13/01/2014 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon and welcome to the Daily Politics. Cash for councils


who give the go-ahead for fracking. But will it be enough to persuade


communities to drop their opposition to drilling? They were accused of


killing the high Street, but are these giants themselves now


threatened by the online shopping revolution?


Poverty porn or a timely expose of Britain's benefit culture? We get


the verdict on Channel -- Channel 4's controversial series. The eyes


and ears of ministers. We will get the insider's view at the bottom


rung of the ministerial ladder. All that in the next hour. With us


for the first half of the programme is Baroness Lucy Neville Rolfe,


Conservative peer, former executive director of Tesco and a former civil


servant. Welcome. Let's start with Europe, because yesterday it was


revealed that almost 100 Conservative MPs have written to the


Prime Minister asking for Parliament to be given the power to veto new EU


laws. But that call has been rejected by the Foreign Secretary,


William Hague, as unrealistic. Do you agree? I think I do. I was


surprised when I saw the paper yesterday. People feel strongly


about Europe and its bureaucracy. But they came out and said, we need


to be able to veto things after they have been decided. If you think


about the single market, to my mind the greatest achievement of the EU


since we have been in there, you couldn't run an EU single market if


you came along afterwards and change the arrangements that had been


agreed. So is this about something else? Isn't this posturing by


Eurosceptic MPs? There is concern about Europe. If the Tories get a


victory at the election, we will have a referendum. I would vote in


favour. I believe you can reform the European Union from inside. I think


the renegotiation will be important. Remember, in the 1980s we


had a problem with the budget rebate. Recently the budget


settlement was good. We have got problem with benefit tourism. If you


have got allies, you can get changes. Equally, it is right that


people should get a chance to vote. But is this something different? Is


it not about reform but a group of MPs who want to put more pressure on


David Cameron to actually pull out, eventually? They want to get their


voices heard and they want the negotiation to be real. The scrutiny


committee have said they have seen the passage of legislation, year in,


year out, and have got frustrated. What I think is interesting in


Europe at the moment, although things will change in May after the


election, people are questioning more exactly what Europe is doing.


They are saying, let's get together and do things better. Modern life is


more about getting together and doing things better. Some of that is


coming into the Europe debate. Is it a problem, though, for party unity?


As far as the Conservative party is concerned, we are together in


wanting this referendum so that people can get another look. During


the referendum campaign, the people who care about having a single


market and care about the rights of the EU, will talk more than they are


at the moment, not just the people who are highly sceptical. It is


right that we should have a choice. That is what they are saying. There


will be some in the group who have a higher level of scepticism. Can the


Prime Minister withstand another attack from the right, another


assault from his Euro sceptic flank when he clearly has now his colours


to the mast? The Prime Minister has nailed his colours to the mast and


is showing leadership and showing it in a way that others haven't done.


It is fine to have people within the party who are saying something


different, because that can contribute to the richness of debate


and make sure that in the renegotiation process we are looking


at important issues. From a business point of view, the single market has


been beneficial. I am involved in Europe are bit because I have the


retail Association in Europe. I can see the advantages it brings to


consumers across the EU. It would be very different if you came out of


the EU. It would raise a lot of questions. We will leave it there.


Could local authorities up and down the country be in line for a cash


bonanza? David Cameron has announced councils will be able to keep all of


the business rates from the proceeds of shale gas exploration, or


fracking. Normally, councils keep only 50% of business rates. The


Prime Minister claims this could mean councils making up to ?1.7


million extra per year from each fracking site. Last year, government


commissioned report found that more than half of the UK could be


suitable for shale gas extraction. But the practice is controversial.


It requires vast amounts of water. It has to be transported to and from


the site, and critics believe some of the chemicals used in the process


could contaminate the area. What's more, there are concerns the process


causes small earth tremors. Environmentalists worry that it will


reduce investment in ritual energy. But with the government believing it


could inject billions into the UK economy and lower bills, it is


likely to be seen as too good an opportunity to miss. Let's talk to


our correspondent, Danny Savage, in Salford, where they have been


campaigning against fracking. I any of the protesters convinced by what


some people are calling on government to bribe, letting


councils keep the money from the business rate? Now, they think this


is a diversion. They are not swayed by the argument at all. Then you


wouldn't expect them to be. These are the die-hard environmentalists,


the local people who are objecting strongly to any fracking happening


in this part of the country. This morning was a prime example here.


