09/04/2014 Daily Politics


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Good morning. This is the Daily Politics. It's taken almost a week


but those baying for Maria Miller's blood have got what they wanted. The


Culture Secretary, who'd been under heavy fire over her expenses,


resigned early this morning saying the controversy had become a


distraction. I want to remove what has become an unhelpful and very


difficult distraction for colleagues but also taking away from being able


to talk about the achievements of the Government. The Prime Minister


was expected to come under further pressure over her position during


Question Time in the Commons. See how he fares at midday. And musician


and activist Billy Bragg will be here to explain why he thinks


restricting prisoners' access to books and guitars is wrong. We


believe that music can help offenders to engage in the process


of rehabilitation. Prisons we work with realise the value of creative


expression in helping offenders to come to terms with the crimes they


have committed. All that and more coming up in the next 90 minutes of


television gold. And with us for the duration, two squeaky clean MPs.


Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps and Labour's Chuka


Umunna.He's the Shadow Business Secretary.


Welcome to you both. Now without further ado, let's talk about the


resignation of the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller. Her


resignation was announced a little after 7:30am after almost a week of


criticism surrounding her expenses. She has finally gone in front of the


cameras. This is what she said a little earlier. I want to remove


what has become an unhelpful and difficult distraction for colleagues


but also taking away from being able to talk about the achievements of


the Government. In your resignation letter, you mention Leveson. Do you


think this is part of the media witchhunt? I take responsibility for


the situation. I fully accent the findings in the Parliamentary


standards report. This is about that. -- accept. It is important I


take away this distraction from the work of the Government and I really


do want to reiterate my full support for the Prime Minister. That was


Maria Miller speaking this morning. She sounded a bit more contrite than


she did in her apology in the House of Commons last week. It lasted only


32 seconds and was not seen as adequate by people on both sides of


the House. Last night, Maria Miller appeared to be fighting for


political survival, issuing a fresh apology to her Basingstoke


constituents through her local newspaper. It has been quite a long


and protracted saga. Talk us through it. Although it's a story that's


reached a crescendo and denouement in less than a week, the saga of


Maria Mller's expense claims has been playing out over the last 14


months. In December 2012, the Telegraph reported that Mrs Miller


had claimed over ?90,000 in parliamentary expenses for the


mortgage and running costs of her second home in South London between


2005 and 2009. The Telegraph would later allege that Conservative


advisors tried to warn them off the story, saying they were looking at


Leveson. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards


investigated and cleared the MP of making false expenses claims but did


ask her to repay ?45,000 for over-claiming for mortgage interest


payments and council tax. However, the final say over sanctions rested


with the Commons Committee for Standards. They asked Mrs Miller to


pay back just ?5,800 and apologise for her attitude to the


investigation, which she duly did, for a whole 32 seconds.


I wish to make a personal statement in relation to today 's report. The


report resulted from an allegation made by the member for Bassetlaw.


The committee has dismissed his allegation. The committee has


recommended that I apologise to the House for my attitude to the


commissioner 's inquiries and I, of course, unreservedly apologise. I


fully accept the recommendations of the committee and thank them for


bringing this matter to an end. Maria Miller and her apology. The


brief apology didn't win her any friends in either the press or


politics. Tory grandee Lord Tebbitt accused her of behaving arrogantly


and called on her to resign, as did former speaker Baroness Boothroyd,


who was disappointed and outraged about it. And the Telegraph followed


up with a second allegation that Mrs Miller flipped her second home in


Wimbledon, designating it as her main residence, avoiding capital


gains tax when she sold it. The Prime Minister, however, resolutely


stood by her insisting she had done the right thing by apologising.


Grassroots Conservatives disagreed. 85% said she should go and, in the


end, they got their way. We are joined now by: Shapps and Chuck A.


Has Maria Miller gone because she has done something wrong or you


could not stand the media and public frenzy for her to go? She was


becoming the story. It prevented any other story, including for example,


the International monetary fund saying we have the fastest growth of


any advanced economy. It was getting in the way. You agree yesterday, the


IMF said, fast growth, number six on the news, Maria number two. It was


getting in the wake of that she thought that was becoming


unsustainable. Did she do anything wrong? That is not for means to say.


The committee said she had to pay back ?5,800 and apologise for the


way in which the information was provided, through a lawyer, I think.


Presumably it was all very legalistic and time-consuming. You


are unable to say whether in your view she did anything wrong or not?


she did something wrong in terms of public opinion. If you read the


report, they come to the conclusion that the rules themselves were also


part of the problem, in addition to anything else. That is why there was


a discrepancy between the Commissioner and the outcome of that


committee. By the way, that was chaired by a Labour MP. They were


definitely have said if it was wrong. Having decided to stick by


her, as the Prime Minister originally did, why was there no


campaign or operation mounted by Downing Street to protect her? I am


talking about in the start. No Cabinet ministers would come


forward. Tory MPs could not come forward. You decided to stick with


her and you left her unprotected. I do not think that is entirely true.


When it is the Prime Minister, that is important. I do also think, our


press is able to go without fear anywhere they want. If your job was


to protect her, that was the original decision taken by your


Prime Minister. Why didn't you make sure and insist she made a


semi-decent apology? A lot has been made of the length of the apology. I


think it is perfectly fair for people to comment upon it. When you


listen to the words, she used the phrase, I unreservedly apologise. I


thought the words were right. I do not know the ins and outs. You did


not know. Downing Street was mounting a protection operation


which, in the end, left her unprotected. We should explain,


somebody's personal statement to the House of Commons is exactly that. It


is a personal statement. The reputation of the Prime Minister is


on the line. He is defending her. Wouldn't you really like to see,


could you just run past us exactly how you will apologise? When you go


to the House of Commons and you speak on a ministerial brief, the


Government brief comic you want to be clear it is collective


responsibility of the Government. On a personal statement can you would


write it down and deliver it. Her political private secretary said it


was a witchhunt in the media. Do you agree with that? I think the media


should and can go anywhere they want to. I think that is a very good


thing. You have no complaints that how the media has handled this in


the past ten days? Gnome. We are all subject to a lot of scrutiny. -- no.


