06/02/2014 Daily Politics


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Afternoon folks, welcome to the Daily Politics. It never rains but


it pours. With more bad weather on the way, the Government is also


braced for more political headwinds. Railway lines are down, severe flood


warnings in place and people evacuated from their homes. No one


expects the Prime Minister to be able to control the weather. But


critics say the Government response been too little too late. We'll have


the latest. Does David Cameron have a women


problem? Ed Miliband thinks so. The Prime Minister said he would lead


the way on equality - but female voters, and MPs, seem to be


deserting the party. Science and the media - itt's never


been an easy relationship, but is it getting worse? We'll be joined by


the Government's former chief scientific adviser. And does being a


fan of Coronation Street make you more likely to vote Labour? Does a


passion for sci-fi make you a Lib Dem? We'll be looking at what


people's TV habits tell us about their voting preferences.


All that in the next hour. And with us for the whole programme today is


Bob May, a former chief scientific adviser to the Government and a


former president of the Royal Society. He is now a fellow of


Merton College, Oxford, and also sits as a cross bench peer in the


House of Lords. Welcome. In an age old British tradition,


we're going to start by talking about the weather. Heavy rain is set


to continue to batter large parts of the country, in particular the south


of England. Yesterday the storm damaged the railway at Dawlish after


a part of the sea wall collapsed and left the tracks suspended in


mid-air. It's a vital route to the South West, and Network Rail says it


could take at least six weeks to repair, although work can't even


begin until the weather improves. The Somerset Levels could also be


hit - there are two severe flood warnings in place signifying a


danger to life. Many flood-hit homes have already been evacuated, and


further rainfall raises the prospect of more residents having to leave


their houses. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was meant to be making


a statement to MPs, but he had to go into hospital yesterday for an


operation on a detached retina. So, for now, the Communities Secretary,


Eric Pickles, has assumed responsibility. Here's what he had


to say in the Commons a short while ago.


In the short term I can announce the Government will provide an


additional ?130 million for emergency repairs and maintenance.


?30 million in the current year, and ?100 million next year. This will


cover costs incurred during the current emergency response and


recovery, as well as the essential repairs to ensure that defences are


maintained. Emergency work and repairs started in December.


However, the full picture of the damage caused to the flood defences,


has not emerged and the weather conditions have proved to be so


savage. The Government will therefore carry out a rapid review


of the additional work needed to restore our flood defences and


maintain them. That was Eric Pickles. More on that


as the programme goes on. What do you make of the Government response?


I think it is appropriate. It might have been better if some of these


precautions about preparing flood defences had been done earlier


because it is clear we are headed in a direction where it will be more of


a threat. There seems to be a real division of opinion between the


experts here in London, the Environment Agency and other


quangos, and experts on the ground in Somerset. They wanted dredging


all along and there has not been treasuring. -- dredging. It would


not have stopped the flooding but it may have drained away more quickly.


I would include dredging in flood control. You think it was a flood


control to stop the dredging -- a mistake? Yes. There is clearly a


rift between the Environment Agency and the Government. We should simply


be doing both. We should be dredging but we should be preparing barrier


defences. That becomes even more important because we are building


more homes on flood plains. Yes. You say you will -- we will face more of


this. Politicians say endlessly because of global warming, climate


change, we will see more of this. Where is the scientific evidence? Go


back 100 years to recognising that the more post-industrial burning


fossil fuels, we burn 1 million years worth of carbon each year, it


thickens the greenhouse blanket and that causes warming. Warming, in a


sense, is energy. There is more energy in the weather system. You


cannot attribute any single episode to global warming. There have always


been extreme events. There is a wonderful blog I came across the


other day, an American, who pointed out the fact that Barry Bond broke


Babe Ruth's record for the season and he was found to be on steroids.


This blog said, you could not attribute any single home run to his


being on steroids, but you can attribute the fact that he broke


Babe Ruth's record to the fact he broke -- took steroids. What we have


got now is whether on steroids. The latest report says that there


continues to be a lack of evidence and low confidence regarding the


magnitude and frequency of floods on a global scale. That is right. There


is uncertainty about the magnitude. But the overall fact that the world


is warming is not in doubt. That is not what I am arguing about. What


I'm trying to find out is where the scientific evidence is. For


example, the -- this leads to more extreme weather. Hurricanes and


tornadoes are very low levels compared to historic records.


