03/02/2013 Sunday Politics North East and Cumbria


03/02/2013

Andrew Neil and Richard Moss with the latest political news, interviews and debate.


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Welcome to your local part of the show. Lots to talk about, from

:42:05.:42:09.

high-speed trains to help for flood victims. But I can only do that

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with guests. This week they are the Labour MP for Copeland, Jamie Reed,

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who's in Carlisle and the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick, Sir Alan

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Beith. Welcome to you both. Also coming up, a special report on the

:42:18.:42:21.

North East councils investing millions of pounds of their pension

:42:21.:42:24.

funds in tobacco companies just as they are about to take over

:42:24.:42:27.

responsibility for persuading us to stop smoking.

:42:27.:42:30.

But we start with the search for an underground site to bury the UK's

:42:30.:42:34.

high-level nuclear waste. On Wednesday the County Council said

:42:34.:42:38.

it didn't want it in Cumbria - so that should be the end of the story.

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But is it? District councillors in Copeland are willing to press ahead

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and have written to the Government requesting an urgent meeting. Jamie

:42:47.:42:55.

Reed, you don't believe this is over. Wife? We have a real,

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pressing problem with a radioactive waste in this country. We have seen

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that the process collapsed. What really happened is that the policy

:43:06.:43:11.

imperative and the urgency has intensified and grown as a result

:43:11.:43:18.

of that. There is an overwhelming democratic mandate to take a

:43:18.:43:22.

process for it and I'm duty-bound to try and do that. The rules are

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that the County Council's decision is final. It has said no. If you

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look at the make-up of the county council, there is a pressing need

:43:34.:43:38.

and the fact that the Sellafield site in Mike facility -- in my

:43:38.:43:43.

constituency is due to shed thousands of jobs, it is

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reprehensible to take a decision like this without a plan B. Alan

:43:50.:43:56.

Beith, this is a mess. There is no Plan B. All the eggs are in one

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basket. This is some they are never wanted us to getting to in the

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first place. This is why have I have been hostile to nuclear power

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because we don't know what to do with the waste. I can understand

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why people in the Lake District do not want to lose their worldwide

:44:15.:44:19.

reputation as an environmentally wonderful place to come to. I can

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see why people in Workington might see the nuclear industry as the key

:44:24.:44:27.

to their economy. That is interesting, are you saying that we

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cannot go ahead with new nuclear stations until we solve this

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problem? We have accumulated so much waste that up to now -- and up

:44:39.:44:43.

to now we can -- we have assumed that we can leave them in short-

:44:43.:44:49.

term storage. That will not do. There was a plan at one stage to

:44:49.:44:54.

bury nuclear waste in the Cheviots. That plan was abandoned. If

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agreement is not reached on provision to be made in Copeland

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and elsewhere, then I'm not clear what is going to happen next.

:45:03.:45:13.
:45:13.:45:14.

Reed, do we keep the waist over ground? We cannot do that.

:45:14.:45:19.

International best practice is to pursue deeper geographical disposal.

:45:19.:45:25.

That is the policy of Cumbria County Council. I disagree with

:45:25.:45:31.

Alan in that the majority of these wastes are not from nuclear power

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stations, they are from our military programme. The atomic

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facility in my constituency predates the existence of the

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National Park and the Lake District and tourism, both very important

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industries, they have grown up together. Can nuclear power

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stations be built if we don't have a solution to this problem? A Yes,

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interim storage will get us through. And there's much more on my blog

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about that - bbc.co.uk/richardmoss. Now, this spring the NHS hands over

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responsibility for running stop- smoking campaigns to our local

:46:06.:46:09.

councils. But exclusive research by the BBC's Sunday Politics has

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revealed that many of those same councils are investing millions of

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pounds from their pension funds in tobacco companies. As David

:46:16.:46:19.

Macmillan reports, there's growing pressure upon councils to get rid

:46:19.:46:29.
:46:29.:46:29.

of those investments. Take a deep breath in. Gently blow

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it out. It is the second world of the new year and for these people,

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it is the second round of a very tough time. I started smoking at 11.

:46:43.:46:47.