That makes me proud to be British. We live in a country where people


can ask whatever they want and the press can be fearless. I still think


it is very good. You say that but her private Parliamentary Secretary


said it was a witchhunt. She said that in a text message. Her own


special adviser made the link with Leveson, threatening, reminding


newspapers that she was the woman in charge of the Leveson process.


Whether she was or not was another matter. That was the threat. Do you


agree with the behaviour of her special adviser? I have been clear


on this. I do not think it is the media coming to get revenge. Was it


right, to raise Leveson as an issue with the media that was trying to


cover what she was doing with her expenses? When you listen to that


conversation, you realise the bit the forwards about the elderly


father of Maria Miller, who had just come out of hospital and had a


delicate operation. The concern at the time was about press intrusion


into a member of the public 's life. That was not meant to be a threat.


In regard to doorstep in her elderly father. Her father was quite happy


to speak to the press that he joked with them. He had come out of


hospital. He joked with them. There was no threat. They said, had they


had known all of this, they would not have done that. With this


standards committee, made up of MPs, it kind of exonerated or, at least,


substantially reduce the criticisms of the were four Labour MPs on this


committee. They all eat it that way. -- voted that way. There is the


system, this story, Maria Miller, and the way it has been handled by


the Prime Minister. The best thing to say is, this is bad for all of


us. Clearly she is a Conservative Cabinet minister. From the point of


view of your viewers, they put us into the same pot. They are all the


same. This is bad for all of us. We need to change the system. What this


has highlighted, if you like, going to your point about the committee,


there is a perception we are marking our own homework. That is why I


think, ultimately, when these things are being determined, the further


away we are from making a determination of that being seen to


mark our own home work, better. The committee is chaired by a Labour MP.


There is a majority of government MPs on it. You all voted the same


way. I do not think it is a good thing that there is a perception


that there is a gap between where the committee landed and whether


Parliamentary standards Commissioner went. In respect of Maria, one thing


I was surprised by, you cannot underestimate how toxic the expenses


issue is. Never mind retaining her job as Culture Secretary, she will


have a real battle on her hands to keep her seat. How on she would have


found the time to do that and run her department at the same time, I


think from the point of view of A Minister, the problem for him was


there was a perception he was acting in a party interest and not a


national interest. This has been a complete diversion. Grant is


desperate to talk about the IMF. The big economic issue is what he wants


to talk about. To some extent it is a legacy issue. It was an alleged


infraction that took place before the new regime came in. There have


been these complaints about MP should not be marking their own


homework. In the new regime that is now place, if a similar fence on


expenses to place, what would now be the role of the standards committee


of MPs? It would not have a role. That is the key point. People have


been saying all week it is wrong that MPs mark their own homework. It


is very frustrating over expenses. It is one of those stories that,


somehow, has been buried in theirs. Andrew Lansley was on Newsnight last


night. Other MPs have been on the programme. Let me clear it. The fact


of the matter is, if it is post-2010 when the Independent Parliamentary


Standards Authority came in, in future, a case like this would be


reported to someone independent of itself. If they want to appeal the


outcome, it would be going to a lower tier tribunal. That is the


tribunal system useful all sorts of MPs. Another legal process. Until


this case came up, I was not aware of all those details and all of


things. Granted, I came into Parliament under this different


system. It is toxic. This is awful. You decided to defend her and then


did not mount an operation to give her any defence. The lack of


perceived humility was a problem. I understand that. She is different


this morning. She has resigned now. You mentioned her constituency. Well


Giles is in Maria Miller's constituency. Not a very right day


for her in Basingstoke. Do you think she should have gone, and if she


should have gone, should she have gone sooner? I don't think she


should have gone, she apologised and the allegations were unfounded. So I


don't think she should have gone, we have lost a fantastic secretary of


the eight and I think it is a travesty. Who do you blame for it,


her, or is it a media witchhunt? Lots of Tory MPs were saying it is


toxic for us on the doorstep, she has got to go. I don't think she


should have gone, I think the whole thing has been misunderstood. Isn't


it the case it is understood by the public that somebody who got tax


payers money and did not have to pay back what the enormous sum was, only


?5,000. Lots of people have criticised her apology for a seeming


lack of contrition, aren't you a bit disappointed she could have stopped


this before it got out of hand? No, I think Maria handled this extremely


well. There is a lack of understanding about this whole


thing. Do you have any understanding? None whatsoever. She


was caught out. If she had put her hands about the time and said sorry,


I will pay it all back, I made a mistake. Thousands of people signed


a petition to get her out and her own MPs did not stand up with her.


The committee said she had not done anything wrong she just didn't


cooperate fully with the Co-op -- investigation, so what does she put


her hands up to? What is the ?5,000? If she had made an apology


to those people who saved her ?40,000, I can see why do people


turned on her. Will she be in trouble at the next election? Maria


is a fantastic dentist UNC MP. -- constituency MP. When people get to


the ballot is, they will reflect on council tax being kept low. Why were


so many of her colleagues not prepared to put their head over the


parapet? People I have been talking to a very supportive. I am talking


about the person on the street who have come up to me, asked me


questions because they don't understand the thing that has gone


on. When it is explained, they understand and she has their


support. Somebody mentioned this, Nigel Farage, stood in a


constituency and tried to make something of expenses, do you think


we will find him here in 2015? We will find him here tonight. Will he


stand? No, we have a wonderful candidate, Alan Stone. Everyone


loves him and knows him, he will win. That is the word in


Basingstoke. There is a feeling she will bubbly resigned, but why didn't


she go a little bit sooner? Andrew. Let's move on from Maria Miller in


her resignation letter. Letter she said she didn't want her "present


situation become a distraction from the vital work this Government is


doing". Well, we here at the Daily Politics won't allow it to distract


us for the WHOLE programme. So we're going to give Grant a breather and


spend the next few minutes talking about something else entirely. The


International Monetary Fund says the UK economy will be the


fastest-growing in the G7 this year. It says the UK will grow 2.9% in


2014, up from a January estimate of 2.4%, and will see growth of 2.5% in


2015. Chuka you must be delighted we're seeing such robust growth just


a year ahead of the general election?