There is a camp protesters here. When a couple of big lorries turned


up to try to get into the site, if you protesters climbed up on the


lorries. It means that police had to get ladders and scaffolding to get


them down. The main dual carriageway was closed, causing chaos. When


eventually they got them moving, the protesters walked in front of them


as slow as they do there, really a snails pace, to the bottom of the


lane, fracking site is. -- where the fracking site is. This is a daily


ritual here. I was speaking to somebody from the Green party. He


doesn't believe the government incentive offered today will make


any difference. He called it a bribe as well. Even a Conservative MP


today from up in Lancashire, where there are other fracking site, has


described the offer from David Cameron as crumbs from the table.


The figure bandied about by other local authorities today is that


there should be something like a 10% cut of profits from fracking to make


a difference to the local communities. Thank you. With us now


from Glasgow is Labour's Energy Spokesman, Tom Greatrex, and in the


studio I enjoyed by Jane Thomas from Friends of the Earth. Tom Greatrex,


is there any difference between you and the government on this? You back


the idea of fracking and you would like it to go ahead in the site


identified. We haven't got him. We will comeback in a moment. Let's to


Jane. The money is what is talking here. I don't mean the money of the


two councils but the money that can actually be used to reduce energy


bills. That is what might convince people. That is actually an


interesting point. Ed Davey has admitted that it will not


necessarily bring down energy bills. In that sense, it is a nonstarter.


Plus, we also now, and this has been acknowledged by the industry, we


know that fracking in any degree will not start until 2021. We need


to be moving to renewable energy now. We are facing a crisis now,


even if there is a delay. Fracking will be necessary to bridge the gap


between the energy we need and we are going to be losing over the next


few years. The best way to address our energy needs is to have


energy-saving efficiency measures in place. The government could do far


more. It has been tested and proven by many academics that energy


efficiency measures other thing that can really make a difference in the


next few years. We do have to move much more quickly to renewable


energy. The problem with fracking is it is a diversionary issue anyway.


What percentage of energy comes from renewables? At the moment, around


12%. I have got 9.4%. It is interesting. We start from a base


point of just a few years ago, where it was 3%. In terms of growth, it is


the nominal. The problem is the government hasn't invested in


removable. There has been a real decline, especially in offshore. The


government could lead here. Let's go to Tom Greatrex, who I believe can


hear us now. The support fracking in sites that have been identified for


the reasons set out by the government. It will help the energy


crisis many people think we are facing. That is right, isn't it? We


support the potential of shale gas as a way of displacing imported


gas. We use a lot of gas. 80% of UK uses gas for heating. We are going


to continue to need a significant amount of gas. In the last ten years


we have moved from using more of our own gas from the North Sea to


importing it. It is a big change. It is not about the silver bullet


answer, which it is sometimes portrayed as. In reality, you would


be backing the same policy. You are not against these sites being used


for exploration. That is right, isn't it? We shouldn't rule out an


indigenous source of gas. What is the difference? What would actually


change? If you were in power, these sites that have been identified


identified, would now be two councils for them to -- the sites


that have been identified would now be put to councils. We set out,


nearly two years ago, six conditions for what we thought needed to be


done to ensure regular shoe is robust. There is also an issue among


motoring. -- monitoring. That is important because, although as


people have reflected today, this isn't a new technology, it is a


different application of it. It is also something that has quite


rightly produced concerns. There is a public acceptability test. The


other thing that is significant, and this is where I get frustrated by


this debate, is the idea that shale gas is immediate and is abundant.


Nobody knows how much we can get out of the ground, firstly. Secondly,


the idea that what will happen in the UK is what will happen in the US


is highly unlikely because we are part of an integrated European gas


network in the way the US isn't, and can't export it. Thirdly, to suggest


this is an alternative to doing other things is wrong. We need to


move to a low carbon energy mix. But we are not going to be able to do


that straightaway either. We need to use a form of gas extraction for


heating, and also for producing gas. We have potential options. So you


have laid out your concerns. I still don't quite see what the difference


would be on the ground in terms of going ahead with fracking. The use


-- do you support giving business rates to councils to local


communities? Jelena afraid there is a real issue around whether -- there


is a real issue around whether it will be done properly. Communities


who will be subject to disruption deserve to have some recompense for


the disruption. In relation to the level, I'm not convinced,


necessarily, that this is precisely what they will be looking for. This


is about the impact on the environment as well. Where do you


stand on this? A lot of good points have been made. I am in favour of


fracking. I have looked at the American economy. I have seen what a


difference it has made, both due individual states like North Dakota


but also for the manufacturing operations in middle America. They


have fuel prices that allows them to compete better. I am in favour of it


and I wanted to come about. Clearly, you need proper regulation. He is


saying the government are not putting in place the proper


regulation. I don't think that is right. I'm sure changes could be


made. This is a long-term opportunity, but on the basic


question of is it right to add a business rate to the cough is to


make this happen, I think that is a very imaginative idea, a good idea.


