08/04/2014 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon and welcome to the Daily Politics. It's the expenses


row that just won't go away. Maria Miller made a lightning-fast


entrance to Cabinet this morning, with reports that senior Tories want


her out on the double. So far Number ten is standing by its minister.


The Lib Dems promised that all infant school pupils will have free


school meals by this September. But are the schools ready? We've been


investigating. Speaking of Lib Dems, I've been


talking to the former minister Sarah Teather about the direction of the


party and her decision to leave Westminster.


Both David Cameron and Ed Miliband started off as special advisors, but


to many they're overpaid and unaccountable. So just what do they


really do? All that in the next hour, you lucky viewers. And with us


for the whole programme today is Henry de Zoete. He was adviser to


education secretary Michael Gove until last year. He now runs


something called the Big Deal which is trying to persuade consumers to


join together and force the energy companies to give them a better


deal. The Daily Mail also once described him one of Britain's 50


most powerful posh people under 30. What an accolade! He is choking!


He's since got a bit older so he no longer qualifies. Welcome to the


show. Let's start with Maria Miller. It's


the sixth day in a row the culture secretary and her expenses have been


making the front pages of the papers. Last week Mrs Miller was


cleared of funding a home for her parents at taxpayers' expense but


was criticised for her obstructive attitude to the inquiry. She gave a


short apology to the Commons that has been described as perfunctory by


Ed Miliband. She agreed to hand back ?5,800 after a larger sum


recommended by an independent watchdog was overruled by a


committee of MPs. Still following? Yesterday the MPs tried to raise the


matter in the Commons. MP John Mann has been leading the criticism of


Maria Miller and raised a point of order. What opportunities might


there be for the house to have a discussion, not on the behaviour and


actions of individual members, but on the principle of self-regulation


of MPs by MPs? What mechanism is possible before the house rises on


Thursday for us to discuss this very important issue? Not this particular


case, I am not raising that at all, but the general issue of how we


regulate ourselves and recognise the amount of criticism justified or


otherwise which has been expressed outside. I thought I had better use


this before you do. How do you solve a problem called Maria? I can say to


the honourable gentleman that governments can make statements to


the house when they wish. The Government has not chosen to make a


statement today. It is perfectly possible that there could be


exchanges on the principles of the issues that concern him and others.


That could take place between now and when we rise later this week.


The speaker, John Bercow. Maria Miller is still being backed by the


Prime Minister, but Tory MPs have not exactly been vocal in their


support. According to the Daily Telegraph this morning, the chairman


of the 1922 committee of backbench Conservatives, Graham Brady, met


David Cameron to tell him he has to go. And last night on ITV, the


employment minister Esther McVey had this to say. As to what happened,


you are quite right, the fundamental allegation, which an opposition MP


brought against her, that was dismissed by an independent


commissioner. But there were two things that she had to do, pay it


back and make an apology. That was done. I can honestly say that is not


how I would have made an apology but different people have different


styles and do things in different ways. Very revealing. Esther McVey


speaking last night. Yesterday we learned that Speaker John Bercow has


allowed a question on possible changes to the way complaints about


MPs are handled following this row. Carole Walker joins us now. What


will that mean? We are waiting to hear from the leader of the house


exactly what will happen but you are right. John Mann, who raised the


issue just a moment ago, he has succeeded in forcing Andrew Lansley


to come to the House and talk about what is going to happen to this


system is investigated Maria Miller. Their concern is that this standards


committee, which is made up of MPs, with a few lay members, although


they do not have a vote. This committee overruled the independent


commissioner, to reduce the amount that Maria Miller had to repay. She


is having to repay about ?6,000. The independent commissioner originally


suggested around ?40,000. This has led to a lot of concerns that MPs


are marking their own homework. Yesterday the Prime Minister said he


was open to suggestions about how this should change. It is worth


noting there is now a different situation in place for investigating


complaints about MPs expenses. There is a new independent compliance


office but complaints about MPs on other issues and allegations of


misbehaviour are still dealt with by this standards committee. We are


expecting to hear from the Leader of the House in an hour, who will


signal whether or not the Government is prepared to back changes to make


this system more independent. Though the system may change, we don't


know, but MPs may not be allowed to judge how other Members of


Parliament have behaved. What does that mean for Maria Miller? Is it a


device to distract from her or does she still looked in a precarious


situation? Maria Miller's case has been dealt with. She has agreed to


pay back the money and has made that apology, which many people,


including one of her fellow ministers, were not happy about.


