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Hello and welcome to
the Daily Politics.
in the Westminster bullying scandal
as allegations against
Labour's Shadow Work
and Pensions Secretary
lead her to stand aside,
and MPs call for an investigation
into John Bercow's
actions as Speaker.
As Theresa May convenes her
National Security Council,
could we be close to the government
apportioning blame to Russia
for the poisoning of a former
Russian double agent,
Sergei Skripal, and his daughter?
are entering their third week
of strike action over planned
changes to pensions.
We'll be on the picket
lines talking to staff
and the students affected.
Comic Relief raise millions
of pounds for charities
across the globe and in
the UK but does it harm
the image of Africa?
One MP thinks so.
He'll tell us why.
A billion people reduced to just
one prevailing image -
mothers, desperate, crying,
worried for their children.
All that in the next hour,
and with us for the whole
of the programme today
Dame Margaret Hodge,
former Labour culture minister,
and Tom Tughendhat, the chairman
of the Foreign Affairs
First today, bullying allegations
hang over Westminster this morning.
In a dramatic development last
night, the Labour Party
announced that Shadow Work
and Pensions Secretary
Debbie Abrahams had stood down
from her front-bench role
while bullying allegations
against her were investigated.
She refutes the claims and hit back
at Jeremy Corbyn's office accusing
them of ten months of "aggressive"
and "intimidating" behaviour.
At the same time, some MPs
are calling for an investigation
into the Speaker John Bercow
after allegations surfaced about his
treatment of a clerk in his office.
He also strongly denies the claims.
Our political correspondent
Ben Wright can tell us more.
Ben, can we go back to the Shadow
Work and Pensions Secretary, Debbie
Abrahams, before she was either
forced to step aside or decided to
step aside herself. What is actually
Was very strange. Last
night, suddenly the Labour Party put
out a statement that Debbie Abrahams
had stepped aside while this
employment issue was investigated
and almost immediately there was a
counter statement by Debbie
Abrahams, completely taking Labour's
statement apart. She said that she
had not agreed to stand down. She
completely denied any allegations of
bullying and she accused some people
in the Labour leader's office of
aggressive, intimidating and wholly
unprofessional behaviour. She said
they had demonstrated a bully and
culture of the worst kind so she hit
back really strongly. This thing
erupted out of the blue on what had
clearly been an internal Labour
Party matter, and it has submitted a
come public in the most edifying
Have they fallen out, Debbie
Abrahams on the leader's office?
think they clearly have, if you take
Debbie Abrahams' statement at face
value. There is a real problem here.
But she has been a member of Jeremy
Corbyn's team we think relatively
harmoniously for the last two of
three years. She has been Shadow
Work and Pensions Secretary for two
years and seen to be working well as
part of the team but something has
gone very awry in how the Labour
Party internally are handling what I
am told are more than two
independent, separate complaints
about Debbie Abrahams' behaviour.
She completely denies any allegation
at all that she has been involved in
bullion. There has been no reaction
about this. We haven't heard from
Jeremy Corbyn Debbie Abrahams but I
noticed in the last few minutes that
Andy Burnham, Labour's mayor of
greater Manchester, said that Debbie
deserve much better than this and
has been very loyal to the party
over the years, so there is some
sympathy there from a senior figure
in the party.
And a word on John
Bercow, the speaker, also facing
allegations of bullying, which he
has denied. What is the development
You will remember last week
Newsnight ran a very big report on I
think three MPs, one of whom was
John Bercow, accused of bullying.
All three deny those allegations
very strongly but there is some
pressure today on John Bercow, so a
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen has put down
an early day motion, effectively a
Parliamentary petition, questioning
whether John Bercow can continue
with his job as Speaker. He has been
a very long-term critic of John
Bercow, it must be said. Separately,
the co-leader of the Green Party,
Caroline Lucas, is hoping to get an
urgent question called today because
she wants the complaints made by the
former clerks to be heard about on
the floor of the chamber discussed
and she wants clerks to be included
in the code of conduct that is being
pushed through the Commons now, in
response to what have been months
now of accusations of harassment and
bullying on the Parliamentary
Ben Wright, thank you very
Well, joining me now
in the studio is Andrew Bridgen.
He's the architect of a motion
in the House of Commons which calls
for an independent inquiry
into the Speaker's actions.
Welcome to the Daily Politics. Is
this effectively a no-confidence
motion in the speaker?
hoping it is a motion that the house
can get behind, even those who are
avid fans of John Bercow. The
speaker has denied all the
allegations against him so it is an
opportunity for him to clear his
Isn't this just an excuse to
get rid of him? You don't like him -
you have made that very clear.
doesn't like me.
That may be the
case but you are the one button your
weight behind this no-confidence
motion in him. Are you trying to get
rid of him?
We're hearing lots of
allegations around Parliament,
around harassment and bullying and
it is important, the speaker is
crucial to the culture of the House
of Commons. I don't think we have a
culture of endemic bullying and
harassment but the speaker has to be
beyond approach and an independent
investigation into these very
serious allegations against him I
think would clear the air.
support this motion?
I am very
supportive of the speaker and I
think he has done a very good job in
making sure backbenchers are heard
and I support Andrea Leadsom's work
to make sure bullying is looked into
throughout the house and died don't
think anyone is above it. I am
supporting the work that Andrea and
the cross-party commission has done
on trying to stop bullying.
not going to sign this motion?
have a policy of not signing early
day motions at all on the basis that
they don't change anything and cost
money so I don't see the point.
