with logistics. -- after December

:35:43.:35:49.

2014. We will not be leaving Afghanistan in terms of our support

:35:49.:35:53.

and help for the Afghans, we will contribute �70 million a year to

:35:53.:35:58.

help pay for the Afghan national security forces, we will have an

:35:58.:36:04.

aid programme in excess of �170 million a year for Afghanistan. In

:36:04.:36:08.

terms of the diplomatic track, the thing we are most focused on his

:36:08.:36:13.

bringing Afghanistan and Pakistan together. I have personally hosted

:36:13.:36:18.

two meetings between the presidents, I hope to host more meetings in the

:36:18.:36:22.

New Year. I spoke to present Karzai this morning to encourage him to

:36:23.:36:26.

keep working on this vital relationship so that Pakistan and

:36:26.:36:31.

Afghanistan can see they have a shared interest in a stable future.

:36:31.:36:35.

I want to turn to another issue and recognise the work of thousands of

:36:35.:36:39.

volunteers helping out in our nation's food banks, and the

:36:39.:36:43.

millions of people donating food to them. Is the Prime Minister as

:36:43.:36:46.

concerned as I am that there has been a sixfold increase in the last

:36:46.:36:51.

three years on the number of people relying on food banks? Let me echo

:36:51.:36:54.

what he said about volunteers, people working hard in our

:36:54.:36:58.

communities, part of what I call the big society, to help those in

:36:59.:37:07.

need. It is a good time of year to thank our volunteers and what they

:37:08.:37:13.

do, but I share his concern about people struggling to pay the bills,

:37:13.:37:17.

struggling to deal with their budgets. The most important thing

:37:17.:37:22.

is to get on top of inflation, and inflation is coming down, to get

:37:22.:37:27.

more people into work and out of poverty, and we see 600,000 more

:37:27.:37:32.

private sector jobs this year, and we are helping those families by

:37:32.:37:35.

freezing the council tax and by making sure that we help families

:37:35.:37:41.

with the cost of living. Mr Speaker, we both paid tribute to

:37:41.:37:44.

the work of the volunteers, but I never thought the big society was

:37:44.:37:50.

about feeding hungry children in Britain. The problem is that

:37:50.:37:54.

working people are turning to food banks. One headteacher of a school

:37:54.:37:58.

rated at standing by a Ofsted said that even children with a parent or

:37:58.:38:01.

parents in work are often struggling with the trades between

:38:02.:38:05.

heating their homes, buying their children cloves or buying them

:38:05.:38:13.

booed. -- rated outstanding by Ofsted. Two-thirds of teacher new

:38:13.:38:18.

staff providing pupils with food or money to prevent them going hungry,

:38:18.:38:22.

according to one study. Why is this happening and why does it appear to

:38:22.:38:27.

be getting worse on his watch? need to do more to help the poorest

:38:27.:38:33.

in our country, that is why we have lifted the personal tax allowance

:38:33.:38:38.

and taken 2 million of the lowest paid people out of tax altogether.

:38:38.:38:42.

If you take someone on minimum wage who works full-time, because of the

:38:42.:38:48.

tax changes we have made, their income tax bill has been halved. I

:38:48.:38:53.

would also make this point, because of the decisions we made in this

:38:53.:38:57.

Government to increase the child tax credit by �390 ahead of

:38:57.:39:02.

inflation, we have helped those families with their bills and win

:39:02.:39:07.

continue to do so in the future. -- and will continue.

:39:07.:39:11.

I am afraid they are sounding very out of touch with families up and

:39:11.:39:14.

down the country. The problem is what the Chancellor did not tell us

:39:14.:39:18.

in the Autumn Statement, his tax will be hitting working families

:39:18.:39:24.

who rely on tax credits. The reality is that in the third year

:39:24.:39:27.

of his government, more children are going hungry and more families

:39:27.:39:33.

are relying on food banks. Isn't it the clearest indictment of his

:39:33.:39:35.

Government's values that while low and middle-income families are

:39:35.:39:43.

being hit, at the same time he is giving an average of �107,000 tax

:39:43.:39:48.

cuts on people earning over �1 million. What is out of touch is

:39:48.:39:51.

denying the fact that we had a deficit that by his government that

:39:51.:39:55.

we are having to deal with, that is what we have had to do. We are

:39:55.:39:59.

doing it at the same time as cutting taxes for the poorest in

:39:59.:40:03.

the country, increasing child tax credits and freezing the council

:40:03.:40:08.

tax to help those families. When it comes to the top rate of tax, the

:40:08.:40:12.

richest in our country will pay more in tax and every year of this

:40:12.:40:16.

government than any year of his government. He might not like those

:40:16.:40:21.

facts but he can't deny them. The problem is nobody believes any

:40:21.:40:30.

more. -- believes him any more. We know who he stands up for. Where

:40:30.:40:35.

was he last weekend? Back to his old ways, partying with Rebekah

:40:35.:40:41.

Brooks. No doubt both looking forward to the Boxing Day Hunt, Mr

:40:41.:40:46.

Speaker. But before he was elected, the Prime Minister said, unless you

:40:46.:40:50.

can represent everyone in our country, you cannot be a One nation

:40:50.:40:56.

party. That was then, this is now. Everyone now knows he cannot be a

:40:56.:41:02.

One nation Prime Minister. It would not be Christmas without

:41:02.:41:06.

the repeats, and that is all we ever get from the honourable

:41:06.:41:10.

gentleman. I'll tell him what we have done this year, we said we

:41:10.:41:15.

would take action on jobs, we have 600,000 more private sector jobs.

:41:15.:41:19.

We said we would help with the cost of living, we have frozen council

:41:19.:41:23.

tax for the third year in a role. We said we would deal with the

:41:23.:41:28.

deficit, we have cut it by a quartet. What has he told us about

:41:28.:41:34.

the deficit this year? Nothing? About welfare? Nothing. About his

:41:34.:41:39.

education plans? Nothing. The fact is that he has absolutely nothing

:41:39.:41:42.

to offer except for the same old something-for-nothing culture which

:41:42.:41:51.

got us into this mess in the first place. Rob Wilson.

:41:51.:41:55.