Historic records fluctuate. The basic trajectory is clear. That does


not mean you can make predictions moment to moment. The IPCC


recognises this. It says it has low confidence. We are always told not


to use one month. January has been one of the wettest ever on record.


If you take the months from January -- from October to January, 1915 was


worse. 1661. Where they caused by global warming? No. Weather is


weather. Home runs our home runs. The analogy I gave is a good one.


Some people hit more home runs than others. People on steroids do


better. There is more energy in the system and you get more extreme


events. Now, let's stick with this story


because there's an ongoing political row about the floods and whether or


not the Government has been sufficient. In particular, there are


conflicting claims from government and opposition about how much is


being spent on flood defences. David Cameron and Ed Miliband clashed


during PMQs yesterday - here's what they said.


Let me answer very directly the issue about flooding. This


government has spent 2.4 billion over this four-year period, which is


more than the ?2.2 billion spent under the previous comment. A


further ?100 million will be made available to fund essential flood


repairs and maintenance in the next year. I can confirm that is new


money that would protect more houses and help our country more with


floods, and we will continue to do what is right.


Mr Speaker, I have got to say that the investment by the Government has


fallen during this period and not risen. But the reality is that the


scale of challenge we face from climate change and floods demands


that we have it combines a look at the investment required.


Competing claims at Prime Minister's Questions? Whatever next. Yesterday


I put it to Francis Maude that the Government was spending about 100


million less during the lifetime of this Parliament. And it would fall


by 100 million. He said local authorities were spending more. I


said that central government could not take the credit. That is where


we left it. Well, to talk us through the numbers we're joined by Will


Moy, director of Full Fact, an organisation which examines how


politicians and the media use statistics.


Mark our card? What David Cameron was doing yesterday was comparing


for the first four years of this government with the last four years


of the previous government. The numbers he gave war, on the face of


it, the right ones. But when you take inflation into account,


actually there was a slight real term dip. He was comparing the first


four years of this government. That is really significant. The first


year of this government was still on Labour's spending plans. It was the


largest year of spending in the last ten years. Ed Miliband has a problem


with that. He wants to compare the Labour spending period with the


coalition spending plan period, which began after they came into


office. If you do that, you see a more significant fall in real terms.


Shouldn't politicians always be held to account, to use real term


figures? In other words, spending after you take account of inflation.


We know that since the financial crash, inflation in this country has


been pretty high. At times it has reached 5%. Simply saying that I am


spending ?1 and you only spent 90p five years ago, tells us nothing? I


couldn't agree more. What about the claim of Francis Maude yesterday


that local governments were spending more? There is a new scheme that


started in 2011 called partnership funding. That is trying to get


people other than central government spending more on flood invention and


floods protection. That is raising about 148 million. It is relatively


small compare the two overall flood spending but it is bringing in money


from local authorities and utility companies. Compare to that, I think


in the four years previously, there was something like ?30 million of


external spending. There has been a rise. The Prime Minister has


announced another 100 million for this in the context of an overall


budget of 2 billion. Does that make much of a difference? It turns out


that half an hour ago Eric Pickles gave a new version of those numbers


in the House of Commons. What we found out was that as well as the


100 million the Prime Minister told us about yesterday, we are getting


30 million more to be spent in this financial year. That, as I say,


makes all the difference. There was a real terms fall either side of the


election. If you add in that 30 million, it becomes a flat drop.


Your viewers are sitting at home in their lounge watching their


television with their feet in flood water, the thing to take away is


that you are talking small differences. The largest difference


you can get as if you take Ed Miliband's spending review period


and adjusted to inflation, there is a 10% drop from Labour to the


coalition. Here we are seeing that ?30 million makes a difference


between a tiny rise and a fairly tiny fall. Overall it is flat. The


issue is not just how much is being spent it is how much you spend it.


