26/01/2014 Sunday Politics North East and Cumbria


Andrew Neil and Richard Moss with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including an interview with transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

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Politics. Ed Balls has gone socialist and


fiscal Conservative in one speech. He promises to balance the biggest


bit of the budget. And to bring back the 50p top tax rate. Political


masterstroke, or a return to old Labour?


If you go to work by public transport, chances are the price of


your ticket has just gone up - again. We'll speak to Transport


Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. He's our Sunday Interview.


And it's been another wet week our Sunday Interview.


across much of the UK, but what s the outlook according to this man?


This morning.This morning. Held in recent years by party


On the Sunday Politics in the North East...


And with me - as always - the political panel so fresh-faced,


entertaining and downright popular they make Justin Bieber look like a


boring old has-been just desperate to get your attention. Nick Watt,


Helen Lewis and Janan Ganesh, and they'll be tweeting quicker than a


yellow Lamborghini racing down Miami Beach. Being political nerds, they


have no idea what I'm talking about. Ed Balls sprung a surprise on us all


yesterday. We kinda thought Labour would head for the election with a


return to the 50p top rate of tax. But we didn't think he'd do it now.


He did! The polls say it's popular, Labour activists now have a spring


in their step. The Tories say it's a return to the bad old days of the


'70s, and bosses now think Labour is anti-business. Here's the Shadow


Chancellor speaking earlier this morning. I was part of a Government


which did very many things to open up markets, to make the Bank of


England independent, to work closely with business, but the reality is we


are in very difficult circumstances and because if I'm honest you,


George Osborne's failure in the last few years, those difficult


circumstances will last into the next Parliament. Business people


have said to me they want to get the deficit down, of course they do But


to cut the top rate... It is foolish and feeds resentment I want to do


the opposite and say look, pro-business, pro investment, pro


market, but pro fairness. Let's get this deficit down in a fairway and


make the reforms to make our economy work for the long term. What are the


political implications of Labour now in favour of a 50%, in practise 352%


top rate of tax? One of the political implications I don't think


exist is that they'll win new voters. I'm not sure many people out


there would think, I would love to vote for Ed Miliband but I'm not


sure if he wants to tax rich people enough. It will con Dale their


existing vote but I don't think it is the kind of, in the 1990s we


talked about triangulation, moving beyond your core vote, I don't think


it is a policy like that. If there has been a policy like that this


year, this month, it has been the Tories' move on minimum wage. I


thought Labour would come back with their own version, a centre-right


policy, and instead they have done this. I think we talk about the 35%


strategy that Labour supposed will have, I think it is a policy in that


direction rather than the thing Tony Blair or Gordon Brown would have


done. Where he was not clear is on how much it would raise. We know the


sum in the grand scheme of things isn't much, the bedroom tax was


about sending a message. What we are going to see is George Osborne and


Ed Balls lock as they try to push the other one into saying things


that are unpopular. The Tories, ?150,000 a year, that's exactly


where Ed Balls want them to be. All three main parties have roughly the


same plan, to run a current budget surplus by the end of the next


Parliament. George Osborne said ?12 billion of welfare cuts, hasn't said


how he is going to do it. Ed Balls is giving an idea that he is going


to restore this 50 persons rate The contribution of that will be


deminimus. It is not much, but what does it say about your values.


Because it is that package, it is cleverer than people think. Where


the challenge is is the question that Peter Mandelson posed at the


last election, which is can the Labour Party win a general election


if it doesn't have business on its side? That's the big challenge and


that's the question looking difficult for them this morning


Does it matter if Labour has business on its side. I thought the


most fascinating thing about this announcement is it came from the guy


mindful of business support, Ed Balls. When in opposition and when a


Minister and as a shadow as a result, he's been far more conscious


than Ed Miliband about the need not to alienate the CB Bill. In the


run-up of an election. This is a measure of Ed Miliband's strength in


the Labour Party, that his view of things can prevail so easily over a


guy who for the last 15 years has taken a different view. Eight out of


ten businesses according to the CBI don't want us to leave business


Business is in a bit of a cleft stick. Ed Miliband would like to see


businesses squealing, and Ed Balls is clearly not so comfortable on


that one. is clearly not so comfortable on


that. Mind you, they were squealing this morning from Davos. They


probably had hangovers as well. The other thing they would say is this


is not like Ed Balls thinks that 50p is the optimal rate forever, it what


go eventually. Isn't that what politicians said when income tax was


introduced? Yeah, in '97 Labour regarded 40 persons as the rate


where it would stay. It's been a bad week for the Lib


Dems. Again. Actually, it's been one of the worst weeks yet for Nick


Clegg and his party in recent memory, as they've gone from talking


confidently about their role in Government to facing a storm of


criticism over claims of inappropriate sexual behaviour by a


Lib Dem peer, Chris Rennard, and a Lib Dem MP, Mike Hancock. Here's


Giles with the story of the week. A challenge to Nick Clegg's authority


as he face as growing row over the Liberal Democrat... I want everyone


to be treated with respect by the Liberal Democrats. We are expecting


him to show moral leadership on our behalf. A good man has been publicly


destroyed by the media with the apparent support of Nick Clegg. I


would like Nick Clegg to show leadership and say, this has got to


stop. When Nick Clegg woke up on Monday morning he knew he was in


trouble, staring down the barrel of a stand justify with Lord Rennard


over allegations that the peer a stand justify with Lord Rennard


inappropriately touched a number of women. Chris Rennard


inappropriately touched a number of cleared. Nick Clegg wanted more I


said if he doesn't apologise, he should withdraw from the House of


Lords. If he does that today, what do you do then? I hope he doesn t. I


think no apology, no whip. 2014 was starting badly for the Liberal


Democrats. Chris Rennard refused to apologise, saying you can't say


sorry for something you haven't done. The and he was leaning towards


legal action. Butch us friends better defending Pym and publicly.


