22/01/2014 Daily Politics


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Morning folks, welcome to the Daily Politics. Employment up, the pound


up, growth returning. Is the recovery well and truly under way?


With more good news on the economy ministers are straining not to sound


complacent. But where does it leave Labour?


All good material for Prime Ministers' Questions - we'll have


the action live at midday. What's more important, building new


houses, or protecting our green and pleasant land? Survival expert Ray


Mears will be here to tell us why the green belt is one of our great


national treasures. And she's made a splash with her


appearance on a popular TV show. But do politicians and reality


television really mix? All that in the next 90 minutes of


television gold. And with me for this marathon of public service


broadcasting are two giants of the political stage: Matthew Hancock,


Minister for Skills and Enterprise, and Maria Eagle, the Shadow


Environment Secretary. Hancock and Eagle, it sounds like a


detective series. I like it. Welcome to the show. First this morning,


let's get the latest on the row about Lord Rennard.


Yes, Liberal Democrat peers are to meet for the first time today since


the row over Lord Rennard's future with the party began. Lord Rennard


had his party membership temporarily suspended after he refused to


apologise over claims he sexually harassed female party members. The


peer, who denies the claims, has threatened to take legal action over


his suspension. Speaking this morning on his regular phone-in on


LBC radio the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, admitted the party had not


handled it well. I actually think the way we handled at last year was


not great, it wasn't ideal. And, more than that, looking much further


back, it is quite clear that when the women were first caused these


distress many years ago, the party did not react, the alarm bells did


not go off and there were not the procedures. I've apologised in


person and public. But you were made aware of it into 1008 -- in 2008.


This has been around for the best part of six years. It's not great


leadership, is it? Well, as I said, the party clearly did not respond in


the right way. Neither did you. You keep saying, the party. I take


responsibility, I've apologised. Bet he's really glad he's doing a radio


show! We're joined now from Brussels by


Chris Davies who's Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament


and a supporter of Lord Rennard. Welcome to the show. I understand


that although URA supporter, you don't think he should be taking


legal action, is that correct? I think he will probably win his legal


action. The party has failed to carry out its own procedures


properly and could therefore be forced to reinstate Chris as a party


member. The Lords could then invited to join the group. But I don't think


any of this will help. The reality is, the party is deeply divided.


There is clearly no meeting of minds and people seem to be taking


entrenched positions. Whatever the rights and wrongs, it will solve


nothing any sense. Have you put that point to Chris Rennard? That is very


difficult to answer. He is in a position of enormous pressure. I


don't know how Batman has survived the amount of media pressure. That


is why I tried to put it into context. -- how that man. Even if


the crimes and allegations did take place, and he denies that, this is


not an evil man in any sense. He is not Jimmy Savile. What I want to say


most of all is people are talking generally about the idea of


mediation, but I don't think anyone has put on the table any practical


solutions. It seems to me there should be mediation. Obviously, be


involved parties have two agree to that. They need to be some


independent mediators, people with an objective position. For example,


the MP who helped negotiate the coalition agreement. Respected


people by all sides. And it needs to be hosted bats outside London,


weight from the hothouse, held in private, no lawyers and kept secret


until the risen agreement. -- until there is an agreement. You say he is


not Jimmy Savile but at the very least this is Benny Hill. One party


member has said the party is in danger of a bloodbath. Perhaps now


the party is the most -- is most dangerously and object of ridicule.


Yes, only the Lib Dems could have a sex scandal without any sex. We need


to find a meeting of minds. This is a family. We are a relatively small


family, lots of individuals concerned are making commentary, we


all know each other and like each other. We have our fallouts, but by


and large we like each other, and this division is very painful. Just


to clarify, you are not putting yourself up as the leader of the


Italian bottom pinching party? Yes, I'm grateful for that. That was a


remark I made on a live interview and of course I don't in any way


sanction behaviour which can be regarded as offensive. It's just


unacceptable, of course. I'd been talking to Chris Rennard and I know


the pain he's been going through. And because it is talk about sex


scandals, people think it is like Jimmy Savile, they think it is like


rape. It is nothing to do with that. We need a sense of proportion.


However inappropriate the comments I made, I did not mean to cause


offence. When you look at this, is it hard to avoid a sense of


enjoyment at their misfortune? Or is it more there but for the grace of


God? Well, I cannot comment on this particular case, of course, but it


does bring to light a wider issue for politics. When women make these


kinds of allegations in a work context, they have to be taken


seriously. There has to be a process established in which they can have


confidence to come forward and set out what has happened to them. There


has to be a way of resolving it. For about six or seven years, these


allegations were known at the top of the Lib Dem party and there was no


process that had the confidence of the women. And we see the


consequences of that failure of leadership in the Lib Dem party.


Let's leave it there. Nicky Morgan might not yet be a


household name, but in Conservative circles she is tipped as a rising


star. She's currently a junior minister in the Treasury, but it's


not for economic reasons that she has hit the headlines today.


Speaking at an event organised by a Conservative think tank yesterday


she said the party's message must contain less "hate" if it is to win


the next election. She said the party need a "positive long-term


plan" instead of talking about what they were against all the time. Is


she right? I absolutely think that we'd not only got but should talk as


much as possible about the positive plan. She doesn't think that. She


thinks we're anti this and anti-that, we don't like them, we


don't want them here. She says people are prostrated with that. She


is talking about immigration, the debate around benefits and the EU.


-- frustrated with that. I think we do have a positive vision and I


agree that we need to go out and talk about it. Look at the


unemployment figures this morning. Employment rose at the fastest rate


on record. It is a fantastic part of the record of this Government, and I


think that our forward-looking plans at the election need to be positive


as well. The easy way to make them positive is to talk about what we've


achieved in turning round the economy so far. It is not complete,


and it is at risk if others come in and reverse some of the decisions.