It's saying to the councils who are going to make the decision, here's


some money, this will offset Government cuts. I will ask the


minister about this later on. And they are more likely to say yes. I


think it is an incentive. In this world where you want things to get


on and you want green growth, we shall see whether it is enough. I


want to see that it is enough so we are not left behind. For example, in


France... That is an irony, because they cannot do fracking in France.


They know it has huge environmental implications. The Government cannot


have it both ways. We either have a very tight regulation, in which


case, why do these companies come over here? Or we haven't. Coming


back to your point about America, there is no comparison with America.


We have different levels of shale. We have very different communities


where they want to Frank. They have much bigger areas. Do we want all of


the impacts that this is going to bring on these places. On every


level, there is an issue. There seems to be a political consensus


that even with concerns a - and there will be Lib Dems who are


worried about it in their constituencies. But generally,


fracking is going to go ahead. The thing I really worry about is


listening to the communities that are facing fracking. Whether the


political parties agree or not is one thing. You only have to look at


one place, hardly the hotbed of environmental extremism, but they


express their views very clearly. That has to be taken into the --


into account. Coming back to the idea of sweetness. I think the


conflict of interest is missing from this debate. If you have a council


that has to determine the planning application from a fracking company


and makes that decision whether the company can come and frack, knowing


that they will be in receipt of some money... I'm sorry, but there are


very clear conflicts of interest. How would Labour deal with the sort


of protest we saw at the beginning of this item? People are going to be


out there day in, day out, trying to prevent the tankers from coming --


the fractures from coming in. Different aspects of this debate


gets conflated. The legitimate environmental concerns have to be


properly dealt with. That is about regulation. And also, crucially, the


monitoring of regulation. If anybody wants to see the potential to have


shale gas to displace imported gas, not to use more gas in our energy


mix but to displace what we import, for energy security reasons, they


need to address all of those issues first. That is why some of the


rhetoric from the Government today, such as about the number of jobs,


well, a report was recently published looking at a strategic


environmental impact assessment, and put it much lower than the


Government's figure of 4000 new jobs. I don't think that helps in


terms of having a robust and sensible bait. Thank you both very


much. My guest of the Day, Lucy


Neville-Rolfe, became a politician just last year when she was made a


Peer by David Cameron. Politics is a job closely rivalled in the


popularity stakes, perhaps, with being a boss at Britain's biggest


supermarket chain, Tesco - Lucy's previous role. But what have the


supermarkets done to deserve our ire? Are they really as bad as


politicians? Here's Adam. I have arrived at shopping


Shangri-La, Tesco's brand-new flagship store in Watford. Tesco has


around 30% of the market, a market that is worth around ?170 billion a


year, so this is a good place to ponder the past, present and future


of the supermarket. It is the first store in Britain to cut shopping


hours in half... They have been part of the retail market since they


revolutionised it in the 1950s. In the 1950s, we used to spend about a


third of our household budget on food. Now we spend about 10%. So we


are getting better products, but more affordable. Supermarkets have


driven that and made it much more affordable for consumers. But how


I'm grateful we? These places have been blamed for everything, from


causing the horse meat scandal to squeezing suppliers. Some have


argued that high street shops like this have been killed off. What they


have done is create further distance between ourselves and the point of


production. We are living further away from where food is produced,


and it makes it very difficult to remember, when we go in and see an


array of banana as all times of the day, this huge array of food, that


it is an illusion. Back in Watford, here is Tescos answer. They have


imported a north London coffee shop, with an emphasis on chatting and


community. Out goes giant televisions, incomes retro


kitchenware. The drink I'll is supposed to feel more like a wine


merchant's. Then there is the Artisan bakery, which hires


apprentices and donates money to charity. Here is an example of how


much thought goes into these places. Tesco very proud this new food and


bread -- new fruit and veg area. They have lowered the height of the


shelves, there is loads more would around, and there is loads more


produce on tables. It feels like an old greengrocer of yore. It feels


like everything has been designed to confront the thing is making


supermarkets feel anything but relaxed. There's a new restaurant to


make it feel less soulless. There's a drive-through for picking up


shopping that has been done online, along with more upmarket products to


head off posh arrivals. If you hate supermarkets, it might not do


anything for you. If you love them, you might just be sold on it.


