Andrew Neil with the latest political news, interviews and debate including the government's announcement of infrastructure spending.
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Morning folks and welcome to the Daily Politics. We only have half an
hour. I will have to speak quickly! After the gloom of cuts, the
"excitement" of rebuilding Britain. As I speak the Shadow Chief
Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, is outlining to the
Commons the Government's plans to overhaul our transport and energy
infrastructure. The shopping list comes to �100 billion, but remember
it's not new money. Yesterday's Spending Review included plans for a
cap on the Welfare Bill, and new rules for people claiming
unemployment benefits. We'll be looking at how it's gone down. And
who goes down well with you? George or Ed? Adam's been out with his
moodbox. All that in the next half hour and with us for the whole
programme today are Conservative Nadhim Zahawi, Labour's Cathy
Jamieson, and Susan Kramer for the Liberal Democrats. Welcome. Now
first this morning, good and bad news. Revised figures from the
Office of National Statistics show that the double-dip recession at the
end of 2011 and the beginning of last year never actually happened!
But the ONS revealed that the initial recession following the
financial crisis was actually far worse than originally feared. So,
Cathy Jamieson, it turns out that there was no double-dip, unlike what
Labour claimed. It turns out that there was no triple-dip, unlike
Labour predicted, but it turns out that the economy tanked worse than
2008 and 2009, whether I think that your party was in power? Well, a
revision up, is to be considered good news.
Of course, it is a technical revision. I don't think that anyone
looking at the figures would really say that living standards have
improved over the period that this Government has been in office.
I will come to that, but it turns out that there was not a double-dip
and we lost 7% of our economy. We lost more under Mr Brown than we
lost in the great depression? we have to look at what this
Government has done. Deal with that bit? It is not good
news that the recession was worse. It makes it harder to come back.
No doubt. That is why this Government must take responsibility
for what has gone on in their watch. But, it was under you that the
economy tanked? But what has happened since, the economy has not
grown. The 6% growth that the Government promised has not taken
place. The Government's forecast has been
useless. You would be better asking Miss tick Meg, but the economy
tanked by 7.3%. More than after the great crash in '29. Maybe you should
be more forgiving of the Tories' fail to get it right as the hole was
much deeper than we thought? We had a global financial crisis at the
time. We understand that. We cannot get away from the fact that under
this Government growth has not been as they promised.
I will come to that in a minute, but will you now file double-dip and
triple-dip under the boom and bust, the no more boom and bust file as
phrases not to be used by Labour? are still using flatlining economy.
The economy is marginally growing. It is not growing in the way that
the Government promised it would. We discovered as well, that living
standards are still being squeezed by an incredible amount. Living
standards are down, your disposable income, I should call it. They are
down 1. 7%. The biggest fall since the crash in 1987. That is an
appalling record? It is tough it would be silly to do what Kathy has
done, to deny the facts. The correct problem that they have, Ed Balls
claiming that they had nothing to do with the crash. Now we find that
they this everything to do with it. I ask Cathy Jamieson about Labour,
she talks about you. I ask you about the Tories, you talk about her.
You are residing over the big biggest collapse in disposable
income since 1987? You are right it is tough on disposable incomes. That
is why we reversed Labour's hike in fuel prices. 13 pence off a litre of
petrol. It is still down 1. 7! ? We have
taken 23 million people out of tax. Paying less tax. Paying zero on the
first �10,000. We are trying hard in tough times to ensure that the
budget and the Spending Review are progressive and they are fair.
The point is, Susan Kramer, having done all of that, the incomes are
down 1. 7% and as long as people's wages are not keeping pace with the
prices, they are tightening belts, there can be no real recovery?
think that people and companies must take credit. They have chosen to
keep jobs and accept lower wage rises, despite the fact that there
has been inflation, thanks to the rising commodity prices.
Shall we shove that in as well, that was under your coalition? It is part
of filling in the hole that falls on well to do people far more than
anyone else. That is important in sharing the burden, but what has
been crucial, is that people must get credit for how they responded,
frankly, to the period and the tough times that Labour left us with, but
we are seeing life in the economy. What good thing that is happening,
the correction of the double-dip, it will help to boost confidence. That
is what we need. We have a lot of small and medium-sized companies
ready to grow. That will move forward, as will help with the
infrastructure announcements today. I don't know anyone who has money.
Nor can they get none from the banks, but the taily quiz.
In the Sun, George Osborne's blunder. He tweeted a photograph of
him eating a posh burger from the Byron chain of restaurants.
