12/06/2013 Daily Politics


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Politics. Do you feel squeezed? And I know I do. I blame Jo.


Unemployment is down, but only by a little. And if you have got a job,


the top boffins say the value of your pay packet has fallen more in


the current economic downturn than ever before. William Hague is off to


Washington to talk about Syria. Could relations with Russia get


chilly? Will it be colder at PMQs or will it be hot, hot, hot? We will


have the actioned at midday. We will have grunting, shunting and sweaty


MPs on the programme too! I can hardy wait!


All that and more in the next 90 minutes of value for money TV. There


is no danger of closing us down! Don't hold your breath.


I hope it doesn't give anyone ideas, Made in Chelsea and Towie eat your


hearts out. We have Michael Howard joining us today and current Shadow


Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander. Welcome to both of you.


Thank you. Let's take a look at the economy


because the latest unemployment figures were released this morning.


They show the unemployment rate effectively unchanged at 7. 8%.


There were 2. 51 million unemployed people in the quarter to April. Down


5,000 from the previous year so only a little. But down 88,000 from a


year earlier. A report today however by the Institute of Fiscal Studies


says that UK workers have experienced an unprecedented fall in


wages. They mean in real terms. A third of workers in the same job saw


a wage cut or a freeze between 2010 and 2011. The IFS says that's


because some people have been willing to accept less money in


order to hold on to their jobs. And it has been a feature of this


recession and current economic circumstances that wages have been


flat, but unemployment has not risen by as much as many expected. Michael


Howard, putting aside the economics of the pain of these freeze in


living standards or cut in living standards causes, is it not a big


political headache for the coalition to go into an election period with


living standards still not rising? Well, we've two years to go before


the election, but people understand what is happening all over the world


and if you look at the figures today, of course, unemployment is


far too high and we want it to come down, but compared with what is


happening in the rest of Europe, we are doing relatively well and people


understand that and 1. 3 million jobs have been recrated in the


private sector since the last election. Three jobs in the public


sector for every one lost in the public sector and I think people


understand that there is a trade-off between accepting a real terms cut


in wages and keeping your job or losing your job and for most people,


it is a better deal to keep their job.


What do you say to that, Douglas Alexander? I don't think it is a


trade-off between willing to cut your wages and getting employment


back. Of course, times are tough. And I felt when I looked at the


figures they confirmed what we know. Both families are struggling to get


by. But that we continue to have a significant unemployment crisis in


the country. Of course, we welcome any small drop in unemployment, but


unemployment today is higher than it was in 2010 and so we need to see


measures that will get the economy moving forward because there is a


correlation between a stagnant economy and the fact that


unemployment is high. Compared to our European partners, the situation


is not that bad? Well, it depends which countries you look at.


Name me one and let's do it. The eurozone is facing difficulties.


Even Germany, the IMF is saying we will grow twice as fast as gerpany


this year -- Germany this year. no one is saying we are off to the


races. This is the weakest recovery since economic statistics were


invented. It is the politics of it that interests me. Labour has been


able to do comparisons with other countries in which unfavourable to


the record of the coalition. I'm just wondering if the terms of trade


are beginning to change now and that comparisons in a general sense that


recovery is underway are going to be to Labour's disadvantage.


When Michael started, he said all around the world. From 20007 to


2010, the Conservatives want wanted to imply this was the responsibility


of Gordon Brown. So tough are the economic circumstances confronting


George Osborne, every Conservative spokesman says, " It is difficult


everywhere." Are global conditions tough? Of course, they are. But on


the other hand, I would say if you look at the level of growth of the


United States economy since the crash that there are lessons in


terms of what is the right balance You know America as well as I do.


Unemployment has not gone as high because of the flexibility of the


labour market. I have never said it was all created


by Gordon Brown. Of course, there was a worldwide economic crisis. Our


problem was we were in a much less strong position to deal with it


because of the situation over which Gordon Brown presided. Had we


started saving during the good times asked in, I suggested we should in


the 2005 general election, we would have been better erequest ipd to


deal with the -- better equipped to deal with the downturn.


Let me put this to you, Douglas Alexander - when the pollsters ask


the question do you mean Ed Miliband and Ed Balls could manage the


economy better than Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne, only 24% said they


could. This month, it is down to 19%. What's happening? These numbers


move around... They do, but always down. Of course, it will be tough


for any leader or Shadow Chancellor to build confidence. Margaret


Thatcher's numbers were below Jim Callaghan's. It didn't stop Margaret


Thatcher becoming Prime Minister. Even Gordon Brown's numbers before


1997 were below that of Ken Clarke's. So you are not worried?


I'm not complacent. I am giving you two examples.


I am not complacent. I have given you two examples of where one party


has taken over in both cases because of the authority of Government is


judged to be in a position of having credibility, but can lose the


election. I the want to show you a clip from


an interview I did on the Sunday Politics, don't worry, it is no the


Alex Jones. This was an interview. George Osborne is going to announce


his cap in two weeks time. Our plan is to include it.


So pension spending would be included in the welfare cap? That's


our plan. A straightforward answer. We were


taken back because we don't often get them. Since then Labour said


they would keep the pensions triple-lock which is a way of


ensuring by various metrics that pensions go up by a descent amount,


if not by one metric you chose a higher metric. Of how can you have


pensions capped and support the triple-lock? Well, because pensions


are going to be part of your long-term fiscal planning and you


can set pensioners policy, but you need to have regard to the long-term


fiscal sustainability. So the cap doesn't preclude you from having


policy specific in relation to aspects of Government expenditure,


but in that sense, that's the job of the Government which is to manage


both your short-term commitments against your long-term


sustainability. Mr Miliband told us the caps for the


first three years, he with would cap welfare spending over three years.


If you put a cap on welfare spending and it includes pensions, but you


are obliged to increase pensions by about 2. 3%, if you are hitting the


cap and you are obliged to increase pensions by it. T.5%, pensions are


not included in the cap and you can have one or the other? The first


year, the election will take place in year. Ed said we would accept the


starting point of the Conservative numbers for the first year. In terms


of the three year cap that follows, there is a process we will follow,


not least to hear what George Osborne says when he brings forward


his own cap, but we will set how to reconcile commitments that we make


in relation to pensions and other areas of public expenditure in due


course with a longer term fiscal horizon.


Let me try one more time. I don't understand how you can say, " We


will cap welfare spend ing and pensions will be included, but we


will increase pensions by 2. 5% even if it means breaking the capmed."


Well, in what circumstances did Ed say even if it means breaking the


cap. He said we hold on to the triple-lock at present.


At present? Well, that remains our policy. We will set out our policy


position in the manifesto. Part of the manifesto will contain that cap


which will take a three year horizon and these can be reconciled.


