20/01/2013 Sunday Politics South West


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In the South West: the issue dividing opinion in the


Conservative Party. The coalition's plans for gay marriage are


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2305 seconds


upsetting one of the region's Hello, I'm Lucie Fisher. Coming up


on the Sunday Politics and the South West, the issue dividing the


Tories. Not Europe put gay marriage. One senior Conservative says David


Cameron is alienating the grassroots -- but game marriage. I


am joined by Marcus Wood from the Torbay Conservative Party and Luke


Pollard. We stuck with horse burgers.


Investigations are under way to find out how Paul Smith found its


way into beefburgers in supermarkets -- we start with horse


burgers. The Exeter MP was not convinced that this would lead to


prosecutions. By Rhys is Secretary of State? Will these retailers be


prosecuted? And that was it not for later removed responsibility from


the independent Food Standards Authority to his department? Marcus,


were you surprised that you could be eating horsemeat? I think


everybody was. A catastrophic failure of control. The industry


should have very strong protection against that kind of thing, and


usually does. What about this point that Ben Bradshaw makes, certain


elements of protection have been removed from the third standards


agency, an independent consumer watchdog? It is his job to try to


drag the Government down over anything the Government does run.


It was any removed two years ago under the new government.


retailers themselves have far more stringent controls than the


Government have ever come up with. Normally they would protect


themselves because they are the front line of risk and there will


be prosecuted. It is a public relations disaster for any


supermarket. I don't think the Government need to be doing things,


I think the supermarket should be having inquiries and change their


systems. Luke, David Cameron thinks it will be OK, will it be OK?


if supermarkets have a decent system to ensure that if it's as


beefburgers on the package, it is beef. Moving from an independent


Food Standards Agency to allow it to be closer to the industry and to


political interference, I think it is not acceptable and it is right


that Benn picked this up and says is this the right system to protect


the Consumers', but they are getting beef and not horse? Were


must move on. Several councils in the region are beginning to


announce plans to put up council tax. It will not please Eric


Pickles. He has once again urged councils to go for a freeze but the


Conservative leader of Cornwall Council wants to increase the tax


by nearly 2%, a rise of almost 50 p per week.


We'll be hearing from him in a war moment but first this report from


Jenny Kumah. Councils are under extraordinary


financial pressure. After recent flooding in Devon, the county


council leaders have appealed for more government cash to help fund


repairs. November broke records of storms. And December broke


November's records. We have had a really bad hit. Torbay's


Conservative mayor says he has written to ministers to complain


about the amount of money they have got to spend next year. The


authority is looking at budget cuts of �10 million. Around 900 Tom


noble people could lose their free safety alarms. A controversial cut


back if it goes ahead. In some areas, councillors are making the


bold move of putting up council tax to help pay for services. Plymouth


residents could see a 2% rise, the maximum councillors can put it up


by without asking local people in a special vote. And the next


elections in Plymouth will not be held until May, 2014. In just a few


months' time, councillors here at Devon County Council will be facing


the electorate. I have come to find out from the leader just how likely


it is people put up council tax just before an election.


starting early in 2009, we have been able to put in a council tax


freeze and we would definitely be putting it as far as I am concerned.


Because we have the capacity to do it. We have restructured. That has


so does lots of money. Far too many of our local authority neighbours


did not start as early as we did and therefore they have not got the


capacity we have. Cross the border in Cornwall, elections are looming


here as well but with �30 million of savings needed, councillors are


not afraid to ask voters for more money. The Conservative-Independent


coalition cabinet want a 1.97 % council tax increase and if


approved by the council, that is an extra 47p per week for the average


home. Labour-led Exeter City Council is looking to raise council


tax by a whopping 4%. Exeter is one of seven south-west district that


is being given special dispensation to raise council tax above 2%


without a referendum. Putting the Labour leader in an unusual


position of thanking the Conservative minister. I am glad


the Government have given us an opportunity to look after low


costing councils. I hope they do it again. In cash-strapped West Devon,


the Conservative leader is not so pleased with the Government.


Effectively we lost something like �640,000 and you set that against


our net budget of 7.5 million, that is quite a major impact whereas we


were expecting to get considerably more this year. West Devon's leader


has not yet said whether tax will go up here but it was one of two


south-west councils that put it up last year. And he warns that some


services could be cut back if they do not do it again.


