13/08/2013 Newsnight


13/08/2013

Why are we pumping up a new housing bubble? Israel and Palestine. The lost art of letter writing. The strange death of the British pub. With Jeremy Paxman.


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wealthier. It's not that we've done anything much. No brilliant idea, no

:00:09.:00:12.

productive overtime. It's just that some title deeds are worth more now

:00:12.:00:21.

than they were a year ago. Nice if you own your own home.

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So long boys. It's like that Disney cartoon with

:00:25.:00:27.

housing rising ever higher, supposedly taking our spirits with

:00:27.:00:33.

it. Of course you have to be old enough or lucky enough to own

:00:33.:00:35.

property. Is this any way to run an economy?

:00:35.:00:38.

This sight is something plenty of Israelis don't like - Palestinian

:00:38.:00:41.

prisoners being freed to help along negotiations. Is there any sensible

:00:41.:00:46.

prospect of settlement talks achieving anything?

:00:46.:00:51.

America insists the two sides can do it, but to some even the idea of a

:00:51.:00:54.

two state solution now seems far-fetched.

:00:54.:01:02.

Who writes letters nowadays? Der Mr President, first I would like to

:01:02.:01:12.
:01:12.:01:14.

introduce myself, I'm Elvis press rid and -- Presley.

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Has the tyranny of the kilobyte killed letter writing. A poet and a

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tweeter cross pen and stylus. And publicans across the country are

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calling last orders and closing down their pubs. Is drinking beer now an

:01:25.:01:35.
:01:35.:01:42.

Britain is becoming even more expensive than it already is. This

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is held to be a sign that the economy is shuffling out of the

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intensive care ward. House prices are rising at their fastest pace in

:01:50.:01:54.

seven years. The Government has proclaimed its commitment to

:01:54.:01:56.

boosting the cost of property, despite the advice that they're

:01:56.:02:02.

playing with fire, by stoking up a potential property bubble. Before we

:02:02.:02:12.
:02:12.:02:12.

talk, Sancha Berg has been out in a spring in their step. House prices

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rose most in London, but next is the West Midlands. After years of a

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sluggish housing market, here in Coventry, agents are busy again.

:02:21.:02:27.

Well, I would say there is a increase and interest probably from

:02:27.:02:33.

the beginning of 2013. It started to move from then, but most especially

:02:33.:02:39.

in the last couple of months. And very much geared on first time

:02:39.:02:45.

buyer market to the release of the Government incentive scheme which

:02:45.:02:51.

was April 2013. So it has moved from there.

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This new house is on sale at �125,000. That's affordable for many

:02:58.:03:02.

Coventry couples. Max told me the average salary for first-time buyers

:03:02.:03:07.

is about �25,000. And he is found lenders can be more generous if

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people are helped by the Government to buy. With the Government scheme,

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the Government will give you a loan up to 20% and you only have to find

:03:19.:03:26.

5%. And with those parameters, the building societies are taking a it a

:03:26.:03:33.

little bit easier. They are less tough. So you will get an easier

:03:33.:03:39.

ride if you are on the Government scheme? Definitely.Around the

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corner, a bigger new estate with almost all the houses sold. I spoke

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to one couple in their 20s who just arrived. I moved in at the end of

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June. And it is your first house? Yes and

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we used the help to buy scheme. that make the difference for you?

:04:01.:04:08.

Yes, it is like a 5% deposit down and the Government covered 20% of

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the value of the property. Tell us about the house? It is a

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three bed. It has a kitchen and down stair toilet, lounge and all we

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could ask for. Dwo double bedrooms as well.

:04:19.:04:25.

A garden so it is perfect for us and especially if marriage comes along

:04:25.:04:29.

and children. Yeah, we are not going to need to

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move for a long time. He is a teacher, she works in a

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bank. In London, their peers couldn't afford a house like this.

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Even with Government help. House prices in London slumped in 2009

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ever since they have been rising. In the West Midlands and other regions

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they didn't increase so fast. So the affordability gap between the

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capital and other areas has widened. In 2005 you needed he nearly seven

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times the average salary to buy a house in London. Nearly six times

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the average salary for the UK as a whole. Over the years, that

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difference has grown. Now, you need eight times the average salary for a

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London home just over five times the average salary for the UK as a

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whole. The Government scheme has allowed families to buy new houses

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like these. But generally across the country, a number of new housing

:05:28.:05:32.

starts remains low. So according to the laws of supply and demand, as

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long as the number of new homes remains relatively small, the price

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of housing is likely to keep rising. Many believe the Government scheme

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is supporting an unsustainable housing bubble. It is really about

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looking at the underlying issues here and there isn't a single

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economist that I have spoken to who thinks that the Government's current

