28/11/2013 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon, welcome to the Daily Politics. David Cameron says he will


give you and me a say in our relationship with Europe. In the


meantime he wants to renegotiate our membership and make the EU work


better for Britain, but how is he going to do it? This morning, a


group of MPs have given him a helping hand. They have published a


wish list of powers they would like to see the Prime Minister claw-back?


The Government thinks it can help with your energy bill. We will have


the details. The return of grammar schools, getting tough on


immigration and the futility of tackling inequality. Is this a true


blueprint of a Boris led Britain? We will be measuring up some of the


finest moustaches in Parliament, and removing them, all for a good cause.


He is wasted in politics, he should be on the stage. Anyway, all of that


coming up. With us for the duration, Lady of many talents, politician,


writer, philosopher -- philosopher, dancing queen. It is Ann Widdecombe.


Let's start with energy. The Government has begun looking at ways


to cut the cost of bills. It is struggling to do so after Ed


Miliband came out with his energy price freeze. David Cameron said


recently he wanted to roll back on some of the green levies. They are


added to our energy bills and the Government are trying to find ways


to cut or remove them. Our deputy political editor has some details


about what the ministers are looking at. Thank you for joining us. Only


one more day with that thing under your nose. Tell us what the Prime


Minister is looking at and is likely to do. It is not a done deal yet,


there are different parties, different energy groups and policy.


The framework is now quite clear. The biggest of these green levies,


the so-called eco-scheme which gives three installation to people on low


incomes, they are planning to extend it. Too implemented over a longer


period of time. As a result of that, the cost on the energy company is


about half, that will be quite a large saving, about ?25 off your


average build. The warm homes discount will be taken out of


people's energy bills and put into general taxation. They are looking


at changing regulations that they can somehow reduce the fixed costs


of transmitting energy around the country. The aim is to try and


reduce people's bill by about ?50 annually. The Lib Dems are trying to


see if they can beef up some other green schemes so overall it is


carbon neutral. Is the Government trying to arrange with the energy


companies that if it announces bills can come down by ?50, we will


immediately see that reduction in the next bill? Yes, it is my


understanding that the Government expect on the day they announced


that -- this deal, they expect all the six big energy companies to


publish letters to the Government making clear their intention to cut


their bills. There is a lot of choreography in this and they're


expecting at all to happen at the same time. The political aim of the


Government is to neutralise this as an issue so they have something to


say in the cost of living debate, so that when they move on to say in the


cost of living debate, so that when they move onto the Chancellor's


Autumn statement they can focus I understand it has been indicated to


you, whereas we thought this would be part of the Chancellor's Autumn


statement next Thursday, that it is going to come out before the autumn


statement? That is what they hope to do. We know the Prime Minister is


travelling abroad. We know time is running out ahead of the Autumn


statement. They have not actually agreed this deal yet. There is a


huge amount of technical information and policy they have to get right.


If they can announce it in advance, they will do so. They have a


strategic incentive to do so. Talk about the cost of living before the


statement so on the Autumn statement itself they can stick to the big


message which is, we hope things are getting better but there is more to


do. It paves the way for them to make that kind of argument. Thank


you very much. Is this the way the Government


should be going? Is this an adequate riposte to Ed Miliband's price


freeze? It is certainly a move in the right direction. If you put


green levies on, the cost has to be met. It was always obvious the


consumer would have to meet them. If we finally get rid of the green


fixation in favour of looking at what is sensible and affordable for


individuals, that has got to be a big bonus. There are more green


taxes. The average bill at the moment is around 110 -?120 worth of


green levies. It looks like the Lib Dems are digging their heels in.


What the Conservative part of the coalition has to do is make it clear


to the general public that their bills could be even lower, were it


not for the antics of the junior partners in the coalition. This is a


conservative Prime Minister who promised vote blue, go green. I


think it was a most unnecessary emphasis in view of the economy we


had inherited, in view of the uncertainty around the science of


climate change. If we are taking action now, that is plenty of time


for people to feel the effects of it. If the Lib Dems are stopping us


taking even more action to relieve the strain on households, that is


something we should all know in time for the next election. Something we


all look forward to. The question for today is what have I went to


police spent more than ?13,000 on in an attempt to deter crime? -- Gwent


Police. 2000 specialist tripwires? 2000 and truncheons? Ten portable


mini-cameras worn by local cats? Or are 50 to cut out police officers?


