10/02/2014 Daily Politics


10/02/2014

Jo Coburn with the latest political news, interviews and debate from Westminster. She is joined by Vidhya Alakeson from the Resolution Foundation and a panel of MPs.


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Good afternoon, welcome to the Daily Politics. The floodwaters are

:00:40.:00:45.

rising, thousands of homes are at risk, and the politicians are

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sniping, mainly at each other and this man, the head of the

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Environment Agency, Chris Smith. There are calls for him to resign,

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he says he's staying put. Edwina Currie is on the warpath over food

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banks, she thinks they should be canned. We will be asking why. Nick

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Clegg has been to see the floods for himself, but is the coalition in

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deepwater? More calls from both sides to call it a day. And we will

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be asking what tickles your fancy at the ballot box, good looks,

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maturity, or a brilliant manifesto? All that in the next hour, and

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witness for the first half of the programme is Vidhya Alakeson from

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the Resolution Foundation. Should you be smoking in a car if any of

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your passengers is a child? MPs are to vote on the issue this

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afternoon. Labour MPs are expected to vote for a ban, the Conservatives

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and the Liberal Democrats will be offered a free vote. Where are you

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on this? I think it is an unenforceable ban, so whilst I am

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not really disputing the health evidence that children are subject

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to passive smoking in the car, it is more intense than in the home, I

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think it only works to mitigate those impact on children if you can

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enforce the ban, and I do not think it is enforceable. Is it's pointless

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to try to pass a law on its? I think laws are not the best way of

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changing behaviours, and this one, like mobile phones in cars, will be

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very hard for police to enforce. I do not think it is a good idea. What

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about how far the state should intervene on how parents should

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bring up their children? That is effectively what this is. There is a

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legitimate argument around protecting the vulnerable, harm to

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children who are unable to make choices themselves. But I think

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there are other spheres, where, for example, immunisation, there is a

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benefit to the child, the wider public, but actually we do not

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ban... We do not find parents who do not immunise their children, we give

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them a choice, and this is an area where we should be thinking about

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changing attitudes to smoking, rather than trying to ban them. Sell

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you a grey with the state dictating in some areas how people should

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bring up their children, but not in areas where it is unenforceable? --

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so you agree. What about the ban on mobile phone usage in cars, that is

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difficult to enforce? I would argue it is not being well enforced,

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people are texting on their lap, rather than holding their phone. Do

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you think it has changed habits at all? It has probably changed some

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behaviour, but if the argument is that most parents do not smoke in

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the car with their children, we are talking about a minority, and it is

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often low income kids who, according to the research, are more likely to

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face this. But if we say it is the minority, the idea that we will

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catch that minority of parents by having a ban, I think it is

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unrealistic. All right. It is interesting that ministers are

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split, even some of the Tories who he would be expecting to be against

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a ban, they are in favour of this. The Liberals are split, too. Michael

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Gove is in favour because the health risks are so clear. Norman Lamb and

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Nick Clegg, that is the way they are dividing, Nick Clegg saying that

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parents should have the right to bring up children as they choose,

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Norman Lamb saying the health evidence outweighs that. I can see

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both sides of the argument, I think the enforcement trumps the fact that

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the evidence is reasonably strong. It is time now for our daily quiz,

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and the question for today is, according to researchers, which of

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the following could make you more likely to get elected, if you are a

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man, if you belong to an ethnic minority, if you are really good

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looking, or if you are more mature? You will see more of some of those

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people later in the programme, and we will give you the correct answer

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at the end of the show. It appears the flooding crisis is getting

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worse, with sections of the River Thames reaching their highest levels

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for more than 20 years. That is damaging peoples homes and

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threatening thousands more in Berkshire and Surrey. The

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Environment Agency has issued 14 severe flood warnings, meaning that

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lives are in danger in many areas close to the river. Two further such

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warnings are still in force for the Somerset Levels, while lower-level

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alerts are in place across much of England and Wales. In Westminster,

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the political row of the crisis also appears to be getting worse. We

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joined now by political correspondent Chris Mason, the blame

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game, isn't? Yes, it is well and truly on, plenty of senior

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politicians dusting around the garage looking for their wellies,

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Nick Clegg has been on the Somerset Levels this morning, saying now is

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not the time for apportioning blame. But plenty are clearly not

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listening. One MP in Somerset has suggested that the Environment

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Agency is led by a bunch of monkeys, and Eric Pickles, the communities

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secretary, has found himself responsible for all things

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government response to the floods, because Owen Paterson, the

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Environment Secretary, is flat out on his back recovering from an

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operation on his eye. Eric Pickles was out and about on the telly over

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the weekend, and there is no way of finishing this, it really was

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putting the boot into the Environment Agency. There is no

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doubt about it, we perhaps have relied too much on the Environment

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Agency's advice. I think we recognise now that we should have

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dredged, and I think it is important now that we get on with the process

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of getting those people back into their houses once we are able to

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really do some serious pumping. At the moment, the level is too high.

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So you do think the Prime Minister should apologise to farmers who have

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said, you need to dredge now? Well, I will apologise unreservedly. I am

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really sorry that we took the price of experts. So that was the take

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from Eric Pickles, what the people at the sludge management business

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make of this, they think it is absolute. -- flood. They think Eric

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Pickles according to one of them, would be best used as a sound bite.

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What does Lord Smith say about this? He is wrong. Our agency work

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following government rules, government guidelines. We put money

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on the table for dredging 12 months ago, but the maximum that we were

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allowed by government rules to put on the table, the maximum was

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?400,000. We did so. Others did not come to the table at the time. Lorna

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Smith making it absolutely clear he is not going to resign, but he is

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standing down in a couple of months. -- Lord Smith. Yes, you can apply to

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be the chairman of the Environment Agency, ?60,000 per year, two or

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three days' work a week, excellent ambassadorial skills, you need to be

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a team player and build effective, collaborative partnerships. You can

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judge whether we have seen much of that!