:05:54.:05:59.

scheme help to buy is a good idea. Basically, what they are doing is,

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it is printing money for banks so they can lend more to keep house

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prices high rather than actually creating more capital which ie

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building more homes. Next year, the help to buy scheme is

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to be extended. What that will mean, looks very different from London and

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from Coventry. As the rules are lifted, the

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restrictions are lifted and everyone gets in on this tax payer funded

:06:25.:06:30.

bonanza and then again, house prices will rise and a lot more people will

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be left behind. We will have house price increases,

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but we will have a steady growth which is good for everyone because

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house prices in this area are very, very affordable. As you will see

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from this house. So is the Government in danger of

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blowing bubbles? Ed Howker is a journalist and co-author of Jilted

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Generation. Gillian Tett is Assistant Editor at the Financial

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Times and from the Home Builders' Federation, John Stewart. Do you

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think this is something we should be celebrating? Absolutely not. I think

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help to buy is stupid because in the medium-term to long-term we will

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find ourselves in a situation where people will not be able to afford

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houses unless they get into incredible amounts of debt. Debt

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which previous generations could not imagine and didn't have to get into

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when they bought houses. You are pleased because the

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Chancellor is making your job easier for you Yes, we are. Help to buy and

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helpfully has two different parts. The first part which is operating

:07:34.:07:37.

now is helping boost new home production. There is no doubt about

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that. The second part, the mortgage guarantee scheme doesn't kick in

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until next year and that is the one that caused the angst.

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And when that kicks in next year, Gillian? There are two parts of the

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scheme. What the Government is trying to do with help to buy is

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like putting a fire lighter on a damp, summer barbecue and they are

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hoping you will get a blaze and that will get everyone feeling more

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positive and most importantly, get more home builders building more

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homes. It is helping sentiment. It is like having the Royal baby and

:08:14.:08:17.

Andy Murray winning Wimbledon. Suddenly everyone feels better and

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that's good for the economy, but the missing piece is whether we are

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going to get more homes coming through to help meet the supply

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issue as well. Is there any prospect realistically

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and does any of you think there is a realistic prospect of houses coming

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more into line with people's earnings? Well, the real issue is

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you need to get demand and supply in balance and you have had tremendous

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under investment now for the best part of two decades in the housing

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stock and that's what needs to be addressed. We need to get more home

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builders building homes. Gillian is right. With a problem that built up

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20 years, it will take 20 years to solve it. There is no way we can

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solve it in 18 months. You have had 25 years where you as

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private developsers had control over the UK housing stock. Year after

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year you have failed to build the required amount of houses. Now, at

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the moment, you say that's because you can't get the lending or there

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is insufficient demand, but what are your ex-excuses going back over 25

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years? You can't solve this problem on your own and you know this.

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It has been a mortgage issue. But going back 20 years, we are talking

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about the planning system. We have a system where the amount of land

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available for house building is rationed by the planning system. We

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have a plan-led system and that was introduced in 1991.

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This is the argument about building over the green belt, is it? No. We

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need a small increase in terms of the housing stock in numbers and

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that would entail brown field, eight out of ten homes are built on brown

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field land and a little bit of green field.

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When you look at that tape and you look at what's going on in Coventry

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and London, it doesn't make sense to have a national policy, does it?

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Things are so seriously out of kilter. You can't see how one, the

:10:18.:10:23.

same policy can have a desirable effect in both places? Well, the key

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question is whether boosting demand will be enough to get the industry

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producing more homes where they are needed and the problem has been a

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time lag effect that home builders say we want to see evidence of

:10:35.:10:39.

demand before we build, but it takes a long time to get homes coming

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through and so by the time you get demand, you get a bubble and the

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bubble starts to burst. It is the classic stop, start pattern within

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the UK economy. Is the Government going to respond with more sticking

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plaster sclutions -- solutions or will they address the questions

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about why we don't have enough homes? Are you can have the dent you

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are not participating in the inflation of a bubble?

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Government's figures come out on Thursday which is unhelpful tonight,

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but there are a lot of indicators which suggest that house builders

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are gearing up. The figures from the Government today, they sold 10,000

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new homes in the first four months of the scheme. They only build

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100,000 a year so you can see the scale is enormous.

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How many homes do you need a year to address a gap? It is 300,000.

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It is 100,000 this year. That's going to take 20 years.