This is a good, decent man, who has been punished by the party, with the


leadership of the party that seems to be showing scant regard for due


process. But his accusers felt very differently. It is untenable for the


Lib Dems to have a credible voice on qualities and women's issues in the


future if Lord Rennard was allowed to be back on the Lib Dem benches in


the House of Lords. Therein lay the problem that exposed the weaknesses


of the Lib Dem leaders. The party's internal structures have all the


simplicity of a circuit diagram for a supercomputer, exposing the


complexity of who runs the Liberal Democrats? The simple question that


arose of that was can the leader of the Lib Dems remove a Lib Dem peer?


The simple answer is no. The Lib Dem whips in the Lords could do it but


if enough Lib Dem peers disagreed, they could overrule it. Some


long-stand ng friends of roar Rennard think he is either the


innocent victim of a media witch-hunt or at the least due


process has been ridden over rough shot by the leadership. Nobody ever


did spot Lord Rennard as he didn't turn up to the Lords, will citing


ill health. But issued a statement that ruled out an apology. He


refused to do so and refused to comply with the outcome of that


report, so there was no alternative but for the party to suspend his


membership today. On Wednesday Nick Clegg met Lib Dem peers, not for a


crunch decision, but to discuss the extraordinary prospect of legal


action against the party by the man long credited with building its


success. The situation was making the party look like a joke. One Tory


MP said to one of my colleagues this morning, the funny thing about the


Liberal Democrats, you managed to create a whole sex scandal without


any sex. And we can laugh at ourselves but actually it is rather


serious. And it got more serious, when an MP who had resigned the Lib


Dem whip last year was expanded from the party over a report into


allegations of serious and unwelcome sexual behaviour towards a


constituent. All of this leaves the Lib Dems desperately wishing these


sagas had been dealt with long ago and would now go away. Nick Clegg


ended the week still party leader. Lord Rennard, once one of their most


powerful players, ended the week, for now, no longer even in it.


Giles on the Lib Dems' disastrous week. Now, as you doubtless already


know, on Tuesday Lib Dem MPs will vote to choose a new deputy leader.


You didn't know that? You do now. The job of Nick Clegg's number two


is to speak with a genuine Lib Dem voice, untainted by the demands of


coalition Government. At this point in the show we had expected to speak


to all three candidates for the post, held in recent years by party


veterans like Vince Cable and Simon Hughes. We thought it being quite a


significant week for the party, they might have something to say. And


here they are. Well that's their pictures. For various reasons, all


three are now unavailable. Malcolm Bruce, he's reckoned to be the


outsider. His office said he had a "family commitment". Gordon


Birtwistle, the Burnley MP, was booked to appear but then told us,


"I was at an event last night with Lorely Burt" - she's one of the


candidates - "and she told me it was off". And Lorely Burt herself, seen


by many as the red hot favourite, told us: "Because of the Rennard


thing we don't want to put ourselves in a position where we have to


answer difficult questions." How refreshingly honest. Helen, how bad


politically is all this for the Lib Dems? What I think is the tragic


irony of the Lib Dems is they've been revealed as being too


democratic. In the same way that been revealed as being too


their party conference embarrassed Nick Clegg by voting sings that he


signed up to, and now everything has to be run past various


sub-committees first. Is it democratic or chaotic? It is


Byzantine. Mike Hancock was voluntarily suspended, and this week


he was properly suspended. It was new information into the public


domain that forced that. I'm already hearing Labour and Conservative


Party musing that if it is a long Parliament, we will form a minority


Government. It is a disaster for them. Voters like parties that


reflect and are interested this their concerns. Parties that are


self obsessed turn them off. The third party, if they carry on like


this, they'll be the fifth party in the European elections, so they have


got to draw a line under this. They do that, if they do, through


mediation. As I understand it, Chris Rennard,s who has go devoted his


entire life to the Liberal Democrats, and previously the


Liberal Party, is keen to draw a line under this. He is up for


mediation but he needs to know that the women that he has clearly


invaded their personal space, that there wouldn't be a possible legal a


action from them. The it is very difficult to see how you could


resolve that. Except he difficult to see how you could


these famous friends, to spill all the beans about all the party's sex


secrets. Isn't the danger for the Lib Dems, this haunts them through


to the European elections, where they'll get thumped in the European


elections? They'll get destroyed in the European elections, which keeps


it salient as a story over the summer. And it has implications for


Nick Clegg's leadership. He's done a good job until now, perhaps better


than David Cameron, of exercising authority over his party. He had a


good conference in September. Absolutely, and now the Lib Dems


have looked like a party without a leader or a leadership structure.