That is always true. You say that we are not doing enough, but enough of


this money is not going on flood defences? That is my opinion,


rightly or wrongly. Is it expensive to build flood defences? I do not


know so much about that. I am not an expert. We have looked at the


numbers on spending but not what you do about flooding. I would say it


is. Thanks for coming in. Now it's time for our daily quiz.


The question for today is, which of these is the odd one out? Downtown


Abbey. Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights. Have I Got News for You. Or The


Daily Politics? We'll give you the answer at the end of the show, and


talking a bit more about the significance of those programmes.


Londoners are facing a second day of travel disruption as the 48 hour


Tube strike continues in a dispute over ticket office closures and job


losses. Talks between the RMT and TSSA unions and Tube bosses are


scheduled take place tomorrow, but the government is now considering


declaring the London Underground an essential service in order to curb


the threat of future strikes. But even though it might feel like


walk outs are more common than they used to be, the opposite is in fact


true. Under Edward Heath's government in 1972, almost 24


million days were lost to strikes. That's the equivalent of the entire


workforce at the time having one strike day that year. The number of


disputes remained high under the Thatcher government during the 80s,


with the worst year being 1984, when more than 27 million days were lost.


The arrival of the 1990s, and John Major's government saw a massive


drop off in the number of strikes, with just 6.5 million days lost


throughout the entire decade. The numbers remained similarly low


throughout the noughties, with the number of days a year lost averaging


well under 700,000 right up until the end of 2013. Meanwhile, trade


union membership has fallen dramatically since the 1970s. At its


height, union membership was more than 13 million in 1979 when


Margaret Thatcher came to power. Today that figure has halved, with


less than 6.5 million trade union members, representing less than one


in four workers. But is it too easy for unions to


call a strike with turnouts of less than 50%, meaning the majority of


union members may not have voted in favour of a strike? To discuss that


I'm joined by Conservative MP Dominic Raab and Labour MP and


member of the RMT parliamentary group, Jeremy Corbyn.


You have seen the strike figures. Free societies do have strikes every


now and then. But it is hardly a major problem in Britain any more.


In 2011, we had the worst number of strike days lost for over 20 years.


I would agree with you in general... It is still peanuts


compared to the 1970s. We macro I'm not sure if you look at the damage


to the economy every day. -- I am not sure. The right to strike is


part of our tradition but it is not a license to wreak havoc. The


minority of the unions are trying to achieve that. If you think the trade


unions are militant, is the management puzzle and job to stand


up to them? It is not the job to bring in new rules for a problem


that is specific and not nationwide. We have been there with Bob Crow


many times before. He negotiates, and then, the 11th hour, he engages


in militant brinkmanship one he doesn't get exactly what he wants.


He wins! He is good for his workers. In terms of RMT and DTS S A, they


have got less than a third of their own union members supporting them.


You have got a militant minority wreaking havoc. I don't see many


people on the picket line. Intimidation goes on. Do you have


evidence? Where? Where is the evidence? Let me answer the


question. One of the problems is they don't not split up industrial


relations and keep the data on employment. There is anecdotal


evidence but we don't have any statistics. One other problem. What


we need to do is to say to Bob Crow, call off the strike. The problem for


Labour is that since 2010, through their central office and local


associations, they have received ?442,000 from these unions. It


strengthens the perception that Labour is in hock to the unions.


Let's stick to the issue of whether the law should be changed. Surely it


is relevant. Our viewers will decide. What do you say to this,


that we can't have strikes that are called on a low turnout with only a


majority of people voting for them? There seems to be an obsession with


personalising this around Bob Crow. That is odd. Why don't we address


the issue. Namely, the loss of 1000 jobs, the close of the ticket


offices. Union members were asked to ballot on the issue. It was


available to all. It is monitored by an independent office and the result


was obtained. The union had the power to call out its members on


strike. It went through the negotiations, they did not succeed


in bringing about a resolution, and the strike has been called. It is


within the law to strike. The point is, he is saying the law should be


changed so there should be a minimum threshold. Fewer than one in four


Tube workers have voted to be on strike. He is saying there should be


a threshold, where 50% of members have to vote before it is


legitimate. There are no threshold on other elections. The mayor was


elected on a 40% turnout. 38. None of us achieve 50% of our electorate.


