22/04/2013 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon, welcome to the Daily Politics. Business goes into


battle over Britain's future in Europe as a new group of corporate


bosses calls for a renegotiation and launches a fightback against


pro-European businessmen. It is another big week for the


economy. Will it be a return to growth or a triple dip recession?


How many Romanians and Bulgarians will come to Britain next year?


And a senior politician says it feels like MPs are hardly working.


We will ask our Westminster columnist if that is right.


With us for the first half of the programme is the transport


commentated Christian Wolmar. If you have any thoughts or comments


on anything we are discussing, you can send them to ask. Let's start


with immigration. Surveys commissioned by BBC Newsnight in


Bulgaria and Romania suggest the removing of the work restrictions


in 2013 has not yet had an impact on numbers of people planning to


move to the UK or do you. However, over 70% of the Romanians intending


to come to Britain said their decisions would be affected by the


toughening up of benefit rules. We are joined by Stuart Jackson,


Conservative MPs. Are these scare stories not over-egging the issue?


No, I do not think the legitimate concerns of many people, and my


organisation has generally got the statistics right, I do not think


the Conservatives, my colleagues and others such as migration what


have been over-egging it. We have had three years since this


Government took office to look seriously at the democratic changes,


the welfare benefits, health and housing and those issues. It feels


like we are playing catch-up. I agree the Government are tougher,


but I still challenge the methodology used by these surveys.


We simply do not know. If we do not know, surely talking about it and


talking in terms of huge numbers or the risk of huge numbers coming in


are scare stories. The Government does not want to make any estimates


because they cannot make accurate estimates. That is a problem of our


politics and our governments. We do not have to look to the teacher and


guests, we can look at the past. The LSE's said they were going to


be 13,000 workers coming in 2004 and well over 1 million came and


they put big strains on the public services on housing and health and


on education. We need to be mindful of that when we are talking about


scare stories. Although the economy was booming and many people want to


those workers to fill posts that could not be filled by people


already living here. Labour also opted out of the moratorium which


they conceded was wrong. Are you worried about the lifting of work


restrictions? No, clearly this survey says not many Romanians and


Bulgarians are going to come here. That is hardly surprising because


they know there are very few jobs. Those who are intending to come are


mostly well educated people who will take the sort of jobs that


need to be filled. I think politicians have a responsibility.


There is a lot of scaremongering and there is an undertone in this


debate which I do not find very What will these people do? They


will do jobs. What about the 2 million East Europeans who came in


2000? It is not about people coming for benefits. It is not about


people coming for housing. It is about people coming for jobs.


