02/04/2014 Daily Politics


02/04/2014

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Morning, folks. Welcome to the Daily Politics. Westminster's all of a

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quiver at the prospect of Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage going head-to-head.

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Apparently Mr Clegg will become over all - motional on the debate about

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whether Britain should be in or out of the EU. We'll bring you live

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coverage of PMQs. David Cameron and Ed Miliband square up at noon. We've

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asked a famous BBC face to get on his bike and tell us why it's time

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to end the licence fee. The licence fee when it comes up for

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renewal in two years' time will be 90 years old and, as every year goes

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by, it becomes more and more an Akronistic.

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What can possibly go wrong when politicians brief journalists

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off-the-record? We'll look at some that have gone spectacularly wrong.

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We are joined by two MPs who've never ever briefed a journalist over

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lunch or anywhere else. At least that's what they tell the whips when

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they come knocking late at night! It's the Universities and Science

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Minister David Willets and Shadow minister Emily Thornberry. First,

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the sand is being blown in from the sort what radio heading to smog

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forming over parts of the country -- The Sahara. People are told to avoid

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strenuous exercise outside. I intend to follow that. We won't be jogging

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home after the show! What a relief. The dust that's been blowing over

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Britain for the past few days has been leaving a distinctive red mark

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on cars. Even mine and sky lights. Even David Cameron, the Prime

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Minister's car's been affected. Here is a picture of his car in Downing

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Street yesterday. That is going to need a good wash. He'll probably be

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out there with a bucket and sponge after PMQs giving it a clean

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himself. Maybe not. To tell us more, we are joined by BBC Weather

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presenter, Jay Wynne. Welcome to the programme. How can all that fine

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dust make it all the way from The Sahara to here?

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Well, you have to look at the big picture. This satellite sequence

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telles a good story. You can see the curl of cloud to the west of the UK,

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it's the low pressure. To the east, we have an area of high pressure.

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The two have combined to produce southerly breezes coming from a long

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way south. You can see how far this cloud extends. Southerly winds ahead

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of that coming out of central Africa bringing Saharan dust with it. As

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that dust drifts over the north, it interacts with the pollution

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floating around the mainland of Europe, then it makes its way

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towards our shores and interacts with the home-grown pollution so

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it's a triple whammy, our pollution, European pollution then you had on

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The Sahara dust. It's the Saharan dust that's tipped the balance to

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the high levels of pollution really. How unlikely is this triple whammy,

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will we see more of this or is this once, a couple of times every few

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years? This sort of thing does happen and it's not overly unusual

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but I suspect it's early on in the season to see it. This is forecast

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map for pollution levels. The worst is likely to be in East Anglia and

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the East Midlands. Also it's generally that south-eastern

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quadrant which is expecting poor levels of air quality. But the good

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news is that by tomorrow, we are not going to be seeing high levels of

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air pollution, but we are going to tone it down a notch to high levels.

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The area is that little bit smaller. By Friday, as the rain pushes

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through, we are going to clear the air completely and swap the wind and

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we'll see much clearer air pollution.

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Thank you very much. David Willets, people might say, although this is a

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temporary increase in levels of pollution, it's on top of already

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high levels of pollution that exist and that's what we need tackle isn't

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it? We do need to tackle pollution but there is a limit to what any

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Government can do about Saharan sand. I grant you that! The main

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thing we can do in the short run is provide accurate forecasts and what

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you saw from the Met Office was very impressive. Even a few years ago,

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they wouldn't have had the power to give us that kind of accuracy

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forecast. That means they can provide us with information on air

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quality that we, as a Government, will be putting out regularly so

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people can know how the air around them is being affected. How is your

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car, Emily? I cycled in this morning! I cycled in! I felt OK. You

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were told to avoid strength yous exercise. I wondered about driving

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in instead, but I thought, the whole point is that it's about pollution

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and it's not right to respond to it by adding to it in the car. What

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David said was interesting though. What can the Government do, all they

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can do is measure it. I'm not one of those who believe that. I believe

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Government can do things, I believe in Government and I think that, you

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know, I've been passed in Islington we have the A1 and question of law

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some of the worst air pollution -- A1 and we have some of the worst air

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pollution. The pollution's not so bad around the corner yourself know

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in another street where Boris Johnson's measured it. If Government

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doesn't do something about it, nobody is going to. For a Government

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minister to come in and go, we can only measure it, it's disappointing.

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You can't do much about Saharan sand. If you look at what we can do

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about our own home-grown pollution, yes, you can do everything from

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having high quality public transport which we are investing in, and also

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from my responsibilities on science and technology, investing in the

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motor vehicles of the future which are going to have different types of

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engines and be far less polluting an what we've got now. What we've got

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now is far better than what we had 20 years ago. Thank you. Otherwise

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get on your bike, Andrew! The number of foreign students in England has

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fallen for the first time in three decades according to figures out

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today. More stringent visa regulations are being blamed. The

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Government's been under pressure over the student loan book which

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estimates that nearly half of loans will never be repaid. It's

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complicated but Joco is here to explain.

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For the first time in 29 years, last year saw a 1% decline in the total

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number of international students coming to England to study. The fall

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was caused in part by a 50% drop in the number of post-graduates

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students coming from India and Pakistan following tougher

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restrictions of applicants and the restrictions of working after

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graduation. The number of EU students is also down by a quarter,

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that is being blamed on the rise in tuition fees from ?3,400 to ?9,000

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that came into effect in 2012. Last month, the higher tuition fees

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cap came under the spotlight after the Public Accounts Committee said

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that as much as 48% of student loan debts might never be repaid.

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Over the weekend, Labour hinted again that they might cut tuition

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fees to ?6,000 a year and Liam Byrne, their Shadow Universities

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Minister, warns the party or wants the party I should say, to

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eventually to move to a graduates tax.

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Thank you. David willets, the original estimate from the

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Government was that 28 wouldn't repay their loans, is that right? We

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said about 30% in 2010. The latest estimates are now at 45%. Yes. First

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of all, why did you get it wrong? We were operating on the earnings

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forecast provided to us by the office of budget responsibility and

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what we are doing here, is every six months, we are essentially

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forecasting income tax receipts for the next 30 years and the forecasts

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are very sensitive to the assumptions that are fed in about

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earnings retive the ?21,000 repayment threshold. Other countries

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don't engage in this exercise but it will mean... Because they always get

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it wrong? ! No, what you can only do is act on the latest forecasts you

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have about earnings, they'll keep on changing. There'll be times in the

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future when, because of some increases in wages, this figure will

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go down again. I doubt we'll have the same level of attention to it,

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but every six months we'll have a new forecast. I've said clearly to

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sl the Select Committee, they'll continue to change because we are

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forecasting what will happen to receipts in 30 years' time. But at

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45% now, that's the current forecast. Is it true that when you

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reach just over 48% of repayment, you actually get no benefit from the

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increase in tuition fees that you will be repaid less than the money

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you will be getting from the extra tuition fees? If you are giving that

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money to universities in grant, you wouldn't have got anything back, it

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would have been handed over as a cheque. Anything which means you get

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some of the payments - from the graduates, not students - when they

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are earning ?21,000, and some of the estimates ignore the fact that we

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have better funded universities as a result of this. Students gain from

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wiz a better quality education as a result. But no Government would

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consciously set out in a scheme in which you could end up - and you are

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very close to it now - to a 50% default rate. It's ?100 billion?

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Well, it's not quite a default. We have said all along that one of the

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virtues of our scheme is if at any point your earnings are low, ever

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below ?21,000, you don't pay back. That is a deliberate progressive

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foeture so young people don't worry that if they are on low earnings

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they are still hit with the bet, they are not, they don't pay back.

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The dream is progressive beyond Francois Hollande isn't it? ! All

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you have to do is earn ?21,000 now, well below the national average and

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the London and the South East average too. And you face an

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effective marginal rate of tax of 41%. Now, how can a young person on

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a 41% marginal rate of tax on a low Sal ray ever hope to get a mortgage

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as well? Well, it's a, if you are only on ?21,000, you pay it back

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then. Be basic tax rate was 35%. Under Labour's scheme, the repayment

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thresh holds was far lore. They were paying 9% on earnings below ?15,000.

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We have made the monthly repayments less which helps young people get a

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mortgage because the companies look at what your fixed outgoings are. So

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you are sitting here as a Tory minister and saying to me that you

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are perfectly happy with the young person starting out on life earning

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?22,000 a year to face a marginal rate of tax of 41%? If they are

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earning or repaying for the cost of their higher education, 9% of your

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earnings above ?21,000 is affordable. It's lower than

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graduates currently repay. It came through under the Blair system. They

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were paying 9%. So we have lowered their monthly outgoings. That is

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actually a significant price. We did it deliberately to help younger

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people so they would low lower fees and to help them get into the jobs

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market. I don't know if many young people think that. I wonder

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actually, it strikes me that the other side of this is that in 2010

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you were expecting 30% of youngsters to be paying it back, is that right?

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Or not paying it back? Amounts of money we are measuring, not people.