At the end of the show, Ann will give us the correct answer. That is


interesting, isn't it? I think I know. Keep it to yourself. I will, I


might be wrong. W.W.M.D.N, any idea what it stands for? It is, what


would Maggie do now? It seems to be a question increasingly asked by


conservative on questions on Europe, tax and education. Last night the


question was raised by Boris Johnson. In a speech guaranteed to


ruffle feathers in Downing Street, Boris bemoaned the UK's lack of


social mobility and says Maggie would have tackled that by bringing


back grammar schools. Where she here now, I hope she would make wider use


of that most powerful utensil of academic improvement. And that is


academic competition between children themselves. Is that an


unthinkable thing to say? Is it? It is not. I remember sitting in a


meeting of the Tory Shadow on team and listening with disbelief to a


convert -- a conversation where everyone agreed it would be madness


to bring back the grammar schools. I happen to know most of the people in


that room were about to make use, as parents, of some of the most


viciously selective schools in the country. I maybe wrong, but I hope


she would find a way use that device and help children everywhere


overcome their background. Even if I am wrong, I feel she would direct


maternal and terrifying devotion upon Michael Gove and everything he


does. Boris Johnson, never boring. Is he right on grammar schools? Yes,


he is 100% right. In the days when we had grammar schools all over the


country, there was no problem about the number of state school pupils


who got into Oxbridge. Grammar schools used to compete very


successfully. Since the abolition of grammar schools, parents feel, and I


know this because I represented a constituency which had grammar


schools and they used to fight like lions if ever there was a suggestion


that a political party would do away with grammar schools. Parents want


their children to get on, if they cannot afford to buy that, they want


the state to supply the same standard of excellence. Did David


Cameron must calculate the difficulty of bringing his party


with him when he decided not to bring back grammar schools? I think


he understood he was not in tune with the rest of the party. He was


trying to be practical. Of course, he was right that he could not


reinstate grammar schools all over the country. But he should have


said, where a local authority wants to build a new grammar school, we


will go along with that. That was the crucial step he missed. He said


when he became leader that old grammar school policy had been a


chain around our necks. What he wrong? Totally. Grammar schools


allow children from modest backgrounds to be able to get out of


that and get on, if they are able. But there will not be a reversal of


that policy? I do not want David Cameron to blandly say, we will


introduce grammar schools in every town. I want him to say, whether


local authorities want to introduce grammar schools, we will not stand


in their way. Let's have a look at Boris and the motivation for the


speech. Always entertaining, but some of the things he said were


deliberately provocative. Were they just cheap, easy remarks? He is


saying things that a lot of politicians would not dare to say.


Effectively, what he said in that speech was, there are some very


clever people. Most of the population fall in between them and


the very stupid people. And those who are academically challenged,


will not find it as easy to get on as a very bright people. I cannot


see what he said that the rest of us could not have worked out at the age


of about eight or nine. What has he said that is so remarkable? On that


point, that clip we showed where he said he sat around the table with


the Shadow Tory education team where they were solemnly declaring you


could not possibly continue with grammar schools, yet there they were


sending their children to body called viciously selective schools.


Is he right? Yes, but it also happens with Labour cabinets. They


send their children to public schools, they move and send them to


the best schools in the country. If you are Tony Blair, you send them


across London to a chosen school. I do not think there is anything


unique about that particular set of ministers. But it shows a level of


hypocrisy? It shows a level of we liked one thing, but we are going to


do another because it is the best thing for our children. He is right


about Margaret Thatcher, because one of her big initiatives was to


introduce the assisted places scheme meaning children from poorer


backgrounds could go to independent schools. We will leave it there.


David Cameron wants to give you a say on our membership of the


European Union. Not before he has attempted to renegotiate that


membership. What should he be trying to change? This morning a group of


MPs calling themselves the Fresh Start Group have published


the group's plans are set out in what they have called a mandate for


reform. It argues the status quo in Britain's relationship for the EU is


no longer an option. There is backing for the call to limit


benefits for EU migrants. Member states must be able to decide who


can access their welfare. The reach of the EU and its institutions


should be scaled back. Reference in the EE treaties for an ever closer


union should be removed. In one area there is a call for greater


co-operation. There should be a new legal safeguard to inhibit any


measure for a legal safeguard for the single market. Member states


should we gain complete control of social and employment law. The UK


should opt out of all policing and criminal justice rules. The


fisheries policy should be regionalised and control of


territorial waters should be returned to their member states.