Well, what is the point?
I think, cross-party MPs signed my
motion about the TV licence. Were
scuppered House of Lords but we did
get it into the bill. What is the
point? I think it needs to send a
clear message from the house that it
will not be tolerated. Nobody has to
come to work to be bullied or
harassed and that goes for everyone
in Parliament, right up to Mr
Speaker, who was particularly
Do you agree that any
allegations have to be investigated?
Let's look at John Bercow because he
decided over the introduction of the
code of conduct around harassment
and bullying, so I have absolutely
no doubt that if a complaint were to
be made against him he would go
through the process. A complaint,
Andrew, as I understand it, has yet
to be made, and you are well, well
known, decent man that you may be,
to be utterly hostile to Mr Speaker.
I think he's been a great Speaker.
He has modernised the house, he has
brought Parliament back to its
rightful position of hearing debate
and holding ministers to account,
and I don't think that you should be
using this to undermine a man whom
you just don't like. I don't know
why but you don't like him.
accept that the speaker has many
good points and has made reforms
around the chamber and procedures
that I am supportive of.
has many negatives with him as well.
I think the Speaker has to be
impartial and I think he has lost
that impartiality. When he came out
and spoke about supporting Remain,
when he came out and said that the
President of the United States would
be welcome in Westminster Hall, he
is quite entitled to have those
With the greatest
respect, you are just demonstrating
the motivation for writing down the
early day motion.
What has that got
to do with bullying?
nothing to do with bullying and
harassment, this is to do with your
view of Mr Speaker. I have a very
different view. Has a complaint been
brought against him? No, it hasn't.
At a complaint is brought against
him, he will undergo the very
processes he himself introduced.
know very well that the person in
question has not made a complaint,
it is those around her. One of the
reasons for that is that
whistle-blowers are treated
tremendously that the House of
Commons, as you both well-known.
what is it you want investigated
The allegations of bullying
that have been made against Mr
Speaker to be investigated
You want to look at
whether or not he has been partisan
on Europe, which in my view he
What about these
allegations, though, Margaret Hodge?
Let's go through all the
allegations. The fact we are talking
about it is really good. Five years
ago, certainly when I was a
minister, we managed those
situations where there was
harassment and bullying. We managed
to them. The idea that you can now
complain and be open about them is a
force for good and there are
processes in place... I support,
actually, the demand that this
should cover clerks of the house as
well as people working for MPs.
Perfectly sensible idea and it is a
good thing we're talking about this.
What about Debbie Abrahams, Shadow
Work and Pensions Secretary? There
has been this row in the Labour
Party, saying that she has to step
aside while investigations are
carried out about bullying
allegations against her. Does she
deserve to know exactly what is
being levelled against her?
know the details so it is a slightly
uncomfortable position. Debbie
Abrahams has done a good job in
highlighting what has gone wrong,
particularly with Universal Credit.
Lethargy has helped the Government
to account on that. If there are
allegations, they should be
investigated. It is that there are
now up counter allegations from her
against the leader's office and I
have to say we were told there was
going to be a kinder, gentler
politics in the Labour Party. I am
not sure whether we are witnessing
that. All the allegations should be
properly investigated and all people
should be held to account dock
many people have signed the early
I only laid down about
half an hour ago.
So nobody has
signed it so far?
I have signed it.
That is good to know.
Now it's time for our daily quiz.
Transport for London have banned
a poster from appearing at Tube
stations because they argue it
breaches their rules on
"images or messages which relate
to matters of public
"controversy or sensitivity."
So, our question today is,
what was the poster?
Was it a job advert
for leader of Ukip?
A commercial to tempt young people
to join Conservative?
An advert for Corbyn memorabilia?
Or an attempt to entice
businesspeople to move
France following Brexit?
At the end of the show,
Tom and Margaret
will give us the correct answer.
I hope so, anyway!
The National Security Council -
that's a cabinet committee made up
of senior ministers and chaired
by Theresa May - has been meeting
this morning in Downing Street
to consider the latest information
on the poisoning of Sergei
and Yulia Skripal.
And the Prime Minister is reportedly
preparing to make a statement,
perhaps as early as this afternoon,
implicating Russia in the attack
and setting out retaliatory
measures, which could include
expelling Russian diplomats
and revoking the visas of Russians
in Britain with links
to the Kremlin, financial measures
to freeze Russian assets in the UK,
coordinating a response with allies,
particularly EU countries
and the United States,
bolstering the presence of UK troops
and other Nato forces on the Russian
border in Eastern Europe,
and refusing to send officials
and dignitaries to the World Cup
in Russia this summer.
Now, before we discuss the political
consequences let's get the latest
on the ground from Salisbury.
Leila Nathoo is there.
What has been the reaction from
members of the public in Salisbury,
who have now been asked to wash
their clothes, in guidance that has
come nearly a week after the event?
