22/01/2014 Daily Politics


22/01/2014

Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn present live coverage of Prime Minister's Questions and the latest political news, interviews and debate.


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

:00:38.:00:43.

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

:00:44.:00:47.

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

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complacent. But where does it leave Labour?

:00:51.:00:59.

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

:01:00.:01:02.

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

:01:03.:01:05.

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

:01:06.:01:09.

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

:01:10.:01:11.

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

:01:12.:01:15.

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

:01:16.:01:20.

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

:01:21.:01:27.

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

:01:28.:01:30.

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

:01:31.:01:38.

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

:01:39.:01:51.

Environment Secretary. Hancock and Eagle, it sounds like a

:01:52.:01:57.

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

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

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

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

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had his party membership temporarily suspended after he refused to

:02:15.:02:17.

apologise over claims he sexually harassed female party members. The

:02:18.:02:21.

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

:02:22.:02:25.

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

:02:26.:02:29.

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

:02:30.:02:37.

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

:02:38.:02:44.

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

:02:45.:02:50.

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

:02:51.:02:58.

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

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

:03:03.:03:09.

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

:03:10.:03:17.

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

:03:18.:03:25.

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

:03:26.:03:30.

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

:03:31.:03:39.

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

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show! We're joined now from Brussels by

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

:03:48.:03:52.

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

:03:53.:03:56.

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

:03:57.:04:01.

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

:04:02.:04:07.

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

:04:08.:04:10.

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

:04:11.:04:16.

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

:04:17.:04:21.

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

:04:22.:04:26.

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

:04:27.:04:31.

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

:04:32.:04:41.

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

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

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

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

:04:59.:05:06.

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

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

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

:05:16.:05:19.

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

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

:05:27.:05:29.

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

:05:30.:05:32.

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

:05:33.:05:40.

the MP who helped negotiate the coalition agreement. Respected

:05:41.:05:50.

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

:05:51.:06:00.

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

:06:01.:06:10.

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

:06:11.:06:19.

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

:06:20.:06:28.

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

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

:06:44.:06:49.

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

:06:50.:06:58.

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

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family, lots of individuals concerned are making commentary, we

:07:06.:07:08.

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

:07:09.:07:13.

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

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

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

:07:27.:07:31.

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

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

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

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

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

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

:08:00.:08:05.

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

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

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

:08:23.:08:29.

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

:08:30.:08:35.

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

:08:36.:08:40.

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

:08:41.:08:44.

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

:08:45.:08:47.

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

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

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

:08:59.:09:03.

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

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

:09:07.:09:14.

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

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

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

:09:21.:09:24.

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

:09:25.:09:27.

Speaking at an event organised by a Conservative think tank yesterday

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

:09:31.:09:33.

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

:09:34.:09:36.

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

:09:37.:09:49.

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

:09:50.:09:52.

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

:09:53.:10:00.

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

:10:01.:10:04.

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

:10:05.:10:09.

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

:10:10.:10:18.

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

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

:10:25.:10:28.

unemployment figures this morning. Employment rose at the fastest rate

:10:29.:10:33.

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

:10:34.:10:37.

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

:10:38.:10:43.

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

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

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

:10:53.:10:59.

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

:11:00.:11:03.

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

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

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

:11:14.:11:18.

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

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

:11:24.:11:39.

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

:11:40.:11:52.

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

:11:53.:11:56.

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

:11:57.:12:00.

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

:12:01.:12:05.

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

:12:06.:12:11.

positive message is absolutely mission-critical. But positive

:12:12.:12:13.

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

:12:14.:12:17.

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

:12:18.:12:22.

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

:12:23.:12:31.

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

:12:32.:12:34.

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

:12:35.:12:43.

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

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

:12:48.:12:52.

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

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

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

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positive message is absolutely going to be there because things are

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

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

:13:26.:13:29.

That inevitably leads to a positive message about family finances,

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

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

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

:13:42.:13:46.

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

:13:47.:13:50.

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

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

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

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

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

:14:18.:14:20.

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

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balanced message. That's enough positivity!

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

:14:37.:14:40.

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

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

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

:14:49.:14:52.

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

:14:53.:14:57.

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

:14:58.:15:00.