There should also be a new red card system to allow national parliaments


to block proposed EU rules. The Prime Minister heads to a summit


today on Eastern European cooperation. He might be hoping for


a bit of that in his renegotiation. Our correspondent is there. Is there


any talk of a reaction to his attempts in his campaign to try and


renegotiate Britain's relationship with the rest of the EU? People are


mostly aware of what was said yesterday, cracking down on welfare


tourism, the idea of having a discussion about the impact of


freedom of movement within the European Union. I have heard a


couple of comments about that. People understand the need to make


sure that people do not abuse the system. What a reappraisal of the


entire philosophical principle of freedom of movement, that will be a


tougher nut to crack. The Prime Minister will raise the issue this


evening. He has to be careful. This is a summit about Eastern Europe and


he does not want to sound like a broken record. He will say that we


support enlargement, a broader rather than deeper European Union,


but within the context of other poorer countries coming in, there


has to be a proper policy to enable people to move between one country


and another. This is not a summit particularly lending itself to what


David Cameron would like to talk about. On the other issues of


renegotiating powers, will you have an opportunity to raise that? I


doubt it will be done in any significant degree, no. This is a


long-term process. He will start to set things out, particularly on the


issue of free movement. He knows this is difficult territory. He is


caught between the minimum that many of his backbenchers would be


prepared to accept, and the maximum that many other people in Europe may


be prepared to offer. It may be a difficult process. It is only just


beginning. This is one of a series of summits. I do not think that this


is the specific time to go into all that detail, because other people


would simply switch off. He has to make a show for his domestic


audience. The leadership make much of Angela Merkel's listening mode.


What about her social Democrat colleagues in coalition? Are they


cooler on the idea? Yes, they are. Angela Merkel clearly wants to help


David Cameron. She does not want Britain to leave the European Union.


If he can -- she can help them, she will do that. If you look across the


spectrum of German politics, most of the main parties are in favour of


the EU. If you said to the average social Democrat in Germany, what


about giving Germany control over social and employment policy? What


about reassessing the entire principle of freedom of movement?


They will say, not on your Nelly. That is a big problem. This new


coalition government in Germany, still led by Angela Merkel, but with


a strong element in it which is more pro-European and less inclined to do


David Cameron a favour. With us now is Andrea Leadsom - one of those


Conservative MPs who leads the Fresh Start Group - and Claude Moraes, a


Labour Member of the European Parliament.