Yes, this is guidance that has been
given because traces of this deadly
nerve agent have been found in two
locations, the restaurant and pub
that the Skripal are known to have
visited before they collapsed, and
this place behind me. About 500
people who visited the Zizzi
restaurant and the Mill pub have
been asked to take the precautionary
advice and wash their clothes, wiped
down any items like phones or
glasses, and bag things that need to
be dry cleaned. This has come a week
after the incident. Officials say
there is no risk, no need to be
alarmed, it is just a precaution and
as they get new information, the
advice changes. But I think there is
some concern and anxiety among
people we have spoken to who have
been to the restaurant and the pub
that this advice has come a bit late
in the day as far as they're
concerned. They feel if there is a
risk, why weren't they told earlier
and if there is, why are they being
told to take these measures now? But
I think the investigation is
focusing really before Zizzi because
we now know that the Skripals were
contaminated when they got to that
restaurant. The table they sat at
has been destroyed, it was so
contaminated, so there are separate
decontamination operations taking
place around the city centre in
different locations to try to make
sure that is completely free of that
nerve agent but clearly, people
who've specifically gone to that
restaurant and pub will be most
Leila Nathoo, thank you.
And Vicki Young is outside
Downing Street for us,
where the Prime Minister has
convened her National
So, I'll be expecting the Prime
Minister to point the finger of
blame at the Russian state?
Street are being very tight-lipped
about all of this. I think she is
determined to see clear evidence
before she does anything like that.
They've been in that for about an
hour and a half, including senior
figures like Amber Rudd, and Theresa
May has been under pressure from
some in her own party and from
people like Mr Johnson to give a
robust response. I think she wants
to make sure the police and security
services have had time to do their
job to do it properly and to come
forward with the evidence that she
needs. And pointing the finger of
blame at Russia is one thing but of
course what group would that mean?
Would it mean the Kremlin and
President Putin? It could be KGB or
former KGB agents, could be
something to do with the criminal
underworld and it is that thing she
needs to be sure of. They've
promised ministers there would be a
robust response of it is proven
Russia is behind this but to make it
meaningful, really, Britain has to
act alongside other countries, it
could be other members of the
European Union, it could be Nato. If
that is to happen, they certainly
will want to see clear evidence, so
I think that is why there has been
this cautious approach. Amber Rudd
talked about clear heads and they
want to be very sure they are sure
of the facts before they make the
Joining us in the studio
is James Nixey, he's the head
of the Russia programme
at the foreign affairs think
tank, Chatham House.
Do you welcome a cautious approach
from the Prime Minister and Home
Secretary over this?
prudent. You don't want to
miscalculated and have a cataclysmic
response by Russia. At the same
time, what has been proven is that
the successive policies towards
Russia, what we have seen
consistently, is protection of
well-managed, Kremlin linked
interest to have links to UK
solicitors, lawyers, bankers,
accountants etc. I think now is the
time to begin to exterminate these
in order to protect ourselves. This
is a chemical weapons attack, an act
of terrorism and need to -- needs to
be called out as such.
Do you agree
I think it is a terrorist
attack, similar in kind as well as a
nature to other terrorist attacks
we've had. The fact there is a
British policeman in hospital, there
are two attempted victims in
hospital and many hundreds of people
are having to take precautions for
fear of getting further harm, we can
see this is a very, very mass
attack, a group of people who did
this had no care at all for the
safety of British people.
expect the Prime Minister to point
the finger of blame at Russia and
I am for the simple
reason this is a nerve agent. They
are difficult to make and very
difficult to store and they are even
more difficult to transport so the
idea anybody except eight state
actor had control of this and access
to it and would have been authorised
to deploy it is laughable.
agree with that?
agents state property under state
So what about retaliatory
measures? You've made criticism of
government is protecting well
moneyed Russians here. So, hit them
where it hurts? In the pocket?
Absolutely because those people have
links back to Vladimir Putin. The
squeeze has repercussions. One can
have a much more coordinated cyber
response, European response, Nato
response even. It can even be
brought up at the UN Security
Council. In the realms of cyber,
military sphere and diplomatic
sphere, of course, we don't want to
cease diplomatic relations.
wouldn't send them all home?
wouldn't but I'd send those home
with proven links to other
affiliations other there -- other
than their designated affiliations.
Would that have other repercussions?
I completely concur with what has
been said so far but I think we have
to go deeper. It has now become the
jurisdiction of choice for dirty
money. Associated with organised
crime, criminals, all those sorts of
people. I think there is a not we
could do pretty quickly to try and
make us less likely to have...
example? There are 85,000 properties
in the UK today that are owned by
shell companies, mainly located in
Many of those Russian
health. If we had the public of
beneficial ownership of properties
which Cameron and Osborne promised
in which this government is delaying
until 2021, that would be one thing.
Two, we are very lax in how we allow
companies to be incorporated in the
UK. I know this is going on a bit
but it is important. Many companies
choose Britain. If we look at the
Scottish limited partnership, this
is a structure that was set up to
help farmers in Scotland in vest in
their land. There is an analysis
been done which shows that people of
importance, whatever it is called,
in the analysis done, only 4% of
them were British people and the
actual people who incorporated those
companies would Russians, Ukrainians
and people from Belarus. These
structures being used by people in
Russia and elsewhere to hide dirty
money and we should go...
government failed in terms of making
get too comfortable for wealthy
Russians to choose London as a place
I agree with Margaret, I
don't think we've gone far enough. I
think dirty money not only allows
others from, frankly, questionable
jurisdictions to hide their ill
gotten gains here but it also
corrupts the system were trying to
protect and what we've got to do is
demonstrate the city is absolutely
the heart of the international
financial system and in order to do
that we've got to show we are clean,
honourable and law-abiding. 99% of
business is so what we are talking
about is sorting out a very small
amount of all the people who invest
in London. We need to do with
Should money donated
from wealthy Russians, unless the
Conservative party can prove the
source of that funding, should it be
If they are British
citizens and it is donated by
British citizens, I'm not a believer
that you should search for prior
affiliations. Refugees come from
around the world and become British
citizens if it is lawful British
citizens. If it is however
associated to an oligarch who is
still a Russian citizen and it is
done through a front, absolutely
The Prime Minister said she was
going to suck from a long spoon.