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You could apply for that, we could all apply on that criteria! Before

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we let you go, give us a few lines about the latest weather warnings,

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because it doesn't sound as if the rain is going to stop any time soon.

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It is pretty grim, what we are hearing from the Met Office, in the

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last couple of minutes, 16 severe flood warnings in place, including

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14 now in Berkshire and Surrey. Police are warning that 2500 homes

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are at risk of flooding. The Environment Agency is warning of

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rising water in the Somerset Levels, so this will remain a series issue

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around the country, and politically here at Westminster for some time.

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-- a serious issue. To discuss all this is Conservative

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MP John Redwood, who is working constituency has been affected by

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flooding, and Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle. How bad is it

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in Wokingham? There is some bad flooding on major roads and in

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homes, and flooding which mixes farm water with -- foul water with clean.

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What is so galling is that we have been warning about it for years and

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trying to get the Environment Agency to clear the river to make more

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capacity to take the waterway, and they have refused to do so. They

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spent our money on things other than dredging and maintaining culverts

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and drains. What was the response from the Environment Agency over the

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years if you have been warning of this? They kept on blocking any idea

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that entailed clearing debris from rivers or improving culverts and

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drains. They did not want to do that. They argue it is too

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expensive, and they have also been cut themselves. Their budget went up

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?41 million last year, a massive increase in expenditure. You say

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their budget has gone up, you are saying it has not. It is down by

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over 100 million pounds in real terms, and this yet it is ?567

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million. The current Government cut by 30% in 2010, and since that time

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it has been going back up a bit, and John is using figures from lasted,

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not 2010, to suggest that the budget has gone up. -- from last year. It

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has gone down by ?100 million per year in real terms since 2010. Do

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you accept the criticism that the agency has not been listening to

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people on the ground who have been calling for years for rivers in

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their areas to be dredged? Well, I don't know what has happened, John

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is the better to talk about his own constituency. A lot of people have

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said anecdotally, look, we have been warning about the impact if you do

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not dredge the rivers. Look, dredging is not an answer in all

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circumstances. It may be that where you are under sea level, a man-made

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environments like the Somerset Levels, it is a better option. So

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they should have done dredging, shouldn't they? You are the shadow

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Environment Secretary. I do not mind if they say they have got a better

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answer, but they have got no answer. I think proper local consideration

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is important, I accept that. I cannot say what has happened in

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John's constituency. But in general, they failed to do what was

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necessary, whether it was dredging or something else, and as a result

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that has compounded the problem. I do not think it is as black or white

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as that. In each circumstance, there are different answers, and I do not

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think the blame game that the current ministers have descended

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into helps in the middle of this crisis, when the waters are still

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rising, when thousands of homes are affected by flooding, that it helps

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to engage in this kind of blame game that we are seeing. Internal rows,

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you know, Owen Paterson has written a letter to the Prime Minister from

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his sick bed to complain about the way in which his colleague, Eric

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Pickles, is handled what is, after all, his own Government

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department's responsibilities. It is very unedifying, and for people

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affected, is it really what they want to see, different ministers,

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Tory ministers pointing the finger at each other, and everyone pointing

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the finger at Chris Smith, head of the Environment Agency? I have

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sympathy with both ministers in this case. Owen Paterson is exactly right

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that some of the Environment Agency staff are working extremely hard,

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and I am very grateful to the ones who are trying to deal with the

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waters in my constituency. But Eric Pickles is right that if you look at

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the last ten-year round of the agency's behaviour, it has not done

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nearly enough to sort out the problem is to prevent them

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happening, and that is making is very cross. Someone has to express

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that anger and get a change of policy. He has campaigned to the

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Prime Minister from his sick bed about the behaviour of Eric Pickles

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in picking on the right? I think he has a duty to stand up for a lot of

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the staff who are doing a marvellous job in a crisis, but you have to ask

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why the Environment Agency didn't spend a lot of all that money on

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things that would have alleviated it instead of finding other ways of

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spending it. They greatly increased their staff last year, up by 900

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people, the budget. By 30 million, and a bit of that money would have

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kept a lot of us try. I think the Environment Agency is doing a good

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job, he can speak for himself and has done, and to suggest that if

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there had been more river dredging generally there would have been no

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flooding is nonsensical. If you were the Environment Secretary, would you

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be happy with Chris Smith's performance? I am happy that they

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are doing their best. They have protected a lot of homes from

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flooding, as well as having to deal with the consequences when homes

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have flooded. And the reality is that the current government have cut

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the amount of money that is available, there are Treasury rules

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which prevents them from spending money in the way in which others may

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wish them to spend, and the current government have taken their eye off

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the ball when it comes to flood protection. Isn't that true? It

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cannot just be the Environment Agency, why is the Prime Minister,

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excuse the pun, wading into this, because he feels he did not get good

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enough advice? He is obviously lacking a bit of faith in Owen

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Paterson, isn't each Umax I think he sees a national crisis and wishes to

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help resolve it, as a good Prime Minister does. Is a out of his

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depth, Owen Paterson? Of course not. They are trying to remedy a position

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which has been building up for years, the rivers have been silting

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up for a decade, the culverts, ditches and strains have not been

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maintained for ten years in many cases, not just the last one or

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two. There is a huge backlog of work that has to be done, and because the

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Environment Agency has not been a strong voice against building on the

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flood plain, in my constituency views that get flooded though is the

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most recently built, and the Environment Agency did not intervene

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and say, you should not build here. You should stop building on the

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flood plain, that is what most people would say. We have an

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incoherent is here that needs to be looked at. It is a failure of the

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government. The Environment Agency is a creature of the Government. You

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cannot wash your hands of it, it is a government issue. We all wrote

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under the law. The people who have two say to the planning authority,

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you cannot build here, is the Environment Agency's responsibility.

