11/03/2012 Sunday Politics East Midlands


11/03/2012

Andrew Neil and Marie Ashby with political news, including interviews with work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.


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The Conservative MEP who has defected to UKIP faces his critics.

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1809 seconds

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Good morning. I have the Labour MP for North-East Derbyshire and the

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Conservative MP for Derbyshire South. Coming up, e-petitions were

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meant to make the Government listened, but why are they not

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working? And the pilot scheme that will give

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people the right to ask if their partner has a history of domestic

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violence. When Tory member of the European

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Parliament Roger Helmer announced he was quitting, we asked if he had

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any plans to leave the Conservative Party. No, I have no plans at all

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after I have retired, except to take a long rest. Then, lo and

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behold last weekend, he joined UKIP. Roger Helmer is with me now. One

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minute you say you're not going to leave the Conservative Party, and

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then next you move to UKIP. No wonder some of your former

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Conservative colleagues feel betrayed by what has happened.

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said I had no plans to leave, and that was correct, but I was allowed

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to make other plans later drawn. How long have you had the plan to

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join UKIP? Some months. You have not shown me when I made those

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previous comments. Probably five or six months to. That injury was five

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months ago. You said you had no plans to leave. At the time. Within

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a short space of time of that interview, you have changed your

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mind. I had been becoming more and more concerned about the position

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of the Conservative Party. I have been a party member for 40 years,

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and a Conservative MEP for 12 years, and I had been trying to work from

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inside the party to move it into a more Euro-sceptic direction.

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you say you have had all of this history but the party, and then you

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leave the people who voted UN as a Tory MEP, wondering what it was all

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about. The thing was, I had finally reached the conclusion that the

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Conservative Party was not going to deliver anything I wanted on Europe.

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In terms of the people who selected me three times as number one on the

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European list, they selected me because I like -- they liked what I

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said about Europe. Angela Conservative. -- and you are a

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conservative. Let me remind you what you said when your fellow MP

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quit the Conservatives for the Lib Dems. These are your words. He has

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abdicated his position and has upset for 2% off the people in the

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region who voted Conservative. Do you remember saying that? I believe

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that to be true, and I believe that a parliamentarian who wishes to

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change parties should leave. I announced my resignation in October,

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and I fully intended to leave the parliament on 31st December. The

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problem was that I was resigning in favour of the next in line under

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this European minis... But you have not resigned. I did resign. I then

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found it is a much more complicated process in the European Parliament.

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Then the party chairman said we are not sure about who we want to be

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next in line. What is your point to Roger? He is blaming the system and

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the rules. What do you say about that? Hugely disappointed. I was

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there 12 years ago when Roger was selected, and when he was selected

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eight years ago. I am hugely disappointed it has happened. I do

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not think there was any need for it. He feels completely betrayed and

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let down, and is that -- that is not how it should have happened. It

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should have been sorted out and of October. But that aside, should he

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just step down? I wish he had. I understand why he is hanging down,

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but I wish he had gone. But you understand why he is hanging on?

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is true to his principles. The system is ludicrous in Europe, and

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is another reason why we should get out. But isn't this about being

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true to the voters? I think I can deliver better on the policies and

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principles I set out when I was elected from my new position.

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should they not have been given the chance? You said you were

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conservative, now you have changed sides. I could not give them the

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chance to re-elect a particular Conservative, and the party

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chairman has said no. At a meeting on Wednesday, the party chairman

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was given a roasting about this. What do you think should be done

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about this, Natasha? It is really difficult. In European elections,

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even more so than in general elections, people vote on party

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lines. So people voted Conservative. I am sure many people gave you a

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personal vote, but people vote for the party. That is true of all of

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us. They will feel betrayed. Does that not prick your conscience?

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because I know the people I have represented for 12 years and they

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agree with me on Europe. They thought they were voting for a

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Euro-sceptic party, and it has turned out that the party they

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voted for is not a Euro-sceptic party. In my new position I can be

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a more effective Euro-sceptic. you be standing for UKIP at the

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next European election? It is too early to be talking about that, and

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I will be even older then, so I have no plan about staying next

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time. So you might come back and a few months and tell us? It takes a

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few months for you to decide. a shame to rule anything out. But I

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have no plans at the moment. Thank you.

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It was one of the coalition's their ideas. E-petitions that attracted

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the most support could get debated in the Commons, but that has not

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worked out. In 2009, these people tried to hand

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in a petition about CCTV. Things did not quite go to plan at Derby

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City Council. You can see why, from the point of

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view of government, submitting petitions online might be an

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attractive way of doing things. But are they making them two -- bar a

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e-petitions making them listen to us or fobbing us off?

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The inquiry into hills around looks as if it will be spared a, partly

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because of the e-petitions. And the rioting in August had more

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discussion because of this. But other e-petitions have

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struggled to get time in the Commons, including one on NHS

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reforms. The Government's e- petitions made 100,000 signatures

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before a debate in the House of Commons will be considered. The

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trouble is, just six days a year have been currently set aside for

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those debates. Since the National e-petitions sites went live last

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summer, nine have had that threshold. Then there is this

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process to go through before a debate takes place. If an MP does

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not support the petition, the issue could be completely ignored.

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Sometimes there are good reasons for the debate not happening. There

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is only a limited amount of time available. But I think there will

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be a popular backlash of the debates do not happen.

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The man who started the Citizen's Forum hopes this kind of event

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could come to be seen as a more effective way of talking to those

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in power. I think we can take some action, through the focus we have,

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we can invite experts to make a real difference.