Trust and the police is an essential part of a just and

:41:55.:41:59.

democratic society -- Trust in the police. Will the Prime Minister

:41:59.:42:05.

therefore seek... I apologise for interrupting, members must now come

:42:05.:42:10.

down. Both the questions and the answers must be heard. -- members

:42:10.:42:16.

must now calm down. Will the Prime Minister seek personal assurances

:42:16.:42:18.

from the commission of the Metropolitan Police that no stone

:42:18.:42:23.

will be -- Knowstone will be left unturned to get to the truth about

:42:23.:42:27.

allegations that a serving police officer fabricated allegations

:42:27.:42:34.

against a member of the cabinet? First, let me say, again, at

:42:34.:42:37.

Christmas time, it is right to pay tribute to brave police officers

:42:37.:42:43.

who look after us around the clock and do an extremely good job. But

:42:43.:42:47.

his point is important, a police officer posing as a member of

:42:47.:42:51.

public and sending an e-mail to potentially blacken the name of a

:42:51.:42:56.

cabinet member has to be seriously investigated, it is a serious issue.

:42:56.:43:00.

The Metropolitan Police Service is conducting a thorough and well

:43:00.:43:04.

resourced investigation to get to the truth as quickly as possible.

:43:04.:43:07.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission will supervise the

:43:07.:43:10.

investigation and I think we should allow them to get to the truth.

:43:10.:43:16.

David Anderson. Despite what the Prime Minister just said in

:43:16.:43:22.

response to our leader, the facts on diseases such as rickets and

:43:22.:43:26.

tuberculosis being on the increase in this country, food banks are

:43:26.:43:30.

increasing, kids are going to school hungry and we have a

:43:30.:43:34.

stagnant economy. Is the Prime Minister proud that his policies

:43:34.:43:38.

are taking this country back to the 1930s?

:43:38.:43:42.

I would hope that the honourable gentleman and his constituency

:43:42.:43:47.

would be celebrating today the fact that Nissan has announced another

:43:48.:43:52.

�125 million investment into our country. This is one of the biggest

:43:52.:43:56.

and most successful car plants anywhere in Britain. Yes, we face

:43:56.:44:01.

tough economic times, but we have over 1 million new private sector

:44:01.:44:05.

jobs. Last year and this year saw some of the fastest rates of new

:44:05.:44:10.

business creation. Yes, there are tough times and have choices, but

:44:10.:44:14.

our economy is rebalancing and we should recognise that -- tough

:44:14.:44:20.

times and tough choices. In March we introduced a local green space

:44:20.:44:25.

was it -- designation to protect green space is not just for newts

:44:25.:44:30.

and landscape painters are but also urban and suburban areas. Can you

:44:31.:44:33.

reassure local councils that they can and should use this new

:44:33.:44:36.

designation and it has not been undermined by any recent

:44:36.:44:43.

pronouncements? I would reassure my honourable friend that the national

:44:43.:44:46.

planning policy framework will be put in place. It was 1000 pages

:44:46.:44:53.

long, now just 50 pages long. That is our planning framework. We are

:44:53.:44:57.

giving greater power and delivery to local authorities. And also to

:44:57.:45:00.

have neighbour that plans so that these decisions can be made where

:45:00.:45:08.

they should, more locally. I have in my hand a genuine suicide

:45:08.:45:14.

note from a constituent of mine who sadly took his own life after he

:45:14.:45:19.

was informed that he was no like -- no longer entitled to DSA

:45:19.:45:24.

disability benefits. Across the UK, over 1000 people have died only

:45:24.:45:32.

months after being told this. This is 2012. We are supposed to be a

:45:32.:45:35.

civilised society. We should be looking after the disabled citizens

:45:35.:45:42.

here in the UK. Will the Prime Minister will listen to the 62,000

:45:42.:45:48.

people who signed Pat's petition and finally, finally, please, or do

:45:48.:45:51.

an assessment of all changes hitting disabled people in this

:45:52.:46:01.
:46:02.:46:03.

I will look carefully at the tragic case he brings to the House and our

:46:03.:46:08.

thoughts go to his family. The actual money we're putting into

:46:08.:46:12.

disability benefits over the coming years is going up and not down but

:46:12.:46:16.

I think everybody knows and accepts we need to have a review of

:46:16.:46:20.

disability been at -- benefits. Some people have been stuck on

:46:21.:46:25.

benefits and have not been reviewed year after year after year. That is

:46:25.:46:32.

the view of charities and the Government as well. As we approach

:46:32.:46:36.

Christmas, will the Prime Minister join me in celebrating the fact

:46:36.:46:42.

that there are more people in employment this Christmas than

:46:42.:46:47.

there ever has been in this nation's history? The honourable

:46:47.:46:50.

lady makes an important point and, after all, the Leader of the

:46:50.:46:55.

Opposition said back in January, unemployment was going to go up. He

:46:55.:47:00.

stood at the dispatch box and said that but, the fact is, unemployment

:47:00.:47:04.

has come down, employment has gone up, a record fall in youth

:47:04.:47:08.

unemployment in the last quarter, all of those things are welcome as

:47:08.:47:12.

we see such a growth in the private sector because everyone knows we

:47:12.:47:16.

have to rebalance the economy where we shed some jobs in the public

:47:16.:47:19.

sector but we need to grow the private sector and that's what's

:47:19.:47:29.
:47:29.:47:47.

happening. Merry Christmas, Mr Thank you. People realise the Prime

:47:47.:47:54.

Minister has a Dickensian view for the UK. Workhouse for the many. But

:47:54.:48:00.

why is he limiting welfare benefits for parents caring for adult

:48:00.:48:05.

children? With disability? Can we have an explanation from Ebenezer

:48:05.:48:12.

I think it was a case of Mary Christmas and happy speaking

:48:12.:48:18.

opportunities in the new year. We have not restricted disability

:48:18.:48:22.

benefits but put more money into disability benefits. That is what

:48:22.:48:25.

this Government is doing but what I would say to the honourable

:48:25.:48:29.

gentleman, we have taken difficult decisions to increase tax credits

:48:29.:48:36.

by 1%, public sector pay by 1% and out of work benefit by 1% but it's

:48:36.:48:42.

a tough decision which needed to be taken. Last week, the published

:48:42.:48:46.

census figures reveal the previous government presided over the

:48:47.:48:52.

largest wave of emigration our country has ever seen. Yet, next

:48:52.:48:56.