Part of that is down to the chaotic or Byzantine organisational


structure of the party. Part of it is Nick Clegg's failure to assert


himself and impose himself over events. Is it Byzantine or


Byzantine. It is labyrinthine. You don't get these words on the Today


programme. The cost of living has been back on the agenda this week as


Labour and the Tories argue over whether the value of money in your


pocket is going up or down. Well there's one cost which has been


racing ahead of inflation and that's the amount you have to pay to travel


by train, by bus and by air. Rail commuters have been hard hit over


the last four years, with the cost of the average season ticket going


up by 18% since January 2010, while wages have gone up by just 3.6% over


the same period. It wages have gone up by just 3.6% over


users are paying high prices wages have gone up by just 3.6% over


commuters from Kent shelling out more than ?5,000 per year from the


beginning of this month just to get to work in London. It doesn't


compare well with our European counterparts. In the UK the average


rail user spends 14% of their average income on trains. It is just


1.5% in Italy. Regulated fares like season tickets went up 3.1% at the


beginning of this month, and with ministers keen to make passengers


fought more of the bills, there are more fare rises coming down the


track. And Patrick McLoughlin joins me now for the Sunday Interview


Welcome. You claim to be in the party of hard-working people, so why


is it that since you came to power rail commuters have seen the cost of


their average season ticket going up in money terms by over 18% while


their pay has gone up in money terms by less than four? I would point out


that this is the first year in ten years that we have not had an above


inflation increase on fares. The Government accepts we have got to do


as much as we can to help the passengers. A big inflation increase


since 2010. This is the first year in ten years that it has not been


above RPI, but we are also investing huge amounts of money into the


railways, building new trains for the East Coast Main Line and the


great Western. We are spending 500 million at Birmingham station, this


is all increasing capacity, so we are seeing investments. Over the


next five years Network Rail will invest over ?38 billion in the


network structure. We also have an expensive railway and it is ordinary


people paying for it. A season ticket from Woking in Surrey,


commuter belt land in London, let's look at the figures. This is a


distance of over 25 miles, it cost over ?3000 per year. We have picked


similar distances to international cities.


The British commuter is being ripped off. The British commuter is seeing


record levels of investment in our railways. The investment has to be


paid for. We are investing huge amounts of money and I don't know


whether the figures you have got here... I'm sure they are likewise,


as you have managed to do... White -- ten times more than the Italian


equivalent. We have seen transformational changes in our


railway services and we need to carry on investing. We were paying


these prices even before you started investing. We have always paid a lot


more to commute in this country than our European equivalents. I'm not


quite sure I want to take on Italy is a great example. You would if you


were a commuter. You is a great example. You would if you


the other rates of taxation has to be paid as well. Isn't it the case


they are making profits out of these figures and using them to subsidise


cheaper fares back in their homeland? The overall profit margin


train companies make is 3%, a reasonable amount, and we have seen


a revolution as far as the railway industry is concerned.


a revolution as far as the railway 20 years we have seen passenger


journeys going from 750 million 20 years we have seen passenger


1.5 billion. That is a massive revolution in rail. Let me look


1.5 billion. That is a massive spokesperson for the German


government, the Ministry of transport.


They are charging huge fares in Britain to take that money back to


subsidise fares in Germany. What do you say to that? We are seeing


British companies winning contracts in Germany. The National Express are


winning contracts to the railways. What about the ordinary commuter?


They are paying through the nose so German commuters can travel more


cheaply. We are still subsidising the railways in this country, but


overall we want to reduce the subsidy we are giving. We are still


seeing growth in our railways and I want to see more people using them.


Why do you increase rail fares at the higher RPI measure than the


lower CPI measurement? That is what has always been done, and we have


stopped. This is the first time in ten years that we have not raised


the rail figures above RPI. You still link fares to RPI.


lower CPI figure when it suits you, lower CPI figure when it suits you,


to keep pension payments down for example, but the higher one when it


comes to increasing rail fares. We are still putting a huge subsidy


into the rail industry, there is still a huge amount of money going


from the taxpayer to support the rail industry. I am not asking you


about that, I am asking you why you link the figures to the higher RPI


vesture Mark if we are going to pay for the levels of investment, so all


the new trains being built at Newton Aycliffe for the East Coast Main


Line and the great Western, ?3. billion of investment, new rolling


stock coming online, then yes, we have to pay for it, and it is a


question of the taxpayer paying for it all the -- or the passenger.


You have capped parking fines until the next election, rail commuters we


have seen the cost of their ticket has gone up by nearly 20%, you are


the party of the drivers, not the passengers, aren't you?