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Which is more than twice what you are building. You you have had 25

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years and it hasn't happened. If the Government wants to have a long-term

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solution to the problem of housing, we need to push all the leavers that

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will create production of houses. That's the fundamental and vital

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point and that means social housing, it can mean private sector build to

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he let and another point which makes this more difficult for the next

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generation who are trying to get on the housing ladder and pay the

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mortgages and find a way of raising the capital. In the last 10 or 15

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years, there has been a massive introduction of speculation and

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buy-to-let has been driving the increase in homes and the value of

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homes. This is a massive problem because there is a new entrant which

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makes it more difficult for young people to get into the housing

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market. Let's put that question of justice

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to one side and ask a bigger question which is or another

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question which is this any sensible way to run an economy? Relying upon

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this sort of stimulus coming from housing? Well, an economy where the

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only thing that makes people feel good is rising house prices is not a

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good way to run an economy. I think Britain needs to get away from its

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obsession with owning houses and an obsession of house prices as the

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basis of wealth. You are seeing a rising split between the older

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generation and the younger generation that does not.

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The solution is to build more homes. More than double for a sustained

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period, 15, 20 years and only then will we see the problem solved. It

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took us 20 years to get where we are today and it will take us 20 years

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to get out of it. 20 years is longer than the election

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cycle. In the meantime, you have a

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situation where people are priced out of the areas where there are

:13:22.:13:27.

jobs. By 2020, 40% of those under 30 will be living with their parents.

:13:27.:13:32.

One of my favourite stats from the data today if you knock out London

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and the South East, the actual house price growth is nearer to 1%. London

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has seen 8% rises and that's a stark discrepancy between London which is

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about international money and the rest of the country. OK, there are a

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lot of rich people who find London an easy place to come. International

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rich people who find London an easy place to move to, to buy property

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in, to generally make life difficult for anyone who wants to get on

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locally. Let's take that as read. If the effect is only 1% only 1%

:14:10.:14:15.

increase in value across the country, it argues, does it not

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that, that policy is not being effective? In terms of not getting

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enough of the bubble, enough of the increase.

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The bubble is too small. The policy is whether the policy is to make us

:14:26.:14:30.

feel good or to get more people in housing. Yes, rising house prices

:14:30.:14:34.

and nice front newspaper stories boost sentiment, but it doesn't

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really address the fundamental question about how do you get more

:14:37.:14:44.

people in descent houses? You have got two look the at the two schemes.

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You wouldn't expect that to have a significant impact on new house

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prices, house prices across the piece. The scheme that comes in in

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January will be for all housing, new and second-hand and across the whole

:14:57.:15:01.

of the UK. You are judging today for a scheme which has not started yet.

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Is it worth going ahead with the second part of this scheme? It is

:15:07.:15:12.

like a nationalised version of sub-prime, isn't it? It is no the a

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brilliant long-term strategy. and Freddie and has been something

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of a disaster in terms of wasting money and distorting incentre tifrs,

:15:26.:15:31.

the idea the UK would be picking up that same scheme is bonkers. If you

:15:31.:15:34.

want to use Government policy, use it on the supply end of the

:15:34.:15:42.

equation, not the demand end. I don't think it is sub-prime. The

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lenders are under strict rules after the mortgage market review to not

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lend to what we would have classified sub-prime.

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People will be able to buy with a 5% deposit, but they will be assessed

:15:58.:16:02.

by the lenders for affordability. It is not sub-prime lending. We are not

:16:02.:16:09.

talking about a sub-prime boom. It is nothing like the US pre-2006.

:16:09.:16:19.

Thank you very much. Coming up:

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I'm right in the middle of the whole thing. I would love to meet you just

:16:22.:16:30.

to say hello if you are not too busy.

:16:30.:16:33.

The Israeli government announced today it is going to release 26

:16:33.:16:35.

Palestinian prisoners, most convicted for murder, to mark

:16:35.:16:39.

another set of talks to try to find some way of brining peace to that

:16:39.:16:49.
:16:49.:17:03.

troubled part of the world. The meetings begin tomorrow. Mark is

:17:03.:17:08.

here. What do you think? Well, there has been a start of sorts. Those 26

:17:08.:17:13.

prisoners have left the Israeli prison, most going to Gaza, some to

:17:13.:17:16.

the West Bank. There were demonstrators outside, clearly some

:17:16.:17:22.

on the right of Israeli politics don't like it. There are supposed to

:17:22.:17:27.

be 130 released. The two sides will convene for proper negotiations

:17:27.:17:32.

tomorrow in Jerusalem. What else can you tell us about the

:17:32.:17:40.

House of Commons? Well, this process has been if you like through several

:17:40.:17:44.

different philosophical evolutions. You had the Madrid process in 1991

:17:44.:17:48.

which was to deal with the Middle East problem in one swoop. That

:17:48.:17:54.

failed and then Oslo 20 years ago. It said OK, let's leave the

:17:54.:17:57.

difficult issues to one side, the issues about Jerusalem, Palestinian

:17:57.:18:01.

refugees, five million now in the Middle East and deal with what we

:18:01.:18:07.

can deal with. That subsided into violence and you had President

:18:07.:18:11.