Wouldn't it be business as usual?
shouldn't be. I'm afraid I'm not
involved in raising money.
We can go
tougher on political donations. I
think the extent of the exposure in
the Sunday Times yesterday, over
£800,000 going to the Conservative
party, suggest we should look again
at individual donations to limit the
influence that people will think
Will that work? Is there
a risk that actually there are
people here, like Roman Debrunner
Fitch, people who would be put off
to invest if we make it too
That is correct and it
will have a negative effect on us.
It will affect the balance of
payments. We are not over exposed to
the Russian economy but in order to
protect our national security, we
will have to incur some smaller
sacrifices. It will hurt them more
but it will hurt us as well.
will never get economic sustainable
growth and prosperity on the back of
dirty money so while there might be
a short-term instant impact, in the
long-term the integrity of our legal
and financial systems is far more
What about Russia today?
Should any moves be made about that?
It is extraordinary that information
warfare by a hostile state and an
organisation that has breached its
broadcasting licence on numerous
occasions still has not... Still is
able to broadcast free. That is a
matter for Ofcom. I hope they are
looking at it very carefully because
this is running, and isn't just
Russia today but it is also another
company in Edinburgh.
Do you think
we can achieve up anything with crop
You can do a lot more. You
can do an affectation of the
Americans act, which deals with
Kremlin Russians. Unexplained wealth
orders, money laundering orders.
Labour Party said they tried to
amend the sanctions on intime
money-laundering to add a close and
led to this act only for it to be
blocked by your party.
many people on my side, including
Andrew Mitchell and me who have been
pushing for these orders. I'm not
going to go through the details of
the wet amendments and political
chicanery goes through the Commons
but what I will say is there are
many of us that have often pushed
for this and are still pushing for
this this is not a party matter.
Margaret and I agree on this that we
need to be much clearer on this and
what we need to do is do as James is
saying. We need to be hard line in
making sure London isn't a
playground for wealthy oligarchs who
are the aristocrats of a new tourist
Let's look at the reports
that's been published today in which
the term global Britain cannot just
be a slogan. What do you mean by
What I meant by it, or what
the group meant by it, is that we
need to do more than simply have a
slogan. We need to have the detail
of the resources behind what it
means. For example, one of the
things we have seen since the Brexit
vote is that we need to reinvest in
bilateral relations in Europe. That
is absolutely right but I don't
think what anybody expected was that
assets that come from China in order
to be invested in the European 27,
it doesn't strike us as global
Britain so what does global Britain
need? Can you put meat on the bone
so that we understand what you are
aiming at. I use selecting rules
-based institutions like the Asian
infrastructure investment bank? Are
you selecting individual bilateral
relations and where is the resource
You seem to blame the
foreign office who you say has lost
its way and there is problems with
leadership at the top.
One of the
things we've noticed is we haven't
had the clarity we require from this
and I think it is up to leaders to
provide clarity so I am hoping we
will get that.
Do you have faith in
Boris Johnson to deliver that?
Johnson is an amazing campaigner and
has an amazing voice so I hope he
uses to what is at the moment are
refused -- a confusing situation.
Now, it's already been a busy week
and its only Monday lunchtime.
Let's take a look at what else
is happening this week.
As we've just been discussing,
Caroline Lucas from the Greens hopes
to be granted an Urgent Question
on allegations of bullying
in the Commons, while Tory MP
Andrew Bridgen is calling
for an independent inquiry
into allegations made
against the Speaker John Bercow.
Tomorrow, the Chancellor
presents his Spring Statement.
There'll be no Red Box,
or rabbits out of hats we're told,
but we'll be watching closely,
live here on the Daily Politics.
On Wednesday, it's the weekly
showdown between Theresa May
and Jeremy Corbyn at
Prime Minister's Questions.
The PM is then set for more tough
talk with the first ministers
of Scotland and Wales,
over the EU Withdrawal Bill.
On Friday, the Conservative
Party's Spring Forum gets
under way in London.
And, at the weekend,
Russia goes to the polls
to elect a new President.
The results are expected Sunday
evening, but there are few prizes
for guessing who'll win that one.
We're joined now by Kate McCann
from the Telegraph and Steve
Hawkes from the Sun.
Welcome to both of you. How much
pressure is the speaker under?
think John Bercow is under a
significant amount of pressure this
morning. As you mentioned earlier
there is an urgent question down but
officer he gets to decide whether it
is heard about his behaviour and the
behaviour of a couple of other MPs
highlighted in the Newsnight
investigation. It's worth looking at
what is going on behind the scenes
because John Bercow originally said
he'd stop being the speaker in June
of this year when he had served
almost two full terms. After that,
he quietly said he'd like to carry
on for longer which annoyed quite a
lot of MPs, both on the Labour side
and the conservative side who feel
he should give up his seat and let
somebody else have a turn. There is
a lot of that rumbling along
underneath all this talk about
bullying and what he has or hasn't
done in his office as speaker.
Steve, Russia, how big test of
Theresa May's leadership will be the
response of the government to what
has happened in Salisbury?
