24/02/2012 Newsnight


24/02/2012

The government blames the SWP for opposition to its work experience schemes. Should we arm Syrian rebels? Plus, coalition tensions on crime. Emily Maitlis presents.


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Transcript


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More trouble for the government's Welfare to Work plans tonight. The

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head of a company with millions of pounds worth of government

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contracts steps down from her job after allegations of fraud.

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Meanwhile, corporate Britain gets cold feet. Can a handful of

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activists and a Twitter feed make the government change a key policy

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on work experience? The minister calls the campaigners

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a front for the Socialist Workers Party. Has the internet picked up

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where the trade union movement left off? The place protest can be heard

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the loudest. We'll see the activists go head-to-head with the

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Conservatives in the studio. Also: The Syrian opposition lobby to buy

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weapons from abroad. Should they be allowed to? We speak to the foreign

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office from Tunisia. How to get tough on crime when there's no

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money? You lock people up in their own houses.

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Tonight, a policy in trouble. In a moment we will examine why major

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high street companies appear to be wobbling over a government work

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experience scheme for the unemployed but first, the Prime

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Minister's former family champion, Emma Harrison, has stepped down as

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chair of the Welfare to Work firm which is at the centre of a police

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fraud investigation. The company has billions of pounds of

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government contracts. Our political editor is here. Tell us more about

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this company? The Emma Harrison it was very popular. She was seen to

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be an inspirational figure, quite different from the faceless people

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who would help people into work. If you hear interviews with her, she

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would talk about helping people turn around their lives and

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persuaded the Prime Minister that she was worth it, and her company

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was worth putting large amounts of government money into. She built

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the company up over 25 years. She was a persuasive character but this

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evening she has stood down. The Daily Mail had been pushing on

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allegations of fraud within her company. Tomorrow they were going

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to run a story, they have a headline saying, now she is out of

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work. The story that will be in tomorrow's Cooper that she clearly

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felt was a story too far, that her employees were encouraging people

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to help with the numbers of getting people into work by giving them

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champagne and forging signatures. That it is a problem for the

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government because she is in receipt of such a large amount of

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government money. It started recently when she was found to have

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given herself large dividends and this is government money so that

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was the beginning. The allegations are unproven and the investigation

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is ongoing but give us a sense of the reaction tonight politically to

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her quitting her job? Liam Byrne has said she has done the right

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thing. We have had calls throughout the day. Chris Grayling said they

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would not have that it that there was evidence of wrongdoing will

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stop she felt she was no longer getting the support she once

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enjoyed. You have other politicians calling for the Serious Fraud

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Office to be involved so I suppose she is wanting to go away and clear

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her name and come back for work. Today as pressure continued to grow

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on British retailers to rethink their involvement in the

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Government's work experience scheme, the employment minister Chris

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Grayling said the campaign was one cooked up by Socialist Workers. The

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activists call the programme, which sees people working without

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receiving payment from the employers, slave labour. The

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government insists there is no mandatory element and says the

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majority of British people support it. So why has the business world

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been so cowed by this? Could it really be down to a vocal campaign

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and a lot of Twitter? The politically then took wreckers

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were out in force today, all eight of them, voicing his Gawain at

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these offices, the most controversial of the private

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companies contracted by the government to help the unemployed.

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The protesters laugh at the Minister's claim that they are some

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sort of this column, they simply reveal big companies getting people

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to work for nothing and they say it has all happened so quickly though

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stop in response to Tesco's involvement, we intervene to and

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supported a protest outside the Westminster Tesco. You have had a

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success? Yes. The support has been massive for the campaign. Chris

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Grayling says the Socialist Workers Party are behind all this?

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disagree, I am not a member of that party and I am not involved in it.

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It is broader than just a small group of radicals, it would have to

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be to tackle big companies like Tesco. He claimed people were

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organising a online but what is really happening on line seems more

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finely balanced. In the last 24 hours, they have been over 211

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interactions on a Twitter. They reveal a three-way split between

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those in favour of government policy, those against, and at those

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deemed neutral. This man is an activist in the modern day in.

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Inside Westminster, he is a researcher for a Labour MP. Outside,

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he is engaged in various extra parliamentary campaigns, from Save

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the educational maintenance allowance, to others. Chris

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Grayling would say that you are one of the extremists? Chris Grayling

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honestly believes that a multinational organisation like

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Tesco is scared of the SNP. The SWP don't really exist if we're honest.