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Let's put aside the sniping for a moment. We have all seen the

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pictures since the start of January. What would you do? Would

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you say let's start dredging those rivers? I'm not an expert and each

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local area needs a different kind of solution. Dredging wholesale isn't

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the answer. When this is no longer on the front pages, can we still

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make the case for the investment needed for better defences? If we

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are not going to build a flood plain, we are going to have to find

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land elsewhere. You can build on the flood plain if the Environment

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Agency told people how to manage the water and put in proper facilities

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but they haven't been doing that. Is it affordable long-term? A lot of it

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is because you create the plan when you are requesting planning

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permission. A lot of this is very controversial and current. There are

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schemes and measures put in to improve drainage so things can be

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done but we are 200,000 homes short of what we need, not merely keeping

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up with demographic change. We are going to have two free up some land.

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We have an Environment Secretary who cut the adaptations budget of his

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department by 40% last year. Do you believe in man-made climate change?

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I do, and if I were the Environment Secretary I would be looking at

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whether the department's budget is not focused so much on flood

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protection. And staff, because clearly that hasn't helped. You have

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to have staff to do the work that needs to be done by the Environment

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Agency, you have to have a proper balance. Since 2010 we have seen

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?100 million per year cut in the budget available. It has gone up.

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How do you know that? I have read the accounts. Maria is only taking a

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part of their budget. If you go back over the accounts you will see that

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with the fees, charges and grant income, more money has been spent.

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How much more money would you like the Environment Agency to have? I'm

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undertaking work at the moment to look at their departmental budgets

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and I haven't got the result of that yet but there should be more

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priority for flood protection. Thank you both very much.

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Now, they've been around for decades in America. Here, they're a recent

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phenomenon. But over the last few years, hundreds have literally

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sprung up over the country and they're helping thousands of people

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feed their families. I'm talking, of course, about food banks. They've

:19:24.:19:26.

been welcomed, it seems, across the political spectrum, but they're not

:19:27.:19:29.

everyone's cup of tea. Here's the former Health Minister, Edwina

:19:30.:19:41.

Currie. According to some charities, Britain

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is in the grip of a food poverty crisis. Their solution, food banks,

:19:46.:19:50.

providing emergency food for the needy. This charity is currently

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handing out about 100 food bank parcels every week, and the people

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who run it are wonderful people, but I do wonder whether they are doing

:20:04.:20:13.

almost as much harm as good. What about longer term issues? Many who

:20:14.:20:19.

visit food banks have complex needs, including mental illness. A lot of

:20:20.:20:28.

money is being diverted from health budgets to pay for these food banks,

:20:29.:20:32.

money that I'd believe would be better spent elsewhere. It seems we

:20:33.:20:40.

have forgotten about personal responsibility. Can a tin of soup

:20:41.:20:44.

and a smile really address these problems? I would like to find out

:20:45.:20:50.

more. Mike Godwin is the operations manager here. I saw a lady with four

:20:51.:20:58.

children and you are being asked to give her toiletries and toilet rolls

:20:59.:21:04.

as well as food. Four children means a lot of child benefit. What is

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going on there? The biggest single reason people come here is because

:21:10.:21:16.

of benefit delays. These are people not mismanaging their benefits, they

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are not receiving any at all. You have a situation with flexible

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working practices, where people when they are looking for work, you now

:21:26.:21:30.

go to employment agencies to look for work so you might be working one

:21:31.:21:36.

week, not the next week, three days the next, so people are signing on

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and off like yo-yos. In my grandparents' time it was expected

:21:44.:21:49.

you would put money away to save for the bad times and now many believe

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it is the Government's responsibility. Many on benefits are

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better off than those giving out the food but we have no way of checking.

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On the times I have been unemployed, it has been the worst time of my

:22:19.:22:23.

life, having to sit there and watch rubbish, not the Daily Politics I

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might add. Food banks and no way to lift people out of poverty, and as

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they found in Canada, 25 years on, you could simply be trapping people

:22:45.:22:50.

in dependency. Living hand to mouth is no existence for anybody. This is

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not the way forward. And I'm joined by Edwina Currie, and from

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Manchester by Marc Godwin. And Vidhya Alakeson is still with us.

:23:04.:23:07.

Marc, let me come to you first. Edwina says people like you are

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wonderful but she wonders whether you do almost as much harm as good,

:23:11.:23:18.

do you? No, we try to do the Christian thing because we are

:23:19.:23:23.

church led charity. I think we do lots of positive things. If we

:23:24.:23:27.

weren't around, a lot of people would be suffering in silence and we

:23:28.:23:31.

make sure people get food when they need it. What sort of people come to

:23:32.:23:39.

your food bank? A vast range of people from all over. We get people

:23:40.:23:43.

from a wide range of different backgrounds. Can I just correct

:23:44.:23:49.

Edwina in that piece you did, about food banks getting funding. Chelwood

:23:50.:23:55.

food bank doesn't get a penny of public funding, every penny we find,

:23:56.:24:03.

any tin of soup we find, we have to pay for it ourselves. Also to say

:24:04.:24:07.

that people from all sorts of different backgrounds come to us. It

:24:08.:24:13.

is easy to tar everyone with the same brush, but people come with so

:24:14.:24:20.

many different circumstances. You are just not being very charitable,

:24:21.:24:26.

one might say, where is the big society here when it comes to people

:24:27.:24:31.

who need food getting food? I think we would agree that quite a lot of

:24:32.:24:36.

the people who come to the food banks need help, but where we

:24:37.:24:42.

disagree is about the sort of help we should be providing as a society,

:24:43.:24:47.

as a public sector. What really worries me is that they are just

:24:48.:24:53.

being sent away with food. I know what he will say, we send them to

:24:54.:24:57.

the other agencies, but they have been sent by the agencies to get the

:24:58.:25:02.

food. They don't get fresh food like in the picture here. Plus mark does

:25:03.:25:09.

not know what background they have because they do not visit people in

:25:10.:25:14.

their homes, they are not social workers. But they are providing a

:25:15.:25:19.

service which is needed. You don't think they are necessary, food

:25:20.:25:29.

banks? I think you have three kinds of people who use them, one of them

:25:30.:25:36.

is people who are released from prison, people with post-traumatic

:25:37.:25:41.

stress, people with addiction, and we need to get more help to them.