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

:15:01.:15:09.

Another day and another round of good economic news for the

:15:10.:15:13.

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

:15:14.:15:17.

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

:15:18.:15:21.

Bank of England said they would consider raising interest rates.

:15:22.:15:25.

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

:15:26.:15:28.

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

:15:29.:15:31.

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

:15:32.:15:36.

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

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

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

:15:45.:15:55.

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

:15:56.:16:01.

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

:16:02.:16:07.

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

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world's leading economic decision-makers and thinkers are

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

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

:16:21.:16:23.

Daily Telegraph and writes about business and economics. UK growth

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

:16:30.:16:35.

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

:16:36.:16:40.

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

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

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

:16:54.:16:57.

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

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particularly among the quite sizeable British contingent here.

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

:17:10.:17:13.

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

:17:14.:17:19.

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

:17:20.:17:24.

new idea to galvanise business investment and really start to get

:17:25.:17:31.

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

:17:32.:17:38.

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

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

:17:48.:17:52.

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

:17:53.:17:57.

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

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

:18:03.:18:05.

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

:18:06.:18:12.

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

:18:13.:18:15.

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

:18:16.:18:21.

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

:18:22.:18:25.

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

:18:26.:18:30.

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

:18:31.:18:34.

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

:18:35.:18:40.

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

:18:41.:18:45.

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

:18:46.:18:49.

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

:18:50.:18:52.

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

:18:53.:18:59.

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

:19:00.:19:04.

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

:19:05.:19:09.

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

:19:10.:19:14.

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

:19:15.:19:22.

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

:19:23.:19:26.

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

:19:27.:19:31.

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

:19:32.:19:41.

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

:19:42.:20:01.

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

:20:02.:20:08.

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

:20:09.:20:11.

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

:20:12.:20:17.

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

:20:18.:20:21.

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

:20:22.:20:26.

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

:20:27.:20:31.

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

:20:32.:20:36.

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

:20:37.:20:41.

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

:20:42.:20:45.

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

:20:46.:20:49.

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

:20:50.:20:53.

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

:20:54.:21:03.

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

:21:04.:21:07.

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

:21:08.:21:12.

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

:21:13.:21:16.

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

:21:17.:21:20.

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

:21:21.:21:27.

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

:21:28.:21:30.

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

:21:31.:21:34.

future on trying to make sure that everybody benefits from the

:21:35.:21:39.

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

:21:40.:21:43.

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

:21:44.:21:48.

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

:21:49.:21:52.

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

:21:53.:21:56.

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

:21:57.:22:00.

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

:22:01.:22:04.

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

:22:05.:22:09.

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

:22:10.:22:12.

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

:22:13.:22:18.

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

:22:19.:22:26.

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

:22:27.:22:30.

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

:22:31.:22:34.

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

:22:35.:22:37.

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

:22:38.:22:45.

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

:22:46.:22:48.

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

:22:49.:22:52.

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

:22:53.:22:58.

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

:22:59.:23:02.

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

:23:03.:23:07.

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

:23:08.:23:12.

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

:23:13.:23:18.

Hancock and the Government think that real wages overtaking prices

:23:19.:23:21.

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

:23:22.:23:26.

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

:23:27.:23:30.

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

:23:31.:23:34.

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

:23:35.:23:39.

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

:23:40.:23:43.

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

:23:44.:23:48.

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

:23:49.:23:54.

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

:23:55.:24:01.

news that the economy is recovering. The largest rise in

:24:02.:24:04.

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

:24:05.:24:11.

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

:24:12.:24:16.

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

:24:17.:24:20.

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

:24:21.:24:24.

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

:24:25.:24:28.

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

:24:29.:24:34.

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

:24:35.:24:40.

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

:24:41.:24:45.

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

:24:46.:24:49.

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

:24:50.:24:53.

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

:24:54.:24:58.

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

:24:59.:25:03.

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

:25:04.:25:10.

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

:25:11.:25:14.

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

:25:15.:25:18.

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

:25:19.:25:21.

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

:25:22.:25:27.

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

:25:28.:25:34.

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

:25:35.:25:38.

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

:25:39.:25:42.