Clinton who brought the sides to within a whisker of success and

:18:11.:18:16.

since then they have been trying to deal with the sensitive issues such

:18:16.:18:19.

as refugees, Jerusalem and settlements.

:18:19.:18:24.

Any chance of it succeeding, do you think? You have only got to look at

:18:24.:18:29.

the Israeli Government authorising 3,000 new housing units in the past

:18:29.:18:34.

couple of days on East Jerusalem on land they conquered in 1967 and the

:18:34.:18:38.

world does not recognise as sovereign Israeli land. The

:18:38.:18:42.

Palestinians put that in a very, very pessimistic frame of mind, but

:18:42.:18:45.

when you talk to the diplomats who dealt with these issues, they will

:18:45.:18:50.

say, an Israeli Prime Minister at Camp David was prepared to discuss

:18:50.:18:55.

dividing Jerusalem in 2008. We know the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud

:18:55.:19:01.

Abbas, was prepared to make concessions on the refugee issues.

:19:02.:19:06.

This is what John Carey says he wants the two sides to achieve in

:19:06.:19:11.

nine months. The really serious blocks are I think on the Israeli

:19:11.:19:14.

side, is there really a will to make the hard national choices at this

:19:14.:19:20.

particular moment? Is their heart really in the peace process. On the

:19:20.:19:24.

Palestinian side how can Mahmoud Abbas with his Fatah based State in

:19:24.:19:28.

the West Bank deliver something or a state in the West Bank when Ham mass

:19:29.:19:32.

still runs Gaza and you have to have the whole of the Palestinian

:19:32.:19:42.
:19:42.:19:46.

community signing up to to any deal. Two people who have taken part in

:19:46.:19:49.

previous talks are Dr Ron Pundak, a key negotiator at the start of the

:19:49.:19:52.

Oslo peace process in 1993. In Ramallah is Khaled Elginy, who

:19:52.:19:55.

advised in the most recent rounds of major negotiations in Annapolis

:19:55.:20:03.

2007. Are you holding out hopes for these talks?

:20:03.:20:09.

Well, the situation is clearly not very easy because the gap between

:20:09.:20:16.

what is the maximum that the Israeli Government can offer versus the

:20:16.:20:20.

minimum the Palestinians can accept is too big. It is too huge. I think

:20:20.:20:25.

that the differences are unbridgeable. Now, here comes the

:20:25.:20:31.

American role which must be very dominant and not allow the two sides

:20:31.:20:37.

after one session or two sessions just to blow up and go away. And to

:20:37.:20:42.

be very brief, I think, that the solution which we can speak about is

:20:42.:20:48.

a kind of a two approach solution in which the Americans will gradually

:20:48.:20:52.

build the process which will be a first stage towards final status,

:20:52.:20:59.

dealing with the interim condition with a parallel position, and

:20:59.:21:04.

activity of a dominant American intermediator in which they will

:21:04.:21:11.

bring to the scene the final vision because without the final status

:21:11.:21:17.

vision will won't be any progress. How do you see it going? Are you

:21:17.:21:19.

optimistic about whether the talks about produce a settlement of any

:21:19.:21:29.
:21:29.:21:33.

kind? I am not sure that I would cal ify

:21:33.:21:38.

-- qualify myself as an optimist. We are seeing something we have seen

:21:38.:21:42.

quite a bit before. Even the spike in settlement activity on the eve of

:21:42.:21:48.

resuming negotiations is not new. It is precisely the same thing which

:21:48.:21:52.

happened after the talks were launched and just as the parties

:21:52.:21:58.

were about to sit down and resume negotiations we saw an increase in

:21:58.:22:04.

settlement activity. So this is something of a peace process ritual

:22:04.:22:13.

unfortunately. And it is really one of the flaws in this process, the

:22:13.:22:19.

allowing really kind of unbridled settlement activity in the very

:22:20.:22:27.

areas that Palestinians are supposed to have a State. Let me ask you

:22:27.:22:32.

this. Forgive me cutting across you, we have a cheap satellite tonight

:22:32.:22:37.

and there is a delay. Let me ask you, what are the areas in which you

:22:37.:22:47.
:22:47.:22:50.

think there might be progress? I think that on all core issues

:22:50.:22:54.

which means final status border, refugees, Jerusalem, on the core

:22:54.:23:01.

issues, the chances of really moving forward are less than small. And

:23:01.:23:06.

because of this and because of the lack of interest of both sides, just

:23:06.:23:12.

not to move forward, and specifically when we have such a I

:23:12.:23:21.

would say poor active administration American add Mark -- administration,

:23:21.:23:25.

especially John Kerry, at an early stage one should concentrate not on

:23:25.:23:31.

the final status issues, but on the interim issue in order to bring a

:23:31.:23:37.

