13/02/2014 Daily Politics


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Afternoon, folks, welcome to the Daily Politics. George Osborne has


gone to Edinburgh and he's playing hardball over Scottish independence.


He says if Scotland votes to leave the UK it votes to leave the pound.


It's the same message from Labour and the Lib Dems. The SNP says it's


bullying. We'll speak to Scotland's deputy first minister, Nicola


Sturgeon. The good news is the Bank of England says the economy's


storming back to growth. The bad news is, it says it's not


sustainable. We'll be reading the economic runes with two leading


forecasters. Gordon Brown's back in the Commons today. It's not often we


say that. So what's the former Prime Minister been up to since leaving


Number Ten? My name is Sarah and I was born in October. My And are the


odds stacked against children born in the summer? Name is Celia and I


was born in August. IM Andrew and I was born in May. What does that say?


All that in the next hour and with us for the whole show today is the


deputy first minister of Scotland and deputy SNP leader Nicola


Sturgeon. Nice to have you in London for a change, Nicola. It is nice to


have you in London and not on a telephone line. And don't panic. For


those of you who like a bit of balance on these issues, and we know


there are many of you - the Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael will


be our guest of the day on the show next month. Let's start with the


weather. And what weather it's been. Tens of thousands of homes are


without power this morning after hurricane-force winds battered the


UK yesterday. Forecasters say the stormy weather will subside briefly


today before more gales and rain arrive tomorrow. Western parts of


Wales and the north west of England have been badly affected and severe


flood warnings remain in place in the south and south west of England.


The Transport Secretary told the Commons this morning that ?61


million would be spent to repair damage to the transport


infrastructure. The bad weather has prompted widespread debate about the


role played by climate change. Later today, the Energy Secretary Ed Davey


- he's a Liberal Democrat - will use a speech to attack some


Conservatives who, he says, are undermining efforts to tackle


climate change. Mr Davey will say that the political consensus on


climate change "is in danger of breaking down". The Deputy Prime


Minister Nick Clegg reinforced the message on his regular radio


phone-in for LBC this morning: there are prominent conservatives, Lord


Lawson and others, who do not accept it. They are entitled to that view


and they can argue the case as they do, but given that we have had this


recent international report from the largest number of scientists ever,


and we have received advice as well, he came to the Cabinet and sat


there in front of the cameras and said, "there is no doubt" . Nicola


Sturgeon, do you think the extreme weather over the last few years, is


it linked to climate change? Undoubtedly. I agree with Nick Clegg


and people are entitled to their views but we need to spend our time


deciding how to address climate change. What is happening in the


south of England is grim and my heart goes out to people. We have


got eight relatively lightly in Scotland but there is no doubt that


we have to take climate change seriously. Nick Clegg mentioned Lord


Lawson and he said again today that they are -- there is no evidence


that climate change is causing flooding. He said that the


government should stop littering the countryside with solar panels and


wind turbines. Does he have a point? No, he does not. I think it is


wrong. I think making sure we are investing in renewable energy is


important, we are doing that in Scotland. We need a balanced energy


policy. There are immediate policies that needs to be dealt with. Loading


flood defences, I think that will be a big priority for the government in


London as a result of what has happened is in the last few weeks.


-- wielding flood defences. Should those views be dismissed out of


hand? I do think, I absolutely do think that we should treat this with


healthy scepticism and not be diverted into a debate about the


rights and wrongs of climate change. People flooding in Somerset


will get very little comfort from this debate and want to know what is


being done here and now and how as a society we face up to things long


term. Some of the scientific community do say it is not always


man-made but sometimes it is down to human activity. I am not saying we


should not have a debate but I think it is wasted energy having all of it


spent on that debate rather than thinking how we address the issues


of climate change. You talked about Scotland's leading the way in terms


of renewables. Were you disappointed when they failed to reach their


climate change targets? Marginally. But that must've been disappointing?


I want to see us exceeding our targets. We are confident we will.


We passed the climate change legislation and we are stretching


ourselves, being ambitious. We fell marginally short but that is a us


becoming... Letters leave it there. Now it's time for our daily quiz.