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

:25:43.:25:47.

putting people onto incapacity benefits and hiding them from the an

:25:48.:25:50.

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

:25:51.:25:54.

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

:25:55.:25:58.

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

:25:59.:26:02.

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

:26:03.:26:05.

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

:26:06.:26:08.

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

:26:09.:26:12.

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

:26:13.:26:20.

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

:26:21.:26:24.

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

:26:25.:26:27.

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

:26:28.:26:32.

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

:26:33.:26:36.

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

:26:37.:26:42.

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

:26:43.:26:47.

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

:26:48.:26:53.

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

:26:54.:26:54.

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

:26:55.:27:25.

Bart. To be in with a chance of winning a

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Daily Politics mug, send your answer to our special quiz e-mail address.

:28:22.:28:35.

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

:28:36.:28:41.

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

:28:42.:28:44.

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

:28:45.:28:46.

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

:28:47.:28:53.

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

:28:54.:28:54.

here. Sponge Bob Square pants was on. It

:28:55.:29:29.

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

:29:30.:29:35.

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

:29:36.:29:43.

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

:29:44.:29:49.

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

:29:50.:29:52.

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

:29:53.:30:01.

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

:30:02.:30:05.

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

:30:06.:30:09.

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

:30:10.:30:13.

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

:30:14.:30:15.

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

:30:16.:30:20.

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

:30:21.:30:21.

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

:30:22.:31:15.

Lord Rennard, any developments there?

:31:16.:32:22.

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

:32:23.:32:37.

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

:32:38.:32:47.

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

:32:48.:32:51.

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

:32:52.:33:03.

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

:33:04.:33:06.

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

:33:07.:33:12.

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

:33:13.:33:17.

Minister be willing to meet with representatives of the trust to

:33:18.:33:20.

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

:33:21.:33:31.

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

:33:32.:33:35.

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

:33:36.:33:39.

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

:33:40.:33:43.

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

:33:44.:33:54.

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

:33:55.:33:59.

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

:34:00.:34:02.

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

:34:03.:34:07.

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

:34:08.:34:11.

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

:34:12.:34:23.

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

:34:24.:34:31.

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

:34:32.:34:36.

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

:34:37.:34:39.

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

:34:40.:34:44.

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

:34:45.:34:49.

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

:34:50.:34:53.

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

:34:54.:34:58.

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

:34:59.:35:03.

combines an investigation into the circumstances surrounding this poor

:35:04.:35:10.

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

:35:11.:35:13.

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

:35:14.:35:21.

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

:35:22.:35:27.

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

:35:28.:35:30.

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

:35:31.:35:40.

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

:35:41.:35:43.

international development worker who dedicated his life to helping people

:35:44.:35:46.

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

:35:47.:35:56.

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

:35:57.:36:02.

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

:36:03.:36:06.

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

:36:07.:36:10.

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

:36:11.:36:14.

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

:36:15.:36:18.

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

:36:19.:36:23.

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

:36:24.:36:26.

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

:36:27.:36:37.

agree about how terrible the allegations of torture are in that

:36:38.:36:41.

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

:36:42.:36:45.

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

:36:46.:36:50.

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

:36:51.:36:54.

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

:36:55.:36:59.

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

:37:00.:37:03.

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

:37:04.:37:08.

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

:37:09.:37:12.

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

:37:13.:37:17.

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

:37:18.:37:23.

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

:37:24.:37:28.

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

:37:29.:37:32.

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

:37:33.:37:36.

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

:37:37.:37:40.

refugee camps, who then either disabled by these dreadful attacks

:37:41.:37:45.

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

:37:46.:37:50.

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

:37:51.:37:58.

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

:37:59.:38:02.

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

:38:03.:38:07.

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

:38:08.:38:11.

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

:38:12.:38:14.

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

:38:15.:38:18.

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

:38:19.:38:23.

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

:38:24.:38:27.

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

:38:28.:38:30.

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

:38:31.:38:36.

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

:38:37.:38:42.

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

:38:43.:38:46.

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

:38:47.:38:51.

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

:38:52.:38:58.

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

:38:59.:39:02.

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

:39:03.:39:07.

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

:39:08.:39:11.

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

:39:12.:39:14.