Palestinian State on interim borders which are familiar to us from the

:23:37.:23:44.

second phase of the road map of 2003. But this can only be with a

:23:44.:23:49.

vision of a final status, but to speak about borders, Jerusalem today

:23:49.:23:53.

is impossible. Let's talk about leaders. Do the two

:23:53.:23:59.

sides have leaders who are sufficiently self-confident to make

:23:59.:24:08.

progress? It is not just a matter of

:24:08.:24:16.

self-confidence, it is a matter of inclin nation. -- inclination.

:24:16.:24:22.

on. We have an Israeli Government that does not appear inclined

:24:22.:24:26.

frankly towards a genuine two State solution. You have settlers in the

:24:26.:24:36.

Government. You have people in the Government open to a solution and

:24:36.:24:42.

this it is difficult to see how this Israeli Government will be able to

:24:42.:24:46.

orientate itself towards a two State solution. You have a Palestinian

:24:46.:24:50.

leadership that's weak and dysfunctional and it is difficult to

:24:50.:24:56.

see how a leader leadership like that is going to have the mandate to

:24:56.:25:03.

negotiate the broad, sweeping concessions. Do you think then

:25:03.:25:06.

gentlemen... You have two leaderships.

:25:06.:25:11.

Gentlemen, do you think the two of you that this idea of a two State

:25:11.:25:15.

solution is now something that really ought just to be put to one

:25:15.:25:20.

side for a moment to see if there are any sort of practical issues

:25:20.:25:27.

that could be addressed in the meantime? Well, first of all, I

:25:27.:25:31.

think that the two State solution is the only solution which would bring

:25:31.:25:37.

peace and stability to the region. The ideas of one State, or any idea

:25:37.:25:42.

of managing the conflict is impossible. The conflict should be

:25:42.:25:46.

solved through a process of two States. Currently, unfortunately,

:25:46.:25:50.

and I am agreeing with my Palestinian partner here. I don't

:25:50.:25:55.

think that on the Israeli side we have a Government which will be able

:25:55.:25:59.

to go through the process towards a two State solution and I believe

:25:59.:26:07.

that we have a Palestinian partner. I am more optimistically regarding

:26:07.:26:11.

Mahmoud Abbas to move towards a two State solution if the opportunity

:26:11.:26:18.

will come. But having said this, we need two for a tango. The other

:26:18.:26:21.

option which I'm trying to foster now is something which will be less

:26:21.:26:28.

than two States, but again, within a vision that we are heading without a

:26:28.:26:32.

compass, without a direction towards the future, we will not be able to

:26:32.:26:41.

move one step towards any agreement between the two sides. Briefly.

:26:41.:26:51.
:26:51.:26:55.

Well, I think with all due respect to the doctor, the days of interim

:26:55.:27:01.

arrangements are long gone. Of the irony is that if does not look good

:27:01.:27:07.

now, but it maybe worse down the road as far as prospects for a two

:27:07.:27:13.

State solution. I think -- I think more changes need to happen in the

:27:13.:27:15.

Israeli leadership and the Palestinian leadership.

:27:15.:27:21.

Thank you very much indeed. When did you last sit down and write

:27:21.:27:26.

a letter? I'm not talking to you with your nib quivering like a

:27:26.:27:30.

hummingbird over the green ink. Chances are it's been a fair while

:27:30.:27:33.

since you received a letter either. Perhaps then, the only thing left to

:27:33.:27:36.

do is to read other peoples' outpourings. The popular website

:27:36.:27:39.

Letters of Note is to publish its first book in October, filled with

:27:39.:27:43.

the personal scribblings of the rich and famous from yesteryear and the

:27:43.:27:47.

site has given Newsnight access to some of the letters. So with his

:27:47.:27:50.

tongue curled heartbreakingly over his upper lip, the unlettered

:27:50.:27:53.

Stephen Smith, has compiled this August filler - I mean, urgent

:27:53.:28:03.
:28:03.:28:07.

rock'n'roll. You might not be so familiar of him as a sparking con

:28:07.:28:11.

verisationist on the page. Here he is offering to keep tabs on

:28:11.:28:18.

the youth of America on behalf of President Nixon whom he looks

:28:18.:28:22.

forwarding forwarding -- forward to meeting on a trip to Washington DC.

:28:22.:28:26.