:25:42.:25:46.

Councils are sending them to food banks. The second group of people

:25:47.:25:49.

with short-term problems like indebtedness, and he should have in

:25:50.:25:56.

his office debt adviser and a credit union that area which is not

:25:57.:26:02.

functioning... A whole range, and some of them, I'm sorry, don't need

:26:03.:26:08.

it. I sat in the car park beforehand, I went early because I

:26:09.:26:12.

am cynical and I like to look at people and make up my own mind. I

:26:13.:26:18.

watched people arrive in their cars, so they can afford to buy petrol,

:26:19.:26:24.

going in clutching their voucher, they say hello and come out

:26:25.:26:28.

clutching the food they haven't paid for. What do you say to that, that

:26:29.:26:33.

it encourages a culture of dependency for some people who don't

:26:34.:26:47.

need it? The vast majority of people who go to food banks would rather be

:26:48.:26:50.

paying money and going to the supermarket. Very few people revel

:26:51.:26:53.

in the culture of benefits. How do you know? Because we have followed

:26:54.:26:57.

many families over many years, and they have a lot better handle on

:26:58.:27:02.

their family finances then I have on mine because every single penny

:27:03.:27:07.

counts. Most of them are very strict with their finances, but

:27:08.:27:10.

unfortunately some of them have got into debt. I would dispute the idea

:27:11.:27:20.

that there are loads of feckless people milking food banks from what

:27:21.:27:27.

they are worth. On the question of people who need more sophisticated

:27:28.:27:32.

help, I don't disagree but you cannot replace food with a mental

:27:33.:27:39.

health programme. If they are mental health problems, they are

:27:40.:27:42.

fluctuating problems, people get better and then worse again. When

:27:43.:27:46.

they are not doing so well, do we not feed them? I don't mind in the

:27:47.:27:54.

least if the food bank is crisis intervention, a hawk to bring people

:27:55.:28:00.

in who have all sorts of problems, then it could start providing the

:28:01.:28:07.

care people need. Isn't marked just there for the crisis then? Do you

:28:08.:28:12.

think you should be expanding your role as such? We would love to, but

:28:13.:28:19.

at the end of the day we are just a charity already punching above our

:28:20.:28:23.

weight. We would love to have a debt adviser and a credit union, but also

:28:24.:28:28.

Edwina raised the point of people getting out of cars. It is very easy

:28:29.:28:33.

to say everyone should look the same who come to a food bank, but those

:28:34.:28:38.

people might have got those cars when they are working. We also have

:28:39.:28:45.

people who have walked several miles to get to us and cannot afford the

:28:46.:28:51.

bus fare. What about your point of council funding being diverted from

:28:52.:28:56.

public health budgets to pay for these food banks? My understanding

:28:57.:29:00.

was that they were mainly charities, are you wrong on that?

:29:01.:29:08.

This is something fairly new. I gather BBC panorama is working on

:29:09.:29:13.

this and looking at it. Manchester alone is giving about quarter of ?1

:29:14.:29:16.

million a year straight to food banks, I would rather it went

:29:17.:29:22.

straight to an addiction clinic. What about the point they need

:29:23.:29:29.

food? They are struggling to eat, I don't disagree they need an

:29:30.:29:37.

addiction programme. You have got people going today programmes for

:29:38.:29:42.

ten years. You have lots of people in need. Why is that OK? Because

:29:43.:29:54.

they are not being passed from pillar to post, they are being

:29:55.:29:59.

looked after and given some continuing care. Care in the

:30:00.:30:02.

community is difficult to do and it needs a big professional input. If

:30:03.:30:08.

those councils are handing money over to people like Mark and the

:30:09.:30:11.

charities and not following up what they are doing, they are getting a

:30:12.:30:17.

much worse service. What about people on benefits, why do they need

:30:18.:30:25.

to go to food banks? If they have a large number of children, they are

:30:26.:30:28.

getting help from the state, isn't that enough? Very few people are

:30:29.:30:34.

rich on benefits. This idea that people are living a life of luxury

:30:35.:30:39.

on benefits, income support is on average ?70 per week. Plus their

:30:40.:30:43.

accommodation and day nursery paid, and an awful lot of other things.

:30:44.:30:47.

They do not get their day nursery pay. If they work 16 hours a week,

:30:48.:30:55.

they do. No, they will pay 30%. Do not think that people are ashamed of

:30:56.:31:00.

going to a food bank, not something they do lightly? The people I saw

:31:01.:31:06.

bringing food were in much worse shape than the people I saw taking

:31:07.:31:14.

food. Have you used a food by? Never! Exactly. I totally disagree,

:31:15.:31:19.

having spent time with the blond very low incomes, they have pride,

:31:20.:31:23.

most of them have the same kind of pride that means they do not want to

:31:24.:31:28.

take benefits. You do not have expertise that I do not have. You

:31:29.:31:33.

are suggesting the majority of people have no qualms about using a

:31:34.:31:39.

food bank. I did not suggest that, I am saying there is a process of

:31:40.:31:42.

change and transition going on in the country, in which people on

:31:43.:31:45.

benefits are being pushed into work, but what they will find if they get

:31:46.:31:49.

into work is that they will be better off. It takes some time and

:31:50.:31:54.

is difficult to do. One of the things I know Marc is keen to do is

:31:55.:31:59.

have a job adviser, but he's doing food first, and I think that is the

:32:00.:32:04.

wrong way round. You have to do the food first. Interesting discussion,

:32:05.:32:09.

Marc, Edwina Currie, and our guest of the day, thank you.

:32:10.:32:14.