Their chief economist, at the IMF has admitted we underestimated UK


growth, we got it wrong and so did you? Let's hope his forecasts are


right this time. All economists have this issue. He has admitted he was


overcautious, he underestimated UK growth and Labour did exactly the


same? We have got to ensure everybody gets to share in the


proceeds of that growth. It is a phrase that has been used in the


past and we have people who have faced a big fall in their wages


since 2010 who now want a pay rise. What is the nature of the new


employment created? We have millions of people on zero hours contracts,


1.4 million people working part-time and millions of people working on a


part-time basis who want to be full-time. But there is a structural


issue and that is, we need to change the shape of our labour market,


which is to lower wages and low skill. Compared to the other


countries, there are only four others who have a higher incidence


of low paid, load skill work. That is the challenge we have got. It is


all right having GDP growth, but in terms of peoples lives, it will not


change much. We will come onto that, let's go on to the narrative of


Labour, it was just about growth. You said it was reckless, they are


taking the most reckless, political gamble with the economy, for


political reasons. It has not paid off, it has been catastrophic. Who


said that in January 2013? The argument has always been, not that


there would never be growth, but in 2010 we had falling unemployment. So


who said that? Have a guess. I have no idea. It was Ed Balls. If you let


me finish my sentence. You did not and so my question. I was about two


and the point I was going to make is, we never said there would be no


growth ever. You said flat-lining and growth would be choked off. You


had three years of saying and we will come onto whether it is the


right growth and sustainable, but we had three years of Labour saying it


was a flat-lining economy and it was choking off any recovery and any


recovery would be minimal. 2.9% this year before returning to its


long-term trend of 2.5%. Annual rate of growth in Dring, the strongest in


three years. Isn't this investment is predicted to be at 7%. Higher


than it was before the crash. Where is the catastrophe? Where is the


choking off of any recovery? There was three years of witty much no


growth. That was the choking off of growth we were referring to. Let's


hope the business investment figures pick-up because what we were


promised was a business investment led recovery. Figures are unchanged


compared to January and the last three months. We have seen trade


falling, particularly in goods. The OBR are saying it will make no net


country fusion to growth. In terms of business investment, we have not


seen the business investment we would have hoped. Danny Alexander


has tried to cajole business and it has not happened. We were promised


an export on business in the economy and that has not happened. Let's


pick up on the type of recovery. You talked about the labour market.


Let's look at the wealth divide and the gap in inequality. The IMF warns


about that and if it does not close, there are long-term problems for the


future. That is what is happening under this government. It is


important gap in inequality does close. Something which was missed


last year, I only saw the independent report it, but the gap


between rich and poor has closed since 1986, I think it was. One of


the things that has helped, raising the bar so you don't pay income tax


up to the first ?10,000. It will be even higher next year and that has


put more money into the pockets of people who are hardest up. We have


had a long-term economic plan which has led to this growth, we have held


our nerve and created a situation where we had more jobs in this


country, 30 million. But the number of part-time jobs and people want


more hours? I do accept those things, but there are fewer 0-hour


contracts hours now than there were in 2010. No they're not. The ONS


statistics work were less than 200,000 in 2010, the most recent


statistics is there are over half a million and they will revisit those


figures. They are disputed figures anyway. They are not, it is the ONS.


0-hours contract is something that needs to be addressed. Let's look at


the inequality gap which the IMF said will be there unless it is


sorted out. It is important people have jobs. Another charge that has


been made is these are all sometime part-time jobs. They are not, the


majority are full-time jobs and they are going to people from overseas.


They are not. It is an accusation often made and it is untrue. Nine


out of ten of these jobs are going to British people. It will soon be


PMQs. Those of you who have been through Maria Miller's expenses with


a fine tooth comb will note that the former Culture Secretary is partial


to a spot of crockery. The good news Maria, is you'll now have more time


to watch the Daily Politics and get your hands on one of these beauties.


Every cloud has a silver lining. But remember you'll have to be in it to


win it. Very naughty. But let's see if you


can remember when this happened. # Alone...why must I be alone?


Prince Charles made history by being the first royal to go to this


school. To be in with a chance, send your


answers to our e-mail address: You can see the full terms and


conditions on our website. It's coming up to midday here, just


take a look at Big Ben. That can mean only one thing... Yes, Prime


Minister's Questions is on its way. If you'd like to comment on


proceedings, and try and be polite! We will try and read some out


later. Nick Robinson is here. How does this play out PMQs? A phrase


that the Prime Minister will be reminded of is, let's leave it


there. Meaning his reaction to the Maria Miller affair, is it is over,


let's leave it. Ed Miliband will say it is a mistake. He realises the


political class have still not, " got it" and there are more changes


required to do with expenses. I think the Prime Minister will have a


bit to say about the detail of why he did defend Maria Miller and some


indication of where we might go next in terms of expenses. Let's go


straight over to the House of Commons now.


Immigration is down by a third and at its lowest level since 1998. We


have seen 2.2 million people over two years. That was unacceptable and


we are getting the situation under control. Speaking recently with a


constituent of mine who has been diagnosed with dementia, she was


frightened about what the future might hold for her. It has made


great progress and comes to an end this month. Will the primers to give


personal assurances is a new dimension framework will be put in


place as soon as possible? -- dementia. I can give my honourable


friend that Ashour rinse. We will treat it like a disease, like cancer


or heart disease. We will make sure local communities are more dementia


friendly. We will continue to use our position in the G-7 to push for


this issue globally as well. Mr Speaker, the events of the last week


have caused deep concern and anger to the public. What lessons does the


Prime Minister -- has the Prime Minister learned from his handling


of the situation? There is still very deep concern, public concern


which is very raw about the expenses scandal which rocked this Parliament


and the last parliament. That anger is still very raw and it needs to be


acted upon. I hope the one lesson that will not be learned, the right


thing to do as soon as someone as to answer allegations, is that they


will be allowed to do that. I was asking about his handling of the


situation and the lessons he learned and he had no answer. He wrote in


his letter to the Culture Secretary today, I think it is important to be


clear that the committee on standards clear due of the unfounded


allegations made against you. Can he now explain what, in his view, the


Culture Secretary did wrong? The Culture Secretary set out the


reasons for her resignation in her letter. He makes an important point.


The Culture Secretary was accused of a very serious offence, which was by


a member of Parliament. She was accused of housing her parents at


the public expense. She was cleared of that allegation. I thought it was


right. Others can take their own view. I thought it was right. We


needed to allow her to make her apology and continue with her job.