Despairing this country, posh burgers, who cares? Apparently it
cost nearly �106789 including the chip it is goes to show how out of
touch he is. Our question is in the photo, what fizzy drunk does George
Osborne have to wash down the plutocratic burger? Was it Irn Bru?
Diet Coke? Tango? Or elderflower. At the end of the show we may give you
the correct answer. And the men, Ed Balls and George
Osborne are trying not to bump into each other.
This is what George Osborne has said about the Spending Review.
Difficult choices will be made. We have to cut spending. It is
unprecedented for the politicians to say that they will have to cut
budgets. We have said that. We have to cap welfare, control the welfare
costs. With have been straight with the British people, this is not
easy. We are not pretending it is, but that is the economic plan taking
Britain out of rescue, into recovery. We have to deliver that
plan. The alternative, and you can see other countries, where they have
taken the alternative route is one of real economic crisis for our
country. And a few minutes later, Ed Balls
was trying to see if they would wait seven days to wait before claiming
benefits. George Osborne says he can make a
saving on this. He says there is is a three-day delay. If you go from
three to seven days to claim the jobseeker's allowance, you can make
savings. We are looking to see if that can be fair and save money. If
is a blank cheque for the pay day loan companies it is a bad thing. If
it can be done sensible, we will support it.
So, this is the wonninga Budget. Forcing hundreds of thousands of
people who have been made unemployed into borrowing from the sharks?
don't agree with that. In other countries they have a similar policy
of waiting seven days before claiming benefits. Having the CV
ready. Waiting online, having to speak English. This is the right
thing to do it is the right thing to ask people to try hard to find a
job. We have to make sure that the private sector is investing and
creating the jobs but people have to try to get their CV ready, apply
online. These are the right things to do.
Cathy Jamieson? We have to look at the detail of this. The Government's
programmes have a point of unravelling. The work programme and
the figures show that the work programme has failed one in nine
people on that programme. 132,000 people have found work through the
Work Programme. One in ten people not finding work.
You are wasting money. We want to see people in work. That
is why we want a Work Programme guarantee to get people into jobs.
What about forcing people to take English? Well, I think it is fair
that people should be able to understand the language that people
should show that they are looking for employment. We have said that we
will look into the detail. We will be scrutinising that. We supported
the three-day waiting period. We want to scrutinise the detail but we
don't want to drive people into the pay day loan sharks. The money saved
goes into the support and advice for the long-term unemployed that is the
problem. That is where it is difficult.
But hold on, when we interviewed Danny Alexander on the Sunday
Politics, our sister programme, that is out on a Sunday, I think the clue
is in the name, but he reassured us to say that there would be no more
welfare savings in the Spending Review. What do we have? Welfare
savings? I don't like at it that way. This is a swaich for those out
of work. That is from the end where the support is far less vital in
those few days to the point where it is really needed that is to get
detailed individual advice to get people back to work.
But again, some of the most vulnerable are taking the hit from
the cuts. The Chancellor claims that they are taking most from the top
fifth, according to this complicated distribution analysis, that looks to
be true, but what he has not said is that in cash terms you take the
second hardest hit group, that is the poorest fifth! How are we all in
it together when the poorest fifth are second in taking a hit? When you
are trying to deal with a deficit that is �160 billion. It is down by
a third. You have to try to make sure that those most privileged take
the biggest hit and your distribution, rightly, shows that.
It is not mine it is yours! What we have tried to do for the poorest is
the 400,000 troubled families, that is a big increase in resources going
to the families. The affordable homes he announced yesterday. More
money going to that. The social care. �3 billion going into local
authorities for social care, working with the NHS. Those families are the
most vulnerable, they are the ones in need of most. What the coalition
government is doing is focussing the money on those most vulnerable. When
the money is tight, focus it more cleverliy.
The older people should be protected. People retired -- retired
should be protected. You are all terrified of the grey
vote. It brings me to the pension cap.
I have to say, we don't have the old vote.
You are chock a block with it. There is nothing wrong with the old
vote. The average age is 94. Now, what about this welfare cap
which is own on part of welfare. It excludes the state pension but
excludes benefits for pensioners outside of the state pension. When
Ed Balls was on the Sunday politics, he said pensions should be included
in the welfare cap? When we heard the details of what was announced
yesterday, Ed Balls made clear of looking at what the difference is.
