02/06/2013 Sunday Politics East Midlands


Andrew Neil and Marie Ashby with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including the latest on the lobbying scandal with Francis Maude and Jim Murphy.

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lobbying and give voters the chance to kick out this great MPs. He did


then and since come at nothing. We will ask Cabinet office Minister


Francis Maude if the latest scandals will force the government to act. It


is hardly the best day for MPs to complain about the deal they are


getting on expenses, but many are angry about the new system.


Conservative MP Noureddine Doris in the Newark constituency of


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2438 seconds


Patrick Mercer, and we hear from his reputation of our politicians: We're


live from Newark with the latest on the Patrick Mercer story. He has


resigned the Conservative whip, but should he be allowed to stay on as


an independent MP? I will be getting reaction from local voters. Also


this lunchtime: thousands of people across our region are asking for


help as cuts in housing benefit bite. I think that the courts are


going to be overrun with cases. All of the eviction process is that


going to come up. -- eviction processes that are going to come up.


We'll go across to Newark in a moment, but first my guests in the


studio are Mark Spencer, the Conservative who's a neighbour of


Patrick Mercer, as the Sherwood MP, and Chris Williamson, Labour's MP


for Derby North. More allegations in this morning's papers, this time


involving the House of Lords. All of the peers involved have denied doing


anything wrong. But for both of you, after the expenses scandal, you have


a hard enough time winning the public over, this must just make


your job even harder. Mark Spencer? It is, and it is enormously


frustrating. There are more than 650 MPs, 640 of them are working hard to


their constituents and doing a good job, and it only takes two or three


to tar the rest of us with a pretty uncomfortable brush. How do you


legislate for the bad apples? the things we could do with the


problem of lobbying is have a registry whereby all lobbyists have


to register, whether they are companies or a charity. That would


be an appropriate way forward. This needs to be addressed in a


cross-party way, to ensure that we have legislation to stop this


problem happening again in future. This is enormously complicated. How


do you distinguish between big-money lobby groups and normal


constituents? This week I have talked to the Fire Brigades union,


to Nottinghamshire police, to the local vicar, all lobbying me over an


issue that is going through Parliament. How do you distinguish


between the people who are trying to buy influence and normal, genuine


people, trying to influence the political process? But we have


business interests involved and foreign governments. What is a


business interests? Nottinghamshire Fire and rescue our lobbying me


about how they deliver their services and how their pension


system works. Aren't they a lobby group not? But there is a big


difference between major companies and normal people. Francis Maude


said he expected measures on the statute book by the next general


election. Will Labour help? If we can get that collaboration, we can


find a way forward. Except that it may not be straightforward. But it


is not beyond the wit of parliamentarians to come up with a


resilient system that'll prevent this sort of Cobham happening again


to protect the reputation of the political process. -- this sort of


problem. For the moment, thank you very much. It was already promising


to be a big day in Newark. It's the Mayor's annual parade today. But


with the resignation of the town's MP from the Tory whip, you can


guarantee what the political small talk is this morning. Let's find out


from Eleanor Garnier. Good morning from Newark's marketplace, where the


new mayor has been welcomed into office. There will be celebration


there, but not elsewhere. Will it the more like commiseration at the


town's local Conservative Association now that the MP has


resigned the Conservative whip. I am joined by Stuart Wallis, chairman of


Newark conservatives and also, the leader of Nottinghamshire Lib Dems.


Your first reaction when Patrick Mercer told you he was resigning the


whip. Obviously it was shock. I had not heard anything at all. You must


feel devastated after all the hard work you have put in, to building up


such a healthy majority. You must feel let down. That is not quite


true, if you think about this. He has been an exceptional constituency


MP and has worked very hard for the town. He has earned a great deal of


respect. I would like to say that there should be an inquiry into what


has gone on, and until we have a report from that, it is unfair to


comment in that way. If things have proved the front, then many people


in this town will be saddened, but I prefer to wait for a proper inquiry


into the exact circumstances. that inquiry, what is the


constituency organisation's relationship with Patrick? Are you


still supporting him? We need to have a working relationship. Let's


be honest. It is less than 40 hours since this broke. I need to have


lots of conversations with Patrick and with the Conservative party


before I can give you an answer to that one. If your leader Nick Clegg


had been more pushy about this and got that statutory register of


lobbyists in, we might not have this situation. I think that you are


right. This needs to look -- needs to be looked at again. Why have we


not got the power of recall, and more transparency over what MPs do,


and that is because the Conservatives and Labour have made


it difficult to get those powers through. The Conservatives have


blocked the power of recall. This is the time to look at those things


again. You can see that the Dems might not get that through. Do you


think Patrick Mercer should stay as an independent or resign as an MP


and force a by-election? It is down to his constituents and to his own


conscience. An investigation has still to take place. This region,


the East Midlands, has been marred in the past by things like cash for


questions. We have got to take a stand and make sure that people have


the power of recall over MPs. just heard, the investigation still


has to take place, and Patrick Mercer is denying the allegations.