That is the way I think is the right way to handle it. Others can take


their own view. If people cleared themselves of a serious offence, you


let them get on with their job and try to do their job. That is the


right thing to do. I have to say to him, it is completely unclear why


the Culture Secretary is still not in her job because he think she did


nothing wrong. Let me explain to him. Order! This session will be


conducted in an orderly way, however long it takes. I happen to know


there are children here today observing proceedings who would like


to think the House would show a good example. Let's see if we can. What


she did wrong was refused to cooperate with an inquiry, she broke


the code of conduct for MPs and gave a perfunctory and inadequate apology


to the House. He said six days ago she had done the right thing and we


should leave it at that. Does he now recognise this was a terrible error


of judgment? I think it was right to allow her the chance to get on with


her job. There is one weakness in the argument of the right honourable


gentleman. If he thinks this was the case, why did he not call on her to


resign? In my view, he seems to be the first leader of the opposition


probably in history, to come to this house and make the first suggestion


that someone should resign after they have already resigned. I have


heard everything! It is my job to fire members of his own Cabinet.


This is about him and the fact he still does not understand what he


did wrong. -- she did wrong. If it had happened in any other business,


there would be no question about staying in their job. Why was he the


last person in the country to realise the position was untenable?


She did do something strong and that is why she was asked to apologise


and she did. It was not right not to cooperate properly with the


committee and she apologised for that. It is rather extraordinary,


the right honourable gentleman, in coming here saying she should have


resigned. It shows all the signs of someone seeing a political bandwagon


and wanting to jump on it. He is jumping on this bandwagon after the


whole circus has left town. Where I agree with the right honourable


gentleman is that there is still more that needs to be done to deal


with the problems of expenses that we suffered in the last Parliament.


We have made some big steps forward. I am not sure everyone knows this.


Any expense complaint from 2010 onwards is dealt with by an


independent body and not dealt with by MPs. That is right. The committee


of MPs that does the work on the path cases now has mothers of the


public sitting on it. That is right. I accept, let us do more to reassure


the public about the scandal of expenses and how we are dealing with


it. I am happy to hold meetings with party leaders, authorities of this


house, I think it is right we should do everything we can to show that


this is a good and honest Parliament with good and hard working people in


it. That is the assumption I'd start off and I make no apology for that.


The Prime Minister describes it as a bandwagon and a circus. Let me


actually... This is about the members of this country absolutely


appalled by the conduct of his government over the last week. That


is what it is about. It is about members of the public who cannot


understand why he did not act. He said in his forward to the


Ministerial Code, British people expect high standards of conduct and


we must not let them down. Does he not recognise that his failure to


recognise what went wrong has undermined trust, not just in his


government, but in politics? He came here today determined to play


politics in every single way he could. Absolutely clear. Since


2010... The Prime Minister 's answer must and will be heard. Members


across this house would know, since 2010, since the last Parliament, a


lot of changes have been made. Independent members on the


Parliamentary committee, publications of meetings, visits and


gifts for ministers, publication of special adviser salaries,


publication of government spending. Is there more to do? Absolutely. If


he is serious about doing it, he will sit down with other party


leaders, the authorities of this House, and letters ask what we can


do to put beyond doubt this is a good and honest Parliament with


hard-working people. If he wants to play politics and he wants a good


sound bite on the news, carry on. If you are serious, get serious. I will


have meetings with him any time about how we will reform the systems


of this House. Of course I will. He just does not get it. That is what


he has shown today. He needs to learn profound lessons. The Culture


Secretary went, not because of bad conduct, but because of bad press.


He promised to be an apostle of better standards and he has been an


apologist for unacceptable behaviour. If the right honourable


gentleman thinks that you should not give someone a chance to get on with


their job, that is not leadership, that is weakness. If that is his


recommendation of leadership, I do not think the country will have any


of it. With the Prime Minister agree with me, and the people living


in... Order! There should not be a collective groan. The honourable


gentleman is good-humoured. The House will hear the honourable


gentleman. That is much better. Will the Prime Minister agree with me


that people living in rural Britain have as much right to decent quality


and safe health care as anyone else? Will he helped to intervene directly


if he does and help me personally to ensure the Morecambe Bay hospitals


trust does not downgrade or sell-off the hospital? Representing a wall or


constituency I know how important it is for access to health services. I


know how important it is to get Health and Social Care Bill is his


to work together. He asked me to look into the specifics and I am


happy to do that. In the light of this week 's historic visit by the


Irish president to the UK, building a legacy and the historic visit of


her Majesty in 2011, would be Prime Minister agree that Anglo - Irish


relationships have never been stronger and to build lasting


reconciliation across the islands we need backing by his government and


the Irish government to ensure the potential prospects are delivered


and implemented? First of all, can I strongly agree that it is a landmark


visit of the Irish president to this country, coming three years after


the extraordinary visit by the Queen to the Republic of Ireland. I would


agree that Anglo /Irish relations are at an all-time high. We are


absolutely committed to building on that relationship and all the time


of thinking of new things that Britain and Ireland can do as good


neighbours and good friends. In terms of the talks, I do think it


would be good to make progress on that issue. That is something


parties in Northern Ireland have started and I would urge them to


continue. On the day when Woman's Our has put Rahman at number three


on the power list, it is challenging to suggest that women are


underrepresented in science and engineering careers. What is his


response... ? The honourable gentleman will be heard. The


opposition does not regard this as a serious matter. What is his response


to the thoughtful report published last week? Can I pay tribute to my


right honourable friend the campaigning and working so hard on


this issue? It is important for the future of our country, not just for


gender equality but the economic future to get women into Stem


subjects and engineering. I support the National Centre target of


doubling numbers of female engineering graduates by 2013. We're


working with employers, professional bodies and academic institutions to


implement the Perkins review. One of the most powerful things is role


models. Did the Prime Minister or any of his staff ask the right


honourable member for Basingstoke to resign her position as Culture


Secretary and, if not, should he have? She has set out the reasons


for her resignation in a letter she set out today and I think people


should accept that. I have even the best answers I could in my attitude


and working with colleagues in giving them a chance to get on with


their jobs. That is the right approach. Thanks to this government


is long-term economic plan... Youth unemployment has been cut by 42% in


my constituency. Does the Prime Minister think the opening of a new


university technical College and a new, free sixth form College in


Salisbury will enhance the ability of young people in South Wilts to


compete in the global race? My honourable friend is entirely right


in every word. Because what we see is a decline in youth unemployment.