Department for Work and Pensions says 17% of working you -- age UK


nationals claimed benefit. This has not been based on fact. I do not


agree. We have never had a proper, holistic, comprehensive review of


the impact of eastern European workers from 2004 of to the UK


economy. Whether people say we have, it is not true. The Government when


academics have looked at this. The nearest we have come in 2008 is the


house of Lords economic committee. I do not really wish to be


reproached by the sort of liberal intelligentsia who say you cannot


talk about immigration because there is an underlying issue of


xenophobia. It is not a question of that. It is not racist. It is about


pressure on public services at a very difficult time of financial


strain. Labour has wanted to apologise for this. It has quite


rightly said they allowed too many people him by not enforcing the


rules. Do you agree? Are you the liberal intelligentsia? I would not


like to be cast like that. You have to enforce the rules - no doubt


about that the study have to look at the benefits which immigration


brings to this country. -- at about that. You have to look. These


people will take jobs and council homes. They are not take council


homes away from people. The jobs they take will be created largely


by them. They fill a need. whole business of politics is not


just about reality, it is also about people's perceptions. People


who are not that well educated or highly skilled in low-paid jobs,


their perception is, often when they are competing for scarce


public resources, people that are coming in are taking scarce


resources. I think we have a duty - unless we are going to open the


door to the BNP and other extremists - to debate this in a


rational way. That is right. Some right-wing papers get hold of these


issues and put it in a way that is not short of xenophobia. I accept


you are not but, I think you have a responsibility, as publisher, to


say you have done a lot of good as well. They have transformed Britain


in a lot of ways. I was a local councillor in the London borough of


Ealing. It has the largest population of Polish people in the


UK. They are fantastic people and hard-working. We need to say to the


European Union will decide who comes to our country. That is a


different issue. At the moment they can come under EU rules. They have


freedom of movement ran as you know. To pick up on your point about


perception, is it just a perception rather than a reality? Is it only a


reality in certain pockets of the country? You have hit the nail on


the head. In certain parts of the country you have pinch points,


because of the demographic and economic profile. We have had their


to 4500 nasha insurance -- national insurance claimants. It does not


happen often in many parts of the wealthy South of England. There are


pockets where there are serious legitimate concerns. To you accept


that London is an exception? some extent, it is an exception. I


accept there are concerns about it. I think we have got the job to


explain to people that immigrants to a lot of very big jobs and have


been helpful to the economy. would agree with that. Nice to get


a bit of agreement early on in the show. By the one making light bulbs


in Liverpool or tea bags in Totnes, the question remains the same. What


is best for British business? Is the continuing strong links with


Europe of renegotiating a new relationship? Businesses are


calling for the UK to take back powers from the Continent. David


Cameron has already pledged to renegotiate some powers and offer


voters a referendum on Europe if returned to para. In his speech


earlier this year, he said that British people must have their say.


It was not universally welcomed. Richard Branson warned that the UK


must not become peripheral country on the edge of Europe. Now, pro-


European business is becoming increasingly worried. Roland Rat


has condemned the calls from today's new campaigners as very


dangerous. He has said we should be pushing for multilateral reforms.


The new group, business for Britain, has the backing of Stuart Rose and


Lord Wolfson. They are determined that David Cameron holds firm on


his pledges. They have said it is right to seek a new deal for the EU


and the bomb of the UK in Europe. - - and the whole -- and the role of


the UK in Europe. The European market accounts for half of the


UK's overall trade and foreign investments. 3.5 million UK jobs


are linked to goods and services to the EU. You have been set up to


loosen those ties. Why? I am a businessman. I have not been


involved in politics. Where we come from is, we feel to renegotiate and


hat looser ties. The Prime Minister said in his speech in January that


he was talking about more flexibility, more accountability,


more democracy back to the parliament. All of that is


something we are in favour of. We want to renegotiate. We want to


insure it is the case that the message from businesses get over.


There is a renegotiation that is needed. We do not believe there


will cause uncertainty that summer that opponents to save. We believe


it is very important -- uncertainty that some of our opponents do say.


We believe it is very important. Why do you think what the group is


promoting his dangerous? I am delighted the group wants to remain


in the European Union and would vote Yes in the event of a


referendum. Which you? We are not making that argument at all. We are


saying it would depend entirely on how the renegotiation went. That is


a hypothetical question. The key point is, how do we get a reformed


Europe? To me get a reformed Europe through unilateral renegotiation


and repatriation - trying to do that on our own? -- do we get? Are


we going to get a reformed Europe by working with allies and talking


about multilateral renegotiation? The reform agenda in terms of


extending the single market - you have to remember that, as you


rightly said, 400 million of our trade is done with Europe. It is


worth almost 40 billion a year. One of his member said today that the


costs of the single market away the benefits. Most businessmen do not


believe that. They believe the benefits outweigh the costs but


would like to see a more reformed Europe. That is what we should


focus efforts on. We can come back to the issue of your natural


against Malta at reform. Give me two examples of where you think the


relationship has stultified business growth. I am in business.


I manufacture prams. We were trying to export into Europe over the last


10, 15 years. France has stopped us exporting prams to France because


of safety laws in France. It is not theoretical. Rowland does not run a


business similar to the manufacturing business. We suffered


as a result of the French additional laws on safety so we


could not export prams to France. Surely we need a better Europe that


is well regulated. They are sort of breaching this single market notion


in order to protect French interests. That is only an example.


