Andrew Neil and David Garmston with the latest political news and debate. With shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, Conservative Matthew Hancock and Nadine Dorries.
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Morning folks. Welcome to the Sunday politics at the end of a
Apology for the loss of subtitles for 43 seconds
week when we had an Autumn Here in the West, the housing plan
that's back fired. House building targets were handed to local
Apology for the loss of subtitles for 43 seconds
councils, but we can reveal most of Thank you Andrew. This is the
Sunday Politics here in the West. Now it's almost Christmas and there
are a lot of people without a decent home. Everyone agrees the
answer is to build more houses. The trouble is - where? We can reveal
today that a Government used to make thing easier has back fired.
First let's meet our guests this morning. They are the Swindon
Conservative MP Robert Buckland and for Labour, Amanda Ramsay who is
hoping to become the new MP for Bristol south, a seat which is as
safe as houses for Labour. You see how I worked in the house being
theme there? If you fancied a MoCA choca or a tall skinny flat white
Americano, where would you go? Are you boycotting Starbucks after
their tax affair? As a tea drinker it's not one of my first ports of
call. I was out with my family last night and we went to another
company doing a similar service. And paying their tax? Yes. What do
you think about Starbucks? I think where tax is due on profit that is
made in this country, tax should be paid upon it. Don't forget tax do
pay payroll taxes for those they employ. Where they're making
profits and not declaring them, that needs to change. It has put me
off, yes, very much so. I was a bit of a Starbucks person until this
all started coming out in the news. It's put me off shopping at Amazon.
I was quite an Amazon shopper. It puts you off because you think
you're being taken for a ride and at a time when the country is being
absolutely crucified because of the cuts, cuts, cuts, and yet these
people are getting away with. It it makes us feel angry as consumers.
Get ago way it, perfectly legally, of course, we should say. There
were protests planned against Starbucks and several other high
profile companies in the West this weekend. People's anger has been
fuelled bit Chancellor's statement on Thursday, which promised more
and more austerity. Paul Barltrop has been gauging the reaction.
There were Christmas decorations on Downing Street but few presents.
The Chancellor instead went to Parliament bearing gloomy facts
about the economy. Instead of taking three years to get our debt
falling, it's going to take four. It is a hard road, but we're
getting there. The public know there are no miracle cures.
promises made in 2010 by the new coalition Government must now be
explained away by its MPs. course is still right. But the
length of the jurn ji going to take longer. -- journey is going to take
longer. It is disappointing. All politicians want their well
intentioned, best-laid plans to come to fruition. We are not
entirely masters of our destiny. We have a global globalised economy.
Things blow us off course. That's the way it is. Yes it is tough,
very tough. I've looked at the Autumn Statement. Yes, there are
things I'd like to see a bit more of. Ultimately, that was a tiegtd
wire. We're walking along a tiny piece of wire to make sure we don't
go in recession, keep interest rates low, keep regulation back. We
stand up for Britain plc. If in Westminster it was a hard message
to sell, it's even harder back in the West Country. They could have
done something more at the higher end, increasing the higher
percentage tax threshold I think. My husband's been made redundant,
that obviously has an impact. We dopbtd know how long he will be out
of work. The Government needs to look at corporation's that avoid
paying tax. They seem more than capable to chase people that
defraud benefits, which I get, that's fair enough. I think they
ought to look to big businesss to try and reclaim the tax. There's
clear anger that lots of big businesses pay little tax to the
Treasury. Vodaphone and this weekend's -- weekend Starbucks have
faced protests. Critics say the rich are easily able to avoid
paying while the poor get clobbered. I'm seeing many more people coming
to me who can't get by on their income. You only have to look for
the figures in the rise of the number of food banks in Bristol, to
realise this is the working poor who have to feed themselves.
There's something drastically wrong that that's happening. It's a time
for giving, though this isn't the traditional image. Charities like
this one in Swindon, reckon this Christmas they'll hand out more
food than ever. Let's discuss a few of those issues.
Rob, food banks, increasing popularity. The Government's got
its economic policy completely wrong, hasn't it? No, it hasn't.