We are trying to help everybody who has been struggling. I think we are


setting out long-term plans for our railways, investing heavily in them


and it is getting that balance right. But you have done more for


the driver than you have for the user of public transport. I don t


accept that. They are paying the same petrol prices as 2011. This is


the first time in ten years that there has not been an RPI plus


rise. We are investing record amounts. Bus fares are also rising,


4.2% in real terms in 2010, at a time when real take-home pay has


been falling. This hits commuters particularly workers who use buses


on low incomes, another cost of living squeeze. I was with


Stagecoach in Manchester on Friday, and I saw a bus company investing in


new buses. Last week First ordered new buses. Part of your hard-working


families you are always on about, they are the ones going to work


early in the morning, and yet you are making them pay more for their


buses in real terms than they did before. They would be happier if


they could travel more cheaply. It is about getting investment in


services, it has to be paid for Why not run the old buses for five more


years? Because then there is more pollution in the atmosphere, modern


buses have lower emissions, and we are still giving huge support


overall to the bus industry and that is very important because I fully


accept that the number of people, yes, use the train but a lot of


people use buses as well. High-speed two, it has been delayed because 877


pages of key evidence from your department were left on a computer


memory stick, part of the submission to environmental consultation. Your


department's economic case is now widely regarded as a joke, now you


do this. Is your department fit for purpose? Yes, and as far as what


happened with the memory stick, it is an acceptable and shouldn't have


happened, and therefore we have extended the time. There has been an


extension in the time for people to make representation, the bill for


this goes through Parliament in a different way to a normal bill. It


is vital HS2 provides what we want. What I am very pleased about is when


the paving bill was passed by Parliament just a few months ago,


there was overwhelming support, and I kept reading there was going to be


70 people voting against it, in the end 30 people voted against it and


there was a good majority in the House of Commons. So can you give a


guarantee that this legislation will get onto the statute books? I will


do all I can. I cannot tell you the exact Parliamentary time scale. The


bill will have started its progress through the House of Commons by


2015, and it may well have concluded. The new chairman of HS2


said he can bring the cost of the line substantially under the budget,


do you agree with that? The figure is ?42 billion with a large


contingency, and David Higgins, as chairman of HS2, is looking at the


whole cast and seeing if there are ways in which it can be built


faster. At the moment across London we are building Crossrail, ?14.


billion investment. There was a report last week saying what an


excellent job has been done. Crossrail started under Labour.


Actually it was Cecil Parkinson in the 1990 party conference. You may


get HS2 cheaper if you didn't pay people so much, why is the


nonexecutive chairman of HS2 on ?600,000? And the new chief


executive on ?750,000. These are very big projects and we need to


attract the best people become so we are going for the best engineers in


the world to engineer this project. It is a large salary, there is no


question about it, but I'm rather pleased that engineers rather than


bankers can be seen to get big rewards for delivering what will be


very important pieces of national infrastructure. I didn't have time


to ask you about your passenger duty so perhaps another time. We are


about to speak to Nigel Mills and all of these MPs on your side who


are rebelling against the Government, how would you handle


them? We have got to listen to what our colleagues are talking about and


try to respond it. Would you take them for a long walk off a short


pier? I'm sure I would have many conversations with them. An


immigration bill to tack the immigration into the UK. When limits


on migration from Bulgaria and Romania were lifted this year there


were warnings of a large influx of migrant workerses from the two new


European countries. So far it's been more of a dribble than a flood. Who


can forget Labour MP Keith Vaz greeting a handful of arrivals at


Luton Airport. But it is early days and it is one of the reasons the


Government's introduced a new Immigration Bill. The Prime Minister


is facing rebellion from backbenchers who want tougher action


on immigration from abroad. Nigel Mills would reimpose restrictions on


how many Romanians and Bulgarians can come here. Joining me is Nigel


Mills, Conservative MP behind the amendment and Labour MP Diane


Abbott. Welcome. Nigel Mills, there hasn't been an influx of Romanians


and Bulgarians. Why do you want to restore these, kick these


transitional controls way forward to 2019? I don't think any of us were


expecting a rush on January 1st Andrew. I think we were talking


about a range of 250,000 to 350 000 people over five years. That's


obviously a large amount of people, especially when you think net


migration to the UK was well in excess of the Government's target of


tens of thousands last year. The real concern is that it would be


ever increasing our population, attracting lots of low-skilled,


low-wage people, which keeps our people out of work and wages down.


Did you accept that if you were to accept this, it would be in breach


of the Treaty of Rome, the founding principle of the European Union We


were trying to keep the restrictions that Bulgaria and Romania accepted


for their first seven years of EU membership, on the basis that when


we signed the treaty we weren't aware that we would have a huge and


catastrophic recession we are still recovering from. But you would be in


breach of the law, correct? The UK Parliament has a right to say we


signed this deal before the terrible recession, and we need a bit longer


in our national interest. It is worth noting that Bulgaria and


Romania haven't met all their accession requirements. The


Bulgarian requirement passed a law... So if they break the law it


is alright for us to break the law? Is we should be focusing on trying


to get 2. 4 million of our own in work, and 1 million people not in


work... Let me bring in Diane Abbott. Will you vote for this


amendment and why? It is in breach of the treaty. While I deplore MPs


that try to cause trouble, these of the treaty. While I deplore MPs


have been particularly mindless because what they want to do


wouldn't be legal. However, it is a Tory internal brief, if I might say


so. Maybe you can cause trouble by voting for it. No, that would be


going too far. Underlying it is a real antagonism for David Cameron.


They have had to hold off on this bill until January. It was supposed


to be debating before Christmas As we speak they've not cut a deal so


it could be pretty grus om. Nigel Mills, what do you say to that I


think there is a recognition that there is a problem with the amount


of migration from EU countries that we need to tackle. We could try to


achieve an annual cap perhaps, longer limits on when countries get


free movement. I think the debate is moving in the right direction, but I


think those people who are trapped out of work and desperately looking


for work want something to be done now and not wait a few more years


while we have more assessments Andrews. People are worried about


the level of immigration. They I it is too high. That's the consensus in


the country. We spoke to to migration centre in Hackney and they


said they are struggling to cope with the number of people using


their services. These are people with problems with the law. In the


past years EU migrants put in more to the economy in taxation than they


take out in benefits. When it comes to free movement, which


take out in benefits. When it comes Nige em, that horse has bolted. We


signed a treaty. There is nothing people like Nigel Mills can do,


unless they want to rip their party apart, God forbid. Will you go as


far as to rip your party apart, Nigel Mills? Are you going to take


this all the way? Would you rather see this bill go down than your


amendment not be accepted? This is a very important bill. I think we all


want to see measures on the statute book, so the last thing we want to


see is this bill go down. We do need to set out clearly that we have real


concerns about the level of EU migration and something needs to be


done. Would you rather have the bill without your amendment or no bill at


all? I am hoping we can have the bill with the amendment. I know


all? I am hoping we can have the that, but if you can't? Is that will


depend on what the Labour Party decide to do. They are talking


tougher on immigration but will they take action on it? Your party has


been talking tough on immigration but I will be surprised if an Ed


Miliband Labour Party would vote for but I will be surprised if an Ed


egg in direct cameravention of the Treaty of Rome. It would make no


sense. Nigel Mills is wishing for the impossible. If I was a Tory I


would be wringing high hands. He hasn't ruled out crashing the bill.