It was the early 60s and it was fashionable and trendy. I have

:46:48.:46:54.

smoked ever since. A lot for loss - - a off a lot of people say they

:46:54.:46:58.

could give up smoking but don't, and they enjoy it. The whole thing

:46:58.:47:02.

is a nonsense. It is a horrible, dirty habit. It is very difficult

:47:02.:47:08.

to get out of. In April, local authorities will take

:47:08.:47:13.

responsibility for public health 0 -- from the NHS. Councils will be

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funding Z sessions like this. But they will also be funding companies

:47:17.:47:22.

that make these. Local authorities in the North East and company -- a

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Cumbria have invested millions in tobacco firms. Cumbria County

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Council has �8.2 million. Durham County Council �26.7 million and

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Teesside council invest �67 million. MP Alex Cullum -- MP Alex

:47:42.:47:48.

Cunningham says there is a clear conflict of interest. We have some

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of the highest incidence of smoking within a few hundred yards of here.

:47:54.:47:58.

We have to encourage those people to stop. That is one of the

:47:58.:48:01.

responsibilities that the council house. They have to look to other

:48:01.:48:07.

investments, whether it is all, or energy and get a similar return and

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ditched tobacco once and for all. - - whether it is all oil or other

:48:12.:48:19.

energy. Teesside Pension funds said that their investment policy is not

:48:19.:48:24.

to screen investments on social, ethical or environmental grounds.

:48:24.:48:30.

The fund actively engages to ensure good governments. Pension managers

:48:30.:48:37.

say they have a responsibility to get the best return for their staff.

:48:38.:48:42.

From a historical perspective, they have been good investments. It is

:48:42.:48:47.

important that if they take up 5% of the UK market, that pension

:48:47.:48:52.

funds have been investing there. As to the future, forgetting the

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ethical side of it, on valuation grounds they are extremely high

:48:56.:49:00.

value stocks so it is questionable whether they can go much higher.

:49:00.:49:05.

The future of tobacco investments has been raised at Stockton council.

:49:05.:49:09.

It has also been considered by members of the Tyne and Wear

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pension fund. Local authorities face a -- face conflicting than --

:49:15.:49:20.

conflicting responsibilities. It is not just local councils, the

:49:20.:49:30.
:49:30.:49:30.

BBC's Investment -- invest millions in tobacco. Let's talk to Dr Fu-

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Meng Khaw. Do you think it is acceptable for these councils to be

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investing in tobacco. We need to go back to basics. Why is smoking so

:49:42.:49:46.

important? It is the single greatest preventable cause of death

:49:46.:49:53.

in the UK. This is a preventable cause. Taking that aside, where

:49:53.:49:57.

local authorities take on their responsibilities for public health,

:49:58.:50:00.

this would include an ethical consideration as to whether they

:50:00.:50:04.

can practise what they preach. Should they divest themselves of

:50:04.:50:12.

the shares? My opinion is yes. If they are running an -- a campaign

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to stop people smoking, they should listen best. Where would you draw

:50:17.:50:23.

the line. Should they be investing in brewers, which also present at a

:50:23.:50:27.

public health problem? That is a discussion for those who make the

:50:27.:50:31.

decisions to consider. There are other investments which you could

:50:31.:50:34.

count as being counter to the public health responsibilities

:50:34.:50:39.

which councils will have. Will it really help public health for

:50:39.:50:43.

councils to withdraw? It will cause a problem for their pension funds

:50:43.:50:48.

but will it stop people smoking? terms of the support for tobacco

:50:48.:50:54.

companies, investment in tobacco companies will support the call for

:50:54.:51:00.

smoking and anything that we can do to reduce that lifestyle choice is

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something we should support. Alan Beith, Northumberland County

:51:05.:51:08.

Council said they hold some of these tobacco stocks but they

:51:08.:51:12.

couldn't say how much. Are you comfortable with that? I would like

:51:12.:51:16.

to see councils reduce their investment but we shouldn't kid

:51:16.:51:21.

ourselves, that will not stop people smoking. Things that matter

:51:21.:51:26.

are the public places smoking ban which really helped. It sends a

:51:26.:51:32.

message, doesn't it? How many people, when they open a cigarette

:51:32.:51:37.

packet, and think about whether the council is investing in it or not?