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What is your point? It's this, on a 48% default rate, it means that we

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are having hundreds of thousands of youngsters leaving university who're

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not getting jobs where they can earn more than ?21,000 and that speaks to

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the crisis in terms of the cost-of-living more than anything

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else, it seems to me. It speaks to me about long-term unemployment of

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youngsters. We haven't got much time. I'll not let you filibuster

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the policies. I'm not. What was their policy? Going into the next

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general election we are looking at our options. We don't know how big

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the black hole is that we know that there is in terms of the budget, so

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we need to have a better idea of exactly how much money. So you can't

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tell me this morning any of the parameters of the Labour policy

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even? I'm in favour, Ed Miliband's in favour, many are in favour of the

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idea of a graduate tax. That has always been what we have wanted to

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do, it's a question of what the practical and effective. How big

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would that be? Do you know what, I remember in 2010 being in the

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corridor in Parliament where all the Lib Demes were going along and

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signing a form saying they weren't going to put up fees and they were

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taking the Mickey out of me going, oh, you are not going to sign this,

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and I said because we are a party of Government. Frankly, I don't care

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what happened in 2010. What I'm asking you is what is going to

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happen in 2015, graduate tax, how big? I'm saying we are a party of

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Government and the promises we make we intend to fulfil. You haven't

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promised anything? ? Exactly, because we are looking properly at

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our options. As time goes on, the economic gets worse, the black hole

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gets worse. The economy is getting worse? Yes. In 2010 when they

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announce about 30% defaults, it was at a time when the economy was

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expanding. Then three years of flatlining in terms of the economy,

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so therefore things get worse and worse. What about the economy now?

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Well the economy is getting better in terms of there is some growth.

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Not getting worse? It's the beginning of a heartbeat but it's

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not based on investment or exports, any of the things that you would

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normally expect the economy be based on. As you will understand if you

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haven't got a policy it's hard to ask you any questions about it so

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let's go to Greg Mulholland. How rude can you be, Andrew? ! How can I

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ask you if you don't have a policy? I'm explaining that we are a serious

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party looking at serious promises that we can put into our manifesto

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that makes some sense. We are not going to pluck things out of the air

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the way the Lib Dems have done. You have been in that position for your

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years... When you get a policy I'll ask you questions about it. You

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haven't at the moment so I can't. had stuck to his guns? I think the

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party in government made a mistake in terms of agreeing to what

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happened. The system we have is as David Willetts said extremely

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progressive. Far more than an upfront fee system. I am firmly in

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favour of a graduate tax. The tragedy of the decision made is that

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this perception we have these huge fees when we really do not have fees

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in any sense at all, we have a graduate repayment system that

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triggers when people are earning over a very generous limit. They

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will then pay their money back over 25 years. It is not a fees system.

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Communication was wrong. What difference would it be between

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whether you pay back through the tax system your loan or you pay a

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graduate tax? Fundamental. That is why I will continue arguing strongly

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for a graduate tax. The problem is the system because it is technically

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a loan, a loan based on the fee levels, therefore technically it is

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a debt. As you have said, it has certain issues. If it is a tax, a

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cap tax that can only last the 25 years, that is very different. It

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has no implications for people's borrowing, for their credit rating.

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I think that we are seeing I hope all three parties move to an

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agreement on this and that is what we need. There has been bickering.

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Let us not forget it was Labour who first said they would not introduce

:17:49.:17:53.

top-up fees and did. The Liberal Democrats have not been able to

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fulfil the policy we wanted to stop but we have a fairer system than we

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had before. -- we wanted to. But we have a fairer system. David

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Willetts, I do not understand the difference between a graduate tax

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and repaying my student fees for 25 years. Ella McReddie first

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difference is the amount you are repaying is linked to a payment made

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to your university that you chose -- the first difference is. ?9,000, I

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have chosen to pay it to this university. It means the

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universities have to focus on quality of teaching. The graduate

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tax this appears into the Treasury. There is no guarantee it will get to

:18:47.:18:53.

universities. It only makes sense is different universities are charging

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different amounts. You said, it will be very red, only 13 universities

:18:59.:19:03.

will charge ?9,000. They all do. The idea of shopping around and saving

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money... It doesn't make sense. It is shopping around to choose the

:19:13.:19:15.

universities that that has the best committee teaching and the best

:19:16.:19:21.

outcomes. How worried are you that there are not more students earning

:19:22.:19:28.

over ?21,000? Most do on more than that. The issue will be what happens

:19:29.:19:36.

in the Labour force. I want to see well-paid graduates and diving

:19:37.:19:39.

universities are focusing on that. We will be coming back to both of

:19:40.:19:45.

you on this. Now, you know how it is. You've

:19:46.:19:51.

popped out to lunch or a drink with a journalist after a hard day at

:19:52.:19:55.

work in the Commons. You have a bit of a gossip. Then before you know

:19:56.:19:58.

it, the contents of your conversation are splashed all over a

:19:59.:20:01.

newspaper or a TV network. I thought that was how it worked. Sometimes

:20:02.:20:05.

the politicians mean to do it. But at other times, it all just seems to

:20:06.:20:09.

get a bit out of hand. That may be what happened at the weekend when an

:20:10.:20:12.

unnamed Government minister told a reporter that an independent

:20:13.:20:15.

Scotland might be able to use the pound after all. Here's Giles.

:20:16.:20:24.

At the weekend, and earned named UK minister told the guardian that an

:20:25.:20:28.

independent Scotland could keep the pound. -- an unnamed UK minister.

:20:29.:20:33.

All major parties have joined forces to say they couldn't so it is odd.

:20:34.:20:41.

We do not know who the mole was. On -- Oliver Letwin had to disappear

:20:42.:20:44.

into hiding after it emerged he was the source of a newspaper story

:20:45.:20:48.

saying the Tories had plans beyond the manifesto for ?20 billion of

:20:49.:20:53.

cuts in tax and government spending. When he emerged to fling himself, it

:20:54.:20:59.

got worse. I also set out what William Hague and Michael Portillo

:21:00.:21:06.

has set out. John Major's back to basics speech in 1993. It was

:21:07.:21:12.

intended as a nostalgic appeal to traditional values. The spin Doctor

:21:13.:21:18.

Tim Collins briefed the press that John Major was intent on rolling

:21:19.:21:23.

back the permissive society and then with more of a bang and some

:21:24.:21:27.

whimpers a succession of Conservative ministers were caught

:21:28.:21:31.

up in sex scandals. The Lib Dem leadership contest in 2007 got

:21:32.:21:34.

personal after Chris Huhne was confronted with a document called

:21:35.:21:42.

calamity Nick Clegg on the BBC. He looked extremely uncomfortable as he

:21:43.:21:45.

insisted he had not seen it, authorised it, indeed he had none of

:21:46.:21:51.

his fingerprints all over it. Sometimes just occasionally

:21:52.:21:58.

politicians on up. In 2009, John Hutton admitted he was the Cabinet

:21:59.:22:02.

minister who told the BBC's Nick Robinson in 2006... It would be a

:22:03.:22:10.

disaster if Gordon Brown was PM. I will do anything in my power to stop

:22:11.:22:15.

him. He sensed that his opinion of Mr Brown had changed.

:22:16.:22:24.

Harmony at the top of politics. Everyone is tittering in the studio.

:22:25.:22:29.

David Willetts, have you ever told a journalist something you regret it?

:22:30.:22:34.

I'm sure it has happened. I am not sure I can offer you any good

:22:35.:22:38.

examples. I can tell you how it helps solve a problem. I used to

:22:39.:22:44.

help Margaret Thatcher right some of her speeches. It was a terrible

:22:45.:22:48.

process. It took ages. We got completely stuck. Bernard Ingham

:22:49.:22:53.

comes into the room and says the lobby had been asking about what she

:22:54.:22:58.

was going to say in the next big speech. I thought it might be hell

:22:59.:23:01.

for if I told you what I have told them. He then reported to us what he

:23:02.:23:08.

had briefed and he solved our problem. -- I thought it might be

:23:09.:23:15.

helpful. You think that is the way forward? Who do you think spoke to

:23:16.:23:21.

the Guardian about the currency union debate? The only thing I know

:23:22.:23:26.

is it is clear that if Scotland left the UK there would also be leaving

:23:27.:23:30.

the pound -- they would also be leaving the pound. That is something

:23:31.:23:36.

which all three parties agree on. Interestingly, a journalist from the

:23:37.:23:43.

Sun said on this programme that he was convinced it was Oliver Letwin

:23:44.:23:51.

or Vince Cable. I know nothing about the background to this. The only

:23:52.:23:55.

thing I know and what matters to people in Scotland is that if

:23:56.:23:59.

Scotland were sadly to leave the UK it would not be able to continue to

:24:00.:24:03.

participate in the pound. The pound would be one of the many costs if we

:24:04.:24:08.

were to see Scotland vote for separation. Somebody has said to me

:24:09.:24:13.

not that I want to enter into this debate, that negotiations go on

:24:14.:24:16.

behind-the-scenes and there are politicians who will say things to

:24:17.:24:20.

journalist to get a story out. It is true. People tend to know who they

:24:21.:24:27.

are. They are not trusted. They are not trusted by their colleagues. You

:24:28.:24:33.

have lunches with journalists. I do and I have learnt to be careful.

:24:34.:24:39.

Have you been caught out? I was standing in a marginal seat and all

:24:40.:24:42.

of the newspapers wanted to write a piece which was not good Labour

:24:43.:24:47.

candidate doing well in a Labour marginal. They wanted to run Labour

:24:48.:24:52.

is going to lose as ten. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I would not

:24:53.:24:58.

answer any calls -- lose Islington. I was told I had to bite Number 10.

:24:59.:25:03.