That's incredible. Where will this That's incredible. Where will this


end, Nigel Mills? We'll end with a vote on Thursday. There's a lot of


amendments people can use to show their concern about migration. We


want limited and proportionate action, and that's what I am


proposing. I want to see the bill on action, and that's what I am


the statute book, I want the restrictions on people who shouldn't


be here getting bank accounts and driving licences. I don't want to


crash this bill but there's more measures we need in it. Nigel Mills


thank you. You are going to be - popping up I think on the Sunday


Politics East Midlands. Diane Abbott, thank you as well.


We're in for more heavy rain and high winds across the UK today. You


may remember that one UKIP high winds across the UK today. You


councillor - he's since been suspended - caused controversy last


weekend by blaming the recent flooding on the legalisation of gay


marriage. Why didn't I think of that? So who better than this man to


bring you the unofficial forecast. I'll be bringing you the late least


UKIP weather from your area. You're watching Sunday Politics


Also coming up in just over 20 minutes, I'll be looking at the week


ahead with our political panel. A warm welcome to the local part of


the show from the North East and Cumbria. The week has been dominated


by cuts to the fire services. We will discuss it with two local MPs.


Also, we hear the children are going hungry because she the parents have


had their benefits stopped. We ask whether government sanctions and


job`seekers are being efferent fairway. The economic boost was not


sheared with the new unemployment figures. We could not imagine


anything worse for the region. There is progress in the rest of the


country and at best, it is stagnating here or perhaps even


getting worse. The two areas in the most problem is the North East and


the south`west. We have two entries the likes of communication. I want


to get apprenticeships and new jobs in the area. We suffer from the loss


of jobs from the older industries and from the public sector. We were


warned that the government policies would affect the North East much


more and no we are of that. We could not sit and watch the public debt


grow and grow so public sector cuts were inevitable. However, I do not


see that the cuts will come anyway to balancing the books. It does mean


we have to work a lot harder for jobs in the North East and Vince


Cable has been doing that. There have been good signs underneath the


headlines. There is some hope the but a lot of the jobs have been


treated as Eagle awards contracts, low paid. Unemployment in the North


East is 20% worse than in any other region of the country, so it is dire


here. When I challenged Vince Cable about this, he did not have anything


to say. He talked about in regional growth fund, but that is not helping


to get money to the small and medium`size businesses who could be


growing the economy. The government need to be doing something. Letters


move on to another story. The political fallout from the cuts to


the fire service. One regional MP has called for a rethink on the


decision. The cuts will mean 150 redundancies. It is proving a hot


issue, if you permit the pun. In three years time, there will be no


fire station in the heart of Sunderland. What do people think of


that? My son is eight firemen. The consequences are grave. In response


times. It is a disgrace. It is the same with the police station.


Everything is going from Sunderland. This issue has put politicians and


tricky spots. It was taken by a Labour dominated Fire authority, but


the Labour MP is not pulling her punches. It is totally the wrong


decision. This was badly thought out and not consulted properly. This is


the worst possible scenario. We have to think again. Fires which affected


property on life. We responded to as quickly as they were before. The


location of the station is secondary to making sure we continue to have


good response times. All the cuts off at the headlines, there are a


lot cuts rate across the region. It will cost 131 jobs in the closing of


the fire stations. Cleveland could shed 60 firefighters and eight


station could close in Middlesbrough. Cumbria wants to cut


five engines and close one station. Give it back fire cuts even in their


own backyard or join the protesters? In Penrith, that is what happened.


Marches went onto the streets and outfront, the Labour MP. If there


was a big pile`up of cars on the M6, you simply would not be able to


respond quickly enough. When you have people protesting in the


streets and then even, they have to be paid attention to. What about NT


say? This fire burned for a fortnight. We have a number of fire


risk places in the region. I want the risks properly assessed. They


have to be fit for purpose for any eventuality. For some politicians,


the outgoing the party line scenario is going up in smoke. Let us talk to


the local MP. Who is to blame for this `the government or the


Labour`controlled fire authority? I think they are very culpable. The


authority has been placed in a very difficult situation. But we think


they did have options. They have the biggest reserves in England, that is


in their in their own words, and what they


have chosen is the worst case scenario. I was at the meeting, but


the reserves are like savings. If you depend, you might be OK this


year, but next year, you will have to find the money some other way. I


find it offensive that local politicians are making cheap


political points by finger`pointing at each other. There are people 's


lives and people 's livelihoods at stake here. At the meeting, the


language changed from we can use to the reserves to we choose not to.


When we are talking about station closures and the loss of jobs, we


feel that is unacceptable. Julian said the consultation was not


carried out correctly. Would we have to ask the same people again? With


respect, the petition was Ashley handed in by a member of the public.


