04/04/2014 Newsnight


News stories with Emily Maitlis. Including the culture secretary's new woes, renationalising the railways, legal highs, and was the East India company like the CIA and the NSA.

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Secretary's aide trying to put them off investigating expense why is. I


should just flag up when she Doorsteps him, she has her father.


The paper says that was a threat to press freedom. Number Ten calls the


claim utterly false. Also tonight, getting high legally. It says toxic


symptoms may include nausea, restlessness panic. The person


making it thinks someone will take it. Should you ban people from


getting off their heads on drugs sold over the counter. The minister


says you can and you should. This man wants to know how? Good evening,


the apology was just 31 second, the fall-out from the Maria Miller


expenses episode may take up a lot more air time. Tonight the Telegraph


has released an audio transcript of the moments Maria Miller's aide told


them to leave the expenses scandal off. He said his staff were


threatened with tougher press regulation if they went ahead. The


Prime Minister defended his Culture Secretary and declared the Standards


Committee which judged her to be independent. A handsome


double-fronted period house with excellent entertaining space in good


condition. So when the estate agent blurb for the Culture Secretary's


five-bedroomed home when it was sold in February. Yesterday Maria Miller


was cleared of making false expenses claims related to that house. She


still had to pay back ?6,000 in mortgage interest and apologise for


her attitude to an inquiry triggered by a story in the Telegraph. Today


she still had the support of the Prime Minister. What happened


yesterday is that Maria Miller was cleared of the original charge made


against her, it was found she had made mistake, she accepted that,


repaid the money, she apologised unreservedly to the House of


Commons, I think we should leave it there. But that attempt to draw a


line under the affair hasn't worked, at least so far. At the centre of


all this are now claims by the Telegraph that its reporters were


threatened, repeatedly told by Government spin doctors that it is


the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller who is in charge of press


regulation. This evening the Telegraph released the audio of a


phone call between holly Price and Maria Miller's special adviser at


the Department of Culture head a and support. It starts with a complaint


that the journalists turned up on and harassed Maria Miller's elderly


fair -- father who has health problems.


Is that reference to the Leveson Inquiry into press regulation, which


the Telegraph and its editor claim was a vailed threat to their


reporter. Bearing in mind this was a time of anti-press his tearia, the


press was feeling -- hysteria, the press was feeling vulnerable after


the lever son report, and there was a -- Leveson report and there was a


great desire of not falling foul of Leveson. The aide claims the


reference to Leveson was a reminder that her bosses speak directly with


her boss and therefore likely to raise the issue of harassment. But


Craig Oliver, the head of communications at Downing Street,


called the then editor at the Telegraph when again the subject of


Leveson was raised as a threat the We were no doubt threats were being


made. Joanna Hindley was not attempting to be sophisticated about


t she menaced openly, "I just want to flag up that Maria Miller is


involved in Leveson right now, you might want to talk to your senior


bosses", the reporter took that as a serious TLECHLT when you get the


Prime Minister's spokesman saying the same thing a few days later, you


add the calls up and decide they are trying to harass you and stop you


publishing the story. This evening Craig Oliver said:


