15/01/2012 Sunday Politics South West


15/01/2012

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And in the South West: The next big public sector pay row

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- union's must have thought it couldn't get any worse, but the

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1692 seconds

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debate about local pay rates is Hello and welcome to the Sunday

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Politics in the South West. Coming up: $NEWLINE The women who want the

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right to ride, and the landowner who says their demands are

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atrocious. To discuss that and much more,

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we've brought together town and country in the form of Alison

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Seabeck, Essex girl and Plymouth MP, and Somerset farmer Neil Parish, MP

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for Tiverton and Honiton. Alison, what has your highlight

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been of this first week? Well, appearing on the inaugural Abersoch

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of the show of course! I very much hope the government will listen to

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what has been said this week, that common sense has broken out at

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Westminster. I was delighted that David Cameron has raised the issue

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of having a referendum in Scotland as to whether they should remain

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part of the Union. I am very much the Unionists and I think this is

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where all the main parties of Westminster can get together and

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say there are benefits of the United Kingdom, so that when we go

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out to trade with the rest of the world, we are at the United Kingdom

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without separate Scotland. Our embassies are promoting more and

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more trade to the developing world. Let's bring the United Kingdom

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together and not split is a part. Let's have the referendum straight,

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in or out, and then we can talk about enhanced demolition after

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that. The very first debate back at

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Westminster this week focused on the Government's plan to look at

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introducing local pay rates in the public sector. The present national

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pay scale means public sector workers in a region like this one

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tend to be much better off than their private sector equivalents.

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According to the government, that damages private sector

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competitiveness. Business organisations like the CBI agree,

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but unions say the changes would downgrade the region to even more

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of a low-wage economy. Tamsin Melville reports.

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Public sector workers across the south-west were out in force in

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November, striking over pensions and sending strong messages to the

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government. George, if you weren't itching for a fight yesterday, you

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will be today. Issues affecting public sector workers are always

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keep in the south-west, where they make up more than one quarter of

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the workforce. The 1,000 strikers that filled this wall represent

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just a tiny fraction. In Cornwall alone it is estimated there are

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50,000, and if you add in Devon, Dorset and Somerset, they around

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300,000 - enough to fill the at 300 times. So when the Chancellor used

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his Autumn Statement to announce a review of national pay rates for

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public servants, local alarm bells were going off. In a low pay region

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like the south west, it would seem the only way for public sector

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wages would be down. Not a popular concept with those on the front-

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line. I am doing the same job in carrying out the same

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responsibilities, so why should I be paid any differently, whether it

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is less or more than a counterpart who is expected to do exactly the

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same thing as me? Do you think all that good teachers will think, why

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should I be getting paid any less, and move somewhere else? It exactly.

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I think particularly well-qualified pick -- teachers are going to be

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snapped up by other areas. And why not? Unions representing people

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like Stacey are furious. It's just another attack on pay and it will

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be extremely divisive between public and private sector workers,

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particularly between public sector workers to work around the country.

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At all we were trying to get away from the fact that the south-west

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was worse off than London and the south-east, I thought were trying

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to narrow these gaps, not make them worse. But Institute for Fiscal

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Studies research shows the South west has the biggest public-private

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pay gap in England. Men working in the public sector here are likely

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to earn around 8% more than men with similar skills in the private

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sector. So do Ministers have a point that scrapping national pay

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rates could be good for business and boost the economy in regions

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that are over-dependent on the public sector? If what you've got

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is a whole gang of roles in the public sector which are paid that

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much more for very similar jobs, it just stews that market. So you

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really can see why the government would think along these lines. It's

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not just about teachers and nurses, it's about a whole plethora of

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administrators and people who do similar jobs in the private sector.

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That is why you need a much wider review. But at Westminster this

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week, some MPs have been questioning had driving down pay

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could possibly boost local economies. The Chancellor has asked

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how it could be implemented and how it would work, and there is no

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consideration of the overall economic impact of this proposal.

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George Osborne has as the independent pay review bodies to

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report back in July. Meanwhile, unions are warning public sector

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workers won't see their wages go down without a fight.

