03/02/2013 Sunday Politics North East and Cumbria


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


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


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


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


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


North East councils investing millions of pounds of their pension


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


responsibility for persuading us to stop smoking.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


imperative and the urgency has intensified and grown as a result


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


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


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


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


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


constituency is due to shed thousands of jobs, it is


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


cannot go ahead with new nuclear stations until we solve this


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


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


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


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


agreement is not reached on provision to be made in Copeland


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


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


International best practice is to pursue deeper geographical disposal.


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


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


stations, they are from our military programme. The atomic


facility in my constituency predates the existence of the


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


industries, they have grown up together. Can nuclear power


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


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


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


responsibility for running stop- smoking campaigns to our local


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


revealed that many of those same councils are investing millions of


pounds from their pension funds in tobacco companies. As David


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Cumbria have invested millions in tobacco firms. Cumbria County


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


to screen investments on social, ethical or environmental grounds.


The fund actively engages to ensure good governments. Pension managers


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


conflicting responsibilities. It is not just local councils, the


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


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


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


important? It is the single greatest preventable cause of death


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


local authorities take on their responsibilities for public health,


this would include an ethical consideration as to whether they


can practise what they preach. Should they divest themselves of


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


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


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


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


decisions to consider. There are other investments which you could


count as being counter to the public health responsibilities


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


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


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


companies, investment in tobacco companies will support the call for


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


something we should support. Alan Beith, Northumberland County


Council said they hold some of these tobacco stocks but they


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


important how we produce -- but pursue policies that persuade


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


out of tobacco and then find themselves in something else which


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


discourage people from killing themselves by smoking. Tell us what


to think on Twitter. Now who can forget the awful


experiences of people in Cockermouth, Morpeth and Malton


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


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


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


Government of mismanaging important negotiations with the insurance


industry. That could leave thousands of people living in flood


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


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


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


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


receiving the renewal offer for flood insurance she realised she


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


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


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


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


government agreed that cover would be available form nearly all flood


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


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


this agreement, known as the statement of principles due to


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


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


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


most important factor is that the government must underwrite any


losses that insurers make going forward with this scheme. That


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


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


that the complaints it receives from people about insurers are


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


great deal of frustration at the inability of the government to


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


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


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


the Sunday politics but his department sent us this statement.


The discussion with the ABI about what replaces the statements of


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


secures the affordability and availability of flood insurance for


the first time without placing unsustainable cost on insurers or


insurance payers. Alan Beith, the Association of


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


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


uninsurable in future. The worries of people about being uninsurable


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


potentially so waves of this country being uninsurable and


communities being unmortgageable. This is one of the biggest issues


facing this country and the government seems unable to make any


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


communities and to really solve these problems which we can see


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Manchester and Leeds will spread wealth and prosperity. Dave


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


UK Sport was wrong to cut its funding.


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


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


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


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


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


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


government, would you congratulate them because they have moved


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


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


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


infrastructure and our road infrastructure and all sorts of


physical infrastructure programmes. There is no churlishness from me.


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


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


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


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


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


be the trains continuing up to Newcastle and Edinburgh which will


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


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


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


danger that resources will be sucked into this project and others


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


done quite separately. The government is making less of an


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


Coast Main Line it gets the capacity improve moments --


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


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


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


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


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


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


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