Newsnight understands there is a lot of anger among backbench Tory MPs at


the way this has played out. Some believe it has left the PM looking


very weak. One MP told us he contacted David Cameron saying he


now has two choices, either come out and hammer, as he puts it, the


Telegraph for telling lies, or else he has to tell his own


communications chief, Craig Oliver, he must now go. Whatever happens all


this is starting to bring back memories that politicians of all


parties will want to forget. David Cameron said after the 2009 expenses


scandal that only through transparency and accountability


would the public get its power back from the political elite. His


critics will use this latest row to show five years on that isn't yet


the case. From Ipswich we now have our guest, the Conservative MP who


sits on the culture media and support committee. And here in


London Heather Brook, her work led to the exposure of the MPs' expenses


scandal originally. Heather I wonder what you heard when we played that,


what did you understand from it, the transcript? I don't work for the


Telegraph, I never have worked for the Telegraph, but when I heard


that, it does strike you as a threat. If you are a reporter and


somebody calls you up, mentions that they are involved with a very


serious inquiry about regulating the press, and mention that is they are


going to talk to your bosses, then that is something that you would, as


a reporter, take as a method of intimidation to basically try to


shut you out of the investigation you were trying to conduct. Is that


what you heard? That is not what I heard. I heard an adviser to the


Culture Secretary suggesting it was inappropriate to be doorsteping


elderly parents of somebody who has just come out of hospital. I know


the reporters said they didn't know, but it is clear that's what the


adviser thought, and indeed Craig Oliver has made the suggestion today


when he said he contacted the editor of the Telegraph to make the point


again. And yet you heard said that when three different sources contact


you with the same message it adds up to something that starts to feel


like a threat. You are on rather shaky ground at that point when you


keep hearing the word "Leveson"? That is your interpretation, that is


certainly not mine. The issue about Leveson has been going on for some


time, I have not seen any change in newspapers' attitudes in want to go


publish what they wish. I think that is the right thing to do I believe


in press freedom, it is right for them to pursue avenues and they need


to do that appropriately and within the grounds of the PCC. That is the


point, if this line from Joe Hindley, the advise e just aed plied


to the parents' medical records, that is understandable, that would


be intrusion, right? The point we need to focus on, this is a reporter


trying to stand up a Tory of allegations an MP's claims on a


second home. She discovers the MP's parents are in the house. It is not


her fault the elderly people are in the house, it is meant to be the


MP's second home, first of all, that is an issue. And secondly that is a


public interest piece of reporting. They need to stand up that story and


find out who is living in that house, why are they there? It is


disingenious of using the argument of privacy and elderly people out of


the hospital. The reporter didn't know that. In the context of Leveson


to paint this picture at a time when the press was really under attack


and you can, to me, it just seems like a very forthright mechanism to


try to use a privacy argument for a politician to avoid public


accountability. And more widely, there is a lot of anger by MPs,


backbench MPs in your own party, the way the Prime Minister has handled


this, some four years on, still to be at a place where this message is


not getting through. There seems to be one rule for some and another


rule for those, if you like, at the bottom of the ladder? I don't see


that being the case, there has been claim and counter claim about the


special adviser, but the central allegation made by another MP that


Maria Miller was subsidising her parents' accommodation through the


taxpayer is reject. Her parents lived with her nine years before she


was an MP, her second home it became because she spent fewer nights there


when she moved to Basingstoke to start family life there. That is the


allegation utterly rejected by the commissioner and the committee.


David Cameron was the man who was going to clean up politics, let


sunshine be the disinfectant, yet here you have the hazy understanding


of whether it should have been ?40,000 she paid back, why you why


it is only now a ?6,000, and this 36-second apology, this is not a


party on top of it, this is the Culture Secretary? There is nothing


hazy about it, marryia Miller going back 20 years when the house was


caught and subsequent improvements made to T she is the person who


found and thought she may have overclaimed on it, did the


calculation with her offset mortgage and put it forward. The


Parliamentary Commissioner took a view Ishally they -- initially that


they should have been paying only on the price paid back in 1996 and not


the mortgage that was there when she became an MP. Together the MPs


discussed that with the commissioner and they have come out to clarify


they recognise it should be the mortgage that was on the house when


she became an MP. Does this feel to you like a cleaner system that is


starting to work? I'm always amazed that I still get calls to come on


programmes like this to discuss a story that I worked on since 2004.