If you see the Evening Standard,
Amber Rudd is talking about a
powerful response to Russia, and the
Kremlin, so it is all building up to
quite a big showdown in the Commons,
if this statement does,. There was a
Security Council meeting at 11am,
and it is about the proof, how
decisive it as it was a Russian wet
job, as they call it, and how far
you can go into expelling people,
sanctions or diplomatic sanctions.
And also Jeremy Corbyn's response.
Last week he was act by the
commonest party so his response will
Let's talk about the
spring statement because this will
be a pared down event. Because it is
new and the big showpiece will be
later on in the year in the autumn.
What are we going to expect from the
Not very much. We were
talking about what we might be
highlighting this week and we almost
forgot the spring statement entirely
because it is probably going to be
Don't say that! We have a
special programme on it tomorrow.
Don't hold out too much hope! Philip
Hammond is not called Spreadsheet
fill for nothing. We're not
expecting any particularly big
announcements at although we may see
things like consultations about
plastics and whether he may or may
not banned chewing gum or try to tax
chewing gum. But we're not expecting
anything big, we're not expecting
Philip Hammond to rock the boat and
he has robbed himself and the
Government of the ability to change
the narrative of where the
Government is going. He could have
done something really big and
exciting and set Theresa May on a
path which took a back to her Number
Ten speech when she said it was all
about the just about managing people
but he has decided not to do that
and we are going to have to wait
until the autumn to hear big news
from the Chancellor.
Is that a
mistake? I know it is a relatively
low-key event enters a big
announcements but he could have set
something out about the narrative on
austerity or not austerity.
the talk, there will be a few people
talking about it tomorrow. There
will be more about Brexit
contingency spending, a bit more
about the national living wage,
which will go up in April but I
think this will be more one for the
geeks. Most of the play tomorrow
will be a forecast from the OBR. We
expect borrowing to be about 8
billion lower this fiscal year and 4
billion lower next fiscal year,
which gives him a bit more with
room. That is what the economists
are looking for, the borrowing, and
how low that goes on whether the
Chancellor will get edged back
toward the surplus. In November they
wrote off the chances of that until
2025 so the detail is going to be
I will be
standing up for all the geeks, then!
Thank you both for joining us today.
Now, lecturers at universities
across the UK are entering
their third week of strike action
in a dispute over changes
to their pension plans.
Staff say they will be almost
£10,000 worse off per year
if the changes come into force
but university management say
the pension scheme has a £6 billion
deficit which can't be ignored.
Ellie has been out on the picket
lines taking the temperature.
Nice weather for ducks this morning.
And, it would seem,
We are outside Senate House
at the University of London,
and I've got my own striking
Why are you striking this morning?
We are striking to defend
the pensions that people
who work in universities -
others who work with them -
have felt were guaranteed for years
and are now being threat
and with a cut of up to 50%.
But what you're being changed
from is a guaranteed benefit
when you get your pension
to a guaranteed contribution system,
which is what most of the private
sector is on, and the universities
say that because there is a big,
black hole, in essence,
they can't afford your pensions,
so it needs to change.
There is no black hole.
The Vice Chancellors know this.
They themselves have
complained about the way
the calculations have been done.
There is plenty of money
to guarantee the pensions that
people felt they were entitled
to when they started
in the profession,
sometimes decades ago.
We've seen a number
of these strikes already.
What's going to happen
if there is no resolution?
We hope there will be
a resolution this week.
There are talks at Acas.
If not, we will still strike
to the end of the week, and, then,
if there is no resolution
beyond that, more strikes
will happen in the summer.
They will happen when students
are taking their exams.
And it may be that some people
will end up without the degree.
Some students may not graduate
if the employers don't come around
to do what's reasonable
and to deliver what
Greg, thank you very much.
Well, it's quite serious stuff.
I think we can move around now
and find, sorry to interrupt,
the pet student here.
Now, Nisha, you're supporting
the lecturers here, even though
we've just heard you might not
get your degree, or some students
might not get their degree.
Well, I think the changes that
are happening at the moment
to the pension scheme are something
that affects students
in the long-term.
You're not worried, though?
You're paying £9,500, you're losing
a number of teachers...
I'm an international student.
How do you justify that, then?
The thing is, I don't think fees
should exist at all in education.
I'm completely against fees.
And I think that there are other
questions that these strikes
are raising right now.
Because the university sector has
effectively been brought
to a standstill this has been
a really great opportunity
for students to start questioning
why is it I have to pay
for my education?
Thank you very much.
Let me take you over
here to the other important
part of this strike,
which is the tea station.
And I think we've got...
Hello, have you had any students
who are a bit annoyed that they've
lost their teaching days
and they are paying all this money?
I think it's astonishing how
supportive the students have been.
Maybe there are some
who don't say anything,
cos they realise they're not
going to get a good reception,
but nearly everyone is on board,
they recognise why the lecturers
are doing this, so, yeah,
it's been really great
to have their support.
All right, thank you very much.
It looks like there might be a bit
of brownie left, so, you know,
far be it to be involved but this
strike could continue
to the end of the week,
and into the summer, who knows.
Ellie trying to dip into the
Joining me now is Keith Simpson.
He's a lecturer at City University
and a member of the University
and College Union, who are
organising the strike.
And we're joined from Nottingham by
the pensions expert John Ralph.
We did invite Universities UK,
the group who represent universities
in the dispute, onto the programme
but they didn't have
But I'm delighted that you two are
here. First of all, Keith Simpson,
how do you justify potentially
depriving students of their degrees
and, in broad terms, their
I think the situation is
that we have taken this industrial
action to make sure that students
are not deprived of education.
is about your pensions.