The question for today is which of the following has our guest of the


day Nicola Sturgeon admitted that she doesn't like? Is it... A) the


sound of bagpipes b) being Alex Salmond's deputy c) historical


fiction or d) cooking? Later on in the show Nicola will give us the


correct answer. I will have to think what the right answer is! What are


you suggesting, Andrew? Sorry! An independent Scotland wouldn't be


able to keep the pound. That was the stark message from George Osborne


this morning as he went to Edinburgh to tell Alex Salmond and the SNP he


won't support their plans for a currency union between Scotland and


the rest of the UK, if Scotland votes for independence on 18


September. And George Osborne isn't alone on this one - over to Jo to


explain more. Thanks, Andrew. Yes, George Osborne has told the SNP he


won't entertain the idea of a currency union, saying the only way


for Scotland to maintain its "economic security" and keep the


pound is by staying in the UK. The Treasury's looked at the idea of a


formal currency union, and says for it to work both governments would


have to underwrite each other's banks - and even allow taxpayers on


one side of the border to subsidise each other. The Chancellor says this


won't work, and in a rare display of cross-party unity, Ed Balls agrees


with him. The shadow Chancellor has also ruled out a currency union,


saying it was time for the SNP to join "the real world", and chief


secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander says the Lib Dems are on


the same page. This follows the visit to Edinburgh by Bank of


England governor Mark Carney last month, when he said a currency union


would only work if there was "some ceding of national sovereignty". The


SNP has accused the three political parties at Westminster of ganging up


to "bully" Scotland, and insist keeping the pound would be in the


interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK. Here's what George


Osborne had to say earlier. I could not, as Chancellor, recommends that


we could share the pound with an independent Scotland. The evidence


shows that it would not work, it would cost jobs, and cost money. It


would not provide economic security for Scotland or the rest of the UK,


I do not think any other Chancellor of the extent would come to a


different view. The SNP says that if Scotland becomes independent there


would be a currency union and Scotland would share the pound.


People need to know that that is not going to happen. Sharing the pound


is not in the interests of the people of Scotland or the rest of


the UK. That was the Chancellor George Osborne. Nicola Sturgeon is


with us. Many have said that if Scotland went independent you do not


get a currency union with the rest of the UK. These are all politicians


who want Scotland to vote no so it is in their interest to stir up fear


and uncertainty. They have just said that if you leave Britain, you leave


the pound so what is your plan? I will come onto that in a second the


point of fact here, and this is what Mervyn King said, the in reality


would be very different... You do not know that! Let's assume they do


stick to their guns, we are talking about very important things here.


What is the other plan? The fiscal commission which was asked by the


government to look at the currency options has laid it all out. The


currency of sterling within a currency union... What is in your


plan? We want a currency union because it is in the best interest


of Scotland and the UK. Forgave me, but if you do not get that and it is


important that the people of Scotland and the UK know the answer,


if they are true to their word, these three politicians from three


different parties, what is the plan? Scotland cannot be prevented from


using the pound... It could not be a currency union. I believe George


Osborne is bluffing. Can you tell me... I would really like an answer


to this question and it is simple. Assuming they are not bluffing, and


there are many reasons to believe they are not, what would then be the


position on the currency? Scotland cannot be prevented from using the


currency but I am not going to be the lead out of a position that is


in the best interest of Scotland and the UK. I know that is what George


Osborne wants to try and do but I am not going to allow him to do that.


Let me tell you why the currency union is in the best interest of the


union. Having a separate currency in Scotland would cost English


businesses hundreds of millions of pounds in transaction costs. If we


do not have a currency union, the balance of payments loses ?30


billion of oil and gas. The trade deficit for the UK goes through the


roof and impacts on the value of sterling. These are common-sense


reasons why... People should not be fooled by it. That may or may not be


true but my purpose this morning is not to argue on the merits of the


currency union, and I will try one more time. If they do not agree with


you and think a currency union without a political union, which is


what it will be, if they ring that is not right for the rest of the UK,


what do you do? -- if they think. I have already said that the fiscal


commission has set out the currency options for Scotland. With the


greatest of respect, just because George Osborne tries to intimidate


Scotland it does not mean we should forget Scotland. He is laying out a


viable case for the rest of the UK to say that if you go independent,


we do not want a currency union. It is perfectly respectable. He is


entitled to argue that. I am entitled to argue the position that


I believe passionately and strongly is the best one for Scotland. Is it


true that you said that if they stick to their guns and you do not


get a currency union, an independent Scotland would not take its share of


national debt? Let me be clear, I want to see an independent


Scotland... What about the UK debt? Assets and liabilities go


hand-in-hand. You cannot have a position, which I think George


Osborne is articulating, that Scotland should be left with a share


of liabilities but no assets. I am pointing out the logical conclusion


of his position. I want Scotland to take on a fair share of its service.