Let's take a look at what is happening this week. As we have been

:32:15.:32:18.

hearing, later today MPs will consider a proposal to interviews a

:32:19.:32:21.

ban on smoking in cars with children present. On Wednesday, David Cameron

:32:22.:32:26.

faces his regular questioning session in the House of Commons.

:32:27.:32:31.

Wednesday also sees the Chief Inspector of schools, Sir Michael

:32:32.:32:34.

Wilshaw, give evidence to the Education Select Committee. He was

:32:35.:32:39.

recently quoted as spitting blood over attacks on Ofsted by right-wing

:32:40.:32:44.

think tanks. On Thursday, it is the Wythenshawe and Sale East

:32:45.:32:47.

by-election to replace Labour MP Paul Goggins, who died last month.

:32:48.:32:52.

It is widely expected to be held by Labour, but could UKIP come second?

:32:53.:32:57.

We should find out the result on Friday morning. Joining Li now is

:32:58.:33:00.

Joe Watts from the Evening Standard and Tamara Cohen of the Daily Mail.

:33:01.:33:07.

-- joining me. Let's talk about UKIP and the potential threat to Labour

:33:08.:33:11.

in the North, is Labour taking the threat seriously? Wythenshawe and

:33:12.:33:18.

sale is going to be safely for Labour on Thursday. The polls are

:33:19.:33:23.

suggesting they have a 46 point lead, but UKIP can't come second,

:33:24.:33:28.

and Nigel Farage has made clear that he thinks UKIP are taking both off

:33:29.:33:32.

all the major parties, not just the Conservatives. If they do get a

:33:33.:33:35.

strong showing, it will definitely bolster his case that UKIP are going

:33:36.:33:41.

to be doing well in the North of England. Joe, Nigel Farage often

:33:42.:33:46.

says that he can take as many votes off Labour as he can off the

:33:47.:33:54.

Conservatives. How do you think Labour has to fight UKIP in the

:33:55.:34:00.

North of England? There is a certain level of nervousness among Labour

:34:01.:34:03.

MPs, when I have spoken to them here. UKIP polling shows that, of

:34:04.:34:08.

the votes they are taking at the moment, around 31% of people who

:34:09.:34:14.

voted Tory in 2010, and about 13% voted Labour in 2010. So my feeling

:34:15.:34:19.

is that the mainstream parties have to worry about the fact that a lot

:34:20.:34:22.

of the UKIP vote is coming from people who did not vote at all in

:34:23.:34:26.

2010, and those people are completely apathetic are being

:34:27.:34:31.

brought back into the fold. We know that Nigel Farage has been out and

:34:32.:34:34.

about, visiting flood areas, obviously taking this very seriously

:34:35.:34:39.

as we get closer to the European elections and the general elections,

:34:40.:34:42.

is that the feeling in Westminster? Absolutely, we had news today that

:34:43.:34:48.

Labour have sent a unit to scrutinise UKIP's policies and the

:34:49.:34:52.

people who work there, which the Conservatives have been doing for

:34:53.:34:55.

some months now, an interesting move, given that UKIP may top the

:34:56.:35:00.

poll in the European elections and, head of Labour. While UKIP

:35:01.:35:06.

definitely pose more of a threat to the Conservatives, Labour are taking

:35:07.:35:11.

the fact that people are turning to UKIP quite seriously. We can see

:35:12.:35:17.

Nigel Farage dipping its toe in the floodwaters, how much personal

:35:18.:35:20.

damage has been flooding done to David Cameron politically? Well,

:35:21.:35:23.

everyone is trying to pass that hot potato around at the moment. David

:35:24.:35:28.

Cameron is there today, Owen Paterson is obviously lying in his

:35:29.:35:32.

hospital bed, unfortunately, and Eric Pickles is trying to put the

:35:33.:35:34.

blame onto the Environment Agency. Generally, all of this

:35:35.:35:38.

finger-pointing at the blame game that is going on is going to be

:35:39.:35:42.

pretty damaging to the Government. It is only going to outrage people

:35:43.:35:46.

further in the south-west as they see Westminster fighting like

:35:47.:35:51.

ferrets in a sack. The question of immigration, Mark Harper's

:35:52.:35:54.

resignation over his cleaner's fake documents, will there be a buzz of

:35:55.:35:59.

activity as ministers and shadow ministers start checking the

:36:00.:36:01.

documentation of their cleaners childminders? Well, it certainly

:36:02.:36:07.

raises that question. The fact that Mark Harper was the immigration

:36:08.:36:09.

minister putting a bill through parliament to compel landlords to

:36:10.:36:13.

check the status of their tenants and impose fines on employers, it is

:36:14.:36:19.

like something out of The Thick Of It. It does raise the question, Mark

:36:20.:36:24.

Harper says that he has not committed any offence, that he

:36:25.:36:29.

checked his cleaner's documents in 2007, but there are employment

:36:30.:36:34.

lawyers today saying we do not have enough information to be able to say

:36:35.:36:38.

definitively on that. It does really raise the question that, if the

:36:39.:36:40.

politicians are not clear on what the rules are, how the rest of us

:36:41.:36:44.

opposed to know? Absolutely, widely respected, Mark Harper, regarded as

:36:45.:36:52.

a high. Will he be back in a ministerial post before the

:36:53.:36:55.

election? I think he will be eventually. I think we should just

:36:56.:36:57.

put into context how embarrassing this could have been for the

:36:58.:37:02.

Government. If you think about it in this sense, it is like David

:37:03.:37:07.

Cameron's well feminist are claiming incapacity benefit and cart wheeling

:37:08.:37:19.

his way to work every day. -- health care Minister.

:37:20.:37:25.

Joining me for the rest of the programme is Mark Field MP,

:37:26.:37:34.

Rushanara Ali MP and Malcolm Bruce, the spanking new leader of the

:37:35.:37:37.