Whether he will remain as an independent MP or not, that is


something I am going to be asking local voters later on. Should


Patrick Mercer stand down? He has not been convicted of anything at


this moment in time. Once the facts are established, we can answer that


question. The prospect of a parliamentary by-election in Newark


is not going to be welcomed. Not by me, because I will probably be on


the streets of Newark, delivering leaflets. We need to make the


decision later on whether there should be a by-election. Why do you


think the prime minister is taking so long to bring in this register of


lobbyists? It is a complicated issue, joined those lines as to what


is a lobby group, and what is not. We need to find cross-party


consensus as well, and it needs to stand the test of time for a


generation. It is disappointing that no legislative programme has been


brought forward by the prime Minister on this. Perhaps this will


concentrate his mind and we will see something in the next Queen's


speech. It takes two to tango in the coalition. But with Labour backing,


this could come through fairly quickly. I would have thought there


was consensus with the Lib Dems on this. So I can't see what the


impediments actually is. Probably the same impediment that under the


Labour government, why didn't Gordon Brown ring this forward.


proposition was brought forward when we were in government. We did


include it in the manifesto. We can all point the finger of blame. We


need to grasp the nettle and get on with it. Grasping the nettle.


Yesterday I was speaking to Ken Clarke about this. He said that a


register of lobbyists was in legislative terms, fairly


straightforward. But on recall, having a mechanism whereby a


by-election is triggered, that is more complex. Is he right that it is


much more complex? It is much more complex because you get individual


lobby groups who might target an MP will stop let's take the example of


gay marriage that has just gone through Parliament. If you have a


lobby group against one of those and they disapprove of how an MP votes,


then they can target that individual MP. It could cause mayhem. 10% of


the electorate? Whichever way that, my seat as an example, the


opposition could trigger a by-election quite easily. Would you


welcome this? No, I wouldn't. It is a knee-jerk response to this media a


few raw. -- furore. Mark is right when he says that a group of people


could get together. It would undermine the political process. It


is a gimmick. We have seen in California where the democratically


elected Democrats candidate, for Governor, was replaced with our much


what's in a ghetto is unresolved problems that flowed to the people


of California as a result of that. But could this be dissed -- could


this be embraced despite the opposition? We need to address these


scandals that seem to keep rearing their head, and get on with the


business of governing the country. The problem is, you go down this


road, and it is a cul-de-sac, in my opinion and there would be many


unintended consequences. We'll be returning to this issue later; but


now let's take a look at another story from this week. There's been a


big increase in the number of people across the East Midlands seeking


help with paying their rent. It comes in the wake of the


introduction of the Coalition's "under-occupancy penalty", or what


Chris would no doubt, call the "bedroom tax". Before its


introduction last month, Sunday Politics spoke to a tenant from


Derby, who was worried what it would mean for her. Tim Parker's been back


to see what's happened. June McDermott unpacks her groceries.


They have not come from a shop, but the food rank. Since the benefits


changes, she finds herself in debt and behind on rent for the first


time in her life will stop I didn't know that these places existed.


thought no, no chance, but yes, absolutely. The biggest largest


number of people that they are helping at the moment is people


suffering from benefit cuts. Jill helps to look after her


grandchildren and as a full-time carer for her father who lives


nearby, but her two-bedroom flat is deemed to be too big, and that means


she's having to find an extra �16 a week in rent. I have been able to


pay a little bit each week to pick -- protect myself from eviction but


I am only doing that because I can go to the food bank. Her landlord is


the housing provider, Derwent living. It says that some tenants


are being affected more than others. It all began on April the 1st. 750


of our residents were subject to it. Eight weeks in, and it is early


days, and about 250 of those residents are not paying what is


known as the bedroom tax. The bulk of people have found ways to deal


with the additional payments they are having to make. So, families in


all types of situations across the East Midlands, including here in


Loughborough, are facing life with the under siege at, or bedroom tax.


This woman has found a part-time job to afford the under siege charge she


now faces. I have to pay a little bit more, with the bedroom tax, but


I am still that are off and it has worked out better for me as well.


But for Jill, in Derby, the future is looking more difficult. Sometimes


you just want to put your head in your hands and cried. Last time, I


said that the courts would be overrun with cases. They are not


going to be able to cope with all the eviction cases that are going to


come up. June is still waiting to hear if she can get any extra cash


from her council to help her. Thousands more people across the


region face the same weight. Is this issue in danger of becoming David


Cameron's poll tax? This is about trying to bring fairness to the


system. There are 250,000 people with overcrowded people, and 2


million people on the waiting list for a council house, and there are


all of these spare bedrooms within the system, and it is about trying


to bring balance so that those with spare rooms can release them and


those desperate for extra space can have it. Surely he has got a point.