Dear Mr President, I would like to introduce myself. I'm Elvis Presley

:28:26.:28:31.

and admire you as have great respect for your office. I'm registering

:28:31.:28:39.

under the name of John Borrows. I have done an in-depth study of drug

:28:39.:28:43.

abuse and communist brain washing techniques and I'm right in the

:28:43.:28:50.

middle of the whole thing. I would love to meet you say hell yes --

:28:51.:28:57.

hello if you are not too busy. was, I wouldn't say famously, but he

:28:57.:29:02.

was a collector of police badges and he tried to obtain police badges

:29:02.:29:08.

from every State. The one he didn't have was a badge of the bureau of

:29:08.:29:11.

narcotics and dangerous drug use. The only way he could think of

:29:11.:29:20.

getting one of these badges was to write to Nixon.

:29:20.:29:30.

This is a calligrapher. He has given Cupid a nudge from time to time,

:29:30.:29:40.

writing love letters on behalf of shy gents. The Queen herself with

:29:40.:29:43.

Princess Margaret await his arrival. You know how it is when you go

:29:43.:29:49.

abroad. You meet a nice couple, promise to keep in touch, president

:29:49.:29:54.

was treated to tea by the Queen and complimented her on her scones and

:29:54.:29:59.

then this happens. Dear Mr President, seeing a picture

:29:59.:30:04.

of you in today's newspaper standing in front of a barbecue grilling

:30:04.:30:08.

quail reminded me that I have never sent you the recipe of the drop

:30:08.:30:13.

scones which I promised you at Balmoral. We have followed

:30:13.:30:17.

worthwhile intense interest and much admiration your tremendous journey

:30:18.:30:22.

to so many countries. But feel we shall never again be able to claim

:30:22.:30:28.

that we are being made to do too much on our future tours.

:30:28.:30:35.

Yours sincerely, e Elizabeth R. This is an interesting letter

:30:35.:30:42.

because it is trying to impersonate an intimate private letter.

:30:42.:30:49.

Personally, I think it is a little bit fake. The idea that the Queen

:30:49.:30:55.

had this recipe for drop scones to hand, or she typed out the recipe

:30:55.:31:05.

herself is a little bit unconvincing.

:31:05.:31:09.

Research for this programme from the internet shows that the volume of

:31:09.:31:13.

mail including letters handled by the Post Office reached a peak of

:31:13.:31:20.

some 20 billion items a year by 2000 and has slipped back to 15 billion.

:31:20.:31:24.

Handwriting and the handwriting of letters still matters because it

:31:24.:31:30.

just shows so much investment in the subject, in the occasional

:31:30.:31:34.

communication. I think for most of us, there are still important

:31:35.:31:41.

occasions in our lives when we would specify that a letter needs to be

:31:41.:31:48.

handwritten on paper. We would probably write for instance to a

:31:48.:31:52.

bereaved friend with a pen on paper. I think most people would still do

:31:52.:31:56.

that. Of course, there are some letters

:31:57.:32:06.
:32:07.:32:09.

you might prefer not to get like a Sangin notelet from Jack the Ripper.

:32:10.:32:15.

From hell. I send you half the kidney I took from one woman.

:32:15.:32:20.

Preserved it for you. The other piece I fried and ate. It was very

:32:20.:32:25.

nice. I may send you the bloody knife that took it out if you only

:32:25.:32:32.

wait a while longer. Signed catch me when you can will Lusk.

:32:32.:32:37.

It is the perfect time to look back at this thing and try and make it

:32:37.:32:40.

accessible to as many people as possible. A lot of the letters exist

:32:40.:32:45.

in archives and in museums and in old books and I just find it very

:32:45.:32:52.

satisfying to bring them into one kind of place.

:32:52.:32:55.

Einstein wrote to the White House in 1939 voicing his concern that

:32:55.:33:00.

scientists were on the brink of developing a terrible new weapon,

:33:00.:33:05.

the acomic bomb. Certain aspects of the situation which has arisen seem

:33:05.:33:09.

to call for watchfulness and if necessary, quick action on the part

:33:09.:33:13.

of the administration. I believe therefore that it is my duty to

:33:13.:33:18.

bring to your attention the following facts and recommendations.

:33:18.:33:24.

That it may become possible to set-up a nuclear chain reaction in a

:33:24.:33:28.

large massive Ukraine stadium, by which vast amounts of pou with are

:33:28.:33:34.

and large quantities of raid stadium would be generated. This would lead

:33:34.:33:39.

to the construction of bombs, a single bomb of this type carried by

:33:39.:33:42.

boat and exploded in a port might very well destroy the whole port

:33:42.:33:50.

together with the surrounding territory.

:33:50.:33:54.

If you have enjoyed our coverage of letters, you might like to forward a

:33:54.:33:58.

link to Newsnight to a friend or a loved one.