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

:39:15.:39:21.

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

:39:22.:39:23.

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

:39:24.:39:30.

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

:39:31.:39:33.

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

:39:34.:39:38.

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

:39:39.:39:47.

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

:39:48.:39:53.

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

:39:54.:39:59.

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

:40:00.:40:02.

providing aid or taking vulnerable refugees. Were talking about doing

:40:03.:40:07.

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

:40:08.:40:10.

open discussions with the United Nations about Britain making its

:40:11.:40:14.

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

:40:15.:40:17.

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

:40:18.:40:22.

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

:40:23.:40:26.

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

:40:27.:40:31.

countries that are participating include in their quotas both asylum

:40:32.:40:35.

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

:40:36.:40:39.

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

:40:40.:40:44.

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

:40:45.:40:55.

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

:40:56.:40:58.

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

:40:59.:41:02.

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

:41:03.:41:07.

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

:41:08.:41:11.

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

:41:12.:41:16.

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

:41:17.:41:28.

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

:41:29.:41:35.

fall in unemployment... CHEERING.

:41:36.:41:53.

We welcome the fall in unemployment because whenever an individual gets

:41:54.:41:56.

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

:41:57.:42:02.

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

:42:03.:42:08.

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

:42:09.:42:14.

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

:42:15.:42:19.

ordinary families are experiencing life getting harder. It is worth

:42:20.:42:26.

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

:42:27.:42:30.

unemployment and youth unemployment going down. The claimant count is

:42:31.:42:34.

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

:42:35.:42:40.

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

:42:41.:42:46.

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

:42:47.:42:50.

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

:42:51.:42:56.

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

:42:57.:43:01.

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

:43:02.:43:04.

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

:43:05.:43:08.

recovering from the longest and deepest recession in living memory.

:43:09.:43:15.

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

:43:16.:43:18.

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

:43:19.:43:22.

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

:43:23.:43:29.

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

:43:30.:43:32.

absolutely complacent about the situation. He is trying to tell

:43:33.:43:40.

millions of families around this country that they are better off

:43:41.:43:43.

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

:43:44.:43:48.

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

:43:49.:43:56.

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

:43:57.:44:00.

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

:44:01.:44:04.

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

:44:05.:44:12.

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

:44:13.:44:14.

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

:44:15.:44:19.

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

:44:20.:44:26.

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

:44:27.:44:30.

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

:44:31.:44:34.

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

:44:35.:44:43.

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

:44:44.:44:47.

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

:44:48.:44:52.

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

:44:53.:44:55.

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

:44:56.:44:58.

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

:44:59.:45:03.

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

:45:04.:45:11.

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

:45:12.:45:20.

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

:45:21.:45:23.

reality for millions of ordinary working people. They are working

:45:24.:45:28.

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

:45:29.:45:34.

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

:45:35.:45:36.

just does not understand the problem.

:45:37.:51:08.

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

:51:09.:51:12.

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

:51:13.:51:16.

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

:51:17.:51:25.

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

:51:26.:51:30.

technical colleges. They focus on vocational training and education.

:51:31.:51:32.

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

:51:33.:51:36.

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

:51:37.:51:49.

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

:51:50.:51:53.

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

:51:54.:51:59.

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

:52:00.:52:02.

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

:52:03.:52:07.

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

:52:08.:52:11.

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

:52:12.:52:15.

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

:52:16.:52:19.

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

:52:20.:52:24.

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

:52:25.:52:29.

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

:52:30.:52:34.

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

:52:35.:52:38.

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

:52:39.:52:43.

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

:52:44.:52:49.

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

:52:50.:52:53.

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

:52:54.:52:57.

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

:52:58.:53:02.

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

:53:03.:53:08.

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

:53:09.:53:15.

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

:53:16.:53:20.

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

:53:21.:53:25.

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

:53:26.:53:29.

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

:53:30.:53:34.

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

:53:35.:53:37.

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

:53:38.:53:41.

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

:53:42.:53:45.

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

:53:46.:53:54.

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

:53:55.:53:56.

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

:53:57.:53:58.

one single decision has been supported by the party opposite.

:53:59.:54:01.

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

:54:02.:54:04.