There is no doubt that she is still under pressure. Talking to


Conservative MPs, there is a sense that the mood is hardening against


her. I think a lot of MPs are celebrated that they are out and


about and campaigning ahead of the local and European elections. They


want to be talking about the economy, lifting the tax threshold,


changes to benefits and so on. Instead they are being asked again


and again about MP expenses and Maria Miller. I think that has led a


lot of Conservative MPs to question why, for the sake of the damage she


is doing to the rest of the party, she doesn't fall on her sword. It


has to be said that at the moment she seems to be digging in her heels


and the Prime Minister is standing by her. The urgent question is at


12:30pm, I believe. Thank you. Henry, she has been accused of


handling this badly, Maria Miller. If you had been her adviser, would


you say she has handled it badly and how should she have done it


differently? I am quite glad these things are not my problem anymore! I


think there could potentially be some concerns raised about the


nature of the apology and maybe the full sum of it. But I don't think


she could really have done much more at the moment and the truth is that


it is in the hands of the Prime Minister and we have to see what he


does. There has been some focus on the role of her special adviser and


a conversation she had with journalists that the Daily


Telegraph, where the issue of the Leveson Inquiry and press regulation


was raised. Did she overstepped the mark? I don't know the ins and outs


of that. There were accusations flying about that what she did and


didn't mean so it is difficult for me to say specifically if that is


right or not. I note the special adviser Angie is a lovely person and


a adviser. -- I know the special adviser and she is a lovely person.


It could come back to haunt her in terms of relations, especially with


the press. If Maria Miller makes it to the Eastern recess, do you think


she will survive until the next reshuffle which comes up after the


European elections? If I was the adviser, I would be holding out for


the recess, because that is when the pressure lifts off and the


Westminster bubble calms down. The pressure loosens and MPs disappear


back to their constituencies. They are not walking round Westminster,


talking to each other and bumping into journalists and making the


whole thing an issue again. I think if she can get to recess, she will


be in a better place. Do you think she can expect to be reshuffled


after the European elections? I think that will depend on how the


Prime Minister is feeling about everything. We will leave that


there. It is now time for the daily quiz. For those of you that have not


seen Game Of Thrones, it is about a lot of morally ambiguous and corrupt


characters locked in a cut-throat battle for power and influence.


Sound familiar? For some reason this reminds the planning minister Nick


Boles of Westminster, surprise surprise. And on Twitter yesterday


he speculated which MP would best play the character Daenerys


Targaryen, who can walk through fire and is the mother of some dragons.


So who did he think should play the role? Nadine Dorries, Stella Creasy,


Esther McVey, Liz Truss? And at the end of the show, Henry will give us


the correct answer. Do you watch Game Of Thrones? Not yet. Everybody


is telling me to watch it but I can't quite bring myself to. That is


what the box set is for. You may remember one of the big


announcements from last year's conference that all primary school


children should get free school meals from next year. It made the


headlines but as many as 2700 schools in England are not ready to


start serving. Many need to upgrade their kitchens and others do not


have a kitchen. Alex is the reporter behind the search and Tobacco


research, so let's have a look. The time for these pupils and a


welcome break from lessons. In Dorset, most children bring their


lunch from home and eat in the classroom. From September, these


packed lunches should be replaced by a hot meal provided for free for all


pupils in their first free school years but that will not happen here.


The kitchen and dining hall are too small to serve and feed the pupils


and there is not enough money to make the changes needed. We need


facilities and certainly schools like us and others in the area need


people to serve the food. We are talking about children as young as


four walking around with trays of food and we need to be vigilant and


that costs money. Instead children will get prepacked sandwiches


delivered in. It is not quite what Nick Clegg promised when he launched


the policy for English schools last autumn. All families with


schoolchildren at primary school in those first crucial three years at


infant school, we are going to give everybody, all of the children, a


hot and healthy meal at lunchtime. Most headteachers support the idea


and investment in children's health, but they say the scheme has been


rushed through and puts pressure on some schools. Primary schools are


very singular places. Although implementing free school meals would


be effortless in many contexts, in some contexts, it provides a


significant challenge and in some an insuperable challenge given the


existing resources. We asked every council in England about schools in


their area. At least 2700 need to upgrade their kitchens, which is


anything from a new oven to total refurbishment. That is one third of


those assessed. 1700 have no kitchen at all. Meals could be delivered by


external companies or nearby schools. Some teachers say they will


have to stagger sittings and extend lunchtimes to fit more pupils into


smaller halls. ?150 million of funding has been allocated for


schools to improve dining halls and kitchens. But the money has been


allocated according to how many pupils are in each area, not on what


the school needs. So some regions have more than they require and in


others the funding falls short. The Government has enlisted the help of


experts like members of the lead association for catering in


education to help schools, especially small ones, struggling to


implement the policy. We are offering support to schools with the


help line that we are running. We are supporting schools that various


different levels, depending on how much support they need. Whether it


is a phone call and pointing them in the right direction or somebody


coming in and working with them to find solutions. Come September, all


eligible children have to be offered a free meal, even if an interim


solution means damages for some instead of the promised hot lunch.