But there is a great chance for this country by insuring we have stronger


economy and education, more secure personal finances. There is a


fairness argument as well about making sure people who work hard and


do well. Nicky Morgan is a colleague of view, she is in the Treasury say


you would think she would be feeling the good news. But she is not. Issue


reflecting our knees among a number of Tory MPs who feel the atmosphere


is negative? -- is she reflecting unease? Well, she had the argument,


here is the positive message that we need to sell. And I agree. Except


she says that we never say we're on the side of these people. We want


the stab in and we think this is great. She says that you never say


that. Well, I say it all the time. Maybe you should report it more. The


positive message is absolutely mission-critical. But positive


messages are also about fairness, making sure the system is fair to


those who do the right thing. That is a positive message. I think it is


reasonable to be against something is. I am against more borrowing and


removing the programme of living within our means that has helped to


turn the economy around and lead to the positive news. Do you think even


know it has been popular with the public, you are focused too much on


immigration, benefit cheats, as you have described them - as has the


Labour Party, to - and the negatives of the youth? -- the EU. I don't


think I ever ever described them as benefit cheats. Not you, but your


party. The great thing about turning the economy around is that a


positive message is absolutely going to be there because things are


starting to move in the right of action. Not that the job is done or


that we're there, but that things are moving in the right direction.


That inevitably leads to a positive message about family finances,


security, the number of jobs, record numbers of jobs in the economy, and


making sure we have a system that is fair for people who do the right


thing. So we will hear a different tone, and that is what your


colleague is saying. She is warning the Tories that they need to attract


the aspirational voters who voted for Tony Blair. She thinks you are


failing to do that. Well, we could always do more. This is what debates


within parties are about. It is by Chile important -- vitally important


to make sure we have a positive message. It has to be balanced and


reasonable, but I think you can still talk about making sure the


system is fair to people who do the right thing within that positive,


balanced message. That's enough positivity!


Now, more good news on the economy this morning - there's been another


sharp fall in the number of people out work. It's a bigger fall than


analysts were expecting. The news pushed up the value of the pound,


which rose about half a percentage point against the euro. Yesterday,


the International Monetary Fund said the UK would be the fastest growing


economy in Europe this year. So, should we popping open the


Champagne? Or are there pitfalls ahead? Jo Co has the details.


Another day and another round of good economic news for the


Government. The latest figures show unemployment has fallen again, it's


now down to 7.1%, which is on the brink of the 7% point at which the


Bank of England said they would consider raising interest rates.


They thought that would take until 2016, but with the economy looking


stronger we're almost there already. Yesterday's IMF forecast predicted


the UK will grow faster than any other major European economy. It now


expects growth of 2.4% this year, in line with the Office for Budget


Responsibility's own forecasts. And having once accused George Osborne


of playing with fire for sticking with austerity, the IMF chief


economist had to eat his words. Nobody thought that consumers would


go on a spending spree. So at the time it looked risky. Now in


retrospect, at the time we didn't know. It was a reasonable call. The


world's leading economic decision-makers and thinkers are


gathering in the Swiss resort of Davos for the annual World Economic


Forum. Jeremy Warner is among them, he's the Assistant Editor of the


Daily Telegraph and writes about business and economics. UK growth


forecast now revised significantly upwards to about 2.4% by the IMF,


steady stream of good economic news. Is the recovery sustainable or is it


just built on consumer spending and a growing housing bubble? As you can


see, it's a beautiful Alpine day out here in Davos. It seems to be


somewhat in tune with the mood of this meeting. There's a lot more


optimism of an business leaders and thinkers out here this year, and


particularly among the quite sizeable British contingent here.


That said, there is a certain lack of, well, here we've got a bit of


growth going again, the financial crisis seems to finally be behind


us, but where do we go from here? There's a sort of absence of a big,


new idea to galvanise business investment and really start to get


the sinews of the economy working properly again. As you were just


alluding to, we have a recovery but it is very much based on the old


precrisis sort of growth. Rising house prices, increased consumption,


we've got a widening current-account deficit again, we are spending far


more than we are earning abroad, and so on and so forth. So there is that


worry on the horizon that it's just not a sustainable thing. That


reflects very much an international concern. We've got a bit of growth


going back in Western economies, but is it really enough to get


businesses investing again? The other side of this are the interest


rate. The Bank of England governor may be putting himself as a hostage


to fortune, Mark Carney said once unemployment levels came down to 7%,


they would look at raising interest rates. Well, we are almost there. Is


there any chance that there's going to be a rate rise before the


election in 2015? I think it's pretty unlikely. They are going to


have to do in some way recalibrate this forward guidance because, as


you say, it looks as though the employment threshold is going to be


met very quickly, possibly in the next few months. But Mark Carney is


on record as believing that interest rates really do need to stay low for


a long time, to underpin this recovery. I disagree with this


stance. I think a small rise in interest rates now is absolutely


necessary to take the heat out of what is plainly another nascent


housing boom, housing bubble. And good people pause for thought about


how much they are borrowing. We've only just come off the top of very


high levels of household borrowing. They've only just started to come


down. Now here we go again. Have a look at this graph.


Labour used to talk about double-dip and triple dip, Ed Balls was on


about flat-lining. These are the official figures. You were wrong on


all accounts. The economy hasn't even been flat-lining since 2010. I


don't think we've seen the growth that we would have anticipated.


That's different. Be returned to growth we are seeing at the figures


yesterday is entirely welcome, but I think we need to focus on who is


benefiting from this growth. Your narrative for so long was not that


there was growth but not enough, or not that there was growth but it was


the wrong sort. Your party's narrative has been flat-lining, no


growth at all. That child quite clearly shows you would just wrong.


Look, there have been some revisions to statistics as we've gone along,


which is always the case, statistics are revised... How far down did the


economy go? There's no doubt of that fact that we have not grown to the


extent we would have wished, that growth was choked off when the


current Government came into office. Now I think it is entirely positive


and good that we are seeing growth back in our economy. But I think we


need to ask you is going to benefit from the economic... And, you know,


the average person is ?1600 a year worse off. Living standards have


been really hit during this period. I think we need to focus on the


future on trying to make sure that everybody benefits from the


growth... The return to growth in the economy that we are now starting


to see. I just wonder where labour's narrative goes from here.