It is but it
is also about education generally.
We have also taken industrial action
that we think shows the employers we
are serious about this, and that
this will resolve the matter as
quickly as possible. When we started
this dispute, vice chancellors
across the country were saying that
there was no resolution possible,
that there was a massive black hole.
Now quite a lot of them of come out
saying that there is room for
negotiations and talks, and that is
exactly what we are going to do.
That is what is happening at Acas
today and we hope that this dispute
is over before the end of the week.
Do you agree with Keith Simpson? Is
he right to say there is a
resolution that is possible? You
have advised employers, including in
this sector. What of the scale of
the pension problem?
I have followed
pension schemes for many years and
as far as this is concerned, there
is more misinformation and
disinformation than I have ever seen
before. Of all the three parties
that are involved, USS the pension
scheme, you the union, and Unico,
the employers, they're all in denial
to various degrees. And I'm sorry to
correct you, the deficit is not £6
billion. The deficit in the last
published, audited accounts of US S,
March 2017, was £17.5 billion. My
concern is that all the three
parties, for different reasons, are
in denial about the extent of the
problem. They're all throwing up
smoke screens. I don't know what the
answer is but from a technical
forensic point of view, we need to
have the facts on the table, and the
facts on the table are people living
longer, real interest rates are
going down, therefore the cost of
providing pensions is going up and
that affects all employers. Added to
that, in the case of USS, the huge
deficit, the largest deficit, 17.5
billion, though we have ever seen
any UK pension scheme, is
self-inflicted. USS don't want to
own up to that. It is self-inflicted
because the last ten years or more,
they have been at the casino and it
has not paid off.
Well, deficit is
even bigger, £17.5 billion.
seems to make a living by on and
wrecking people's pensions.
saying he is wrong? That figure is
I am not a pensions
expert. I went directly to the
people that I think do know
something about it, the professors
that work at city University's
business school. Some of them are
actuarial scientists and they say
that the U UK position is very
negative and that this situation can
be resolved. I am not an expert.
John Grimes on all of these
programmes saying these things.
There is no black hole, and the
pension is actually getting more in
every year than is taken out of it.
It has got a long-term future, and
UK universities are something to be
proud of. They're not going to
disappear. We have some of the
leading universities in the world.
This is a sustainable pension fund
and you see you have put forward
proposals that we are talking about
at Acas that will make sure it is
sustainable for the future.
that criticism and your reputation
in saying that you are wrong on
I hope I don't need to defend
my reputation. The 17.5 bigger is
not a figure that I have calculated
or estimated. It is in the published
report and accounts, done on exactly
the same basis that the other 5000
pension schemes on the UK have to
prepare their accounts. What
surprises me is that anybody thinks
that universities can be immune to
the changes that are happening -
repeat, people living longer, real
interest rates are lower. Look at
the 5000 pension schemes in the UK.
Most of them have already closed and
moved from defined benefit to
defined contribution and I have to
say, that includes the pension
schemes of a lot of the individual
universities so if you are a
clerical employee at university you
are in a different scheme and the
lot of those aboard a close.
support the strike, Margaret?
think this is an issue... Let me
deal with the actuarial position
first. I think that would be
agreement across the two parties as
to the precise actuarial position.
These judgments so they should both
do it and then they should get on
and negotiated top I agree that
people are living longer, interest
rates are low and therefore moving
from defined contribution... From
benefits to a contribution system is
important. But at the back of all of
this, it sticks in the gullet, at
the same time as academics who are
not well paid are being asked to
give up their pension, you have vice
chancellors on huge, hefty sums of
money which will give them very,
very generous pensions when they
come out of...
Do you agree, Tom
Tugendhat? Do you have any sympathy
for this strike or do you think
people like these should get back to
I have a huge sympathy while
students losing education, I have
huge sympathy for people who planned
the future and find out is not going
to be as it appeared. But the
reality is that we are living longer
and that is a great thing, it gives
grandparents time with their
children, a lot of people a lot more
time with families, and that is
fantastic news but it does mean we
need to change the way we do things.
Can you think of any other strike
that has happened as a result of
closing a final salary scheme that
has resulted in a change?
I can't see any change that has
happened where we are talking about
a thriving, multi-billion
contributions of the British
So you don't take on board
the whole point about living longer,
but these schemes are much more
expensive as a result of that?
People are living longer but,
actually, that is one reason why you
should have a good pension, because
I think, as Margaret said, we are
not well paid. University lecturers
and support staff don't go into this
to make lots of money. We have not
got a generous pension scheme even
now. We are defending something that
is good but is not the best. The
teachers' pension scheme is much
better than ours at the moment and
if we see the decline in our
pensions scheme, how are we going to
recruit the brilliant academics that
are actually making this a success
across the world? After Brexit we
will need to have the best
researchers, the best universities,
We have to finish it
there. John Ralfe and Keith Simpson,
thank you very much.
Now, staying in higher education,
a graduate is suing her former
university for giving her
what she called
a "Mickey Mouse degree."
Fiona Pok studied
International Business Strategy
at Anglia Ruskin University,
in Cambridge, but she says
that the claims in the prospectus
about high-quality teaching
and excellent career
prospects were overblown.
And she joins us now.