When you look at figures relating to the annual deficit, they're
coming down. They've come down by over a quarter. That's important
for the long-term because we need to have annual budgets that are
sustainable. Now, I know that overall debt is going to increase
until a later period that we hoped. But that's because as a Government
we continue to spend on important public services. We are maintaining
a balance here. That argument -- does that argument wash with the
people in quur constituency who need to go to food banks?
understand and fully appreciate the problems they're in. Indeed as a
constituency MP if people are in need I'll direct them to that help.
We've increased - It would be better if we didn't need food banks.
We've increased prot file of the banks so more people know about it.
To use that was a single example to say somehow that the economy is
going off course and the economic policy going off course is wrong. I
think that the Government set out its stall clearly in 2010. We are
trying to do something for our children and grandchildren. This is
for the long-term, not a quick fix. I can't see that any part of the
Government policy is succeeding. I never believed in the amount of
cuts, so fast and so far. None of the Labour Party did. At the same
time, the actual stance that the Chancellor took to cut the deficit
and the debt that hasn't worked either. The triple-A rating which
is such an important thing for our country as a nation economically,
around the globe, even that's under threat. Why are we putding up with
all this pain for no gain. There's no growth in the economy. In my
constituency, where I live, there's over 3,000 unemployed. I think
there's nearly 2,500 in Robert's. Without people working, earning,
paying tax, being able to buy things in shops, there's no growth.
Gordon Brown spent money like a stkrunken sailor or shore leave.
couldn't possible lay gree with that. This situation has caused the
crash of 2007/2008. The Tory and Lib Dem mantra that we sometimes
hear that it's a Labour mess isn't accurate. How will you fight the
next election with austerity still it in place? We will fight the next
election on a record of increasing employment and a growing economy.
What's happening out there - said that last time, didn't you?
The idea was that by the next election the economy was supposed
to be back on track and everything would be fine. I think when you
look at the reality of what's going on out there, I'm seeing growth.
I'm seeing change. I'm seeing increased employment. I'm seeing a
-- more opportunities. Talking the economy down all the time, which is
what the media seem to be obsessed by, isn't the right approach. We
have to take a long-term view. The Government is doing that by
extending its plans. I think that bearing in mind the mess that we
were left with, baring in mind -- bearing in miebd the current
problems in the eurozone and elsz wherein the world, Britain is
holding its own, doing its best. The alternative then to what he's
say sning We started off talk uing about Starbucks. There's an
estimated �95 billion in the sceinger... Where does that figure
come from? I Labour put that figure out this week. I presume it's an
official figure. They're estimates. It's a handy estimate for you?
it makes sense. We know that Starbucks are avoiding tax, Amazon,
Google, I think Boots came out today under 38 degrees avoiding tax.
There's a swathe of companies. I'm not saying it's the only answer. We
have to do all sorts of things to get the economy back on track. We
can build more houses. That would be a great stimulus. Cutting,
cutting just stagnates the economy and starves of it oxygen to grow.
The reality is we're pegging back spnding, not having absolute cuts.
This austerity word is wrong. We are trying to peg back the rate at
which we're spending. Labour let the brakes off and caused chaos
with the economy. Now, an investigation by the Sunday
Politics shows three quarters of local councils do not have plans in
place for building more houses. It's two years since the Government
scrapped centrally impolesed targets. The idea was to decide
where houses should be built after listening to local people. They
listened and people told them to get lost with the result that
there's a chronic shortage of house building. We asked our political
reporters to give us the latest situation in their areas. We start
in Somerset. Planning has always been a tricky subject for
councillors. After all it's not the most popular thing in a world to
agree to the building of a new housing estate, specially on green
spaces like this. Under the last Government local politicians could
blame Westminster as it was them telling us in the West how many
homes were needed. Now we lack any sort of strategic, wide-area
framework for housing, for housing numbers, objectives and so on. Each
Council has to determine its own figures. And the problem with that
is that it's very difficult to find a way through the political process
of sometimes accepting things which people locally might find
unpleasant and undesirable. Over the last two years, I've spent many
hours sitting in council chambers like this one, where the debate has
been by councillors, just how many homes are needed. But agreement has
been hard to reach. Obviously the councillors work in a political
environment as well. Therefore they've got different filters. They
see things differently to us. That's all part of the system.