There is an underlying issue that is not addressed. It ought to get more


attention, both from economists and politicians. The issue in this


strike is automation and IT, brilliant advances that bridges lots


of good things, have made it possible to run the underground with


at least 1000 fewer people. Machine doesn't deal with drunken attackers


at night. When it was pointed out to the Chancellor that many of these


issues are IT and so on, and are destroying jobs and critic


problems, he said, but of course, they are creating jobs. The point


is, they are destroying more jobs than they create. Do you want to


stop change? I would like to see more academic work on the


implications of this. They are not discussed. I'm not sure that's


true. Economically, only history, IT revolution has created more jobs. If


I just go back to Jeremy's point about MPs and councillors not having


a threshold, when we are elected, everybody affected by the vote gets


a chance to vote. When RMT going to strike action, 8 million Londoners


don't get to vote. It is wrong that you have got a militant minority


able to inflict damage on the overwhelming number of Londoners.


Let's get back to re-enter -- reality. Let's have a referendum on


closing that it offices. If you want a comparison, we should do a


referendum on strike action. Why? Let us go back to reality. The


changes proposed involve no compulsory redundancies, enclosure


of ticket offices. -- the closure. A lot of the people will be redeployed


to be on the forecourts and platforms, to be a more helpful


presence that they are behind thick glass. 100,000 people use the ticket


offices every day. It is 3% of transactions, but a lot are for help


and advice. But look, also, at ticket offices at the major


stations. There is always a large number of people trying to use them,


particularly visitors to London whose first language is not English,


people with disabilities, many people. People on the concourses


will help them. I understand there is a change in the ticket process.


All the unions recognised that technology comes. They recognise the


need for 24-hour working. That is going to take cost and staff. Take


out the ticket offices and the information source, no guarantees of


the number of people on the stations overnight, and I just wonder if


these ticket offices are going to be replaced by some retail outlet and


we then have a rather less well staffed station and we go back to


the days of attacks in stations. What do you say to that? These are


all reasonable points. They are the bread and butter of local politics.


The mayor was against the closure of ticket offices. Try and change it


through the democratic process. What is going on here is when they don't


get their own way, the unions don't negotiate all reason, they say, we


will have a strike that inflict massive damage of the economy.


Actually, if we have a reform to prevent a right to strike, three to


one the public are in favour. What with the safeguard become in your


mind? I would not abolish the to strike. That is what you are


proposing. What are you proposing? In the transport services, we would


say you can't strike unless you can carry out majority of your members.


Then it is legitimate. We are talking about a safeguard for the


majority of hard-working Londoners. In New York they have destruction on


the right to strike in public services. It hasn't stopped strikes.


At the end of the day, stop being so obsessed about Bob Crow! Why don't


you meet him? He is a nice chap. I have met him. Can I point out to you


that on this seat yesterday, the Cabinet Minister Francis Maude gave


short shrift to the idea of a minimum turnout requirement. The


government is looking at designating the underground as an essential


service, restricted the right strike. -- restricting the right to


strike. You say the technological change has destroyed more jobs than


it has created. Yet this country has gone through massive technological


change in the person eyes-macro past 30 or 40 years and more people are


employed than ever before. -- in the past 30 or 40 years. The issue goes


beyond what we are talking about two. There is a good article in the


current issue of the New York review of books which points out that the


increasing ratio of the wealth of the top few percent to the people


toward the bottom of the spectrum increases and increases. That is


also a corollary of job destruction. It is a complicated economic issue


that has received very, very little attention. Well, you have brought it


two hours today. Gentlemen, thank you.