You haven't reconciled this clear conflict and you will do that by the


manifesto? You are not in a position to say individually as a policy,


include policies on pensions. Michael Howard, there is pit falls


in the road Labour is going down because all politicians are


frightened of the grey vote because people vote, the older they are. But


actually, isn't Labour being more realistic in saying if we are going


to have overall caps, we are going to reduce public spending and old


aged pensioners will have to be included? Well, Labour's numbers


don't add up for the reasons you explained. But what Ed Balls and Ed


Miliband have said, there is an interesting article in the Times in


which what they have said has been analysed and says they have accepted


the fundamental Conservative argument that you can't spend your


way out of these difficulties. You can't spend your way out of the


downturn and everything they have been saying over the last three


years is nonsense when they have opposed every cut put forward.


Yous don't agree. That's not an authoritarian voice on


Labour's policies. Chief Executive of the NHS is up in


front of the Public Accounts Committee today. He looks to have a


tough time. Figures obtained by Steve Barclay, show hospital chefs


paid a total of �2 million to 52 people in secret severance payments


to whistle-blowers. This could contradicts sir David's evidence to


the committee previously when he said he only knew of a one off


payment. Well, joining me from the lobby is the MP who uncovered the


figures, Steve Barclay. Thank you for coming on to the programme,


Steve Barclay. Is this incompetence or conspiracy on the part of Sir


David Nicholson? Well, it begs the question either he should have known


and why didn't he? His deputy, lots of hospitals making these payments


were aware of this. So why did the boss not know? Or he did know and it


is even more worrying because it appears he hasn't been straight with


Parliament and when he appeared before the committee last time he


said he wasn't aware the garaway Walker case was a whistle-blower


case and he had to correct his evidence because he admitted he had


been told. Do you think this is a case hes can't remember? Well, it is


not just that because he gave a commitment to investigate this and


what the Department of Health statement last night confirmed was


despite telling Parliament he would take this seriously, he would


investigate whether indeed it was a one off, he did nothing about it. So


why didn't he investigate it when he gave a commitment to part to do so?


And on what basis did he ignore that undertaking. Jeremy Hunt decided the


gagging clauses are going to be no longer, but in this particular case


these were judicially mediated settlements and they go outside the


remit of what the Government was talking about banning. How big do


you think the problem is? Secretary of State deserves credit


because he has put these within the remit. The loophole has been closed.


Oh, he has? Jeremy Hunt acted quickly. The statement for


Parliament which was not followed up. But the culture associated with


Sir David Nicholson. The 2 million spds is a -- the �2 million is the


tip of the iceberg. Seven hospitals are refusing to say how much they


paid out through the secret payments. So the Secretary of State


deserves credit. If we want to change the cull do you remember of


the NHS -- culture of the NHS and have a culture where people are open


and willing to speak out on patient safety issues, we have to look at


the behaviour of Sir David and whether he is right for that new


culture. Do you think his position is


untenable? I thought it was untenable after Mid Staffs and I


thought he should have gone then. He is in today before Parliament for


the NHS IT programme, a programme that wasted billions of pounds of


your viewers money and he was not just the accounting officer for that


programme, he was the senior responsible owner for it. There is a


catalogue of errors linked to Sir David and if we are going to change


the culture of the NHS and take on board the lessons on Mid Staffs and


the question is, is he the right man for another year to remain in his


post? Steve Barclay, thank you very much. Michael Howard, should he just


go now? I think we should wait to see what and says he has, if any, to


the questions that Steve Barclay has eloquently post. Very serious


questions, very serious situation. I have no idea what Sir David


Nicholson would say in answer to those questions but we will see what


he does. The two choices are either he didn't know and he should have


known or he is part of the conspiracy. Let's wait and see what


he says? What is your reaction? I agree with Michael, he should be


able to give his cancers on the substantive issue on whether public


money should be spent in terms of gagging orders --his cancers. We


tried through the NHS Constitution to write in the prevention of this,


but at the Francis report touched on this, at a local level and in


individual trusts, there was a culture where this was acceptable,


and there was a case put to us for Jeremy Hunt to look at how


individual trusts are open to this and how much is being paid. Is it


rather he didn't know about it and contradicted his own evidence? If


you don't know, you don't know, you don't say there was a 1-off payment


and then it is subsequently revealed there were 52 of these sorts of


orders. Should the man at the top who presided over this, should he


stay? I believe in the old maxim that she should afford somebody the


opportunity to and set those questions before passing judgement.


He will be before Parliament, let's hear what he has to say.


Thank you. Now, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has been meeting


the US Secretary of State John Kerry today to discuss the conflict in


Syria. The UK Government has said President Bashar Assad must give up


power to bring an end to the violence that has seen 80,000 people


killed in the last two years and want to pave the way for a political


transition. Washington is still struggling to organise a peace


conference and President Obama has at his team to look at all the


options. Michael Howard, should the West on the Syrian rebels? -- arm.


It is a desperately difficult situation. I think we sometimes have


to recognise that not every problem has a solution. I am not in a


position to make the judgements that are necessary to give a yes or no


answer to that question. I think William Hague was right to press for


a European embargo to be lifted, so that arming the rebels is an


option, and there may well be circumstances in which it would be


right to use that option. Whether those circumstances have yet arisen,


I just am not, I think, qualified to judge. It is a very, very difficult


situation and the risk of broadening this conflict, of bringing in other


states in the region, of having a kind of proxy war between Russia and


the West, the risks are enormous, so this is an area where we have to be


cautious. It might at some point be the right option but I can't judge


whether we have reached that point. Your position, Douglas Alexander, is


that we should not on the rebels. I'm not convinced by the arguments


the Government has made. This is an appalling situation of human


suffering and there are no easy options for William Hague, or in


Washington back here in London, so I do not question the motives of the


Government but I do the judgement of lifting the arms embargo at that


point, because we were weeks away from this Geneva two conference, as


it is called. One of the consequences of lifting the embargo


is uncertainty in the mind of the rebels, if they don't turn up at the


peace conference, they will be unable to secure Western arms in the


future. There are concerns from the Russians themselves, and the kind of


questions that we need and insisted that we have not heard, how can we


guarantee these weapons and do we know the intents and the tactics of


the rebels? How do we avoid a proxy war with Russia or Iran, fought out


in Syria? And even worse to contemplate, sectarian war across


the Middle East, because there is a sectarian aspect of this conflict


now. But already they are worried in Jordan. Israel is beginning to feel


the heat on the border. So we are there, aren't we? So I struggle to


answer the question that the Prime Minister will need to answer in


these circumstances, which is how will the provision of more


sophisticated weaponry de escalate rather than escalate the conflict?