Let me clarify this. It is not a threat to say you cannot hold the


currency of the country you have left. If you do not get a currency


union, the Scotland grenade on its share of national debt? Does it? As


the Treasury said just a couple of weeks ago, the debt is legally the


Treasurys. I think it would be right for Scotland to take a share of the


national debt, but that goes hand-in-hand with the question of


the share of assets. Watt I would say you haven't got a choice,


whether you get the pound or not. You cannot get better than that. Who


is going to lend to a country... Where its political leader has


already said it's going to renege on a substantial proportion of the


debt? Never mind the respect, and to the question. Scotland becomes a


pariah if you don't take your share of the debt, correct? I want them to


take their share of debt. I wasn't disparaging your degree. I was going


to quote Sir James early full stop he was quoted by Mark Carney. He is


in print in the Scotsman, your former newspaper, today saying


exactly why he thinks a currency union is in the best interests of


Scotland. That is not the issue I'm asking. I put it to you that if you


renege, if you go independent and renege on your share of UK national


debt, you will be an international pariah on the money markets. My


position is we won't come as you put it, renege on a share of the debt.


Once Scotland votes for independence, if that's what the


people of Scotland decide, we will have a currency union


underpinned... And if you don't? Scotland will have our share of


servicing the national debt. You assert that but you cannot prove it


and you take Scotland into the unknown by not answering a single


question I've asked you date on Plan B. Why are you so in favour of the


pound? The SNP called the pound a millstone round the neck of


Scotland. We asked our commission, looking at the currency options.


There are different options open. So you were wrong? We have looked at


the position. Because of the trading relationship, because of our


contribution to the balance of payments, because of the integrated


financial services market, it makes sense for Scotland to remain within


the union that way with sterling. In 2009 when Alex Salmond crowed that


sterling was thinking like a stone in the plummeting of the pound


Korean first the case for membership of the euro, he was wrong as well?


You have to judge these things with the prevailing circumstances at the


time. The Liberal Democrats fought the election name manifesto to go


into the euro. I don't think Nick Clegg would argue that to date. You


base this on proper information and advice. The position we are putting


forward now is the one that, in our judgment, is the right one. There


are good, hard-headed reasons why it is the right one for the rest of the


UK as well. Control of its own currency is a country's most potent


economic weapon, do you agree with that? I agree that Scotland should


stay within a sterling union. When it was said, there are simply no


other methods by which the economy can be finely tuned and geared to


meet the ever changing and accelerating challenges of the


information age. A country without its own currency is a country


without a steering wheel, breaks or accelerator, he was wrong? I don't


agree with that. Based on the advice of the Economist I've spoken of,


based on what is in the interest of businesses north and south of the


border, there was an opinion poll carried out at the turn of the year


that asked people in England not whether they thought Scotland should


be independent or not, but if Scotland was independent, should we


share a currency? 71% of people in England said yes. You want a


currency union which would involve the rest of the UK being your lender


of last resort, having to bail out the Scottish banks if they get into


another mess, as they did only a few years ago. And yet it is also your


policy that a loan on the European students, English students would


have to pay full fees at Scottish universities. You want that and you


want us to agree a currency union as well. Why would the rest of the UK


agreed to that when you want to discriminate against English


students? I don't want anybody to pay tuition fees. But you would


charge English students fees, wouldn't you? You won't be charging


German, Irish, French or Italian. England has the highest tuition


fees... You want us to be your lender of last resort and yet you


want to charge alone among Europeans full fees to the English, why would


anyone agree to that? I want a partnership agreement on lender of


last resort. England has the highest tuition fees and the whole of


Europe. Only 10% of students in England came to study in Scotland,


that would take up 80% of places. I wish there weren't tuition fees in


England. If the UK moved tuition fees in England, they wouldn't be


charged in Scotland either. Let's stay with the subject of the


referendum on Scottish independence. So far, attention has perhaps


understandably been focused on what might happen to Scotland if it votes


yes and decides to go it alone. But that wouldn't just affect people


living north of the border, it would be the beginning of the end of a


Union which began more than four centuries ago. Inevitably, that


would change life for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. So what might


the UK minus Scotland be like? Here's David Thompson. Ever wondered


why so many pubs are called the red Lion? Apparently, when James the


sixth of Scotland became James the first of England in 1603, he


insisted his coat of arms, the red Lion, be displayed on all buildings


of significance, including pubs. We may have the Union of the Crowns to


thank for the red line and and impart the UK, but that was more


than 400 years ago. In the future, what would the rest of the UK look


like politically, economically and perhaps even socially if Scotland


was no longer part of the picture? Well, the electoral map could look


very different. Labour would be the biggest sufferer. They would lose


the biggest bulk of the 59 seats which currently Scotland retains in


Parliament. The impact on the 2010 election would have been dramatic.