We had been in Europe for a long time. We keep saying we need better


negotiation. We are suggesting we have better negotiation. How many


years have we been in Europe that we still have these issues?


single market has changed dramatically. It is not the way


people envisaged initially. It has been transformed and is holding


Business back in his view. I do not know about that. When Margaret


Thatcher pushed through the single market, she gave up the veto for us


on that particular issue. She was 100% right. We need to strengthen


and deepen it. When Allen talks about the specific issue he has in


manufacturing prams, I have total sympathy for him. We want more - we


want the Commission to take more people to the European Court when


these things are breached. That is happening. Got us to have proper


trade and to boost growth, we need to have more reform extend the


similar -- extend the market and a new agreement worth 60 billion a


year. We want to see a slimmed down a European Union, all of which we


can achieve fighting within with our allies. Are we in a position


now to renegotiate in the way that he wants? Isn't now the best


opportunity for Britain to say, we are not doing this any more - you


are going to do it away? It is right that this is the time to put


forward the reform agenda. I noticed on the website for the


policies yet because you are going to consult with your members. We


had been around for a while and we have ideas now in terms of the


reform process. You have to start this process now, working with


people like Germany and the Netherlands and there are a lot of


allies of hours in European Union. The problem is the sort of rhetoric


that you have been outlining and some of the Euro-sceptic rhetoric


from the Government has meant that actually those allies are alienated.


You are not going to be able to renegotiate from a position where


Germany and France are saying, I am sorry, you cannot have it your own


way. I have found over the years that it is better than you are


negotiating to start off in a stronger position that you can have.


To threaten to pull out if you do not get your own way? We are giving


the Government the issues that business has. Roland represent


large businesses. I understand that and have no problem with it. There


are a lot of businesses out there, small businesses, medium-sized


businesses and we suffer a great deal. It is no good talking about,


it can be dealt with by the Commission, dealt with by legal


matters. We do not have the money to do that. My problem in France,


what was I meant to do? All we are asking is, when the Government -


the coalition government or any other government - is renegotiating,


they have the views of business people. That is all we like. I am


worried about both the pupils do you approve talking their


renegotiation as accepted that it will happen. -- about both of you.


You are both talking about I want it extended to telecoms and


I want to see a free-trade agreement with America. The


working-time directive and the part-time working directive need


reforming. Do you want people to opt out quite Denmark I mean


reforming in the sense of you should be able to have part-time


workers not on full-time benefits because otherwise you would


decimate the part-time working for us. But you get these things


working with our allies commit you do not get them as saying, this is


what we want or are we will pull out. If we by that argument and


worked with our partners, we would be in the euro by now? Absolutely


not. That is a completely separate issue. I think if you look at what


Rowland has supported in the past he has supported the Euro-campaign.


As did large business people. We set up a referendum, business for


Sterling. That is completely in the past. We did not campaign. Had


there been a referendum, I would have voted in favour of it.


would have been a good thing? would not have been a good thing.


They have got huge problems and it is in our interest that it succeeds,


but it is better we are out, but it is also in our interest to be at


the heart of Europe fighting for the reforms. Is there anything


specifically you would like to see renegotiated? The whole point of


our group is week I going to be talking to business between now and


the end of this year to hear what they have to save. If there was a


referendum today, right now, in or out, what would you opt for? It is


a hypothetical question. If that was the question... If nothing


changed, my personal position would be very difficult to advise people


to stay in the EU if nothing changed. But we are absolutely


hoping for a change of policy, a renegotiation of. We are in a


modern world and we are competing in China, Asia and South America.


How do you best achieve that? There are two ways of achieving that. You


can make lots of noise from the outside, or you go in there and try


and dig in. The Tory party is torn by that. It has been very


interesting. Sunday's marathons saw some great efforts for charities


across the country and a contingent from Westminster made a


contribution as well. Jim Murphy, the shadow Defence Secretary, was


first across the line. Ed Balls joked he worried about flatlining


during the race, but the Shadow Chancellor finished at a


respectable five hours and 14 minutes. Too far, but not too fast.


Nicky Morgan, the Conservative MP for Loughborough, last of the


Conservative runners. Very impressive by all of them. Jim


Murphy and Nicky Morgan spoke to us last week before the race and today


they have managed to hobble to College Green to speak to Robin


Brant. I am recovering and I just watched it. Nicky Morgan and Jim


Murphy, how are you both the Labour Stimac source. Great. You were the


first Conservative MP to do the race, what was the regime like?


little bit off the booze towards the end, a lot of pasta last week.


I was the first female Conservative MP to do the marathon. It has been


hard to try and find time for the long runs. A lot of Popple talk


about it at a lot of people dream about it, but why did you do it?


had always looked enviously at the television when I saw other people


doing it and I thought, when is going to be the next opportunity?