The person involved collected hundreds of signatures. We have the


population of 1.1 million. I would guess at least 50% of those who


actually went to the meetings were probably families of firefighters. I


would not read too much into them. But for a consultation to take


place, it has to be meaningful. The public need to be able to take part.


They were not aware of what was going on. There was only 270


responses to the consultation. What should be happening? They should not


be using `` losing their jobs or losing the applications. They have


said they will be able to reclaim the good response times of the past.


We do not dispute that. We think it is misleading to say that they will


not change, however. If you take the fire station out of Sunderland, it


will be taking longer to get to a fire in the centre of Sunderland.


That is just common sense. They have taken the option which will lead to


the biggest possible chance of fatalities. Other fire authorities


have come to different decisions. This has not convinced the public.


This is not convinced people closest to the fire service. In


Northumberland, although our issues, there is a more effective


consultation. They were facing much less of a financial meltdown. 8.8


million pounds, because the rate the government has adjusted the funds,


it hits urban deprived areas because they cannot raise money from council


tax. Absolutely. So ugly just morning? Though I do not think they


having gauged with the public to make decisions about how they can


adjust. I think they have not consulted as to how they could best


be efficient. I know you have concerns about what is happening in


Cleveland, but on the face of it, you are getting off lightly? I would


not have thought so. He said is probably the biggest fire risk in


the continent, because of the eight chemical complexes in the region.


The decision to close the main fire service is a nonsense. But also to


sack 60 firefighters and rely on part`timers, we are increasing their


risk. What should be the attitude of Labour councillors? Become


complained about the cuts but still put them through. We have to


remember this is all the result of government cuts. Labour councils


have little choice? They do not. They have to do something. We try to


get a delegation to see the fire minister. I think they need to go


back and look again at executive pay, the car was allocated to senior


managers. We need to look at this again and consult properly, so the


public can understand what they are proposing and take the right


decisions so that people in petrochemical complexes and


elsewhere are kept safe. It is a bit rich for the local Conservative MP,


they are raising concerns when ultimately, they must have known


this was coming because of the week he government has cut funding. I


think Teessiders are a particular serious case. Ultimately, the


government has two deal with the financial mess we were left with.


But if you compare them to the south of the country, the settlements are


worse. That is the key? Through the last government, we found rule


counties had far worse settlements. This argument goes on all the time.


Some Labour authorities are doing better than others. Other


authorities another authorities have other parties have coped better. No,


what about economies of scale? Maybe merging fire services in


neighbouring counties? If we could share management costs, and save


some money in that way, and some of the other things which a colleague


suggested, then it could work. However, a bad merger with debtors


into the same problems we have heard. We have here the likes of


Private fire services, such as the John Lewis firefighters? Would that


work? I do not. But I do think there could be merger costs which could


work. Local authorities could cut the likes of human resources and


make savings in other ways. The government wants to deter people


from Ike abusing the benefits system. If you feel to attend an


interview, your allowance could be stopped. In extreme cases, this


could be up to three years. The government say the sanctions only


last resort. But the unions and accusing them of having politically


motivated decisions. One of the most deprived areas in England. Some


people here claim their jobseeker's allowance is being unfairly stopped


due to new benefit sanctions regime. I forgot it am not too an


appointment. I note the adviser. I phoned them up and said I forgot. My


benefit seemed fine. She said I will have to tell the Department of work


and persons. The letter and up on the 20th of December and I was


sanctioned over Christmas. I had to go begging for food at the church


hall. It was a genuine mistake. I have had to rely on food banks and I


also lost in the middle of winter, my gas and electricity. Under a new


tougher regime introduced in October, people can use their


allowance for up to four week 's and up to three years. Reasons are


leaving a job voluntarily through to failing to come up to an interview.


Between October 2012 and June of last year, there was a 6% increase


compared with the same period a year earlier. In this region, it means


nearly 17,500 people in the region had their allowance log stopped.


Nearly 16,000 in the Roman Tees Valley and 20,000 in Cumbria and


Lancashire. The Department of work and pensions say there are no


targets for sanctions. The unions say they been put under pressure to


sanction people. Staff are faced with the threat of sanctions


themselves, in the form of performance improvement plans. If


you look at the guidance for that, it clearly states that it is a major


against targets. We believe these are politically motivated targets.


Our staff are being forced to carry them out. People say the sanctions


are having a devastating effect. We had the Child here. Children's


services had called because they felt the child had not been eating.


It was true. The child had not been eating because the parent had been


sanctioned for three months. The government said sanctions are only


used at a last resort and there is a right of appeal. Supporters say the


sanctions are necessary. It is part of the government 's attempts to


stamp out the something for nothing culture which has been very damaging


in the country in recent years. If someone is out of work and looking


for work, they should get benefits, but there should be conditions


attached. With jobless figures falling nationally, there has been


good news for the government regarding unemployment. But critics


say poor communities are being made to buy the unfair application of


benefit sanctions. Alex, sanctions could be applied fairly, but if you


missed appointments or do not convince the job centre like you are


looking for work, why should we all fund that lifestyle? There has been


a 100 and 40% increase in sanctions. It is even greater for people with


disabilities. I have a lot of casework in my office because people


are coming to others who have been unfairly sanction. One person was in


a corner in the hospital when they were sanctioned. One person who was


let down by the local bus company was sanctioned. There are genuine


things happening out there. The staff in these places are under


pressure and I believe the have targets. Do you think this is


politically motivated? There are certainly targets. Whether there are


government driven or not I do not know. But we are seeing decisions


being taken very quickly and people treated unfairly. Is the eight bit


of pushing of the job centre to sanction people who should not be?