As I was saying, our guest of the day, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, worked


with the supermarket Tesco is for 15 years. Do you think the success of


the big supermarket chains has, the expense of small retailers? Not


really. It reflects society and the way it has changed, which is why


that film was interesting, because it started in the 1950s. You have


the modern Tesco of today as well. It is a very competitive industry.


You find it is changing all the time. Obviously, there has been a


bad recession in the UK, which has very much affected the high street


in recent years. But before that, many independent retailers said that


the big supermarket killed off that individuality. Actually, the big


change before the recession was Tesco and Morrison is doing well,


but the intermediates, Woolworth and so on, not doing well. The really


good specialist stores, the ones that sell ethnic food like


delicatessens, they did quite well. But then the recession came along


and you are getting more discount stores, more places where you can


change your electrical goods. You have this change coming along with


time, and every time consumers want something else, it changes again.


The big dynamic today is obviously online. That is the biggest


challenge, I think. That's why it is quite interesting that George


Osborne, in the budget, made some announcements about rates. Rates are


charged on property, so that doesn't really hit the online people at all.


He brought in something that means the small stores don't pay rates at


all now. He has a review of that coming up, which I think will look


at this latest dynamic of online. On that subject, we had reports after


Christmas and New Year of falling sales for some of the supermarkets


and other big retailers. Online shopping did amazingly well. So why


have these massive stores? Isn't that going to be the problem for


supermarkets like Sainsbury's and Tesco is. They have massive stores,


and actually what people want is the smaller stores and online. They have


got to adapt. In the film, I found the modern coffee shop interesting,


and the children's restaurant. In some places they are putting in


leisure centres and there is more space for community work in these


big stores. Actually, it is a mixed economy. Saint-Priest and others


have little stores as well. -- Sainsbury's and others. When I was


at Tescos, we were being asked for more high-street stores. RB is going


to be a hostage to fortune, these very big supermarkets? Isn't it


because they cannot sell these big spaces off? It is going to be seen


as a gimmick. All of the supermarket chains have big rogue programmes


which have largely been going into reverse. They have been selling off


some sites. They are adapting existing stores so they are what the


customer wants. Will people spend all day in the supermarket, doing


their shopping, having a meal? They will do a shop, they will have a cup


of coffee, they may buy a swimsuit. On other days, they will go to the


high street. During the recession, people started shopping in more


places. They started shopping in different places. What do you make


of the Mary Portas review? That was all about reviving the high-street.


Do you think it should be revived? I think it needs to change. You may


have fewer shops, you may have different shops, you may have market


stalls. There is a place for local endeavour. When I was at Tesco, we


had a big programme to have marketing officials in places like


the south-west, so you could get local produce and sell it in a few


local stores. I think we will see more of that. I live in Salisbury,


and the Salisbury market has a terrific mixture, with the


marketplace it has big chain stores like Debenhams, but it also has


these stores. Food in Britain is terrific. I think we could be


producing more food in Britain from our own resources and our own


people. And you think people will buy it from those different places?


I do. I don't think they will buy it from a bad retailer. You are as good


as your own smile and your own results. Thank you very much for


coming on today. So MPs have had their first week


back, and things are settling down. What's this week got in store for


them? Tomorrow, the Liaison Committee are holding their regular


questioning of the Prime Minister. Evidence will be heard from the PM


on both violence against women and girls, and energy policy and


environmental priorities. Wednesday is of course Prime Minister's


Question Time. Will the subdued atmosphere from last week continue?


Towards the end of the week, we are expecting speeches from Ed Miliband


on the economy and George Osborne on Europe. And finally, Thursday


evening sees the first Westminster Correspondents' Dinner, where David


Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband will all be dining with Fleet


Street's finest. It's modelled on the US White House Correspondents'


Dinner. Well, to discuss all of these stories I can speak now to the


Guardian's Rowena Mason and the Sun's Kevin Schofield. Have you both


been invited to that dinner on Thursday? Have you got your invites?


I'm afraid I lost out in the ballot for that, so I will not be going.


Those tickets are like gold dust, so I will not be there either. Mine


must've got lost in the post. I cannot imagine what happened to it!