It was also a great opportunity to raise money for mental illness.


raise a couple of 1000 pounds. Does it make you a better


politician? Or is it just a personal journey? A lot of people


say the marathon is as much mental as physical and that is certainly


true. There are a couple of miles in the middle when you have to dig


deep and say, I am going to do this. Sometimes politics is like that.


There is a bit of a long haul and you have to dig in for the long


haul. You crossed the line ahead of Ed Balls, what was it like between


you two in terms of the build-up and the training. We had a bit of a


rivalry. I joked I would beat him and I would carry him on my back,


but that was provider in my part. I had never run a marathon before, so


I had no idea what to expect. The crowd put in a huge amount of


effort. The last 17 miles onwards it is such a lonely experience, and


that sounds strange when you have loads of people cheering you on,


but it is basically a competition between your body and your brain


and your body is saying stop and your brain is saying, you have got


to keep going. You did not realise you had finish? There were


thousands of people here at parliament yesterday and it is the


only time nobody has Budde meet near Parliament. That was lovely. I


ran around Buckingham Palace and there is no sign saying, finished,


and I just kept going. -- nobody booed me. What did you think about


when you were going around? Did you have an iPod on? Everyone is


different, but I think about other experiences and people get


strengths are from a different experiences in life and I thought,


do not stop, do not let yourself down. I met somebody before who had


done 18 marathons and she said, keep one foot in front of the other


and it will soon be over. advice for colleagues facing uphill


battles? David Cameron and Nick Clegg, it is tough for them. The


marathon advise is if you see a hill, work hard into it and


downhill relax through it. Will you do it next year? I well have to


think about it. I will do it tomorrow. I am thinking about it.


Are you going to do it? I will wait and see what you do


first, otherwise I feel like a lie- down after that will stop you have


run half were Athens a Stimac yes, but not hole marathons. If it is


not the weather, we like rambling about the trains. Since then its


90s services have been largely in the hands of private companies with


varying degrees of success and failure. Both the East Coast and


the West Coast main lines have given MPs a headache. Despite that


they swear by the privatisation of rail, but is it working? A row over


the right to run trains along the west coast, lost by Virgin, awarded


to first group and then given back to Virgin for two years longer than


originally intended. It left the taxpayer holding a �40 million a


pill and embarrassed ministers. What has happened is acceptable and


is deeply regrettable and I apologise. Making the trains run on


time, always controversial and never easy. Privatisation was meant


to take the strain off the taxpayer, but has it been a triumph or has it


led to confusion and delay? When it occurred in the mid- 1990s, the


rail industry was at the end of a long period of decline and it was


expected it would be another managed decline of the rail system


when other modes of transport took over, but that has not been the


case. There has been a renaissance in railways and the biggest


building investment programme since Victorian times. That said,


privatisation has not worked out quite as planned. Railtrack was


taken back under public ownership in 2001 and became Network Rail.


The East Coast main line was in public hands by 2009. It made �600


million for the taxpayer over the past three years, so what is not to


like about public ownership? Public opinion is beginning to favour


public ownership. The public ownership of the East Coast main


line has been quite popular, following the failure of the


private sector to run the franchise effectively. It has been in public


ownership for a number of years. For the betterment of the whole


economy we have got to have a more efficient, cheaper and possibly


publicly subsidised rail service. Not much chance of that happening


under this Government. It wants the East Coast main line back in


private hands by 2015, or the election year. 10 of the 15


franchises are due for review, but ministers are keen to avoid a


repeat of the West Coast fiasco and a number of franchises have been


extended. The public sector has been successful in operating the


East Coast main line after two private sector operators failed,


yet the Government seemed to have undue haste in wanting to get it


back into the private sector. not think it is ideological. I have


spoken at length with Patrick McLoughlin and the other ministers.