The figures in Salisbury and in the south-west are remarkable. The


long-term youth claimant count has come down by 37%. What we need to


further drive down youth unemployment is make sure training


opportunities and education is there and that is why university technical


colleges are important. Youth unemployment is still too high, when


we strip out those in full-time education it is 8.7%. It is lower


than the EU average, but it is still too high. My constituents, Paul


Cowdrey is to lose his home at the raising concerns of over charging by


solicitor, Michael Sandler. This solicitor found a loophole in which


he could sue my complaining for complaining. The authority have


described Michael Sandler as morally reprehensible but are powerful to


act. Will the Prime Minister look this case and intervene to stop


solicitors are running rings around their regulators? I will be happy to


look into this. The legal ombudsman, which were improved over


previous years are independent of government. It is not possible to


intervene directly but I can arrange a meeting between him and the


Minister for legal services to discuss what remedies are open to


his constituent. I will put that in place. The Prime Minister for


Pakistan is due to visit the United Kingdom later this month. Will the


Prime Minister discussed with him the reform of blasphemy laws in


Pakistan which are used to prosecute and persecute the minority


community, including the Christian community. And Will the Prime


Minister make sure all of those people who are prosecuted under


these laws get justice, including a British national? I will certainly


raise that issue with the Prime Minister when he comes to this


country. In the run-up to Easter it is worth remembering how many


Christians are persecuted around the world. It is an important issue and


I am looking over to meeting with the Pakistan leadership. Is the


Prime Minister were that for 3 million, low income families, for


every ?3 they gain through the higher personal tax allowance, they


will lose ?2 straightaway through universal credit. Isn't the Prime


Minister giving with one hand but taking away from low-paid Britain


with the other? I think the honourable gentleman is profoundly


wrong. The point about universal credit is it you will always keep a


reasonable share of any extra pound earned. Difference between universal


credit and the last system is you off than face people with over 100%


marginal tax rates when they were in work. That is what universal credit


will change and that is why I thought the party opposite were in


favour of universal credit, but if they have changed their mind on


that, they should tell us. The number of apprenticeship starts in


my constituency is at a record high. I am hoping -- holding another


apprenticeship fair in Raleigh Regis. Will the Prime Minister agree


that investing in apprenticeship skills is important in the economic


plan to give people in the Black Country to give the skills they need


to get good quality jobs and secure their future? I join my honourable


friend in what he said. We have seen 180,000 apprenticeships start under


this government and we are on target the 2 million under this Parliament.


I want to make sure we grow apprenticeships and see an increase


in the quality of apprenticeships and there is better information for


young people in school about deciding the pathway they want to


take. Whether they want to take an academic pathway through university


or look at apprenticeships. We will be doing more on this front. Despite


the progress achieved in Northern Ireland, recent polls find 67% of 16


to 24-year-olds think their future lies outside of Northern Ireland and


the youth that local politicians could not agree in the future. Does


the Prime Minister agree this should be an wake-up call to start showing


real leadership to inspire young people and give them hope for a


better future in Northern Ireland? Can I pay tribute to the honourable


lady for the work she does on this front? Anyone who believes change is


not possible or politicians cannot rise to a challenge in Northern


Ireland would have been struck, as I was, seeing Martin McGuinness around


the table at the banquet with the Queen last night. People have come a


huge way and we need to continue with that vital work, including the


work to fight racism and sectarianism. We need politicians in


Northern Ireland to build a shared future, take down those walls, make


sure the economy can grow and opportunities are there for everyone


in Northern Ireland. 35,000 runners in last year's The London Marathon


raised ?53 million for good causes. I will be running again this


Sunday, but I am running for the Forget-me-not children's hospital in


Huddersfield. Over the cornflakes this morning I saw and attract a


picture of my honourable friend in his shorts and the Shadow Chancellor


in a curiouser pair of black leggings. I know a number of


colleagues in this House, I have to say I'd bow down to you, 26 miles is


a long way to go. I cannot manage it but full of admiration for the money


you raise the excellent causes and pay tribute to all members on all


sides of the House. My constituents, Sue Martin is suffering from MJ and


is waiting for her claim to be processed. She has to borrow from


her 84-year-old mother to get by. All delays in these benefits are


unacceptable. What we are trying to do with the Personal Independence


Payment, is introduced it gradually so we can ensure decision-making is


good. Last week, I was privileged to meet a Holocaust survivor. Is the


Prime Minister aware of any reported persecution happening today, ethnic


cleansing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A gentle religious Islamic