Christmas, our borders will be thrown open even wider to

:48:56.:49:00.

potentially limitless immigration for the 29 million people who live

:49:00.:49:06.

in Romania and Bulgaria. Will my Right Honourable friend look

:49:06.:49:10.

seriously at triggering the the national interest clauses buried

:49:10.:49:17.

deep in the EU directives to stem this new flow, especially for those

:49:17.:49:22.

with criminal records or of those who seek access to the benefit

:49:23.:49:28.

system? Let me echo what he said in the first half of his question. The

:49:28.:49:31.

last government allowed a completely under control system of

:49:31.:49:36.

migration where we saw net immigration of 200,000 the year, 2

:49:36.:49:41.

million people across a decade, two cities the size of Birmingham

:49:41.:49:46.

staying in our country every year and not one word of apology for the

:49:46.:49:52.

mess they left. He makes an important point as the transitional

:49:52.:49:55.

controls come of the accession countries. I will look carefully at

:49:55.:50:00.

what he says. We have rules to restrict access to benefits. We

:50:00.:50:05.

will go one to make those as robust as possible. I mentioned the

:50:05.:50:08.

national interest clauses in a statement on Europe on Monday. I

:50:08.:50:12.

think those can only be triggered if there are emergency conditions

:50:12.:50:17.

but I will look carefully at what he said. One month ago, the PM told

:50:17.:50:22.

the House the universal credit put in place work incentives for people

:50:22.:50:28.

on all levels of income. Why does the Department now say that

:50:28.:50:33.

universal credit will mean working women will consider giving up work?

:50:33.:50:37.

That's not the case at all. Universal credit means, because we

:50:37.:50:41.

are bringing different benefits together, people will always be

:50:41.:50:45.

better off in work and always be better off working extra hours.

:50:45.:50:51.

That is what we're doing. They had 13 years to sort out these poverty

:50:51.:51:00.

traps and a completely failed. constituent is currently stuck in

:51:00.:51:04.

Cuba despite having a British passport. I wonder if the Prime

:51:04.:51:08.

Minister could encourage the Cuban authorities to look with compassion

:51:08.:51:13.

and speed to try to get him back home for Christmas with his family?

:51:13.:51:18.

I quite understand why my honourable friend raises this case.

:51:18.:51:23.

He was born in Cuba, entered the UK, but obtained a British passport in

:51:23.:51:30.

1997. We are in regular contact with the Cuban authorities who have

:51:30.:51:33.

advised him he should expect to receive his Cuban passport this

:51:33.:51:39.

week which will enable him to travel. Ultimately, this decision

:51:39.:51:43.

rests with the Cuban authorities have but the British will continue

:51:43.:51:48.

to assist him and keep in touch with him. In April, the Prime

:51:48.:51:51.

Minister said energy efficiency would be place at the heart of

:51:51.:51:56.

government policy. On Monday this week, the Government's alone up

:51:56.:52:00.

fuel poverty advisory group warned that there could be over 9 million

:52:00.:52:06.

house sales in fuel poverty and that is 25% of all households in

:52:06.:52:10.

Stoke-on-Trent. Can the Prime Minister tell us and tell me why,

:52:10.:52:17.

from next year, expenditure on his programmes for low income

:52:17.:52:25.

households will be halved that of 2010-11? I know she has an interest

:52:25.:52:28.

in this matter but the green deal is a bigger programme being brought

:52:29.:52:35.

in. Labour have promised to abolish fuel poverty altogether in their

:52:35.:52:39.

2005 manifesto and yet, it went up. That actually what happened but,

:52:40.:52:44.

what we have done, we are investing in the warmer front scheme,

:52:44.:52:48.

maintain the winter fuel payments, increased cold weather payments,

:52:48.:52:53.

making money available to help people, and the green deal and the

:52:53.:52:59.

Eco scheme are some of the biggest ones introduced in this country.

:52:59.:53:03.

Does the Prime Minister agree with the shadow Health Secretary but any

:53:03.:53:09.

increases in expenditure of the NHS would be, as he put it,

:53:09.:53:14.

irresponsible? He makes an important point. Some people and

:53:14.:53:17.

House of Commons might have missed this because, in a recent health

:53:17.:53:22.

debate, the Health Secretary after the shadow Health Secretary, does

:53:22.:53:27.

he stand by his comment that it is irresponsible to increase NHS

:53:27.:53:31.

spending? What did the shadow Health Secretary reply? He said,

:53:31.:53:37.

yes, I do. It may be Christmas time and the shadow health secretary is

:53:37.:53:47.
:53:47.:53:47.

a gift that keeps on giving. Speaker, last week 100 young

:53:47.:53:51.

homeless people came to this House for the first ever young homeless

:53:51.:53:55.

People's Parliament. I'm grateful to you for being President --

:53:55.:54:00.

present. I'm grateful for the support. But they were excellent

:54:00.:54:05.

young people giving powerful personal testimony as to why they

:54:05.:54:09.

have become homeless and sending out, in no uncertain terms, what

:54:09.:54:12.

they expect from us in this House for that can I ask the Prime

:54:12.:54:18.

Minister this question? Above all, they want their voice to be heard.

:54:18.:54:21.

And they agreed that they would seek a meeting with the Prime

:54:21.:54:25.

Minister. Will the Prime Minister received a delegation of those

:54:25.:54:30.

young homeless people? Can I join you in welcoming the fact they came

:54:30.:54:34.

to Parliament to make these points. I will listen very carefully to

:54:34.:54:38.

what they have to save. The truth is, we have seen housing benefit

:54:38.:54:44.

increase by 50% in recent years and, even under our plans, housing

:54:45.:54:48.

benefit will continue to increase. What we need to do in Britain is

:54:48.:54:53.

build more homes. Build more homes in the private sector and the

:54:53.:54:59.

social sector. That is the vital task ahead of us and I pay credit

:54:59.:55:06.

to be planning ministers and others to make this happen. The closure of

:55:06.:55:09.

the original state sponsored lifeline helicopter service to the

:55:09.:55:13.

Isles of Scilly two months ago has prevented significant challenges to

:55:13.:55:19.

islanders, medical services and the economy. But local people and other

:55:19.:55:22.

stakeholders are working together to find solutions. Would the Prime

:55:22.:55:26.

Minister be prepared to meet a small delegation of islanders and

:55:26.:55:31.

myself in order to explore what assistance the Government can

:55:31.:55:36.

provide them in their Al of desperate need? He makes an

:55:36.:55:42.

important point. Proper transport links to the Isles of Scilly are

:55:42.:55:45.

vital. Other providers are looking to fill the gaps left by the

:55:46.:55:49.

helicopter service. This would provide the most long-term

:55:49.:55:52.

sustainable option rather than government subsidy but obviously we

:55:52.:55:56.

have to look at all the options. This is part of other country which

:55:56.:56:00.

is connected to the mainland. It is necessary to have a meeting, of

:56:00.:56:10.
:56:10.:56:16.