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A lot of these people are our young people who are idle and using the

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skills they have, which is on-line media schools. The Labour Party are

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in a difficult position over this because they came up with these

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schemes? My personal views on that, as a member of the late departure,

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you should always be someone who in your core belief, that you believe

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in a fair day's wage for a fair day's labour. You don't need to be

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a member of the Socialist Party are one of Chris Grayling's grips to

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know that a single issue at the right time can have a huge impact.

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In the case of a Welfare to Work, the Little Lever has been well and

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truly build on the big corporations have taken fright. Last week this

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Tesco's branch opposite Parliament was the scene for a protest against

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welfare to work. Since then, the clouds have been gathering. A

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Conservative think-tank produced a report claiming overwhelming

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support for work fair a year ago with 80% wanting unemployed to work

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before getting benefits. 50% felt benefit rates were too high. How

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does the same think tank believe such a study would turn out amid

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the current right? What the public do want to see very clearly is an

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element of something for something in welfare reform. That is what

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this is, in his claimants doing something for getting the benefits.

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Let's put this into context, this is not a free ride for the firms,

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they are providing experience and training at getting people into

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work who have had very little experience. But they are pulling

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out now? I think it is a shame. Welfare to work is listing badly.

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Protesters have blown a hole in one of the government's biggest big

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ideas. Joining me now is Conservative MP

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and member of the work and pensions select committee, Brandan Lewis,

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the National Co-ordinator for Youth Fight for Jobs and Education, Paul

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Callanan and managing director of Wolff Olins, a brand consultancy

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company who have fought for some of the biggest supermarkets in Britain,

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Ije Nwokorie. I'm wondering how be got to this

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point where you have major British businesses really wobbling about

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their involvement in a government scheme that they had signed up to?

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That is a real shame as companies that there have a commercial due to

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take to look at what their reputation will be and what this

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will mean for them. That is why they wanted talk to the government.

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We've just got to make sure that we don't lose are really good scheme

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because of a pressure group with a particular itinerary, doing

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something that could damage the best interest of the people they

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represent. You call it a pressure group but it has hit the spot,

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there must be something there if they are pulling back? Tesco's are

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still part of the scheme and other companies want to reassure

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themselves and I can see why they would want to do that but we have

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to make sure we keep this scheme going because it is getting young

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people an opportunity to get work experience and jobs and that is

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what we desperately need. You saw some of the survey results, you are

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not representative of most people in this company who think you

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should get something and give something? You are doing something

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for nothing with these schemes and I would disagree, the vast majority

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don't want to see their kids going out to work for their dole money,

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they want to see their kids get a decent wage and decent conditions.

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Or stay at home and just get the benefits and not do anything?

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Nobody wants to see that but at the same time, nobody wants to see

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their kids sold off into slave labour and the reason these kids

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are wobbling is that they know what it'll do for their reputation,

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ticking on the unemployed and not paying for it, it is incredibly

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damaging for these companies and rightly so. Are they right to be

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having second thoughts, I find that odd that you get all these

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companies could reasonably thought about the reputation and talk to

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the government, suddenly saying, what are we doing? I don't think it

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is odd at all. In this climate with people worried about where their

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next pay cheque is coming from, anything that comes from work, the

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big gap is they seem to have gone into this without thinking about

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the purpose for it beyond profit. They don't seem to have a quick

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story about why we are in this in the first place. I think there is

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what these organisations need to get here about. It is not the big

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business about the merits of the programme, it is about, why are we

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doing this? Is that the government's problem? You spoke

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about the pressure of the social media, there were 211 treats on

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offer to work, that is nothing? got to be careful about how we read

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that because that is messages that had the hash out on them. There are

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probably more on this. What would you concede that this could be

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taken out of proportion, that actually people are not as angry as

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may be the Socialist media thinks? The reaction I have had is very

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much they do think this is a good scheme. This is giving a young

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people the chance for work experience. The only that his

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people who are rich and have contacts. This is the government

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the ring that gap for people who knew that opportunity. They need

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support, they need real opportunities, they don't need to

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be sent to work for their dole payment. It is meagre enough as it

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is. These companies are still making millions or billions of

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pounds of profit, there is no reason that you couldn't give these

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people the experience at the same time as taking home a decent wage

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for a decent day's work. The motive is simply about profit, these

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companies want to increase their profit. They have no interest in

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the futures of these young people are giving them opportunities and

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the fact is, this is a niggardly about profit. The facts prove this

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is wrong, we got to get away from this, we need businesses to do well.

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It is not just about retail, there are technology companies in this

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game. If people want to get into this, it is a voluntary scheme will

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stop what about providing jobs at the end of this? That is not

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necessarily going to happen and also the threat hangs over your

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head if you want to drop out of one of these schemes, you benefits are

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cut. As for gaining experience in these companies, it is shelf

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The work-experience scheme is voluntary in the first place.