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

:54:05.:54:09.

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

:54:10.:54:13.

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

:54:14.:54:17.

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

:54:18.:54:26.

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

:54:27.:54:29.

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

:54:30.:54:34.

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

:54:35.:54:37.

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

:54:38.:54:41.

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

:54:42.:54:46.

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

:54:47.:54:50.

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

:54:51.:54:53.

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

:54:54.:54:59.

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

:55:00.:55:03.

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

:55:04.:55:07.

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

:55:08.:55:10.

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

:55:11.:55:14.

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

:55:15.:55:21.

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

:55:22.:55:26.

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

:55:27.:55:29.

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

:55:30.:55:33.

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

:55:34.:55:36.

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

:55:37.:55:39.

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

:55:40.:55:46.

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

:55:47.:55:50.

sector halved in size. With this government investing in

:55:51.:55:58.

manufacturing excellence and -- the Manufacturing technology Centre in

:55:59.:56:01.

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

:56:02.:56:05.

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

:56:06.:56:09.

agree that they be surging manufacturing sector is part of this

:56:10.:56:13.

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

:56:14.:56:19.

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

:56:20.:56:23.

balanced recovery, balanced between manufacturing and service, properly

:56:24.:56:27.

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

:56:28.:56:31.

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

:56:32.:56:34.

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

:56:35.:56:37.

government. They have got the investment going into the

:56:38.:56:40.

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

:56:41.:56:44.

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

:56:45.:56:51.

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

:56:52.:56:54.

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

:56:55.:56:59.

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

:57:00.:57:10.

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

:57:11.:57:14.

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

:57:15.:57:18.

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

:57:19.:57:24.

Prime Minister agree that Alex Salmond owes the people of Scotland

:57:25.:57:27.

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

:57:28.:57:33.

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

:57:34.:57:37.

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

:57:38.:57:43.

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

:57:44.:57:48.

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

:57:49.:57:52.

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

:57:53.:57:56.

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

:57:57.:57:59.

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

:58:00.:58:04.

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

:58:05.:58:10.

celebrate record levels of investment in North Sea oil and gas

:58:11.:58:13.

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

:58:14.:58:18.

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

:58:19.:58:21.

Minister therefore recommit the government to its tax stability

:58:22.:58:26.

policy and encourage as much exploration as possible to ensure

:58:27.:58:30.

future investment? I can certainly get my honourable friend that

:58:31.:58:33.

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

:58:34.:58:39.

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

:58:40.:58:44.

putting those proposals in place. The Chancellor has listened

:58:45.:58:47.

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

:58:48.:58:50.

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

:58:51.:59:01.

extraordinary person, a passionate campaigner for justice. He dedicated

:59:02.:59:05.

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

:59:06.:59:09.

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

:59:10.:59:12.

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

:59:13.:59:19.

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

:59:20.:59:23.

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

:59:24.:59:28.

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

:59:29.:59:32.

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

:59:33.:59:37.

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

:59:38.:59:41.

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

:59:42.:59:45.

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

:59:46.:59:48.

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

:59:49.:59:51.

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

:59:52.:00:00.

the largest employer in my constituency of Woking. The Prime

:00:01.:00:03.

Minister like to join me in congratulating them on the hundreds

:00:04.:00:07.

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

:00:08.:00:11.

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

:00:12.:00:16.

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

:00:17.:00:19.

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

:00:20.:00:28.

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

:00:29.:00:32.

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

:00:33.:00:37.

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

:00:38.:00:42.

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

:00:43.:00:45.

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

:00:46.:00:49.

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

:00:50.:00:54.

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

:00:55.:00:58.

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

:00:59.:01:03.

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

:01:04.:01:08.

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

:01:09.:01:15.

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

:01:16.:01:22.

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

:01:23.:01:26.

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

:01:27.:01:31.

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

:01:32.:01:38.

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

:01:39.:01:44.

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

:01:45.:01:49.

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

:01:50.:01:54.

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

:01:55.:01:58.

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

:01:59.:02:02.

contrast with the Labour, where housing waiting lists almost

:02:03.:02:05.

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

:02:06.:02:15.

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

:02:16.:02:17.