A job was done on me. Horrible things were written about me, my

:25:04.:25:08.

kids. I had not been in politics before and it was a crash course in

:25:09.:25:12.

not trusting journalists. Sweet as you are. Thank you. Sweet? I would

:25:13.:25:23.

not call him sweet! Some politicians get a reputation for leaking. That

:25:24.:25:34.

was why Margaret Thatcher turned to someone in the early days because he

:25:35.:25:37.

had a reputation for speaking too much to the press. Your colleagues

:25:38.:25:44.

briefing about Ed Miliband having a more radical policy, are they not to

:25:45.:25:47.

be trusted? You probably know who they are. I am not saying anything.

:25:48.:25:59.

It is live. There was the wise Enoch Powell advice who said politicians

:26:00.:26:03.

complaining about the media was like sailors complaining about the

:26:04.:26:06.

weather. It is the environment within which you function. You say

:26:07.:26:10.

Scotland cannot have the pound and so does Labour, but if the SNP wins,

:26:11.:26:16.

they will say, you cannot have your nuclear subs in Scotland. That is

:26:17.:26:21.

the makings of a deal. I am not going there. It was not you who did

:26:22.:26:32.

the leaking. George Osborne said this week he wants to achieve full

:26:33.:26:37.

employment in the UK. And you thought that went out of fashion

:26:38.:26:40.

with platform shoes and black and white telly. Well, Ed Miliband has

:26:41.:26:44.

already leapt into action. He's keen to do his bit to help and so he's

:26:45.:26:47.

started advertising for something called a Head of the Leader's

:26:48.:26:50.

Broadcasting. Whoever gets the job will get about ?44,000 a year. Just

:26:51.:26:53.

into the 40% tax bracket. They'll need to have experience of dealing

:26:54.:26:57.

with good and bad news stories. Probably plenty of the latter.

:26:58.:27:00.

Apparently the Labour leader is also looking for someone who can develop

:27:01.:27:03.

fresh ideas to make the best of his brand strengths. If they know some

:27:04.:27:08.

thing about graduate tax, it would properly be an advantage. One area

:27:09.:27:11.

they'll be looking to address is that according to one recent poll

:27:12.:27:15.

81% of people say they can't imagine Ed Miliband as PM. You cruel lot.

:27:16.:27:18.

So, here's a fresh idea for turning that around. Just take a look at

:27:19.:27:22.

this brand leader. He's no mug. He won three elections you know. Here

:27:23.:27:34.

at the Daily Politics we know how to ceramic -- ceramically enhance any

:27:35.:27:37.

image. Just imagine if Ed was standing outside Number 10 holding a

:27:38.:27:44.

Daily Politics mug. There he is. Instant prime ministerial gravitas.

:27:45.:27:47.

And you don't need to pay us ?44,000 a year, Ed. 8-ender will do. -- a

:27:48.:27:56.

tenner. No, we'll give you one for free, but only if you stop preparing

:27:57.:28:00.

for PMQs and enter Guess the Year. We'll remind you how to enter in a

:28:01.:28:04.

minute, but let's see if you can remember when this happened.

:28:05.:28:20.

# When will I be famous? # The only way is up, baby # For you

:28:21.:28:30.

and me now. The Department of Health was and

:28:31.:28:42.

continues to be concerned. # I want you to be my baby # It has got to be

:28:43.:28:50.

perfect. # It has got to be worth it # Too

:28:51.:29:04.

many people take second best... To be in with a chance of winning a

:29:05.:29:08.

Daily Politics mug, send your answer to our special quiz email address.

:29:09.:29:12.

And you can see the full terms and conditions for Guess The Year on our

:29:13.:29:20.

website. It's coming up to midday here. Big Ben is there through the

:29:21.:29:26.

pollution. Prime Minister's Questions in a couple of minutes. If

:29:27.:29:29.

you would like to comment on proceedings, you can e-mail us or

:29:30.:29:38.

tweet your thoughts. We will read some out after PMQs. Nick Robinson

:29:39.:29:44.

is here. As always. Or nearly always. What are they going to argue

:29:45.:29:52.

about today? I said yesterday I thought he would use the phrase

:29:53.:29:55.

about standing up for the wrong people. You had a lively, session

:29:56.:30:00.

about whether Labour has policies. Just one. There is a debate about

:30:01.:30:06.

that. If you are in opposition trying to hold back because it is

:30:07.:30:11.

still a long way until the general election, what you want to do is

:30:12.:30:16.

seize on something that shows money is being spent badly by the

:30:17.:30:20.

government of the day and claim that they are doing it to help their

:30:21.:30:24.

chums in the city and not to help the ordinary guy. It is

:30:25.:30:27.

irresistible. It tells you nothing about what Labour would do in

:30:28.:30:32.

government. It positions them. I would not say that in front of

:30:33.:30:39.

Emily. It is PMQs. It is us asking him questions. I rest my case. I am

:30:40.:30:48.

in a mood today. He got me going. I did not mean it as they criticism.

:30:49.:31:02.

That is what opposition wants to do. That is why it is irresistible. This

:31:03.:31:10.

is quite rare for an opposition to her. They have an independent

:31:11.:31:13.

spending watchdog saying hundreds of millions of pounds the taxpayer

:31:14.:31:17.

could have had they have not got. If you cannot score a goal without

:31:18.:31:21.

help, you never will. Vince Cable got quite a tough time in Parliament

:31:22.:31:27.

earlier this week. It is interesting that David Willetts's boss was

:31:28.:31:32.

dismissive of calls for him to resign.

:31:33.:31:39.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others

:31:40.:31:44.

and in addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such

:31:45.:31:47.

meetings later today. Is the Prime Minister aware that

:31:48.:32:00.

3956 people are in the rented sector. Two thirds feel insecure,

:32:01.:32:04.

half think they pay far too much in rent. Does he not think it's time to

:32:05.:32:09.

end the social cleansing of inner city Britain by bringing in proper

:32:10.:32:14.

rent regulation with a fair rent formula and total regulation of the

:32:15.:32:19.

private rented sector to give people security and peace of mind where

:32:20.:32:26.

they live? Where I'm sure we'd agree is that there is a need to build

:32:27.:32:31.

more houses, including those in the private rented sector. Where I think

:32:32.:32:35.

he's wrong is full-on rent controls have been tried in the past and it's

:32:36.:32:39.

tended to destroy the private rented sector, drive everyone back to the

:32:40.:32:42.

state sector and reduce the quality of housing as a result.

:32:43.:32:48.

In the week when our Right Honourable friend, the Chancellor of

:32:49.:32:52.

the Exchequer has spoken of the importance to the Government of

:32:53.:32:57.

securing full employment, can my right honourable friend confirm that

:32:58.:33:02.

the record shows that no Labour Government in history left office

:33:03.:33:07.

with unemployment lower than when he came to office?

:33:08.:33:13.

Does this not illustrate in this area, as in all others, the

:33:14.:33:17.

importance of the principle that what matters is what works?

:33:18.:33:23.

My right honourable friend is factually correct. Every Labour

:33:24.:33:27.

Government's left office with unemployment higher than when it

:33:28.:33:31.

came to office. In this Parliament, what we've seen

:33:32.:33:36.

is 1.7 million more people employed in the private sector, 1.3 million

:33:37.:33:43.

more people employed as a whole, one of the highest rates of employment

:33:44.:33:47.

in history and we'll keep up the work to offer more hope and security

:33:48.:33:48.

to our people. Mr Speaker, can the Prime Minister

:33:49.:34:03.

tell the House what is his excuse for the Royal Mail fiasco?

:34:04.:34:09.

What I would say about the Royal Mail is that taxpayers benefitted

:34:10.:34:15.

from selling the business for ?2 billion. That, of course, is ?2

:34:16.:34:20.

billion that the party opposite never achieved because they were

:34:21.:34:25.

never able to sell the business. Mr Speaker, here is what his own

:34:26.:34:28.

side are saying about this issue. The member for Northampton South

:34:29.:34:34.

said yesterday it was a debacle, unethical and immoral. He sold the

:34:35.:34:42.

shares for ?330p, what are they trading at snout They are trading

:34:43.:34:46.

ahead of where they were sold, but the fact is this - when the Right

:34:47.:34:55.

Honourable gentleman... THE SPEAKER: Order. Neither the

:34:56.:34:59.

Prime Minister nor the Leader of the Opposition nor any other member in

:35:00.:35:02.

this House must be shouted down. It's not on. The Prime Minister.

:35:03.:35:07.

When the Right Honourable gentleman was sitting in the Cabinet, this

:35:08.:35:18.

business lost half a be. It's in the private sector, making taxes and

:35:19.:35:22.

working hard for our country -- half a billion pounds. There are over

:35:23.:35:26.

140,000 people, more to the point, who work for the Post Office,

:35:27.:35:30.

delivering letters, delivering parcels, who own shares in the

:35:31.:35:35.

business that they work for. They've got a stake in the future of

:35:36.:35:39.

the Royal Mail. They are collecting dividends, as well as pay. And

:35:40.:35:42.

that's something we should all be proud of.

:35:43.:35:47.

Mr Speaker, he can't answer the question because it's such an

:35:48.:35:54.

embarrassment. He sold at 330p and this morning the price was 563p.

:35:55.:36:06.

It's basic maths, Mr Speaker. Not so much the walrus of Wall Street, but

:36:07.:36:11.

the Dunce of Downing Street. Let me ask him this, if Royal Mail was sold

:36:12.:36:16.

at today's price, how much more would the taxpayer have paid? I will

:36:17.:36:23.

take a lecture from almost anyone in the country about the sale of Royal

:36:24.:36:30.