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People can turn out -- pull-out if it is not for them after the first

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few days. They have to make a commitment after the first week but

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so did the companies. It is 25 or 30 hours a week for just a few

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weeks, giving somebody something on their CV. But the point is that you

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do not need to put stacking shelves on a CV, you do not get work

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experience from that. I would disagree. It is interpersonal

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skills, the habit of being at work and getting that valuable

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experience. The results, 50% getting to work at the end of it,

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they are proving that is right. Would you tell companies not to

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touch the is sore would you say, get on with it? I would probably

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say something in between. Think carefully about why you were doing

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this and get it clear. Make sure it is not just about profit, but you

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have a purpose tied in to watch your organisation is about. We need

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more skills in the work force and there are areas that companies can

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get clear about. But they have not done that. If you want to provide

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cover -- young people with skills, the Government could on role a

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programme of public works. We have millions of people in council

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houses who cannot... They do not have the money for that. Why not

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nationalise the banks and take the money back, use that money to

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provide jobs? I will put the allegations of Chris Grayling to

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you, from this morning, that you're a front for the Socialist Party.

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am a member of the Socialist Party but this project is certainly not a

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front. We are supported by seven unions. Putt -- funded by them?

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are funded by trade unions that represent 2 million workers in this

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country. So he is probably right? It is not a front. It is perfectly

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democratic and above board. The reason is that socialists are

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taking up this issue, because it is a symptom of a capitalist system

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that is corrupt, rotten to the court and the reason no one can get

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jobs is because the bank has collapsed and the private sector

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has collapsed and the Government is making us pay for it. If you wore

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your Socialist Worker tank more loudly... We do, we do. People were

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carrying copies of our newspaper. There were eight people on a

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protest. That is just the start. It is not just a case of us wanting to

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replace traditional methods of trade unions and mass movements,

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we're doing this to start a mass movement, to build a movement that

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links up young people, working class people and trade unions. That

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is ultimately the only thing that will answer the questions. The only

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way we can provide jobs, act you have a lot of work to do here.

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terms of what the Government wants to do, with this scheme, do you

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think it can continue as it is, without more companies changing

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their approach? I think it should carry on. Many businesses will

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hopefully see that what they're doing is worth doing. We have to

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support those businesses across different sectors and thank them

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for doing this work to help young people get an opportunity and work

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experience to fill their CV and get more experience. That is what we

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want, because we have an inheritance of that youth

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unemployment. We have to think outside the box. Thank you very

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much. In Tunisia, more than 60 countries

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have been stepping up economic pressure on the regime in Syria.

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William Hague said he would recognise the Syrian National

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Council as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people

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but he ruled out arming the rebel Free Syrian Army. Tonight, Hillary

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Clinton slammed Bashar al-Assad and the countries that have refused to

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endorse the UN Security Council's condemnation. The regime refuses to

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allow this life-saving aid to reach people in need. It will have even

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more blood on its hands if it does this. So too will those nations

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that continue to protect and arm the regime. We call on those states

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that are supplying weapons to kill civilians to halt immediately.

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short while ago, I spoke to the Foreign Office minister, Alastair

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Burt, about the diplomatic effort going on there. This summit is all

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about trying to find diplomatic solutions to the crisis. What is

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the point of it without Russia? point of getting so many nations

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together is to demonstrate the isolation of the Syrian regime, and

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perhaps to demonstrate to Russia that they can refuse a resolution

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at the United Nations Security Council, but by seeing so many

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nations all our life together, telling the Syrian regime that they

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have to stop the killing, and they have to back the Arab League

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proposals which are on the table, much discussed today, the point is

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to perhaps remind Russia that they are on the wrong side of history.

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They could be drawn in. The weight of nations speaking today should

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not be treated lightly. I put it to you that without China and Russia

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present and willing to engage you can do nothing. I disagree. What

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was being asked of nations today was that those countries that are

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not involved in sanctions to date should become involved. The EU has

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taken 11 rounds of sanctions, as it freezes, and travel bans, targeted

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actions on individuals, and oil embargoes. We were proposing today

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that this squeeze, the stranglehold on the Syrian economy, or on Syrian

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diplomatic and economic means, if this is taken up more dramatically

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it will put serious pressure on Syria. Russia and China do not need

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to be part of that but other nations can do it and Russia and

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China will see how far behind they are. President Assad has been

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accused of crimes against humanity already. There is bloodshed going

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on, something close to civil war in several parts of the country and

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none of this is stopping him. then the pressure has got to

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increase. To what? We were trying to, by getting more nations

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involved and indicating where extra pressure can be put to none,

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whether it is diplomatic or financial or economic, all of these

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cumulatively will have a difference. A militarily? The United Kingdom is

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not involved in that. There is an arms embargo on that will not be

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Maybe help and support will be given to opposition in other ways.