Order. Let's have a bit of order. When the Great Train robber stole

:56:16.:56:21.

�2.5 million from the Royal Mail, they were sentenced to 30 years in

:56:21.:56:27.

prison. Yet, when our bankers get caught fraudulently taking billions

:56:27.:56:34.

of pounds from poor people throughout the world, they walk

:56:34.:56:40.

away with fat pensions. How can we ever be in anything together as

:56:40.:56:45.

long as we tolerate powerful villains who what to privileged to

:56:45.:56:54.

be put behind bars? This is why at the weekly review into the LIBOR

:56:54.:56:59.

scandal recommends a series of changes including their being

:56:59.:57:01.

criminal sanctions and I think where people have broken the law

:57:01.:57:05.

they should face that full force of the criminal law. What punishment

:57:05.:57:12.

we should design for the people who sold our gold at half price is

:57:12.:57:20.

another matter altogether. Dementia is a condition, a terrible

:57:20.:57:25.

condition that destroys lives. Will my Right Honourable friend, the

:57:25.:57:30.

Prime Minister, join with me in commending Warwickshire County

:57:30.:57:33.

Council and local health care partners on developing of the

:57:33.:57:38.

excellent Coventry and Warwickshire dementia programme which is

:57:38.:57:41.

providing an excellent service to dementia sufferers and their

:57:41.:57:45.

carers? I'm happy to John a Honourable friend in paying tribute

:57:45.:57:52.

to his county council. -- to join my honourable friend. We must do

:57:52.:57:58.

more to combat dementia. This is a disease, not just a natural part of

:57:58.:58:01.

ageing and we need to increase the research which goes into dementia,

:58:01.:58:05.

improve the care people getting hospitals and care homes and makes

:58:05.:58:09.

sure there is more dignity, but this is something where all

:58:09.:58:12.

communities that to come together and make more dementia friendly

:58:12.:58:15.

communities and that's where we can lead the way by bringing

:58:15.:58:19.

organisations together as they have obviously done in Warwickshire.

:58:19.:58:22.

It's interesting the Prime Minister said that those to break the law

:58:22.:58:28.

should feel the full force of it as the Prime Minister's local and has

:58:28.:58:33.

illegally hunted foxes with dogs. Can he remind the House how many

:58:33.:58:37.

times he has ridden with the hunt, whether he used his own horse, or

:58:37.:58:45.

whether he borrowed a horse for a friend? I can happily put on record

:58:45.:58:55.
:58:55.:59:00.

but I have never broken the law in Could I reassure my honourable

:59:01.:59:05.

friend that those in my constituency who are most strongly

:59:05.:59:10.

in favour of reforming benefits focusing more on those who need

:59:10.:59:14.

them, are take me away from those who don't, are those who live on

:59:14.:59:19.

council estates who are fed up with working long hours to subsidise the

:59:19.:59:23.

lifestyle for those who don't go to work. I think they Honourable

:59:23.:59:27.

friend makes an important point. We made three do that will decisions.

:59:27.:59:33.

We said a 1% pay freeze on the public sector, a 1% increase on

:59:33.:59:37.

that working benefits, and a 1% freeze on tax credits. The party

:59:37.:59:42.

opposite support the 1% freeze on public-sector pay, that is progress,

:59:42.:59:46.

but they don't support the 1% increase on welfare benefits. They

:59:47.:59:52.

think people out of work, their income should go up faster than

:59:52.:59:56.

people who are in work. That's why they are so out of touch with the

:59:56.:00:01.

nation and why they don't deserve to be in government. Thank you, Mr

:00:02.:00:09.

Speaker. With his neighbours in trouble over phone hacking and the

:00:09.:00:14.

local hunt, he finds himself stuck alone over Christmas watching films

:00:14.:00:21.

on TV. Which one of these will he fancy watching? The Grange who

:00:21.:00:25.

stole Christmas, star and the chance of the Exchequer? The

:00:25.:00:30.

Muppets Christmas Carol starring the Lib Dem members of the Cabinet.

:00:30.:00:38.

Or it's not a wonderful life for I think he will have to swap out

:00:38.:00:43.

from Wallace and Gromit and had a Muppets Christmas Carol instead. I

:00:43.:00:49.

have got one suggestion that, full of Christmas cheer. Everybody knows

:00:49.:00:51.

the Shadow Chancellor does a brilliant job playing Santa Claus

:00:51.:00:57.

at a Christmas party every year. He does an excellent job. Why not give

:00:57.:01:00.

everyone an early Christmas present, make the arrangement permanent and

:01:00.:01:10.
:01:10.:01:21.

Order, order. The House should hear the voice of Bacon. Thank you. Does

:01:21.:01:24.

he agree with the increasing numbers of informed commentators

:01:24.:01:29.

who believe that the ring-fencing of investment banking subsidiaries

:01:29.:01:32.

of commercial banks will not work properly and what is required is

:01:32.:01:36.

complete separation? The Government has looked at this issue very

:01:36.:01:40.

carefully. Obviously we commissioned the report which came

:01:40.:01:44.

up with the idea of ring-fencing. I think that is right. What we want

:01:45.:01:50.

to make sure is that, if a bank fails, it can fail safely without

:01:50.:01:54.

tax payers having to stump up the money to sorted out. That would be

:01:54.:02:03.

a major advance and something the whole country would support.

:02:03.:02:10.

Speaker, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister will be aware of the

:02:10.:02:16.

welcome news this morning that the Attorney General's application to

:02:16.:02:21.

quash the Hillsborough verdict was upheld by the High Court. He will

:02:21.:02:26.

understand that this now will involve the Hillsborough families

:02:26.:02:28.

and a great deal of legal costs to make sure they are properly

:02:29.:02:37.

represented. Will he agreed to waive the VAT on the CD, the

:02:37.:02:44.

proceeds of which will go directly to the families? First of all, can

:02:44.:02:47.

I join the Right Honourable gentleman in welcoming the decision

:02:47.:02:51.

made today. The Hillsborough families have long wanted to have

:02:51.:02:55.

up this new inquest. I think it's very good the system has moved

:02:55.:02:59.

relatively rapidly since the statement and debate in this House

:02:59.:03:03.

to help bring it about. I received representations about the

:03:03.:03:07.