Instead of being short of a majority in Westminster come without Scotland


David Cameron would have had a majority of 21. But what might


happen after the vote for independence? We don't know that


without Scotland, whether that would have any effect on the internal


politics of the rest of the UK that remained. With the dynamic stay the


same or would it change somewhat? Certainly on paper it would make it


a much more difficult task for Labour to think of winning an


election in the future without Scotland. And what about the


economic 's? With the debt burden, it would rise. I think that is


likely to get the attention of credit rating agencies. That night


not make a big impact for the man on the street, but for the government


and Treasury finances, that would make a difference. Enough of the dry


politics and economics, how would the rest of UK handle a Scottish


departure? It's extremely important that we keep the UK as a whole. But


if it were to happen we would accommodate it, because that is the


way we are and always have been, but with deep regret. Could Scotland


stay in, but with increased powers, devo max, actually be politically


more traumatic than if it went? It would be completely intolerable to


imagine that decisions that were taken in the UK parliament would be


decided by Labour MPs in particular, let alone Scottish National 's, who


were actually getting more and more devo max. I think we would get to a


breaking point on that. Scotland's future will be a question for


Scotland. But whatever the answer, the UK may well feel like a very


different place afterwards. We're joined now by the chairman of the


English Democrats, Robin Tilbrook, and by the Conservative MP, Iain


Stewart, who was born and raised in Scotland. The Conservatives have the


grand total of one MP in Scotland, Labour have 41. At the last


election, David Cameron would have gained an overall majority if


Scotland's votes had been excluded. What's not to like for Scottish


independence for the Conservatives? My nationality is British. Even


though there would be a short-term electoral gain for my party, I do


not support the break-up of the United Kingdom, my country. That is


far more important than the result of any one particular election. It


could be, as some political pundits have predicted, that it could lead


to one-party rule if there was Scotland independent and the rest of


the UK remaining? I don't think you can extrapolate that. If you look at


the majorities that Tony Blair had, he had a majority of the seats in


England as well as the UK as a whole. It's very dangerous to


extrapolate on one election result. But some of your conservative


colleagues must feel that way, knowing they would be much more


likely to have electoral victory, a significant majority without


Scotland. We are the Conservative and Unionist party. That Unionist


strand is very deep in what I and most of my colleagues believe. I


would be distraught if my country was broken up. I'm British and I


don't want that to happen. Do you think the Unionists are making


enough of the emotional connection with Scotland, with the UK remaining


as it is? We had a good debate in the Commons last Thursday. I made


the point that initially Scotland and England coming together was like


a marriage, two families coming together. But over the centuries, we


actually built something that is different. You build a shared


identity and heritage. That is what is so dear to me and many of my


colleagues. That's a very emotional plea for the union to stay together.


How do you argue against that? That is quite a minor authority opinion


in England generally, I think. The English are becoming more self


identifying as being English, as we see from the 2011 Census results.


Over 60% of the population in England, more than 32 million


people, said in the way they answered that that they were English


only and not British. A further 10% said they were English and British.


Probably only about another 5% of people who were English said that


they were just British. Wouldn't it make England more parochial, a


lesser country without Scotland? It's not so much that. The issue is,


should nations govern themselves? As far as we are concerned, and as far


as the SNP are concerned, nations should govern themselves. In your


mind, does England prop up Scotland financially and economically?