:51:37.:51:42.

I used the word comfortable, I would feel more comfortable if we

:51:42.:51:46.

were not investing in tobacco, but I would been -- it is more

:51:46.:51:50.

important how we produce -- but pursue policies that persuade

:51:50.:51:56.

people not to smoke. It is an invidious position that the council

:51:56.:52:01.

is in. I'm not comfortable in investing in the tobacco industry.

:52:01.:52:06.

Anyone who has seen the effect of smoking on people would not be

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comfortable with the knowledge that we are now presented with. But

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councils are in an invidious position. They have to look after

:52:14.:52:19.

their pension funds. But if there is a choice, we could perhaps seek

:52:19.:52:25.

a choice as well. We could see Cumbria council divest itself. But

:52:25.:52:35.
:52:35.:52:35.

they have to look after the interest of the pension pot. As a

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pension shadow minister, is it time for all of us to get out of these?

:52:43.:52:47.

We have a moral obligation to look at making ethical investment. I

:52:47.:52:50.

don't think there are any plans for doing that at the moment, but it

:52:50.:52:56.

should be examined. Councils have to get the best deal, it is a bit

:52:56.:53:01.

of a minefield. If you don't invest in tobacco, do best in arms, or

:53:01.:53:07.

mining, or BP. People object to some of those. What is morally

:53:07.:53:12.

objectionable to one person he is OK to another. I think it presents

:53:12.:53:16.

will difficulties. They have the legal obligation to get the best

:53:16.:53:22.

deal they can for their employees. Fish and invest too heavily in any

:53:22.:53:27.

particular sphere. And over time, investment in tobacco will become a

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less valuable investment because fewer and fewer -- and fewer people

:53:31.:53:35.

smoke. It is on the other side of the world that tobacco companies

:53:35.:53:39.

are making their money. They should not make a rash decision to jump

:53:39.:53:43.

out of tobacco and then find themselves in something else which

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is ethically doubtful as well. They should be pursuing policies of to

:53:48.:53:54.

discourage people from killing themselves by smoking. Tell us what

:53:54.:53:57.

to think on Twitter. Now who can forget the awful

:53:57.:53:59.

experiences of people in Cockermouth, Morpeth and Malton

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where flood water ruined homes and destroyed businesses. Well there's

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a warning this week that more flooding misery could be on the way

:54:05.:54:08.

- and not just because of rising water. Labour has accused the

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Government of mismanaging important negotiations with the insurance

:54:10.:54:13.

industry. That could leave thousands of people living in flood

:54:13.:54:15.

risk areas unable to insure their homes. Here's our North Yorkshire

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political reporter. The last time it came in, the third

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time, the watermark. After Maria Longstaff's home was flooded for

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the third time last year, she began to consider moving away. But after

:54:36.:54:39.

receiving the renewal offer for flood insurance she realised she

:54:40.:54:47.

was stuck. They offered terms were fine but they wanted an excess of

:54:47.:54:52.

�20,000. Uninsurable. You can't sell the property because you can't

:54:52.:54:56.

get a mortgage without being able to get insurance. There is no way

:54:56.:55:02.

any company would insure it. Back in 2008, the insurers and the

:55:02.:55:06.

government agreed that cover would be available form nearly all flood

:55:06.:55:11.

risk areas. But this agreement does not control the prices companies

:55:11.:55:16.

charge or the size of the excess they can demand. Five years on, is

:55:16.:55:25.

this agreement, known as the statement of principles due to

:55:25.:55:31.

expire in June, the future for Maria is even less certain. People

:55:31.:55:36.

with homes in floodlit areas, must be guaranteed cover. The excesses

:55:36.:55:41.

that people player -- payout, cannot be too high. The third and

:55:41.:55:45.

most important factor is that the government must underwrite any

:55:45.:55:50.

losses that insurers make going forward with this scheme. That

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appears to be the big stumbling block to this plan. They have been

:55:54.:55:59.

talking about it for the last two years. A firm of solicitors says

:55:59.:56:04.

that the complaints it receives from people about insurers are

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going up. A finding reliable cover is difficult now, it might become

:56:09.:56:19.
:56:19.:56:19.

impossible because --. My concerns are that if a householder takes out

:56:19.:56:24.

a policy is whether the policy will take -- will pay out or whether the

:56:24.:56:30.

insurance company will find ways to deflect the responsibility. But the

:56:30.:56:34.

industry insist that it is not the villain of the peace.