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Is it not time you allow the opposition that you recognise as a

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legitimate representative of the country to have that embargo lifted

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and import their own arms to defend themselves? There are many

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different parts of the Syrian opposition. If you mean the

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National Council, they did not have that discussion when they spoke to

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the Secretary of State. Would you like to see that happen? The United

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Kingdom is part of an arms embargo, but the frustrations expressed by

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others were clear. It is not for the United Kingdom to dictate to

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other countries what they may or may not to. If they wish to support

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those who were trying to protect and defend themselves. That is the

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point. What the United Kingdom can do very clearly is say to the

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regime that is perpetrating this cycle of violence at him a stop.

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But we know that Russia is already arming one side. At the moment

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there is an imbalance because the other side cannot get the arms to

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defend themselves. Is it not time that that was addressed? With

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respect, that is easy to say but the overwhelming sense of the

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conference was to introduce more arms into this situation, which

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might make the situation worse. So many countries that we are speaking

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to said that the Arab League has a plan. Let us get behind that plan,

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let us put the pressure on Syria economically, diplomatically,

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politically, in order to get them to turn aside from killing and

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realise how isolated they are. The Arab League plan is the way to go

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forward. The country has expressed frustration with what was happening

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on the ground and the abhorrence of what was happening was the be clear.

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The UK can understand that very well. -- was very clear.

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It looks like virtual prison and sounds like it but you are not

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allowed to college virtual prison. How do you lock up criminals when

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you have no money to spend on incarceration? You keep them in the

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raw homes with severe restrictions on the movement. That is David

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Cameron's latest plan as his party encourages him to get tough on

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crime. But how will the good clock -- good cop, bad cop duo, Ken

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Clarke and Theresa May, make his work in practice? -- make this work.

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A placing criminal-justice with 21st century community justice was

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a mission that, in its early months, united the coalition and delighted

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reluctant Liberals. Ken Clarke stood four-square with Nick Clegg

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in pledging to bring down sentencing rates. Hence this joke

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at last year's Spectator awards. we make a good double act in that

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eye lock them up and you let them out. Very dry but not side-

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splittingly funny for those in Number Ten. They were fearing the

0:23:050:23:09

public view community sentences as a walk in the park. Over the last

0:23:090:23:14

few months, the Minister of State for policy has worked with Ken

0:23:140:23:17

Clarke and Home Secretary Theresa May to put more punch into the

0:23:170:23:22

punishment. This morning, reports emerged of what sources said would

0:23:220:23:26

be a draconian new regime with offenders sentenced to a virtual

0:23:260:23:31

prisoner. Curfew for 16 hours a day, threatened with an immediate court

0:23:310:23:34

hearing if they left the house arrest, and judges allowed to

0:23:340:23:39

confiscate passports and driving licences. Cameron promoted this

0:23:390:23:42

strategy today when asked at a private meeting whether he feared

0:23:420:23:47

the party was losing its reputation for being hard on crime. He told

0:23:470:23:50

them that the toughening of community sentences would reassure

0:23:500:23:54

them. The pressure on the number of prison places is so high that at

0:23:540:23:57

the last election the Tories campaigned on a policy of prison

0:23:570:24:02

ships to deal with it. Recently, Ken Clarke wrote to Cabinet

0:24:020:24:06

colleagues urging them to proceed with care when going for a crime --

0:24:060:24:11

a crime of drug driving to match thatch of drink-driving. The

0:24:110:24:15

dilemma hanging over them is this, how do you reduce the number in

0:24:150:24:19

prison at the same time has been tough on crime? That we are seeing

0:24:190:24:24

a new push reflect the findings of a selection of opinion polls. Tory

0:24:240:24:28

donor Lord Ashcroft found in March of last year that four fifths of

0:24:280:24:31

the public and victims of crime saw community sentences as, in their

0:24:310:24:37

words, soft punishment. By last time we polled public opinion on

0:24:370:24:40

this, three-quarters of people thought that this Government was no

0:24:400:24:45

tougher on crime than the previous government. -- the last time. There

0:24:450:24:49

is a desire for the Government to be tougher on crime, particularly

0:24:490:24:53

since the riots last summer. People think that one of the reasons why

0:24:530:24:57

reoffending rates are so high is that the prison regime is too

0:24:570:25:02

lenient and the alternatives to prison, community sentences, are to

0:25:020:25:06

relax and are ineffective. Community sentences are not working

0:25:060:25:11

and the public knows it. One third are not completed and there are

0:25:110:25:14

250,000 recorded crimes committed by people on sentences in the

0:25:140:25:18

community. The coalition is right to be looking at reforming them but

0:25:180:25:22

the questionnaires, what is the best way? The evidence we have seen

0:25:220:25:26

shows that punishment has to be a keen -- a key element of the

0:25:260:25:29

sentence. It is important for public confidence but it needs to

0:25:290:25:32

be robust. The pay back to the community needs to be visible.

