18/03/2012 Sunday Politics West


18/03/2012

Andrew Neil and David Garmston with the latest political news and debate. With guests John Cridland of the CBI, Sir Simon Jenkins of the National Trust, and Stephen Hammond MP.


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In the west: Bristol goes bus-lane- In the west: Bristol goes bus-lane-

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tastic - as its multi-million pound showcase routes are officially

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1729 seconds

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launched. But guess what? Fares The Bass beers are going up. Have

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politicians got it seriously wrong when it comes to public transport?

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That is coming up a little later but with me today are two West

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Country MPs. We have the Conservative MP for Bradley Stoke.

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He was an army reservist who served in Afghanistan and the Liberal

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Democrat MP for Bristol West to his thinking of running for mayor.

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Stephen, firstly you were the first openly gay Liberal Democrat MP. The

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Government is consulting now on the marriage, presumably you are for

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that. Absolutely. It is an issue of equality. It's a same-sex couple

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want to have such a union they should be able to call it a civil

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marriage. It should not be any less valued or recognised by society

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than an opposite sex couple. At the moment you have several partnership

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for gay couples and civil marriage for straight couples. It should be

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the same for both. Why are people wanting to take on the Church over

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this? I do not think they do want to take on the church. I agree as

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bad as the quality of respect and treating marriages between same-sex

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people and a man and a woman the same. It was outlawed in the

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military for many years. Indeed, that is progress. OK, we will see

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how the consultation goes. Now, a big leader for a big city was the

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mantra this week as a campaign kicked off for an elected mayor for

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Bristol. Anyone getting the job would not get top of the city.

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Large parts of it live with in other council areas such as South

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Gloucestershire which has attracted significant criticism. They were

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preaching to the converted. Ministers from this Government and

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the past speaking of the good points for an elected mayor. One

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nagging doubt kept creeping up. have been a clear advocate of a

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large region and I accept that that is not going to happen. Ideally we

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would like a Metro mayor, beyond the boundaries of the city council

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but all we have got on offer now is at a city near. From here you can

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see the modern metropolis but it is not all Bristol. Over one quarter

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of this are being area is not run by the city Council. The divisions

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dead back to when these were green fields. The situation at the

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airfield shows the bizarre nature of these boundaries. Airbus is one

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of the biggest employers, most of the airport is under South

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Gloucestershire and so the mayor would have little involvement in

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what goes on here. It is not just in economic matters that the

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political role would be restricted. These men freely acknowledge there

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are other limitations. referendum in May is about having a

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mayor for Bristol but in due course we might have a wider regional

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Mayor who would be best placed to deal with transport and policing

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issues which cross boundaries. mayor for Bristol would be a leader

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not just for the city but for the whole area. Around the world Riaz

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of cities are the focal point just for the boundaries of the central

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city but of the whole region. -- Nears of cities. But that is not

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what is on offer this time. I am joined by the director of the

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Bristol Chamber of Commerce. What is the business take on this? Would

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you be preparing to deal with a mayor or the system we have at the

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moment? The people of Bristol could elect a person every format for

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years whereby at the moment it is elected by a small group of

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councillors. In the past few years we have had five changes of

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leadership, there is so much instability in that. You have heard

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the risk of having someone you disagree with as mayor just for

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stability? That is true but I think the ability to elect a mayor or

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deselect at some point in the future being down to the people is

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much better than a small group. are you standing as a candidate?

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Reveal yourself! I am not ready to make that decision yet. The most

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important decision is whether we won't do have an elected mayor for

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the city or not. I will vote Yes in the referendum. I think the

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advantages of an elected mayor are not just uncertainty. We could fix

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the local Government into four- yearly cycles which I think would

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fix the uncertainty but having an ambassador for Bristol would be a

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fantastic. You are quoted as saying you are more than 50% in favour of

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having a mayor, is that an accurate quote? Yes, it is. It does not

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sound like you are bursting to get into the job? It is simply because

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I would be more emphatic of thinking it would make a big

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difference to the city if I knew what powers would come with the

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Mayor ship. The Government needs to be more open with the city about

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what powers would be given to an elected mayor. I have always been

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in favour of an elected mayor. A figurehead with a four-year mandate.

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It is the big four are that we have highlighted today. The city of

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Bristol is not what we all think it is to be. You represent Bradley

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Stoke in south Gloucestershire yet really it is within Greater Bristol

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saw how my D major deal with deep forks out in Bradley Stoke?

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mayor of Bristol would not deal with the faults in Bradley Stoke.

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That is a weakness? Not necessarily. The facts are that we have a local

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Government area that is the city and Council of Bristol and you

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elect a mayor to oversee that area. But if you want a transport system

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you have all the different councils. Local councils work together at the

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moment. I think for the purposes of clarity the city of Bristol does

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need an elected mayor. Are you concerned about where the

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boundaries of the city are? I have always been concerned. The west of

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Bristol area is huge, it is one million souls. It is one of the

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most celebrated cities in the country. It has such potential in

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terms of its growth. There is so much going on, the universities,

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big airport, baked sea port. But there is this fragmentation. -- Big

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Sea port. A lot of the councillors are not keen on this. The Liberal

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Democrat deputy leader has been seeing I do not think it is right

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to try to bribe the electorate of Bristol into voting for or a

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Government which seems to be the right system of governance. Let's

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see what the people of Bristol think. We have to wait for the

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result of the referendum. I think it is an odd statement to make.