Andrea Leadsom, let me come to you first, let me try to flesh out the


strategy, is it your intention that Britain should renegotiate these


powers for itself, or that all of the members of the European Union


should have these powers repatriated? This mandate is about


making the EU globally competitive. Obviously Britain wants a better


deal. In getting a better deal it creates a better, stronger, more


flexible, more democratically accountable European Union. That is


what all Europeans want. What is the answer to my question? We are not


just trying to get a better deal for Britain. The EU has a crisis of


competitiveness. It is going nowhere. This is about trying to


take leadership, to focus on getting a better deal for the EU. If there


really is not an appetite for repatriation across the EU on this


scale, would it still be Britain's intention to repatriate on this


scale unilaterally? You see, this is not about repatriation. This is


about reform of the EU. Under the headings of global competitiveness,


urging the EU to do more to negotiate free-trade. Your questions


are not the right ones. That may be because you cannot answer them. Not


at all. I'm happy to answer your questions. This is about reform of


the EU on the headings of creating greater global competitiveness, more


flexibility and far greater democratic accountability. It's


repatriating control over social and employment policy, it is opting out


from policing and Criminal Justice Act it is taking back the CAP. They


are all repatriation. It looks like repatriation. The point is that the


EU share of global trade is in steep decline. I know all that. The EU


needs to focus on how it can become globally competitive. Supposing the


rest of the EU doesn't share your analysis. It may agree that it is


becoming less competitive, but it does not think this is the way to go


to make it more competitive, would it be Britain's intention to demand


and take back these powers? We cannot do that unilaterally. That is


what I am trying to find out. The fresh group of spent a lot of time


travelling to Europe. European taxpayers and voters are keen on


reform. What is the answer to my question? Do we proceed unilaterally


if we cannot get a European majority for this, or don't we? The answer is


that we will continue to propose EU reform. And in the event that we get


nowhere, I suspect the people in 2017, will make their decision. What


we cannot do is to remain in the EU. I see your questions are not the


right ones, because we cannot simply unilaterally change all sorts of


things. Let me try one more time. If the European Union generally says


there is no broad appetite to go this far down the repatriation rued


the way Britain wants to go, so do not count us in, will Britain


attempt to repatriate these powers for itself? I'm not saying just walk


out, will be attempts to repatriate these powers? We cannot. We cannot


do it. This is a mandate for the reform of the EU. Not Britain's


relationship with the EU. Would we don't go and say that Britain may


not want to repay your -- and say, you may not want to repatriate these


powers, but we want to? We cannot do that? We can do that. Unless all of


Europe signed up to this, we cannot repatriate. The whole premise is


wrong. This is not take it or leave it. This is several different areas,


looking how to create a more successful European Union. Is Labour


interested in repatriating powers? No, we are interested in reform.


That is very different. This needs unanimity in many areas are majority


in some areas. To be fair to Andrea, some of this document we would agree


with. Some of it we would not agree with. It is a reform document. But


it is not a negotiation in terms of a unilateral negotiation. Reform is


an honest position. What reform is, is that you make your case with the


rest of the members of the European Union. If you go to a referendum you


make the case for Europe. You argue that case with the British public.


You negotiate with your European partners. You do not make a


unilateral case. Pretending to the British public that when you need


unanimity, you don't. You did ask the right questions. We may go into


a referendum sink to the British people, we can get these things,


when in fact we cannot get them. The track record so far is that our


European partners are saying, we're indifferent to this. I need to ask


you another question. If it is the Labour approach that you want an


overarching reform of the European Union, then you will have to get


everybody to the table. That will take years. There is no prospect of


that kind of reform this decade. That is happening right now. That is


happening on the CAP right now. You have rolled your eyes on this many


times. You are doing it now. Let me just tell you, and before you start


as well, and, we started CAP reform. The point is we do it right


now. You have to do it with your partners. One of the dangers of this


is that -- is that if you misrepresent reform, you cannot do


it with your partners. I resurrect death -- represent London. You have


to work with your partners. We know all that. Can we just keep clear


heads? There are only two ways that you can get this sort of reform. One


is if everybody does agree. It would be a jolly good thing for the EU of


that was the way. Second thing, new treaty, opt outs for Britain. I


would say those are unlikely. Let us assume something did, this. This is


crucial. That in 2017, Cameron comes to the country and says, I have got


you a new deal. We will know what the scenario is for staying in.


Nobody is telling us what the scenario is telling us what the


scenarios for coming out. There is no work being done on other trading


relations would be etc. I want an evenhanded referendum. I put it to


you, Andrea Leadsom, there is no prospect of all of Europe agreeing


to all of this by 2017? And I would completely disagree with you there.


In fact, on various trips to European capitals, there is a huge


appetite across the EU for reform. This is a set of very logically


argued, carefully we searched reform ideas. There is support from some


countries for some reforms. You definitely need a mechanism by which


the EU can be prominently reformed. To get that, Andrea, you have to


engage in Europe. This kind of exercise, if I could say, the way we


are disengaging, is not helping us do what you are saying in this


document. These kinds of reformers want us to engage in Europe and


reform that way. That is the honest way to do it. To do it within the


structures we have got now and to be honest with the British people about


how we have got now and to be honest with the British people about how


we're reforming... When you need unanimity and majority... What one


policy could you get a majority on? There are all sorts of non-treaty


reforms proposed. Getting out of Strasbourg, you need a treaty


change. Structural fund reform, to fundamentally change structural


fund, to change free movement of labour, some member states could


have their own decisions about how to treat access to benefits. For


example, those things could be done without unanimity. But what I really


want to say here is there it is now a unique moment in history for


reform. That is because of the eurozone crisis. The compulsion for


eurozone member states to go towards greater fiscal union, means they


need things to change. It is not really a question of can we achieve


reform? It will be a case of what we can achieve and by when. It is for


every member of this country to make their own decision. But the point


is, there is a unique opportunity for reform and Europe is up for


reform. We will see. If I had 100 quid for every time a politician


told me Europe was up for reform, we could be doing this from Barbados!