To begin with, if the Government stuck to its plan that would be no


growth. The Government sticks to its plan, there is growth. The growth is


now accelerating. Then you said that there is growth but people are in a


cost of living crisis, certainly a squeeze. But it could be that quite


soon wages are going to overtake prices. So when cost of living is no


longer a crisis, where do you go next? I don't think it is true to


say, and the unemployment figures today showed that real wages are


still rising at only half the level of prices. So we're not at the


stage... I didn't say that. The productions Arteta will happen. I


hope that it does. But the reality that people are still ?1600 a year


worse off. By the end of this Parliament people are going to be


absolutely worse off than they were at the beginning of it. You've said


that figure of ?6,000 twice. Can we just agree that that's comparing


only prices and wages, it doesn't take into account people coming out


of tax altogether and other things that have mitigated it? It's a wage


price comparison. It's a real terms figure, though. But it's not the


whole story. You can never encapsulates the entire story in one


figure, you know that will stop people are going to be worse off at


the end of this Parliament than they were at the beginning. If Matthew


Hancock and the Government think that real wages overtaking prices


again towards the end of this year, which we hope they will and you


start seeing an easing in that cost of living crisis, if they think


that's going to be enough to satisfy people, I think they are out of


touch. Although these unemployment figures are very good, they are good


across all regions. It is mainly a rise in full-time appointment as


well, not part-time jobs, which a lot of critics have been saying. But


wages are rising by less than 1% and prices are rising twice as fast.


People's incomes are still being squeezed. As Maria says, it is great


news that the economy is recovering. The largest rise in


employment in the history of this measure, which goes back to 1970.


This is good. What about the living standards? On average earnings, that


figure is a pre-tax figure. As you've said, we've cut taxes


especially for the low-paid, by raising the tax threshold. And also


it doesn't take into account things like we've kept mortgage rates low


mortgage rates have been falling, which for many families has a big


impact on their cost of living. One of the things I entirely agree with


Maria on is that as this growth, we hope, in trenches, we've got to make


sure that everybody benefits, and we've got to make sure that it keeps


going and that it's sustainable. The idea that just because growth is


going and the business leaders at Davos are saying they've got more


confidence, the idea that the job is done is absurd. There is far more to


do. After all, why are we here? Why am I, Asllani economist, in


politics? It is to improve people 's living standards and prosperity. One


swallow doesn't make a summer. It certainly doesn't. One swallow that


is yet to appear is an improvement in the long-term unemployed. In


fact, they are getting worse. 449,000, almost half a million


people, have been unemployed for over two years. That rose by 14,000.


Making sure that... I thought you were reforming welfare and taking


jobs to these people you've not had jobs for a long time. Absolutely,


and dealing with this is crucial. One reason that -- instead of


putting people onto incapacity benefits and hiding them from the an


appointment figures, we are now putting people back into jobseeker's


allowance. For instance, the new Deal under Labour, which we got rid


of, said that as soon as you were on the programme you came off the


employment figures. Whereas our Work Programme is very clear that when


you are on the programme you stay in the employment figures. In a way,


we're taking off some of the massaging that has been done by


governments of all colours. Whatever statistical table you put them in,


they are unemployed. Do I want to get that number down? Of course I


do. One of the most satisfying part of the unemployment figures is that


youth unemployment is down 39,000. That has been far too high for far


too long. There is much more we need to do. I think we will probably come


back to the economy after Prime Minister's Questions. Who knows, it


may come up! You will win a Daily Politics mug if you are right! Do


you want to get your hands on one of these? It is Guess the Year. We will


remind you how to enter in a minute. Let's see if you can remember when


this happened. MUSIC: "The Real Thing" by Tony de


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It's coming up to midday here, just take a look at Big Ben, and that can


mean only one thing. Yes, Prime Minister's Questions is on its way.


If you'd like to comment on proceedings you can email us at


[email protected] or tweet your thoughts using the #bbcdp.


We'll read some out after PMQs. And that's not all, Nick Robinson is


here. Sponge Bob Square pants was on. It


went viral, that story. I thought I would have some foreign ambassador


saying it to me! Also, he was French! A tricky one for Ed Miliband


today. The economy is the big issue, but how does he do it? In one sense


it's not tricky because if you didn't do it the Prime Minister


would just laugh at him. He has to do it. We will get the debate you've


just had. You by the coalition's view that it's beginning to go in


the right direction, not there yet, says Matt Hancock, or do you buy the


Labour Party's view that, though, for most people it's not there. It


could be that both things are true and the electorate has to weigh up


the balance between some better economic news and that they are in


their own purses and wallets, millions of people are not feeling


it at all. Of course, we are not there yet.


Lord Rennard, any developments there?


I am sure the whole House will want me to send my commiserations to the


soldiers who died. They had given so much time to troubled regions across


the world. This morning I had meetings and in addition to duties


in the House I will have extra meetings. I would like to associate


myself with" is expressed. The trust supports the fast-growing network of


church -based food banks which between them provided food for half


a million people between April and December last year. With the Prime


Minister be willing to meet with representatives of the trust to


discuss with them the big challenges. I would be happy to meet


with them. We have listened carefully to be Trussell Trust. One


thing they wanted was to allow food banks to be promoted in job centres.