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Alison, surely everybody agrees we need to stimulate the private

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sector. We need to stimulate the south-west, and I don't think

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Westminster understands this region. If you give the importance of those

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public sector salaries to this region, particularly cities like a

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mad, if you were to reduce those salaries, it would have a

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considerable negative effect. We have a large number of paid workers

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not comparable with public sector workers at all. The reason why

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Cornwall is a convergence area of objectives 1 and 2 is simply

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because it is low wage. I genuinely think this really has to be

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carefully thought through. Government policies impact in a

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range of different ways. If we won the private sector to grow down

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here, we have to have transport links. Government, if you are

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looking at this, look at it very carefully. Labour introduced local

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pay. Yes, and we didn't extend it. It was almost like the pilot. It

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threw up a number of disparities and inequalities, but most

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important for me is I don't think people in Westminster, whatever

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government, understand the south- west economy well enough and they

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do not understand how important some of those public sector jobs

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and incomes are. Neil, a lot of businesses will be in favour of

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this change. Tim Jones from the Business Council agrees with Alison,

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he says if you give the economy of the region as a whole, this would

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be under reasonable and devastating. You have to look at the whole

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picture. There is an argument that paying the public sector more

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drives private sector costs up, but we also live in an area where we

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have high-priced houses, so I think what the review body has to look at

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is not just the disparity between wages and the cost of living in the

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south-west, and that is where Alison and I can agree on. If the

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previous government started it with the Prison Service, that actually

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look now and see what effect that has had, and seek where some

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positive sides can be. But in the end if it is actually just going to

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reduce overall salaries in the south-west, with people still

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finding it difficult to get housing and accommodation, then I think we

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have to be very careful. I think it's something that needs to be

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looked at but are not sold on it one way or the other yet, because I

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think we have to look at the impact right the way through.

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When the last government introduced the so-called Right to Roam

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legislation it was hailed by ramblers as a long-overdue victory

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after more than a century of campaigning. Many landowners, of

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course, took a rather different view. Conflict is now brewing again

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in the green fields of Somerset as horse-riders attempt to reclaim

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around 200 bridleways before the legal deadline expires. We sent

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A call to action on Dartmoor. The reason? Public access to a disputed

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right of way. The protest ultimately failed, but it showed

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the depth of feeling when it comes to the countryside. Now, a plan by

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South Somerset Bridleways Association to reinstate 200

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rights-of-way has alarmed landowners. I don't it is very good,

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what they've done. In fact, it is borderline atrocious. This

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bridleway opened in 2009. It is on a disused railway, but there are

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many historic bridleways and for Pat's -- footpads. Take this three-

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mile track near Taunton, used by horse-riders. It is not officially

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a right of way, but that could change, as an application has been

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handed into reinstated. Time is running out. If bridleways on

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claims on his struggle evidence by 2026, that is the closure date and

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no-one will be able to claim a bridleway on their land. They

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should still be able to do it on use evidence, but that is a

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different matter. The challenge access groups is to get ways on to

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definitive maps. Taunton Deane Bridleway Association has filed

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over 200 applications. Others fear claims could top -- could cost

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taxpayers in Somerset alone over �1 million. It doesn't cost anything

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for users to put in applications, but it costs money to defend it. If

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they don't, then what happens is potentially the claim could be

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successful and the landowner would have a right of way which perhaps

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shouldn't be there. So again costs landowners many tens of thousands

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of pounds to defend a claim. reinstatement claim could take

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years to evaluate and has disappointed landowners and farmers.

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Just because something was there in the past, doesn't mean it is

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appropriate use today. Farmers have changed, these farms are factory

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floor. Their working environments, and some of the historic roots are

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not always conducive with working practices. It would be far better

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to look for negotiation. James Small, seem to be chairman of the

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end you left, believes there should be compromised, with permissive

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path. -- the NFU. Access is open and is being used by new

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generations of course riders and cyclists already. They are seeing

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the benefits. So what is more beneficial to the public, roots

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that they can use that are safe where they can see the countryside,

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or something that is seeing -- sitting in a dusty County Hall for

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the next 20 years? Even those making claims admit the system is a

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ludicrous and overly complex for all concerned. There is another

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prizes which landowners can do which is dedicating the land as

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bridleways. If they did that, it would cut out all of this procedure

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that we have to go to. On the other hand, we feel it must be done

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because we don't want to be in danger of future generations losing

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the roots. Well, we heard from one Somerset landowner in the film

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there. We have another one here. Do you agree with the farmer in the

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film? Well, I am a farmer and I do agree because I think the idea we

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must build on these permissive path, rather than this idea of historic

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bridleways... It might be right through the middle of a bridleway.