What happens if they are not up for reform? You made that point already.


We have now added in stereo! Yesterday David Cameron said, it is


something I am not fully capable of myself. He was talking about growing


a moustache. He said the chamber was full of members who were suddenly


resembling bandits. Why, you might ask? For the past month men around


the world have been growing or attempting to grow some fine plumage


on their upper lip for the charity Movember. In a moment we will be


meeting three of them. But first we sent Adam Fleming to meet some of


Westminster's finest moustaches. I am glad it does not show all that


much. I actually do not like it, but it is for a good cause. My father


died of prostate cancers though I do what I can to ensure other people do


not suffer from this dreadful disease.


You have actually been on the Daily Politics with your moustache, was a


different being on the programme with a moustache? Having a moustache


changes your life, especially going on television. You get so many


interesting comments on Twitter. Someone said I looked like a 1970s


pawn star. I tried growing a real moustache


once, it did not work but I was determined to do something dramatic.


I have raised over ?500 for prostate cancer just by tweeting that I would


wear a false moustache. Mr Speaker was very kind. He gave me some very


odd looks. I think I will wear better off now. Did that hurt? Not


really, no. What an image. With that is now a


trio of moustaches and their owners. Conservative MP George


Freeman, John Woodcock and Roger Williams. We have gone across the


parties. John, do you think uses your moustache? I have been told,


almost universally know. My wife is watching today, making sure it comes


off. She is absolutely repulsed by. You get grudging admiration from


male friends. Not from the ladies. Absolutely. What about responses for


you? I have tried many styles, this is the most successful. I do get


admiration. I am pleased to say we have our viewers from Scotland


joining us. At least they will not miss out on this wonderful display


of moustaches. George, what about your question yesterday, you raised


it with the Prime Minister? It is a great campaign, but there is a very


important point. Prostate cancer is a silent killer. Movember has done


something extraordinary. This is now the world's biggest prostate charity


and my question was highlighting the change, the power of social media


and I have a ten minute rule Bill honoured this week. It is a big


revolution in medicine and the NHS have got to adapt to it. Is it still


a taboo talking about prostate cancer? We are still trying to alter


the culture that men have in talking about problems with their


waterworks. Particularly going to doctors and talking about these


issues. My advice is, go to your doctor, it might save your life. It


is nice to see Movember now linking with mental health. Men are not good


about talking about it. Has it actually raised awareness? That is


the extraordinary thing about this charity, it has such a high profile


and people see it all around the country. They may not start an


explicit conversation about prostate cancer, but it has opened things up.


I have learned so much more this month about it. This is one of the


areas where the girls are ahead of us. This year I organised a virtual


wall of support and got a lot of support from Parliamentary female


colleagues. Women have been better at talking about their health care


with each other, and many to catch up. Ann, what do you think of the


campaign and the moustaches? Off with them! Ann is not a fan of


facial hair at all. I am keeping mine until the end of the month.


Have you done it before? I have done it quite a lot of times, but I was


looking forward to a proper shave today, but I guess we are not having


that and it is a disappointment. I am a Movember virgin. But I can


would urge everyone, you can go to the website and donate every -- and


donate now into December. Thank you very much. I think we will see a


couple of you later on. Stage two and until the end of the show


because Roger and John will be back, we have a little surprise in store.


It will be interesting. I saw the Barbara's hand and it was


shaking. Now, recent scandals such as the


blacklisting of construction workers, LIBOR ringing and the midst


NHS Foundation Trust as -- Mid Staffordshire foundation trust has


shocked us all. A group of experts have urged the Government to give


people confidence to speak out. One member of the Commissioners Gary


Walker, the former chief executive of a Lincolnshire hospital and he


spoke out about the culture of what he called sheer bullying in the NHS


in an appearance before the Health Select Committee this year. In


essence, there was clearly a lot of pressure to deliver the targets. It


was a case of, this is going to reflect on me as an individual. At


the same time, I am asking for help. This sort of situation escalates as


we go through this. As the hospitals become awful, more threats are made.