We've allowed that to happen and it has increased the use of food banks,


but I think it is important to do the right thing. The Prime Minister


is aware of the tragic case of a two-year-old boy taken to an urgent


care centre at 3am for the emergency care he needed. Despite the best


efforts of a senior nurse and the paramedics who took him, he was


tragically pronounced dead at 4am. I know we cannot comment on the case


until a full report is published, but does he agree that the effect is


that we are asking people where to go for help at moments of great


personal stress? We must do more to explain the choice to help them


decide. Will he meet with me on publication of the report to see if


there are lessons that can be learned? I'm happy to meet with my


honourable friend. This is an absolutely tragic case. I offer my


deepest sympathies to the family. Anyone who is taking a desperately


ill child to hospital in the night knows what an incredibly desperate


time that can be. I understand the hospital is carrying out a full and


combines an investigation into the circumstances surrounding this poor


child's death. We must ensure that everything is done to avoid these


terrible incidents happening in future. Mr Speaker, I want to start


by paying tribute to the two British nationals killed in a suicide bomb


attack in Afghanistan. Simon Chase had served Britain in the army and


my condolences go to all his family and friends. Del Singh was one of


the most decent people you could ever hope to meet. He was on


international development worker who dedicated his life to helping people


across the world. We'll grieve with his family. These recent events are


a reminder of the horror unfolding there. We all hope for significant


progress from today's talks. Last month, a joint statement was made


about the plight of Syrian refugees which welcomed the Government's


leadership in terms of the aid programme. The UN high commission of


refugees has also called on Britain to be part of a programme to help


resettle a small number of the most vulnerable refugees. 18 countries


are part of that programme. Britain is not so far among them. Doesn't


the Prime Minister agree that we should be? Firstly, may I completely


agree about how terrible the allegations of torture are in that


country? I think we are fulfilling our moral obligations to the people


of Syria. We are the second largest bilateral aid donor. The money that


British taxpayers are providing is providing food, shelter, water and


medicine for literally hundreds of thousands of people. We are also


fulfilling all our obligations in terms of asylum seekers. We've taken


over 1000 asylum seekers from Syria in recent months. We are making sure


that where we can help very vulnerable children who are ill,


including a child in a British hospital today, we take action now


as well. I don't believe you can solve a refugee crisis of this scale


when you've got almost half of the 9 million population of Syria either


displaced or at risk of displacement with a quota system where countries


are taking a few hundred refugees. But where I do agree with him is


that, if there are very difficult cases of people who don't belong in


refugee camps, who then either disabled by these dreadful attacks


or in very different circumstances, I'm happy to look at that argument.


Britain always plays the right role in these desperate Unitarian crisis.


I thank the Prime Minister for that answer. Let me make a few points in


reply because it is an important issue. Firstly, we are all agreed on


the leadership that this Government has shown in relation to Syrian aid.


I pay tribute to the International Development Secretary and others. On


the point of asylum seekers, those are the people who have been able to


get here. We're talking about people who are in refugee camps at the


moment. On his point of whether this consult the problem, of course it


can't. But the UN is talking about a small number of the most vulnerable


people here, including children who've lost their parents and


victims of torture. I was somewhat encouraged by the end of the


promised a's answer on this. We are proud of our tradition of taking


refugees. Why did you not really get theirs and say we will take a few


hundred refugees and set an example's I don't actually think


there is a disagreement between us. Let me explain. Some countries are


using this quota system of a way of saying, therefore I have fulfilled


my obligations. When you've got, as I say, almost half of a 9 million


population at risk of displacement, the fact that the French or the


Swedes are going to take a 200 people, that is not fulfilling your


obligations. Where is the massive amount of aid that Britain is


putting forward, the second-largest in the world, is paying the


important role. I think there are individual cases where we should be


looking and I'm happy to look at those arguments and those issues.


But let's not pretend that a small quota system can solve the problem


of Syrian refugees. I do feel we are gradually inching forward on this


issue. Let me be clear about this. It must not be an excuse for failing


to provide aid, of course not. But we're not talking about either


providing aid or taking vulnerable refugees. Were talking about doing


both. Given the reasonable tone of the Prime Minister, will you now


open discussions with the United Nations about Britain making its


contribution to this programme? I think colleagues on all sides of


this has want this to happen. Will you now say he will do so? I've made


very clear where prepared to listen to the arguments about how we can


help the most vulnerable people in those refugee camps. But some of the


countries that are participating include in their quotas both asylum


numbers and refugee numbers, which I think is not the argument we should


be making. Let me be absolutely clear. Britain is leading the world


in terms of the manor tarring aid in Syria. We should be proud of that.


-- the humanitarian aid. Where there are extreme hardship cases, I think


we should look at them again. That is the approach we should take. I


think there should be all-party support for it and Britain can be


proud of the role it is playing. I hope he will take this away and will


open discussions with the United Nations. I don't think honourable


members should grown on this issue, I really do not. -- should groan. I


want to move on, Mr Speaker, to another subject. Today's welcome


fall in unemployment... CHEERING.


We welcome the fall in unemployment because whenever an individual gets


back into work, it is good for them and whether their families. I do


have to say to honourable members, braying like that doesn't do anybody


any good. Can he confirmed that today's figures also show that


average wages are down by ?1600 since the election, meaning that


ordinary families are experiencing life getting harder. It is worth


pausing for a moment over what these statistics show. They show long-term


unemployment and youth unemployment going down. The claimant count is


going down. And employment overall is going down. And the biggest ever


quarterly increase in the number of people in work in our country. Now,


there should not be one ounce of complacency, there is still a big


amount of work to do to get Britain back on track, but there are 280,000


more people in work. 280,000 more people with the security of a


regular pay packets coming in for themselves and their family. Of


course, we are seeing a slow growth in wages. Why? Because we are


recovering from the longest and deepest recession in living memory.


But I have to say because the leader of the opposition keeps quoting the


bigger without the tax cuts we've put in place, user not recognising


that actually this year people are better off, because we've controlled


spending and cut taxes. Mr Speaker, all he has done is show he is


absolutely complacent about the situation. He is trying to tell


millions of families around this country that they are better off


when they know they are worse up. It does not help the Prime Minister to


tell the opposite. Let me take this figure. In Britain today, there are


13 million people living in poverty. That is a shocking figure. And what


is scandalous is that, for the first time ever, the majority of those


people are living not in jobless families but in working families.


What is his explanation for that? The explanation for this is what the


Institute for Fiscal Studies has said. It said, wages have increased


much less quickly for inflation. As I say, that is not surprise in. We


had the bigger success in -- recession we've had in 100 years. It


would be astonishing if that was not the case. The fact is, we are


recovering from the mess that they left us. Every week, you come see --


he comes here and raises a new problem that he created. Weird the


betting problem, the banking problem, the deficit problem and now


we add the cost of living problem. He is like an arsonist to those


brands setting fire after fire and then complains when the fire brigade


are not putting out the fire is fast enough. Why does he not start with


an apology for the mess that he left us? He comes here every week and


does is Bullingdon Club routine and all he shows, all these shows, is


years absolutely -- is he has absolutely no understanding of the


reality for millions of ordinary working people. They are working


harder, for longer and for less. He is cutting taxes for millionaires.