I think you go back to the principles of franchising the


competition and the inhibition of ideas and their work. The basic


model of franchising is not thought. Labour's position is officially


under review, but do not expect Ed Miliband to get his stationmaster's


unit -- uniform on any time soon. Privatisation has delivered


increased numbers of passengers, although they have increased


because of the growth in the economy, but that has come as a


cost. There will always have to see how they can keep growing at a cost


that is affordable for the taxpayer and the passengers. This really


could be the age of the train. Joining us now is Tony Lodge from


the Centre for Policy Studies and Christian Wolmar a commentator on


The big problem with privatisation is the increase in subsidy which


has resulted from it. We saw last week there was �4 billion of


government subsidy going into the railways. It was less under British


Rail. Batters a lot of money. One could argue they have only done


well as a result of government money. A really important statistic,


the East Coast Main Line franchise is paying the highest premium of


any long distance of their weight operator. That means the Government


is not having to put much subsidy in. -- long-distance railway


operator. It is the only one that is run by the state. I agree with


that. That is likely be relevant. National Express had to hand the


keys back when they got the figures wrong. The competition east coast


has to face is making it better - lower fares, more passengers, more


routes and greater revenue. That is an important test case. Do you


disagree with the Government that, at some point, they should reopen


the franchising of that line? Shouldn't they keep it with public


ownership? To be honest with you, be directly operated railways, as


far as I am concerned, they have had a very good run because they


have had to face competition. The great thing about the East Coast


Main Line is it was modernised in the 80s and has been electrified in


the 80s. It will do well in private hands but it must face competition.


The West Coast Main Line, a white card Richard Branson face


competition as well? The problem with competition is that we always


have a limited number of tracks and it is very difficult to organise


competition. When the railways were first privatise, the Tory idea was


that there would be a plethora of rail companies coming along and


running services. They realised if they allowed that, together with


the franchising of the railways, it would provide more subsidy. The


private, open-access operators would grab the easy customers and


the poor of franchisee would end up with services at 10pm in the


evening which did not make money. That is why they are limited


competition. I remember you writing in the Lee Marsh, 2011 issue of the


Railway Magazine, they face competition at Doncaster at York,


Northallerton and Wakefield. -- March, 2011. Why can't they have


competition from other companies on the West Coast Main Line? It would


end up costing taxpayers more money. Why? Private operators would


cherry-pick the best services. is disprove and on the east coast.


There are 20,000 rail services a day and 30 open-access trains a day.


It is an irrelevant number. Can I move on to franchising? It has not


been a curious success. That was a very dark hour for the deity. I


would go back to the initial point. -- Department of Transport. I want


to see none franchised open-access competition along size -- alongside


franchises. How do you bring down train fares? Will they just go up?


You introduce competition. Statistics show that on the East


Coast main line where there was competition between East Coast and


rail access operators, the average fare increase was 11% with


competition, without it, it was 17%. That is still quite high. The point


I am making is competition can hold fares down. I do not think


competition will do that, it is government policy. There's have


gone up by above the rate of inflation because that has been


government policy. That should change. It is becoming politically


unpalatable to put up fares by too much, given that fuel tax rises are


always scrapped. Open-access, I'm afraid, is an irrelevance. What


about public ownership where it has been said the East Coast company


has run out of steam? In order to get more investment, you would have


to have a private company running it? Train operators actually do not


invest. It is Network Rail that invests in improvement in the


railways. Customers would agree with that because they say there is


overcrowding and train extensions take too long to happen. There is


evidence of this. If you want to see more rolling stock and cheaper


rolling-stock - cheaper fares for the passenger - open up. Let's have


new services to serve new locations alongside the franchise. What about


taking away the subsidy in keeping it in public ownership? There is a


lot written about the old British Rail. It is slightly before my time


the Tour de Geste record it. I will say, British Rail is not coming


back. -- but I do record it. I will just make one point. Safety on the


railways has never been higher. British Rail did not have the great


safety record. Airplane safety has improved as well. That is largely


technology. It is difficult to recreate British Rail. Network Rail


is state owned. My contention would be, why not keep Directly Operated


Railways on the east coast and then we will know how much it costs to


run away? -- run a railway. They say a week in politics is a long


time, so let's have a look at the stories which could be making the


headlines this week The authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher will


be published on Tuesday. The book is called Not for Turning and was


only to be released after the death of Britain's first female Prime


Minister. Also on Tuesday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt goes before