In the context of the culture of the NHS where you cannot speak out


without fear of actions being taken towards you, you certainly cannot


fail to hit the targets without threats being made to you. That was


Gary Walker and he joins us in the studio. Give us a brief summary


about what happened with your experiences as a whistle-blower? In


2009 I blew the whistle on patient safety concerns. As a result of


that, a number of events happened in terms of victimising and bullying


me. Who was doing that? People above me, health authorities and others.


They did not like that you had pulled back a cover to see what was


going on? It was exposing things that would make it difficult for


them in their roles. As we have seen from the Commissioners report today,


people are more concerned with protecting the reputations of


organisations and that can be at the expense of whistle-blowers. What had


you attempted to do before you became a whistle-blower? In terms of


leading up to that. Most whistle-blowers raise a concern, no


one listens to them. They raise at a second time and no one listens to


them. Most give up at that point. You went public, what then happened


to you? I was then dismissed for some other reasons which we probably


cannot go into. Then there was an arrangement made where the NHS paid


hundreds of thousands of pounds buying my silence. I agreed to sign


that compromise deal, as it was called at the time, because I owed


money. Then about one year later, when the Francis Report came out and


the Prime Minister got on the podium and said, no one was to blame. I


thought, I know that is not the case. And so I decided to break my


gagging order. It was a risk and I was threatened with being sued. As


you saw in the clip, I had to appear in front of the Parliamentary select


committee. Their verdict, which came out last month, was it was wrong of


the NHS to threaten to sue me. Is it your opinion they went to these


lengths against you, not just a close you down, but to intimidate


any prospective whistle-blowers? I think the culture in the NHS, from


what we have seen in Mid Staffordshire, the Francis Report,


surveys over the years, staff are typically frightened to speak out.


There have been various campaigns this year from various magazines to


get staff to speak out. Jeremy Hunt has gone on record to say he wants


to change the culture and has written to all organisations to say,


you cannot gag anybody any more. In what way with these


recommendations... What are the most important one that would, in your


opinion, make a difference for someone in your position a couple of


beers ago? If they had been implemented at the time, what


difference would it have made? The report sets out a code. It is not an


internal code of conduct, it is a code of practice we are hoping the


Government will adopt and will become legally binding. It is a


series of actions and organisation must take to prove they are open and


honest in encouraging staff to speak out. Then they would have to report


that publicly, what concerns were raised and action taken. If they


were not doing that, we are recommending that regulators


intervene and potentially take away their license to practice. If you


are a hospital, should you be providing care if you cannot prove


that you are encouraging people to is they -- to speak up about safety?


Would it have stopped you from being fired? It would have made an open


and transparent culture. I think it probably would have meant there was


some honesty in the system, rather than people trying to cover their


own backs. Ann, where are you on this? I think it is very important


that people are allowed to complain internally. If people complain


internally and are ignored, they should all be able to complain


without sanction to the regulator concern. If they are still ignored,


I think it is a question for them if they want to go public. Certainly,


there should never be a bribe involved. A gagging arrangement is


often a bribe. The problem is, if you say no more, a lot of very


innocent people may go on suffering. The National Audit Office looked up


all of these gagging orders and said there were thousands. There were so


many that they could not look at all of them. We know historically that


Lott has been covered up, but we do not know what is in that. Will the


Government accept your code? We have had indications this is welcome. The


level that the Government are interested in, it is not a wholesale


change of the law. The law just needs tightening up and we are


making recommendations about that. You need to go back to the basic


problem. The basic problem is when a whistle-blower blows the whistle, it


becomes all about the whistle-blower's actions and


conduct. Did they do it in good faith? Even when you get to court,


the question is all about the law of how the whistle-blower acted. Even


the tribunal is not interested in what it was actually about. The


corruption, the wrongdoing, whatever it is. This code is saying, this is


the responsibility of organisations. If you are a Board of Directors, it


is your responsibility to make sure your organisation is being open and


honest. If there is a whistle-blower out there in the NHS now, before


this code has come in, wondering what to do. Would the NHS treat them


now any differently from the way they treated you? There is probably


a good chance of that on the basis of the publicity. But it should be


as a matter of course. I think it probably depends what they are


raising concerns about. If they are raising concerns which are likely to


reflect badly on the board of an organisation, they might find it is


not necessarily in their interest and they may need to blow the


whistle to an outside regulator. It is an interesting story and we are


going to keep an eye on this. Thank you for explaining. Tomorrow, Nick


Clegg is expected to put some more flesh on the bones of the


Government's plans to increase the flexibility of parental leave. It's


an aim of all the main parties - it was in the original Coalition


Agreement - but so far the actual details have been a bit sketchy.