Mail, but not from the two muppets who advised the Chancellor on

:36:31.:36:35.

selling last time. There they sit, not a word of apology, ?9 billion

:36:36.:36:41.

wasted. The Royal Mail privatisation's got ?2 billion for

:36:42.:36:48.

the taxpayer, 140,000 employees owning shares, 700,000 members of

:36:49.:36:51.

the lick who're now shareholders. This is a great success for our

:36:52.:36:56.

country and something he should be praising.

:36:57.:37:00.

Mr Speaker, again, he can't answer the question. The answer is, the

:37:01.:37:08.

taxpayer would have got ?1.4 billion less for this valuable asset for

:37:09.:37:14.

what it's worth today. Here is the thing, Mr Speaker.

:37:15.:37:16.

THE SPEAKER: Order, when the Prime Minister was speaking, I said he

:37:17.:37:20.

should. Shouted down and nuclear should anybody else. However hard

:37:21.:37:23.

the effort is made to shout someone down, it won't work because we'll

:37:24.:37:28.

just keep going. So the sooner the juveniles can grow up and reach

:37:29.:37:32.

adulthood, so much the better! Ed Miliband!

:37:33.:37:36.

Here is the thing, Mr Speaker. A third of the shares were sold to

:37:37.:37:42.

just 16 City investors. And get this. There was a gentleman's

:37:43.:37:46.

agreement that those City investors wouldn't sell the shares. What

:37:47.:37:50.

happened? Within weeks, half of the shares had been sold and they made a

:37:51.:37:55.

killing worth hundreds of millions of pounds. In other words, mates

:37:56.:38:01.

rates to his friends in the City. Maybe he can tell us what happened

:38:02.:38:05.

to that gentleman's agreement about those shares?

:38:06.:38:10.

Mr Speaker, we know why he's asking this question. Because he's paid to

:38:11.:38:17.

by the Trade Unions. Pf Yes, yes. Mr Speaker, he sat in the

:38:18.:38:25.

Cabinet that wanted to privatise the Royal Mail. That was their

:38:26.:38:29.

commitment. And what happened was the General Secretary of the

:38:30.:38:33.

Communications Workers' Union said this; in terms of the last Labour

:38:34.:38:38.

Government, they tried to privatise the Royal Mail. It was the unions

:38:39.:38:42.

that brought the Government to its senses.

:38:43.:38:45.

Once again, they were weak in Government because they couldn't

:38:46.:38:48.

carry out their policies. They're weak in opposition because they

:38:49.:38:52.

don't support shareholding by post workers in the Royal Mail. They are

:38:53.:38:56.

weak because they've got no economic policy and they are weak because

:38:57.:39:04.

they have got no plan. He's flogged it off to his friends

:39:05.:39:08.

in the City and he can't answer the question. Now I'm going to ask him

:39:09.:39:12.

the question again. There was a gentleman's agreement that these

:39:13.:39:16.

long-term investors, so-called, would not sell their shares. But

:39:17.:39:22.

half of them were sold and hundreds of millions of pounds were made.

:39:23.:39:25.

What happened to that agreement, Stance question? What happened is

:39:26.:39:30.

that the taxpayer is ?2 billion better off, yes. Anyone who's sold

:39:31.:39:37.

shares has missed out on what is a successful business. The truth is

:39:38.:39:39.

this, Mr Speaker. He sat in a Cabinet that wanted to privatise the

:39:40.:39:43.

Royal Mail, they couldn't do it. THE SPEAKER: Order. Lets's hear the

:39:44.:39:46.

answer. Prime Minister? They couldn't do it because the

:39:47.:39:51.

Trade Unions won't let them. There are now 140,000 shareholders working

:39:52.:39:58.

for the Royal Mail. There are almost three quarters of a million members

:39:59.:40:02.

of the public with shares. These are signs for celebration in our

:40:03.:40:05.

country, not talking them down because they are anti-market,

:40:06.:40:08.

anticompetitive and antibusiness. Nothing's changed in the Labour

:40:09.:40:11.

Party. No wonder they've advertised this week for someone to bring some

:40:12.:40:16.

fresh ideas to the leadership. Yes. I've got the commercial here. You

:40:17.:40:25.

should have the ability to manage the different teams across the

:40:26.:40:29.

Labour Party. I think that must be the hardest job

:40:30.:40:33.

in Britain. No wonder they are looking for a

:40:34.:40:37.

change because there's a leader there who hasn't got a clue.

:40:38.:40:43.

Mr Speaker, he's gone as red as a post box and that's because he knows

:40:44.:40:49.

that he's lost ?1.4 billion for the taxpayer. This is a sale nobody

:40:50.:40:54.

wanted and nobody voted for, a national asset sold at a knockdown

:40:55.:40:59.

price to make a fortune for the few. It's a symbol of a Government who

:41:00.:41:03.

stands up for the wrong people with the British people paying the price.

:41:04.:41:09.

Mr Speaker, it's a sale nobody wanted he said. It was in his

:41:10.:41:18.

manifesto. It was a commitment of the last Government. They are

:41:19.:41:23.

shaking their heads. They worked so hard, Mr Speaker, they failed to do

:41:24.:41:28.

it, but this coalition Government privatised the Royal Mail, created

:41:29.:41:33.

thousands of new shareholders, they have a great business working for

:41:34.:41:36.

Britain and we've seen it all from Labour this week. They are

:41:37.:41:40.

advertising for fresh ideas, people around him are fighting like ferrets

:41:41.:41:46.

in the sack. Their top advise, get this Mr Speaker, their top adviser

:41:47.:41:50.

is called Arnie and he's gone to America. But unlike Arnie, he said

:41:51.:41:55.

"I'm not coming back". They are warring, they are weak and they

:41:56.:42:02.

haven't got a plan. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

:42:03.:42:05.

It's as quick to go 225 miles of land and sea from here to Brussels

:42:06.:42:10.

as it is on the train to Norwich, half the distance. Will my right

:42:11.:42:14.

honourable friend agree with me that East Anglia needs investment in

:42:15.:42:17.

better, faster rail infrastructure and that the Norwich task will bring

:42:18.:42:23.

the benefits to businesses and passengers in Norfolk, Suffolk and

:42:24.:42:28.

Essex? I pay tribute to the holt and others for the work they are doing

:42:29.:42:32.

on the Norwich Task Force. This is a very important project. I welcome

:42:33.:42:35.

the interest shown by business leaders, local authorities and

:42:36.:42:38.

enterprise partnerships. East Anglia is one of the fastest growing parts

:42:39.:42:42.

of the UK, with world class companies and universities, better

:42:43.:42:44.

transport will support and bolster this growth and I look forward to

:42:45.:42:47.

the Task Force report that I know that she is working on and I hope

:42:48.:42:51.

this will be used to shape the specification for the long rail

:42:52.:42:56.

franchise that should start in 2016. Mr Speaker, 35 years ago, the SNP

:42:57.:43:01.

and the Tories united to bring down the Labour Government and bring in

:43:02.:43:11.

Margaret Thatcher. Note Mr Speaker, there's noise from two sides on this

:43:12.:43:16.

one. Today, the SNP and the Tories are united on the side of tax cuts

:43:17.:43:20.

for big business. United on the side of the energy companies and united

:43:21.:43:25.

against a 50p tax. Doesn't this demonstrate, Prime Minister, that

:43:26.:43:28.

what people across the UK need is not a separation between Scotland

:43:29.:43:33.

and England but liberation from right-wing Tory economics?

:43:34.:43:38.

He has provided I think Mr Speaker, a very useful public service which

:43:39.:43:41.

he has reminded me of one useful thing that the SNP have done in

:43:42.:43:44.

their history which was to get rid of that dreadful Labour Government

:43:45.:43:50.

that nationalised half of British industry made such a mess. Where I

:43:51.:43:54.

don't agree with him. I agree with him on one very important thing. In

:43:55.:43:58.

spite of his views, I do agree that the United Kingdom is much better

:43:59.:44:01.

off together. But one of the issues he raised I think is completely

:44:02.:44:05.

wrong. This is the week that we have cut corporation tax to 21%. That is

:44:06.:44:09.

going to attract businesses into England, into Wales, into Scotland,

:44:10.:44:13.

into Northern Ireland. He should be standing up and praising this tax

:44:14.:44:18.

reduce cut in Government rather than criticising it. The planning

:44:19.:44:22.

inspector recently told a closed meeting in Gloucestershire that he'd

:44:23.:44:26.

give more weight to consultants economic models than to "10,000

:44:27.:44:31.

objections from local people". Is that what the national planning

:44:32.:44:35.

frame work meant by empowering local people?

:44:36.:44:39.

The national planning framework is very clear about the importance of

:44:40.:44:43.

listening to local people in terms of development and my right

:44:44.:44:46.

honourable friend would have received a letter recently to

:44:47.:44:49.

explain some of the changes in the guidance under the framework to make

:44:50.:44:53.

sure, for instance, that previous housing performance by local

:44:54.:44:57.

councils is taken into account and in his very important decisions.

:44:58.:45:02.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. At a time of unpress dented crisis, the Prime

:45:03.:45:05.

Minister saw at first hand just how good the west Cumberland Hospital in

:45:06.:45:10.

my constituency can be. Six years into the rebuilding programme, the

:45:11.:45:13.

hospital's been plunged into crisis. It's been starved of staff and faces

:45:14.:45:16.

being stripped of key clinical services. The nearest hospital isn't

:45:17.:45:20.

just down the road, it's 42 miles away in Carlisle. That too is

:45:21.:45:23.

struggling. Will the Prime Minister commit today

:45:24.:45:27.

to do everything he can to assist me, local clinicians and my

:45:28.:45:31.

community in retaining consultant-led services in the west

:45:32.:45:35.