Hillsborough families single for the a chance of the Exchequer is

:03:08.:03:13.

currently on the other side of the Atlantic but as the First Lord of

:03:13.:03:18.

the Treasury, I think I can confidently predict a decision

:03:18.:03:23.

which will go down well in Merseyside. As this is the season

:03:23.:03:29.

of goodwill and humbug, will the Prime Minister confirm that, for

:03:29.:03:33.

the greater part of the peerage of the last Labour government, the top

:03:33.:03:39.

rate of tax was 40p, and the gap between rich and poor widened, and

:03:39.:03:47.

left nearly 4 million children living below the poverty line.

:03:47.:03:50.

makes an extremely good point. He could have added to that for that

:03:50.:03:54.

they left a record deficit. They saw youth unemployment double, made

:03:54.:03:58.

a complete mess of the economy, had an open-door immigration system and

:03:58.:04:07.

have never apologised for one word of it. Many people perhaps watching

:04:07.:04:13.

our proceedings are very interested in the issue of fuel poverty. They

:04:13.:04:19.

may have been a little confused with the Commons the Prime Minister

:04:19.:04:24.

made too much Honourable friend for Stoke-on-Trent. Will he confirm,

:04:24.:04:33.

let's be transparent, that a body which advises up to 9 billion house

:04:33.:04:36.

sales, a record since records first began, of people suffering from

:04:36.:04:43.

cure poverty, will he explain to the House and to our constituents

:04:43.:04:47.

as we approach Christmas what is the Government prepared to do about

:04:47.:04:54.

this horrible scandal of fuel poverty? He is entirely right that

:04:54.:04:58.

this is a scandal. It needs to be dealt with for that the figures he

:04:58.:05:04.

gives I don't believe are correct. The figures I have, in a 2012, it

:05:04.:05:08.

expected there would be 3.9 million households in fuel poverty but we

:05:08.:05:11.

are committed to tackling fuel poverty. That's why we have

:05:11.:05:15.

maintained the winter fuel payments, increased the cold weather payments

:05:15.:05:19.

and kept the increase permanent. Investing in the warmth and scheme,

:05:19.:05:26.

the warm home a discount and the For the the front bench promised to

:05:26.:05:34.

abolish a few poverty but they put And that's it. The final PMQs of

:05:34.:05:44.
:05:44.:05:47.

Ed Miliband went on the draw down of troops from Afghanistan. There

:05:47.:05:51.

will be a statement after PMQs, we will cover some of these issues

:05:51.:05:58.

before 1pm. The Prime Minister told us it is effectively two equal

:05:58.:06:04.

steps, over 5000 troops will come home next year, so by the end of

:06:04.:06:11.

2013 there will be 5200 left, they will come home in 2014. PO's 2014,

:06:11.:06:16.

he says Britain will have no combat role at all but we might be helping

:06:16.:06:20.

to operate an opposite training academy, which is what the

:06:20.:06:25.

Government had so wanted over there. Mr Miliband is largely in agreement

:06:25.:06:29.

on Afghanistan, so then he moved on to food banks in the run-up to

:06:29.:06:34.

Christmas. He said there were six times the reliance on food banks

:06:34.:06:40.

now than before. The Prime Minister did not confirm that but he did not

:06:40.:06:44.

disputed. Them they had an argument. Mr Miliband also mentioned that the

:06:44.:06:50.

Prime Minister had been seen with Rebekah Wade at the weekend. On the

:06:50.:06:53.

Andrew Mitchell thing, just to let you know what else we learned, the

:06:53.:06:58.

Prime Minister said that it was a very serious issue, particularly

:06:58.:07:04.

this e-mail from what now looks to be a serving police officer. The

:07:04.:07:08.

Metropolitan Police were doing, quote, a thorough and well

:07:08.:07:12.

resourced investigation. We have subsequently learned there are now

:07:12.:07:15.

30 police working on this investigation into what has been

:07:15.:07:20.

known as plebgate, and it is being supervised by the IPCC, the

:07:20.:07:24.

Independent Police Complaints Commission. So they are some of the

:07:24.:07:28.

news lines which have come out. While we were on air, the Pollard

:07:28.:07:31.

report on Newsnight has been published and I will give you a few

:07:31.:07:37.

details in a moment, but first, your reaction to PMQs.

:07:37.:07:40.

There was a strong response to the issue of food banks raised by the

:07:40.:07:45.

Labour leader, Ed Miliband. John and Leeds, rather than the Prime

:07:45.:07:48.

Minister thanking volunteers for giving out food to those who can't

:07:48.:07:52.

afford to eat, the Prime Minister of the 7th richest country on earth

:07:52.:07:56.

should hang his head in three -- in shame.

:07:56.:08:00.

Diane says that Cameron's finely- tuned rhetoric conceals the truth,

:08:00.:08:04.

but nothing can hide be back to that more and more people are

:08:04.:08:09.

suffering, ordinary people as well as the poor and vulnerable.

:08:09.:08:13.

Bill in Doncaster asks whether Ed Miliband can do Prime Minister's

:08:13.:08:17.

Questions without mentioning the rates in -- the cuts in the top

:08:17.:08:21.

rate of tax which affects a tiny number of people and is neither

:08:21.:08:23.

here nor there in terms of deficit reduction.

:08:23.:08:29.

James can sell asks why Ed Miliband can't ask a question which is not

:08:29.:08:32.

about welfare? It needs changing, merry Christmas.

:08:32.:08:38.

That was not me, that was the end of the e-mail!

:08:38.:08:41.

Our viewers were particularly impressed by your comments before

:08:41.:08:47.

PMQs. They agreed with every word you said, they said they were

:08:47.:08:53.

insightful. I will let you carry on. I thought we saw a strong David

:08:53.:08:57.

Cameron, a not so strong David Cameron. The strong David Cameron

:08:57.:09:02.

was on Afghanistan, when Miliband simply raise the issue, because

:09:02.:09:08.

Philip Hammond is making a statement as we speak. He says that

:09:08.:09:14.

they are taking down troops, but there is a strategy to mentor and

:09:14.:09:16.

trainee Afghan National Army. There are huge questions about how well

:09:16.:09:21.

that is going with all the green on blue incidents. But there is the

:09:21.:09:25.

political and diplomatic strategy, trying to get Pakistan and

:09:25.:09:28.