And nobody doubts the seriousness of the situation. I have for many


months argued that ultimately Russia is the key to this. Resident Assad


is hugely reliant on Russia, not just in terms of diplomatic support


but military as well. So I welcome the steps that John Kerry has taken


in flying to Moscow. At the end of the day, if were going to see this


conference happen, we need about the Russians and the Americans


delivering both sides to this conflict. But people like you have


been saying that for over two years and while you have gone on and on


about diplomacy, it has failed 100% and 80,000 people have died. What do


you say to a Syrian family that have been beleaguered by the dictator


President Assad that you are not going to help them defend


themselves? Syria is awash with arms at the moment, the idea that there


are no weapons for the rebels in Syria is not true. You have to ask


the question, do you want to be providing service to and missiles,


anti-tank artillery and other equipment to a group of rebels --


surface to air missiles push up today's good guys can all too easily


come -- become tomorrow's wrongdoers. There seems to be two


problems about sending arms, one is what Douglas Alexander just said, we


are not sure who they might end up with and the second, I would suggest


that the Kremlin has made it quite clear they will match whatever we


send. Those difficulties are there. So I think there is only one point


we all agree on, and we're not going to answer, the only point I disagree


with Douglas on is I still think it was right to lift the EU embargo so


the option remains, because all of the difficulties to which you refer


are absolutely there and they are horrendous, but this is a rapidly


changing situation, and there may be circumstances in which helping


supply arms, some arms, to the rebels would be the right thing to


do. I am not saying we have reached it yet. What would those


circumstances be? Give me a sense, in your mind, what they would be?


Hypothetically, you could arrive at a situation where a particular need


was identified for a particular set of weapons which would actually help


the rebels from being crushed. I am not saying it will exist, but it


could. Let's follow the logic of that position. Even if Bashar


al-Assad goes, and we all want him to go, the likely scenario is the


continuation of the Civil War and the next chapter beginning. In that


sense, we cannot get away from the fact that the only way you can have


a sustainable Syrian state is ultimately through politics. The


only way you can have any hope of getting to that politics is to bring


the external factors in. You may never get to back to politics until


the civil war has run its course. Bashar al-Assad was to go, it may


transform the situation. It may not bring complete peace over tonight --


overnight, but it may bring about change. But the Alawite will just


fight the dead? They nowhere to go. I would hope they wouldn't. I am not


saying all of the problems would disappear overnight, but it would be


a huge change. It is a really difficult situation. It really is.


He is rich, he is good-looking and they call him the Special one. Jose


Mourinho arrived back at Chelsea this week and said he wanted a new


nickname, the Happy one. But answer me this, is he really happy? How


much more happy would he be with this? Yes, with this mug. You could


look tanned, gorgeous, Portuguese and happiness. I think you need to


read it over your head! There are still some copy in it. All you need


to do is listen carefully to Jo. You can enter the Guess The Year


competition in a minute but let's see if you can remember when this


North Sea gas. The one pure stroke of luck the British economy has had


in a century. Drop out of school, school education


Per pound here in Britain and in # This is dedicated to the one I


love. To be in with a chance of winning


the Daily Politics mug, send your entry into the email address. You


can see the full terms and conditions on the website.


It is coming up to midday, let's have a look at the Big Ben. It is a


grey day in London, it has been all week. Prime ministers questions is


on its way and Nick Robinson is welcomed back. I noticed that they


are now raising this issue of select committee chairman, which has come


up because of Tim Yeo's position. Putting aside the Sunday Times


sting, hasn't it has been the case that this man who chairs the


renewable energy committee of the House of Commons also has full


directorships in renewable energy. You may say that. I couldn't


possibly comment. That is exactly what the Speaker and other people


have been talking about, which is is it right that select committee


chairs, who have a higher status than I did a few years ago, they get


paid as well, is it right they should have external interests? It


is not against the rules, but it is a conflict of interest. These are


influential figures both in the questioning they can do people in


business and in public life and the of subjects that are for select


committees -- the choice of subjects. We are likely to see a


change, Tim Yeo may be the last to have that many business interest.


the last Labour Government, John McFall was chairman of the Treasury


select committee, one of the most powerful select committees in the


House of Commons. If he had been a director of Goldman Sachs at the


same time, it would have been rather strange. Perfectly reasonably, it


would have seemed strange. Having previously served as a minister, the


ministerial code is extremely tough in terms of conflict and everything


else and my senses the Speaker and others may look at the code of


conduct the ministers, given the significant status and influence of


chairs. Michael? I hope it is not an overreaction. I think the key point


is there shouldn't be outside interest related to the select


committee. The chairman of the select committee is a director of a


company that has nothing to do with his select committee, I don't see


anything wrong with that as long as it is properly declared, but I do


think it is difficult for the chairman of a select committee, or


perhaps even a member of a select committee, to have an outside


interest which is directly related to that. And for which they are


remunerated? Well, the members are not the chairman. No, I mean


remunerated by the outside interest. Prime Minister's Questions coming


up, we don't have many these days, two in a row, like a London bus!


are being spoiled. I think it will be intriguing to see if it is the


opposition leader's questions, David Cameron used the last one to try and


question Ed Miliband on child benefits and what Labour were saying


about their spending priorities. I won't be surprised if the Prime


Minister raises the interview you did with the shadow Chancellor Ed


Balls in which he seemed to suggest he would cap pension spending. The


Tories see that as an own goal and I think what David Cameron would like


to exploit is that, with unemployment going down, he will


raise the fact that one of the reasons it might be under control is


the fact that people are taking a real hit in their pay packets and


people are having their real income squeezed and their standards of


living squeezed, and therefore it might not be so such good news for


people. It is difficult for politicians on the right and the


left, to say we should have more rise in wages, but there might be


more unemployment. Or people should actually take a cut in living


standards. But more people will be in jobs, it is a Catch-22. It is,


but Labour will want to say, that is hurting people and if there are


additional things Government are doing, row prices and energy prices


and so on, which are adding to that sense of a squeeze on peoples


standards of living, that is uncomfortable for them and bad for


incompetent management of the NHS, 256,000 patients were forced to wait


in the back of ambulances as accident and imagine departments


couldn't admit them. Why does the Prime Minister think the best way to


deal with this is to fine hospitals �90 million for his Government's


failure? But what this Government is doing is putting �12. 7 billion


extra into the NHS, money that would be cut by the party opposite and


because of that extra money and because of the reforms, waiting


times are down, waiting times for inpatients and outpatients are both


down, hospital acquired infections are down, a mixed sex wards have


been abolished in our NHS, that's a record we can be proud of.


INAUDIBLE Can he confirm that the Conservative


Party's commitment to renegotiation and a referendum and has he...


and a referendum and has he... and a referendum and has he...


INAUDIBLE On behalf of the whole House can I


welcome my honourable friend back to the House of Commons? And it is good


to see him making a strong recovery and being in such strong voice


today, as well, Mr Speaker. He makes an important point, on this side of


the House, well in this party, we are committed in an in/out


referendum before the end of 2017, but there has been a staggering


silence from the party opposite. Half of the Shadow Cabinet support a


referendum and the other half the don't. Well, they will have their


chance on 5th July, they can turn up and vote for a referendum in the


United Kingdom. THE SPEAKER: Mr Ed Miliband.