:33:58.:34:08.
:34:08.:34:10.

The modern equivalent of the chain Well, joining me now is the

:34:10.:34:12.

Telegraph's social media editor, Kate Day and the poet, Roger

:34:12.:34:16.

McGough. Is this something we need to worry about, Roger? Well, I do. I

:34:16.:34:20.

think it might be a lost art. I think, it is very important when

:34:20.:34:25.

children are at school to learn how to write and we are losing that.

:34:25.:34:31.

That's a handwriting thing? Yes. They hand write and they write

:34:31.:34:34.

letters, if they are typing in and tweeting and using the internet,

:34:34.:34:38.

people will lose the ability to write, aren't they? It is a tactile,

:34:38.:34:42.

centre suous and good for the soul. Do you worry about it, Kate?

:34:42.:34:45.

particularly. I agree with Roger that it is important that children

:34:45.:34:51.

can write, but I think that also children need to rern learn to using

:34:51.:34:55.

language and learning to write a well constructed e-mail could teach

:34:55.:35:00.

them as well as writing a letter. are moving from the considered

:35:00.:35:08.

letter, a series of expressions of feelings and on a piece of paper

:35:08.:35:13.

which has been composed to instantous communication? The willer

:35:13.:35:22.

is a conversation. It is a whisper, isn't it? The e-mail is, you no

:35:22.:35:26.

know, it tends, you know, it tends fob informative.

:35:26.:35:31.

Does it not depend on the e-mail. You can throw an e-mail quickly and

:35:31.:35:35.

tell someone you will be five minutes late. Or you can write

:35:35.:35:37.

something considered. Do you do that? Yeah, from time to

:35:37.:35:43.

time. Not hugely... Do you post things too? Yeah, particularly

:35:43.:35:47.

private messages on Facebook and Twitter. I wouldn't want to make the

:35:47.:35:50.

messages public because they are more intimate and intended for one

:35:50.:35:55.

person, but I sit down and write considered e-mails and receive

:35:55.:36:00.

considered e-mails and you know when you get an e-mail whether somebody

:36:00.:36:04.

put time into it or whether it is a thrown away message.

:36:04.:36:09.

I was talking to my son of 22 about this before he came out. He said he

:36:09.:36:13.

would find it pretentious to write a letter. A lot of young people find

:36:13.:36:19.

this except if you are, you know, writing a bereavement or a farewell

:36:19.:36:28.

letter or something and e-mails are used, except he wouldn't like a

:36:28.:36:35.

value Valentine in an e-mail e-mail? Did you receive that? Would you not

:36:35.:36:44.

like a nice letter? I remember when I was at university and we used to

:36:44.:36:49.

get letters from mum and dad. My mum, she wrote a lot. She was very

:36:49.:36:54.

chatty and very gossipy. My dad, who wasn't good at writing, he wrote in

:36:54.:36:58.

capital letters, but when I got his letters, it was wonderful. They were

:36:58.:37:02.

few and far between, but you could almost smell the tobacco and the

:37:02.:37:09.

time he had taken to do. E-mail, they would have just done and...

:37:09.:37:13.

look at some of those examples of letters given there. There is a

:37:13.:37:18.

physical artefact. You get some sense of the person from that in a

:37:18.:37:22.

way you would never really get it, do you, from electronic

:37:22.:37:29.

communication? Well, you lose the physicalality, but you get an

:37:29.:37:32.

intimacy by sharing the moment in a way you can't with the lettermed

:37:32.:37:39.

Supposing you were a historian or a biographer and you are going through

:37:39.:37:41.

someone's correspondence and all you have got is e-mails sent and

:37:42.:37:46.

received. Is it anything good as letters? Well, you could argue it is

:37:46.:37:50.

better. Why?You are going to have more stored. You are going to get a

:37:50.:37:55.

wider picture of that person's life and wouldn't you want to he read the

:37:55.:37:59.

Pope's e-mails or the Queen's e-mails. Do you think it is more

:37:59.:38:03.

honest in a way? I think you get a broader picture so you will get some

:38:03.:38:08.

of the formal messages from very public figures that they are sending

:38:08.:38:12.

as head of State, but you might also get their private communications

:38:12.:38:17.

that are much more casual and so you get a much richer picture about who

:38:17.:38:21.

they are because we can store that now in a way it was much more ad hoc

:38:21.:38:26.

in the past with physical letters. Isn't it something about the letter?

:38:26.:38:30.