Certainly. The 2009 report from the House of Lords suggested that was


the case. How do you argue against that? If you are looking at the


amount of public spending per head, it's about ?1200 higher per head in


Scotland, how do you argue that to someone in England who says, let


Scotland go? A number of years ago I was a very dry book on this


subject. No one knows the true financial relationship between the


constituent parts of the UK because we've never allocated exactly tax


receipts or spending. People can make assertions or assumptions, but


no one actually knows the true relationship. That is something we


would need to find out first. So you don't think the English taxpayer


props up the Scottish... I'm saying there is no hard and fast evidence


to prove the case one way or the other. How would you apportion


receipts from the North Sea, for example? There are different schools


of thought about how you could do that. Does England prop up Scotland


or are you a net contributor? You can argue your case for or against


independent, but Scotland is not subsidised. Public spending in


Scotland is ?1200 per head higher than the rest of the UK. But tax


generated in Scotland in ?1700 per head higher. We contribute more in


terms of percentage terms than we get back on spending. Scotland is


not subsidised. We pay our way. If Scotland was to be independent, our


deficit would be a smaller share of our GDP than the rest of the UK.


Absolutely it is not the case that Scotland is propped up in any way.


To continue that line of argument, you accept that an independent


Scotland would leave the rest of the UK worse off? We've just had a


discussion about currency union. I think it's right that we cooperate


in many respects, but I believe Scotland should access its own


resources, stand on its own feet and take its own decisions. And it would


leave the rest of the UK worse off. You are arguing that an independent


Scotland would leave the rest of the UK worse off. England is perfectly


capable of standing on its own two feet as an independent country. If I


can go back to the social union, because some of the links your film


talked about, the real bonds that exist between Scotland, England and


other parts of the UK, these are strong, they will endure. I've got


family in England. These are not things that depend on constitutions


or how Scotland is governed, these are about people inhabiting the same


island. Do you agree with that? I do think we would still be friends. I


would take an issue with one point. The idea of the rest of the UK. It's


my view, as a lawyer, that if Scotland goes you've got a repeal of


the act of union, and that means you haven't got a continuing UK. There


might be some shenanigans in Parliament... What about Wales and


Northern Ireland? Wales is a slightly different case. The union


with Northern Ireland depends on the union of 1801 originally. That was


not with England, that was with the United Kingdom of Great Britain. A


Great Britain would cease to exist with Scotland going. All Nicola


Sturgeon said the bonds would still be there. Why would you be so


distraught if those connections are still there? I do not want dual


citizenship, I want my country to stay together. Why take this


gamble? Why this one-way ticket? We have something that has insured and


worked to stop together, I strongly believe that the strength is better


than the individual strength. I do not think the Westminster system of


government is working for Scotland. We have a Tory government that most


people in Scotland do not one. But you want to keep the Crown? You want


to retain so much of it. In all countries of the modern world you


cooperate, that makes sense. Why should they implement policies like


the Bedroom Tax that we do not agree with? It would be no difference to


Canada or Australia. They have the Queen, why should we not have the


Queen as well? Thank you. Mark Carney, he's the governor of the


Bank of England, delivered the bank's latest inflation report


yesterday. You might have missed it because of all the talk about the


weather. It contained some pretty good news because the bank raised


its estimate of growth this year to 3.4%. That's what's known as a


bullish forecast, meaning it's more optimistic than most other


economists. The bank is not always right. The bad news is, he says the


recovery can't go on as it is. Here's what he had to say: the


recovery has gained momentum. Output is growing at its fastest rate since


2007, jobs are being created at the fastest pace since records began,


and the inflation rate is back at 2%. The recovery is neither balanced


or sustainable. A few quarters of growth are a good start but they are


not sufficient for sustained momentum. Activity is still below


precrisis level. The household saving rate is likely to fall


further. The pick-up in business investment is still added earliest


stages. The global outlook, although improved, contains downsides in


emerging recovery. And we're joined now by two economists who got on so


well last time they were on the show, one of them accused the other


of trying to nail a blancmange to a wall. I think that means they didn't


agree. It's the political economist Will Hutton and the Telegraph


columnist Liam Halligan. You both think the recovery is unbalanced at


the moment, right? Yes. Yes. Aren't most recovery is unbalanced in early


days? The question of whether they are sustainable is if they do become


balanced. It is true to say that most recoveries are consumer led. To


begin with. The extent of the balance is completely marked in this


case. The last GDP figures in the UK showed that the vast majority of


growth was in business services and financial services. There is a


bubble in that sector. Meanwhile, the construct than -- construction


sector was contract thing. We have had a weaker sterling in the last


three or four years and huge trade deficits. We are not making stuff,


selling it to the rest of the world. We have always had a huge


trade deficits. We have always had. If it is unbalanced, what needs to


be done? First of all, I think that most institutions that support the


kind of growth that is needed, you were sitting with Nicola Sturgeon


and I am a supporter of creating a stakeholder capitalist society, we


need banks that are more enterprise, we need an innovation system that is


more supportive of companies that take risks at the frontier. This


recovery will run out quickly! We had an evaluation of the pound that


is the second-largest in the last 100 years with negligible uptake in


our exports. The biggest market is on its back in Europe! In growing


markets we are doing badly. We have an industrial structure, and that is


one area which we are unbalanced within. Another area with low


productivity, we have a public sector that is intensely squeezed.