-- sandwiches. We asked very nicely to speak to a minister from the


Department for Education and nobody was available. Instead we are joined


by Malcolm Bruce, I am delighted to say, and Henry deceived, who was an


adviser at the education department. Free hot school meals were promised


and it is not going to happen. The objective is it will happen. There


may be some interim phase in, but that is the objective. The BBC


report is entirely consistent with the Department's own information


about the situation, for which they provided the money. Accept that some


schools are going to get pre-packaged sandwiches from


September, not a hot school meal, that wasn't what was promised. That


is still his stated objective. It might not be in certain


circumstances, although the department tell me they are pretty


confident most places will be able to do it by a variety of different


needs. Upgrading Kitchens, it could be a minor upgrade. Outside catering


possibilities as well. The objective is to ensure every school provides a


free meal to every child, a hot meal. You think all the upgrades can


be done by September best remark I take your point that some of the


changes may be minor, but if you are having to put in a whole new kitchen


or upgraded, that is going to take a long time. Enough from my own


constituency, where school meal provision has changed over time,


some schools have Kitchens, some don't. Some cook for other schools


and ship them between them, some use outside catering. There are a


variety of ways to do it. It can be done. It wasn't really through


properly in terms of the concept to delivery. I think it was. This


policy has been in the making for five years. Pilot schemes were done.


This isn't just about free school meals. This is about ensuring that


children who currently don't get proper nutrition will get it. It


also ensures a much better educational output. That's why it's


the Department of education that doing it. It's coming out of the


education budget because there's an education benefit, which is proven.


Do you think it was well thought through? I think there was a problem


with implementation of this policy and how the policy came about. I was


in the Department for Education in the run-up to the announcement. We


didn't know anything about it until just a few hours before it was


announced at the Liberal Democrat Conference. What that meant was the


kind of hard, detailed work that needs to be done, for when you're


doing something of such importance, a national roll-out, the hard graft


wasn't there. I think that has been proven by the fact that there has


been changes in the position of what can be done and what can't be done,


when they had to announce more capital funding, the fact it was


announced on a per capita basis. That was done because they didn't


have enough time to find out which schools did or didn't have Kitchens.


I'm not saying the policy is a bad one. The review that led to the


policy was set up by Michael Gove, he is very supportive of the policy,


but there were issues around in fermentation. Do you accept that? I


don't. The pilot schemes were well tested and the benefit of the policy


was proven. The roll-out has been determined according to needs. It


was a surprise for the rest of the department in that it was announced


with any consultation. Good political announcement sometimes


have to be a surprise to get the impact. This was a Liberal Democrat


policy. Maybe they thought that you, as they accused the Conservatives,


would steal the policy or steal credit for it. There's an


interesting dynamic at play in the coalition in particular, and also


around party conferences and announcement that happen there.


Michael Gove's team had a rule we wouldn't make announcements at party


conference because sometimes they were difficult to get right, you are


in a bubble away from Westminster, you are not with the department, you


can't do the work that needs to be done. But these things happen. But


that wasn't just to be Department. We heard that schools have been


taken by surprise. The pilot is one thing, rolling it out on the


universal bases is quite another. Surely that was a mistake, because


now you got schools who have not only got the right facilities, but


they are talking about having more teachers at lunchtime, you can't


have kids holding the hot trays of food without help, staggering the


lunch break, it will have to start at 11:30am to get them through to


2pm. If you go back decades, a hot school meal was the normal


provision. We moved away from that for a whole variety of reasons. What


the policy demonstrates is the consequence of that will stop


children from pourer families are not getting good nutrition, and the


educational performance of poor children have been undermined. It is


a good policy. If there are hiccups they should be accepted and dealt


with, but it's not an argument for rubbishing or denigrating the


policy, which is a good, sound education policy. I think people


were questioning how it was actually presented and not enough thought had


gone into it. How do you get over a problem where a school with a


certain number of teachers just won't have enough people to


facilitate this? Yellow matter what those teachers doing when the


children are having lunch at the moment? The responsibility of the


school, children still have to be that. I do find that a slight red


herring, because I'm sure schools can manage this by reorganising the


day. Do you agree they will be able to cope with it, that these problems


are merely hiccups? Or do you think those are legitimate concerns, how


you deal with it when it's happening at lunch times? I do think they are


legitimate concerns. We've heard from people on the ground to spot


problems. It's fantastic the department is reaching out to them,


but there are other issues abound as policy which I don't think were


thought through properly. Like what happens around the Pupil Premium?


Also, that's how you measure kids on free school meals, that's how you


put out the Pupil Premium. If you are a head teacher you need to know


which of your kids are on free school meals and getting them, so


you can see the performance of those children and make sure you advance


it. Those issues... Getting away from means testing in this context


is a good thing. Means testing is difficult. What is happening now is


children from poor families sometimes don't qualify for free


school meals. The problem is the cost of the free school meals would


make them qualified if it came before rather than after. What you


are doing is making sure that children who currently don't get


school meals to get them. I accept that the criteria for the Pupil


Premium, but I'm certain there are ways of administering that. This


will all come together, it's about providing support for all children,


not just to get them better fed but better educated. Will it affect the


Pupil Premium? There are some schools who will claim they really


need that for some of them all poor pupils. Will they lose out if they


can't identify those pupils in the first instance as a result of this


policy? Of the policy is every child is getting a hot meal, you don't


know who is on free school meals and who isn't. You, as a parent, sign up


your child to do it. One of the incentives is the fact there is a


free school meals. Therefore why would you tell the school, there is


a lot of stigma with those issues, if you are meeting that criteria?