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

:02:18.:02:25.

Prime Minister for his firm action against unscrupulous payday lenders

:02:26.:02:31.

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

:02:32.:02:35.

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

:02:36.:02:38.

that many more people can access affordable credit through the

:02:39.:02:53.

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

:02:54.:02:56.

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

:02:57.:03:00.

including other organisations partnering with credit union links.

:03:01.:03:17.

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

:03:18.:03:27.

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

:03:28.:03:30.

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

:03:31.:03:34.

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

:03:35.:03:38.

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

:03:39.:03:46.

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

:03:47.:03:51.

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

:03:52.:03:56.

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

:03:57.:04:01.

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

:04:02.:04:04.

given that the Government is doing everything possible by cutting

:04:05.:04:08.

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

:04:09.:04:21.

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

:04:22.:04:24.

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

:04:25.:04:27.

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

:04:28.:04:29.

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

:04:30.:04:32.

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

:04:33.:04:34.

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

:04:35.:04:37.

that has saved many people many hundreds of pounds.

:04:38.:04:46.

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

:04:47.:04:55.

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

:04:56.:04:59.

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

:05:00.:05:12.

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

:05:13.:05:16.

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

:05:17.:05:21.

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

:05:22.:05:27.

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

:05:28.:05:36.

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

:05:37.:05:42.

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

:05:43.:05:47.

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

:05:48.:05:52.

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

:05:53.:05:57.

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

:05:58.:06:00.

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

:06:01.:06:15.

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

:06:16.:06:19.

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

:06:20.:06:27.

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

:06:28.:06:42.

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

:06:43.:06:47.

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

:06:48.:06:52.

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

:06:53.:06:56.

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

:06:57.:07:02.

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

:07:03.:07:07.

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

:07:08.:07:11.

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

:07:12.:07:20.

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

:07:21.:07:25.

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

:07:26.:07:32.

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

:07:33.:07:36.

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

:07:37.:07:43.

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

:07:44.:07:53.

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

:07:54.:07:57.

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

:07:58.:08:03.

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

:08:04.:08:12.

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

:08:13.:08:16.

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

:08:17.:08:22.

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

:08:23.:08:26.

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

:08:27.:08:33.

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

:08:34.:08:36.

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

:08:37.:08:41.

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

:08:42.:08:47.

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

:08:48.:08:55.

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

:08:56.:08:59.

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

:09:00.:09:04.

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

:09:05.:09:09.

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

:09:10.:09:17.

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

:09:18.:09:25.

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

:09:26.:09:32.

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

:09:33.:09:37.

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

:09:38.:09:41.

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

:09:42.:09:45.

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

:09:46.:09:55.

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

:09:56.:09:59.

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

:10:00.:10:03.

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

:10:04.:10:08.

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

:10:09.:10:12.

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

:10:13.:10:19.

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

:10:20.:10:22.

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

:10:23.:10:27.

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

:10:28.:10:33.

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

:10:34.:10:38.

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

:10:39.:10:42.

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

:10:43.:10:46.

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

:10:47.:10:56.

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

:10:57.:11:01.

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

:11:02.:11:06.

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

:11:07.:11:13.

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

:11:14.:11:16.

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

:11:17.:11:23.

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

:11:24.:11:26.

Chancellor used a figure in his Autumn statement which was basically

:11:27.:11:30.

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

:11:31.:11:35.

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

:11:36.:11:38.

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

:11:39.:11:42.

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

:11:43.:11:49.

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

:11:50.:11:53.

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

:11:54.:11:57.

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

:11:58.:12:01.

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

:12:02.:12:05.

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

:12:06.:12:09.

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

:12:10.:12:17.

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

:12:18.:12:22.

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

:12:23.:12:26.

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

:12:27.:12:30.

be dangerously based on more borrowing and another House price

:12:31.:12:34.

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

:12:35.:12:37.

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

:12:38.:12:43.

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

:12:44.:12:48.

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

:12:49.:12:52.

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

:12:53.:13:00.

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

:13:01.:13:10.

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

:13:11.:13:17.

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

:13:18.:13:20.

and pleasant land left? Well, politicians and town planners

:13:21.:13:23.

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

:13:24.:13:27.