Now, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, both of them men,


clashed yesterday over whether the government had done enough to


promote women in politics. As one parliamentary sketch writer


observed, we were treated to the spectacle of a party dominated by


men mocking a party even more dominated by men for being dominated


by men. In a moment this man, that's me, will be joined by two women to


discuss this issue. But first let's listen to what the men had to say


yesterday. Look at the all-male front bench


before us. He says he wants to represent the whole country. Mr


Speaker, I guess they didn't let women into the Burlington club,


either. There we go. He said a third of his ministers would be women. He


is nowhere near meeting the target. Half of the women here have resigned


or been sacked. In his Cabinet, get this, in his Cabinet, there are as


many men who went to it in Westminster as women. -- to eat in


or Westminster. Is it his fault that the Conservative party has a fault


with women? Here are the figures. Of the full members of the Cabinet who


are conservatives, 24%, a quarter, are women. Not enough. I want to see


it grow. Of the front bench, the ministers, 20% are women. That is


below what I want to achieve in 33%. We are making progress and we will


make more progress. With me now is the Conservative MP, Mary Macleod,


and the Labour MP, Emily Thornberry, who is also the Shadow Attorney


General You're watching the Daily Politics - and we've been joined by


viewers in Scotland who have been watching First Minister's Questions


from Holyrood. Why does the Conservative Party have such a


problem with women? I don't think the Conservative Party has a problem


with women. Until Labour can say they have got a female leader, they


can start pointing. Labour would say that over half of their MPs are


women. Only 48 of your MPs are. They have got 169 men and 80 six women.


You have got 48 women out of 256. Out of a cabinet of 22, you have got


for women. What is your problem? The Prime Minister has said we need to


do more. The reason the cabinet is as it is is that in the last


election, prior to that, we only had 17 women as female MPs. It would be


quite nice if they promoted women writing to Cabinet, but


realistically we make our way up the ladder. 56% of female Conservative


MPs have got a role in government in some form. At this rate it will be


the next century before we meet -- you reach equality. The Prime


Minister has said we have more to do. That is like saying it is


raining in February. But this will not happen in your lifetime? I do


not agree. I think it will change. He has committed to 30% of female


ministers by 2015. Before the last election he did a co-led to the


public to say we need more women in Parliament. We need a more diverse


Parliament. Parliament has to be representative of the country. That


is why we increased from 17 women to 49 women. That is progress. Has


Labour cracked the equality issue in terms of representation or have you


got a lot more to do? Half of your Shadow Cabinet is female. You are


quite right, by the way, it is 86 women and 169 men, so it is not 50,


50. You still have got some ground to make up? Yes, we have got 30


something percent of women MPs, and nearly have the Shadow Cabinet. I


was giving you more credit than you deserved! On our side yesterday we


had lots of women on our front benches. We moved people around. To


make the point! They normally sit on the front bench. That is the Shadow


Cabinet. We put them all together with if you men in the middle. We


reorganised it. It was accurate. Let's look at this picture. I should


welcome our viewers from Scotland who have joined us. We are talking


about women or lack of in Parliament. On the Tory side. That


is the Conservative front bench we are looking at. It is clearly


embarrassing that you are all men sitting there, even the few women


that you have or not there. And it is a disaster of party management


because we knew in advance this was going to come of it and yet you


still could not but a token woman on the bench. We do not have token


women. Do not do them a disservice. If you pan out, the women sit on the


Prime Minister's side and there are not any women on the other side. In


terms of perception, it is not good to have a front bench full of men.


That is something I hope will change in the future. There are women


behind. That is quite unusual. Normally Theresa May will be there,


Maria Miller Theresa Villiers, Justine Greening. There are women


behind. I'm not making an excuse on this. I say, just as the Prime


Minister says, there is more to be done. The Labour Party have more to


do. This is why I set up the all-party group for women in


Parliament. We are doing an inquiry into why we don't have enough women


in any the parties. Labour has a plan. At least we have a plan and it


will work. The plan we have is working in that we have nearly 40%.


You have positive discrimination. I don't believe in positive


discrimination. You have to do something about it. Let me speak.


Let me talk about one thing. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor of


the Exchequer, the two most powerful people in government, have private


parliamentary secretaries. They are always there informally with the


parameter and the Chancellor. Of the six which they have had, they have


only ever had one woman. That says to me that they do not know how to


listen to women and they are not interested. They are off the radar.