the health committee to discuss the report which looked into the


failings at Mid-Staffordshire Hospital Trust. On Wednesday, Prime


Minister David Cameron will answer questions from the despatch box for


the first time since the Easter recess On Thursday, the office of


National Statistics will publish their preliminary figures for the


first quarter of 2013, if they show negative growth it will mean the UK


is in a so-called triple-dip recession. Joining me now is The


Metro's political editor, John Higginson, and New Statesman's


Helen Lewis. Welcome to both of you. Helen, do you agree with Labour MP


Jim Murphy's line yesterday that blanket coverage of the death of


Baroness Thatcher was the reason for the decline in Labour's poll


ratings? It was not seem to be appropriate bike Ed Miliband to


contest the legacy. You had a week when you were hearing a lot about


Conservative achievements and conservative values. I think it


definitely paid into it. What is not being said is there is a lot of


rumbling inside Labour at the moment. A lot of discontent for its


butt off by an article by Tony Blair in the New Statesman. --


sparked off. Does Ed Miliband need to outline a vision two years on


from the election? What about the growth figures? To agree that


figures this week can dictate what happened in the 2015 election?


will matter in 2015 is what is happening then. Two years from now,


when people are coming into an election, they will look back and


think, were being a double dip recession or a triple dip


recession? -- where we in? We are a long way away from an election. If


we come in just below on Thursday were just about buy 0.1%, I do not


think it will have a major effect. -- or just about I 0.1%. Was he


right that in economic terms with him and raised a contraction or a


tiny increase in gross, it is going to be completely irrelevant? -- if


there is a contraction. A triple dip recession is catastrophic for


George Osborne. He will face briefings from his own side. There


will be rumblings in the Tory Party. The best he can hope for is a weak


and anaemic growth. We'd bump along the bottom alternating between


positive and negative growth. That is bad for people's incomes. In


that sense, it probably will affect the 2015 election. What about the


reputation of George Osborne? did state his reputation on the


economy, on getting the deficit cut by 2015. He has admitted that will


not happen. Yet again, he might have to face - David Cameron might


have to phase in Prime Minister's Questions a hand signal signifying


bumping along the bottom, in and out of recession. For a party that


staked everything on, the get everything else, we need to sort


out the economy, its economy is not sorted out, that will be the issue


in 2015. -- if the economy. I think there are two problems for Labour.


The first is whether Ed Miliband has real name recognition and


people know him as a politician and a person. They have not been able


to land killer blows. With the downgradings from the ratings


agencies, George Osborne said it would be humiliating. They have not


been able to turn that into a punch that has been landed on him.


some extent they have been factored in? People are not very optimistic


about growth. In the local elections you mentioned, how


difficult would be for coalition partners on the doorstep with the


economy in the state it is? As you have just said, a lot of people


will be thinking, OK, we're not doing too well but would Labour


have done any better? As the polls have shown, they do not think they


would. Even if someone says, I wish we had gross, I do not think


they're looking to Labour and sane, they're the ones that would have


provided to us. -- and saying. With the Thatcher pounds, we might see a


bit of that in local elections. David Cameron should not be taking


a whole load of... He should not think it is great. It is a bounce


based on a party 30 years ago. has most to lose? Everyone. -- who


has most? What we will see it in Cornwall and Cambridgeshire, if you


want to make a protest vote, who do you hold most responsible for the


mess? That is the idea. That is what I will really be watching.


have been joined by three MPs. Labour's Andy Sawford, Conservative


Shailesh Vara and Liberal Democrat Mark Hunter for the rest of the


show. As we've been hearing, it's a big week for the economy - and for


politics - with the latest GDP figure announced on Thursday. A


triple dip recession for the first time in recent economic history. It


would be a disaster for the reputation of George Osborne,


wouldn't it? I'm not going to speculate. Would it be a disaster?


The fact is we have reduced the deficit by a third. If we look


outside into the big, wide world, many private sector jobs have been


created. There is record employment. People will say, what is happening


in the real world rather than George Osborne and his reputation.


He has staked so much on a deficit reduction plan which the OBR is


saying is stalling and a return to growth. If there is a triple dip,


even if it is only a very small contraction, what effect would it


have on his personal reputation? His reputation will be judged on


what he has achieved. Over 1 million people are in private


sector jobs. many people have had tax cuts and some had been taken


out of tax altogether. When �24 million you have 24 million people


having a tax cut, that is a benefit. -- when you have 24 million people.