On Syria, the Prime Minister has our support to use the G 8 to push all


members to provide humanitarian assistance to alleviate the crisis


that is happening there, but on the arms embargo, he said last week and


I quote "if we help to tip the balance in that way, there is a


greater chance of political transition succeeding." Given that


Russia seems ready to supply more weapons to Syria, does the Prime


Minister think it is in any sense realistic for a strategy of tipping


the balance to work? Well, first of all, can I thank him for raising


this issue and say he is right, we should use the G 8 to try and bring


pressure on all sides to bring about what we all want in this House which


is a peace conference, a peace process and a move towards a


transitional Government in Syria. I am delighted to tell the House


President Putin will be coming in advance of the he G 8 for meeting in


Downing Street when we can discuss this. It is important because we


have recognised that the Syrian national opposition are legitimate


spokes people for the Syria people. It is important we help them. We


give them technical assistance and training and advice and assistancele


all those things we are doing and that does tip the balance to make


sure that President Assad can see he cannot which this by military means


alone and he should be at the negotiations which should take place


for a transitional Government. My question was specifically on the


liftings of the arms embargo and the supply of weapons to the Syrian


rebels. How, last week, he also told this House, and I quote, " Clr


safeguards to ensure that any such equipment would only be supplied for


the protection of civilians." Can he tell us what safeguards those are?


And how in Syria, they would be enforced? Well, first of all, let me


try and say again about the arms embargo, the point about lifting the


arms embargo which applied to the both the regime and the official


Syrian opposition is to send a message about our intentions and


about our views to President Assad, but we have not made a decision to


supply the Syrian opposition reque -- with weapons, we are giving them


advice and technical help and we have systems in place to answer his


second question to make sure that sort of non-lethal equipment like


transport and things like that doesn't get into the wrong hands. Of


course, we do. THE SPEAKER: Ed Miliband.


things. Look, first of all, we all support the idea that he we should


focus on the peace conference and making the peace conference happen.


The Government has put its energy into the lifting of the arms embargo


and not in the peace conference. I quoted hisses words, no the about


non-lethal equipment, but about the supply of lethal equipment. Now, he


gave an assurance to this House, in the circumstances of supplying


lethal equipment there would be safeguards and the question was what


would those safeguards be and I didn't hear an answer and maybe he


can tell us that and will he when he replies confirm that if he takes a


decision to arm the rebels in Syria, there will be a vote of this House


on a substantive motion in Government time with a recall of


Parliament from recess if necessary? First of all, on this issue of the


peace conference, we all want to see a peace conference come about, the


question is how are we most likely to put pressure on the parties to


attend the peace conference? Going back to the first thing he said


about the Russian decision to arm the regime, the Russian regime has


been arming this regime for decades and frankly, it is naive to believe


anything else. That, I think, is important. On the issue of


safeguards, we are not supplying the opposition with weapons. We are


supplying them with technical assistance and non-lethal equipment.


We made no decision to supply the opposition with weapons, so that is


the answer to that issue. On the issue of this House of Commons, as


the Foreign Secretary made clear, as I have made clear, I have always


believed in allowing the House of Commons to say -- a say on these


issues. I think that was right when it came to Iraq. It was right when


we made the decision to help the opposition in Libya and it would be


right in the future for that to it to happen. We have made no decision


to arm the rebels in Syria. On the Government plan to double the


size of our reserve forces, has the Prime Minister considered the role


retired Ghurkhas might play in this? How they are allowed to settle here,


many gush cas said they would welcome an ongoing connection with


the British Army, but there is no tradition of recruiting them. It


won't happen by magic, would he authorise an initiative to cre cut


them? One of the p ways we can build up this larger reserve we want to


see funded and fully equipped at 30,000, is to make sure those who


served in the regular Army, that we have better opportunities for them


to serve in the reserves and the point he made about the gur das cas,


I am -- Ghurkhas, I am sure the Defence Secretary will look at that


and see what can be donement of I don't know if the Prime Minister


watched Panorama's programme on Monday night, but I'm sure he will


be aware of the subject. The programme confirmed what many of


youing us already knew that thousands of people in this country


have been subjected to blacklisting. It has been compared to McCarthyism.


I think it is worse Than that. It is secretive and it is behind closed


doors and many people who run a -- who are on a blacklist don't know


they are on a blacklist. Can I ask the Prime Minister to call for an


urgent inquiry into this practise which I refer to not as McCartism,


but as McAlpinism. I didn't see the Panorama on Monday


night. I will ask for a report on it, but the Government not only does


not support blacklisting, but has taken action against it.


Can I thank the Prime Minister for his recent visit to my constituency


to support the furniture making industry. The hard-working staff he


made are best helped into these tough times by protecting their


pensions and capping benefits rather than by protecting benefits and


cutting pensions as the party opposite would do. I well remember


my visit to my honourable friend's constituency. What people want to


know in this country is we're going to cap welfare and get on top of


welfare bills, but protect pensioners who have worked hard all


their lives and I've done a little bit of due diligence on the the


party opposite's policy. They announced they wanted a welfare cap


and I thought that's interesting, that's progress. Would they cap the


welfare bill for those in work? they would not. Would they cap


housing benefit? No, they wouldn't. The one thing they want to cap


pensions is pension -- the one thing theys want to cap is pensions. Of


more of the something for nothing culture that got this country in a


mess in the first place. THE SPEAKER: Mr Ed Miliband.


Speaker, today's fall in unemployment of 5,000 is welcome.


But can the Prime Minister explain why today's figures also show that


three years into his Government, living standards are continuing to


fall? Well, first of all, I think it is


worth actually announcing to the House what the unemployment figures


today show because they show employment, the number of people in


work, in our country going up. They show unemployment going down. And


they show, I know the party opposite don't want to hear good news, but I


think it is important we hear it. And the claimant count, the number


of people qlaming unemployment benefit -- claiming unemployment


benefit has fallen for the seventh month in a row. What is interesting


is over the last year, while we've lost 100,000 jobs in the public


sector, we've gained five times that amount in private sector employment.


The figures do show some increase in wages, but obviously, real wages


have been under huge pressure ever since the boom and bust under which


his presided. Bau what is good for people is that under this


Government, we're cutting their income tax this year.


THE SPEAKER: Ed Miliband. There speaker, he is into his fourth year


as Prime Minister and his excuse for falling living standards is don't


blame me, I am only the Prime Minister! It is not good enough and


if he doesn't understand that because of his failure to get growth


in the economy, wages are falling for ordinary people. He wants to


tell them they are better off, butle actually they are -- but they are


worse off. Can he confirm that today's figures show after


inflation, since he came to power, people's wages have fallen on


average by over �1300 a year? you might have noticed the figures


announced by the institute Institute for Fiscal Studies are from 2008


when he was sitting in the Cabinet. While he was Energy Secretary, the


economy got smaller. This shrank month after month after month. Under


this Government, we see over 1. 25 million more private sector jobs. A


good growth in private sector employment this year. That is what


is happening. Of course, living standards are under pressure and


that is why we are freeze freezing council tax. Look, the Shadow


Chancellor is shouting away as ever. Perhaps...