:56:34.:56:39.

government needs to look further ahead, long-term and make sure that

:56:39.:56:43.

the right investment takes place to combat the effect of climate change.

:56:43.:56:48.

So who is to blame to leap -- for leaving householders in flood risk

:56:48.:56:53.

areas high but not dry. It is clear from the insurers that there is a

:56:53.:56:56.

great deal of frustration at the inability of the government to

:56:56.:57:01.

reach a deal on this issue. Any deal will require legislation. It

:57:01.:57:06.

will be a tight timetable now. floods minister was in Yorkshire

:57:06.:57:10.

this week to look at flood defences. He did not have time to speak to

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the Sunday politics but his department sent us this statement.

:57:15.:57:20.

The discussion with the ABI about what replaces the statements of

:57:20.:57:24.

principles on going. We want to find a lasting solution that

:57:24.:57:28.

secures the affordability and availability of flood insurance for

:57:28.:57:33.

the first time without placing unsustainable cost on insurers or

:57:33.:57:40.

insurance payers. Alan Beith, the Association of

:57:40.:57:45.

British Insurers says that the situation is at crisis point. The

:57:45.:57:49.

government is playing a dangerous game. People like Maria could be

:57:49.:57:55.

uninsurable in future. The worries of people about being uninsurable

:57:55.:58:00.

or the size of the premium is the problem. There is brinkmanship

:58:00.:58:06.

going on. The insurers would say that. Politics -- politicians and

:58:06.:58:13.

people outside this -- if people outside this discussion are telling

:58:13.:58:20.

the government giving, then they win. Insurance is about sharing

:58:20.:58:25.

risk. The insurers and the government had to work out ways

:58:25.:58:29.

that the race can be shared but not so that the prices householders not

:58:29.:58:36.

affected. The real problem at is the insurance which stops flooding

:58:36.:58:44.

in the first place. Jamie Reed, who bears the most it responsibility

:58:44.:58:51.

for sorting this out? I used to be the shadow floods Minister and I

:58:51.:58:56.

think the government has dropped the ball in a spectacular fashion.

:58:56.:59:00.

Flood defence spending has been cut by this government. The risks are

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already rising. What we are looking at, if we don't strike a new deal

:59:05.:59:11.

which meets the needs of people and businesses around the country, is

:59:11.:59:14.

potentially so waves of this country being uninsurable and

:59:14.:59:18.

communities being unmortgageable. This is one of the biggest issues

:59:18.:59:21.

facing this country and the government seems unable to make any

:59:21.:59:25.

progress. The insurance industry just wants its own way. It wants to

:59:25.:59:29.

make sure it is not stop with the bill and the government is being

:59:29.:59:35.

responsible? The industry was always going to play hardball. Is

:59:35.:59:38.

in brinkmanship? That is not entirely the case. They are

:59:38.:59:43.

prepared to accept risk, they understand better than we do the

:59:43.:59:47.

notion of sharing that risk across different areas and their customers.

:59:47.:59:51.

But the government has to step up to the plate. If there is no

:59:51.:59:56.

insurance in place, it will fall on the taxpayer doubly to bail out

:59:56.:59:59.

communities and to really solve these problems which we can see

:00:00.:00:03.

coming right now. The accusation is that the government is not doing

:00:03.:00:07.

enough to get the deal done but also it is cutting flood prevention

:00:07.:00:13.

work which means four -- more people have problems. I don't know

:00:13.:00:19.

of Jamie was talking about a 30% increase in the amount available

:00:19.:00:25.

for flood defences. The government has to choose priorities. Some of

:00:25.:00:28.

the areas most affected in the north are going to be the subject

:00:28.:00:34.

of major investment. There is also a small scale Investment which

:00:34.:00:40.

deals with the awful risk that people face when they are in a

:00:40.:00:43.

flood risk area and the ground floor area can be complete be

:00:43.:00:49.

damaged. We will have to see how that works out. Thank you very much.