We have a desperately poor infrastructure. The week of flood


defences are tiny part of that. All of that needs attention. What would


you do? The consensus looms. I would focus on the banking sector, Andrew.


I have been writing about this for many years and we are still in a


situation where investment is still at its lowest since the early 1950s.


That is largely because a lot of the businesses are worried about another


collapse. That is what everybody is talking about. The bank says


business investment is going to rise this year. It is at a desperately


low level. Business investment is 8% lower than where it was precrisis.


Yes, but that is a start. The banking sector is not capable of


providing the capital to these businesses because they are massive


liabilities. When did you tell us the British economy would you be


growing by? Unemployment is hurtling below 17%. I was writing in 2012


that we would get a recovery of two or 3% in 12 months' time. I have


always said that unless the banking sector is cleaned up... RBS has


provisioned another massive 8 billion. Barclays have given a big


chunk away in bonuses. The banking sector is a drag on growth rather


than an engine on growth. When did you tell us that the economy was


going to do so well? I said that I thought growth was going to be 3% or


more in 2013. I did! I have been saying that for some months. I have


always said that the question is what happens after the snap back. My


argument is was that we would get driven back by consumption to where


we were, but over and above the points I raised earlier, I think


inequality is a huge issue. Inequality between London and


Scotland. Inequality between the top 1% and the rest. You cannot have it


both ways. The gap between London and the rest of the country


everywhere is huge. That is because London almost does not belong to


Britain any more. The inequality between London and the rest of the


country is one of the highest. No other countries have a London. There


is a Berlin, there is a Milan. London is a problem. But it is a


success! It is a problem and the strength! It is realistic to assume


that we can never rebalance the economy on the successes we have


had? We cannot do it with banking or consumption. The trouble is that


having an economy that is so unbalanced represents a systemic


threat to the system. That is what Mark Carney things as well.


Actually, there was a lot of sleight of hand. Viewers want to know about


interest rates. For Mark Carney to go from an unemployment target to


spare capacity target... That is a really sticky subject. No one can


look at the assumptions on this. Mark Carney said that in the future


interest rates are going to be materially lower than the 5% that we


had before. No central banker can decide this. The Bank of England's


base rate is 0.5%. That is not what they are paying on their mortgage.


OK, we are running out of time. We have no more time for lectures! Do


you fancy these two as economic advisers? Absolutely! I would take


both of them! You would? ! After you have heard them? Why would you do


that? ! The point about inequality is important. Bank lending and


investment are important. We have a strong economy in Scotland but we


will discuss terms later on. I have enjoyed listening to them. I am on a


commission here! We have run out of time, sadly. Now. I was born in


November which explains why I've climbed the greasy pole to the top


of the Daily Politics. What year? ! Thank you! Well, nearly to the top.