THE SPEAKER: Excessive noise in the chamber. Members must not shout at


the Prime Minister anymore that anyone should shout at the Leader of


the Opposition. There are 1. 25 million more private sector jobs


under this Government and that's a good record.


No answer from this Prime Minister on the living standards crisis that


is facing families up and down the country. And you know, it is no


wonder what his side are saying about him. This is what the


honourable member for Leicestershire north-west wrote about him at the


weekend. I know they don't want to hear it, it is like being in an


aeroplane. The pilot doesn't know how to land it. We can either do


something about it or sit back, watch the inflight movies and wait


for the inevitable." I couldn't have put it better myself about this


Prime Minister. The reality is this - day in, day out, what people


see... Just calm down. Just calm down. Day in, day, the crimson tide


is back. What people see is prices rising, wages falling, while the


Prime Minister tells them they are better off. Hes claims the economy


is healing, but for ordinary families, life is getting harder.


They are worse under the Tories. Only someone who wants to talk down


our economy could pick a day like today. More people in work.


Unemployment down. Youth unemployment down. The claimant


count down, not one word of respect for that good agenda on jobs. Now,


he talks about aeroplanes, he talks about aeroplanes, the former Home


Secretary, never mind getting on aeroplanes, this is what he said


about the right honourable gentleman's leadership. He said


this. "We are going nowhere. He hasn't got on the aeroplane because


he hasn't got a clue. Last December, the whole lot


Shropshire welcomed the Government support for a new direct rail link


from Shropshire to London. However, this week, network rail have blocked


virgin's bid. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that Network


Rail should not get in the way of Shropshire people and economic


progress. We want to see more direct links like the one who speaks and


more direct links to Lancashire and Blackpool. One of the issues the


rail network is battling with is a short bus of capacity and that will


bring more capacity to make more of these direct links possible and I


was discussing this with the transport secretary yesterday and we


should make progress. Last week, the Prime Minister could not confirm


that taxpayers would not subsidised foreign buyers property in the UK.


Perhaps he could instead clarify whether his help to buy scheme will


see taxpayers help fund purchases of second homes on holiday cottages?


Let me try and give the honourable lady some satisfaction. First of


all, this scheme is for people's only home, it will have a mechanism


in place to make sure that is the case. The second thing is, of


course, which is important, is that in order to take part in this


scheme, you have to have a As a former pensions manager, I was proud


that this Government announce... THE SPEAKER: This is very


discourteous, let's see what the honourable gentleman has to say.


Thank you Mister Speaker. As a former pensions minister, I was very


proud when this Government introduced a triple lock on the


state pension which increased by �234 in its first year to every


pensioner in the land. Does the Prime Minister share my concern that


under the shadow Chancellor's plans to cut or cap pensions, all of our


pensioners will lose that increase and their standard of living will


fall sharply? I think my honourable friend is absolutely right. What we


have done under this Government is but a cap on welfare that families


can receive but have been as generous as we can with pensioners


who have worked hard during their lives and want to have dignity and


security in old age, that is why we have the triple lock. And because we


now know that the party opposite want to cut the pension, because


they are putting a cap on pensions but not welfare, just this morning,


the shadow Foreign Secretary was on television this morning challenged


about the triple lock and said it was their policy at present. At


present. Given all of the U-turns we have had in the last week from the


party opposite, I don't think that will last a very long. Wilbur Prime


Minister congratulate Bolton Wanderers football club for doing


the right thing by rejecting sponsorship from a payday loan firm?


And will he also joining and do the right thing --join in and do the


right thing and give local authorities the power to ban these


predatory loan sharks from our high streets? I hear absolutely what he


says and I wish Bolton Wanderers well for their future. What I would


say we need to do is give more support to credit unions in this


country and that is one of the best ways of addressing this whole


problem of payday loans and payday lending. I also hope he will welcome


the fact that over the last year, unemployment has fallen fastest in


the north-west of our country. is National carers week, Wilbur


Prime Minister join me in paying tribute -- Wilbur Prime Minister


join the... THE SPEAKER: Order. If the session


has to be extended to accommodate the rights of members, it will be


extended. Thank you, Mister Speaker. Wilbur


Prime Minister join me in paying tribute to the huge commitment that


carers make day in day out for caring for frail family members,


friends and partners, often without financial assessment and sign up to


the recommendations of Prepared To Care? I think the honourable member


speaks for the whole house and the whole country in embracing


Britain's carers, they did an amazing job and if they stopped, the


cost to the taxpayer would be phenomenal, so we should do what we


can to support our carers and make sure they get the proper respite


breaks they need to carry on doing the wonderful work they do. Why have


the numbers of supply teachers in secondary schools in the last year


increased by a staggering 17%? not have the figures for that, but


what I would say is that we have protected the amount of money that


goes into schools per pupil so that schools do have the money to employ


the teachers they need. Since 2010, unemployment and Brentford and I of


work has fallen by 6.9%. And youth unemployment has fallen by 19%. Does


this not show that our economic plan is working? I think the honourable


lady is absolutely right. We see today a growth in employment, a fall


in youth unemployment and most importantly, yes, we are losing jobs


in the public sector, because we had to make cuts to the public sector,


but while we lost over 100,000 jobs in the last year, we have gained


five times as many as that in the private sector. The shadow


Chancellor as ever wants to give a running commentary. Let me just


remind the House what he said, because I think this is one of the


most important quotations in the last ten years of British politics.


Quote-macro do I think the last Labour Government was profligate and


spent too much? No, I don't think there is any evidence about". That


phrase will be hung around his neck forever. 500 homes in my


constituency were flooded in November. Residents in my


constituency are terrified that their homes and businesses are now


worthless because this Government has failed to replace the flood


insurance scheme. It is also cutting over �200 million from flood defence


works. Why is this Prime Minister selling my constituency down the


river? I can give the honourable gentleman some welcome news, which


is we had to extend the period of the scheme so we could continue


negotiations, but I am confident that we will put in place a proper


successor to that scheme and an announcement will be made quite


soon. The company in my constituency made lava lamps and have been making


them for 50 years and make very large exports to Germany. They have


run into a problem with a reclassification of the product and


I wonder if I could send all of the information to the Prime Minister


and end list his support for this very innovative company operating so


well within our country? I am very happy to receive the information


from my honourable friend. It is important that we get British


exports up. If we move from one in five of our small businesses to one


in four exporter, that will wipe out the trade deficit. The accident and


emergency at Ealing Hospital is one of four he is closing in north-west


London, so I welcome the Health Secretary's review, but with waiting


times at a nine-year high, ambulances being diverted and the


risk of death, will he acknowledged that these closures are not a


serious option if the NHS is safe in his hands? The point I would make,


as he knows, the Health Secretary has asked the IRP to submit a full


review of the proposals. Whatever decision is reached, these proposals


are not due to a lack of central Government funding, because


north-west London will receive �3.6 billion this year, that is �100


million more than a year before, and if we had listened to the Labour


Party, who said that more NHS spending was irresponsible, then his


hospitals will be having �100 million less. Will the the Prime


Minister join me in congratulating the China Britain business Council


and its inspirational vice-chairmen for organising a seminar which more


than 60 businesses in Watford attended last Friday about exporting


to China? I think they should be congratulated on this initiative.