Has Ed Miliband got a woman? Yes, Karen Black. Try not listening to


Karen Black! Many of your women are not going to contest the next


election? Yes but Labour will have women it would not contest the next


election. They have more women so they can afford to lose more. I am


slightly surprised by this but it does not seem to be affecting how


people vote. Your lead among women is smaller than disease among men,


according to the latest poll. You have got a 3% lead among women and a


6% lead among men. Are you sure? We are normally well ahead when it


comes to women. I don't know where you got your facts today! It is


YouGov. A reputable polling organisation. Normally we are ahead.


It could have been done by men! We will leave it there.


We didn't get on to science but the representation of women is even


worse than politics. It is getting better.


Today is the UN sponsored international day of zero tolerance


to female genital mutilation. The Government wants to find out the


full scale of the problem in Britain. This morning, ministers


have said NHS hospitals will have to provide information on patients who


suffer are at risk of suffering. Here is Vicky Young on College


Green. The practice has been illegal here


in Britain for almost 30 years. There has not been a single


prosecution. Campaigners are hoping to change that. They feel their


voice has been heard a little bit more. People about this now. Lynne


Featherstone, the international development minister is here. And


I'm joined by a victim. What is the Government role? Is a massive role.


In the last 18 months we have gone from 0260. This morning we had


government meetings. Every department is contributing. The DPP


believes we are near prosecutions. Health, for the first time if you


have had female genital mutilation, it will be recorded. DFID, we have


just contracted a consortium to support a global campaign against


female genital mutilation. We have 20,000 girls at risk every year


intrinsically connected to the countries of origin. You are


incredibly young when it happens to you? Yes, I was seven. Those at risk


our primary school aged children. It is about adults coming forward and


looking to prevent it as opposed to waiting to children that my four


children to speak up. It is now time to break the cycle. I think we will


be doing that. Whose role is it which begat on behalf of those


girls? I think it is everybody. We have been talking about this for the


last 30 years as a cultural issue. We're now talking about it as a form


of violence against women and girls. It is not about having conversations


with those that are practising or affected. They are disempowered and


disengaged at times. It is about those who have the privilege to


speak up. I was immensely privileged to have access to education and to


become empowered. When we start of this work in Bristol six years ago,


we had six goals. Now we have more than 100. -- six girls. For a lot of


African families this is the norm, isn't it? That is the interesting


thing. Part of the programme is about research into what works, what


is the evidence base? Different things work in different countries.


Behaviour changes what you are really after. I have just returned


from Burkina Faso. You need leadership. Politicians, cultural


leaders, religious leaders. The communities. Everybody needs to work


together on a programme of change and recognise the harm that is done.


This is not some benign rites of passage. This is extremely harmful,


dangerous and can result in death. Have politicians been too scared to


speak out because of cultural sensitivity? There has been before


but thanks to Lynne Featherstone there has been great attraction in


the conversation. It is about leadership. We have finally got


leadership. Would prosecution make any difference? Prosecution gives


justice to the survivor. It will show the fact that people are


looking out for this crime would essentially it is about present --


preventing it. Legislation also makes it a criminal act. For me when


people talk about prosecution, ultimately chose the failure of


those charged with safeguarding. Do you think have a role? Everybody has


a role. As this cross government meeting this morning, everybody was


putting forward ideas of how to move this further forward. The Department


for Education is fully engaged. Statutory guidance on safeguarding


will make a huge difference. Also, information being provided to


teachers. They do not always feel comfortable enough to deal with what


is in front of them. I should mention the NSPCC helpline. That is


showing wonderful results. A lot of professionals are using it to find


out what they do. Also, prevention. Families are phoning to say, I think


this is going to happen. Prevention is better. A lot of this is about


women in these families. Mothers speaking out? This. But they were


not speak out until there is a safe space provided for them. In October


last year we organised a visit by Lynne Featherstone to meet some


women in Bristol last year. Those women had never spoken about the


issue. We provided a safe space for people to listen to them. To show


them that we are standing with them. There is help out there.


Thank you very much. The feeling that things really are changing. The


aim to eradicate this practice within a generation.