You wouldn't. It is the stigma that discourages people from applying for


free school meals, and as a consequence cuts them off from the


Pupil Premium. I think there's a real case to ensure we do better and


reach more of the kids by doing I think we are improving the


performance right across the board. Let's deal with any problems that


may be, but that's not undermine this very good policy to improve


educational output. What about the other point that was made in the


film? Because was allocated on the basis of pupil numbers and not need,


you will have money going to some schools where they don't need it.


They have the facilities and are ready to go. Whereas the will be


other schools who need a full kitchen upgrade who could do with


more money. It would be possible it seems to me that you can negotiate


across the piece. Those schools that don't need money will make it


available to those who do. If those issues do exist, it should be


possible to reorganise the funding in a way that we deliver the right


result. Former special adviser to Michael Gove, clearly not you,


described it as a gimmick. You don't think that's the case? I don't think


it was me. The issue for us, they were trying to do things that were


improving children's lives, making sure education is better. There's a


debate over whether this policy will do that. Michael Gove thinks that is


the case, but we have to get the implementation issues right to be


able to deliver it. We were told we couldn't raise the tax threshold to


?10,000, we raised it. Things can be done. Coalition adds value to policy


delivery. With rising energy bills, politicians are keen to encourage


people to switch providers if it will save them money. And to help,


the energy regulator Ofgem has brought in new rules which it says


will ban confusing and complex tariffs and make it easier for


consumers. Since January this year, energy suppliers have been limited


to offering eight tariffs to customers - four for electricity and


four for gas. And they've faced stricter rules on how to advertise


these tariffs. Then on 31st of March, new rules came into force to


make sure suppliers inform customers of the cheapest available tariff and


how much it could save them. Ofgem have also introduced a Tariff


Comparison Rate, or TCR, similar to APR for interest rates, which allows


customers to compare tariffs at a glance. So, will these changes make


it easier for customers to get a better deal on their energy? Joining


me now from Birmingham is Ramsay Dunning from Co-operative Energy,


and here in the studio is our guest of the day Henry de Zoete. He's


behind a company which encourages collective bargaining in the energy


market to bring down prices. Also with me here is Alun Rees from


Energy UK. According to which, the consumer organisation, only 35% of


people pick the cheapest energy deal, despite the tariffs coming in


at the beginning of the year which were designed to simplify the


system. That's a problem, isn't it? The strange thing is that the


research didn't look at the way people switch, which is really easy


to do. All you need to do is find how much energy you use, which is on


your bill, go to a price comparison website, Bob 's your uncle, it will


give you a quote and tell you what the best deal is. If it's that easy,


why have more people not switched? Millar about 3.5 million people


switched supplier last year. But what we want to do is make it even


simpler and easier for people to come -- pair and choose the best


deal for them. In 2013, an estimated 5.8 million people switched energy


providers. That's one point three 8 million fewer than ten years ago in


2003. The recent switches, 2010, eight .30 1 million. Then it


declines. 2011, seven .48. 2012, five .62. We are getting fewer and


fewer switches, despite you saying it is easier. It's no surprise that


switching is a lot less now than it was five or ten years ago. The


reason for that is five or ten years ago, suppliers were doing doorstep


selling. That was phased out because public concerns. The market is


changing and there are innovative new ways to make it easier for


customers to switch, like collective switching schemes, like comparison


websites and like the new tools energy suppliers are bringing in to


make it easier and simpler to compare. It's clearly not quite


simple enough. We can put up a graphic to show some of the offers


from three companies. Take a look at that. Which one is the cheapest?


At a glance, you've only given me a few seconds to look at this. Show.


You are saying it's really easy, I looked at that and I couldn't work


it out and I'm not sure I could work it out even after I don't know, 40


minutes. This isn't the way that most people compared. The most


common used way is find out how much they used, which is on their bill,


pop it into a price comparison site along with their postcode and


straightaway you will get a quote which will tell you the cheapest


deal for you. Accept people still aren't taking it up. I have switched


once and I went through that process and it is quite straightforward. It


still takes quite a long time and you are reliant on the company is


doing all the paperwork for you. 60% of people have still never switched.