Liberal Democrats. Less of the spanking, I think! Let's talk about

:37:38.:37:43.

the coalition, because on Sunday Politics two people who had never

:37:44.:37:46.

thought the coalition marriage was a particularly good idea in the first

:37:47.:37:50.

place at this to say. Our long-term economic plan is working. Further

:37:51.:37:57.

changes in policies that we want to implement are being held back by the

:37:58.:38:01.

Liberal Democrats. I think that tension... I have always said, I

:38:02.:38:05.

have to say it has lasted longer than I thought it would. When will

:38:06.:38:10.

it break up? At least six months before the election, otherwise it

:38:11.:38:15.

has no integrity. Do you think it will survive? The coalition has

:38:16.:38:19.

delivered a great deal in many ways, but it is running out of steam. I

:38:20.:38:24.

think it depends on what happens in the May elections. If the Liberal

:38:25.:38:27.

Democrats do not do better than we have in the last three, there will

:38:28.:38:32.

be very strong pressure from insights to avoid a wipe-out by

:38:33.:38:35.

putting our own policies forward, to show that we can be in coalition

:38:36.:38:38.

with Labour as well as the Conservatives next time. They do not

:38:39.:38:41.

think it is going to last, Malcolm Bruce, do you think it is

:38:42.:38:45.

effectively over and will just go on until six months before the

:38:46.:38:48.

election? To be fair, those two never wanted to start it in the

:38:49.:38:53.

first place. It is a five-year agreement centred on some pretty

:38:54.:38:57.

heavy lifting, which is to turn the economy around. If you walk away

:38:58.:39:01.

from something just as it is about to deliver, you spook the markets

:39:02.:39:06.

and effectively are saying, we did the wrong thing. I don't think we

:39:07.:39:09.

did the wrong thing, I think the country is beginning to realise

:39:10.:39:13.

that, and we will see it through to the end. What I going to deliver

:39:14.:39:19.

between now and 2015? We will go on delivering tax cuts hopefully, we

:39:20.:39:22.

want to raise the threshold even further in the next Budget to give

:39:23.:39:26.

people some cost of living benefit as growth sort of kicks in. There

:39:27.:39:30.

are things we can do, and it is not all about legislation. I am not

:39:31.:39:36.

going to be writing the Budget, and I think there is a slight worry, I

:39:37.:39:41.

would say, with this idea of a broader tax base that we need. Where

:39:42.:39:45.

I would agree with Malcolm, personally I did not want to see a

:39:46.:39:48.

coalition, I think they should have been a second election in 2010, but

:39:49.:39:52.

I think it will last the full five years. The Liberals will go into the

:39:53.:39:56.

next election without any pretence of being able to form a government

:39:57.:40:02.

on their own, they want to be a break on the extremism of the

:40:03.:40:07.

Conservative Party or the Labour Party. The coalition has worked

:40:08.:40:10.

pretty well, but I think that Malcolm is right to say that,

:40:11.:40:15.

actually, let's be honest, the Liberal ministers enjoy being

:40:16.:40:19.

ministers, but also there is going to be ongoing economic recovery, and

:40:20.:40:24.

the Liberal do not want the Conservatives to take all the credit

:40:25.:40:29.

for that. What will happen between now and then? You have not said...

:40:30.:40:35.

Why carry on as a coalition? What do you agree and? There is going to be

:40:36.:40:44.

more recovery. The rolling out of welfare and education reforms will

:40:45.:40:48.

have a long-term elements to them. Where I think there is a bit of a

:40:49.:40:51.

danger, and I think both partners needs to be aware of this, is if

:40:52.:40:56.

there is a very light Queen's Speech programme and there isn't much

:40:57.:40:59.

legislation or much day-to-day work. As we know, politics and horse a

:41:00.:41:01.

vacuum, -- and that somehow there was a lack of

:41:02.:41:48.

confidence, just as confidence is restoring. It would be

:41:49.:41:57.

irresponsible. Let's just have a look at some of the events over the

:41:58.:42:02.

last few weeks. Nick Clegg once a rethink on drugs, the Tories don't.

:42:03.:42:08.

The Liberal Democrats will not... Would you cut the rate of tax over

:42:09.:42:13.

Danny Alexander's dead body if you could?! I am of the view that the

:42:14.:42:16.

most important message is that we are trying to get the deficit down,

:42:17.:42:21.

and we recognise it is going to take longer than five years. There is a

:42:22.:42:27.

mixed message. I am a low tax Conservative, but I do not think it

:42:28.:42:30.

is the number-one priority to get taxed down at this juncture when we

:42:31.:42:34.

are looking to get the deficit down. We are borrowing ?1 in every

:42:35.:42:39.

?5 that we are spending. We need to focus on that. What tax cuts would

:42:40.:42:44.

you introduce? We have made it clear that we think it is... Let me

:42:45.:42:53.

finish, since you have had your say. My point is that you have got

:42:54.:42:58.

this inherent tension between the Conservatives and the Liberals which

:42:59.:43:02.

is coming home to roost. While the coalition may last until the end of

:43:03.:43:06.

this term, the point is that the Liberals are in a really tight

:43:07.:43:12.

position, where they have been in cahoots with the Tories with

:43:13.:43:17.

increases in tuition fees, welfare cuts that are causing a cost of

:43:18.:43:21.

living prices, while the same time the Government has not ruled out

:43:22.:43:25.

cutting top rate taxes further. I think that is going to be a huge

:43:26.:43:30.

issue. What about you two together? You would agree on the rate of tax,

:43:31.:43:35.

would you, at 45p with the Liberal Democrats and not cut it further? We

:43:36.:43:40.

need to make sure the deficit is brought down and borrowing is

:43:41.:43:44.

brought down. By 2015, borrowing will still be at nearly ?80 billion.

:43:45.:43:52.