tolerant people who educate their sons and their daughters. Would he


meet with a member concerned with this to discuss this situation? We


should be absolutely clear the Afghanistan we have been supporting


and will continue to support must be a multiracial and multiethnic


Afghanistan, that includes different nationalities that make up that


country. It is vital for its future. I am happy to look at the


evidence he has and arrange any appropriate meetings. 2400 jobs have


been destroyed in Leicester, Corby and last Friday, 650 in Newport by


one, single firm that specialises in cynically buying up firms, degrading


the pay and conditions of their staff and then abandoning them to


unemployment. What protection is the government planning to give to those


blameless people, hard workers, who suffer from the scourge of this new,


vulture capitalism? I am happy to look at the individual case he


raises. But the situation in terms of jobs in the UK, if you look at


last week we have had eight hours and jobs from Birmingham City


airport, 12,000 jobs from Asda, over 1000 jobs from Vodafone. What we are


seeing is businesses wanting to locate in Britain, take people on in


Britain and grow in Britain. If he has an example of bad practice, I am


happy to look at it. In 1967, the abortion time limit was set at 28


weeks. In 1990 this was reduced to 24 weeks. Given it is now 2014, a


quarter of a century onwards, and given recent breakthroughs in


antenatal and neonatal care, does the Prime Minister agree it is now


time to reduce the abortion term limit to 22 weeks? I have always


made my personal views on this clear and there have been opportunities in


Parliament to vote. It is always open to members of Parliament to


bring forward legislation, amend existing bills and for the House to


debate this. It will continue on this side, and as on the other side


to be an entirely free vote issue. Did the Prime Minister or any member


of his Cabinet Aske at the member for Basingstoke to resign? The


member for Basingstoke took her own decision and has communicated that


decision in a letter. I think the members opposite should respect that


decision. A cloud hangs over the job prospects of 700 mine workers in my


constituency. Can the Prime Minister assure the House this government is


doing everything it can to ensure the future for that pit and those


livelihoods? I can give him that assurance. It is important, despite


the difficulties UK coal faces, the government should do everything it


can within the rules, to look at help and assistance we can give. I


am being kept up-to-date on their sometimes on a daily basis and I can


assure him it is getting the government's attention. In the


spirit of the positive case for the union, can the Prime Minister give


us his view as to which -- which of the fourth Horseman of the


apocalypse will descend on an independent Scotland? My view is a


positive one about what this United Kingdom has achieved together in the


past and what we can achieve in the future. The ones about take a


selfish view about the future are sitting on the bench is over there.


The Surgeon General of the Armed Forces has raised concerns over the


impact of longer, NHS waiting times on soldiers based in Wales. Does the


Prime Minister agree NHS outcomes for my constituents, including


soldiers, are not good enough and the Welsh government could be


undermining the operations of the Armed Forces and are potentially in


breach of the military covenant? I think my honourable friend makes an


important point. We have seen an 80% cut to the budget in Wales to the


NHS. The last time A targets are met was 2000 mine. The last time


cancer treatments were met was 2008 and over a third of people miss out


to access of diagnostic services within eight weeks. There is a


dreadful record when it comes to Labour's NHS in Wales. You see a


huge contrast with the NHS in England, properly funded, well-run


and meeting key targets and then the shambles that is in Wales. Five


years ago in one of the worst seen since the Good Friday agreement, my


constituents, Sapper, Patrick as an part and his colleague, Mark Quincey


was shot and killed outside their barracks in County Antrim. Their


families still await justice. Will the Prime Minister look at this case


and also into the use of different trials in Northern Ireland? Can I


take this opportunity to express my sympathy to the families of


soldiers. It was a despicable terrorist attack and I share the


desire the perpetrators are to justice. Just because we are trying


to deal with the legacies of the past does not mean crimes that have


been committed should not eat properly prosecuted and those


responsible can big. I know the Secretary of State for Northern


Ireland met the soldiers parents to discuss their concerns. The trial


system in Northern Ireland was abolished in 2007 and allowed


revisions for non-jury trials only in specific circumstances. Reviews


will take place as to whether they can be renewed in 2015. People in


Rossendale and Darwin would have been reassured this week to see the


IMF upgrades the country's growth forecast. However, would my right


honourable friend agreed that there would be more reassurance to know


our long-term economic plan is working in East Lancashire by the


announcement this week by red rose dry lining they have created 30 new


apprenticeships? I think my honourable friend makes an important


point. When we look at what has been happening, we can see the AMF saying


the UK will grow faster than any G-7 country, jobs at Birmingham, Asda


and Vodafone, the trade deficit is falling. Employment is rising,


Britain is on its way back. During the committee stayed of the legal


aid punishment offenders act, the Prime Minister assured the committee


those refused legal aid would still apply under the new exceptional


funding scheme. He said it was a vital safeguard. From April to


December 20 13, family law applications have been made, eight


has been allowed. What kind of safeguard is that? I will cases he


raises, but we have to make sure our legal aid system is affordable. When


we compared our legal aid system with other common law countries we


still spent more than Australia, New Zealand or others. He shakes his


head but it is no good for members of all in to vote against every


single spending decision but not recognise we have to get our deficit


down in order to help the economy recover. Will Prime Minister take a


few minutes over the Easter recess to read the winning entry in the


Institute of economic affairs competition which was announced last


night. If he does, I am sure it will give my right honourable friend some


good ideas as to why leaving the European Union should become part of


our long-term economic plan. My honourable friend and I agree on


many things, but I am afraid this isn't one of them. I will happily


look at the pamphlet as a potential piece of holiday reading and see how


it competes with other alternatives, perhaps the novel for


my honourable friend from Beds. Order.


The leader of the on position -- opposition tried to turn it into a


matter of judgment. Was he the last person in Britain to believe her


position was still tenable? Up with the line the opposition took. The


Prime Minister defended his position. -- that was the line. He


did not answer any questions from the Labour backbenchers asked what


pressure was put on to Mrs Miller yesterday to fall onto her own


sword. Let's hear what you heard about all of this. Dozens of e-mails


on Maria Miller. The issue at the core of the Parliamentary expenses


row is not the rules or the adjudication of the rules. The core


issue is the morality of parliamentarians. Debra says,


neither leader performed very well. This one saying that MPs should


commit expenses for scrutiny by an independent assessor before they are


paid. Maria Miller, ?45,000, how many people 's workplace benefits to


this involves? Helen Manning says, Ed and Dave arguing that MPs


fiddling expenses is ridiculous. They are all at it. I wonder what


the children sitting on the benches think! Who did go to see Maria


Miller yesterday to advise her to fall on her sword? My answer is she


came to the conclusion that it was in the way of everything else. The


Prime Minister said it there. It was her decision. Let me say, my


understanding is it was entirely her decision. The Prime Minister stood


by her on the basic principle that the claim had been made -- the claim


that had been made against had been thrown out. She came to the


conclusion to resign. Someone went to see her. She may have come to her


own decision. There is a fatuous verse about this each time someone


resigns. Was she pushed or did she jump? Can these think of a single


time when someone has said, actually, I was shocked? They have


to come to an agreement, and accommodation. There had to be words


written in letters and said in public to make sure the person going


is content. What David Cameron gave to Maria Miller, and I think he


believes it, he gave her praise in his letter. He said she had been a


Good Minister included on the central charge. He wanted to see her


back in office. I have no doubt someone did have a conversation and


say what the Prime Minister will have to go through tomorrow to


defend you. This happened again and again under the left premiership. Do


not make the Prime Minister stand up and defend you, which he is willing


to do, do not make him do that and then go a few hours later. And you


put him in an absolutely impossible position. If you are going to go,


go, because then, at least, there is clarity. I do not think they will


get the boat off, what she pushed? Is clear somebody had a conversation


to say it was pretty bad. -- it is clear. All Prime Ministers find


themselves in this position when a minister is attacked. The lines were


not clearly cut. The standards committee agreed something different


to what the commissioner had claimed against her. They stick with the


Prime Minister, with their Cabinet minister. After a while, the


pressure from the press or the public or new development... It


happened to Mr Blair, Mr Brown and has now happened to Mr Cameron. It


is a way of life. Some of the 1922 Committee may have said he employed


at that time to he is impacted by the Mitchell affair. Once the error


was exacerbated by the perfunctory apology, after that point, it was


going to go in the direction it has headed today. The problem for the


Prime Minister, I think, if you're watching this programme, this has


consumed the Government in many respects for the last six days.