But for children born in the summer there's strong evidence to show


they'll perform less well than their classmates. And the gap persists all


the way through to university and beyond. The Liberal Democrat MP


Annette Brooke has been highlighting the problem, here's her film. Hello,


I was born in September. Hello, I was born in October. My name is


Celia and I was born in August. These children are getting a good


start to their education at nursery school, but when should a child


begin their primary education? Well, local authorities provide a


full-time place for all four-year-olds in September after


their birthday. A child born on the 31st of August 2013 will start in


the same year as one born on the 1st of September a year later. Some are


born child may not be as ready as its older counterparts to start


school at such an early age. This can result in long-term damage to


educational achievement. The statutory school starting age is


five years old and a parent can choose not to send their child to


school until the term in which their child is five. Local authorities are


not choosing to start children in reception. A recent study shows that


compared to children born in September, a child born in August is


6.4% less likely to achieve five GCSEs at grades a to C. It is


staggering just how long-term the Fx seem to be. I welcome the recent


report published by the Department for Education. In particular, there


is no statutory barrier for children being admitted outside their year


group and flexibilities exist for parents to start four-year-old


children later in the year. Whilst then may not be a statutory barrier


for a child being admitted to school in a particularly year group, it is


not a statutory right. The Department for Education has got to


think again on this issue. How would you change school admissions to take


account of this? All we need is flexibility. We were pleased with


the advice that the Department for Education published in July, which


clearly indicates there is no barrier to a child starting in a


different year group. What we are really talking about is a summer


born child, rather than starting in reception just after they are four,


that they would actually be allowed to start in reception just after


they are five. At the moment, if parents exercise their choice not to


start their child until the compulsory school starting age,


which is the term in which they are five, they actually are almost being


forced to go into year one. If you've chosen, do you hold your


child back because you think they are not quite ready for school, and


that's a perfectly logical thing to do, then parents argue, why should


they miss out on reception year? There has to be a cut-off between


years. How would that pity really change? There will always be


children, whichever way you decide to do it, who will fall close to the


cut-off and could be disadvantaged in that sense. Absolutely. Our


school starting age was effectively changed when all local authorities


were required to provide a place for all four-year-olds in the September


from the birthday. That was useful because it addressed one of the


issues, that you were even in up the length of schooling. But you have


got some children who are not ready to start at that age. If you take


the example of a premature baby, a seven-month baby born on the 31st of


August, then it's pretty clear they are not ready to start school the


September after their fourth birthday. Then maybe parents who


find it difficult to start their child at school to terms after


everybody else and still be in that same year, and whether that would


iron out the disadvantage in subsequent years, we don't know


that. But what about the children already in the system? If the


figures are showing they are at a disadvantage, what can you do to


help them improve during their school years? With some of the


excellent teachers we've got, I would hope you've got the right


approach in our reception year. But there are examples across the


country where a summer born child might be classified as having


special educational needs when they are not. In a good reception class


you will have teachers looking at each individual child was level of


development and making sure that the activities are appropriate. A summer


born may be more developed than an older child. It is really important


to have a child centred approach. That is why the parents, and there


are not large numbers of them because it's a big decision to hold


your child back for a year, they are doing it because they don't want


their child damaged and failed at school age four. What is the


situation in Scotland? Reception year doesn't really apply in


Scotland. You have a primary one in Scotland in the August after their


fifth birthday. But if they turn fight between August and February,


there is the option of starting in August while they are still four,


but it's not compulsory. Parents can choose to wait until the following


August. Has that worked better? I'm really interested in this research.


There is no plans to change that system in Scotland at the moment


because we think that flexibility works well. There's a general issue


we are focused on, in trying to make sure we are raising attainment and


closing the attainment gap between the best and worst performing. We


would all be well advised to pay attention to research that. Gordon


Brown is speaking in the Commons today. It's not often we say that


any more. He's going to be making a short speech arguing for more


support for the schooling of Syrian refugees. Since losing the election


in 2010, he's remained an MP but he's been criticised for being


almost invisible at Westminster. So what's he been up to? The former


Prime Minister has taken part in 127 votes out of 980 since he left


Number Ten, that's 13%, well below the average amongst MPs. He's spoken


in seven debates, raising the proposed closure of Remploy


factories in his constituency and Rupert Murdoch's bid to take full


control of BskyB. So what's he been doing instead? Well, he's the UN's


special envoy for global education, a role that involved a fair bit of


globetrotting. He earns money for his speaking engagements. Latest


figures show he declared payments totalling ?1.37 million. His office


said that all of the money went directly to charity or to fund


charitable work. We are not quite sure what then happens to the money


after that and what salaries are paid. And of course he's paid a


salary as an MP of just over ?65,000. We're joined now by a brace


of bloggers. Mark Ferguson, from Labour List, and Harry Cole, from


Guido Fawkes. Does it matter how often he speaks in the house? As


Prime Minister, he wasn't really in many votes in the house either. Is


it really a proper way of judging his contribution? I think the people


of Kirkaldy deserves some reputable station. -- representation. He has


become the noble cause of Syrian refugees, but it hammers home the


point there are 60,000 people in Scotland who don't have an MP. He is


on a smattering of written answers and teapots in occasionally. He is


collecting his salary, we are paying him to be an MP. Since 2010, he's


earned 3.6 million. Only ?900,000 of that has gone to charity, he's


declared that on his website. The rest has gone to this mythical thing


called the


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