He hasn't got a point. This is a combination of cruelty and


incompetence. We are talking about people's homes here. The


Conservatives, rather than building houses, want to throw people out of


their houses were they have brought their families. There are not enough


single bedroom properties available. I would certainly like to see Labour


get rid of this. It is pretty clear, with the statements that have been


made that it is unlikely to change -- survive a change of government.


It is about cruelty and incompetence. There are not enough


single bedroom properties are available. Labour built a lot more


houses than the Conservatives are doing now. Labour did this with


people in private rented accommodation so that people in


private rented accommodation were not getting that extra subsidy.


we are talking about here is applying this to people living in


council and housing association accommodation, people who aren't by


definition living on modest incomes without the resources to be able to


pay this additional rent. You are forcing people, only 271 single


bedroom properties came available in Derby last year and there are


hundreds more people than that affected by this. We will inevitably


have stories of evictions. How argue, as an MP, going to with that?


The government recognises that there are people under pressure and put in


place a fund of �150 million to address that. And local authorities


need to act to, rather than paying large salaries to chief executives.


The money in this government fund does not meet the demands placed on


it. Why not boost the economy and put people back into work? Why not


do that? Stefanie said that she had coped, we heard from the housing


chief who said two thirds of his tenants are paying it, so it is


early days. And he said that one third of them are struggling and


falling behind with their rent, and we're only one month into the


scheme. How are people living on extremely low incomes being able to


do this? Hats off to Stefanie in that report. People like her should


be encouraged. It is pushing people into poverty. It is outrageous and


appalling. Time for a round-up of some of the other political stories


in the East Midlands this week - in 60 seconds. Nothing was to get the


new preschool. The torch Academy which runs the slack schools in


Nottinghamshire is being given the go-ahead to open a new school in the


north of the city. Its plans for one at Trent Bridge have been rejected.


The Bosworth MP David Tredinnick has warned his party that it is losing


ground to UKIP. It says Tories should match the UKIP pledge to let


doctors offer herbal and alternative remedies. The European Parliament


has voted to restrict the use of three pesticides linked to declining


honeybee populations. The East Midlands MEP wants limitations


placed on another pesticide. Abhishek County Council has


appointed a new acting chief executive after the departure of


former chief, Nick Hodgson. He left when Labour took over following the


council elections. They have appointed Ian Stevens, the


environment services director. Let's return to Newark. When Patrick


Mercer resigned the Conservative whip he said it was to save


embarrassment for the Conservative party. But now that he's an


independent MP, how does that affect local issues? I asked one local


campaigner that question a few minutes ago. It should have a


positive affect on the campaign. I understand he has lost the


Conservative whip but he's independent now. He can speak out


when he feels things are wrong, and people are not, we are not getting


the right services. He can speak out. He does not have to follow the


Tory party line and I hope that he does. That is what one local


campaigner thinks. What about the boaters? Do they mind that he's able


stand as an independent, or, should he be forced out, prompting a


by-election? We feel that he's a very good MP, who does a lot of good


for the town, and it is a pity that he has made a full of himself and


slip up. He will continue to do a good job. This is a blip.


Unfortunately it is one of these things he has got to look at himself


and say, do I remain in politics. It is his decision. I think he should


step down. It is exactly 48 hours since Patrick Mercer resigned the


Conservative whip. And what many people here are asking is, if he's


found guilty or innocent, can he win back the trust of local voters here


a plague on both your houses. is why I said we need to bring


forward legislation to stop it happening again in future. A


statutory register would achieve that. It is not without its


problems, to get it right, but we need to do that. It is really


important to restore faith in the bloody good process. Winston


Churchill said that democracy was the worst form of government apart


from all the others that have been tried. We have to try and rescue


democracy. When MPs return to the Commons tomorrow after yet another


recess, what do you want to hear from the government? We need to look


at the legislation and move forward. But none of this would be necessary


if MPs acted with a bit more moral fibre and did what was right rather


than chase the Holytown. -- the holy pound. It is important that we


restore faith in analytical process. This is the best that we have got,


and we have got to make it work. The majority of MPs are good, decent,


upstanding individuals who believe in what they are trying to do, who


want to try and make a difference for the people that elected them.


don't know what the mood on the Tory benches would be, but if you bump


into Patrick Mercer tomorrow, what would you say to him? He will


probably be busy with other things, but let's see what happens. Let's


see, when the truth comes out in the end, and we can decide to move


forward. Thank you both for joining us. That's the Sunday Politics in


the East Midlands, thanks to my guests, Chris Williamson and Mark


Andrew Neil and Marie Ashby with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including the latest on the lobbying scandal with Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude and shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy. Plus Nadine Dorries MP on MPs' expenses.

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