Regardless of the intricacies of the investigation and whether we think


an independent regulator should be, who is meant to be, whose judgment


is final is then overruled by a committee of MPs. I think the point


being that if MPs really are concerned about giving the public a


different view of politics, one that is more trustworthy, then this isn't


giving that view, it looks very shady, dodgy. A cosy cronyistic, we


need the reality and an appearance as well of propriety. Thank you very


much both of you. They are legal, inexpensive, potentially deadly. So


called "legal highs" were linked to 68 deaths in 2012 and despite


Government attempts to crack down on the drugs, they seem impervious to


all efforts to regulate them effectively. All it takes is a


little clever science in lab to bypass restrictions. What is on your


local high street? Butcher, baker, legal high maker? Shops like this


sell all kinds of smoking paraphernalia, and they can sell


legal highs as research chemicals. I can see the chemistry stuff and tiny


copy of the periodic table, what about the product, do you stock


legal highs here. He We stock research chemicals. Do you have


Gogain and Poke. We do stock Poke and Poke Extreme. A couple of


packets. Did you notice how the research chemicals have names that


make them sound like hard drugs. Let's have a look. Now both of them


say not approved for human consumption. That's correct. It says


toxic symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, rest ness. If


you were to consume them. The person making it thinks somebody is going


to take them to put it all on the back. It is a hazard warning label,


it says it on the back of bleach. How much for these? ?25 a packet.


?25 a packet for a research experiment. What would you


recommend? Heating it, adding water to it, that is two chemical


procedures can you do on their own. Research into them, that is why they


are research products. Thank you very much. ?25. Welcome to my


domestic chemical research laboratory. How utterly bizarre that


I can walk into a shop where I know they are selling products that other


people use for recreational drug use, but they will only sell it to


me, and I can only buy it, if we both collude in the belief that this


is entirely for chemical research at home. I'm going to ask a proper


research doctor what he thinks this is for. What is in these? OK so


metethol propane. One has a stimulant with a local anaesthetic.


The local anaesthetic is there to pretend this is cocaine or number


your nose because snotting these drugs would hurt a lot. What do you


think about the kind of labelling on the drugs? It is not a warning, it


is exploiting a loophole placing people at risks. It means people


owning the shops and produce the packets can't put it on the back it


may cause seizures, paranoia and hallucinations, if you take the drug


it comes on for five minutes and lasts half an hour but don't take it


pregnant or driving. That might make the difference between someone


taking a little or a lot and might avoid an A Visit. Without clear


information rely on each other to discuss the effects of the drugs.


They take to chatrooms and forums. This is Claire writing about a


research chemical. I think the thing that is really


concerning is thinking about who might be attracted to these


substances. Our experience is that it tend to be the less experienced


drug user, often the younger drug user and the personal who might be


attracted -- person who might be attracted to the legal and safe


status. These drugs are anything but safe. The figures we have at the


moment suggests one person a week is dying in the UK from the substances.


That is probably an underestimate. There is no consistent global


response to legal high, Britain has banned more than 200 substances, but


as soon as a ban comes in a new compound gets made. This is MDMA,


ecstacy, illegal since the 197 0s, but tweak it and bit and it was


something else and not banned until 2009. This woman's daughter died


after taking it. If you think about any pharmaceutical drug or anything


you ingest it has to be through trials, and before human trials it


goes through other trials, how come we are allowing these things to be


for sale when they have been through no test whatsoever, we don't know


what is in them. They could maime or kill our kids for life, yet we allow


them to be sold, it doesn't make sense at all. Welcome back to the


domestic chemical research laboratory, three big questions,


number one is the global response to legal highs fast and effective


enough? Number two, if the UK is the legal high capital of the world, why


aren't we policing it better? And number three, what does happen when


you pour this into water? Nothing, really. It is not very exciting is


it? In a moment we will speak to George Lamb a TV presenter who took


a legal high when making a documentary about it. First Norman


Baker a Home Office Minister. We found out what happened in the third


question, the big one is why the system is such a complete joke,


Norman Baker, you know people can die from these drugs and yet you


would admit you have no control? It is not a complete joke. Thats Josh


challenge and the drug world has changed significantly over the last


five or ten years internationally, and all countries are trying to find


the correct response. Our response is quicker and more effective than


other countries but it is not as efficient as it should be. A lot of


the legal highs in the review at the end of the last year, we got the be


brains in the country from all disciplines coming together to


advise me. Why do you need a review if these are sold to one person a


week who is dying Flo them? From them? We tried to minimise harm on


the streets. The mother there said you don't let them on the market?