Moving on to next year. Where is this Tory Government backbench row


over having a veto on Europe going? Not that long ago, David Cameron was


being praised for having united the Tory party on Europe. The piece


hasn't lasted for very long, because some of that euro scepticism has


come back to haunt him, with these 95 backbenchers, who demanded in a


letter to him a veto for the national parliaments on EU laws. It


has turned into a bit of a row now, because the Prime Minister has given


it short shrift. William Hague has come out fighting against it as


well, saying it wouldn't work, and that it would undermine the single


market. We have also seen some of the pro-Europeans like Ken Clarke


fight back and say that it is right wing nationalist escapism, and is a


terrible idea. It is an argument that I don't think is going to go


away. David Cameron probably hoped it would do. On that, Kevin


Schofield, William Hague has said that demand is unrealistic. It is


difficult for David Cameron now. He is in the position of having tried


to keep his eurosceptics onside with stronger rhetoric when it comes to


Europe. They continue to demand tougher concessions. He was warned


last year that you can never satisfy the Eurosceptic wing of the


Conservative party. Offer them a referendum and they will just come


back with further demands. And so it has proved. It is an unholy mess.


Even a seemingly Eurosceptic Foreign Secretary is telling them it is


unrealistic to expect a veto over EU laws. It is clear they are not going


to get far. Speaking to a few of them, they are emboldened. At some


stage, doesn't David Cameron have to call time on these Eurosceptics? I


think he wants to, at the fear is that having promised this


referendum, some of the hardline Eurosceptics aren't going to give up


until they get what they want. Like Kevin says, they are feeling


emboldened and they will keep pushing until they get more


concessions. Let's look at Scotland. Danny Alexander has surprisingly


said the government will guarantee's Scotland debt. Has


displayed into Alex Salmond's hand? I think it has. This morning he has


said something that always makes me suspicious. I think it gives him a


strong bargaining hand if Scotland decides to become independent. The


UK have guaranteed all its debts. Scotland would not be any -- under


any legal obligation to pay about ?130 billion, which is expect --


estimated to be the extent of the debt. Alex Salmond's argument is


simple. If you let us keep the pound, we will meet our obligations


in terms of debt. If you don't, we will not meet our obligations. It


has put the UK government in a tough spot. Thank you both. Joining me for


the rest of the programme are parliamentary private secretaries,


conservatively Scott, Barbara Keeley, who works for Ed Balls, Andy


Lib Dem Testament who works for Vince Cable. -- Tess Munt. Tonight


we get the second instalment of the Channel 4 -- Channel 4 series,


Benefits Street. It chronicles life on a Birmingham street where many of


the residents are citizens on benefits. Some people have hailed it


as an expose of Britain's welfare culture. This man has been on


incapacity benefit the years, and now the assessors are on his case,


too. Anything you want to disclose? I have suspended your claim as there


has been a change in your income. Don't worry about it. I had one of


them and I ignored it. Then they paid my landlord anyway. Hello,


there. I am phoning on behalf of all friend and neighbour of mine who


can't actually read and write. He has had a letter saying he has got


to attend an appointment at your place in Smethwick. He can't work


out why it would be in Smethwick or what it is for. What am I going to


do in Smethwick? They are saying you must have made the appointment. I


can't make appointments! To discuss the support available to you through


the work programme. We I haven't worked in my life! Tess Munt, should


programmes like this be shown? I don't think it's a problem. As long


as people rip -- recognise this is a reality TV clip. It is good ratings


tied TV but it is not really reflective of everything that


happens in my constituency, and the majority of people who need benefits


need them for the right reasons. They are not funding I style -- a


lifestyle like the one shown here. It is helpful to have it as a small


part of a large debate, but it does not reflect the majority of people,


I think, who claimed benefits. So you think it is poverty porn? I


think so. Fraser Nelson spoke about people having a sense of community.


There certainly is that. They are coming together and fighting the


outside world. We need to review how the outside world use people in that


situation. Do you think it is a fair reflection, taking their streets


like this where it is claimed the majority are claiming benefits? Or


does it demonise people? It would be good to get a wider spectrum just on


that street as well. I don't think it is completely refracting --


reflecting what is happening. But there is an element it is happening


with, and it needs addressing. What was your reaction on seeing that


episode? There were parts, particularly involving shoplifting


which concern me greatly. It means there are areas to look into. But it


has been sensationalised. Do you think the residents have been


stitched up on this programme, to some extent? They didn't realise it


was going to be called Benefits Street until close to the


transmission. Has there been too much focus on the negative side of


people who claim benefits? If we were to take a picture of the


benefits cake, if you like, you said almost all people in the street were


on benefits, but in a typical situation, 40% would be pensioners.