Thank you. While we have been on air the Bank of England have announced


that interest rates are staying at 0.5%. It will continue with


quantitative easing of printing money electronically. The Federal


reserve in America reining back. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles


has just finished making a statement to MPs in the House of Commons about


the flood crisis. He has moved into the central lobby to speak to the


Daily Politics. Welcome to the programme. People in the Somerset


Levels have been underwater now for a day after day after day. Why has


it taken a visit by Prince Charles to get the Government of its


backside? We responded to requests from Somerset immediately they were


made. We have been working very closely with the County Council. We


have certainly not been dragging our feet. Except that nothing seems to


help the plight of the people in Somerset? Nothing will substantially


help the people of the Somerset Levels until the water starts to go


down. We have at our disposal in enormous numbers of high volume


pumps which can take the water out. But it needs to be able to go


somewhere. There is no point in pumping water into more water. Is it


now the Government position that it was a mistake to follow the advice


of the Environment Agency and stop dredging in the Somerset Levels?


Back. Several years ago. I am not seeking blame. -- that was stopped


several years ago. Given that the levels are largely artificial, and


when they would put together for Charles the first it was intended


they should be dredged. Was it a mistake for the Environment Agency


to stop the dredging? It doesn't seem to have worked for them too


well. If you just want me to chase the word, I will chase the word. I'm


trying to give the Environment Agency credit for what they have


done elsewhere. There could be a time when we want to apportion


blame. I just think the important thing is to get on with the job, try


to get the levels down, offer some detection, look towards some


long-term maintenance and repair, do something. The Prime Minister has


announced another 100 million in spending for flood defences. You


have announced another 30 million today. Given the millions of homes


that are now in flood lanes -- flood plains, and scientists saying we can


inspect more of this weather, is that just a drop in a flood? ?100


million goes a long way. It is 100 million next year and 30 million


this year. I was looking up the figures for building on a flood


plain and they are at a record low. They are the lowest they have been


since records began. When experts object to houses on the flood plain,


from what I can see it was something like 99.3% rejection rates. Do you


still claim you are spending more in flood defences in real terms than


before? There hasn't been a huge inflation over the last ten years.


The Labour Party spent ?2.7 billion in the last five years, and we will


spend ?3.1 billion. That is money terms, not real terms. In real


terms, it is less. I would not accept that. You are a noted


economist. There has been an increase in inflation from 2009


until now that would account for such a big difference. If you apply


the GDP deflator to the original 2.7, you find it is a lot more than


3.1. The 2.7 was actually an enhanced figure after the 2007


floods. What we are looking for is an emergency supply. Frankly, if you


are down in the levels listening to this, you are not going to care. The


people in the Levels, there is not thousands of them, it is small


number. It doesn't make their pain any less. What can they hope to get,


either from local government, which you, in the end, oversee, or from


central government to help them recover? There is a whole load of


stuff we will do. It will be much easier to get larger sums of money


to local authorities and local authorities will have that much more


confidence. Sedgemoor district council will have more confidence in


terms of spending that money. At it will be a combination -- it will be


a combination of local authorities, and of course more we have got to


recognise that a lot of economic activity has been disrupted. Will


the government, not you personally, will you make sure that insurance


companies are speedy in meeting the legitimate claims from the people


who have suffered damage? I have had a discussion with the insurance


companies. That would be our endeavour. It would certainly be our


endeavour to make sure local authorities, where they have had to


pay out, that we will pay them quickly. Thanks for coming so


quickly. We appreciate it. It is literally water under the bridge by


now. It is incomprehensible that they should have decided to stop


dredging. It is common sense. But it became Environment Agency policy.


Some people suspect the agency's policy was to return this bit of


land to Martians. -- marshland. I think there will be a lot of


questions asked. Is Blue Monday is the most


depressing day of the year? Is aspirin linked to cancer? Is a glass


of red wine a day good for you? There's plenty of science reporting


in the media every day. As a general rule, if there's a question in there


you can take it with a pinch of salt. Who knows, that might turn out


to be a miracle cure, too. So is there a problem with the way science


is reported? Here's David. The Royal pharmaceutical Society in London.


Its museum exhibits some of science's greatest and not so great


moments. If there is one group of people we believe, it is scientists.


They deal in fact, not fiction, evidence, not opinion. But there's a


problem. Their views come to us through the media, and they


sometimes have a vested interest for their funding. Can we really believe


everything we read about science? Very little of science is actually a


game changer. If you read in the media that this new discovery is


doing to change the world, it is probably not going to change the


world. If you read a new discovery in a scientific paper that is going


to lead to a medicine, it may do, but it is going to be down the line.


