19/12/2012 Daily Politics


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


police and the Government have hit a new low after startling


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


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


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


police. A police officer was arrested on suspicion of misconduct


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


told. The government will announce that


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


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


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


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


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


freezes? Should we give MPs an early


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


servant who thinks that. expenses scandal was born in part


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


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


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


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


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


instead for the International Development Minister, Alan Duncan,


and the Shadow Scotland Secretary, Margaret Curran.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Mitchell was involved in an argument with the police about


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


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


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


plebs. He admitted losing his temper and swearing but maintains


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


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


Dispatches last night alleged another police officer posed as a


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


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


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


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


crowds of people watching and listening. The Metropolitan Police


Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe made clear it was an ongoing


criminal investigation and that there was more to this than meets


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


the full story. The Police Federation, the organisation


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


called for Andrew Mitchell to resign. The Metropolitan Police


Federation this morning said it unequivocally and categorically


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


cabinet minister. They have declined our request to be


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


Mercia Police Federation speaking back in October just before he met


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


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


demands that police officers are honest and we should expect the


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


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


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


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


integrity of police officers. We have officers' notes being


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the public looked visibly shocked and somewhat taken aback by the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


one outside Downing Street, you believe that timing is coterminous


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


with his evidence with something that was plainly wrong in the


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


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


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


raise real questions about the voracity of the police log?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


potential conspiracy by certain police officers against a cabinet


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


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


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


about surveillance States, we live an estate where pretty much


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


clearly fair and independent and does not treat the police as


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


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


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


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


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


resolve this issue before Mr Mitchell's career disappears into


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


certain about are that there is a definite question over whether


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


possible, a potential collision of various elements of the police


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


have passed since the expenses scandal which damaged the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


has abandoned her ambitions to enter Parliament, because she knows


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


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


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


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


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


for a job which offers little security and involves a persistent


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


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


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


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


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


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


not going to attract enough talented individuals for that do


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


issue in the spirit of enlightenment and ask what is going


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


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


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


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


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


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


get people who perhaps come through ordinary working life, not


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


case MPs were told their expenses would be treated liberally because


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


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


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


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


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


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


through that line-up of Westminster's leading political


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


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


palace Chippendale from those unsightly coffee rings. I certainly


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


house, I will have further meetings today.


Can I thank my right honourable friend for his comments about


wishing a merry Christmas to our service families and their


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


they had been treated inconsistently with those who


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


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


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


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


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


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


continue to show such courage and bravery. It is particularly


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


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


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


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


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


many British troops and civilian staff will be left in Afghanistan


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


say what specific effort the government is making with the


international community to match the continuing military efforts


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


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


behind an inclusive and durable political settlement in Afghanistan,


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


military track, there has always been a political and diplomatic


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


bringing Afghanistan and Pakistan together. I have personally hosted


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


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


keep working on this vital relationship so that Pakistan and


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


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


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


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


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


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


what he said about volunteers, people working hard in our


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


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


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


struggling to deal with their budgets. The most important thing


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


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


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


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


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


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


about feeding hungry children in Britain. The problem is that


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


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


parents in work are often struggling with the trades between


heating their homes, buying their children cloves or buying them


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the country, increasing child tax credits and freezing the council


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


One nation Prime Minister. It would not be Christmas without


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


from the commission of the Metropolitan Police that no stone


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


allegations that a serving police officer fabricated allegations


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


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


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


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


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


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


The Metropolitan Police Service is conducting a thorough and well


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


The Independent Police Complaints Commission will supervise the


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


David Anderson. Despite what the Prime Minister just said in


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


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


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


stagnant economy. Is the Prime Minister proud that his policies


are taking this country back to the 1930s?


I would hope that the honourable gentleman and his constituency


would be celebrating today the fact that Nissan has announced another


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


reassure local councils that they can and should use this new


designation and it has not been undermined by any recent


pronouncements? I would reassure my honourable friend that the national


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


civilised society. We should be looking after the disabled citizens


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


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


an assessment of all changes hitting disabled people in this


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


that there are more people in employment this Christmas than


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


why is he limiting welfare benefits for parents caring for adult


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


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


opportunities in the new year. We have not restricted disability


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


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


gentleman, we have taken difficult decisions to increase tax credits


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


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


census figures reveal the previous government presided over the


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


Christmas, our borders will be thrown open even wider to


potentially limitless immigration for the 29 million people who live


in Romania and Bulgaria. Will my Right Honourable friend look


seriously at triggering the the national interest clauses buried


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


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


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


last government allowed a completely under control system of


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


think those can only be triggered if there are emergency conditions


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


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


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


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


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


are bringing different benefits together, people will always be


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


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


traps and a completely failed. constituent is currently stuck in


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


Minister could encourage the Cuban authorities to look with compassion


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


I quite understand why my honourable friend raises this case.