:00:49.:00:52.

Now, what costs �33 billion, will take 20 years to build and create

:00:52.:00:55.

hundreds of thousands of jobs? A new railway of course. And a very

:00:55.:00:59.

fast one at that. Here's our very own Inter City express Mark Denten

:00:59.:01:01.

with some less-than-enthusiastic reaction to High Speed 2 - and the

:01:01.:01:11.
:01:11.:01:19.

The Prime Minister says extending High Speed 2 rail line will to

:01:19.:01:23.

Manchester and Leeds will spread wealth and prosperity. Dave

:01:23.:01:31.

Anderson was not impressed. We are being told we will have a second-

:01:31.:01:39.

rate railway system. The outgoing Bishop of Durham warned that the

:01:39.:01:44.

North East economy must not be ignored. It is very striking how

:01:44.:01:50.

easily economic policy ignores the North East. It is not a huge region.

:01:50.:01:55.

But it has this remarkable history and it has suffered a great deal.

:01:55.:02:01.

There's been a public inquiry into plans to extend the Yorkshire and

:02:01.:02:11.

Lake District National Parks. And in Washington, it is said the

:02:11.:02:17.

UK Sport was wrong to cut its funding.

:02:17.:02:24.

Jamie Reed, High Speed 2, eat the government says that the north-

:02:24.:02:28.

eastern Cumbria will benefit from it. A put some questions in

:02:28.:02:33.

Parliament to see what the benefit would be for my constituency and in

:02:33.:02:38.

general. I think if you are going to grow the economies of the North

:02:38.:02:44.

East then we will have some benefit from that in some way but I

:02:44.:02:51.

understand the anxiety and cynicism of some people. I suppose the

:02:51.:02:55.

government, would you congratulate them because they have moved

:02:55.:03:01.

forward more than Labour? It was a Labour policy. It was widely

:03:01.:03:06.

supported by the Labour Party and I do support it. There are details to

:03:06.:03:11.

be ironed out. It is clear that we need to invest in hour rail

:03:11.:03:13.

infrastructure and our road infrastructure and all sorts of

:03:13.:03:19.

physical infrastructure programmes. There is no churlishness from me.

:03:19.:03:24.

Alan Beith, the government said this was of the North-South divide.

:03:24.:03:27.

But it is 20 years away and it is not coming north of Leeds or

:03:27.:03:32.

Manchester. I don't think anyone in the government has said it will

:03:32.:03:36.

solve the North-South divide. It will help, it will contribute

:03:36.:03:40.

particularly for Yorkshire and the north-west. The benefit farce will

:03:40.:03:46.

be the trains continuing up to Newcastle and Edinburgh which will

:03:46.:03:50.

cut short by half-an-hour the journey to London. But before the

:03:50.:03:54.

first piece of rail line of his lane for -- is laid for High Speed

:03:54.:04:01.

2, we should improve the East Coast main -- mainline. Is there not a

:04:01.:04:05.

danger that resources will be sucked into this project and others

:04:05.:04:10.

will lose out? I don't think that will happen, because the budget is

:04:10.:04:14.

done quite separately. The government is making less of an

:04:14.:04:18.

investment in area but I wanted that to continue, that the East

:04:18.:04:24.

Coast Main Line it gets the capacity improve moments --

:04:24.:04:27.

improvements it needs. It is required for the improvement of the

:04:27.:04:31.

economy of the North East. Thank you both very much.

:04:31.:04:34.

And that's it for this week. We had a problem with BBC iIplayer last

:04:34.:04:37.

week - apologies if you wanted to watch last Sunday's show and

:04:37.:04:40.

couldn't find it. I've been assured it won't happen again as someone

:04:40.:04:44.

has given something an almighty kick. But if do you want to keep up

:04:44.:04:47.

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