Cumberland Hospital? I saw for myself what an excellent job the

:45:36.:45:38.

hospital does and how important it is. What I would say is that, of

:45:39.:45:43.

course, the Clinical Commissioning Group total revenues that are

:45:44.:45:47.

available this year has an increase of 2.3%, ?636 million, because this

:45:48.:45:52.

Government decided to protect NHS spending and not cut NHS spending

:45:53.:45:55.

and that is why important hospital developments can go ahead.

:45:56.:46:04.

Can the right honourable friend tell the house what steps the government

:46:05.:46:10.

is taking to support entrepreneurs becoming employers? He is right. We

:46:11.:46:18.

need to make it easier for someone to take on their first employee and

:46:19.:46:21.

that is why this Saturday we are bringing in the ?2000 employment

:46:22.:46:28.

allowance which means every business that employs someone will see a tax

:46:29.:46:35.

reduction of up to ?2000. It means 55,000 businesses will be taken out

:46:36.:46:39.

of paying National Insurance contributions altogether. The party

:46:40.:46:42.

opposite introduced jobs taxes, we are cutting them. At the weekend, a

:46:43.:46:50.

general warned that reducing the regular army to 82000 x 2020 would

:46:51.:46:57.

weaken the Armed Forces and was a risk to take. Could be promised at

:46:58.:47:04.

LB housewife he thinks it is not one hell of a risk? -- could the Prime

:47:05.:47:09.

Minister tell the house why he thinks it is not one hell of a risk

:47:10.:47:17.

# I have been out to Afghanistan every year since 2006 and I was

:47:18.:47:24.

asked the same question. Do you have the equipment you need? Is there

:47:25.:47:29.

anything you want? We have seen real improvements in equipment. Yes, we

:47:30.:47:38.

will have an army of 82,000. We have will have larger reserve forces and

:47:39.:47:42.

we will have Armed Forces and defence equipment that this country

:47:43.:47:48.

can be very proud of. Following last week's excellent news of the Siemens

:47:49.:47:56.

development in Hull, it is vital we move quickly with projects planned

:47:57.:48:00.

for the Southbank of the Humber. All parties must work together to make

:48:01.:48:06.

sure it becomes the green energy capital of the UK. I absolutely

:48:07.:48:11.

agree. The announcement is a huge step forward because I think it is

:48:12.:48:13.

going to bring an enormous amount of industry with it in terms of supply

:48:14.:48:19.

and component manufacturing. We need to make sure the colleges are

:48:20.:48:25.

training up apprentices and working to attract businesses to the area.

:48:26.:48:29.

There are still agreements needed in other parts of Humberside to make

:48:30.:48:32.

sure all of the developments go ahead. The Prime Minister will know

:48:33.:48:38.

millions of people across the country value and love their Post

:48:39.:48:44.

Office account, particularly those who do not have access to banks.

:48:45.:48:49.

They want to get their cash each week. This is being renegotiated

:48:50.:48:54.

with the DWP. Will he give a commitment that whatever happens,

:48:55.:48:59.

pensioners and everyone on benefits or otherwise, they will be able to

:49:00.:49:03.

access through the Post Office to get the money that they need? I will

:49:04.:49:10.

look carefully at what she says. It is important for people to be able

:49:11.:49:14.

to use the Post Office in that way. There have been changes in the way

:49:15.:49:19.

the account works. I will look very closely at what she says and perhaps

:49:20.:49:26.

write to her. Would my right honourable friend accept that on

:49:27.:49:30.

this 100th anniversary of the First World War the Territorial Army won

:49:31.:49:38.

71 Victoria crosses and thousands of other decorations and that by

:49:39.:49:43.

learning the lessons of our English speaking cousins in America and the

:49:44.:49:46.

pivotal role in the National Guard has played in Iraq and Afghanistan

:49:47.:49:50.

that is the way to ensure we can afford the equipment we need for our

:49:51.:49:56.

armed Forces for the future? Let me pay tribute to my honourable friend

:49:57.:50:00.

who has campaigned long and hard for the Territorial Army and the other

:50:01.:50:04.

reserve forces. The point he makes is good. In Afghanistan today, you

:50:05.:50:07.

can see the Territorial Army working alongside the regular army, fighting

:50:08.:50:13.

with them and being decorated with them in the brave actions they have

:50:14.:50:16.

pursued. Other countries have shown it is possible to have a large

:50:17.:50:21.

reserve force alongside the regular force and that is the way to have a

:50:22.:50:24.

well-equipped and flexible army and navy and air force. The Lanzarote

:50:25.:50:31.

convection sets a European wide standard for the protection of

:50:32.:50:35.

children against sexual exploitation. The UK have signed it

:50:36.:50:40.

but have not yet ratified it. Following recent episodes of

:50:41.:50:44.

grooming in the UK included in my borough of Rochdale, will be

:50:45.:50:46.

government now consider ratifying this very important convention? I

:50:47.:50:54.

absolutely agree with him that child sexual exportation is an abhorrent

:50:55.:50:58.

crime. We have seen some extremely disturbing cases and not just in

:50:59.:51:03.

Rochdale, but also in the county I represent of oxygen. I understand

:51:04.:51:07.

there is a small amount of further assessment to be done before the UK

:51:08.:51:10.

is in a position to ratify the convection. -- the convention. Does

:51:11.:51:16.

he agree with me that the doubling of capital allowances to half ?1

:51:17.:51:25.

million provides a welcome boost to manufacturers will increase

:51:26.:51:30.

investment in the sector, securing more jobs for British people? --

:51:31.:51:39.

?500,000. This is a key part of our long-term economic plan. One of the

:51:40.:51:43.

remarkable things about the budget was the ways it said we would

:51:44.:51:48.

address some of the perennial weaknesses in the British economy.

:51:49.:51:52.

We need to export more. We need to invest more. We need to improve our

:51:53.:51:56.

performance in those regards and ensure the investment is spread

:51:57.:52:00.

around the country. Unlike the party opposite, we will not be satisfied

:52:01.:52:06.

with an unbalanced recovery. Today the Ford motor company agreed in

:52:07.:52:10.

multi-million pound contribution towards a pension fund, for former

:52:11.:52:17.

Ford employees. Will the Prime Minister Erdogan congratulate the

:52:18.:52:22.

Unite union alongside a cross-party group of MPs... -- will the Prime

:52:23.:52:31.

Minister congratulate. They have agreed to commit to other pensioners

:52:32.:52:41.

who faced the same plight. I did not catch the end of his question. This

:52:42.:52:45.

is a good development for all of those who played a role. There are

:52:46.:52:48.

colleagues on all sides of the house who have been involved. They are to

:52:49.:52:52.

be credited for the work they have done to make sure we get justice. I

:52:53.:52:57.

welcome the government's intervention on fuel bills, many

:52:58.:53:02.

rural people do not benefit from mains gas and depend on more

:53:03.:53:06.

expensive fuels. We'll the government investigate a way in

:53:07.:53:09.

which they can benefit these off grid customers who often live in

:53:10.:53:18.

fuel poverty? -- will be government. He raises an important point. There

:53:19.:53:22.

are things we can do, not least in encouraging the power of group

:53:23.:53:25.

purchasing buying Courage in communities to come together and buy

:53:26.:53:30.

oil and gas together to drive down prices. I am sure he will be looking

:53:31.:53:35.

at options available. Three months ago I asked the Prime Minister

:53:36.:53:43.

Erdogan his ?1000 tax which anyone joining the police has to play -- I

:53:44.:53:47.

asked the Prime Minister about his ?1000 tax. ?1000 might not be much

:53:48.:53:54.

to him but it is having a huge impact on forces like the Met who at

:53:55.:54:01.

2000 officers Strand and finding it impossible to recruit. We all know

:54:02.:54:06.

the tax is wrong. Order. This question will be heard. Braying and

:54:07.:54:12.

sneering and making rude remarks is the sort of thing the public

:54:13.:54:17.

despise. The honourable lady will be heard and the persons sneering all

:54:18.:54:26.

to be ashamed of themselves. This is an important issue to everyone in

:54:27.:54:31.

the country. We know the tax is wrong. Will the Prime Minister now

:54:32.:54:36.

accept it is not working and abolish it in order that our police get back

:54:37.:54:42.

to strength to defend the people? First of all, it is not a tax.

:54:43.:54:47.

Secondly, it is not a barrier to recruitment. Thirdly, recruitment is

:54:48.:54:51.

taking place in the Met Police. Yes, we have seen police reductions in

:54:52.:54:58.

funding. We have also seen significant cuts in crime. The Met

:54:59.:55:03.

Police are confident they will get good recruits. Bringing superfast

:55:04.:55:10.

broadband to rural areas is vitally important and be governing is

:55:11.:55:13.

rightly spending over ?1 billion on this. My constituents are very

:55:14.:55:18.

frustrated that BT cannot tell them when or if their home will be

:55:19.:55:23.

connected. It makes alternative planning impossible. Will be Prime

:55:24.:55:27.