0:25:320:25:37

There are some that do not think the policy needed tinkering with.

0:25:370:25:41

You have a successful scheme running with proven results. 10%

0:25:410:25:45

better than a short prison sentence. What you need to do is capitalise

0:25:450:25:49

upon it and build on what is working well. Intensive supervision,

0:25:490:25:53

community payback, and attention to addictions, housing and mental

0:25:530:25:58

health needs, and learning difficulties. That would really

0:25:580:26:02

make it work better than it is now. The Lib Dem coalition partners

0:26:020:26:06

agree that community sentences need some tightening up. Although they

0:26:060:26:09

have their demands. What I want to see in the new community sentences

0:26:090:26:14

that are being proposed is that yes, they are properly monitored and

0:26:140:26:18

properly enforced unsupervised, but also that everything that needs to

0:26:180:26:22

be built around a package, in terms of insuring that that person does

0:26:230:26:27

not reoffend, if they have a drink problem, for instance, that that is

0:26:280:26:30

addressed. We need to have the hard work that is involved in the

0:26:310:26:34

community sentence but also the support that is needed to make sure

0:26:340:26:38

that person does not reoffend. sources tell me that actually the

0:26:380:26:42

eventual publication will reveal something slightly softer, but a

0:26:420:26:45

leak of a tough document now has helped the Tories to show what they

0:26:450:26:50

would have liked to have done, undiluted by coalition partners.

0:26:500:26:53

Passports will probably not be confiscated and if a subject needs

0:26:530:26:56

their driving licence, they should have it for their sentence. It is

0:26:570:27:00

likely that instead of one community punishment fit in all,

0:27:000:27:03

there will be a gradation of punishments depending on the

0:27:030:27:07

severity of crime. Whatever the reincarnation, some detect grand

0:27:070:27:13

designs. We have to fix community sentences to make a more robust and

0:27:130:27:16

tackle the breaches. We need to stop this exhalation -- escalation

0:27:160:27:21

of offending which leads to short- term prison sentences. You cannot

0:27:210:27:25

start from a position that they are an alternative to prison. They

0:27:250:27:31

proceed prison. That is the debate. Those at Number Ten -- there are

0:27:310:27:34

those at No. 10 who were happy with the policy because it makes current

0:27:340:27:39

punishment offer but Oliver Letwin has said to have a bigger ambitions

0:27:390:27:44

for the policy in the future. If the public can be made to trust

0:27:440:27:47

community sentencing as much as custodial sentencing then one day,

0:27:470:27:52

he thinks, it can replace prison. This worries the Tory right wing.

0:27:520:27:55

An idea supposed to toughen things up could then have softened them.

0:27:550:27:59

The new policy may not be as strong as reports suggest but it will

0:27:590:28:02

further blur the boundary between locking them up and letting them

0:28:030:28:09

out. Lock them out while letting them stay out.

0:28:090:28:12

A quick word from our thumb about the review tonight.

0:28:120:28:17

Tonight, we are embracing her glamourous side with a look at the

0:28:170:28:23

line-up for this year's Oscars. -- MA for. Joining me, Brian Cox, Mike

0:28:230:28:31

Miller and film critic Natalie Haynes.

0:28:310:28:34

Haynes. The front pages: The Financial

0:28:340:28:38

Times has George Osborne ruling out cuts to fuel duty, as its main

0:28:380:28:43

story. He says he is set for confrontation with motorists. The

0:28:430:28:47

Daily Telegraph as a warning from Lynne Featherstone, challenging the

0:28:470:28:51

role of the Church in a debate over gay weddings, saying that the

0:28:510:28:56

Church does not own marriage. A preview of the Oscars, with The

0:28:560:29:02

Artist. And the Times, devastation, despair and courage on Syria's

0:29:020:29:07

bloody front line, telling the story of the week undercover -- a

0:29:070:29:13

journalist's week undercover. And finally, I think he saw that

0:29:130:29:20

one earlier, the woman who has had to quit from A4e after allegations

0:29:200:29:23

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