am very happy to extend my praises to the business Council. If we look


at the evidence over the last few years, there is a significant


increase of British exports to China and a big increase of Chinese direct


investment into the UK, and all of this is welcome and we need to see


it grow even further. Will the Prime Minister confirm that he understands


the importance of the creative industries to the economy of this


country, and that they need to be buttressed by adequate intellectual


property rights? Is he also aware that his intellectual property


minister, that tourney handed sons of toil the fifth Viscount Younger


of Leckie recently said in relation to Google, " I am very aware of


their power, I am also very aware that they have access for whatever


reason to higher levels at Number Ten than do I". Isn't that a


disgraceful comment? THE SPEAKER: Order! Order! The


honourable gentleman's question, which refers to a distinguished


constituent of mine suffered from the disadvantage of being too long.


The Prime Minister. First of all, I agree that the creative industries


are very important for Britain's future. If we take the music


industry, it has had a record year in terms of sales. One in every four


album sold in Europe is made in the UK, and it is something we can be


very proud of. We do have to get the intellectual property regime right,


that is why we are legislating and we have taken action to extend the


life of copyright protection to 75 years, which has been welcomed


across the industry and I simply don't accept what he says about my


ministers. Indeed, the minister most responsible for this is the


honourable member for Wantage, whose father was a noble by Harold Wilson.


So that doesn't fit. Will the Prime Minister join me in praising the


hard work of the honourable member for South Holland and the deep


things -- the things for ensuring that the kind of decisions taken at


local level concerning wind turbines remain local. However, many of my


constituents in south-east Cornwall are becoming increasingly concerned


that our green fields are becoming solar fields. Should decisions


regarding solar fields be subjected to the same planning laws as wind


turbines? First of all, I join her in praising the excellent work done


by The Right Honourable member, carried on by the Minister, The


Right Honourable member for Sevenoaks, they have done a good job


of bringing some sanity on the issue of onshore wind. On solar panels,


this Government did substantially reduce the feed-in tariffs to make


sure that this industry was not over subsidised, because all of these


subsidies end up you will's bills. Glenfield Hospital has the second


best survival rates for children's heart surgery in the country. Will


the Prime Minister ensure that the quality of care, including survival


rates, which is what matters most to parents, is central to any decision


about the future of these services? I think the honourable lady is


absolutely right. The Health Secretary will make an announcement


shortly about the issues safe and secure, children's heart operations.


We have to be frank that we cannot expect really technical surgery like


children's heart operations to be carried out at every hospital in the


country. As the parent of a desperately ill child wanting to get


the best care for that child, you need to know you're getting


something that is the world best for technical operations. You cannot get


that everywhere but clearly the conclusion that this process,


started in 2008, hasn't been carried out properly, so we need to make a


restart. Is the Prime Minister aware that last year, Britain became an


exporter of cars for the first time since 1976. If this trend continues,


the UK will produce an all-time record of 20 million cars by 2017.


Isn't this an example of a high value upscaling and putting the


great back into British manufacturing and exports?


honourable friend is absolutely right, this is a good example of a


British industry that is succeeding. If you look at Honda, Nissan and


Jaguar Land Rover, there is really good news in the automotive sector.


What we now need to do is make sure we get behind that sector and


encourage them to have as much as their supply chain onshore as


possible. That is beginning to happen and I'm hoping the progress


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 47 seconds


change? After all of the talk of the last few weeks, the iron discipline


we were going to hear about, the welfare cap they were telling us


about, test one, failure. avoidance is rightly at the heart of


the G8 agenda, could my right honourable friend tell the House


what advice he might have received on this issue from either the leader


of the Labour Party or the international lobbying shadow


Chancellor? It is this Government that is putting aggressive tax


avoidance at the heart of the G8 agenda and what do we hear this week


from the Labour Party? They give tax avoidance advice to their donors.


That is what they have been doing. �700,000 of tax avoided because of


what Labour advised their donor to do. He asked me to calm down and


frankly I cannot, because this is money that ought to be going into


the health service, into education, it ought to be going into training


young people, so let me challenge him. Will you give the money back?


Yes or no? Will you give... It is very simple. This is what the Labour


leader said. In the Guardian, so it must be true. The 2nd of April. "


tax avoidance is a terrible thing. He said that if everybody approaches


their tax affairs as some of these companies have approached their tax


affairs, we would not have health service. We would not have an


education system. That is the shameful state of the Labour Party


today. This week is parents week, but the Prime Minister show support


for the 7 million unpaid carers across the country and invest one


billion from last year's underspend into social care, as we have placed


we will do, so averting the Government made prices in a Andee


and social care? We could start with the money from Labour's tax


avoiding. That is money that should be going into the care system and


into the National Health Service. This Government has put 12 points �7


billion extra into our NHS. That is how we are supporting carers and


hospitals -- club one 7 billion. She can have a word with her leader.


we approach the 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster, will the


Prime Minister join with me in recognising the challenges we face


in continuing to bring oil and gas ashore from the North Sea, the


skills and dedication of those who do it, and the paramount importance


of safety in ensuring we can continue to exploit these


resources? I certainly join my honourable friend in praising the


North Sea oil and gas industry. It is a real jewel in the crown of the


United Kingdom economy. I think what is encouraging is that this year, we


are seeing a growth in production as a number of new fields and projects


come on stream, but he is absolutely right to say that at all times,


safety and security are absolutely and on and on.


Then Ed Miliband went on living standards and the fact they are


still being squeezed. We have discussed that too. Ireland not sure


what we are going to -- I am not sure what we are going to do for the


next 25 minutes. The e-mails were on those subjects. On Syria, all three


party leaders need to avoid unnecessary procast nation on Syria,


the hottest place is in hell are reserved for those who in times of


great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.


This is from James. " We heard we would not interfere in Syria. Please


do not arm these people. It will make things worse. Do we never


learn?" Ian White Whitely, "The first clash was statesmanlike and


the second clash was more like it. The flash of temper from David


Cameron showed him under pressure on the xwhe. Xh Ed Miliband recovered


from last week's disaster and won. There were no answers from David


Cameron." Ed Miliband, this is from Helen Manning, "Ed Miliband would


rather talk about Syria today, Ed Balls' faux pas at the weekend about


pensions being capped. Even Ed Balls couldn't believe what his lips were


saying by the look on his face." That's according to Helen. This is


from Alan, item I am and sick and tired of hearing Conservative


politicians making up that pensioners are hard workers and


people receiving benefits are getting something fromming in --


something for nothing. I worked hard as a children 's nurse until I


became ill and I paid into the pot too." Le, the Prime Minister was


watching the programme or at least one of his people were. The Prime


Minister said, " We know the party opposite want to cut the pension."