The tax cut was brought in by Alistair Darling just before the

:43:53.:43:57.

election. They cut capital gains tax to 18%, which has been increased and

:43:58.:44:02.

the coalition to 28%. In addition to that, other taxes on high earners

:44:03.:44:05.

have been introduced, and they are paying more taxes in a fairer, more

:44:06.:44:10.

progressive way than under Labour, partly because you held the economy

:44:11.:44:18.

back. Let me make my point, the cost of living crisis is affecting our

:44:19.:44:21.

constituents dramatically, people cannot, as you saw in the last bit

:44:22.:44:25.

of this programme, cannot afford to eat and pay their fuel costs. And

:44:26.:44:31.

you and your party have been complicit in that, and I think it is

:44:32.:44:39.

time... Hang on a minute! Labour Saudi economy shrank by 7% in a

:44:40.:44:45.

single year. Everyone recognises the financial crisis. We are trying to

:44:46.:44:48.

build the economy back, so of course everybody is being squeezed, but we

:44:49.:44:53.

are trying to ensure it is applied fairly, and all non-work-related

:44:54.:44:57.

benefits have been inflation protected. You agree on a mansion

:44:58.:45:01.

tax, do you agree the top rate should stay at 45p? Could you go

:45:02.:45:22.

into coalition together? On the broad issues, do you agree? At the

:45:23.:45:31.

moment we still have 2.5 million people unemployed. You haven't

:45:32.:45:37.

answered the question. We would be prepared to work in coalition with

:45:38.:45:41.

either of the other parties if we can form an agreement. We are not

:45:42.:45:45.

going to do it in advance of an election but everybody needs to know

:45:46.:45:51.

what the commitments are. You have written that voters shouldn't back

:45:52.:45:55.

the Liberal Democrats into a corner and forced it to make policy pledges

:45:56.:45:59.

before the next election, but how can voters know what they are voting

:46:00.:46:07.

for? We will have to negotiate with another party so we will not make

:46:08.:46:13.

that mistake. The other parties would be unwise to get themselves

:46:14.:46:16.

into a situation where they say we are going to win. Nobody will

:46:17.:46:26.

believe what they say. Do you not think one of the reasons there is

:46:27.:46:32.

this surge of interest in the polls for UKIP is because they think you

:46:33.:46:39.

will make your deals after the voters have had their say? The issue

:46:40.:46:47.

with UKIP is that you cannot go online through line of their

:46:48.:46:51.

policies because most of it is nonsense. I understand that and it

:46:52.:47:02.

is not an unfair point but if we are moving into coalition permanents, it

:47:03.:47:07.

beholds all parties to be aware that you have to compromise. I take the

:47:08.:47:11.

point you don't want to do it in corners after the election but you

:47:12.:47:16.

cannot say, we will do this regardless. You have at your fingers

:47:17.:47:21.

burned and I understand that but we may not be moving into a coalition

:47:22.:47:25.

permanents, I guess we will find that out in the second week of May

:47:26.:47:35.

2015. Onto immigration now. In a moment we will be talking about Mark

:47:36.:47:40.

Harper who resigned after employing an illegal immigrant as a cleaner,

:47:41.:47:50.

but now an undercover investigation by BBC One's Panorama has revealed

:47:51.:47:53.

systematic fraud in the student visa system. Secret filming showed a

:47:54.:47:56.

network of agents helping overseas students pass English tests, obtain

:47:57.:47:59.

false documents, and doctor their academic records. Let's have a look.

:48:00.:48:01.

The Home Office rules are clear, non-EU students have to pass an

:48:02.:48:04.

English exam or they don't get a visa. Only last year we heard and

:48:05.:48:09.

immigration agency in west London that could guarantee a pass for a

:48:10.:48:29.

price. And Studentway denies any wrongdoing. What is the Border

:48:30.:48:32.

Agency doing? They have a difficult job, a lot of their senior people

:48:33.:48:41.

spend time working with universities to make sure everything is right. A

:48:42.:48:47.

quango was setup to do the English tests and there it seems to be this

:48:48.:48:51.

problem that has come into play, but we need to look at the broader

:48:52.:48:57.

national interest. We do want to encourage people to come to this

:48:58.:49:01.

country and the message is that the doors are closed I don't think it is

:49:02.:49:05.

in the national or economic interest. We want the brightest

:49:06.:49:09.

people coming from across the globe, perhaps spending some time here and

:49:10.:49:15.

going back to be ambassadors for this country for the rest of their

:49:16.:49:20.

lives. Actually it looks like the doors have gone up to those outside

:49:21.:49:28.

the EU, do you think that has happened? We have no control over

:49:29.:49:34.

how people are leaving this country, and I suspect there is not that much

:49:35.:49:39.

to choose between our parties where we see the immigration system going.

:49:40.:49:44.

We need an effective system, but let's be honest about this, our

:49:45.:49:50.

education system is a wonderful invisible export for this country.

:49:51.:49:55.

We have some fantastic universities and colleges, and whilst I think it

:49:56.:50:00.

is important that any abuse is highlighted, it is the exception

:50:01.:50:05.

rather than the rule. The implication is that the numbers have

:50:06.:50:09.

been quite big in terms of bogus colleges. Wouldn't it be better to

:50:10.:50:16.

have face-to-face interviews with each these candidate? It may be

:50:17.:50:21.

possible, we could perhaps do it in their home countries through

:50:22.:50:26.

embassies abroad and a large amount of that continues to go on. That is

:50:27.:50:34.

happening. Theresa May said today that she inherited a broken system

:50:35.:50:39.

when it came to immigration, particularly on student visas, from

:50:40.:50:47.

a Labour government. Do you take responsibility? She has been in

:50:48.:50:51.

power for four years and I think it is unacceptable for this Government

:50:52.:50:56.

to blame the last government for everything. You have hard Eric

:50:57.:51:01.