Remember with Peter Mandelson. Actually twice. There does come a


point where you need to make a decision about these things. Is Mr


Miliband becomes Prime Minister, at some stage the same thing will


happen to him? It could be anybody. It could be anybody. I'm not going


to sit here and claim these decisions are easy. I am not doing


that. It is a matter of leadership. It is the perfunctory apology, the


accusation of seeking to believe the Parliamentary standards Commissioner


and the substance of the allegations. I think, to allow that


to consume and dominate your government, goes against your


judgment. Someone was leaning on her to go. The only way the Prime


Minister could have got out of this... He was asked it in a most


loyal way. He was asked if any member of the Cabinet sought to do


that? The reason why Nick, myself and Joe are suspicious is that by


the time this had reached a crescendo against Maria Miller, the


least bad way out of this for the premise was for her to fall on her


sword. That is probably the case all the way through. Pressure had


increased. It was probably true from day one. He is not that kind of


Prime Minister. He leads by saying, I wanted to get on with the job and


do it to the best of your abilities. I had been a minister


under this Prime Minister for the last four years. He does not try to


intervene on the day-to-day approach. That has been a good


thing. The good thing about this government is that ministers have


been able to get ahead of their briefs, understand them and put them


in place. Not like the days of ministers will come in place. Not


like the days of ministers were coming for nine months and move on.


The whole thing about this, it is a perception issue. It looks


absolutely awful. The point of view of the Prime Minister, the


perception is going to be that he did not act in the interests of


Maria Miller. Someone did see Maria Miller to talk about that perception


yesterday afternoon. I was just asking Grant. I do not have the


answer to that. Maria has been clear that she came to the decision that


was overshadowing... You are the commentators. You will spend no


doubt the rest of the day discussing who, when and how. As far as I am


aware, she came to the decision on when. -- her own. It is good the


system has changed about expenses. It cannot be said enough, the system


of MPs judging each other has gone. That was possibly the most


interesting thing about Prime Minister's Questions. It was not


particularly surprising that Mr Miliband said what he said. Many


people would have been saying, you tell, we are very cross. It was not


surprising. What was surprising was for the Prime Minister to use that


phrase, a good and honest parliament and to use it more than once. It is


a bold thing to do. Some MPs hate the fact that one particular case


ends up smearing their reputations. I was interested that he was willing


to do that. If you put two the public an opinion poll that


question, I do not think that would be their opinion. In a government


already seriously short of e-mail Cabinet ministers, you have now got


one fewer. -- female. That is true. I cannot argue with the fact. Nicky


Morgan has been promoted within the Treasury. She is not in the Cabinet


that she will go to the Cabinet to represent women. It means you will


have a non-Cabinet minister going to the Cabinet to represent women,


which, I guess a lot of people will think, we know where your priorities


are. It is not as unusual as people think. Most people do not realise


the Chief Whip is a member of the Cabinet. The system of people


attending cabinet at a very high level... Why has the Prime Minister


chosen to put in mail into this position? It is often said, there is


a shortage of Tory women. Particularly with the 2010 intake.


On both sides of the House it is true. Robert the House it is true.


Robert Beam also with Labour. There are a whole list of formidable


Tory women but none of them have been considered with the Prime


Minister. What is his problem? You are right to point out the female


talent within the Conservative Party. There are many at the middle


ranks of government as well. If I had been sat here and a woman had


been promoted into that job, without a shadow of a doubt, you would be


saying, Grant Shapps, why has he promoted women are not the best


person available for the job? Had it been any of the ones I had names, I


would not have been asking that question? The Prime Minister has the


looking around to find out who would be the best person to fill the


position. White Venger if the woman had been put into the job, it would


only have been because she was a woman and not because she was good


enough. -- if a woman. That is not what I am saying at all. Good try.


What I am saying is, you look for the best person for the role. Sajid


happens to be the person he thinks is most suitable for the job. There


is still time to have a cabinet with other talents. The Conservative


Party has a lamentable record for this. The people who have perhaps


the worst record in the House of Commons oil coalition partners. That


adds to the fact there are only a few women in the Cabinet. Anybody


who has a Welsh connection will be getting the job that Maria Miller


was pencilled in for after the reshuffle. Who has the current


connection? We will leave you to go and find out and who made the visit


to Maria Miller yesterday. Should prisoners have free access to


guitars and books serving time? The government says restrictions on


parcels prisoners received helps to keep prisons drug free. It is


introduced restrictions on prisoners having steel ring to guitars in


their cells. Billy Bragg tells us why he thinks they are a vital part


of rehabilitation. Guitars and books are my lifeblood


and they have been important to prisoners also. For the past seven


years I have been involved in Jail Guitar Doors and they have delivered


guitars to prisoners all over the UK. We believe music can help


offenders to engage in rehabilitation and the prisoners we


work with recognise the value of creative expression in helping


offenders come to terms with the crimes they have committed. New


rules introduced by Chris Grayling threaten to undermine our work by


banning inmates from using steel strung guitars in their cells. If


they can only get their hands on a guitar once a week, the chances of


making progress are slim. Our initiative relies on other inmates


seen a guitar being played on their landing and asking to join the


programme as a result. The government has also tightened rules


across prisons on parcels offenders can receive, effectively banning


them from receiving books from family and friends. Chris Grayling


says the public want to see a regime that is more spartan, unless you do


the right thing. I believe people should be punished for their crimes,


but we ask to -- have to ask ourselves whether we want is a


prison that rehabilitates offenders or one that leads them without


rehabilitation. # Redemption song.