He cannot be the solution to the cost of living crisis because he


just does not understand the problem.


As the support for the Department for Transport, can the Prime


Minister assured me he will support the College and make sure that the


decision is taken quickly on debate, so that employers and young people


can require the skills they need? I'm a great supporter of university


technical colleges. They focus on vocational training and education.


The new college announced last week is welcome news. It will open its


doors in 2017. I look forward to working with him on this issue.


Hundreds of new jobs have been brought to my constituency, an area


where long-term unemployment has fallen by 35% and youth unemployment


by 40%. Will my right honourable friend commended the good sense of


these companies for coming to town with, we hear anchor doom or the


same, and will he consider visiting top of himself to see how our


long-term economic plan is delivering results? Always happy to


visit Tamworth and spent time under the shadow of Sir Robert Peel. I've


enjoyed visiting his constituency in the past. I think we are seeing a


recovery, particularly in terms of jobs and getting people off the


unemployed and register. It's worth noting that the figures also show


full-time employment up 220,000, compared with just 60,000 increase


in part-time employment. That shows people getting the full-time jobs


they want. I'm happy to commend the businesses he is welcoming to


Tamworth. Prime Minister, the green shoots of economic recovery are not


being recognised across the entire UK. Does he intend speaking to the


Governor of the Bank of England to make him aware of the fact that in a


low-wage economy area, any signs or increase in inflation will


undoubtedly be a devastating thing for many households. The point I


make to the honourable gentleman is we want to secure a recovery in


every region of our country and every nation of our United Kingdom.


If we look at Scotland, that last quarter, the employment level went


up by 10,000. There are 90,000 more people in work than a year ago. I


think progress is being made and the Scottish economy is performing, but


we should do everything we can to help make that happen. If we want to


keep interest rates down, that is a matter for the Bank of England. But


our role must be to continue the work on getting the deficit down. In


doing that we have to make difficult decisions on spending. And it's not


helped by the fact that all the difficult decisions we've made, not


one single decision has been supported by the party opposite.


Tiller the leader of the opposition has suggested we learn lessons from


the Welsh assembly Labour government and how to run public services. With


cuts to the NHS budget and the worst education system in the UK, does he


agree that the only lesson we can learn from this is that those who


care about public services should vote Conservative? I think it is now


possible to look very closely at the decisions that the Labour government


have made in Wales. The decisions they've taken and the effect of


those decisions. If you take for instant the NHS, they haven't


followed our approach of protecting the spending on the NHS, there's


been an 8% cut to the budget in Wales. As a result, they haven't met


and A targets since 2009. I also worry about some of the changes that


have been made in education in Wales, because we want all children


in our country to get the benefits of good basics in education, proper


tests and league tables. This weekend Nigel Wilson, the chief


executive of legal and General, one of our biggest financial puppies,


urged the government to abandon its Help to Buy scheme in London to


prevent house prices spiralling out of control. Does he agree with Mr


Wilson that we should use the money instead to build new homes across


the United Kingdom? We are building homes across the United Kingdom. One


better than what she suggests is what we've done, which is give the


power to the Bank of England to specifically advise on any potential


problems in the housing market or in any other market. We've actually


cleared up the mess of the regular to resist that we were left by the


party opposite, so that proper warnings can be given in proper


time. Under the party opposite, manufacturing was neglected on the


sector halved in size. With this government investing in


manufacturing excellence and -- the Manufacturing technology Centre in


my constituency, and the success of companies like Jaguar Land Rover and


Rolls-Royce to import and export markets, does the Prime Minister


agree that they be surging manufacturing sector is part of this


Government's long-term plan for the economy? Rebalancing our economy is


absolutely part of our long-term economic plan. We want to see a


balanced recovery, balanced between manufacturing and service, properly


balanced between north and south, and making sure we win back these


jobs and orders from overseas. The companies he quotes, like Jaguar


Land Rover and Rolls-Royce, they have the full backing of the


government. They have got the investment going into the


apprenticeship schemes that are helping them. We've reformed UKTI so


we can help them sell around the world. We are encouraging them to


bring back jobs into the UK. Manufacturing jobs and exports are


responding well. As the deputy Prime Minister knows, sorry is still the


hardest word to say. Does the Prime Minister agree that Alex Salmond...