What you've just shown in terms of the different options kind of sums


it up. It's really confusing, you are not sure what's going on. Is


that going to save you money or not? What we are trying to do is say,


actually, if we get a whole bunch of people together, we can demand,


through the fact we've got more people, collectively bargain a


price. It's the easiest and simplest way of switching. It's easy to do,


easy to sign up and we do the difficult job for you by finding the


best possible deal. It sounds like a great deal, but Which made the same


offer. Is this any different? I think it is different because what


we are doing is reaching out to people that have never switched


before because we've got over 60% of people involved who never switched


before, people who are slightly older. These other groups who have


most been badly... I wouldn't want to say exploited, but certainly been


the ones who have not been able to save money, they've been ripped off,


they are spending up to ?300 more than they should be doing. We think


we can get them a really good deal. This is a commercial operation, you


will profit from this. How much commission will you take from each


person? We don't know what commission we will get at this


stage. We will know that when we've done a negotiation with the energy


companies and we will be open about that. One of the issues some people


have had the price comparison websites is those guys, they are


taking commissions but no one knows what they are or what they are


doing. The whole point about what we are doing is about saving people


money. If we can save them money then we've done what we've aimed to


do. Ramsey, thank you for waiting. Should private providers, like Henry


de Zoete's be operating in the energy market? I don't think there


is a problem with having private providers in the market but previous


discussions have highlighted that the public needs a completely


independent, dependable and public saving service that provides all the


information neutrally. The problem with commercial services is that


their primary purpose is to make a profit, and they do that out of


commission. They get commission from some companies and not from others,


and therefore they will give the customer the best product that they


will earn commission on. You are not going to get a private service


saying to a customer that this is the very best deal on the market


even if we don't make anything from it. The public really needs that


completely independent service. Who is going to provide that? A number


of people could provide it. I think it needs the Government to come


behind it. It does not necessarily need the Government to set it up. It


needs to be overseen by the Government or Ofgem. They could set


it up. They don't need to. It could go out to a consumer organisation


like Which? Or Consumer Focus. Organisations like that. If you can


get a better deal and you can negotiate with more clout against


the big six, then that would be a benefit, surely? The idea of people


coming together collectively to get a better deal for themselves, we


absolutely wholeheartedly support. That after all is what co-opts are


about. The consumer co-operative model. Private services are not


going to give consumers a completely independent and neutral view of what


is out there. Well, we try to save people money and if we can do that,


yes, we will make some money. We are not like a traditional switching


site. We are not about getting people to switch again and again,


which is how they make money. The people who have joined us are people


that have never switched and have never done it before and don't want


to switch every year. They want a longer term deal and have peace of


mind and relax, knowing they have a good deal, without worrying about it


for several years. Wood energy companies respond to that? Energy


companies support anyway to get consumers engaged. Except for


charging less. Gas bills have risen by 41% since 2007 and electricity by


20%. The prophet of the energy companies has risen from 5% on each


bill in 2010 to 6.7% in 2013. Energy companies are working really hard to


keep energy prices as low as possible. A loss of the costs within


the bill are outside the companies's control. They are all


fighting really hard to win business on price and service. What about


investment? Investment is really important. This is why we need a


healthy energy sector to invest ?100 million over the next three years to


build the new power stations that we need to keep the lights on for our


children. Do you agree with Labour's plans to break up the big


six energy companies? I think there are certainly some issues about


vertical integration and suppliers and selling on bits. That plan is a


year and a half away from the election and it will take time to


implement. But it is the right plan? We would have to see how it will


work. The issue for consumers at the moment is that they want price cuts


now. We have seen prices doubled. Huge profits from energy companies,


quadrupling from the big six. What we want now is a way of saving


people money. Thank you very much. When Sarah Teather entered


Parliament in a by-election in 2003, she was seen as a rising star. Two


years later, she was on the Lib Dem front bench team, and when the


coalition was formed, she became minister for children and families.


In 2012, she was reshuffled out of the Government and has since said


that she will stand down at the next election. She said she feels


desolate about some of the Government's policies. Yesterday I


joined her in her North London constituency. The London borough of


bread is said to be the most ethnically diverse in the country.


The MP, Sarah Teather, shocked everyone by saying she would stand


down at the next election, disillusioned by the coalition's


policies on immigration and welfare. Cases like that of this Nigerian


constituent have angered Sarah Teather. She was working legally as


a care assistant for three years that her application to stay longer


was rejected at first. The Home Office then changed its mind, but


left her in limbo for a year. Because the Home Office did not


follow the rules, she found herself effectively in the position of being


illegal, and denied the right to work and support her family. When


the Government talk about wanting to target people that they describe as


illegal, they often mean people that they have screwed up. What was it


like during that period when you were in limbo waiting for the Home


Office to make a final decision about your application? It was hell.


I had no access to public funds. No more housing, no more benefits. It


was very sad for me. Did you manage to work? I could not work because I


was suspended. I had no visa. So what did you live on? Nothing.


Sarah, will you be sad to leave your constituency behind? In lots of ways


I will be very sad. I have loved being an MP here. Nothing can change


your mind? No. I took a long time to make the decision and I thought


about it carefully. I am not going to change my mind. Sarah Teather


says that she still has friends in the party but does she think Nick


Clegg should continue as leader? I mean, I can't see anybody else who


would stand in place of him. Hardly a ringing endorsement from someone


who feels that the Lib Dems have stopped standing up for what they


believe in. Do you agree there should be a limit on immigration? I


think the immigration cap is a very silly policy and the end result is


what? British families being split up. Students coming here to pay into


the system being turned down. Teenagers getting deported. At the


same time, people driving around places like this in a van saying go


home. That is the end result of making silly policy. Theresa May


coined the phrase the nasty party for her own party. Do you think the


Tories still are the nasty party? I think it is very difficult to work


face to face with people in a constituency like this and see the


inhumane decisions that get made to sanction benefits and turned down


immigration cases when they have a legitimate right to be here. It is


difficult to work face to face with people like that and not see the


Conservatives as the nasty party. There is a certain irony with it


being Theresa May making the speech, pointing out to the Tory party that


they were in danger of being seen as nasty, when it is Theresa May


pushing forward a deeply Draconian and unpleasant bill that will have


no benefit for the UK. Sarah Teather joins us now along with a


Conservative MP Philip Davies. You saw Sarah Teather in the film


describing the welfare cap, sorry, the immigration cap as a silly


policy. What do you say to that? I want us to control immigration and


the general public wants us to control it and my constituents do.