Billy Bragg is with us now. There was a question asked about the


banning of steel string guitars and electric guitars in prisons. Have


you had an ants? No, apparently there is a 20 day time. There is a


whole list. What else is on the list? Lots of things, it seems to be


geared to making the prison experience a more Spartan. The


problem with that is, in my experience, in the 50 prisons I have


been in in the last seven years, each prison is an island in itself.


Although they are different categories, they have different


regimes. The way that works is it you have to give someone on the


ground in the prison the right to decide what can and cannot be done.


I believe it should be an issue for the governor of the prison rather


than the Minister of Justice to be managing from above. Presumably the


main thrust of the reason is safety? Is there a feeling that guitar


strings could be used as a dangerous weapon? Of course and there are some


prisons to get guitars into. There are unacceptable levels of self harm


going on. You want to be careful about what you introduce so we do


tend to send keyboards. But every prison we send guitars to make a


security assessment. Sometimes I sit down and meet with the security


staff to talk about these things. Every prison House to have


protocols, but also who will be allowed to use the instruments. But


it should be an issue to the governor and not the government?


What do you say about back Grant Shapps? Why should it be Chris


Grayling's assessment? The problem with books, not so sure about


guitars. It has never happened. It has never happened so there is not a


case? It has never happened. There are things you can hide in books. We


are talking about parcels, but answer the question about guitars


and strings, if there has never been an incident reported and presumably


Billy Bragg would know, wide ban it? Things have to be brought into


prisons and they have to be scammed. Then there is the issue of people


having access to things they would be able to do on the outside and the


point of risen is to restrict some freedoms. I know Chris Grayling's


view, but you should earn these things done automatically have the


right to access them. With the books, they are freely available


from a library from which you can order virtually any book that you


want. It has been a bit misreported. Parcels could contain other things.


That is different to musical instruments unless you are stuffing


stuff into the guitars. If they are left to borrow books from the


library, why is that a big deal? I have fixed in prison in my


constituency and one of our problems is we have people bear for a short


term. It is like a revolving door and it is hard to rehabilitate in


that situation. And so the spin about this book announcement, the


more books people are reading in that the more rehab we see


happening. The issue is, the announcement Chris may did not talk


about smuggling drugs, that came after the event. It came with a view


to appearing tough on prisoners. Being tough can be


counter-productive because you are trying to rehabilitate people using


books? I believe people should do the time if they have done the


crime, totally. The punishment is losing your liberty. Once we have


people in custody on the state, it costs more to keep a prisoner behind


a jail door than it does to privately educate a child. One of


the things we should he doing is making it an issue of privation. You


can't have probation and less you can read and write. I agree with


that, but the issue is not having an access to books, you can take the


library book out. If it is not there, you can order it. With


guitars there is an opportunity to engage prisoners. You cannot keep


beating people with a stick, otherwise we will end up like the


USA where we are just warehousing criminality. We should be taking


every opportunity to ensure Abbas Khan whatever viewers might feel at


home, 75% of people in prison will come out and they may come and live


next door to you. Don't you want them to be rehabilitated? I do, I am


paying for the service. You are absolutely right about the


rehabilitation, it is the way it is done, not allowing goods into


prisons which could cause harm. Billy Bragg, thanks very much. Women


in the Cabinet, France, 52%, Sweden, 52%, Germany, 37, the USA,


36, Rwanda 36, the United Kingdom, 13.6% and Maria Miller has resigned.


Was it the length and fashion of her Parliamentary apology that made her


more enemies than friends? Apparently there is an art to saying


sorry. There is no easy way to say this. We made a pledge, we did not


stick to it, and for that I am sorry. I sincerely, sincerely,


sincerely apologise. I accept mistakes were made and I should not


allow the impression of wrongdoing to arise. I am very sorry for that.


I therefore apologise to the House. I have apologised to the police, I


have apologised to the police officer involved on the gate Handy


has accepted my apology. I hope very much we can draw a line and leave it


there. It was a moment of madness for which I have paid a heavy price


and I am deeply sorry. I apologise to the House fully and unreservedly


which was a breach of the rules which I have at all times, sort to


comply with. I have missed is leading you, including my wife and I


deeply regret that. It all depends what the meaning is. Do you think a


more heartfelt and fulsome apology would have saved Maria Miller? It


wasn't a very convincing apology from Maria Miller. The brevity of it


did not help. But it was the blandness of the language. She is a


churchgoer, apparently if she had reached into the book of Common


prayer, and use more interesting language, that would have cut


through and made us think she was actually sorry. But she used


terribly boring official language and it contributed a large part.


What is the art of a good apology? To be unusual helps. But I


understand the speaker hast to approve. John Bercow would have had


to look at it and say it is fine. He has to look at it make sure there is


nothing unparliamentary. But it would not done Parliamentary to use


more expressive language. Look at Bill Clinton, he was so plainly


hamming it up. What did Benjamin Franklin say about apologies? I have


no idea. Never ruin an apology with an excuse. That might be a good


point also. 32 seconds, and even shorter one might have been better,


but I am truly, humbly contrite. You could go along the Japanese banker


line and have somebody entering at the far end of the House, grovelling


and bowing on the floor to the speaker. That might be a bit too


far. But there was a Scottish cardinal about two years ago who


resigned in a memorable way and talked about his own fears and then


said he was going to pray and pray for people. That was done more


convincingly than Maria Miller. When Henry IV apologise to Pope Gregory


the seventh for church state conflicts in 1077, how did he


apologise? I dread to think. You need to ask your parents to get


their money back from your school fees. He stood barefoot in the snow


the three days. Is that a lesson for Maria Miller? Imagine if anyone


follows that advice, you will have a good sketch to write. Where does the


word apology come from? It is Greek. It means defence. So Latin wasn't


your strong point at school. Now time for the cancer to Guess The


Year, it was back in 1957 when Quentin was in short trousers. That


is because he was a public school. Press the button to see who has one.


That is it, thanks to our guests. The one o'clock news is starting on


BBC One. I will be back tomorrow as usual. Goodbye.


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