Owes the people of Scotland and the apology... I say to members on both


sides of the house, this is supposed to be questions to the Prime


Minister, not a Punch and Judy show. Mr Michael McCann. Does the


Prime Minister agree that Alex Salmond owes the people of Scotland


and apology for a White Paper that dodges the tough questions, and does


it explain that by adopting the pound that interest rates will go up


because Scotland's lender of last resort will be a foreign bank? I


agree. I think the White Paper, which would -- which we were told


was going to answer all of the questions, actually left the most


important questions about the future of the currency, Scotland's plays in


the Europe union union, the future of defence jobs, the future


financial services, it left those questions unanswered. That is why Mr


Salmond is struggling to get his across. Whilst we can currently


celebrate record levels of investment in North Sea oil and gas


production and all the jobs that it supports, we do have to recognise


there is growing concern at the lack of exploration. Will the Prime


Minister therefore recommit the government to its tax stability


policy and encourage as much exploration as possible to ensure


future investment? I can certainly get my honourable friend that


assurance. It is very important we make the most out of the asset that


is the North Sea. That is what the Would Report is all about, and we're


putting those proposals in place. The Chancellor has listened


carefully to what he says about making sure that the tax system for


the long-term encourages the maximum recovery. Del Synge was an


extraordinary person, a passionate campaigner for justice. He dedicated


his life for helping those in conflict. Can the Prime Minister


assure the house that after the drawdown of troops this year, that


the work of people like him will continue to be supported by this


government? I share what she has said. It reminds us of the risks


that aid workers take on our behalf to deliver this vital assistance


around the world. I can give her the assurance she seeks. It's important


for everyone to recognise that while our troops are coming home at the


end of 2014, our commitment to Afghanistan will continue. Our


commitment to its armed forces and our commitment to over $100 million


a year in terms of our commitment to its aid and future development. We


will need many more brave people to go on working with the Afghan


government to deliver for the Afghan people. Formula One team McLaren is


the largest employer in my constituency of Woking. The Prime


Minister like to join me in congratulating them on the hundreds


of new jobs that they are creating locally, on the global sell-out of


their P1 sports car and the ?50 million worth of exports they will


achieve this year in China? Yet more examples of the success of British


business and of our long-term economic plan. I share my honourable


friend's enthusiasm for McLaren and for the work of Ron Dennis, who


helpfully brought one of his cars to our meeting in China where we were


encouraging investment into the UK. This is the very highest end of


British motor manufacturing, but it is worth recognising that we've got


a vehicle rolling off a British production line every 20 seconds.


The British motor industry is doing well, this Government is backing it


and long may that continue. Can I also thank the Prime Minister and


the leader of the opposition for their kind words about my friend,


Delsing, a man who devoted his two short-lived working for peace and


justice, not least in Palestine and Afghanistan. But, I ask the members


this, new stock in affordable homes has fallen by a third since 2010.


Why is that? Is it in part because Tory councillors like Hammersmith


and Fulham are demolishing council houses, the most affordable type of


housing, and selling the land for exclusively private development? I'm


afraid he has got his figures wrong. Housing starts are 89% higher than


the trough they left us in 2009. When it comes to affordable homes,


we've already delivered over 100,000 affordable homes, we will deliver


170,000 in total by 2015. The rate of affordable house building will


soon be the highest it has been for two decades. That is a massive


contrast with the Labour, where housing waiting lists almost


doubled. If he doesn't believe me, he might want this quotation, and


guess who it's from? We refused to prioritise building up new social


housing. Who said that? The leader of the opposition. Can I commend the


Prime Minister for his firm action against unscrupulous payday lenders


and for driving the credit union expansion project? Would he now urge


more employers to look at parting with their local credit union, so


that many more people can access affordable credit through the


payroll? The positive side of this is we need to expand credit unions


faster. We should be looking at all the ways in which that can be done,


including other organisations partnering with credit union links.


What is the Prime Minister afraid of, and why doesn't he now publish


and be dammed? We've got hundreds of thousands more people getting into


work, able to provide for their families and get the peace of mind


and security that people want in this country. That is what we are


publishing today and that is real progress for our nation. 45% of


people don't pay their utility bills by direct debit. 1 million of them


don't have bank accounts. Get energy companies are charging an average


?115 extra for people who don't pay by direct debit, hitting pensioners


and the poorest of the most. Will my honourable friend look into this,


given that the Government is doing everything possible by cutting


energy bills? I'm happy to look into this issue. That is why we have


taken the steps to compel the energy companies to put people on to the


lowest tariffs. We want to make sure that everyone can take advantage of


that. We've also cut energy bills by ?50, by rolling back the costs of


some of the green measures. We should continue to make this market


more competitive to give more choice to consumers, and to encourage the


switching that happened a huge amount towards the end of last year,


that has saved many people many hundreds of pounds.


That began in a subdued mood, with Ed Miliband trying to take prime


ministers questions seriously as part of his New Year 's resolution.


His first question was what they should do about the massive Syrian


refugee crisis. A bit of a disagreement. Then we went back to


Punch and Judy because we turned to the economy and we heard all the old


phrases as usual. Cost of living crisis... Clearing up the mess...


You've heard it up before. Then it went a bit shout eat in the second


half. -- shouty. We heard from one viewer that Ed Miliband might not be


winning in the chamber but his words are resonating outside Westminster.


Another said, Cameron boasted about employment figures and then said in


the next sentence, let's not be complacent. But in another viewer


said, is Ed Miliband trying to be the deliberate softy, trying to


engage in discussion rather than confrontation? A final viewer had a


Prime Minister 's questions game which is what question Ed Miliband


will ask first. I won today by saying Syria. In what way people


better off? The figures show you take into account the tax cuts and


the employment rise, the total amount has risen. Getting people


into work is one of the best ways to increase household income. If you


take the fact that people are getting back into jobs and that we


cut taxes, then, yes. That doesn't mean there isn't more to do. It does


show that the long-term economic plan is working. If you are


unemployed and you get into a reasonably well-paid job, you will


obviously be better off. But I'm asking you, on average, if you take


everything into account ash tax benefits, tax changes, pay rises and


so on - are people better off or not? If you take everyone in the


country, on average when people get back into jobs the amount of


take-home pay goes up. So this is good news and it has an income


impact. But what about the answer to my question? The answer is yes. I'm


afraid it's not. People are on average ?25 a week worse off after


you take into account pay rises, the impact of tax and benefit reforms.


Everything you've done since 2010, they are ?25 a week on average were


soft. What I was talking about was over the last year. Also, you need


to take into account that mortgages have not gone up, they have gone


down. And the bigger picture is the question why things been different?


The national income in the recession fell by over 7%. So of course that


has an on incomes. But the Prime Minister said people were better off


and I'm asking you to give me figures to show that. The IAF as


figures show that people are not as worse off as Labour is claiming, but


they were soft. -- they are worse off. People coming into jobs


increase their earnings of the nation. Over the last year, nobody


denies this has been a difficult time. Our point is you have to ask


why. We are the biggest recession in recent history, I think that point


was made as well. If there is a cost of living crisis, as Labour calls


it, a crisis, why retail sales rising by 5%? Well, I didn't you can


assume that everyone in the country is increasing their spending. People


who got spare money... But retail spending is going up. If it was a


crisis, where would you get the money? I'm sure not everybody is


increasing their spending. You're like him. He picked one example to


make his case. I'm asking about the average. And talking on average,


retail spending across the board is up 5%. I don't deny for a moment


that living standards are being squeezed, but I'm asking you if it


is as bad as you make out then how come people are spending so much in


the shops? We are seeing all kinds of indications that it is a crisis.