We are joined from Truro now by the Conservative leader of Cornwall


Council, Jim Currie. Welcome. Can you confirm for us that Cornwall


Council is proposing to put up council tax? Yes, that is a


recommendation from the Cabinet at the moment and obviously it has a


complete process yet to go through. What is your personal position on


it? I am proposing to put it up. Why is that? Because you're going


against Conservative Party policy here. I knew a Conservative


yourself. Yes, I am and against high council tax as well. We find


ourselves in the position. We went very early if not the earliest, to


achieve the position we are in and we put forward a balanced budget


which, if it goes as the Cabinet proposes it will not, this year,


involve cuts in services. leader of Devon council, we heard


in the peace there, saying that Cornwall has not been careful


enough with its money. He believes a Devon has been far more careful


and as a result does not have to put up council tax. He is taking a


gamble with that. I would not take that gamble. The risks we have with


our budget are quite off the scale at the moment and I consider them


to be unacceptable. At the end of the two years for which we have


balanced the budget, we have a starting point of the deficit of


�47 million, not of our making. will interrupt there. Just to bring


in Marcus to the debate. Is Jim Currie correct, that he cannot make


cuts to council tax, you must increase it? I cannot speak for him,


he has been elected to do what he must do. And I feel strongly that


when you have been saying for about four years that there will be


painful choices to make and we have to make the painful decisions as


elected politicians, I think it is frustrating when people then do not


make those painful decisions. You cannot work with less money without


making some cuts and a lot of councils - and I cannot speak for


Cornwall - have put that off. You are then asking the public to pay


and when you stood to be elected on a particular issue and say you will


not put taxes up. What things can be cut then? In Torbay, your area,


they are looking at cutting back on things like lifelines for bomb of


all people, 900 of them. Is that a good cat -- for vulnerable people,


a good cut? No cuts are good, you have to make difficult decisions.


Is that something you would recommend for Jim Currie? Putting


the tax up is always the easy option, and ask the public to pay


more but the fact is the public have not got money to pay because


they are being stretched by everything going up. Jim, you are


taking the easy option here and Marcus is correct that in your


particular area, a St Ives constituency has got the lowest


wages per week in the whole of the country. Is it fair for them to


find more money for council tax? do not see why a local government


should be singled out for this particular kind of treatment. There


are many aspects of society at the moment where increases are being


allowed but in our case, despite the fact that the first year we


saved �86 million from our budget, this year, 41 million, next year,


30 million in this Budget. Actually it was 24 but we have been asked


for more from central government in the meantime and by the end of the


period, we will be in a position where we cannot cope. All right, so


let's say to Luke, that Labour were too generous. The reason we are


finding difficulty in making cuts the because there was too much


money awarded to local councils under Labour. I do not think that


is the case. There are vital public services, perhaps in the lifelines


which these old people have and that is one example of many


services that local government provide an cuts that the Tory lead


government of pushing down on local government across the West Country


means that you are now having to take unpleasant choices between


cutting services for the most ball noble in society or putting council


tax up. What would you stand by? Labour-led councils will put


council tax up, or are proposing to. You need to balance at how


efficiently you can deliver services and how efficiency savings


are being made for vital public services for adults social care,


for filling in port holes, for getting people back into work and


you need to have a choice -- into potholes. They are deciding to cut


hard on local financing than perhaps they are choosing, they are


choosing to make sure the vulnerable suffer the worst...


will have to stop you there. We will move on. Campaigners against


gay marriage have been hitting the streets of Cornwall asking people


to write to MPs and targeting the Tories in particular and perhaps


with good reason, Giles Chichester was one of several Conservatives in


the region who do not like plans for equal marriage and he says


David Cameron is alienating the grass roots.


Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of people from across France


rallied in Paris against their Government's plans to legalise


same-sex marriage. Meanwhile in Cornwall, the Coalition for


Marriage has been leafleting people about Downing Street's plans to do


something similar. The Government wants to rewrite the meaning of


marriage but to change the definition of an institution around


for thousands of years certainly is not easy and it is splitting the


views of the general public. Even politicians themselves. I am


disappointed that David Cameron - and I think it is personal - has


chosen to take this initiative. It was not in the manifesto, there is


no great call for it. I support equal rights for gay couples, that


has been legislated against. It is not broke, why fix it? Thousands of


signatures against a proposed redefinition was taken to Downing


Street and Giles Chichester says he has had a strong response from


constituents and members of the party against David Cameron's


proposals. A almost without exception, they say why is he doing


it? There is no call for it. A has enough problems to tackle without a


big one like this. This week, the Sunday Politics asked all 14


Conservative MPs were they sit on gay marriage and only two were


clear in their support for the plans. Five of them expressed


strong views against the plan. The position of the remaining seven


Conservative MPs remains unclear. The Coalition for marriages asking


people in Cornwall's and stir -- Conservative constituencies to


write to their MPs but Sarah Newton believes she is being


misrepresented. The impression is giving that it is given a lot of my


constituents that actually I am endorsing their campaign. The UK


Independence Party is hoping to poach disillusioned Tory voters


with its clear opposition to gay marriage. The issue is so important


it is said to have cost the leader of its youth section his job after


he spoke out in favour of gay marriage. At pushing for gay


marriage which is something I am a big supporter of, it is one of the


few things that I think this government is doing right. I think


it is a good thing. I have no problem with him being a supporter


of gay marriage but as a spokesman of the party, we did ask him to


stay within representing party policy and on a number of issues,


of which gay marriage was one, that wasn't happening. The Bishop of


Exeter has been clear about his opposition to gay marriage.


proposals as they stand have many unforeseen legal and constitutional


consequences which the Government have not thought through. By hear


more people saying slowdown -- Ali hear more people. We need to do


more talking about what is involved -- I hear more people.