A report out today sets in the year to February, it was zero. Times are


difficult. We're in the worst economic position we have been in


since the 30s. None of that is down to government policies? It is down


to a legacy of debt which has built over a decade by the previous


administration. Let's say there is a tiny bit of growth but the


British economy continues to flat line. Still no growth. We still


have faith in the Government's economic policy? You have to


recognise this country was on the brink of bankruptcy mummy came into


control. We're taking it out of that desperate condition. Labour


are saying give us control of the economy to finish the job we tried


to do before in bankrupting the economy. Are the Liberal Democrats


still signed up to this? Signed up to the deficit reduction strategy.


That is one of the key reasons why the coalition was formed in the


first place. We came into the coalition government at a time when


UK plc was spending �4 for every �3 we actually had and the deficit


problem was massive at that stage in time. We have made progress with


that and cut the deficit by a third. 1 million people are in


apprenticeships over the last couple of years. Plenty of good


things happening in the economy and we must be careful not to talk it


down. It is a difficult economic climate. Glamorgan's and about the


impact on people - the kind of voters I'm privileged to represent


in Parliament and the triple dip recession and the three-star rating


and so on. That does not mean much out to folk in communities. What


does mean a lot to them is whether or not they can afford to pay the


mortgage and we have record low interest rates. Whether or not they


are in a job, we have created over a million private sector jobs since


the Government was formed. Plenty positive things. It is still a


difficult time. No-one in the coalition has the answers or that


there is a silver bullet solution. We have to tackle the benefit --


Most of us accept the Government will be judged by the end of their


term. I am optimistic we will continue to make progress on the


deficit reduction strategy, but it is important to have a plan. You


only have to look at what is happening in other European


countries to see the kind of difficulties they get into if they


do not have a plausible plan to tackle the deficit. That is why


there is a lot of focus on the Labour Party, although they are


posing the cuts we are making, they are not saying what they are going


to do. How much more is going to be cut? We could speculate endlessly.


How much more has got to be cut? Nobody comes into politics, least


of all any political party, to want to make cuts in public expenditure,


but it accounts for 25% of all central Government funding and it


is not credible to pretend that somehow public sector can be exempt


from the kind of savings and cats that have had to be made across the


board. The exception is the NHS where we have committed more money


than the Labour Party said they would. Did you think that the cuts


up until now, only 20% so far, would have sparked growth? I think


nobody appreciated just how long and how difficult the current


recession is going to be. Most external commentators would agree


with that. But still no change in the policy? It is important to


retain an open mind, but what we are not seeing in Parliament and in


the domestic political debate is a credible, alternative proposition.


When I speak to people in my constituency most people understand


that. They knew whoever won the general election, we would be in


far a difficult time. I have to ask what Labour's policy is going to be


because there is confusion in terms of what Labour's plans are. Labour


said the coalition has cut too far and too fast, but we did not quite


get to the bottom of how much work is to come. Only 20% has been cut.


If you think the British economy has not grown is because they have


cut too far and too fast, the logic is Labour will spend and borrow


more going into the 2015 Election. You have asked two questions. The


first is about the current situation. It is important to say


we do care about the current position of the economy. This is


not about the electoral calculations of the Tories and the


Liberal Democrats, I care about people in my constituency right now.


Unemployment is higher than when this Government came to office,


that debt is going up, we are borrowing more. So you think the


solution would be in order to improve the lives of people you


would want to borrow more? I was coming to that. We have set out an


alternative plan, which was to half the deficit over the course of this


Parliament, so we would be spending �13 billion more on infrastructure


this year which would be important to get our economies growing. The


IMF, the CBI and even Lord Heseltine are encouraging George


Osborne to look at that. But they will not listen. Into the next


election is Labour going to pledge to borrow even more to get growth?


That will be a decision for Ed Balls and Ed Miliband. You have


just said... The responsible thing to do is to look at the


Government's spending plans which have not been announced. We know


the total amount of spending in 2015-2016, but we do not know where


the cuts are going to come. Labour can say now we used it to the


Government's current spending plans? We cannot trust from one


year to the next that the figures that George Osborne gives us. The


figures get worse year on year. We do not know this situation the


economy is going to be in 2015. We would spend the money and we would


have a tax on bankers' bonuses. These are not unimportant things.