Over half a million people are going to food banks every week to make


ends meet. That is up from 41,000. But you talk about the squeezed


middle. You're not just talking about people at the bottom end of


the income scale. Of course they are being squeezed. You talk about the


squeezed middle. Mr Miliband made himself a champion of the middle


class. My question is, if they are being squeezed so much - and that is


where most of the retail sales rise comes from, it reflects middle-class


spending - so if they are being squeezed, why are they spending so


much? You cannot take an individual and say at one end of the other they


are representative. We've got a very wide range of people and income.


This election campaign is going to be fun. What is really interesting


is how people want to talk about apples and pears and not admit that


is what they're doing. I'm puzzled that the Prime Minister has gone


back to an auld script that I put the Chancellor had abandoned. The


Chancellor used a figure in his Autumn statement which was basically


saying, we're all better off. You can only do that by not asking


whether you, me, people around the country are themselves better off,


but by including people who get jobs for the first time. Then you can


make those figures work and you can argue that's a good thing because


employment is a good thing. But it doesn't match the reality when


people say, I'm in a job and I'm worse off. When I interviewed the


Chancellor a few days ago I put it to and he abandoned the claim. He


said, I accept that we are all poorer but we're poorer for a


reason. The Prime Minister has gone back to using this of data.


Forgiving, but I think it was struggling to make sense for most


people. And the Labour to say, where are these new jobs coming from?


Where is that extra consumption coming from? The answer is perhaps


private sector borrowing. If you believe this is a recovery which may


be dangerously based on more borrowing and another House price


bubble, it is interesting one of the main reasons borrowing is coming


down at the moment is because of the massive increase in stamp duty. You


may actually think the fact people are spending more in the shops is a


bad thing, not a good thing. Were going to have to move on, but I can


assure you we will be coming back to both these issues. Maybe next time,


they will have done their homework. Nick, go and play some music. Any


particular selection? Something a bit more current. How do you stop


towns and cities just spreading and spreading until there is no green


and pleasant land left? Well, politicians and town planners


devised one solution in the 1930s and 1940s: it was called the green


belt. In our soapbox this week, the survivalist Ray Mears argues that


this concept is under threat and that politicians need to take brave


decisions. Welcome to Croydon. Home to more


than 360,000 people, the most populous borough in London according


to the last census. It is also home to this, the green belt. I was


brought up to believe in Britain as a green and pleasant land. That is


very important to me. We have incredible open spaces, deals,


meadows, common land, woods and forests. They are not just for


naturalists like myself, they are for everybody. I take great


satisfaction from watching people enjoy them - runners, cyclists,


businessmen walking home after a hard day in the office, stopping to


listen to the sound of a blackbird. It is magical. They are important.


They are good for us. If we are going to hang onto this green and


pleasant land, we need to start by learning to cherish and value of


green belts. This idea was conceived to prevent urban sprawl. It has


proved to be one of the most successful acts in the history of


conservation. Green belts are not just part of what makes is British,


they are our greatest unofficial national park. These buffers are


maturing into internationally important habitats, often richly


diverse in species. They also create healthier air and make our towns,


cities and villages happier, more relaxing places to live. It is


really important that we preserve the green belt. It is very important


to who we are. Can you imagine living in a world with no green


spaces? Without that wonderful song? We've been asked to sign up to the


concept of a big society. Well, here is an opportunity for politicians to


put their money where their mouth is and do something good for the


benefit of people for generations to come.


Do you think the green agenda and the big society is still a priority


for David Cameron? I doubt it. It is understandable. We have an economic


war on. I think those are the moments you see Rick -- real


greatness in politicians, where they can look at the bigger picture, what


comes afterwards, the legacy they leave. Not just putting things back


on track. Are any of these politicians doing that for you at


the moment? No, I don't see that sort of greatness. If you look at


Abraham Lincoln, you can see that greatness. At the height of the


Civil War, he put things in place for national parks. We have to think


beyond the simple things we are doing. And you think the politicians


are failing to look beyond? I think we've got some pretty good


politicians at the moment. They've really got their sleeves rolled up


and both sides of the house are working to improve things. But there


are bigger and long-term issues. Things that may not be at the top of


the agenda now that in the future will be. What do you say about the


shortage of housing? That's where the two sides of the argument rub up


against each other. You are wanting to keep something that you say


really goes to the heart of everybody's well-being, and there is


this enormous pressure on housing, affordable housing, and councils


want to look at the green belt. I agree, there is a need for housing.


There are brown field sites we could build on. We could also look at the


work opportunities and housing opportunities in the country more


widely, rather than just concentrating them in the


south-east. We need to spread the benefit of British society across


the whole country. There a massive difference between some of the


regions of Britain and the south-east. I'm lucky I get to


travel the whole country. I'm shocked at some of the things icy.


Do you think the green belt should be totally protected? The green belt


should be sacrosanct. The you start to chip in to it, you start to pick


a hole in it. You can't put that back. I think it was a really bright


idea that was put forward. It was one of those great acts of politics.


We need to hang onto it. If anything, we should be trying to


extend the green belt and maybe encourage planners to create more


green spaces within our cities, within the modern construction. It


is good for our psyche as people. The green belt should be sacrosanct


and the big society, the green agenda, it's no longer true, is it?


I don't agree at all. I haven't heard him talk about it for very


long time. Bigger picture here is we've put in protections on the


green belt, but we've got to solve the housing problem. It's about


getting houses in the right place. But what you've done is have said,


it's very important the Government is pro-the green belt. You height of


the problem putting the hatchet into it to local councils. To talk about


the Big Society, part of that is giving local powers to local people.


Making sure that housing is in the right place, rather than having a


top-down direction, I think it's a big step forward. If I take my own


constituency in West Suffolk, I have towns, like Hagar Hill, where there


is support for expansion and improvement of the housing stock.