In particular, what do you think
Anglia Ruskin misrepresented in the
In my opinion, the
University misrepresented the course
as to the quality of the course and
also what kind of resources they
have. They misrepresented the
prospect of a career, what kind of
job or what area you will end up in,
working in, after you graduate from
Have you had any joy
with getting a job, having
Well, I know a lot of
people misunderstood that I have not
been able to get a job at the thing
is, the main point is, they
exaggerated the prospects of a
career, studying with them, and also
they exaggerate how connected the
network the has with, like,
regional, national or international
companies because at that time they
say they will help students or
graduates to find employment in a
lot of the big companies because
they have a connection with them.
What I found was so misrepresented
is, when I finished my study I
signed on at the career advice
bureau and tried to get some career
advice to see if any job
opportunities that I was hoping to
land on, and I find out the only
source they had was copy and pasted
from other companies, the
recruitment agencies already
available on the internet,
accessible by the public.
are you suing them for?
I am suing
them for over £60,000.
And you think
that is justified, for students to
decide the quality of teaching and
whether it is satisfactory? You
graduated with a first, I
understand. Is it really the
responsibility of Anglia Ruskin to
guarantee you a job in the way you
have just outlined?
I think you
misunderstood. I am not saying they
have to guarantee me a job but they
have no right to make empty promises
if they have no capacity to deliver
They have released a statement
saying, "We are well aware of the
claims made by this former student
and robustly defending the current
litigation". Has the university been
supportive in your concerns?
I mean, have they
understood... Before you decided to
take the action to sue, did you talk
to the university about your
Of course. I have been
talking to them for over six years.
Internal complaints, external
complaints procedure has been gone
through, so there was no other thing
I could do.
All right, thank you
very much for joining us.
Comic Relief - or Red Nose Day
as it's better known -
has raised over £1 billion
for charities around the world
since it began 30 years ago.
Its subsidiary, Sport Relief,
returns this weekend,
encouraging the public
to "get active, raise money
"and change lives".
But Labour MP David Lammy questions
whether it's doing enough.
This is his Soapbox.
From this weekend, thousands
of Britons will be raising
money for Sport Relief,
a biannual telephone that asks
Britons all over the country to part
with their cash to help
poverty stricken Africans.
Sport Relief and Comic Relief have
tattooed images of poverty in Africa
into our national psyche to such
an extent that few of us can escape
the guilt of not donating.
A billion people reduced to just
one prevailing image -
mothers, desperate, crying,
worried for their children,
and children with swollen
This is not to say that dire
poverty is not persistent,
or that images of suffering is not
the most effective
way to raise money.
But Sport Relief surely
has to be different.
Life expectancies are up over 10%
in 37 African states.
Economic growth in the 11 largest
was double the world
average in the past decade.
The Nigerian film industry,
Nollywood, has overtaken Hollywood
as the world's second-largest
Sport Relief should be helping
to establish the people of Africa
as equals to be respected,
not as victims to be pitied.
So, rather than getting celebrities
to act as tour guides,
why not get Africans to talk
for themselves about the continent
and the problems that they know?
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
and Comic Relief should do more
to challenge their audience.
Challenge their audience not just
to feel guilty but to feel angry.
Angry that despite the wars that
plague the continent,
the international world places more
restrictions on bananas
than they do AK-47s.
Get their audience thinking
about trade and about governance.
Don't just present a reservoir
of poverty but help people
understand what sustained
change really means.
So, this year, let's have a debate
about the big issues -
debt, education -
in the continent of Africa.
Of course the fundraising
is worthwhile but the Red Nose Day
formula is tired and hugely
patronising to the people
of a great continent.
David Lammy is here,
as is Ben Maitland,
a spokesperson for Comic Relief.
It's tired and hugely patronising.
What do you think about Comic Relief
and Sport Relief?
We wouldn't accept
that and we've been looking at the
very issues David is talking about
and we are constantly seeking to
change how we make our funds. We are
very excited and proud of the
changes we've been making and we are
going to see for the first time real
focus on local voices and local
heroes be they community health
workers or nurses, talking about the
work they're doing. Equally it is
important remember Sport Relief is
50% is spent here and 50% is spent
internationally. In particular over
the last couple of weeks, we've been
really proud of the public debate,
exactly the type of debate David
talks about, that both Zoe Ball and
Greg James have sparked about mental
I'm always amazed about the
amount of money raised and the
generosity of people here. Doesn't
it prove it works? It is all very
well questioning whether or not it
is the right tone, or should we talk
about trade and dictatorship, but
this is raising money for poor parts
of the world and it works.
doesn't work if it compounds the
problem is. My constituents are not
am elated about Sport Relief and,
grief because many of them come from
African countries and they know
that, as Leeds University knows that
British primary school children,
their formative impressions of
Africa come from Red Nose Day and
what they talk about people who are
starving, people who are poor and
Are they not accurate?
We've just heard that Sport Relief
and Comic Relief are happy to use
British voices articulating on
behalf of themselves in relation to
British poverty. They don't use that
in relation to Africans and their
issues which is what they need to be
It is those local heroes,
albeit in Kenny or Sierra Leone,
that will be at the heart of the
forms we are making. They will be
talking about our partnerships. We
have a generational opportunity to
eradicate an appalling disease and
we're working with global partners
and local workers on the ground, and
telling their story.
thing to remember with Comic Relief
and Sport Relief is the platform
they have from the BBC is immense,
no other charity gets hours and
hours of programming and television
to influence the dish public. No one
wants to knock charity but let's
remember that the dire spread
communities right around the world,
let's educate the public, why is it
when people think of Nigeria think
of somewhere that is war-torn, not
with downtown Lagos with huge
buildings. And what role do
charities play in perpetuating an
image of swollen bellies, children
with flies running around them? Last
time on Comic Relief, you had three
black children die over the hours.