Afghanistan talking. When I travelled with the Prime Minister

:09:28.:09:33.

to Afghanistan, he set up a meeting between President Karzai and the

:09:33.:09:38.

President of Pakistan. Where he was not so strong, one of those e-mails

:09:38.:09:44.

to Jo said the Prime Minister's finely-tuned rhetoric. I fear that

:09:44.:09:47.

his finely tuned antennae were not so strong when Ed Miliband asked

:09:47.:09:52.

him about the third bank, a sixfold increase, and he said, that is a

:09:52.:09:57.

wonderful example about the Big Society. Ed Miliband hit back and

:09:57.:10:01.

said, I never believed Big Society was about feeding hungry children.

:10:01.:10:04.

I am sure the Prime Minister will want to think about whether

:10:05.:10:08.

invoking the Big Society, the nation coming together, whether you

:10:08.:10:13.

want to talk about that when there are, clearly, very hungry children.

:10:13.:10:17.

A at Christmas time you think about this issue more, perhaps, than in

:10:17.:10:20.

the rest of the year, and it begs a lot of questions about whether

:10:20.:10:30.
:10:30.:10:31.

there are gaps in our very exhaustive Welfare State. It calls

:10:31.:10:34.

into question issues about parenthood, our kids going to

:10:34.:10:39.

school not having had breakfast, some of those basic things. I am

:10:39.:10:43.

not denying the issue, but equally I think there are big issues around

:10:43.:10:47.

it. Britain is not as rich as it could end should be, we are picking

:10:47.:10:53.

up the pieces are of an illusory period of economic growth and we

:10:53.:10:57.

are getting blamed for a lot of the difficult medicine we are having to

:10:57.:11:00.

administer to clear up the mess. There are complicated factors in

:11:00.:11:05.

this important issue, to which we should be incredibly sensitive.

:11:06.:11:12.

I visited a Food Bank in my Glasgow constituency last week. What was

:11:12.:11:14.

interesting is the people were reporting that a number of people

:11:14.:11:19.

were in work and beginning to use those banks. They say there is a

:11:19.:11:23.

step change in the type of people using such facilities. One of the

:11:23.:11:25.

issues we have pressed the Government on as they are not

:11:25.:11:29.

collecting figures about the use of big banks, and they need to, they

:11:29.:11:33.

need to start understanding why people are using them. What is a

:11:34.:11:38.

foodbank? People can go and essentially be giving booed, often

:11:38.:11:48.
:11:48.:11:51.

on perishables. -- given food? Perishables from supermarkets?

:11:51.:11:58.

allotted it is donations, -- a lot of it is donations, often churches.

:11:59.:12:03.

There is an exponential growth in this. What we need to do is at

:12:03.:12:07.

least tried to beef ban about some of the experiences of people who

:12:07.:12:12.

are on the receiving end of this. - - at least tried to be found. There

:12:13.:12:16.

are reports about mothers with three kids, it is not the

:12:16.:12:20.

stereotypical issue, people think about drug addicts, people who

:12:20.:12:24.

can't get their act together or find food, these are ordinary

:12:24.:12:30.

families really beginning to struggle. We are all one paycheck

:12:30.:12:34.

away from pretty serious poverty. The Guardian broke the story that

:12:34.:12:38.

the Prime Minister had been seen with Rebekah Wade? It was my

:12:39.:12:45.

colleague, Patrick Winter. It has not been denied? The story stands?

:12:45.:12:49.

They very quickly admitted it was the case. About two years ago I had

:12:49.:12:52.

the story about the original Christmas party where they met,

:12:52.:12:56.

these centres around the houses for about 10 days and I think they have

:12:56.:13:00.

learned their lesson that it is best to be transparent. Rebekah

:13:00.:13:05.

Wade is under arrest and being charged, we can't focus on the

:13:05.:13:09.

details, but on a range of things. Is it wise for the Prime Minister

:13:09.:13:15.

to speak to somebody who has been charged? Everyone is innocent until

:13:15.:13:19.

they are proved guilty. A lot of people go to court, you can still

:13:19.:13:26.

talk to them. I have not seen the details of the story. Shall we are

:13:26.:13:30.

letting it tell you? It was a social event in a place called

:13:30.:13:36.

Chipping Norton. -- shall we let Nick Watt tell it to you? The it

:13:36.:13:43.

was the grandson of David Astor, his birthday party. They were at

:13:43.:13:49.

the same party, so what? I am asking if you think it is wise,

:13:49.:13:55.

given the history? I think the point my colleague Patrick Winter

:13:55.:13:59.

was making in his story is that this is at the moment the Prime

:13:59.:14:02.

Minister is having to make decisions about what to do with the

:14:02.:14:07.

Leveson inquiry. It was a social event, it wasn't a formal meeting.

:14:07.:14:11.

There are no implications for anything in terms of public policy.

:14:11.:14:16.

Is he meant to turn his back on her and be rude? He is a very cordial,

:14:16.:14:20.

polite manner. I think he should have got on his horse and ridden

:14:20.:14:28.

away... Was it that big a drawing room?! While we were with Prime

:14:28.:14:32.

Minister's Questions, the Pollard report, Nick Pollard, an editor of

:14:32.:14:39.

Sky News, he has been investigating the Newsnight decision to drop the

:14:39.:14:42.

Jimmy Savile inquiry. There are a number of inquiries going on at the

:14:42.:14:46.

moment, this is on dropping the Jimmy Savile story on Newsnight.

:14:46.:14:50.

That was a couple of months ago, it seems like years ago but it was not

:14:50.:14:55.

that long ago. The Pollard report concludes that it was a flawed

:14:55.:14:58.

decision to drop the investigation and it plunged the BBC,

:14:58.:15:03.

particularly its top management into, quotes, chaos and confusion.

:15:03.:15:08.

They found it very hard to deal with it. However it also concludes

:15:08.:15:11.

that BBC bosses did not put pressure on the programme to drop

:15:11.:15:18.

the expose, but it says that some staff knew about, quote, the darker

:15:18.:15:24.

side to support as they prepared to tributes to him. -- the darker side

:15:24.:15:27.

to Jimmy Savile. The report is critical of George Entwistle, who

:15:27.:15:33.

has now gone, and the deputy editor of Newsnight, Stephen Mitchell, has

:15:33.:15:39.

resigned. There will be a new editor of Newsnight in the New Year.

:15:39.:15:44.

An attempt to revitalise Newsnight and a new editor will happen in the

:15:44.:15:47.