Then I have towns like Newmarket where there is not an appetite. It


would be far better to make sure that the planning system reflect


those local feelings and support growth where Rick is supported, and


that the benefits and the infrastructure go with it, rather


than this being top-down. But we have strengthened the green belt


because the green belt is a specific policy about specific areas. Should


there be no building of affordable housing on green belt land? It


should be absolutely the last idea to use green belt in that way. We


should reinstate the presumption that you'd use brownfield, which has


been removed by the current Government in the arrangements. I


think we should do that. We've talked on the Labour side about


trying to increase competition in house-building, bringing in smaller


house builders who are happier with smaller brown field sites. You can


do a lot by doing that. I agree with Matthew that there ought to be... In


many places it is local people who value the green belt more than a


planner sat in Whitehall would. Actually, with appropriate


protections, giving the power to the local authorities and local people


to decide where housing or to be, with appropriate protections, is the


right way forward. The thing that is interesting as a lot of people who


benefit from the green belt don't actually appreciate they are


indulging, exercising themselves and taking in the air of green belt


land. It's one of the great successes of the green belt. People


don't even notice it is green belt. Do you agree it's good for local


people to make that decision? Definitely. But we need to make sure


that local people know what we're talking about here. We need to make


sure that people know what is green belt. I'd like to see a survey done


about green belt. Let's find out what species are there to start


with. Let's use the green belt to educate our youth to the important


things of the natural world, because we are constantly calling on them to


take responsibility for the natural environment, which is critical to


our welfare. Tiller there have been plenty of critics, that whilst the


Government always boasts about people making their own decisions,


there is always the ability to go over their heads and Rivera to a


Whitehall quango or bureaucracy and local people are squeezed out. When


local plans are in place, they are taken into account in that decision.


Yes, there's an appeals process, but having a local plan that is signed


off locally is now a material fact, whereas before that didn't exist. It


has been structured so that local people 's voices are heard. Are


heard and then ultimately can be ignored. No, because it's something


is consistent with the local plan, that's what happens. Critics are


saying that developers can go over their heads and then it will be a


central planner... It's the big developers who want green belt, and


nice, big, easy field to build on. Would you be prepared to stop them?


Smaller builders want smaller sites. By increasing the competition


that there is between builders, there's been a big trend towards


much bigger building firms over the last few years, by doing that, by


making local authorities provide land in their five-year forward look


that is smaller bits of Brownfield land, by reinstituting the focus and


priority given to brownfield of element, you can save a lot of our


green belt. I think that is the way forward. More Lib Dem woes while


we've been discussing the green belt. The QC who was appointed by


Portsmouth City Council to investigate the local Lib Dem MP


Mike Hancock, his investigation has concluded that claims of sexual


misconduct by Mr Hancock towards a female constituency, he found her


evidence credible. We've had George Galloway in a


catsuit, in Nadine Dorries eating all sorts of unmentionables, but is


it really right for our politicians to star in reality TV shows? It was


the turn of Penny Mordaunt. She made some waves in the Saturday night ITV


show Splash. Let's take a look at her in action.


She joins us now. You had to show my worst one, it's not fair! That looks


like it hurt. It did a bit. You were very brave to be up there. And to do


a backflip as well. I think people that know we knew it was not my


style to do a flop of the low board. I thought, good or bad, the


outcome is going to be entertaining. It certainly was hard to watch. What


did you hope to achieve or what have you achieved by being on the show?


You mentioned the Big Society earlier, and I have a live though in


my constituency that is dilapidated, we managed to get the pool open last


summer but the project was running out of cash. My objectives were to


raise some money, which we've done. We've also managed to get Tom Daley


to be personally involved in the project. He is coming down with the


elite divers, the synchronised teams, we have a gala this summer.


We've raised enough money to provide swimming across the whole summer.


For me, the lighter with right by the motorway as it comes into the


city. In the summer you can see kids jumping off the side of the motorway


into the creek and it's very dangerous. So we provided them with


this. Why do you think, because George Galloway got a pretty bad


time when he was on Big Brother, Nadine Dorries certainly got a bad


time when she was on the celebrity jungle programme. Why did you get


rather good press for doing this? I think because of two things. First


of all, I had a reason for doing it. All of the money I was getting


was going towards this organisation who were doing lots of fundraising


for other charities as well. And also it's the nature of the


programme and the challenge. It's about a personal, physical


challenge. It's not about sitting round bitching about other people or


doing something that is not true to yourself, something that you are


interested in doing. I think people got that. I've been overwhelmed with


the support. I didn't expect to have to be in the splash off, it was


quite a shock! What did the whips say when you told them? They were


fine. It was clear to them why it was different than from what perhaps


some other colleagues have done. As MPs, we have to do a lot of


different things. We have to deal with very serious issues, look at


policy, come up with ideas, but at the same time we are about making


life better for people in our patch. Sometimes that involves us doing


daft things for all sorts of organisations. Most of the coverage


was very positive about you. But something is happening in your party


with the women MPs. We've learnt that Jessica Lee is standing down,


and she was highly regarded. You've lost the Mensch, the weasel Brack --


Louise Fulbrook, why? This is something that affects both sexes.


Those individuals will have a personal reasons why. But you are


short of women, you can't afford to lose women of that quality. No, I


think there are things we can do in Parliament. We've had some debate


about how we can support people better. There are financial


pressures that people have, there are all sorts of family reasons why


people find this quite a tough life. I think there is more across


Parliament we could be doing to support people, but I think those


are individual cases. Are you off for a lunchtime swim? Not until the


bruising goes down! Do you fancy it, you two? I've got nothing but


admiration for her. But first, it's time to put you out of your misery


and give you the answer to Guess The Year. The year was 1994.


Chris Morris from Essex has one. OK, that's all for today. Thanks to our


guests. We will be back tomorrow at noon with all the big political


stories of the day. We'll be joined by UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who we


showed being hit on the head by a placard. And the man has been


arrested for it! It means we can't talk about it. Goodbye!


The average person moves home eight times during their life.


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