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


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


advised him he should expect to receive his Cuban passport this


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


rests with the Cuban authorities have but the British will continue


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


Minister said energy efficiency would be place at the heart of


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


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


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


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


from next year, expenditure on his programmes for low income


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


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


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


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


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


maintain the winter fuel payments, increased cold weather payments,


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


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


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


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


irresponsible? He makes an important point. Some people and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


young people giving powerful personal testimony as to why they


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


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


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


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


Minister. Will the Prime Minister received a delegation of those


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the original state sponsored lifeline helicopter service to the


Isles of Scilly two months ago has prevented significant challenges to


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


stakeholders are working together to find solutions. Would the Prime


Minister be prepared to meet a small delegation of islanders and


myself in order to explore what assistance the Government can


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


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


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


helicopter service. This would provide the most long-term


sustainable option rather than government subsidy but obviously we


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


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


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


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


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


of pounds from poor people throughout the world, they walk


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


long as we tolerate powerful villains who what to privileged to


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


scandal recommends a series of changes including their being


criminal sanctions and I think where people have broken the law


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


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


another matter altogether. Dementia is a condition, a terrible


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


Prime Minister, join with me in commending Warwickshire County


Council and local health care partners on developing of the


excellent Coventry and Warwickshire dementia programme which is


providing an excellent service to dementia sufferers and their


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


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


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


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


improve the care people getting hospitals and care homes and makes


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


communities that to come together and make more dementia friendly


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


organisations together as they have obviously done in Warwickshire.


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


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


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


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


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


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


friend that those in my constituency who are most strongly


in favour of reforming benefits focusing more on those who need


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the Shadow Chancellor does a brilliant job playing Santa Claus


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


everyone an early Christmas present, make the arrangement permanent and


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


he agree with the increasing numbers of informed commentators


who believe that the ring-fencing of investment banking subsidiaries


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


complete separation? The Government has looked at this issue very


carefully. Obviously we commissioned the report which came


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


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


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


a major advance and something the whole country would support.


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


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


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


understand that this now will involve the Hillsborough families


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


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


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


I join the Right Honourable gentleman in welcoming the decision


made today. The Hillsborough families have long wanted to have


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


relatively rapidly since the statement and debate in this House


to help bring it about. I received representations about the


Hillsborough families single for the a chance of the Exchequer is


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


the Treasury, I think I can confidently predict a decision


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


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


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


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


left nearly 4 million children living below the poverty line.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


maintained the winter fuel payments, increased the cold weather payments


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


to operate an opposite training academy, which is what the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Metropolitan Police were doing, quote, a thorough and well


resourced investigation. We have subsequently learned there are now


30 police working on this investigation into what has been


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


Independent Police Complaints Commission. So they are some of the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


should hang his head in three -- in shame.


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


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


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


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


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


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


here nor there in terms of deficit reduction.


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


about welfare? It needs changing, merry Christmas.


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


Our viewers were particularly impressed by your comments before


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


political and diplomatic strategy, trying to get Pakistan and


Afghanistan talking. When I travelled with the Prime Minister


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


into question issues about parenthood, our kids going to


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


interesting is the people were reporting that a number of people


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


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


issues we have pressed the Government on as they are not


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


stereotypical issue, people think about drug addicts, people who


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


families really beginning to struggle. We are all one paycheck


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


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


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


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


the story about the original Christmas party where they met,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


decision to drop the investigation and it plunged the BBC,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


very serious charge. If you can rescue that and revitalise


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


of news. He's the one taking early retirement. My interview with Jimmy


support on Channel 4, 1995, has been uncovered of. It is on a


YouTube. I will put the link on Twitter this afternoon for the at


that time, I knew nothing about it but, watching it now, it's very,


very interesting. Nick, thank you very much.


The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will make a statement in


the House of Commons this afternoon announcing how much money central


government will give to local councils in England next year. For


the third year in a row, the Government is offering additional


funding to councils which agree to freeze council tax bills. But some


councils insist the extra money isn't enough and say they will have


to increase council tax to protect services. This morning I spoke to


Sir Merrick Cockell, the Chairman of the Local Government Association.


I asked him whether he thought that more councils might raise bills


next year. Clearly, I get to talk to a lot of


councils and some very well run councils are having real


difficulties. They may have been able to freeze it for the last few


years but are having real difficulties with their budgets


next year and be on that. That is down to social care, the cost of


our population getting older, more people getting older, whose cost of


care falls to local councils. Many people think that we only clean the


streets and do other things but we are responsible for many essential


services including care for the elderly and it's a rising budget.


In eight years' time there will be allowed vast funding gap and many


councils are preparing for that now. We should not underestimate the


difficulty in balancing budgets. But those budgets for things like


social care would not have to be cut if Eric Pickles is right in


saying councils could afford to freeze their council tax if they


cut out lavish expenditure. honestly, lavish expenditure is


history now. I lead one of the council's one of the arrangements


in west London, at the very forefront of sharing services,


driving a totally new way of providing public services but, even


been a revolution these in this, the savings we are finding our


across the three councils, in three years' time, will be about �50


million a year, about half of what we have got to find in the last


spending round. However efficient you are, this is not something you


can just do by getting rid of sparkling water. You have got to do


that as well. Find different ways of providing public services.