New Year. Helen Boaden, the head of news who has kind of been on

:15:47.:15:52.

gardening leave, not quite, she will return to her job. That will

:15:52.:15:55.

be a popular decision in the BBC News rooms. The most important

:15:55.:15:59.

thing the report says is that there was no improper pressure not to run

:15:59.:16:04.

the Newsnight film. People assume that Peter Ripon, the former editor

:16:04.:16:07.

of Newsnight who made the decision not to to do the Jimmy Savile

:16:07.:16:12.

programme, that he was presented with the ITV programme. He was not.

:16:12.:16:16.

He was presented with a much earlier version, that is the most

:16:16.:16:20.

important thing. Who could have said, we are not running it now but

:16:20.:16:26.

we will put more effort in? -- he could have said. The report says

:16:26.:16:29.

there are silos in the BBC and we all have to work more closely

:16:29.:16:34.

together. The mistake Peter Ripon made later was when the Sunday

:16:34.:16:37.

Times was putting in Freedom of Information requests, why didn't

:16:37.:16:41.

people in an editor of another programme and ask them to just look

:16:41.:16:50.

at the film's. -- why didn't he pour in an editor. I think the

:16:50.:16:53.

nation was aghast at the Jimmy Savile issue, but there is another

:16:53.:16:58.

dimension, the credibility of the BBC. Part of what people like about

:16:58.:17:03.

Newsnight, perhaps we don't like it so much, is it does hold the

:17:03.:17:08.

political class to account and it is seen as objective and credible,

:17:08.:17:13.

as, indeed, other BBC programmes... Would you care to mention any

:17:13.:17:20.

names?! Daily Politics, the Sunday Politics, this week. Your present

:17:20.:17:26.

is in the post. There are obviously challenges for us, but I think the

:17:26.:17:30.

public think that. If you are beginning to think, I'm not

:17:30.:17:34.

terribly sure they have done that properly and credibly, that is a

:17:34.:17:38.

very serious charge. If you can rescue that and revitalise

:17:38.:17:47.

Newsnight, the shake-up, it needs This is clearing at the stables

:17:47.:17:51.

because, without which, Newsnight would not survive. They are doing

:17:51.:17:55.

their utmost. They are trying to restore the integrity of Newsnight.

:17:55.:17:59.

Of course, the issue of Jimmy Savile has not just about the BBC

:17:59.:18:04.

but children's homes, and all sorts of things, over 400 people have

:18:04.:18:09.

come forward saying, over the last 30 years, they were abused by Jimmy

:18:09.:18:14.

support. This is a massive issue and that is where the focus now has

:18:14.:18:21.

to be. Very briefly. The one BBC executive who has been saying for

:18:21.:18:26.

years, we have got to get out of it is Steve Mitchell, the deputy head

:18:26.:18:32.

of news. He's the one taking early retirement. My interview with Jimmy

:18:32.:18:38.

support on Channel 4, 1995, has been uncovered of. It is on a

:18:38.:18:45.

YouTube. I will put the link on Twitter this afternoon for the at

:18:45.:18:49.

that time, I knew nothing about it but, watching it now, it's very,

:18:49.:18:54.

very interesting. Nick, thank you very much.

:18:54.:18:57.

The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will make a statement in

:18:57.:18:59.

the House of Commons this afternoon announcing how much money central

:19:00.:19:02.

government will give to local councils in England next year. For

:19:02.:19:05.

the third year in a row, the Government is offering additional

:19:05.:19:08.

funding to councils which agree to freeze council tax bills. But some

:19:08.:19:11.

councils insist the extra money isn't enough and say they will have

:19:11.:19:14.

to increase council tax to protect services. This morning I spoke to

:19:14.:19:18.

Sir Merrick Cockell, the Chairman of the Local Government Association.

:19:18.:19:21.

I asked him whether he thought that more councils might raise bills

:19:21.:19:28.

next year. Clearly, I get to talk to a lot of

:19:28.:19:31.

councils and some very well run councils are having real

:19:31.:19:35.

difficulties. They may have been able to freeze it for the last few

:19:35.:19:38.

years but are having real difficulties with their budgets

:19:38.:19:43.

next year and be on that. That is down to social care, the cost of

:19:43.:19:50.

our population getting older, more people getting older, whose cost of

:19:50.:19:55.

care falls to local councils. Many people think that we only clean the

:19:55.:19:58.

streets and do other things but we are responsible for many essential

:19:58.:20:04.

services including care for the elderly and it's a rising budget.

:20:04.:20:07.

In eight years' time there will be allowed vast funding gap and many

:20:07.:20:11.

councils are preparing for that now. We should not underestimate the

:20:11.:20:16.

difficulty in balancing budgets. But those budgets for things like

:20:16.:20:21.

social care would not have to be cut if Eric Pickles is right in

:20:21.:20:23.

saying councils could afford to freeze their council tax if they

:20:23.:20:29.

cut out lavish expenditure. honestly, lavish expenditure is

:20:29.:20:35.

history now. I lead one of the council's one of the arrangements

:20:35.:20:39.

in west London, at the very forefront of sharing services,

:20:39.:20:45.

driving a totally new way of providing public services but, even

:20:45.:20:49.

been a revolution these in this, the savings we are finding our

:20:49.:20:53.

across the three councils, in three years' time, will be about �50

:20:53.:20:57.

million a year, about half of what we have got to find in the last

:20:57.:21:00.

spending round. However efficient you are, this is not something you

:21:01.:21:05.

can just do by getting rid of sparkling water. You have got to do

:21:06.:21:12.

that as well. Find different ways of providing public services.

:21:12.:21:17.

Duncan, do you think Eric Pickles is being deliberately controversial

:21:17.:21:21.

by saying they could freeze the council tax by cutting out lavish

:21:21.:21:27.

expenditure? No, he's an experienced politician. You think

:21:27.:21:32.

lavish expenditure could be cut? What is trying to do here is to

:21:32.:21:35.

appreciate a quarter of government spending goes to government

:21:36.:21:40.

councils, so they will have to carry the burden. He's trying to

:21:40.:21:44.

make sure but the spending announcement they will make this

:21:44.:21:47.

afternoon is fair and not politically loaded, which, in the

:21:48.:21:53.

past, a lot of us thought the spending rewards will have been. It

:21:53.:21:57.

will be fair between north and south, counties and counties, urban

:21:57.:22:01.

and rural, and we don't want to play party politics but this to be

:22:01.:22:06.

fair and equitable although it's going to be tough. I don't think

:22:06.:22:13.

that's realistic because the greatest charge will be that you

:22:13.:22:22.

been desperately unfair. 20% of cuts is disproportionate. The

:22:22.:22:26.