Does it matter if the media get overstimulated? For most of the


time, people see things like red wine is good for you or bad for you


and we'll take it with a pinch of salt and it doesn't make too much


impact. When it is the big stuff and we are asked whether we should use a


technology or whether we should be using animals in research,


whatever, we really need to have the evidence and the guided by the


correct information rather than scaremongering or somebody who has


got an agenda. That said, even eminent scientists admit that body


stories are not always -- dodgy stories are not always the fault of


the media. Scientists, if they don't publish two papers per year, that is


it, they are out. If you get to October and you have only published


one, the pressure on you if not to be dishonest then at least to be


careless is almost unavoidable. You are more or less forced into it.


Under those circumstances, I can't blame them. Sometimes, we


journalists are Sakurai slick scientific spin doctors. --


suckered. A decent journalist wouldn't simply report the press


release from Conservative Central office. He would look into it and


ask awkward questions. I see that in my own field, genetics. The media


are just hopelessly ready to swallow the idea that there is a gene for


happiness, edging for depression, for high intelligence. It is not


like that. So how can you tell when a science story passes the litmus


Test? According to my sources, if it is too good to be true, it is. With


us now is the environment correspondent from the Telegraph.


How would you categorise the current state of science reporting? Gosh,


not bad. I use science in my job. There are a good core of


journalists, some old like me, some younger, who really do try to get to


grips with the facts and spend a lot of time in the area. I think we are


better than most countries. What would you say? I would endorse


that. 20 years each in Australia, the US and here, I have seen that


all of them have some superb people and some not so good people. In


general, the people here are very good. There is one thing that does,


on the other hand, which I think it is understandable but very


unfortunate, is a muddled sense that you have to present the other side


of almost every issue. The other side make -- might be some crackpot


but this tendency on something... Give us an example. I can give you


lots of examples on climate change! To give just one example from the


BBC, it had a big event years ago when it had Al Gore over to give a


lecture. He showed his movie. Maybe it was a bit over the top. May be!


You could have got some good people too busy at a sense -- to present


some of the uncertainties. Instead, they reached for the extreme, a


complete charlatan. You say that. Not the BBC, you say that. I'm


prepared to carry that through. On balance, we do in accident job. Part


of the problem, and it is not so much the environment, but in the


medical sphere, you can pick up a paper almost every day and find this


causes cancer, and in two days later, the same thing is good for


cancer. There is such contradictory reporting of medical matters. I


know. I don't do that. It is not my field. If I can take up what Bob has


just said, it is important to see both sides of the story. It really


is important to give different voices. We have a similar view on


climate change, different from yours. But the consensus can build


up. On climate change, I can remember a guy who was forced out of


the Met Office for saying it has changed. In 1979, I rang a man with


both now well. -- we both know him well. He said humans can be


responsible for climate change. Scientists themselves like to spin


stories. They've always got their eyes on new research. They only talk


about things they think they can get money for. Not necessarily. My own


life is not on that basis. It is a great opportunity to be doing


something unfashionable but overturns an applecart. If you went


to say now, I want some money because I want to check if this


17-year-old hiatus in Britain rising is real or not, you wouldn't get the


money. You wouldn't give me the money because it is not my


specialty. I think somebody would get the money. The trouble is, there


are very few scientists doing research. That is a problem for me.


There are examples... I was just going to mention Wakefield. We have


run out of time, I'm afraid. Now it's time to find out the answer


to our quiz. The question was, which one of these is the odd one out?


Downton Abbey, Phoenix Nights, Have I Got News for You, or The Daily


Politics? To


it is the Daily Politics because all of the others were named as


indicators of how you will vote. The Daily Politics, we are watched by


everybody. That's all for today. Thanks to our


guests. The one o'clock news is starting over on BBC One now. I will


be back tomorrow on BBC One. Bye bye. I'll be on


It's a war every day. It is a cut-throat business out there.


Put it like this, I'm certainly not going to go bust, anyway!


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