That is pushing for the right thing to be done. If people are clicking


money not trying to work, the taxpayer fits the bill for that. But


to these people sound like there? There are situations where the


system is unfair. I will take these cases up and we get the results. But


of a coincidence that this figure has suddenly gone up so much? It is


not a coincidence that the government is trying to crack down


on abuses of the system. Taxpayers do not have very much themselves.


They want the money to be going to people who are out of work and


genuinely looking for work. What about the Child who did not eat


because their parent maybe did something wrong. Should they be


suffering because of what the appeal in bed? No child should be suffering


in the system and in the circumstances. If there are real


problems, the God who a food bank can also get financial advice. What


we cannot have is people 's children being used as a means to excuse them


making no attempt to work. This system is breaking down. We had a


child who came to us who went to the job centre, tried to get onto a job


search, could not get on the internet because it was not working


and then got sanctioned. It is not a reason not to have a system which


protects the taxpayer. The problem for Labour is that if you protest


over time, it looks as if you are on the side of the benefit claimant,


not the taxpayer? This has been very restricted. We have the futures jobs


fund and new ideas, but. But voters see you protesting every benefit


change, every sanction. That is not true. We have been frustrated


because often the most vulnerable people suffer. We need a system that


sees people back into work. We need local authorities involved, instead


of huge organisations which have not done jobs corporately. One of the


MPs in the North confessed to being a passionate take that fans this


week. She said she shared her daughter 's musical tastes. It is


all part of her battle against ticket touting. Here is the news in


60 seconds. Kane fell in many parts of the country, but was up in


Northumbria. Teeside could have new drilling for shield gas. There has


been a call for action to tackle ticket touts. This happens week in


week out. This happens in Peter, comedy, sport up and down the


country. It is not just about large cities, but these things affect all


over the country. There is to be a further ?50 million worth of cuts at


Sunderland Council. There are plans to set up a combined authority


looking at jobs and transport. 4,000 people have signed a petition is to


further call plan should have an elected beer.


That is it from others. You can keep up`to`date in a variety of ways. All


the details online. Next week, we report from Whitehaven.


constituency, very pleased. Andrew, back to you.


UKIP leader Nigel Farage is never far away from controversy, but this


week he's been outdoing himself He was hit over the head with a placard


by a protester in Kent, provoked outrage by saying women with


children are worth less to city firms, and said the ban on owning


handguns was 'crackers'. He also seemed less than sure of his party's


own policies when I interviewed him on the Daily Politics. And


own policies when I interviewed him that got everyone talking was the


suggestion by a UKIP councillor that flooding is linked to gay marriage.


We'll talk about all of that in a moment, but first, over to Nigel


with the weather. Weather for all areas of the British Isles but


definitely not "Bongo Bongo Land." You may have heard about a storm in


a tea cup developed when you kip councillor in Oxfordshire blamed the


floods on the gay marriage Bill The old party is focusing on the view of


UKIP members like him, even though he had said a sell yuj of things


before when a Tory councillor. How quickly things change depending on


when the blouse. There are occasional barmy views by people of


all persuasions. In Whitby a Labour councillor claimed of fathered a


child with an extra terrorist ral, and said his real mother was a


foot green alien. And in Wales a councillor


thinking about heading off for the slopes, there were flurries of


embarrassment for the Tories after Aidan Burly organised a Nazi skiing


party in a resort. Anyone heading to Brussels, perhaps


on the gravy train, watch out for hot air.


In Britain temperatures are rising ahead of the European elections in


May. It could get stormy, so advise light aircraft. Watch out for


outbreaks of common sense, and no chance of cyclonic fruit cakes. Back


to you, Andrew, with the rest of the Sunday Politics.


Nick, if it was any other party that had bon through the past week it


would be in meltdown. And maybe it is harming UKIP and maybe it isn't.


What do you think? That just shows, that great weather forecast, Prince


Charles now has a rival to be an excellent weather forecaster, as


does the Duchess of Cornwall. It shows why Nigel Farage is the fefr


candidate to the European elections. Our invitation to the British people


to kick the establishment. The establishment have spent five years


that the European Parliament is a waste of time, so who are you going


to vote for? A Nigel Farage type of person. What was important about


your eadviceration of Nigel Farage on Daily Politics is that when it


came to the substance, they flounder. But the point about that


party is they may have the thinnest set of policies, but people know


what they stand for more than any other parties - get out of Europe, a


grammar school in every town. If any other leading politician called for


an end to the ban on handguns, at a time when we've seen these appalling


gun deaths in the United States now almost one every week in some


terrible siege in a school. It would be a crisis. It seems to wash off


him. He's got congenital foot-and-mouthitis. Straight into


another wild nothing to do with why people might vote UKIP. I don't


think people are desperate to have handgun licences back in this


country. It is such an unusual phenomenon, UKIP, that if this was a


Tory or a Labour or a Lib Dem saying it, we've seen the damage done to


the Lib Dems on a much more serious manner, we would say this is


terminal. But maybe it adds to this image that we are not like the other


parties. I think that is it. We keep waiting for these scandals and


embarrassments to do damage to UKIP's poll ratings, but it's not


working. It is ultimately because if you are an antiestablishment party,


if you are an anti-system party the rules of the game which apply to the


establishment parties don't apply to you. And the more ramshackle and


embarrassing you are, the more authentic you seem. It what be take


something for them not to finish second in May. Do they spend the


following 12 months sinking in the poll snoos And George Osborne's


strategy is fame everything as Labour versus the Conservatives The


electorate will have their fun in May. Maybe the Tories will be beat


into third place but in thejection is that -- but in the general


election it is Labour versus the Tories. The Conservative Party will


run around, 46 letters to Graham Brady, a leadership contest. That


sort of scenario. UKIP, if it rules well in the European elections,


could cause big trouble for Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg couldn't it?