20% would be people on low incomes, who get tax credits. In some of the


shots, it showed people who were working but we didn't see any of


them. The concentration was on a small number of people who were


unemployed. It is important to address unemployment. That is an


extreme case. Somebody who has been a drug addict who can't read and


write. But it does highlight how some people are really struggling to


survive. It didn't go on to show, in fact he was called to speak to work


provider and he couldn't even the letter. That is an extreme case. I


would rather they focus on the difficulties of people in their 50s


who have been made redundant. I have got 700 or so people who have not


had a job for the first time. What about the impact? You said yourself


that it is time to look at the system. Isn't that what, in part,


comes out of a system like this? Is the system wrong? That is exactly


what Iain Duncan Smith is doing. The system is working. I think he is


tackling the issues that matter, certainly one is that my


constituents come to me with. We need to help people back into work.


That is particularly so with, as Barbara says, young people. I am


working with the programme trying to get people into work. It is working.


We need to grow it across other areas. But I do come back to the


fact that I think this programme is sensationalist. My also think we


need a more objective view of everything that has been happening.


-- I also think. Doesn't it show there are sections of the public


behaving like some of the characters on Benefits Street? There will be


people in the whole spectrum who behave in their own way. It is a


shame that this shows people who believe they have rights and


responsibilities. Actually, the system needs clarity. I hope Channel


4 has picked up some of those problems and help the people who


have addiction problems or whatever. This, as I understand, was


filmed over two years. Over two years, you can drop your guard


easily and the truth will out. I think there are responsibilities


from people who are placed in this. The system does have to be changed.


It has to be fine tuned. I had somebody who had three days of work


before Christmas and was told it was a long-term job. On the third day,


he was told he wasn't needed any more. He had lost his jobseeker's


allowance. He had been managing on ?71 70 per week. Now he is accruing


debt while the system is broken. Is there going to be more people like


that under the system Iain Duncan Smith is presiding over? Yes, but I


think most people access to have some kind of gainful occupation


during your day is good, it is good for your mental and physical health,


it is good for everything. It was so extreme. It would have been helpful


to show some of the low income people. They showed one family who


were not able to buy goods at the door because they were living on ?30


per week, but it skimmed over that. It skimmed over the difficulties the


chap would have not being able to read and write. How is somebody who


cannot read or write apply for jobs? I had a constituent who said


it is difficult if you don't have IT skills, to apply for a job. These


are these of us to be explored, but the most extreme examples. But that


hasn't been helped by some ministers, who have, some say,


demonise people on welfare who are often of working age and in work. Do


you think dealing with was appropriate? -- the language. Hope


-- hard people -- hard working people know it is vital to be in


work. The policies for Iain Duncan Smith are doing that. It is going to


need some fine tuning, no question. I have a constituents come to me.


But we have sorted it. Are you going to watch it again tonight? I


probably will but I hope it is more informed. Subject to what is


happening in Parliament a night, yes. -- tonight. What is the least


glamorous job in Parliament? Some would say my three guests are the


lucky owners of that title. They are all Parliamentary Private Secretary


is. But what is one? If I was to ask you who is at the bottom of the


government porn, I have no doubt he was sending some amusing


suggestions. -- government ponder. The answer is the Parliamentary


Private Secretary, or PPS. Backbenchers selected by a minister


to be their bag carrier, their representative in the Palace of


Westminster. But what do they actually do? Really, in Parliament


returns, they are sort of Jeeves meets George Smiley, and they are


there to be bag carrier for their boss but also they are the eyes and


ears in this place. Ministers spend most of their time in the


Department, doing what they are supposed to be doing, not lobbying


and finding support here. PPSs can do that for them. They also


represent their bosses at official functions when their bosses can't


make them. They are also there to lobby for any policy there boss is


trying to get through. And that is, of course, is key to why they do


this. It is like a badge preferment, suggesting future promotion. They


get influenced and they meet people. They would need to be a reason to do


this because it is unpaid and it is hard work. One Secretary of State


told me yesterday that they look for somebody who is loyal, has great


organisational skills and is allowed to tell the boss they are doing the


wrong thing. When you think about it, that is actually quite a good


position to be if you are just a humble backbencher.