Minister tell BT to provide clear plans for the billions of taxpayer

:55:28.:55:33.

money they are getting? I have had this discussion with BT and I am

:55:34.:55:36.

happy to hold it again. I know my honourable friend will take up this

:55:37.:55:40.

specific point which is we have asked BT to give more detail about

:55:41.:55:43.

which homes and areas will get a broadband in their roll-out plan so

:55:44.:55:50.

other companies and organisations are able to see whether there are

:55:51.:55:54.

different ways of filling in gaps. I do not agree with some who think BT

:55:55.:55:58.

have not been putting their shoulder to the ground. This is a real

:55:59.:56:08.

success story for our country. As a Royal Mail share price remains about

:56:09.:56:14.

70% above the flotation price, canny Prime Minister now rule out playing

:56:15.:56:21.

a ?4 million bonus from taxpayers money to its government adviser?

:56:22.:56:25.

What I would say to the honourable lady is that the taxpayer is ?2

:56:26.:56:32.

billion better off because we were able to put this business into the

:56:33.:56:36.

private sector whereas previous governments failed dismally. Mr

:56:37.:56:44.

Speaker, my constituent is seeking the right to be treated by the

:56:45.:56:50.

English run NHS, will be Prime Minister investigate what can be

:56:51.:56:54.

done to help her and other NHS refugees who are seeking higher

:56:55.:56:58.

standards which are being delivered by this covenant? -- by this

:56:59.:57:06.

government? Frankly, what is happening in our NHS in Wales is a

:57:07.:57:10.

scandal and it is a scandal that is entirely the responsibility of the

:57:11.:57:13.

Labour Party running the Welsh Assembly government. They made the

:57:14.:57:18.

decision to cut NHS spending by 8% in Wales. They have not met and A

:57:19.:57:29.

target since 2009. I do not know why the Leader of the Opposition is

:57:30.:57:34.

laughing. It is not funny. If he had any gumption, any backbone, he would

:57:35.:57:39.

get hold of the First Minister and tell him to start investing in the

:57:40.:57:47.

NHS in Wales. 25 years ago yesterday, poll tax was imposed on

:57:48.:57:55.

the people of Scotland. A Prime Minister was kicked out of office by

:57:56.:58:01.

her own party. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to

:58:02.:58:08.

apologise for that imposition? I did not here the beginning of the

:58:09.:58:14.

question. 25 years ago yesterday, they hated poll tax was imposed on

:58:15.:58:20.

the people of Scotland. It ended with a Prime Minister being kicked

:58:21.:58:24.

out by her own party. We'll be Prime Minister take this opportunity to

:58:25.:58:31.

apologise for that? I have made clear my view over this issue many

:58:32.:58:37.

times. Council tax is a much better replacement. The key is to keep

:58:38.:58:40.

levels down. That is why we support a freeze. In 2012, 150,000 people

:58:41.:58:48.

petitioned this has two stop charitable air ambulances having to

:58:49.:58:54.

pay VAT on fuel. Can I thank the Prime Minister for his budget which

:58:55.:59:00.

means more lives are saved? Does he agree that this is only possible

:59:01.:59:05.

because we are using the libel fines for good purposes and because we

:59:06.:59:13.

have a good plan? -- Libor. He is right. He is the founder and chair

:59:14.:59:18.

of the all-party group for air ambulances. He led a debate in the

:59:19.:59:22.

house in 2012. I am delighted about the result achieved in the budget. I

:59:23.:59:26.

think it will lead to an expansion of the service. He is also right

:59:27.:59:30.

that you can only make these decisions if you look after the

:59:31.:59:34.

nation's resources, get the deficit down. In short, if you have a

:59:35.:59:40.

long-term economic plan. Why has it taken four years to recruit just 41

:59:41.:59:49.

teachers into the ?10 million troops to teachers programme? We support

:59:50.:59:56.

the programme. I will look carefully at what the honourable gentleman

:59:57.:00:00.

says. It is a good idea, a good proposal. I want to make sure it is

:00:01.:00:05.

working. It appears on my council tax bill that the Labour led

:00:06.:00:11.

Lancashire county council and the Labour led Lancaster district

:00:12.:00:14.

Council have raised the council tax by 2%. Very shocking. Would the

:00:15.:00:20.

Prime Minister help the in finding out if it is 2% and help me sort

:00:21.:00:29.

this matter up? What I would say is that he can say to the county

:00:30.:00:34.

council and district Council is that this government is making the money

:00:35.:00:39.

available so that councils can freeze the council tax. There is no

:00:40.:00:43.

use for those who want to take the step. The council tax should be

:00:44.:00:52.

frozen. The high school in my constituency was left ever stated

:00:53.:01:01.

just before Christmas with a 14 AIDS people dying plane football -- with

:01:02.:01:07.

a 14-year-old boy died. Yesterday, a girl died when a wall tragically

:01:08.:01:13.

fell on her. I'm sure the Prime Minister would wish to send

:01:14.:01:17.

condolences to her friends, teachers and family. I think the whole house

:01:18.:01:24.

would agree with what the honourable gentleman said. This was a shocking

:01:25.:01:28.

accident. Their hearts will go out to the family and all of those

:01:29.:01:31.

involved in the school. The lessons will have to be learnt to make sure

:01:32.:01:34.

that tragic accidents like this cannot happen again. The

:01:35.:01:41.

Chancellor's cut in beer duty is great news for Britain's brewers. It

:01:42.:01:49.

will allow them to invest but it will do nothing to help the 20,000

:01:50.:01:54.

pubs tied to large companies. He has got rid of the fuel duty escalator,

:01:55.:01:59.

the beer duty escalator. Will he now tackled the pub company problem? Can

:02:00.:02:08.

I thank him for what he said about the cut in beer duty? This is about

:02:09.:02:14.

making sure the industry creates jobs and supports the pub trade. A

:02:15.:02:18.

company straight after the budget announced 3000 jobs. We want to look

:02:19.:02:23.

very carefully about what is happening in tied pubs and the

:02:24.:02:28.

activities of some companies. We are looking very closely to make sure

:02:29.:02:36.

there are fairer outcomes for Britain's publicans and pub goers.

:02:37.:02:41.

Could I ask the prime and is to what plans he has to reform higher

:02:42.:02:46.

education fees and loans so that the system works for students, all

:02:47.:02:49.

universities and also for the country? -- could I ask the Prime

:02:50.:02:56.

Minister. We are going to expand the number of people going to higher

:02:57.:02:59.

education by taking off the cap who can attend. Our plans are clearly

:03:00.:03:05.

set out and what I say to the house is it is encouraging that it has not

:03:06.:03:10.

put off people from going to university, nor has it but of people

:03:11.:03:17.

from low-income backgrounds. Someone said in June, 2010, this. A graduate

:03:18.:03:24.

tax would replace upfront tuition fees. I will consult widely before

:03:25.:03:28.

publishing detailed plans later this year. That was the Leader of the

:03:29.:03:33.

Opposition in June, 2010. I know we are dealing with a blank page and an

:03:34.:03:42.

empty head, but get on with it. Would the Prime Minister agree it is

:03:43.:03:45.

the skills enterprise and sheer hard work of all of the staff at

:03:46.:03:50.

companies in conjunction with the long-term economic plan that is

:03:51.:03:55.

driving the economy forward? A company has created 200 full-time

:03:56.:03:59.

jobs last year and another 75 this year and it has exported naan bread

:04:00.:04:08.

to India. It makes Dunstable B Crump at capital of the UK. Very good. I

:04:09.:04:14.

am delighted Dunstable is taking on the label. -- it makes Dunstable the

:04:15.:04:24.

crumpet capital of the UK. We have got the employment allowance

:04:25.:04:29.

to make small businesses stronger. We have 3 million people who will

:04:30.:04:34.

have been taken out of income tax altogether. That is what is

:04:35.:04:38.

happening. Our economy is getting stronger and everyone can see

:04:39.:04:42.

Labour's arguments are getting weaker all of the time. Order.

:04:43.:05:04.

The clash was entirely over the post office between the two

:05:05.:05:09.

frontbenchers, and whether the privatisation of it, was it right in

:05:10.:05:14.

principle but, more important for Mr Miliband at the moment, was it done

:05:15.:05:18.

in a way that maximises benefits to the taxpayers, as opposed to a

:05:19.:05:22.

handful of people in the city? I want to come straight to David

:05:23.:05:29.

Willetts. Is the Prime Minister sure that privatisation was in the 2010

:05:30.:05:34.

Labour manifesto? I don't know exactly which manifested it was in,

:05:35.:05:39.

but we know that labour for years wanted to do this. Peter Mandelson

:05:40.:05:44.

famously worked very hard... Let me tell you what the 2005 Labour

:05:45.:05:49.

manifesto said. We have given Royal Mail greater commercial freedom and

:05:50.:05:54.

have no plans to privatise it. So we accept it wasn't in that manifesto.

:05:55.:06:00.

Labour wanted to do this. Though, the Prime Minister said it was in

:06:01.:06:04.

the Labour manifesto. He then said the 2010, we have agreed it was not

:06:05.:06:10.

in the 2005 manifesto. In 2010 manifesto Labour said, Royal Mail

:06:11.:06:14.

and its staff are taking welcome steps to modernise working practices

:06:15.:06:17.

for the future, continuing modernisation and investment will be

:06:18.:06:21.

needed by Royal Mail in the public sector. I say again, in the public

:06:22.:06:26.

sector. That's the only reference to the Royal Mail in the 2010

:06:27.:06:31.

manifesto. Can we accept that privatisation was not in the

:06:32.:06:35.

manifesto? What happened was Labour wanted to do it and then, because of

:06:36.:06:39.

the pressure from the union supporters, they weren't able to do

:06:40.:06:44.

it. If you look at the debate, which was well reported at the time, you

:06:45.:06:47.

will find prominent Labour ministers, I certainly remember

:06:48.:06:51.