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think there is a problem. I think he has got something in that people

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will be voting for a change without being absolutely sure what that

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change will be. What do you mean by that? The Government is clear that

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we want local Government to be reinvigorated in England. It has

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been emasculated by the last Government and the previous Tory

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Government. We want cities to be local drivers. We have the localism

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Act. In our last few seconds, if you stood and should you be elected,

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would you resign as an MP? No. That is one of the issues that need to

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be clarified. It is quite normal in other parts of the world for the

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city's Mayor to also be a Member of Parliament. In Bordeaux, Bristol's

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twin city the mayor is also the city MP and the foreign minister of

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France, he has they jobs. -- he has three jobs. In the last few months

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Bristol has spent millions of pounds on new bus routes. Cars are

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being squeezed off the roads and now companies who provide staff

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with a car parking space could be charged. We have come along way

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since these days. In the 60s our roads were less congested and fuel

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costs much less. This week the starting flag was raised for and

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you either of buses in the Bristol area. The Government gave more than

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�40 million for the new showcase bus routes to try to persuade

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commuters to leave their cars at home. Next month the cost of

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filling them up will rise as the Government cuts the fuel rebate bus

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companies get. The cost will be passed on to passengers. We are

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seeing a fuel cuts rise of 27 %, we have to be able to recover some of

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that through the prices we charge. We inherited a difficult economic

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situation from the previous administration but we gave 18

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months' notice of the fuel rebate being reduced. That was a very long

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period. At the time the bus operators said the notice time was

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sufficient. They can only hope that commuters will not be put off by

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the prices. Meanwhile, pressure mounts on the Chancellor ahead of

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next week's budget to lower the tax on petrol. Let's stop bus lanes.

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The taxpayer has paid for these routes and we are spending millions

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hiding parts of it off into bus lanes and giving the bus companies

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a virtual monopoly of them went the bus companies have to put their

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prices up. Bus lanes do make a big difference to moving people

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efficiently around the city. We have had lots of bus measures put

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in place over the last 20 years here which has improved the quality,

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speed and reliability of bus travel. Subsidising the bus companies by

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giving them part of our roads than seeing other road users cannot have

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them, but then you do not subsidise the cost of the ticket? Surely it

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people are stuck in traffic and see a bus or whizzing past on the bus

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lane they are going to be incentivise to get the bus next

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time. Everybody says they want better public transport and a real

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alternative. That is great in an ideal world but tickets are usually

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cheap in places like France. Fears here are high. If I had a tax

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contribution for every time someone has said to me why can we not have

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European standards in British cities, well, they do tax people

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more in many of these countries. It is afraid of. From a business point

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of view, charging firms that they provide staff with somewhere to put

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their cars, is that something you would favour? It is not. We want

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the city council to look at all the alternatives. We know they are

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looking at a supplementary business rate but we feel there has to be a

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way of spreading that rowed much further. -- spreading that load.

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What They are trying to do is close a funding gap. Beer is something

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like �20 million of a shortfall which has to be made up. -- there

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is something like. The central part is the ever increasing cost of fuel.

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Should the Government be addressing that? You have to put it in the

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context of our economic situation overall. My understanding is that

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every penny we take-off the litre of fuel has to come somewhere.

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is pretty tough if you are filling up your family car and it costs

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�100. Which I do. We can only artificially hold down the price of

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fuel for so long in order to please the boaters. In Our lifetime the

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price of petrol has only gone in one direction and only will call in

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one direction. Throughout the country how much of it is tax?

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vast majority. The underlying price is going up and up. What effect is

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this having on business? It is interesting. People seem to be

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voting with their feet. We have seen the biggest rise on the

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southern beech line for commuters. People are deciding that they

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cannot afford to run their cars any more so they will take the next

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alternative which Israel. It is a further squeeze on people's pockets,

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isn't it? -- the alternative which is real. They can walk or ride or

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whatever. -- rail. In celebration of the Cheltenham Festival let's

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take a canter through our politics in 60 seconds. The North Somerset

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MP Liam Fox has been ordered to pay �3,000 and apologise for breaking

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parliamentary rules. The amount of food wasted by supermarkets is

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scandalous according to the SNP who has are urged shops to donate

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surplus food to charity. So much surplus food goes to waste that

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people would be duly grateful to get their hands on it. And this man

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who wants to lawfully end his life with the help of doctors will have

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his case heard in court. Life is hell for him and it is not going to

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get any better. The defunct Cotswold Water Park who's boss was

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jailed for fraud has an investigation and it is unlikely

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there will be any intervention in the plans to close libraries. That

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Was the Week That Was in just 60 seconds. The week ahead will be

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interesting politically because it is the Budget. What should the

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Chancellor do? He has a really tough job at the moment. He will

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have to continue to play down the deficit and have financial

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stability while raising the situation with jobs. Help for small

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businesses as well. What is the Liberal Democrat peer? Taxing that

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1%? I am glad we endorse that. We have to raise more people out of

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income tax altogether and have a tax cut for the vast majority. That

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is what the Liberal Democrats have brought to the budget negotiations.

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As for people at the top end, the 50 p rate, it would not be our

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priority now to drop that great. We want to see more work done on

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taxing wealth more effectively in this country. A mansion tax, a

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tycoon tax. It is always someone else paying tax that people want, I

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guess. The 50 pence rate, will that they or disappear? Well, I think at

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the moment it is a tough balancing act. I do not know at this stage.

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We will have to wait and see. about any of the other issues? Can

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he possibly kick-start the economy doing something now that he has not

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done before? I would like to see more help given to small businesses.

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What we have done on corporation tax as far as reducing 2% at the

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moment, perhaps more measures like that. We shall see before much

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Andrew Neil and David Garmston with the latest political news and debate.

Andrew Neil interviews John Cridland, Chairman of the CBI on what businesses want from Wednesdays Budget. Sir Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust, and Stephen Hammond MP go head to head over the Government's plans to change planning laws affecting the countryside.


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