Pickles blaming us for the flooding, and I think she needs to take

:51:02.:51:06.

responsibility. Mark is right that the world-class universities that we

:51:07.:51:11.

have attracts some of the best students and we need to make sure we

:51:12.:51:15.

find ways of doing that and the economy benefits from it, but she

:51:16.:51:20.

needs to get a grip on the abuses because every single abuse leads to

:51:21.:51:25.

discrediting of the system and loss of trust among voters. That is when

:51:26.:51:31.

parties like UKIP try to take advantage of the immigration debate

:51:32.:51:35.

and making a toxic debate which is damaging. Do you accept the majority

:51:36.:51:43.

of those bogus colleges sprung up under Labour, and it is only

:51:44.:51:46.

subsequently they have been closed because they are not getting the

:51:47.:51:54.

students in? I don't accept that. We take responsibility for mistakes

:51:55.:51:57.

that have happened and that is well documented, but she has been in

:51:58.:52:08.

power for four years. I get letters from the UK Border Agency even when

:52:09.:52:10.

people should be returned because they know that they have no right to

:52:11.:52:18.

be in this country. Why doesn't she deal with the problems that exist

:52:19.:52:22.

that her department is responsible for, instead of blaming the previous

:52:23.:52:30.

government? Was Mark Harper right to resign? Yes, when you are an

:52:31.:52:36.

Immigration Minister and you find out you have made an administrative

:52:37.:52:40.

error, you have to go and he has done the right thing. He has to

:52:41.:52:45.

conform to his own rules but it raises a serious issue of

:52:46.:52:52.

enforcement. If they were fake documents... He said he had to

:52:53.:52:55.

resign but they were faked and he didn't check enough, and that is a

:52:56.:53:02.

big onus on everybody. The average householder is not going to know.

:53:03.:53:08.

The requirement of landlords to check their tenants, we have said it

:53:09.:53:13.

should be piloted to check how enforceable it is because otherwise

:53:14.:53:20.

you finish up in a situation where genuinely people don't know the

:53:21.:53:24.

situation and can be caught out. You don't want to make criminals out of

:53:25.:53:28.

innocent mistakes and Mark Harper has been the victim of that. The

:53:29.:53:33.

colleges have been closed down or at least excluded by the present

:53:34.:53:37.

government and it is crucial to recognise that this is a very big

:53:38.:53:41.

challenge but the Government is doing its best and they are

:53:42.:53:46.

interviewing more and more people to check their references. Let's leave

:53:47.:53:51.

it there. Now, time to find out the answer to our quiz. The question

:53:52.:53:54.

was: According to researchers, which of the following could make you more

:53:55.:54:03.

likely to get elected? Is it... If you are man, if you belong to an

:54:04.:54:08.

ethnic minority, if you are good-looking, or if you more

:54:09.:54:14.

mature. Which answer do you think is correct? Don't be shy? In local

:54:15.:54:23.

elections you will have three candidates and it's interesting how

:54:24.:54:29.

often they will be all women so being a woman may bring sexism into

:54:30.:54:40.

it. That wasn't in the question, but what do you think? I'm sure it's

:54:41.:54:52.

maturity. I will let you fight. The answer is if you are good-looking,

:54:53.:54:56.

and you are all good-looking of course. And joining me to explain

:54:57.:55:05.

her research is Caitlin Milazzo, who's a lecturer in politics and

:55:06.:55:07.

international relations at Nottingham University. Is it true,

:55:08.:55:15.

what evidence is there? There is plenty of anecdotal evidence from

:55:16.:55:20.

the study of American politics. We have the long-standing belief that

:55:21.:55:24.

politicians in the US do better when they are good-looking or taller, so

:55:25.:55:30.

we asked some students from the University of Iowa to rate which

:55:31.:55:38.

candidate was more attractive and we found that attractive candidates did

:55:39.:55:42.

tend to be election winners and tended to get more votes than the

:55:43.:55:49.

candidates deemed not attractive. Did age come into it at all? Yes,

:55:50.:55:55.

not only because our subjects were quite young, an average age of only

:55:56.:56:00.

about 20 years old, but even when you take into account age, the

:56:01.:56:05.

party, how much they spent on the campaign, we found out that

:56:06.:56:10.

attractive candidates tend to come out 2% higher in vote share than

:56:11.:56:16.

their less attractive counterparts. Stay and listen to the rest of this

:56:17.:56:20.

discussion, you might learn something. I was going to say were

:56:21.:56:28.

you elected because of your good looks? My brain and intellect and

:56:29.:56:38.

everything else! He is blushing! Do you think there is any truth in

:56:39.:56:45.

that? They are American students. Anyone who watches west wing will

:56:46.:56:51.

know there is a difference. Looking at this, I'm sure people's demeanour

:56:52.:56:58.

is part of it but I suspect it is a bigger feature in American politics

:56:59.:57:01.

because you cannot get anywhere in America if you are not a Hollywood

:57:02.:57:09.

star. In TV advertising, they push people more in that way. What do you

:57:10.:57:19.

think? I agree with Malcolm and I would add that what is really

:57:20.:57:23.

important is that if you don't work hard for your constituents and you

:57:24.:57:28.

are not capable of doing the job, that is made very clear to you by

:57:29.:57:33.

your voters when you are knocking on the door asking for their votes. I

:57:34.:57:41.

think in Britain... You don't think the voters are so vain. Is there

:57:42.:57:48.

ageism? I think it is a media driven thing, but the fact is there is a

:57:49.:57:58.

tendency you have -- you think you have to be young and dynamic but

:57:59.:58:04.

experience matters and I don't think the public discount that as much as

:58:05.:58:09.

the media says they would. I would have thought it was about trust. I

:58:10.:58:16.

am older than all three of the party leaders and it is an unhealthy state

:58:17.:58:22.

of affairs. Gender balance in Parliament, when you look at the

:58:23.:58:36.

fact there is 22% of women, that is where I think we can do much more in

:58:37.:58:43.

terms of having younger people. We don't have any time to come back to

:58:44.:58:52.

you, Caitlin, but I hope it was interesting for you to listen to.

:58:53.:58:56.

That's all for today. Thanks to our guests. Goodbye.

:58:57.:59:07.

It's your job to keep law and order, isn't it?

:59:08.:59:13.

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