We'll give them the baseline information and the best advice we
can. In the end it's over to them to try and fit those housing
numbers into the society in which they live. Out of the 17 local
authorities across the West, four have housing plans officially
agreed by the Government. But at least five tell me they don't
expect to have their plans signed off for at least another two years.
But the problem is, without plans in place, developments across the
West is not being decided by local communities and councillors, but
left up to the planning expector and even -- inspector and even the
courts to decide. In Bristol, the politicians agreed
their housing numbers last year. The challenge for the new mayor of
this city is to find sites for these homes and fast. But that's
not going to be easy when you're faced with local people fighting
against new developments in their backyard. The National Housing
Federation say councillors need to get a move on. There's a
significant shortage. We know we're only building around 60% of the
home that's we need and we've been doing that year on year on year,
which means house prices are incredibly high. People are
struggling to find an affordable place to live. We need to start
tackling this problem. There's surely nothing better than a nice
country walk on a crisp winter's day. Many people choose to move to
the countryside, to the green lungs away from the urban sprawl, like
here on the outskirts of war minster in Wiltshire. What people
don't realise is much of that green space is privately owned, there
foremaking it rich pickings for developers. And that creates
tensions. These campaigners don't want their views over green fields
swapped for a housing estate with 3200 -- 320 new homes. The they the
Government must not side with developers but listen to local
people. I believe the council now needs to look strategically at
development round this market town in order to ensure that it's
balanced and sustainable. This particular speculative proposal is
not sustainable and is unbalancened and will have a major impact on the
infrastructure of this town. dilemma for our local politician sz
for every person who says you must build more homes, there's a local
community fighting against overdevelopment.
Joining the debate is Chris Winter, a property developer from Taunton.
Welcome to our front room. How difficult is it for you to get a
housing development under way in the West Country? It's becoming
more challenging. I think the core strategy process that is being gone
through a -- by a lot of local authorities is slow and pro --
protracted. The planning process itself has become more onerous.
of our 17 local authorities haven't got housing plans to the. Does that
cause you a lot of problems? does because housing numbers
haven't been allocated, therefore there is no due process. There's a
shortage of allocated sites and land supplies, therefore, not there
for housing. Why can't they get their act together? That's a very
good question. Why do you think? think the process is very
protracted. Resources within local authorities are perhaps not there.
I'm sure the system is becoming more politically driven, therefore
councillors have having difficult decisions to make with their ward
members Anderlecht rat. The problem is -- Members and electorate.
problem is people don't want more houses. Is the demand exaggerated
do you think? It's definitely not exaggerated. There's demand for
open market and affordable housing. Where we operate in Taunton, the
housing waiting list of 4,000 people. There is demand. We as
developers wouldn't build if there wasn't a market. We wouldn't build
for fun. If people can afford them, of course. Let's bring in our
politicians. This is a failure of localism. The Government said it
would be a good idea, let the councils decide. We won't impose
central targets but it hasn't happened. We are in a transitional
phase between the old policy, the regional spatial strategy about
top-down housing targets and a newer policy of localism. You've
seen appeals and decisions made in this hangover period. I believe
that with localism and with the eemergencying local plans that
we've been talking about that there will be far more local
understanding and far more sense of ownership about what's going to
happen locally. We have to make planning popular again. I think
members of the public feel that these applications are sprung up on
them and developers themselves have to learn betder ways in which to
engage public and talk through with them the benefits of planning.
Swindon, for example, has been a growing town for generations. We
have benefited in terms of infrastructure and leisure
facilities as a result of planning. That needs to be explained again.
Amanda, this isn't a new problem, it's been going on for years in
Britain. How do we build more houses and make them acceptable to
people in low kalts. I have to agree with what Rob was saying.
It's a political hot potato. The councillors are thinking about
their electorate as much as about the good of the whole. It's a
balancing act all the time. Maybe the planners need to get more savvy
how they do more community engagement, at the early stages,
rather than thrust it on them at latter stages. You need people with
you at the early stages. Is that possible, can you crawl up to local
people and persuade them before the plans are in? You have to do it.