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As the group continued debating, they got on to the subject of e-

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petitions. You end up disappointing the public that expect something to

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happen as a result of e-petitions. It does not tell people in the long

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run because people will be disappointed. You have one year to

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gather your 100,000 people, so if you gather them in one week, will

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the process be speeded up? If you don't have something that people

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can get involved in, you need a higher part of entry, if you like.

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You need to have the sense to see each other's point of view, and

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come up with a far better sustainable answer than sending any

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peers -- e-petitions about a pet subject. I groups like this one

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made give decision-maker something to chew on.

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Natasha, you chair the backbench committee that decides the fate of

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e-petitions. Clearly people feel disappointed and let down that you

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have failed to deliver and what you set out to do on this. And they are

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right to. I have always voiced by concerns about them. The problem is

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the government created the system then passed it to us to deal with.

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We do not have any control over the system itself, which is the first

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problem. Also, as you saw, it has raised people's expectations. The

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Government states it says something will only be eligible for a debate,

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but the expectation is that over 100,000 signatures, there will be a

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debate, and a change in law. But that is not necessarily what

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happens. Until we can get that across to people there will be no

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faith in the system. Heather, the committee has a hard job satisfying

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everyone, but where do you think the problem lies? It is with the

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perception. Because it is not what is meant to be happening. It is

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interesting of a group of backbenchers to appear before the

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backbench committee to put your case to have the debate. It is very

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exciting. I think those events should be broadcast. That should go

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on the Parliamentary Channel, so the public get to see this. Do you

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think that would engage the public? Absolutely. Is it three people with

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a pet subject, or 30 people clamouring to have a debate?

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there is a problem there, as we are a backbench business committee.

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Backbenchers come to us and ask us for time to debate an issue that

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they think is of importance. But with the positions, it is different,

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it is about us listening to the public. And we need to make sure we

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make this work because otherwise, the problem is not what we saw on

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the film, sometimes it is worse than ever having had that in the

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first place. Is it less likely to be debated if you do not think it

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will get through? No, it is actually the opposite. We have

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scheduled for debate almost every e-petitions that has reached

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100,000 signatures. We saw the one for Hillsborough. But debating the

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issue of bringing back hanging, corporal punishment, it is unlikely

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the law were changed, so wide debate this? That is the sort of

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petitions that have not reached 100,000 signatures, and I am

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surprised they have not. What are we afraid of? I am very much

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against capital punishment, but of people want that to be debated, we

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should make it clear why we think that we do not agree with it.

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have seen protest groups and camp set up in city centres, and maybe

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the public think that is a more effective way of getting the

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message across? They can see what the action will do, but in e-

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petitions, it may get lost in the system. The thing I find so strange,

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One Show have had all the passion and persuaded the backbench

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committee to have a debate, you then get to the chamber, and unless

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it is something bid ed loses interest. That does not happen in

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backbench debates. We have always had speech limits, which is what is

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unusual about backbench debates. When we have debates and backbench

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time, we are limited to a few minutes. And there are very few

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days where you can do this? Yes, I made a big fuss about this, we

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allocated a certain amount of time for backbench debates. The way that

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I would deal with it is, I would set up a dedicated the petition

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system. If you look at the system in Scotland and Wales, you have a

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dedicated petitions committee that works with people who want to set

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up committees, and it manages their expectations. The real problem is

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parliamentary time. It is a very precious thing. There is a review,

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there are some bits and pieces in a house on Monday as well, and I

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think it will be a very interesting discussion, to see how that works.

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Thank you very much. Time for a round-up of other

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Seven year-old Anthony can rest easy after being told to take down

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his powdered flag because it breached planning regulations. The

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council now admits it over-reacted. Latest figures show another drop in

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teenage pregnancies in Nottingham. 58, compared with 72 the year

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before. The Labour MPs says it is further evidence that the city's

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early intervention programme is working.

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A Labour MP once more plain packages for cigarettes sold in the

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European Union. She says it would make smoking less attractive to

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young people. And also, giving people the right

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to ask if their partner has a history of domestic violence.

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want us to follow that by looking at a specific offence on stocking,

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-- stalking, and make sure we act on domestic violence across the

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border. -- across the board are.

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Will this make a difference? Most people who are found guilty of

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hitting the partner do not have a history of domestic abuse. I think

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it will work. We will have to wait to see how it works out, but it has

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been needed for a long time, and the Government has listened, and I

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am delighted. If the Government is committed to reducing domestic

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violence, how come it is cutting down on legal aid? And it is also

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cuts to voluntary services that support women who have been victims

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of domestic violence, and I think Refuge have said they are very

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worried that this will focus attention elsewhere. It only gives

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women the right to ask about the background, and it may be that they

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do not have a recorded history of this. There is a complete

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misunderstanding about the legal aid. It was never our intention to

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cut legal aid for domestic violence, and we are not. Categorically not.

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What I would like to see is a proper audit of all those services

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that we have, provided for women suffering from domestic violence.

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Refuge centres are closing hand over fist. There is a different way

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of dealing with the Net -- domestic violence these days. I have a

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domestic abuse refuge in my consistency, because I had it built

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10 years ago. What we are actually doing, in the last year alone, we

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have put in rooms in people's houses. There is a complete change

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in how we can deal with this, and that is why this issue was a very

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important to us. You talk about some of the measures in place in

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your area, but is that enough? Clearly domestic violence is a huge

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issue. And it is rising. And it gets worse during times of

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recession. Every case is different. But all I am saying is we need to

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have an audit of all the services for women, and I think that this

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law, I supported, but it is not a silver bullet. And jail terms of up

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to five years? Does that go far enough? It does. Will it put people

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off? Of course it will. You would not want to go to prison for five

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Andrew Neil and Marie Ashby with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.


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