Sometimes the first we know about it is wh somebody has died. Why do they


get licensed? They don't, they suddenly appear, they are imported


and dressed up in packaging that looks legal. There is nothing you


can do to stop them being sold? As soon as we find out they are


damaging we ban them. We have been orders temporarily, and we are


trying to anticipate where the chemist might go next. We are trying


to arrest those selling illegal substances. You know the shops


exist, do you believe anyone goes into them in order to conduct a


domestic chemical experiment, so why take the shops? If a shop is selling


something ban you had can't run it out of business. I have issues and


guidance to local councils in order to enable them to go in and use the


different ladies and gentlemenslation and the powers have


been used to see substances and close stops -- seize substances and


close stops down. You heard what the doctor said about putting a


different set of instructions on the back of the packet. Would it be


better to legal lies them with all the warnings that would -- legalise


them with all the warnings that would help. I have set up a panel.


Are you considering legalisation? The review panels had a blank sheet


of paper and challenge from me to come up with a way of minimising


damages. You have a Home Office Minister, you must have a sense of


whether you think these should be banned outright or they shouldn't be


imported into the country as chemicals, or whether you think that


actually the most realistic thing to do is let them be sold and let


people know what they are letting themselves in for? This review panel


is looking at different practices across the world, there are


different ways to approach, Ireland has taken a draconian view and


banning anything that is psychoactive. That is a big extreme


position. New Zealand has looked at going down the road you suggested.


Looking for some to be given permission to be on the shelves.


That has eliminated 90% of those in New Zealand, but some are on the


shelves. The third option, the American option, of banning


substances which are similar to different ones that are banned.


George, when you hear the options do you think we should be the New


Zealand? I think New Zealand 100%. You would say you are never going to


ban them? You can't ban them, they change the compound every time, as


soon as you ban one drug another will appear. You can't regulate


that, if you change the rules consistently you will have a


continuous stream of untested chemicals on the mark. If you speak


to a toxicologist, they want to have research on something. If you are


doing recreational drugs you are better off doing illegal ones


because we have 20 years of research on the new ones. You have still got


one person a week dying of this, that won't change presumably, if


they are sold more freely. No but if you sell something with education


and you don't create sub-cultures, you know they have a misleading name


at the moment which would give the impression her safe and legal. Yes,


they are technically legal, but... You know these appeal to the most


vulnerable, we heard from that doctor, often the youngest people,


people who haven't tried anything that sound legal so he this think


they are on safer ground? The first thing that needs to be tackled is


the name, that is a real big problem, the second thing is the


packaging has no information. The third thing is the fact that kids


can buy them freely. We need to get on top of that. If you don't get on


top of that you will continue to have a person dying every week,


perhaps more. Would you go down the legalisation route for all drugs, I


know you raised the Amsterdam thesis, explain would you go down


for the one who is are illegal as well? Absolutely. You are


pro-legalisation of drugs? I am, if you look at Holland and the way, if


you look at their drug analysis, they have an incredibly permissive


and forward-thinking attitude to drug taking, they have a lower rate


of cannabis uptake amongst young people. You wouldn't consider it


immoral to sell these OK drugs or make them? OK so even if I say it is


immoral, what are you going to do? Are you going to try to ban it? Do


you think it is immoral to sell drugs that you know can kill people?


Of course it is to sell drugs that you know can kill young people. Is


it immoral to make them? To make drugs that will kill people, of


course that is moral. I don't think these people are setting out to kill


people. I know you didn't want to be in discussion with George. But your


thoughts? I don't mind being in discussion with George, that's fine.