That's something that concerns small businesses - and some Tory MPs - who


worry that ministers may go too far in allowing mums and dads to switch


between who stays home, and who goes back to work in the early months of


their children's lives. It's a balance which is dividing opinion


among the Coalition's backbench troops, as David Thompson has been


finding out. To modern dads, to modern party


leaders committed to giving both parents time off to look after their


newborns. It is called flexible parental leave but it is causing a


bit of a catfight over what it should mean. Oh, dear. I have heard


so much about Lib Dem hobbyhorses. I think this may be another. The


Liberal Democrats tend to be a little more progressive in the


things they want to achieve. Maternity leave can be shared


already. But ministers want to make it easier and start earlier in


England, Scotland and Wales. What worries some Tory MPs is that the


details will not be set in stone until after the bill is passed. The


notice period given to employers may be reduced from 12 weeks to eight


weeks. It concerns me that the minister is left with the power to


define the time that may be allowed in this respect. That would happen


at a later stage without the matter having primary legislation and going


towards the house. The Government was advised to scrap parental leave


altogether at one point. The idea came from a venture capitalist. It


was dropped from his final report, however, but small businesses


worried. Sometimes -- firms are struggling to take on staff. You


need to be in a position to recruit a new member of staff. If somebody


goes off for two months and comes back, you have do think about


filling the vacancy twice, maybe even three times. That can be a


heavy burden on a small business. Lib Dems think there are concerns


may be misplaced. Small businesses are more flexible than any other


businesses I know. They have always allowed for their individual


employees, for their own particular circumstances, to be taken into


account. And who knows? May be in the end Lib Dem and Tory MPs will be


able to play nicely over this. I think we are talking about


relatively fine details now. I know there will be discussions. We have


managed to come through stormier waters than this, I can assure you.


I think we will come up with something that every party can


cohere around. At the moment, on flexible parental leave, some


politicians are pulling in different directions. I'm joined now by Ros


Bragg from Maternity Action. Welcome. And Ann Widdecombe is still


with us. Do you think it is a good idea? Not if it goes to those


extremes, no. Consider the employer. He has got somebody who is


pregnant. She wants a year off in maternity leave. He has already got


to recruit some videos, train them and, just as they are becoming an


asset, he has to lay them off. -- recruit someone else. It is equally


manageable if she says she is going off for six months and the husband


is taking over for six months. But there is a problem if you


continually chop and change. The employer never knows where he is.


This is going to hinder the position of young women at work. If I was an


employer faced with this legislation, I would employ people


who are unlikely to ask to exercise it. They may argue that his


short-sighted. What do you say to the point that shared parental leave


in practice may be all right, but the practice -- the principle


doesn't work? It is important that fathers and mothers have the chance


to be primary carers, but also for employers to see both men and women


taking extended work breaks. The suggestion we will see parents


chopping and changing is a little bit exaggerated. As an organisation


providing advice to parents, it would be unusual for parents to be


looking for a model of leaf of that kind. In our discussions with the


Government, we understood that it is in the right of the employer to


reject an application for a lead if they are not happy with leave being


taken in multiple breaks. It is a little misleading. Do you not like


the idea of the ability to have that flexibility of perhaps mother


staying at home for a while, and then the father? For the vast


majority of parents, the current model provides for most of their


needs. There are some families for whom this would be extremely useful.


For employers to be able to have somebody back to help of the


Christmas rush, for example, that is a useful option. If you have a


father who can only get time off on the workplace is quiet, or chooses


to take time off when the workplace is quiet, that is helpful. Isn't


that just a consequence of modern life? People are juggling things


much more. It is more progressive. Nick Clegg said it would be a


Edwardian not to go down that route. I don't agree with that. Employers


value stability and predict ability because they can make plans. If


there is to be no chopping and changing, we don't need anything


very new. The idea that this is to make extremely flexible so you can


do that. It is not just one person. The employer may have six people


wanting to swap their maternity and paternity arrangements. It seems to


me to be a recipe for chaos. And it is Edwardian to be against chaos? I


think the chaos has been overstated. Whenever there are


suggested changes to parental leave, certain groups complain about it.