What we want to know and what the viewers want to know it is you have


criticised the coalition policies... They would not want us to set out


plans when we do not know the real situation. But after the spending


review you well. Of course, and week-by-week we will have a clearer


picture of what we might note in 2015 and we will continue to set


out our policies, but we cannot tell you right now what the


spending review is going to be and how dire the economy might be by


2015. Employment has gone up. There are 850,000 people more in


employment now than after the general election. As far as the


budget deficit is concerned, Fitch who do their ratings they


themselves have said it is because of this Government's commitment to


reducing the underlying budget deficit that the UK debt has a


stable outlook. They downgraded us, but that is what they said. The UK


debt has a stable outlook. As far as the other issue is concerned,


why is it that Ed Miliband is able to say if there is a Labour


Government he would reduce taxes to 10%? His crystal ball allows him to


make tax commitments, but on the other hand when we talk about


spending commitments they are being terribly shy. The reality is the


Labour Government borrowed, spent and created debt and what they are


offering the country again is to offer more and to spend more and to


create more debt as well. Why is it that the population does not trust


Labour? Why have the polls narrowed? Why is Ed Miliband and Ed


Balls' policy under pressure? incredibly important to labour to


build trust and we have got a long way to go and I am under no


illusion about that. We had the worst election result we have for


80 years in 2010 and we have got a big job to do. But when we go out


and talk to people and we have a real result, we can see that people


do not trust this Government and they can see that their policies


are taking us in the wrong direction. It is not just the


economy, Bano in the health service we have 5000 fewer nurses and


15,000 fewer police officers, so this Government is not doing what


they said they would do. Is Labour a soft touch on welfare? Absolutely


not. Let's contrast really clearly... You opposed the benefit


cap. You are spending 13 billion more on out-of-work benefits and 13


billion less on infrastructure. the doorstep in the local elections


are you going to be happy talking to people whose real pay has not


risen, no prospect of a rising, the rest of people still losing their


jobs, and they will say, please change your policy and they will


say -- and you will say? There is a realisation amongst the population


that we are in a difficult financial times. He would have been


saying that since 2010. It was true then and it is true now and we have


got a plan to tackle it. Why has the IMF lost faith? I know there


have been some concerns expressed by the IMF, and it is important we


listen to them. But at the end of the day, you cannot spend more than


you earn. That is what was happening with the previous


administration and that is what this Government is going to put a


stop to it. We often hear from MPs that they work long, anti-social


hours, but Margaret Hodge thinks otherwise. She says MPs risk being


called lazy because the number of hours they work in Westminster are


What do our MPs make of that? Are you lazy? I do not think my family


would agree with that caricature, they do not see enough of me as it


is. The mistake is to assume that recess equals holiday. Whilst it is


true to say it is a generous allocation of time, for most MPs


like me who live in a constituency, that is an important part of our


job. It is equally important that the constituency MPs are out and


about in the local community listening to what people have got


to say and that is why I think the argument is very weak. There is


nothing to stop her if she wants her Select Committee to join the


recess. We will suggest that to her. What do you do in the recess? Do


you have some sort of schedule during the recess to do the


constituency work? Absolutely. are very new. It is an incredibly


busy job and the other MPs would seem very busy from other parties


as well. The thing I have been most surprised by his how little


activity there is from the Government in parliament. That is


why there are not many sitting days and they do not want to be


scrutinised either. Margaret Hodge has got an issue. How many prime


minister's questions are there between now and the start of June?


I do not know. Only two. But since we came into Government we have


restored the September sittings and the House of Commons sits longer


than most legislature's throughout the world. An MP's job is not only


to be a legislator and come to the House of Commons. You have to hold


the executive to account. But with people like you on 24 hour news you


ensure we do keep the executive to account and we can be on television


in an instant. But it is important to recognise that in my


constituency I have a hospital that has a deficit problem. There is


also a development of 5500 homes which will have massive


infrastructure issues. Those issues cannot be forgotten and if I am


legislating constantly in the House of Commons, then I have to make


sure that I somehow find the time to look after my constituents. The


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