Government is failing this test. You talk about lavish expenditure.

:22:26.:22:31.

We saw it this week in a letter to the Government. Many artists in the

:22:31.:22:37.

north-east say the autistic -- artistic function of the local

:22:37.:22:44.

government is lavish. The council tax benefit cuts, put on to local

:22:44.:22:49.

government, is taking money from the poorest families. It's the

:22:49.:22:53.

poorest local authorities taking the biggest share of the cut for

:22:53.:22:57.

the what about people paying the council tax? Do you back the

:22:57.:23:04.

freeze? We don't want people to pay They say they will have to cut

:23:04.:23:09.

things like social care. They are cutting it by 20% and then say you

:23:09.:23:14.

can't put on any council tax freeze. In Scotland, they are playing the

:23:14.:23:20.

same trick. The impact of that is very serious cuts in local

:23:20.:23:23.

government and that's the reality. They are carrying a

:23:23.:23:29.

disproportionate cut which is affecting the poorest. They are

:23:29.:23:31.

carrying the burden of a disproportionate cut. The

:23:31.:23:35.

Government is saying you have got to keep the council tax frozen but

:23:35.:23:40.

we won't give you additional money as we did last year, so they are

:23:40.:23:46.

squeezing it again by another 1%? Social care, the big important

:23:46.:23:51.

things, will be cut. He's not saying you must freeze it but he's

:23:51.:23:55.

trying to give people an incentive so they can. Less of an incentive

:23:56.:24:01.

than last year. Yes, but it's not because we want to do these things.

:24:01.:24:06.

We inherited it. Do you can only do things with the money you have. If

:24:06.:24:10.

we were to borrow more national, interest rates would go up were to

:24:10.:24:15.

be deeply painful to individuals and businesses. So far we have

:24:15.:24:19.

managed to keep it low what is a very significant thing. There are

:24:19.:24:24.

some very difficult things to balance her. Pain is not nice but

:24:24.:24:28.

you can't conjure up money out of thin air. The inheritance we

:24:28.:24:32.

received is a painful one of four that we are trying to sorted out.

:24:32.:24:36.

Don't blame us for what we're trying to sort out. At the minimum,

:24:36.:24:42.

you should make sure it is even- handed. Tenor local authorities

:24:42.:24:48.

with the most deprived committees are being cut by eight times more.

:24:48.:24:52.

Conservative councils are amongst those who will defy the Government

:24:52.:24:58.

and may go ahead and raise it. There's a level of local government

:24:58.:25:02.

autonomy. They are democratically accountable. It's up to them.

:25:02.:25:06.

you. The Prime Minister spoke about Afghanistan during Questions. And

:25:06.:25:09.

in the last half hour, the Defence Secretary has given more details

:25:09.:25:12.

about the next phase of withdrawing British troops from the country.

:25:12.:25:18.

Let's listen to what he had to say. By the end of 2013, we expect that

:25:18.:25:22.

UK forces will no longer need to routinely men to the Afghan

:25:22.:25:27.

national army below brigade level. -- mentor. This is a move up from

:25:27.:25:32.

our current Battalion level mentoring and is a reflection of

:25:32.:25:38.

improving Afghan capacity and is in line with Chicago milestone. As the

:25:38.:25:43.

Prime Minister has just announced, a progressive move to brigade level

:25:43.:25:46.

monitoring will also allow us to make further reductions to our

:25:46.:25:52.

force levels from the 9,000 we will have at the end of this year. Our

:25:52.:25:56.

current planning envisages a reduction to around 5,200 by the

:25:57.:26:02.

end of next year. This number is based on current UK military advice

:26:02.:26:07.

and is in line with the NATO strategy agreed at Lisbon and the

:26:07.:26:11.

emerging planning. It also reflects the real progress being made in

:26:11.:26:16.

Helmand province. We will keep his number under review as the plan it

:26:16.:26:22.

firms up and other allies make decisions in the new year. Let me

:26:22.:26:26.

be clear, Mr Speaker, this reduction is possible because of

:26:26.:26:29.

the success of the Afghan national security forces in assuming a

:26:29.:26:38.

leading role. That was the Defence Secretary. He calls it a successful

:26:38.:26:43.

so we won't know that until we have gone. There's a bit of that but

:26:43.:26:48.

this illustrates a transition from the focus on defence to development.

:26:48.:26:52.

The ministry in which I sit. To give you wants to stick. A decade

:26:52.:26:56.

ago, there's almost no children in school in Afghanistan thanks to the

:26:56.:27:02.

Taliban. Now there is nearly 6 million. 40%, girls. We will be

:27:03.:27:07.

there for the long term. We have pledged up to 2017. We will spend

:27:07.:27:11.

millions of pounds a year so that transition put us into a new phase

:27:11.:27:15.

which is making a positive difference in that country. They

:27:15.:27:19.

can't be there it all hell breaks loose. I thought was interesting

:27:19.:27:25.

when the Prime Minister said PMQs is about political developments. We

:27:25.:27:30.

need to keep the diplomatic and political exchanges developing

:27:30.:27:34.

because there is still very challenging issues there. We hear

:27:34.:27:39.

about young girls being shot. It's not like we're just turning our

:27:39.:27:43.

back on that part of the world. We still want to engage with them.

:27:43.:27:50.

shall see, 5,000 troops going next year. Coming down to 5,000, the

:27:50.:27:54.

year after that, when we will be out of our combat role in

:27:54.:27:58.

Afghanistan, the Government says. Now there's just time before we go

:27:58.:28:02.

to put you out of your misery and give you the answer to Guess The

:28:02.:28:05.

Year. Yes, Enoch Powell's Rivers Of Blood speech. Any ideas, Alan or

:28:05.:28:15.
:28:15.:28:19.

Margaret? Without looking. A 68? looked. It was 1968. Alan, push

:28:19.:28:29.
:28:29.:28:34.

that buzzer. The year after I was You are the winner. Well done.

:28:34.:28:40.

Thank you. We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Our final PMQs edition

:28:40.:28:45.

Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn with live coverage of Prime Minister's Questions and the latest political news and interviews, including MPs Alan Duncan and Margaret Curran.

The Guess the Year competition closes at 12.30pm during the live broadcast of this programme.


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