11/03/2012 Sunday Politics East Midlands


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.


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1809 seconds


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


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


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


working? And the pilot scheme that will give


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


violence. When Tory member of the European


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


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


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


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


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


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


Conservative colleagues feel betrayed by what has happened.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


have no plans at the moment. Thank you.


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


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


worked out. In 2009, these people tried to hand


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


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


view of government, submitting petitions online might be an


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


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


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


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


discussion because of this. But other e-petitions have


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


be a popular backlash of the debates do not happen.


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


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


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


we can invite experts to make a real difference.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


come up with a far better sustainable answer than sending any


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


made give decision-maker something to chew on.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


interesting of a group of backbenchers to appear before the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


scheduled for debate almost every e-petitions that has reached


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


One Show have had all the passion and persuaded the backbench


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


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


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


unusual about backbench debates. When we have debates and backbench


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


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


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


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


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


dedicated petitions committee that works with people who want to set


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


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


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


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


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


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


his powdered flag because it breached planning regulations. The


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


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


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


early intervention programme is working.


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


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


young people. And also, giving people the right


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


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


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


border. -- across the board are.


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


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


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


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


am delighted. If the Government is committed to reducing domestic


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


cuts to voluntary services that support women who have been victims


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


worried that this will focus attention elsewhere. It only gives


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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