We understand the need for the cap on the spend. We want to see the
state pension protected. We have issues in the longer term about
people living longer, the age at which people are able to get their
state pensions but we have said to go back to those better off,
shouldering the burden, is that we would not give the wint -- winter
fuel allowance to the richest pensioners. I cannot speak for the
Conservatives. Now, the boys at the Treasury, I
think that they are boys, they are working hard. After the excitement
of the Spending Review today, Danny Alexander gets his moment in the
spotlight. So what can we expect from his bag of tricks? Well, Danny
Alexander is eting out plans for �100 billion of infrastructure
investment in rail, roads, power stations and affordable homes. This
is not new money but coming from �3 United Nations -- �300 billion
prooel announced. On rail, the Government's flagship programme,
High Speed Two gets an extra �8 billion. Spending �2 million or
maybe �2 million for Crossrail 26789 we have a Crossrail that is about to
open. That goes from West to East London. Now we are looking at one
from North to South. On energy, there are announcements on nuclear
power. Shale gas, renewable energy. More wind farms, mostly off-shore.
After years of funding for roads, a �1 of 6 billion plan to deal with
congestion on the A 14. That goes to be -- that goes to Felixstowe, but
don't hold your breath. The projects don't appear. In the world of
planning laws, the first High Speed Two trains are not due to run until
2026. Nuclear power stations are still in the negotiating phase. They
have not concluded a deal with the French contractor and ministers have
been making promises on road projects for three years. Here is
what the Chief Secretary to the Treasury had to say in the Commons.
Moving from repair to renewables, we have to invest in the fabric of our
nation. We have chosen to find savings from day-to-day budgets that
allows us to recycle billions. We can guarantee �300 billion of
capital spending by the end of the decade. Today, I can set out our
plans for over �100 billion of this for the infrastructure of our
country. The biggest public housing programme for over 20 years. The
largest programme of rail investment since Victorian times. The greatest
investment in our roads since the 1970s. Fast online access for the
whole country. Unlocking massive investments in cleaner energy to
power our economy forwards. All at a price we can afford to pay without
adding a single pound to our borrowing forecast. Not a penny of
this is new. It is basically growth expenditure, which is not really the
proper measure - is flat at �50 billion. That's it. It is still a
big number, �50 billion and it will allow us to do two things. One, make
sure that we get the programme we need to get. Make sure we continue
we electrification. We have done 300 miles. . We need to do more. Make
sure we get the certainty into the energy sector, which has been drying
out for that, so to -- crying out for that, so to make those
investments in new energy and other. This is what is being set out.
give the impression. Both Mr Alexander and the Chancellor gave
the impression this - you have listened to the people and suddenly
there is a huge treasure chest of public investment that is now being
unveiled. I look at the figures and the public investment in 2011/12,
which we can count as the first full Year of the Coalition was �50
billion N 2015-16 it will be �507 billion. In 2017/18, it will be �52
billion. In 2010/11 it was �28 billion. Overall it has actually
gone done. You are right. It has gone down. It is more than what
Labour would have spent by �3 billion in each of the years we've
had. We need to make sure we have laser-like focus. It was fairness,
growth and this is all about growth. It is that laser-like focus. He's
brought in the man who has delivered the Olympics to deliver this
infrastructure project. The proof oh the pudding is in the eating. Two
weeks ago I opened a new park, railway station in
Stratford-upon-Avon. Why - was the Queen not available? We got a royal
visit this week, Andrew. We have a fantastic park way station just
opened. I am opening a new wing to one of my schools this weekend.
have a busy life! What has been the big difference is
the whole organisation of how we deliver infrastructure. What we have
got is a steady rolling programme which is starting to deliver. So a
lot of these projects are in process. We know when they will
start to go into the ground. projects in 2010 - how many of these
have been completed? That is a relatively few. Seven. That is the
point, Andrew. The whole pattern historically has been a set of
announcements. There's nothing - no planning underway. It takes three
years to get these projects up and into a rolling pattern.
You never told us that at the time! You didn't ask me. I spent my life
financing infrastructure. We have membering nips -- mechanisms which
can deliver this... You have brought that point. It is what we need
and... Are you going to add to these figures? Well, let's see what the
rollout of this is going to be. The point that was made is over 500
projects announced, seven have come to fruit weighs. We have made that
point. The question is not about them. The question was about you. It
is roughly... Sorry to interrupt. It is good to get an answer to this. It
is �50 billion a year capital investment for as far as the eye can
see. That is roughly the figure. would have like to have seen more
happening now rather than it being 2015 and beyond. You would have had
�60 billion this year? We are not the Government: They have to be
responsible for what they do. We would have said we would have liked
to have seen more input, particularly around social housing,
affordable housing at this point in time rather than putting things off
until after the next election. can you talk about a big increase in
affordable housing when you have just slashed the community's
department budget, including its capital budget? 36% cut.