Douglas Alexander was on TV there are morning. That would be the Daily


Politics! Challenged about the triple-lock, that would be me, he


said, it was... Shall we go?He said the triple-lock was their policy at


present. This is a the Prime Minister, quoting you saying at


presentmed. Given all the U-turns we have had said the Prime Minister in


the past week from the party opposite, I don't think at present


it will last long. He is just trying to make mischief. The Prime Minister


might have cate better served preparing his answers on Syria.


Why did you say at present? Because you were implying the position has


changed or was going to change and I was saying clearly our position


remains the same. I challenged to you could reconcile


having a cap on pensions spending and support for the triple-lock?


is possible that you can set out specific policies in relation to


pensions while recognising that you need over a longer time to have a


fiscal framework thatting you can defend, explain and that keeps the


public finances in order. But when you say the triple-lock is


your policy at present, does that mean it could change? Well, it


remains our policy. I believe it will remain our policy, but I'm not


going to write a manifesto this morning, you wouldn't expect me to.


We are committed to providing the same level of support that we have


on many areas and we want to do that within that fiscal framework.


It is the conversation that no one in politics wanted to happen for


years. The driver of welfare costs in Britain are pensions. Pensioners


don't want to hear it. People are the writing the e-mails as I speak


telling me they paid all their lives, the thing that is


unaffordable is the cost of old people. No one wants to talk about


it, but it is true. There is more and more of them. The cost is going


up. The triple-lock is costing them much, much money than they budgeted


for. That's the lock that said that he pensions would rise either


inflangs or 2. 5%. Remember the argument that Gordon Brown was


locked in this argument with Barbara Castle and she was a fighter for


pensioners rights whether the link that Margaret Thatcher broke between


pensions and earnings should be restored. The coalition decided to


go one step further, not just restoring the link with earnings.


The problem they have got that they don't like talking about because it


deep deeply -- it is deeply, deeply unpopular, this does look


unaffordable. With the size of the population, the growing size of the


elderly population. Michael Howard, what do you make of


Douglas Alexander's formulation? The formulation of triple-lock at


present? I don't think Nick is right in saying that no one wanted to talk


xw this ard or do anything about. What the Government has done is


raise the retirement age and that's an important element of this


problem. And Mr Miliband mentioned that


Labour would have to continue to look at this? The IFS produced


figures today, the number of pensioners who are working. The


number of people over 60. Four million people over 65 are


working or have come back into work which is a record number? As I am a


pensioner pensioner! I am still working. I disclose my interests...


You are doing all these young people out of a job. Touch wood, stay


vigorous in their 60s and 70s, it is a good thing. I think that's an


important element and that's the Government doing something right.


had a policy statement from the Prime Minister on the help to buy


homes, but he has been criticised that it could be used to buy second


homes or frorners to use it to buy homes. The Prime Minister said the


scheme is for people's only home which I rather complicated, but he


must mean that you can only have one home, you can't use it it for a


second one. To take part in the scheme you have to have a credit


record and a credit record in this country which I guess he is counting


out people from abroad coming here to do this? When the Chancellor


announced this in his Budget, the potential of a subsidy to people's


mortgages up to purchases of �650,000. He was asked by Ed Balls,


the Shadow Chancellor, "Are you going to use this to subsidise


second homes?" You could see people's eyes lighting up and George


Osborne hadn't got an even and week after week in Prime Minister's


Questions David Cameron has not had an answer. They have used this


formula of only home. I have been tweeting George Osborne's spokesman


who seems to imply that have you had two homes you couldn't apply for it,


not just buy a second home, you couldn't use it to apply for a new


first home. You would be ruled out if there are two home-owners or a


three or four home-owners, you couldn't apply for this or indeed


somebody from a... The devil will be in the detail.


Why is it taking a it so long? devil is in the detail. How do you


prove whether someone has one or two homes? Last week at Prime Minister's


Questions, the formulation was it is a statement that's going to come


from George Osborne and I think they realised they the didn't want to go


through another week with the Prime Minister looking as if he didn't


understand what is a key part of the Government's agenda.


significance of this, Andrew, there are some economists now referring to


the possibility of a housing back to boom like the boom in the 80s or the


Barber boom by were intib rattly I think neared booms ahead of general


elections. The The reason this is controversial


is not simply whether money might be given to people who don't need it,


but whether money is being used to artificially engineer a boom. Of


will follow up on this, but it sounds like he hasn't answered the


questions on this. Well, are until you know how it works. It maybe the


intention. I mean what was interesting, when words are used


that are words that you wouldn't normally use because some civil


servant... Like only home.I keep hearing the word "intention". It is


the intention Or at present. LAUGHTER


Sorry! At present we are going to have to move on! Nick, thank you


very much. Jo. We are heading to Dover, sadly


not or a booze cruise, but Europe is on the mind of councillor Suzanne he


Evans who defected from the Conservatives to UKIP. Here is her


take on why Britain needs to say p A place that needs no introduction,


a symbol of British independence and freedom. I'm at the lighthouse in


Dover just 21 miles from France and Europe. For centuries, the English


Channel defended us against invasion in the threat and of control by


major powers in Europe, but today, politics has rendered it all but


irrelevant. I find it appalling that we give �55 million to Europe every


day more than we get back. Here in our own country, 2. 5 million of us


are unemployed. Hundreds of thousands of us are relying on


foodbanks to survive. And we are still �900 billion in debt. That


money should be spent sorting out money should be spent sorting out


money should be spent sorting out our own problems. But it is not just


the money, it is the interference. I sometimes think there must be a


group of bureaucrats thinking, " What can we do to screw up people's


lives today?" Often their schemes are laughable, but when they


threatened to take us to court because we insist that EU migrants


should prove they live in Britain before they can claim benefits then


it goes beyond a joke. We have given away too much power. Yes, a


referendum it promised by the Tories in four years time and only then if


we vote them in as a majority Government in 2015 and talk of


trying to repatriate powers is just that. Existing treaties make this


impossible. I think we are better off out of Europe and that's why I


have joined UKIP. The inability of the Conservative Party leadership to


connect with issues on the doorstep just made the decision all that


easier. I know there are plenty of other people voters and politicians,


who are sick of the Lib/Lab Con and they are ready to make a similar


journey. Suzanne is with us, who else in your


old party is greater Falla? Councillor Rod Scott has resigned


from the party and has announced he is joining UKIP. Any others? Not so


far, but I live in hope. Why have you left the party that is in power


and can actually make a difference and job to a fringe party that


hasn't got a single MP and is probably never going to be in power?