Where the Government has got itself into a mess is that while we are


still in the European Union, we cannot control immigration into the


country. We cannot cap immigration. I am all for having a proper cap,


but that only way to do that is to leave the European Union. So you


admit that the immigration target is nonsense because the Government


cannot control immigration so was it a silly idea? I think it was a


mistake to have a cap and a target when you have no control. You can


only have an effective target and cap if you have control over it.


Absolutely, I think that was a mistake. The policy objective of


reducing immigration into the country is a good one and certainly


one that the overwhelming majority of my constituents agree with, and I


suspect the overwhelming majority of the country. Why shouldn't there be


some limit on immigration? Would you like an open door policy with


limitless numbers coming in? No, but immigration policy has to be a


balance of what is good for the country and for the people coming


here. You need to balance those needs and look at individual areas


and understand what skills are required and the corrugated ways in


which people contribute, which is not always economic. My trouble is


that this policy is not looking across the country and thinking


about the wider good of the society. It is about opinion polls, which is


not a good way of making policy. That is how people feel. Should they


not feel the burden of pressure on schools and hospitals as people do


in constituencies where there are high levels of immigration and the


place is too small to absorb immigrants? In places like London,


the difficulty is caused by the draw of the South East. People are moving


from all over the country not just all over the world. People want


politicians to show colour -- courage and leadership and not just


to do what was in favour at the last opinion poll. You were a minister


taking decisions in the last Government so what were you and your


Lib Dem colleagues doing? I was certainly fighting a lot of them


behind the scenes. Many colleagues still are. That you failed to make


an impact. A lot of things were changed but I would like to see more


change. That was the price of coalition, if you like. You got your


way on having some kind of immigration target, even if the Lib


Dems were not wholly supportive of it. You have admitted that it was a


complete waste of time. How else would you bring down immigration? At


the moment the only way is to leave the EU. We need people with the


right skills for the economy and I totally agree with that but with an


open border policy, with the EU, anybody can come in whether they


have the skills or not. Most people coming from the EU are coming to do


low skilled jobs, entry-level jobs, while we have 900,000 people aged 16


to 24 who are unemployed and capable of doing the jobs. It is the low


paid people in this country that have suffered as a result. I think


it is more complicated than that. A lot of people are struggling to get


a job and they are frightened and nervous. We need to focus more on


what we can do to get them chances of getting into work. School


reforms, apprenticeships, where there has been enormous investment


from this Government in making sure people have the skills to get the


right kinds of work. But I am not sure pulling out of the EU will be


good for Britain as a whole. What will happen to all the jobs that we


hope will be available for people if we pull out of the EU? That is not


sensible policy either. We have a trade deficit with the EU. We buy


much more from them than they buy from us. The idea that Mercedes and


BMW will stop the German Government trading freely with us is utter


nonsense. We want free trade with Europe but we do not want to be run


by them and have unlimited immigration coming in from the EU.


Do you think the Tory party is the nasty party? I never did and I would


not want to be part of a nasty party. We have a different


perspective on things. I think Sarah's views are stupid on many


things. But she is entitled to have an opinion, we live in a democracy.


Cheers! Just because we disagree does not make one of us nasty and


one more pleasant. So why the nasty party? When you asked me the


question yesterday, when you work face to face of people and see the


consequences in their lives, and you see people left destitute by changes


in welfare, people left destitute who want to work, and really had the


right to work, and eventually the Home Office accented that my


constituents should have been able to remain and to work and they had


made a series of errors. -- accepted that my constituent. They had made a


series of boxes, which is the Home Office, unfortunately. Do you accept


that these policies are leaving some people destitute? Look at the


welfare cap. You have to burn ?35,000 a year to get their welfare


cap of ?26,000. I think it is nasty to get people to go out and work for


less than they are paying in their taxes for somebody else to get food


without working at all. I think that is nasty. We have a different


perspective on what is nice and nasty. I don't see any great


pleasantness about expecting people to go out to work and earn less than


people on benefits. The sanctions regime which we were talking about


yesterday in the context of that conversation, I have seen people


have their benefits removed for having missed their appointments


because they were having surgery for a tumour. That is just inhumane. It


does not do any good for society and it causes huge damage to that


individual. OK. Let's look briefly at the party itself. You have


announced that he will step down. Jeremy Browne has said that the


Liberal Democrats are too timid, but coming at it from a different


political perspective, what do you say to him? He wants profit free


schools. Henry is delighted! It see more of a Conservative than Liberal


Democrat, Jeremy Browne? I am not going to get into that stuff. Do!