affordable housing... You have a general cut in the communities
budget, and then you have money coming in around specific
programmes. One of those is affordable housing. In fact, the net
cut for that department is in fact 2.3%, not the headline number that
After yesterday who comes out smelling of roses? Is it Mr Osborne
or Mr Balls? We sented a dom on to the street -- we sent Adam on to the
streets of London. We are starting here at Whitehall. They've had a 50%
cut in their budget. Who do people trust - is it George Osborne or
Balls? Let's find out? Balls. Especially coming from Birmingham.
We are moving forward really. We need to move forward with the Labour
Government. Ed Balls is a great person. Do you want to be a Labour
MP? I would like to.I did get a sense of that. Why Osborne? Pardon?
I'm not too impressed with Balls. I'm a Kiwi, I don't know. How is the
New Zealand economy doing? Do you have such a high tech campaign?
Do you think they should have cut more in this spending round rather
than the �11.5 billion. Not my bus pass, because I will feel very
strongly about that! Sgld who gets your vote on the
economy? Ed Balls definite gets my vote. He is the best asset the
Conservative Party has other than the Prime Minister. Slightly too
many tourists here. I have come to the Foreign Office they have had a
big cut to their budget: It was not that big to start with. Let's find
out what people think around here. You are a friend of the programme.
Some friend he is! She's for Osborne and I'm for Balls.
Osborne or Balls? This is brilliant - 50 votes in one go. Let's go to a
department that is getting a massive increase in its budget - foreign
aid. Oh, my goodness!
How would Balls ruin everything? don't think he has economic clout.
He has not learnt good house keeping yet!
I think our final stop will be charring cross station because it
has an infrastructure theme. A bit like this spending round. I don't
like George Osborne, really. Whoa what is wrong with him? -- what is
wrong with him? He seems smarmy. They are trying to cut back, but not
prepared to cut back on international aid, which is a pain
in the neck, I think so. Who do you trust on the economy, Balls or
Osborne? Osborne.Grab a blue one. am not sure I trust the BBC, mind
you! What if you wanted a third option? I don't know.Vince Cable?
Neither of these two. Maybe Vince Cable. Why have you gone for Ed
Balls? I am a socialist. He's the nearest thing we can hope for. He's
not good enough. People dressed as leopards favour Ed Balls. People are
split about 50/50. How conclusive. I was struck by how many said they
don't like either of them! There's our Adam out in Whitehall
with his balls. Cathy Jamieson, given, the last three years cannot
be chopped up as a huge success for the coalition in terms of economic
policy. Maybe coming right now it is not for me to say and we don't know.
Wouldn't you expect Ed Balls to be doing better? I think that did show
that people are split. There are many who will say... We can be
pleased with where we are at the moment. We lost the election. We
knew we had a long way to go. I think we can take comfort from the
fact that a good number of people there did say they trusted Balls
rather than Osborne. We did see some Tory MPs hesitating as to where to
put their votes. Hesitating Tory MPs! Who would have thought that?
Even if the economy comes right by 2015 it is the Conservatives that
will get the credit for it, not the Lib Demes. It is not easy being in
coalition, but we thought that it is really worthwhile. Look at some of
the things that have been spoken of today, like, for example, raising
the tax threshold so people at the bottom are not paying tax in the
same way. Look at the infrastructure. There's a risk you
don't get the credit. You are in politics to do. I hope we get some
credit, but the reality is that you have to stand up when the
opportunity comes. And you need a recovery.
We do. Otherwise... Otherwise you are toast. We will see it healing.
Say green shoots! Go on!
It is still fragile. If you look at where the expenditure has gone. US
training, apprenticeship, science, infrastructure. That will make a
difference. We are strong on the service sector. 80% of our output is
service sector. The real problem for Cathy, by the way, is Miliband is so
weak... I think you should look at your own problems! There is time
before we go to find out the answer to the quiz. What was George Osborne
drinking when he had his Byron burger? He should have had Irn Brew.
You are right. I thought I saw a coffee cup. There was a coughty or
two. The answer was right - it was a Diet Coke. It is the diet part that
fascinates me. OK, that's it for today. Thank you
to our three guests for being good sports as we rattle through
everything. I will be on BBC One, talking about the police and Stephen
Andrew Neil with the latest political news, interviews and debate including the government's announcement of infrastructure spending.