One MP has said the skill a PPS needs more than any is to fill up


the ministerial water jug. Is that a fair description? I have never


carried a bag, so come no, I don't think it is a good script. Why do


you do the job? It is a fascinating area. The economy is one of the most


important areas, and it is fascinating to be in it. But you


can't do anything else than what your boss says. You are always


expected to vote with the government. Not in my case. With


your party. Have you ever thought, I would like to say you are wrong? It


is not a case of that. We are all a team. The piece there didn't mention


a team. There is a team of ministers, shadow ministers, and


PPS. We are a valuable link between the shadow minister and the


Secretary of State with the rest of the MPs. It is a fascinating and


interesting place to be. In your case, it is different. The person


you represented anything but a yes person he is a serial critic. Does


it make it easier for you? It is a good reflection of how a Coalition


can work. It is good to test all the time. One of my main roles has been


to make sure that if anybody on any side of the house has a problem in


their constituency, to go and scooped them up and make sure they


can get seem to talk about their particular area of concern. That is


one of the most rewarding part of the job. You were a PPS before, and


you did resign, didn't you? That therein lies the conflict for you.


They didn't stop you becoming PPS again. Were you surprised? I was


pleased. Why we use tax before? I did not vote for tuition fees. I


lost my role at that time. What makes a good PPS? Is it someone like


you, who stuck to your principles? I believe, in life, if you say you


were going to do something, do it. Not all politicians do that, but in


my experience, a lot do. Equally, when people come to you from no


matter what side of the House it might be, getting constituency


issues dealt with, getting people to the Secretary of State, and actually


listening and passing things back, and telling the Secretary of State


whether they are right or wrong. Do you think, on this, you dream of


becoming a minister, as a PPS? I don't see that particular link. For


me, the payback for me, for the little bit of extra work that I do,


is the fact that I can actually knock on Ministers' doors and say


that I want to talk to them about such and such. That is a really good


thing for my constituents. That is the payback. For me, it is about


having a bit of influence and being able to speak to ministers in other


departments. Briefly, is it possible to be a good constituency MP and a


PPS? Absolutely. It is possible to do that and be a minister. You can


be both. Very loyal, the three of you!


Now, we couldn't end this part of the programme without making special


mention of Barbara's boss, Ed Balls. He's gained a reputation as a bit of


a bruiser. Yesterday it was reported that he'd squared up to the Shadow


Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, over Labour's Europe


policy back in 2012. More recently, though, Mr Balls has proffered an


olive branch to the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, in a move to soften his


image. But yesterday, the kick-boxing Deputy Prime Minister


was asked, if it came to it, whether he would be any match for Ed Balls


in a fight. I do kick-boxer lessons in a gym.


Really? Yes, to keep myself fit. So who knows, if I keep on doing that.