You could have come in at any point there. Your sense then would be to


what at this point. Do you accept from what George has said that this


country, maybe the legal high capital, but we are way behind the


curve? I don't accept we are the legal high capital, I accept we are


behind the curve. The world is behind the curve but we are up the


curve. We are making existing systems unable to take on the


challenge we are facing but better than some people. This is a


different situation from the traditional world of heroin, OK


cocaine, two years ago. I wanted to come up with an evidence-based


approach, whatever that is, we should look at it, what is the best


way of minimising the damage. We need to go forward with that. It was


the equivalent of the CIA and the NSA and biggest, baddest


multicorporation on earth. That is the writer Stephen Knight's take on


the east India company, the subject of his major new drama the BBC has


commissioned to be produced by Ridley Scott. It tells the story of


a rogue adventurer, setting out against the shipping organisations.


It has profoundly shaped modern trade, but was it ultimately the


main institution of much darker episodes in our colonial past. With


me now the economic historian and professor, from LSE who wrote East


Indian Company, the most powerful corporation. And you wrote a book


about it shaping the modern multinational.


Do you concede now that company did an awful lot of bad. Well it


suddenly started an empire, it is a business firm that started an


empire. If you call its political ventures a bad move, then yes, as a


businessman it was a very successful one. It gave great value to the


shareholders. It left a legacy in the business world in India which is


very long-lasting and quite significant. Just to say if started


an empire, it tells you the story? It does, I think one of the things


you can look at these things coming in. You can see an imperial gene in


the make-up that was pushing for market domination, doing it through


legal or illegal means, through private army. It would be constantly


pushing for its advantage. With quite a few major implications, both


back here in Britain, it was a monopoly so keeping out other


traders as well. It had its own stock market bubbles. It was


admirable? It for such a long time, from the 19600s through to


Victoria's time. In some parts it was admirable, when it was engaging


in equal trade, but then there was the crazy period after the battle in


France, all the restraints were let loose. Give us a sense of how it has


shaped the India we know today? The company's biggest support in trading


operations in India were the Indian merchants. It couldn't get anywhere


without the help and collaboration of brokers, agents, bankers who were


helping the company. The The lasting legacy the company left in India


were the three port cities that it set up, which attracted a huge


number of Indian capitalists in the 18th century to migrate and


resettle. It is from that foundation that you have a whole new


cosmopolitan domestic world happening in India. This was the


first corporation that was too big to fail right? It had its own


bubble, the stock market crash and the Government had to come in and


bail it out. And one of the terms of the bail out, including restraints


on the dividend, and changes to corporate governance, which was


allowing them to sentity that was dumped in Boston. It has global


ramifications. You are both being certificatably nice about it. It has


been called the CIA, the NSA, the biggest baddest multinational


corporation on earth. Can you lay the familiar anyone at its feet,


opium certainly. It grew and controlled the production of opium


in territories and in India, that was smuggled into it. The Bengal


familiar anyone after raising taxes? At that stage it was a strange body,


commercial but also running taxes. It is a cease of negligence, plus


other went in and bought -- it is a it is either negligence or other


went in and brought it out. I think it is about the trading world the


company belonged in, not the kind of trading world we are used to seeing


today. There are no international trade treaties or rules of the game


that I will set out. It was very violent and the rivalries between


European firms and the rivalries between different types of ethnic


trading groups. Anyone who had to succeed in the Indian Ocean trade


will have to have t force of arms. That is part of the fascination for


the story. 20 years ago tomorrow Nirvana front man, curt Kurt Cobain


died. A tune that can be redone many times and still a hit shows the


measure of the song. This is the brass band with Smells Like Teen




The culture secretary's new woes. Renationalise the railways? Banning legal highs. Was the East India company like the CIA and the NSA rolled into one?

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