Peter Mandelson, saying they wished to do it. That may be the case but

:06:52.:06:56.

that's not what I'm asking you. Can we accept that when the Prime

:06:57.:06:58.

Minister said it was in the Labour manifesto, it was not. I will have

:06:59.:07:07.

to go and check. We've just giving you the evidence. What the Prime

:07:08.:07:11.

Minister is correctly remembering is Labour wanted to do it and went able

:07:12.:07:16.

to do it, partly because of the trade unions. All parties have been

:07:17.:07:21.

wrestling for years... Lots of MPs, including myself, said don't

:07:22.:07:24.

privatise the Royal Mail. He finally listened. We changed his mind. We

:07:25.:07:29.

had a debate within the Labour Party. We had it behind closed

:07:30.:07:38.

doors. There was a massive Labour rebellion! He was the Business

:07:39.:07:43.

Secretary at the time. But he also has to listen to Labour MPs. We told

:07:44.:07:47.

him it was the wrong thing to do. What he had to do is bailout the

:07:48.:07:52.

pension fund, that was his obligation. Frankly, it was better

:07:53.:07:55.

to have a publicly owned and the public wanted it, too. I think we've

:07:56.:08:01.

established there was no clear commitment to privatisation in

:08:02.:08:04.

either of the two manifestos. However, the use of the word

:08:05.:08:13.

investment in the 2010 manifesto was widely taken, including by Peter

:08:14.:08:14.

Mandelson, to mean part privatisation. Peter Mandelson

:08:15.:08:17.

himself said that Royal Mail part privatisation, quote, is the only

:08:18.:08:22.

credible option. So that is where the word investment was meant. It's

:08:23.:08:26.

not an explicit commitment in the 2010 manifesto, but the use of the

:08:27.:08:30.

word investment was what Peter Mandelson meant by part

:08:31.:08:36.

privatisation. By 2010, Peter Mandelson had not as much influence

:08:37.:08:40.

as he had before. There was a new generation taking over the Labour

:08:41.:08:43.

Party. We were against the idea of Royal Mail being privatised. We have

:08:44.:08:48.

had clear opposition to the privatisation of Royal Mail. The

:08:49.:08:52.

Government was wrong to privatise it. The underlying issue is how you

:08:53.:08:57.

deliver a -- and efficient service with six-day delivery with proper

:08:58.:09:02.

access to investment. The issue was how you have a high-quality Royal

:09:03.:09:06.

Mail, and I think we are achieving that. Let me ask you a question

:09:07.:09:09.

which the Prime Minister was asked twice and didn't answer on either

:09:10.:09:14.

occasion. There were about 16 investors who were actually given

:09:15.:09:18.

preferential positioning on buying of the shares, on the basis that

:09:19.:09:26.

they would hold onto the shares. And yet 50% of them sold very quickly.

:09:27.:09:33.

What happened to that agreement? I don't know what this so called

:09:34.:09:38.

gentleman 's agreement is. It is in the report that came out this week.

:09:39.:09:41.

They were given preferential position on the privatisation on the

:09:42.:09:45.

understanding they would hold onto the shares. In fact, they quickly

:09:46.:09:50.

moved and sold at a profit. We will be considering the report and

:09:51.:09:54.

replying to it. The report makes clear that looking back now is

:09:55.:09:57.

different from the decision to have to take at the time. At the time

:09:58.:10:01.

there was risk, which the report recognises, if we'd gone too high a

:10:02.:10:06.

price, the sale could have collapsed. Can I tell you what the

:10:07.:10:12.

report... You had an agreement in advance... Can I tell you what the

:10:13.:10:17.

report says? 16 of the 17 priority investors bought shares and were

:10:18.:10:20.

allocated larger proportions of their other investor, other orders

:10:21.:10:27.

than other investors, reflecting the department's expectation that they

:10:28.:10:31.

would form part of a stable, long-term and supportive shareholder

:10:32.:10:36.

base. Almost half of the shares allocated to them on a preferred

:10:37.:10:43.

bases had been sold within weeks. We will consider that as part of our

:10:44.:10:47.

consideration. I don't know what happened. Will you also be looking

:10:48.:10:55.

at the undervaluation of the land? Mount Pleasant is a huge development

:10:56.:10:59.

site in the middle of my constituency. The valuation of it

:11:00.:11:03.

was the equivalent of two buttons and an acorn. They valued it on the

:11:04.:11:08.

basis of being a car park. The public have been ripped off. What

:11:09.:11:12.

the public are going to get is a better quality service, the

:11:13.:11:16.

employees are going to be owning shares for the first time and the

:11:17.:11:20.

Royal Mail is now functioning. The long-term problem, a company

:11:21.:11:29.

threatened by overseas competition and put quality service, we are

:11:30.:11:32.

addressing that. A lot of people will remember that exchange. I did

:11:33.:11:37.

think the thing that might last from that exchange was that question

:11:38.:11:41.

about the so called gentleman's agreement. What Ed Miliband referred

:11:42.:11:48.

to as the mate's rates. We know what the power of this is for Labour, and

:11:49.:11:52.

it is a very powerful critique to make. They want to add it to the

:11:53.:11:58.

other criticisms they've got. That when the Government has a choice, it

:11:59.:12:02.

helps its chums in the city and doesn't help ordinary folk. My sense

:12:03.:12:05.

is this debate will go quite a long way, because it's pretty easy, and I

:12:06.:12:09.

don't mean this in a patronising way, but it's pretty easy to

:12:10.:12:13.

understand. Big city institution, got a lot of money, the posties who

:12:14.:12:17.

did get their shares can't sell them for three years and people are left

:12:18.:12:21.

asking, why was it done that way and did it need to be? David Willetts'

:12:22.:12:27.

answer is a revealing one. Governments had repeatedly tried to

:12:28.:12:31.

get this off their hands. It wasn't just Peter Mandelson, although Emily

:12:32.:12:34.

tries to dismiss him, it was effectively deputy priming a step

:12:35.:12:38.

under Gordon Brown and he was desperate to get rid of Royal Mail

:12:39.:12:41.

because he thought it was a liability. Michael Heseltine had to

:12:42.:12:44.

abandon a project to get rid of Royal Mail under John Major's

:12:45.:12:48.

government. There is a huge resistance to selling off Royal Mail

:12:49.:12:52.

but there is a consensus that the top of British politics, it's broken

:12:53.:12:55.

now but there's a consensus it was the right thing to get it in the

:12:56.:12:59.

private sector and get all that debt of government. Yellow you say get

:13:00.:13:05.

rid of. The agenda, and to be fair to Peter Mandelson, was habit as a

:13:06.:13:11.

stronger entity. There's going to be international competition, we want a

:13:12.:13:15.

better functioning Royal Mail. But you did it in a way that a lot of

:13:16.:13:21.

people, some of them we will find out have potentially been donating

:13:22.:13:25.

money to your party, a lot of people made millions of pounds by flipping

:13:26.:13:31.

these shares, having told you they weren't going to flip them. We will

:13:32.:13:36.

have to see what has happened there. We will be responding to the report.

:13:37.:13:43.

What do the viewers make of it? It was all about Royal Mail. Lead on

:13:44.:13:49.

Royal Mail, giveaway at PMQs and the PM couldn't defend the mass loss to

:13:50.:13:54.

the taxpayer. Some people were upset by the use of Muppets. They said it

:13:55.:13:59.

was rude and unnecessary. Dunces as well. An agreement, camera and

:14:00.:14:05.

avoiding real questions and the boys -- resorting to jokes. But there

:14:06.:14:09.

were quite a few who thought Ed Miliband didn't nail it, despite

:14:10.:14:13.

having an open goal. Paul Burke said, unfortunately Ed Miliband

:14:14.:14:17.

looks and sounds like an academic playing student politics. His choice

:14:18.:14:21.

of questions about sale price rather than its ability to provide good

:14:22.:14:28.

service only goes his inability. No question Vince cable, the Business

:14:29.:14:31.

Secretary who was involved and that the head of this deal, was better

:14:32.:14:35.

shouting from the sideline band playing centre forward. I think this

:14:36.:14:43.

will help Ed Miliband because he's been under pressure from some in his

:14:44.:14:47.

own party to reveal policy. Hold your nerve on this cost of living

:14:48.:14:51.

agenda, hold your nerve because it's getting support. He will think this

:14:52.:14:56.

team is working just fine, hold off of that desire to unveil more. We

:14:57.:15:01.

are really interested in PMQs today, and we don't always say that!

:15:02.:15:08.

These days many of us are used to paying for the TV we watch, whether

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it's for platforms like Sky or Virgin Media, or to download films

:15:13.:15:15.

and box sets over the internet. But the BBC is different. It's still

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largely funded by the licence fee which has been around in one form or

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another for 90 years. The broadcaster Nick Ross thinks it's

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time to think again about how we pay for shows like this one. We'll speak

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to him in a moment, but first, he's been to our HQ, Broadcasting House.

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Some of you might be familiar with from the BBC comedy W1A.

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I am the new head of values for the BBC. Well, not really. If you have

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seen the satirical series that lampoons the BBC, nothing would

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surprise you about who was head of what.

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If you have not seen it, believe me, it cuts pretty close to the bone.