David Cameron's as marriage should be and his decision open to


everyone. This could be law by 2014. We are joined now by Dr Sharon


James from the Coalition for Marriage from Truro. Welcome to the


programme. You are against plans to allow gay marriage, can you tell us


why? The Coalition for Marriage is representing people up and down the


country, people of faith and no faith to believe this government


did not create marriage, it goes back to the beginning of recorded


history, it is a natural institution between a man and a


woman. The great majority of the UK population are very tolerant, and


we hear from many gay and lesbian people who are happy with civil


partnerships but we do not believe there should be done over the heads


of millions of married people. has the problem not been removed


for you? One of the top human rights lawyers in the country has


delivered an opinion that the quadruple loch is eminently


challengeable say all of these so- called protections are fairly


meaningless. The people we represent are not so much worried


about the rights of a few individual ministers, what our


supporters worry about is the civic liberties of ordinary people,


teachers, parents, foster-parents, public sector workers who are


already finding that it is threatened in an increasingly


hostile climate to those who believe in traditional marriage.


You are targeting Conservatives in Cornwall, what do you want from


them? We want every MP to listen to the views of their constituents and


we are finding when people find out about this, they have not been


properly informed but when they do find out about these plans, they


are unhappy and they have the right to contact their MP and we are


hearing from MPs say they have got more post on this issue, against a


married, than on any other issue. Let's move to Marcus. You support


gay marriage and in our survey, only two Conservative MPs in the


region of 14 actually support it and five actively opposed to it. Is


it likely to become the reality? can't answer, I do not know. One of


the issues is that a lot of Conservative members, I think Giles


Chichester alluded to this, they are in favour of that woman in


terms of proposing this but -- opposing this but the vast majority


supported. You cannot do what your own party wants a loan. -- once on


its own. It is just inevitable that gay marriage will come up, I cannot


see why you would say one is all right and the other isn't. Be is


now the right time to be introducing these measures? Is any


time the right time to introduce controversial measures. You can


feel passionate about it but for the vast majority of the public, I


think we have crossed a threshold one we had the issue about civil


partnerships. A Luke, why did Labour not introduce gay marriage,


and this half measure of civil partnerships? Equalisation of the


age of consent, ability to adopt, huge steps forward in the quality.


We believe more people should get married and extending it to


everybody, regardless of sexuality, will only increase the happiness of


everyone. These proposals do not take anything away from anybody who


is already married, it extends the right to marry and to be in a


marriage to anyone in a country and that surely has to be a good thing.


It is very rare that a government can extend happiness. Sharon, it


has to be a good thing, what do you say to them? I would say that this


will take away the freedom from those vast numbers of the British


public who do not believe that marriage is the same as same-sex


union. If people are already under threat of losing their jobs if they


disagree with gay marriage, one of the situation be of gay marriage is


introduced? I would say again that people on both sides of the


argument asking the Government to pause and consider what could well


be the unintended consequences. Senior politicians on both sides


saying this policy has not been properly thought through. Dr Sharon


James, thank you for joining us. Our round-up of the political week


A Devon has lost a landmark legal battle to wear her cross at work.


It reminded the Prime Minister of the promised to change the law.


have to stand up and I do regret saying that I feel my career of 30


years, it is such a sad loss. Cameron was asked what he was doing


to stop this happening again. will do everything we can to make


sure these important services are maintained even when they are


challenged by floods like the ones last year. Elected police


commissioner elected his first Chief Constable. A Devon and


Cornwall constituency looks even less likely after the Lord's voted


to delay boundary changes. And Torbay council proposed cuts to


which beach services which could mean they lose their Blue Flag


status. Why have we have raised this sooner or so that we can see


That is our round-up. Luke, cuts to beach services which could see Blue


Flag status being lost, a good way to save money when our industry is


really tourism-based? We are losing so much money in our water bills in


cleaning up, to achieve those amazing beaches, it would be a real


shame to see the protected status being lost. We must make sure they


are clean. I think this comes back to the conversation we were having


earlier, when you have got a limited resource, you must make


some difficult decisions. I do not envy the councils making these


decisions. The same council in Torbay spent �20,000 on a palm tree


in the middle of a roundabout. is the sort of decision making that


has to be defended and a think it is hard to do that but you have to


get the balance right and I think they are trying hard to do that.


You are still trying to defend the council here! It seems preposterous.


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