I don't think the current Government, the Conservative party,


has the will to make a difference. A referendum in four years' time,


2017, if David Cameron really wanted to get out of Europe, he would put


the legislation on the table now, whether he thought he was going to


win or not. The truth is, he's not interested and want us to stay in.


Michael Howard, are you sad to see people like Suzanne leave the


Conservative party? I am sad to see anyone leave the Conservative party.


I agree that the way in which the EU works at the moment is


unsatisfactory in many respects. you agree that the Conservative


party no longer has the will to make a difference? Of course I don't,


David Cameron has indicated clearly a determination to change the way we


trade with Europe to make it a better European Union not only for


us, but for every other member states of the European Union. And I


think he should be given the opportunity to try and negotiate


that. And in 2017, we can all make up our own minds as to whether we


want to stay in or not. I think the question is how realistic is it


going to be to renegotiate those treaties? We will all have the


opportunity to make a judgement of whether he has succeeded or not. I


don't know how we will vote. If we haven't made some significant


changes, I may well vote no. But I think it is reasonable for the Prime


Minister to be given the opportunity to see whether he can make those


changes and we are the only party that is promising to give the


British people a say on this issue. But the gamble hasn't worked has it?


That promise has been made and UKIP has done better than at any other


time in recent election results. all know that at this stage in


parliament, parties like UKIP do very well for all sorts of different


reasons. If the Liberal Democrats went in Government, they would be


hoovering up by-election after by-election. That is the way our


politics works in the mid-term. I think when it comes to the general


election, and we do conservatives will be able to say very clearly,


vote us back, we will do our best to renegotiate and you will then decide


in 2017 whether on those terms you want to stay in or leave. I think


that is a compelling argument. even, in your own backyard if you


like, the county council elections in Folkestone and hide, there were


three UKIP gains and one Green game. What should you do? How would you


woo back Suzanne? The one thing I would like to see is a legislated


commitment to holding that referendum. I would very much like


to see the Private members Bill, which is going to have its second


reading next month, on the statute book. Because you don't believe it


will happen without it? I believe it will happen without it but I am


aware there are a number of people who are sceptical about that and do


not trust what politicians say, and I think it would be a very good


thing indeed if that commitment is on the statute book before the


general election. Would that make a difference question mark now, if you


want to woo me back, and that is unlikely, you would have to get it


through now. Let's have it on the same day as the General Election.


Douglas Alexander, is Labour going to offer the British people and


in-out referendum at the next General Election? We are not


convinced that it is in the national interest, so we have taken the


position we have taken. Can you rule it out question mark can you rule


out for us here, bearing in mind -- can you rule it out? It is never


wise to say never. We will never rule out the possibility of a


referendum in the future, dependent on changes we have not yet seen and


circumstances that we don't at present envisaged. We are on the


other hand clear that the sovereignty act on the table at the


moment, part of the statue, which allows for a referendum if there is


a significant transfer of sovereignty, so it is not in


principle an objection to referendum but the priority has to be economic


recovery and the biggest issue of the General Election is going to be


the economy. You are not united on this. I have had several Labour


senior figures say we need a referendum. Of course there are some


in the party's ranks who have supported a referendum but I would


argue that even they overwhelmingly see a referendum as a mechanism of


securing fresh consent for British membership. It is not, as we have


seen a game from Michael's comments, because our party split as well,


Michael says he would vote against, Philip Hammond says he would vote


against, Michael Gove said he would vote against, the Prime Minister


cannot tell us how he would vote. And I am not that surprised that


Suzanne and many other former Conservative colleagues are deeply


unconvinced that the strategy the Tories are choosing to pursue.


Red-faced, puffing politicians, they were out in force last night. Some


of them were dragging their colleagues to the left, others


desperately pulling to the right. What is new, I hear you cry? This


time, it was the annual Charity tug of war. Giles Dilnot grabbed the end


of a rope and he joined in. Westminster is traditionally fall of


�1 ceremony, it is not short of a few people blowing their own trumpet


too, but this event is neither of these things -- full of pomp and


ceremony. The annual Parliamentary tug of war pits teams of the fit and


healthy, or the unfit and foolhardy in my case, in one of life's less


dignified sporting endeavours. My back might never recover, but let's


see how this goes. In short, not very well. We lost


2-1, but nobody was really there to watch us.


Here is the contest they have been waiting for, your elected


representatives against unelected representatives of the Lords. MPs,


cross-party, all pulling together. And now they go. As in Parliament,


the upper chamber has less power than the Commons and first blood


went a bit predictably to the MPs, but second round and suddenly their


Lordships showing the strain fought back.


Not for many a year have the Lords actually won any of the tug of wars


they have done. This could be important, they actually won one. It


is 1-1. But despite a titanic effort from certain peers, it was


eventually the MPs that one, although the mean were gracious in


defeat. We were waiting for the final Paul and suddenly it was over.


We came a close second. There is a cover for winners to drink to the


only occasion where it is OK for politicians to pull a few strings


for money. We are joined now by people who were


both there last night. Just tell the nation, what was the result last


night? Alex? It was 2-1 to the House of Commons. In previous years, it


has been 2-0, so things have slipped. You looked as though you


were praying to the heavens for strength, it didn't work. We were


trying every technique and the best is to look straight up into the sky


but we were slightly disadvantaged, because the Commons weighed in at


one time, and we weighed in 130 kilograms less. A tonne?But all is


fair in love and tug of war. Commons team weighed a tonne, that


is what subsidised dining does for you. They are normally the


lightweights. Once again bringing wait to reduce politics. But most


importantly, we raised almost �150,000 for Macmillan cancer.


everybody thinks is a great cause. Did the Commons team actually


intentionally put weight on for this? Actually, the team captain's


face dropped to the ground when he found out I have lost weight since


last year but he still put me in as the anchorman, but he wasn't happy.


What training did you do for this great event? A few pints and a pie.


That is tough. They even put beer into the trophy and they were very


gracious in allowing us to share it with them. Was it your beer?It was


COBRA. Andrew, you can take part next year.


I have been there and I have been one of those shouting. They have


teams of cheerleaders. Alex, what do you put your unusual victory down


to? Grit and determination. That can't be true. Either that or the


Cobra beer. Another plug for the Cobra beer. Is


this the first time you to have taken part? No, I have been in


Parliament for seven years and have taken part every year and we did win


one year, I can remember that. let you down? No one lets us down,


this is a simulation of what happens between the houses in real life,


when we defeat the Government in the House of Lords, it goes back to the


House of Commons and it comes back to us and we send it back again.


we always win. Very diplomatic. You don't always


win, it was unusual. We were to let you go, you need to get in training


for next year. That we better.


More pints and pies. Now to put you out of your misery with the answer


to Guess The Year. The answer was 1967. Douglas, if you press the red


button. And look behind. There you go, Philip Thomson. From a beautiful


part of the world. That is it for today, thank you to all of our


guests. The news is starting over on BBC One, I will be back tomorrow at


noon with all of the big political stories of the day. Where will you


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