Duncan, do you think Eric Pickles is being deliberately controversial


by saying they could freeze the council tax by cutting out lavish


expenditure? No, he's an experienced politician. You think


lavish expenditure could be cut? What is trying to do here is to


appreciate a quarter of government spending goes to government


councils, so they will have to carry the burden. He's trying to


make sure but the spending announcement they will make this


afternoon is fair and not politically loaded, which, in the


past, a lot of us thought the spending rewards will have been. It


will be fair between north and south, counties and counties, urban


and rural, and we don't want to play party politics but this to be


fair and equitable although it's going to be tough. I don't think


that's realistic because the greatest charge will be that you


been desperately unfair. 20% of cuts is disproportionate. The


Government is failing this test. You talk about lavish expenditure.


We saw it this week in a letter to the Government. Many artists in the


north-east say the autistic -- artistic function of the local


government is lavish. The council tax benefit cuts, put on to local


government, is taking money from the poorest families. It's the


poorest local authorities taking the biggest share of the cut for


the what about people paying the council tax? Do you back the


freeze? We don't want people to pay They say they will have to cut


things like social care. They are cutting it by 20% and then say you


can't put on any council tax freeze. In Scotland, they are playing the


same trick. The impact of that is very serious cuts in local


government and that's the reality. They are carrying a


disproportionate cut which is affecting the poorest. They are


carrying the burden of a disproportionate cut. The


Government is saying you have got to keep the council tax frozen but


we won't give you additional money as we did last year, so they are


squeezing it again by another 1%? Social care, the big important


things, will be cut. He's not saying you must freeze it but he's


trying to give people an incentive so they can. Less of an incentive


than last year. Yes, but it's not because we want to do these things.


We inherited it. Do you can only do things with the money you have. If


we were to borrow more national, interest rates would go up were to


be deeply painful to individuals and businesses. So far we have


managed to keep it low what is a very significant thing. There are


some very difficult things to balance her. Pain is not nice but


you can't conjure up money out of thin air. The inheritance we


received is a painful one of four that we are trying to sorted out.


Don't blame us for what we're trying to sort out. At the minimum,


you should make sure it is even- handed. Tenor local authorities


with the most deprived committees are being cut by eight times more.


Conservative councils are amongst those who will defy the Government


and may go ahead and raise it. There's a level of local government


autonomy. They are democratically accountable. It's up to them.


you. The Prime Minister spoke about Afghanistan during Questions. And


in the last half hour, the Defence Secretary has given more details


about the next phase of withdrawing British troops from the country.


Let's listen to what he had to say. By the end of 2013, we expect that


UK forces will no longer need to routinely men to the Afghan


national army below brigade level. -- mentor. This is a move up from


our current Battalion level mentoring and is a reflection of


improving Afghan capacity and is in line with Chicago milestone. As the


Prime Minister has just announced, a progressive move to brigade level


monitoring will also allow us to make further reductions to our


force levels from the 9,000 we will have at the end of this year. Our


current planning envisages a reduction to around 5,200 by the


end of next year. This number is based on current UK military advice


and is in line with the NATO strategy agreed at Lisbon and the


emerging planning. It also reflects the real progress being made in


Helmand province. We will keep his number under review as the plan it


firms up and other allies make decisions in the new year. Let me


be clear, Mr Speaker, this reduction is possible because of


the success of the Afghan national security forces in assuming a


leading role. That was the Defence Secretary. He calls it a successful


so we won't know that until we have gone. There's a bit of that but


this illustrates a transition from the focus on defence to development.


The ministry in which I sit. To give you wants to stick. A decade


ago, there's almost no children in school in Afghanistan thanks to the


Taliban. Now there is nearly 6 million. 40%, girls. We will be


there for the long term. We have pledged up to 2017. We will spend


millions of pounds a year so that transition put us into a new phase


which is making a positive difference in that country. They


can't be there it all hell breaks loose. I thought was interesting


when the Prime Minister said PMQs is about political developments. We


need to keep the diplomatic and political exchanges developing


because there is still very challenging issues there. We hear


about young girls being shot. It's not like we're just turning our


back on that part of the world. We still want to engage with them.


shall see, 5,000 troops going next year. Coming down to 5,000, the


year after that, when we will be out of our combat role in


Afghanistan, the Government says. Now there's just time before we go


to put you out of your misery and give you the answer to Guess The


Year. Yes, Enoch Powell's Rivers Of Blood speech. Any ideas, Alan or


Margaret? Without looking. A 68? looked. It was 1968. Alan, push


that buzzer. The year after I was You are the winner. Well done.


Thank you. We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Our final PMQs edition


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