18/03/2012 Sunday Politics West


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-


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


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1729 seconds


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Gloucestershire which has attracted significant criticism. They were


preaching to the converted. Ministers from this Government and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Gloucestershire and so the mayor would have little involvement in


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


political role would be restricted. These men freely acknowledge there


are other limitations. referendum in May is about having a


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Stoke in south Gloucestershire yet really it is within Greater Bristol


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


need an elected mayor. Are you concerned about where the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


been emasculated by the last Government and the previous Tory


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


being squeezed off the roads and now companies who provide staff


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


situation from the previous administration but we gave 18


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


context of our economic situation overall. My understanding is that


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


southern beech line for commuters. People are deciding that they


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


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


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


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


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


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


parliamentary rules. The amount of food wasted by supermarkets is


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


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


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


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


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


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


jailed for fraud has an investigation and it is unlikely


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


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


interesting politically because it is the Budget. What should the


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


have to continue to play down the deficit and have financial


stability while raising the situation with jobs. Help for small


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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