For us, it is a matter of the Government is living up to the


commitment it has given to be able to make family friendly arrangement


in the UK. They complain because they have got a genuine concern.


They are supposed to be running a business, making profits, taking on


new employees, doing their bit for Britain. And Britain just makes


their work arrangements chaotic. If you look around Europe, there are


plenty of other businesses who have been running successfully. What


about the issue of gender equality? The fact that a lot of business say


they lose women who are extremely effective in the workplace, because


they don't think it is family friendly enough? There are already


arrangements that say you can go off for a year and still come back.


There are arrangements that say that you can elect paternity leave


instead. The question is how often you want those changes to be made


and the degree of stability that employers can rely upon. If you know


somebody is going off for a year, you know what you have to do. If it


is three months and then another month, and then another month, then


they change their minds again, that is where the chaos comes in. If you


have a multiple number of mothers in the workforce, that's just compounds


the problem. Gender equality, I am sick to the back teeth of these


cliches. There is gender equality because the man can be the house


husband if he wants to be. There is gender equality. What about some


good business for Britain? There is gender equality. There is no need to


extend this any further because men still have the opportunity to take


parental leave? I think the shared parental leave proposals are quite


use. In the direction of encouraging fathers to take leave. They fall far


short of what is possible. I think the German model is an excellent


model. Fathers take two months leave or more. The family get an


additional two months of paid leave. In Germany, the take-up of


leaf from fathers jumped to 30%. And Germany has not gone down the pan,


has it? Use a productivity in Germany has not gone down the pan,


they have their problems as well. I think what you will find is that the


take-up of that is not so enormous. If this becomes, just like maternity


leave when it came in, people did not rush to take a year off, it is


something that grows over time. Employers would not be complaining


if they did not have some reason. It does not sound as if there is going


to be that much take-up. In a way, couldn't you let it grow


organically? If there was a real clamour for it, fine but there


isn't. Somewhere between 2% and 8% of fathers will take up the shared


parental leave, according to the Government. It is quite worrying


they're not putting in place the measures that would encourage


further take-up. Should we just take a step backwards instead of making a


move towards gender equality in the workplace? I don't think so. What


about the issue as far as the Tory party is concerned about being a


modernising party? Here we go again! Will this make them look as if there


are going backwards if they renege on this? No. It will make them look


as if they are exercising some common sense. People are worried


about their energy bills, the cost of living, they are worried about if


they can relax on the issue of job security. They are worried about how


to afford Christmas. And in future, we say, mum and dad, you can just


swap childcare. It is irrelevant. A final word from you? The


Conservatives did commit in the manifesto to make in the UK the most


family friendly country in Europe. It would be surprising if they walk


backwards on this one. Thank you very much. We're walking backwards


for Christmas. There's just time before we go to find out the answer


to our quiz. The question was what have Gwent Police spent more than


?13,000 on in an attempt to deter crime?


I think it is a toss-up between the cats and the police officers,


because they are the most ludicrous. I am going for the cats.


The cats would have been right. But it was the cutout police officers. I


saw one in a petrol station that it was quite lifelike. If I was going


to rob the petrol station, within five seconds I would have realised


it was a cardboard cutout and therefore not in danger. You may


remember earlier, we were joined by three MPs who have been growing


moustaches for charity. Well, two of them - John Woodcock and Roger


Williams - have come back. And, in an exclusive for the Daily Politics,


they have agreed to have their moustaches shaved off a couple of


days early. To do the honours, we have Al from Pall Mall Barbers. I


hope you have got a steady hand. Yes, I have. Start removing those


moustaches. Here we go. It is goodbye to the


moustache. It should be a cut-throat razor! We have to find out, John,


how it feels to have lost that bit of hair on your upper lip, when it


finally disappears. Don't just do half of mine! Finish it! Lets do


Roger quickly and we can come back to it. While we see that, thanks to


all of our guests. The One O'Clock News is starting over on BBC One


now. I'll be on This Week tonight with Rory Bremner, Martin Sorrell,


John Pienaar, Michael Portillo, Diane Abbott and Miranda Green. And


I'll be here at noon tomorrow with all the big political stories of the


day. Do join me then. Bye-bye.


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