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

:13:28.:13:30.

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

:13:31.:13:31.

decisions. Welcome to Croydon. Home to more

:13:32.:13:53.

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

:13:54.:13:59.

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

:14:00.:14:05.

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

:14:06.:14:10.

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

:14:11.:14:13.

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

:14:14.:14:20.

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

:14:21.:14:23.

satisfaction from watching people enjoy them - runners, cyclists,

:14:24.:14:28.

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

:14:29.:14:33.

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

:14:34.:14:38.

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

:14:39.:14:42.

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

:14:43.:14:54.

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

:14:55.:14:58.

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

:14:59.:15:05.

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

:15:06.:15:10.

they are our greatest unofficial national park. These buffers are

:15:11.:15:13.

maturing into internationally important habitats, often richly

:15:14.:15:18.

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

:15:19.:15:23.

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

:15:24.:15:27.

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

:15:28.:15:33.

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

:15:34.:15:38.

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

:15:39.:15:43.

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

:15:44.:15:46.

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

:15:47.:15:51.

benefit of people for generations to come.

:15:52.:16:05.

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

:16:06.:16:14.

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

:16:15.:16:17.

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

:16:18.:16:22.

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

:16:23.:16:26.

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

:16:27.:16:31.

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

:16:32.:16:37.

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

:16:38.:16:41.

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

:16:42.:16:44.

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

:16:45.:16:50.

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

:16:51.:16:56.

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

:16:57.:16:59.

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

:17:00.:17:03.

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

:17:04.:17:06.

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

:17:07.:17:10.

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

:17:11.:17:15.

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

:17:16.:17:19.

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

:17:20.:17:23.

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

:17:24.:17:27.

this enormous pressure on housing, affordable housing, and councils

:17:28.:17:32.

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

:17:33.:17:36.

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

:17:37.:17:41.

work opportunities and housing opportunities in the country more

:17:42.:17:43.

widely, rather than just concentrating them in the

:17:44.:17:47.

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

:17:48.:17:50.

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

:17:51.:17:53.

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

:17:54.:17:56.

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

:17:57.:18:02.

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

:18:03.:18:14.

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

:18:15.:18:17.

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

:18:18.:18:20.

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

:18:21.:18:23.

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

:18:24.:18:25.

extend the green belt and maybe encourage planners to create more

:18:26.:18:29.

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

:18:30.:18:33.

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

:18:34.:18:38.

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

:18:39.:18:47.

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

:18:48.:18:51.

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

:18:52.:18:56.

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

:18:57.:19:01.

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

:19:02.:19:06.

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

:19:07.:19:09.

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

:19:10.:19:18.

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

:19:19.:19:22.

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

:19:23.:19:27.

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

:19:28.:19:31.

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

:19:32.:19:35.

is support for expansion and improvement of the housing stock.

:19:36.:19:38.

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

:19:39.:19:41.

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

:19:42.:19:48.

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

:19:49.:19:51.

that the benefits and the infrastructure go with it, rather

:19:52.:19:55.

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

:19:56.:20:01.

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

:20:02.:20:07.

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

:20:08.:20:10.

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

:20:11.:20:16.

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

:20:17.:20:19.

been removed by the current Government in the arrangements. I

:20:20.:20:22.

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

:20:23.:20:26.

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

:20:27.:20:29.

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

:20:30.:20:34.

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

:20:35.:20:40.

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

:20:41.:20:43.

planner sat in Whitehall would. Actually, with appropriate

:20:44.:20:48.

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

:20:49.:20:52.

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

:20:53.:20:58.

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

:20:59.:21:01.

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

:21:02.:21:04.

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

:21:05.:21:09.

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

:21:10.:21:12.

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

:21:13.:21:17.

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

:21:18.:21:20.

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

:21:21.:21:24.

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

:21:25.:21:28.

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

:21:29.:21:32.

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

:21:33.:21:36.

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

:21:37.:21:40.

take responsibility for the natural environment, which is critical to

:21:41.:21:45.

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

:21:46.:21:48.

Government always boasts about people making their own decisions,

:21:49.:21:52.

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

:21:53.:21:56.

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

:21:57.:22:02.