You wouldn't have done that if it
was Britain. But it was OK because
it was a black child. That is the
thing we have to question.
think it is right we continue to
change and evolve and we put local
voices at the heart of what we show.
Ed Sheeran? He isn't local, Izzy?
will see differences in how our
films are made this year. We
currently fund 1,000 different
charities and organisations here and
around the world and our obligation
is to continue raising money so we
continue that vital work to make
sure the money gets to people who
How is it vital if it
continues a perception of a kind of
imperialist colonialist... You seen
the problems charities have found
themselves in where there is a
perception of who is accountable?
How is their scrutiny? How do you
hold yourself up to the best of your
intentions? Those are the big issues
that are emerging for International
And that is exactly how
we found grassroots organisations to
make sure that money goes where it
is needed most. So we seek money
from grant-making so we ensure there
is a strong voice in what we do.
What about the issue of trade? What
would you like to see governments
We need a transaction tax. And I
think the international development
charities should be very public
about that. There are problems in
the ways big institutions like the
EU are set up that put a
stranglehold on African countries.
You should be up against it for
lobbing politically as well as
saying give money.
Would you be
comfortable doing that?
We are not a
political organisation and we are
proud not to be. I'm part of the
generation that grew up with Comic
Relief and remember the first Red
Nose Day back in 1988 so what we've
done is bring a whole generation of
people back into these issues you
haven't paid much attention before
and we are proud of that. And to see
how people we've inspired are
engaging is great. Amnesty
International have a stronger
political voice and they do it
better than we should.
I think that
relief is something we've done is a
government and we've done it in a
targeted manner because what we
don't want to do is giving debt
interest into a dictator but to a
country that is growing. David was
right because he talks about trade.
One of the things were doing is
we're rethinking our trade you
disease-mac policy. I'd like to see
Barry is coming down to trade with
countries like Ghana and run wonder
that have done and commenced amount
of reform locally and are poised to
exploit this link with the United
Kingdom. I'd like to see those
countries getting richer.
there a problem to attaching
conditions to aid with the poor
parts of Africa because they may
have a dictator? A lot of these
countries are run by dictators and
you deprive the countries of the
money you need.
We should challenge
corruption where ever it exists but
I would say a very simple thing that
we could do which could help even
more than you do through charitable
giving and that is another amendment
to the bill we were talking about
earlier on money-laundering. If we
had transparency in our overseas
territories, our tax havens, at a
stroke you to stop money being
exported by those dictators into the
tax havens. These poor countries
lose three times as much in money
from tax avoidance as they gain in
On that, thank you
for coming in.
There's just time before we go
to find out the answer to our quiz.
The question was which poster have
Transport for London banned
from their Tube stations?
A job advert for leader of Ukip?
A commercial to tempt young people
to join Conservative?
An advert for Corbyn memorabilia?
Or an attempt to entice
business people to move
France following Brexit?
So, what's the correct answer?
It's got to be France.
You're so pleased with yourselves
and good for you.
Yes, a spoof lonely hearts advert
telling British businesses
to contact Mr Norman D
to avoid post-Brexit tariffs
has appeared online but banned
by Transport for London
on the grounds of "public
controversy or sensitivity."
The advert, released
by the Normandy Development Agency,
which promotes growth in the region
of northern France,
seeks "hot entrepreneurs" and boasts
"You will find the process
"as smooth as our Camembert
or our oysters, for that matter."
Marie Le Conte is here.
It is actually quite funny, isn't
it? Do you think transport for
London has had a sense of humour
I think they did. I am
entirely biased on this because my
family is from Normandy, but I
thought it was
thought it was very funny. The Brits
can dish it out but can't take it,
It is a light-hearted
attempt, but do you think it will
I'm not sure and I mean it
with love. Normandy isn't the most
exciting bit of France.
It does seem
to be cheeky, audacious at the very
least. Or may be imaginative by the
local Mormon tea Council.
It is and
they make a valid point that there
is so much incentive for businesses
in the UK, and businesses might be
looking to move somewhere else, so
there is a real pointer.
Is it a
false promise? All this idea of
smooth camembert and oysters and
coastal walks. Do you think it is
really fake news?
I mean... Not
really. The one thing I'll say is
the weather is basically the same in
Normandy as in the UK so no big
changes there. It isn't fake news.
Businesses would be perfectly happy
in Normandy should they want to move
Right, you two, is transport
for London not joining in the fun?
Or is there a serious point? I think
they've taken it too hard here. I
think Normandy is a fantastic place
freight holiday but not the centre
of business as London is. Each to
their own. I don't know any
camembert manufacturers in London
but perhaps I'm wrong. Oyster growth
is actually coming back to the
What would your
counterproposal be? What would you
do to make sure British
entrepreneurs stay here?
they should move to Kent.
cheese is coming into its own at the
moment so it may well be our version
of camembert is the as tasty as the
French but I think transport for
London have gone too far. This is
Brexit, we are expecting competition
with people who have been partners,
they are now our competitors. We
should not be surprised.
left me hungry with camembert,
oysters and English cheese. Thank
you all very much.
Thanks to our guests.
The one o'clock news is starting
over on BBC One now.
I'll be here at noon tomorrow
with all the big political stories
of the day.
Do join me then.