You don't agree with him on any of that? I don't. I felt awkward about


the way that video was cut to make it look like I am attacking Nick


Clegg. I don't want to get into personal politics. But he is talking


about policies. You don't agree with cutting the top rate of tax. I don't


think cutting the top rate of tax is going to help those people in my


constituency to get on or pay into the system, to make sure we can


provide quality public services. This is a dilemma for the Liberal


Democrats. Is generally mean Brown looking more like a conservative


these days with those policy suggestions? -- Jeremy Browne.


Looking at the Liberal Democrats over the last four years of the


coalition, there's been an internal battle from the very start. I think


it was first formed when the decision to go into the coalition


happened. Perhaps the grassroots of the party, looking at the


conferences and seeing the motions they passed, knowing that wasn't


exactly what they wanted or the direction that is. There's always


been tension between the Jeromy Brown's in the party and the


grassroots, Sarah Teather Dunne views within the party. I think


that's healthy, but fundamentally, they are going to have to make a


decision quite soon about where they are going to go and what's going to


happen. It doesn't seem like it can carry on. You are on the culture


committee, should Maria Miller stay or go? Like Sarah, she said we


shouldn't get into personalities and views. This is the biggest issue


that's been running in Westminster. Rune whether she resigned as a


matter for her. The whole thing is extremely damaging for the


Conservative Party, it's damaging for Parliament as a whole and


politicians, we all get tarnished by the same brush. It's damaging for


the Government and the Prime Minister. The sooner the matter is


resolved the better. What would resolve it? It's for the Prime


Minister and Maria Miller to sort out themselves. It's incredibly


damaging for the party, the Government and for all of us in


Parliament. The rules have all changed. What has happened couldn't


happen now. This is a spill-over from the previous regime. But it


still tarnishes all. Ed Miliband has been making a speech in Birmingham


this morning and it's all about giving the cities and regions of


England more control over housing, transport and employment. Labour


says ?20 billion that's currently controlled by Whitehall will instead


be handed to local bodies over the lifetime of the next Parliament.


Here he is speaking earlier. Labour's message at the next


election will be clear. It is about devolving power from Whitehall to


our towns and cities. Because it is essential to generate the jobs we


need. We propose a new bargain. Cities and towns come together with


local businesses will be given historic, new powers over


transport, housing, skills and economic development. We're joined


now by Andrew Adonis, he's the man behind this plan and he's also


shadow Infrastructure Minister. He is in Birmingham.


Sometimes you do interviews with people who aren't even in London.


Explain this in everyday language. We are talking about devolving more


budgets to the level of the cities and the areas around the cities, the


city regions and the counties where that make sense, so they can take


charge of their own provision in two key areas. Skills and


infrastructure, being transport and housing above all. If we are going


to drive growth and get more growth companies, we've got to raise our


skill levels and have better local infrastructure. We need decisions


taken closer to the scene of the action, closer to the companies and


areas affected. Departments have been too centralised for too long in


this country. I hear every politician saying that, particularly


in opposition. All oppositions talk about giving away power until they


get power. It will probably not happen if you win the Lex


collection. You'll a-macro to be fair, Labour in government took two


very big steps on the road to devolution. We set up the devolved


governments of Scotland and Wales. We also set up the Mayor of London


and the Greater London authority. What happened to regional


assemblies? The big issue for us is how we get properly functioning


devolution in the cities and counties of England. But that didn't


work. It was never implemented. The attempts in the North East to create


a regional assembly, we're not talking about that, not a wholly new


tier of government. We are talking about bringing together local


enterprise partnerships which exist at the moment. We will not do what


the present government did and abolish what was there before when


we abolished -- they abolished the agencies. We will take those


partnerships, which are doing good work and need more power and four


budget, and put them together with the local authority leaders that


cover their area so they can make decisions jointly and have joint


control over budgets, which puts business leaders and local authority


leaders in charge. In Birmingham, the local enterprise partnership


covers Birmingham, the area around it and Solihull. That is a travel to


work area with a really important growth driver in terms of jobs. They


would then be able to do much more of the planning of their


infrastructure and their skill set. If this were to work that would be


great, but in terms of grabbing voters, in terms of it being one of


your headlines in your manifesto, when people are still going to be


worried about one of Labour's other themes, the cost of living, and


generally about the economy, it's just not going to do it, is it? You


need a manifesto full of policies. The key game here is putting in


place arrangements that will promote more and better jobs. Let's take a


concrete example. There's a message -- massive shortage of youth


apprenticeships in this country. The number has fallen since 2010, which


is why we have mass youth unemployment and local employers,


including employers here in Birmingham, crying out for young


people with skills. One of the key functions we want to devolved is


responsibility for promoting apprenticeship to local employers.


We've got Jaguar Land Rover, a fantastic local employer here,


expanding and wanting to create new jobs in companies that supply them,


but they are desperately short of apprentices. Who is more likely to


deliver those apprentice? A business body with strong roots in the


locality or quango in London? The quango in London has clearly failed.