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But if you were head of values for the BBC, what sort of vision would

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you want this place to have? It is a cultural triumph, one of the few

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British institutions that still carries great weight across the

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world. But it is so limited in its vision come so afraid that culture

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and competition cannot coexist. -- in its vision, so afraid. Time now

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for the shipping forecast. This is one of the corridors of power, in

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fact, it is the corridor of power. The Director General is surrounded

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by advisers clinging to a security blanket, the licensee. They are

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terrified that if we in Britain are given choice, we will not want the

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BBC. But I think they'd usually underestimate the talent here. --

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they are hugely underestimating the talent. Risk aversion is driving the

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BBC into a dead-end. The licence fee when it comes up for renewal in two

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years time will be 90 years old. As every year goes by, it becomes more

:17:26.:17:32.

and more an acoustic -- and anachronistic. When people get

:17:33.:17:35.

content through computers, telephones, the TV licence is

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increasingly archaic. It will become redundant just as the radio licence

:17:41.:17:45.

did in 1971. More importantly, when the world's content industry is

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building, films, internet, radio, TV, the BBC cannot grow. It is

:17:50.:17:57.

trapped. Replacing this poll tax with subscription would liberate the

:17:58.:18:01.

BBC. I believe it would get an almost universal intake and increase

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the money going into the BBC. It would unleash its talents. In any

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case, the licence fee risks public and political fatigue. If that

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happens, if the BBC income stagnates or is cut, that would not be satire,

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it would be tragic. And it would be hard to forgive those who lead us

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down the path. Nick Ross joins us now. The BBC has

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said a subscription service would turn the BBC into a commercial

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profit driven enterprise. Is that what you want? That is what it is. I

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want to be honest. I have worked for the BBC for a long time. I have no

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vested interests. I have always been freelance. At the moment, the BBC

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desperately needs to prove it gets a very big audience, just like a

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commercial channel does. It needs to get the licence fee renewed. The

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pressures, we are not honest about them. If we were honest, my view is

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we could get more revenue freely without sending people to prison or

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court because they do not pay their licence fee. What level would you

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want it set at? At a level that people want to play Bollettieri. I

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was with a senior person from the BBC a few days ago who told me they

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have done surveys which said that 20% of people would not want to pay

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?12 a month which is what it cost at the moment -- people want to play

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ball and her. I ask people how much they would pay to watch Sherlock.

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Most people would pay ?12 just for that. There is a huge untapped

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amount of cash coming into this industry. In five, ten years, net

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flicks has gone to a $3 billion a year industry. The BBC is convinced

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it would lose money on the evidence and the polls they have done, people

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would not pay if they were not forced to. The people commissioning

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this research will cling to the licence fee. They are cherry picking

:20:22.:20:24.

evidence and looking for the evidence which sustains their own

:20:25.:20:30.

view. If Rupert Murdoch had listened to these people, he would never have

:20:31.:20:36.

got people paying an average of ?550 per household for Sky. I understand

:20:37.:20:41.

where they are coming from. They are frightened and timid and they do not

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want the BBC to be challenged. The BBC licence fee, ?145, divided it up

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by month. If the people are asked to pay ?30 per month, it would be

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unaffordable for a lot of people who can afford ?145 a year. It would be

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voluntary. Secondly, remember the cruel joke when Sky started. What

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are those square things attacked to the satellite dishes? The answer

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was, they are council homes. Generally it is poorer people who

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cannot afford to go out, they are prepared to invest much more in what

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they get at home. I do not think you will find it a problem. The uptake

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will be enormous. If the BBC does good programming, that is what it is

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about. There is a public service remit. Doing programmes which some

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people might not think of good but others feel should be out there. The

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BBC claims they are the only ones who do that. Even in the most

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preposterous sense of self-importance, the BBC does not

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say that. It knows that Channel 4, Sky, they do a lot of good public

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service programming. It also knows the BBC does a lot of stuff that

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would flourish on the commercial market. What do you think about the

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future funding model? This is an issue that will be debated as we

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head into future charter renewal is. I like the fact it is universal. I

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like the arrangement which ensures people are sharing in something and

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that the fee, and there has been a lot of debate in the Commons about

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the criminality of it, the fee is a lot less than some of the commercial

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options. Niqabs two ex plain white we can do it -- Nick has to explain

:22:43.:22:52.

that. Would you be prepared to set the licence fee so ago September

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sent per annum for the next ten year charter renewal? If not, the BBC

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will be progressively eclipsed compared to whatever else goes on in

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Britain. If you are wrong about the amount of money, which services

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would you cut? I would cut the ones I could not sustain. Some things the

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government would as now subsidised, just as it subsidises over 75s. I am

:23:16.:23:24.

not trying to privatise it. It would have the same public service

:23:25.:23:29.

principles now but with more income. Would you have advertising?

:23:30.:23:38.

Absolutely not. It would ruin it. The way advertising works is getting

:23:39.:23:42.

very much out of date. Kids scroll through them. Thank you very much.

:23:43.:23:53.

Now, as you know BBC Two is home to all the big shows that shape the

:23:54.:23:56.

political debate. The Daily Politics. Cash in the Attic. And

:23:57.:23:59.

tonight it's hosting round two of Nigel Farage versus Nick Clegg, as

:24:00.:24:02.

they debate whether Britain should continue to be a member of the EU.

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In a moment, we'll talk to David Dimbleby, he's chairing tonight's

:24:07.:24:09.

showdown. But first, let's remind you how the BBC used to do this sort

:24:10.:24:13.

of thing the last time Britain was talking about a referendum on

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Europe, back in 1975. Tonight for the first time in this referendum

:24:24.:24:27.

campaign, Labour Minister meets Labour Minister to discuss the

:24:28.:24:31.

arguments for and against Britain's continued membership of the common

:24:32.:24:35.

market. Roy Jenkins, long-time supporter of British membership and

:24:36.:24:39.

president of the campaign. Tony Benn, Secretary of State for

:24:40.:24:42.

industry, the man who fought for the referendum and one of the leading

:24:43.:24:47.

opponents to the common market. And here is David Dimbleby, almost 40

:24:48.:24:50.

years on, but not looking a day older. Stop flattering me. The drugs

:24:51.:24:58.

have worked. He is outside Broadcasting House where the debate

:24:59.:25:02.

is taking place this evening. We'll be debate... How will it differ to

:25:03.:25:10.

last week but at the first round of the debate is a kind of sparring

:25:11.:25:14.

match work Nick Clegg on Nigel Farage sort out each other's

:25:15.:25:20.

weaknesses. I imagine tonight they will want to deliver knockout

:25:21.:25:24.

punches, in effect. One of them will want to have the other on the floor

:25:25.:25:29.

by the end of the hour. Am I right in thinking fewer questions this

:25:30.:25:33.

time compared to last week so that they can debate among themselves?

:25:34.:25:37.

Well, it is always a difficult balance. We will put in enough

:25:38.:25:43.

questions to make sure the subject is properly covered. We will have

:25:44.:25:47.

some up our sleeve in case some do not go well. The job is to get the

:25:48.:25:52.

two of them arguing. Half a dozen questions, eight, I don't know. Have

:25:53.:25:58.

you heard anything on the grapevine about how they are prepping? Nothing

:25:59.:26:02.

at all. They have both been doorstep. They are doing what

:26:03.:26:09.

Muhammad Ali used to do. I tell you one thing. I read through the

:26:10.:26:15.

transcript of the Roy Jenkins and Tony Benn one we did. The topics are

:26:16.:26:22.

that clearly same. It is fascinating. It is all about

:26:23.:26:26.

democracy, control, constitutional control on the one hand and jobs at

:26:27.:26:31.

the other. They go at that for 50 minutes. Brilliant to watch will

:26:32.:26:36.

stop as I hope and think tonight will be. I am sure it will. We will

:26:37.:26:42.

be watching. Thank you. Are you going to be watching tonight? Yes.

:26:43.:26:48.

Do you wish your man was in their as well? Our option which is

:26:49.:26:53.

negotiating a better deal and put into a referendum is not what either

:26:54.:26:57.

of the parties debating this evening will be offering the electorate.

:26:58.:27:03.

That is what the electorate want. You should have done the debate. Is

:27:04.:27:07.

it good for Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage? Except I do not think people

:27:08.:27:16.

are terribly interested. I am sorry. Good audience on Sky last time. What

:27:17.:27:22.

do you mean by that? The amount of people who watch this programme

:27:23.:27:29.

tonight. -- this programme perhaps. It got more! I think Sky got almost

:27:30.:27:36.

ten times its normal audience. Not bad. That does not include LBC. Lots

:27:37.:27:44.

of offices have the television on. I cannot believe you would say a thing

:27:45.:27:51.

like that! You have the two extremes of the debate. Mr Clegg, extreme? We

:27:52.:28:00.

are going to give you a final reminder that you can watch the

:28:01.:28:03.

debate live on BBC Two at 7pm tonight. All you can set your video

:28:04.:28:15.

recorder! -- or you can set. It will be on iPlayer also. We will give you

:28:16.:28:25.

the answer to the Guess The Year. The clue was Edwina Currie's trouble

:28:26.:28:28.

with eggs, so it must have been 1988. Hit that button. Find out who

:28:29.:28:44.

has won. There we go. That is it. We thank our special guests. The new

:28:45.:28:49.

starting on BBC One. We will be back tomorrow and new. Goodbye. -- at

:28:50.:28:54.

noon.

:28:55.:28:56.

Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn are joined by MPs David Willetts and Emily Thornberry to discuss all the political news, including student tuition fees and the debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage.

The Guess the Year competition closes at 12.30pm during the live broadcast of this programme.


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