It is the letter and someone has been out doing the gartening, there

:38:30.:38:38.

might be ksh gardening, there might be soil on the letter. I remember

:38:38.:38:44.

judging children's poetry competitions, ten or 15 years ago,

:38:45.:38:49.

the children children sent their poetry with mistakes and bad

:38:50.:38:55.

spelling and now they compere effectually written and typed and

:38:55.:39:00.

with spell check and something has lost.

:39:00.:39:04.

In the same way that I think e-mail is cold.

:39:04.:39:07.

Isn't there something wonderful about sharing a moment with somebody

:39:07.:39:14.

that the instand tinnious nature that -- instantous nature, if you

:39:14.:39:17.

are sending something a tweet and you know they are thinking about it

:39:18.:39:21.

at the same moment. There is something lovely about it.

:39:21.:39:27.

That's a point. I am an occasional tweeter, but I like reading. I mean,

:39:27.:39:37.
:39:37.:39:38.

reading the paper about the fam famous beard. There is a lot of

:39:38.:39:42.

rubbish on Twitter. I think we will stop this

:39:42.:39:50.

conversation! Sorry. We all need to drink more beer. This

:39:50.:39:53.

is the sort of political instruction Homer Simpson can understand. No

:39:53.:39:56.

less a figure than the hitherto unknown Brandon Lewis - apparently

:39:56.:40:00.

he is minister for pubs - has endorsed a scheme to list 100 pubs

:40:00.:40:03.

to save them from being bulldozed. If that's his idea of dramatic

:40:03.:40:07.

action, don't ask him to buy a round. The fate of pubs is normally

:40:07.:40:14.

a worry of men with beards. But according to the Campaign for Real

:40:14.:40:17.

Ale, great numbers of human beings without the Y sex chromosome are

:40:17.:40:21.

also worrying about the fate of beer. Robin Denselow is our man in

:40:21.:40:31.
:40:31.:40:35.

British Beer Festival. An annual event it attracts 55,000 people most

:40:35.:40:42.

of them male, to the London Olympia where they can sample over 800 real

:40:42.:40:46.

ales and ciders and celebrate the now endangered great British

:40:46.:40:50.

institution, the pub. I like it. Pubs are closing so fast

:40:50.:40:54.

across the country that there is a Government backed campaign to

:40:54.:40:57.

protect them. I think they are unique community assets. There is

:40:57.:41:01.

nothing else in our society that provides the same sort of benefit I

:41:01.:41:05.

think for people in terms of meeting places and quite often particularly

:41:05.:41:09.

in rural communities they are the only place where people can get

:41:09.:41:13.

together and enjoy a drink responsibly and sociably with their

:41:13.:41:18.

family ands friends so nothing else can provide that amenity.

:41:18.:41:22.

But if people are not going there anymore, shouldn't they just close?

:41:22.:41:27.

It is not as simple as saying they are not economically viable. The

:41:27.:41:31.

land can be worth more in alternative use and so, you know, we

:41:31.:41:35.

had to have a. Proper planning procedure in place to protect pubs

:41:35.:41:39.

so people have a say on the future of the amenities before they are

:41:39.:41:43.

closed and turned into flats or shops or any other use.

:41:43.:41:46.

So there is serious business behind the booze-up. The industry employs

:41:46.:41:49.

around one million people in breweries and pubs across the

:41:49.:41:55.

country. Half of them under 25. Which is why 100 pubs are to be

:41:55.:42:00.

given a special status in a bid to stop them being sold off for

:42:00.:42:05.

redevelopment. Pubs are closing at a an astonishing rate. 26 a week

:42:05.:42:11.

across the UK, that's nearly 5,000 over four years. But now if a pub

:42:11.:42:14.

becomes an asset of community value, the local authority has to be told

:42:14.:42:22.

when it is on sale, and a local groups up to six months to put in a

:42:22.:42:26.

bid to buy it. What difference do you think the measures will make?

:42:27.:42:29.

just means the communities get a chance to say this is a pub that

:42:29.:42:33.

matters to our community. We want to list it. We want to protect it. If

:42:33.:42:36.

anybody looks at selling that pub or moving it on, community gets a

:42:36.:42:39.

period of time where it can come together and many have already

:42:39.:42:43.

around the country and buy it as a community and when they do that, it

:42:43.:42:46.

is a proper community pub, coming together and generally, they are

:42:46.:42:51.

successful. We have got 100,000 and we are looking to get 300 by the end

:42:51.:42:54.

of the year. The amount of beer and lager sold in

:42:54.:42:59.

pubs and hotels in the UK has dropped. In the first six months of

:42:59.:43:03.

1999, it was just under 50,000 barrels. The figure for the same

:43:03.:43:08.

period this. Year was just over 28,000 barrels.

:43:08.:43:12.

Keeping a pub going by making it an asset of community value may help,

:43:12.:43:19.

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