Let's put local people in charge. How much money would you have to put


into the city and county regions? We haven't been precise because we are


looking at it individually. The present government is devolving only


a tiny sum... So you'd have to cut at the Department's budgets to pay


for it? We're not talking about cutting budgets but devolving them.


If you just take skills, a budget held centrally of more than ?1


billion. It's all run by a quango which sits in Whitehall. The


question which is facing us is whether that money would be better


spent and produce much better results for companies and young


people if it were devolved locally, so that local business leaders and


local authorities, which are much closer to the scene of the action


and they would have a much bigger say and how it is spent. When


special advisers are in the news it's safe to say it's probably for


the wrong reasons. Spads, as they're known, are meant to help ministers


with the kind of sticky issues that are too political for the civil


servants to touch. It could be briefing the media or injecting the


party line into a new policy. It doesn't always go smoothly - let's


take a look. If they ever get into the press at all, which they


shouldn't, it's always an episode of when Spads go bad! Joe Hind Lee is


this week's flak magnet, special adviser to Maria Miller who did or


did not threaten a newspaper. Maria has been having quite a lot of


meetings around leaves on. But she still standing tall and in a job,


unlike her predecessor as a culture secretary Spad. He went into hiding


and the press hunted him down. It looks like a Spad, walks like a


Spad, talks like a Spad, but he wasn't and lost Liam Fox's job.


Damian McBride was the ultimate killer Spad. Ruthless, reckless,


ready and refreshed. He came a cropper after a career of mailing


opponents. He made up stories then resurfaced to tell his own in a


book. Message to Stephen Byers' special adviser, there is no good


day to bury bad news, as she famously, callously e-mailed


colleagues. And, with spectacular irony, promptly became bad news and


was buried. If ever there was a Spad and from a young age was born to the


calling, branded crazy zealot by his enemies and a reforming profit by


his supporters, Dominic Cummings, this disciple of the Lord Michael


Gove Almighty, has now himself consigned his Spad Korea to the


grave. After that trip down memory lane, we're joined by the Daily


Telegraph's Whitehall watcher Sue Cameron, and Henry de Zoete is a


former special adviser. How crucial is your old role to a cabinet


secretary? I think special advisers are very important, but I think


there's a bit of a misunderstanding about what we do. Of course there


are the examples that were picked up on film, which is fair enough. To


give you what I was doing in the department and what Dominic Cummings


was doing, we work... Well, we were mainly focusing on the priorities of


the Secretary of State and project managing them to the department.


Dominic basically spent probably about 1% of his time on any sort of


media issue, I spent a bit more because I was more of a media


special adviser. But what we have to do was pick out the policies we


wanted to get most traction to get through the department, to happen on


the ground as quickly as possible. Then we will project managing those


through the system. Do you accept there was a level of ideological


zeal being injected by you and Dominic Cummings in the education


department to get Michael Gove's point across? Absolutely not.


Obviously we believed in our policies, but what we were trying to


do and, unfortunately, I worked with some brilliant civil servants and


they are brilliant, but the system itself that they are in, it makes it


very difficult to ensure that the project goes through and is


delivered properly at the end. There are countless examples where we had


to do it ourselves. There were reported highly personal attacks on


a certain journalist, that came from the education department and a


Twitter feed. Those things were reported as coming from a Twitter


feed. They weren't from you? It was nothing to do with us. Is that a


more sanitised view of what a special adviser does? I think it


partly reflect the fact they are a very mixed bunch. A lot of them do


very different things. Some of them do concentrate very much on the


media, others are more policy. A few, though why they are needed I


don't know, politicians should be their own advisers, but some


actually advise on the politics of things. One of the problems with


them, there are some very good ones but they are not civil servants, who


are totally impartial, and nor are they democratically elected. They


are basically minister's mates. That is one of the difficulties. Some of


them, as the ones you've just seen, go rogue. They were supposed to be


cutting the number of Alun Reess but they've increased. -year-old one of


the reasons for that is because we are in coalition. Poor old Nick


Clegg was sitting in Downing Street and he's meant to keep an eye on


everything in every department. He had one man and a dog to help him.


That's one of the reasons why there is more of them. Is it up to


ministers to rein in special advisers who do end up doing things


that are unacceptable? Yes, I think it is up to ministers. But I think


it is an unsatisfactory situation. I think there needs to be some way of


bringing special advisers into the democratic setup. Whether they have


to be approved by backbench MPs or by the civil service commission,


some kind of system. Watt -- I think the idea of getting more highly


qualified people into those roles is a good one. What about the vetting


side a bit? There is such a crucial role they play next to a Secretary


of State, that the Secretary of State has to be able to decide who


that is. If there is some sort of system, it should be looked at. I


remember sitting, when I wasn't in government but I used to work with a


whole load of Labour special advisers, and David Cameron


announced he was cutting the number of special advisers. They all said


that was the worst decision he'd made. The question was, who did Nick


Boles speculate might be the best MP to play the game of Thrones


character Daenerys Targaryen? I can only think of Nadine. Nadine Dorries


is the right answer. That's all for today. Thanks to our guests. Andrew


and I will be back tomorrow. Goodbye.


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