I'm not going to make ringside predictions in such a closely fought


on -- contest. When you are kicking the ball, whose faces on it? By the


way, I am rubbish at it. A surprising revelation that he has


taken up kick boxing. Slightly strange, but good for him. We are


going to find out who is the real Ed Balls. What is he like? He is great


to work with. This is not just a PPS being loyal. He doesn't do kick


rocks in. He runs, and he runs marathons to keep fit. And he plays


the piano. We have people who do interesting things when they are not


in the House. He is a very interesting individual. I wonder if


that is a euphemism for something else! Is it true that he had a bust


up, or nearly had a bust up, with Douglas Alexander back in 2012? I


don't know about that. I'm sure that feelings run high in the Cabinet and


the Shadow Cabinet. We are all in politics because we believe


passionately in what we want to do and what we want the Government to


do. Those passions sometimes play out and people disagree. Sometimes


in the chamber, sometimes in meetings. I wasn't around for that


particular discussion, but it wouldn't surprise me that people had


disagreed about things. Do you think he is unfairly portrayed as a


bruiser? Identified him a bruiser. I find him great to work with. That is


because you agree with him. Our team gets on Rooney well with him, and


that is because he is good to deal with. -- get on really well. I am


surprised to find out that Nick does his kick boxing, but then I have a


boss who dances. Will that be a turn-off for Lib Dem voters, if


there is a rapprochement between Nick Clegg and Ed Balls? We are not


here to fight. We are here to persuade and to cajole, so I don't


think... The point is, we will fight hard and Labour will fight hard to


win in the next election, but we will all have to deal with what the


electorate decides. That is a reflection, and what has been said


about Ed Balls is a reflection of it. You have to go with what the


electorate delivered to you. Back to the Government's plan to compensate


councils who give them the go-ahead for fracking, letting them keep all


of the business rates collected as a result of the drilling. We are


joined by the NST -- by the Energy Minister, Michael Fallon. This will


help councils say yes to your project for fracking. I think it is


being fair to local councils and local communities. Otherwise the


profits go back to the companies involved or straight to the


Treasury. This gives local communities the chance, as well as


getting jobs and growth, the chance to improve local services. I think


that is only fair. Because there are Government cuts. The Treasury is


going to get an awful lot of extra revenue because of this. We have


seen protesters already complaining about future potential fracking, and


this is going to make no difference to those communities whatsoever. I


doubt accept that. There was already incentives being offered to the


communities for each site. 1% of the revenues, if the gas flows, which


could mean up to ?10 million for the site. Today, we have announced that


local communities will be able to keep all of the business rates. So


there's a strong interest here for local communities who are affected


by the search for shale gas. I hope all of these things will encourage


that search to get under way. It has been promised as the Holy Grail of


our energy supplies in the future. Will it live up to that promise? It


has made a huge difference in the United States. It is going to cut


bills. When will it start to cut bills? It is going to take two or


three years of exploration. It would be irresponsible not to encourage


companies to go down there and see if they could get it out, just as in


the United States. Even Ed Davey has said that it is not going to bring


down energy prices -- energy prices in the future, if at all. By


claiming that it is going to bring down energy prices to the same level


as in the United States is disingenuous. We don't know that


yet. All we do know is that we have two or three times more shale gas


than was originally estimated. It would be irresponsible to not allow


or encourage companies to get down there and explore and see if they


could get it out. It could, I repeat could, make a difference to our


economy. It is a big gamble. Fracking will read to the


industrialisation of our green and present -- green and pleasant land.


You are prepared to gamble that on the basis that in the future our


energy prices might come down. It is a gamble for the companies


concerned, including the very big companies who are prepared to invest


millions in this research. But it is not a gamble in terms of the


environment. There will be things in place to protect the environment and


make sure that any drilling that is done is safe and does not harm the


local community. You say you are going to do enough to make sure


fracking is safe, but Lord Stern has criticised the Government for


encouraging a brush into fracking without a deep analysis of its


effects, such as water pollution. You don't know. We do have


experience elsewhere. Hundreds of thousands of wells have been drilled


or fractured in other countries around the world. We have had


onshore drilling in Britain for both oil and gas since the end of World


War One. We already have a system of regulation in place, and we will


take very great care that there is no damage to the water supply and


that there are not any risks in the fracturing before any of it goes


ahead. You still have to convince many on your own side. This has been


described as some as crumbs to the table, and that the Government would


take 60% in tax from each Shale site. ?10 million from each site,


once the gas flows, is certainly not crumbs. ?10 million is for the 1% of


revenue once the gas begins to flow, and doesn't cover the business


rates. These are quite formidable sums of money for each of the local


communities. Above all, exploration of shale gas that is successful can


have a huge impact on communities in terms of jobs, business and growth.


This is an opportunity. We don't yet know whether it can reduce prices as


it has done in the United States. We do know that plenty of companies out


there want to go ahead and explore, and we should be encouraging that.


Thank you. Tessa Munt, do you agree? Are you going to back this


wholeheartedly? I think we need to do various things before we go hell


for leather at this. I don't think the American comparison stands up.


This is a new process. If you look at the basis of the American model,


that depends on the fact that methane is really the unwanted


by-product of methane, butane and propane for the petrochemical


industry that they are really after. We have to rely on the Environment


Agency in order to patrol and police this, and I don't think the capacity


is there in the environment agent -- the Environment Agency. I live in


the Mendip Hills, and we know what Somerset is like for water at the


moment. If that goes wrong, it could be catastrophic, so we do need to


make sure we get this absolutely pinned down before anyone does


anything. There's an awful lot of opposition to this. Are you in


favour of it? Do you think there needs to be more analysis done on


the environmental impact? It is vital for the regulation to be very


stringent. The point that was raised at the start of the interview about


bribery... From my experience of local councils, the decisions will


be in their hands. They know their area best. But the money might be


given them to cajole them to do something that their communities


might not want them to do otherwise. I have seen many things where


there's been, under previous regime, where monies were offered for


different things. I have every faith that local councils will do the


right thing for their area, which is the way it should be. Are you in


favour of fracking? I believe we need to look into fracking. It is an


energy source at a time that we need new energy sources. I'm afraid we


have run out of time, but thank you all. The news is starting over on


BBC One now. I'll be here at noon tomorrow with all the big political


stories of the day. I'll be joined by the former Labour MP and diarist,


Chris Mullin. Do join me then. Bye.


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