That's part of the process now. It's required as part of a planning
preparation of a planning application. The problem is with
the term localism is what does it mean? When localism was first
mooted certainly it appeared to us that it became the nimbies - not in
my backyard - so we can reject everything, as po posed to local
authorities naiking -- opposed to local authorities making decisions.
Not just those directly affected, but the whole town. You can
certainly engage and you aren't going to win everybody over, but
you can allow them to influence perhaps how the development goes.
The planning minister is suggesting that we build on another 2% to 3%
of England to try and free up more land pour more homes. That, he says,
would sort out the problem, do you agree? I think Nick is right to say
there is a housing problem. There is a shortage of supply. This is
Nick Bowles. Yes, but it's where you do it. There is demand in the
south of England. We tend to be, we are becoming more and more
overcrowded in the south of England. It's a little too easy to just say
let's find an extra 3%. The question is where. The Swindons of
this world have been and continue to build. I think it's incumbent
upon other areas to say we will take our fair share too to spread
out and balance this demand. want to represent an area, Bristol
south, home to the vast council housing estates there. Should there
be more building in that area? Should we stretch out? Well, I have
to express a personal investment. I have a beautiful view from my
bedroom window, we go back to that. I think we've got such density of
housing in south Bristol, if anything we need to get more
infrastructure there of different things. We need more shops. We need
more cinemas. It's just huge swathes of housing which can be
depressing for people if there's nothing to do there.
Excuse me. Before I choke. We have to leave it there. Thank you for
coming in. Time now for our race through this
week's political stories in 60 seconds.
Liam Fox, the former Defence Secretary, says the dropping of
plans for a new community hospital for Clevedon are extraordinary and
completely unacceptable. He's angry at the Primary Care Trust. It is
scandalous that perfectly reasonable questions by the
community and by their member of Parliament were almost completely
ignored and left unanswered. Cider makers and drinkers are angry at
Government plans toint deuce a minimum price for alcohol. The
Government minister and Somerset MP David Heath got a grilling over
plans in Parliament this week. Government's ill-conceived plan to
regulate for a minimum price will have a devastating impact on West
Country cider farmers. Well, Mr Speaker, the right honourable
gentleman is very well aware that because of my constituency
interests I cannot answer that question in a ministerial capacity.
Well that was the week, lots been happening. Let's talk about cheap
alcohol. Is the Government right to try to put up the price? Put up the
price, the minimum unit? Yes. I think it's got to be done because
we have such a problem especially with binge drinking. What worries
me is we might see the windfall going to the supermarkets rather
than back into the community. I know it's to stop problem drinking,
but the type of people that my charity looks after, I am the chair
of Hawks, we look after people with drink and drug dependencey in the
poorest areas of Bristol south. They will want those drinks,
whatever price they are. That could lead to more crime. They would just
pay whatever? Because they're addicts. Until they're clean and
through a proper detox programme, which there are fantastic
programmes going on now through GPs in the area, these people are going
to need that substance because they're addicts. David Heath got
himself in a bit of a mess, he can't talk about cider because they
make sider in his constituency, that would mean the Health Minister
can't talk about hospital. presume he took advice or looked at
the Ministerial Code of Conduct. I'm not clear why that should be
the case. If he declared an interest, surely he could answer
the question. It seems a little confusing to me. On the central
issue about whether there should be a higher minimum price for alcohol?
I think a very interesting point made about addiction. We have to
think about people coming into alcohol for the first time. The
there -- there is a problem in piling it high and selling it cheap.
I'm not convinced actually that the minimum pricing system would work
that well. I think it's all about the type of drink, particularly
alcopops and the like that entice younger people into drinking.
a shame that you can't buy a cheap bottle of wieb. -- wine. This is
the thing. It's penalising the vast majority who don't have a problem
with alcohol. Though it's a dangerous substance and has, leads
to terrible problems in society, most people can enjoy a glass of
wine with a meal or bottle of wine if they're having a party. That's
all we have time for this week. Thank you to our guests, Robert