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If you're growing maize or crops, it is very difficult to reinstate

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it there. It does it matter that you have to go round the edge of

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the field now. So that is what worries me - it is far too rigid.

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Better to go forward with co- operation with the landowners,

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because in the wake -- end, that is the way for a party going to work.

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If there is acrimony, there will always be problems. They say the

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law works for the law-abiding, and I think that works for both sides

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of this argument. I think we should get farmers and users of these

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packs to gathers to get compromises and permissive paths. The idea of

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forcing through lots of obsolete roots does not make sense to me.

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Alison, you seem to be nodding. Do you agree? It's one of these

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arguments which is polarising. In the build up to the Right to Roam,

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the debates were very difficult at times. So I think there is some

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scope in this a round permissive path ways. But equally, riders are

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generally very responsible people, and they do use the land sensibly

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in the main. Most of them will not go straight through a field. They

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have enough intelligence not to. So there ought to be some progress

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made, but clearly people have rights and there is a deadline, and

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they should, I think, expressed their applications. But within that,

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they ought to be scope for discussion and the offers from

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local landowners to say, well, I would rather you didn't use this

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big barbel open this it up so you can get from eight to be safely. --

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from A to B. What worries me is when you try to move it that path,

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there is always objection and it is difficult. So these pacts have to

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be treated with more flexibility. That is what worries me.

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It's time now for our round-up of the political week in 60 seconds.

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The campaign to save though Portsmouth rescue helicopter

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reached Downing Street. We have two diverse saving people who would be

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drowned higher not been for the fact that the Portland helicopter

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was then a matter of minutes. Embarrassment in Plymouth that the

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City Council even discussed fights to fight back plans to fight crime

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by limiting the number of foreign students in shops.

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Another Plymouth politician asked the government to improve our

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railways before extending high- speed rail to Scotland. When the

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motorway is stopping at Exeter, we desperately need to increase a rail

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connectivity to the rest of the country. And in North Devon, bin

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men were told they need to work harder and stop throwing sickies.

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The national average is 12 days here, not the 18 the we have been

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talking about. Alison, you have a history of

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working on maritime safety. This is a very specific issue. When you

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have an issue like that as an MP, when do you let go and say, I am

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furious about this but a decision has been made? It is a very

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difficult decision to take, actually. Part of you will be

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saying, I have to keep going with this, but you are right, you reach

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a wall where you just can't take it any further. Whether it is an issue

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like that or an issue for a constituent, there comes a point

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where you actually have to step back and say, the decision has been

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taken. I think this is the case with the coastguards, sadly.

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think you should fight to the end. I'm a big supporter of digging in.

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You are there to fight the corner, and I know whatever political party

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you are, at the government makes a decision that may not be to your

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liking. But my view is that you keep going, and some you win, some

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you lose. But I know there comes a moment where that you think you're

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wasting your time, but I think you should keep that fight going. The

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railways, we have to get not only the main line down to Plymouth, but

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we have to get the Waterloo to Honiton line. Lots of things can be

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done to boost things in a constituency. I am always after

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improvements to the motorway. I think we should and block the the

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area around Stonehenge and worked northwards. There are times when

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the legislation is there and you can't change it. So then it becomes

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a matter of where to take the battle next a new start again,

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perhaps coming at it from a different angle. With a different

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set of ministers! What of his business in Plymouth this week? The

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City Council has apologised and said it was an oversight that this

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proposal was ever considered. Limiting the number of foreign

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students in shops because that might be a way to reduce crime?

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was a very poorly worded statement and clearly got quite a lot of

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coverage. We are a city with lots of students but most of the people

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apparently involved are sort of the 18-14 yards language students

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coming over for a couple of weeks. They tend to go around in large

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groups. Lots of shops will have signed up in London saying

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"children, two at a time". The fact that this was identifying foreign

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students actually sent a whole range of wrong messages out about

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the city and it needed to be retracted. I think it was wrong

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because in the end you have to make sure there you please those shops

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properly. It does it matter who is doing a shoplifting, let's sort it

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out. It does send a very bad message to those foreign students

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that we are inviting into Plymouth quite legitimately for language

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school. So it was one of those things which was appallingly badly

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handled. What we actually want to get is more people to Plymouth,

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more people in the West Country, but also those shopkeepers actually

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want better policing and better security so that shoplifting

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doesn't take place. So therefore I think singling out one individual

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