The big point about this, David Cameron said this is not a political


party but a pressure group. This is the way to look at UKIP, and the way


it is used by people in the right of the party, who say we have to do


this. I like the policy of painting the trains in their old liveries. It


would be like my old train set. I like the bigger passports.


Pre-GNER... And London and Midland. I used to be a train spotter.


Pre-GNER... And London and Midland. phone. Good to know you are watching


but pity you are not here. He wanted to clarify he had constituency


commitments to prevent him coming on the show to talk about becoming


leader of the party, but he didn't dispute anything we said on the


show. Yesterday, Ed Balls said that


housing investment will be a central priority for the next Labour


Government. It's a big issue, as the lack of new homes pushes up the the


price of owning or renting. Well, tomorrow the Tories will announce


what they say is the most ambitious programme of affordable


housebuilding for 20 years. The Government sees housing as a really


important part of the economy. That's why we are announcing a 23


billion package for 165,000 new affordable homes. So individual


builders, councils, housing associations can bid for that money.


Phase one, which we are halfway through at the moment, we've built


170,000 houses. 99,000 already coming out of the ground, so we ve


made real progress on that. So, 165,000 new, affordable homes. It is


a lot. Let me add three more words. Over three years. It is not such a


lot. It is not, and Labour's commitment is 200,000 homes a year


and even that isn't enough. The problem here is that the vest


interest is with people who already have homes. They have a vote in the


system through the planning regulations.


system through the planning gap in the hedge through Richmond


Park through which you gap in the hedge through Richmond


able to see St Paul's Cathedral That's why you cannot build homes


where you want them. I don't think we want to build homes over Richmond


Park. He wasn't saying that. That's dies an Tyne -- that's Byzantine.


You've got to deal with supply, which is why Labour is talking about


200,000 a year, and what George Osborne has done with supply is


helping with demand. We know the Help to Buy Scheme is pretty


dangerous, and Mark Carney is keen to put the break on that. If you are


to deal with supply, you have to do radical things. Chris Huhne talked


about on brownfield sites you can tax people who are holding the land


as if the development has taken place. Then if you are really going


to deal with it you have to talk about the greenfield sites, and you


have to deal with the garden cities argument, which is too much for the


Tories. All the parties seem to agree building new houses is a


political winner. I hope that they are right. I'm not sure they are.


The housing market is the example of what economists call the insider


in-outsider problem. People who are already homeowners have no rational


incentive to vote for more housing stock. Even if you leave aside the


Conservative arable objections, if you are a


Conservative arable objections, if interest to stick with the planning


promise that we have. So then stuck between a rock and a hard


place. Not only are we growing at the moment but our population is


growing. I've seen projects that in quite quickly we will overtake


Germany and become the largest populated country in Europe. If


that's the case we've got to build homes. We have. If you look at Tower


Hamlets in London, the population is r ging higher than the number of


dwelling. Classically the theory's been young people are most affected


by this and they don't vote much. But when their parents have young


Johnny stuck at home at 37, that's an electoral issue. That's why the


garden cities project is interesting, because they finance


themselves. You zone it for development, it is worth ?2 million


an acre and then you can build on it. But who is going to want the


greenfield sites gone. And how quickly can we build garden cities


today? Some were started before the Town and Country Planning Act. I've


read stats about the way Chinese and Japanese are building houses and


they were slower than that. Here's a thought, sticking on the housing


theme. Ed Miliband came up with the energy freeze, a populist


interventionist move. Then the use it or lose it to land developers.


Then breaking up the banks. Now the 50p tax rate.


Then breaking up the banks. Now the on Labour coming up for rent


controls? That's already a big split. They are split already on it.


They have. In London it is a popular policy. It might not play well in


the rest of the country. I would say 50-50 on that. I think Labour


supporting rent controls like the Tories having a go at welfare. The


policy may be individually popular but it sends an impression about the


party which might be less attract active. It confirms underlying


suspicions that vote these guys into power and suddenly they are


tampering with the private economy. The memories of the '70s when


Governments tried and failed to do that. It is riskier than a


superficial reading of the polls would suggest. One to watch? I think


they are looking at it. That was the key message of the Ed Balls speech


on housing, is looking at supply and how you get to that 200,000 figure a


year, which is substantially more than what Kris Hopkins is talking


about. What we didn't get to talk about, remember we had Michael


Wilshaw on, the Chief Inspector of Schools. We all consumed was Mr


Gove's man, the Education Secretary's man. Now according to


the Sunday Times he is spitting blood about the way Mr Gove and his


office are speaking about him behind the scenes. We've checked the quotes


and he stands by them, so I think we'll have to have the head of


Ofsted back on the programme. If you are watching, we're here. All that


to the Lib Dems who didn't come on today.


to the Lib Dems who didn't come on That's all for today. Thanks to all


my guests. The Daily Politics is That's all for today. Thanks to all


and I'll be here again next week. Remember, if it's Sunday, it's the


Sunday Politics. Britain, with 120,000 soldiers


is now at war with Germany This would be the first


truly modern war.


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