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

:22:03.:22:06.

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

:22:07.:22:11.

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

:22:12.:22:16.

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

:22:17.:22:22.

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

:22:23.:22:25.

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

:22:26.:22:31.

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

:22:32.:22:35.

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

:22:36.:22:41.

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

:22:42.:22:46.

Smaller builders want smaller sites. By increasing the competition

:22:47.:22:50.

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

:22:51.:22:54.

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

:22:55.:22:58.

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

:22:59.:23:02.

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

:23:03.:23:07.

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

:23:08.:23:11.

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

:23:12.:23:19.

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

:23:20.:23:23.

Portsmouth City Council to investigate the local Lib Dem MP

:23:24.:23:29.

Mike Hancock, his investigation has concluded that claims of sexual

:23:30.:23:33.

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

:23:34.:23:34.

evidence credible. We've had George Galloway in a

:23:35.:23:44.

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

:23:45.:23:48.

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

:23:49.:23:54.

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

:23:55.:23:59.

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

:24:00.:24:29.

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

:24:30.:24:43.

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

:24:44.:24:48.

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

:24:49.:24:51.

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

:24:52.:24:56.

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

:24:57.:25:04.

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

:25:05.:25:11.

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

:25:12.:25:15.

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

:25:16.:25:20.

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

:25:21.:25:23.

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

:25:24.:25:27.

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

:25:28.:25:31.

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

:25:32.:25:35.

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

:25:36.:25:39.

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

:25:40.:25:44.

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

:25:45.:25:47.

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

:25:48.:25:53.

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

:25:54.:25:57.

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

:25:58.:26:00.

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

:26:01.:26:06.

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

:26:07.:26:11.

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

:26:12.:26:16.

was going towards this organisation who were doing lots of fundraising

:26:17.:26:20.

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

:26:21.:26:24.

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

:26:25.:26:28.

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

:26:29.:26:32.

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

:26:33.:26:36.

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

:26:37.:26:39.

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

:26:40.:26:47.

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

:26:48.:26:51.

fine. It was clear to them why it was different than from what perhaps

:26:52.:26:55.

some other colleagues have done. As MPs, we have to do a lot of

:26:56.:26:59.

different things. We have to deal with very serious issues, look at

:27:00.:27:03.

policy, come up with ideas, but at the same time we are about making

:27:04.:27:07.

life better for people in our patch. Sometimes that involves us doing

:27:08.:27:10.

daft things for all sorts of organisations. Most of the coverage

:27:11.:27:15.

was very positive about you. But something is happening in your party

:27:16.:27:20.

with the women MPs. We've learnt that Jessica Lee is standing down,

:27:21.:27:24.

and she was highly regarded. You've lost the Mensch, the weasel Brack --

:27:25.:27:33.

Louise Fulbrook, why? This is something that affects both sexes.

:27:34.:27:37.

Those individuals will have a personal reasons why. But you are

:27:38.:27:41.

short of women, you can't afford to lose women of that quality. No, I

:27:42.:27:46.

think there are things we can do in Parliament. We've had some debate

:27:47.:27:50.

about how we can support people better. There are financial

:27:51.:27:52.

pressures that people have, there are all sorts of family reasons why

:27:53.:27:56.

people find this quite a tough life. I think there is more across

:27:57.:28:00.

Parliament we could be doing to support people, but I think those

:28:01.:28:07.

are individual cases. Are you off for a lunchtime swim? Not until the

:28:08.:28:14.

bruising goes down! Do you fancy it, you two? I've got nothing but

:28:15.:28:19.

admiration for her. But first, it's time to put you out of your misery

:28:20.:28:23.

and give you the answer to Guess The Year. The year was 1994.

:28:24.:28:29.

Chris Morris from Essex has one. OK, that's all for today. Thanks to our

:28:30.:28:38.

guests. We will be back tomorrow at noon with all the big political

:28:39.:28:42.

stories of the day. We'll be joined by UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who we

:28:43.:28:47.

showed being hit on the head by a placard. And the man has been

:28:48.:28:52.

arrested for it! It means we can't talk about it. Goodbye!

:28:53.:29:14.

The average person moves home eight times during their life.

:29:15.:29:19.

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