16/03/2014 Sunday Politics West


David Garmston with the latest political news, interviews and debate. Andrew Neil looks ahead to the budget and speaks to UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

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Morning folks. Welcome to the Sunday Politics. George Osborne's fifth


Budget will offer more tax relief for the lower paid but not for


middle income earners being thrust into the 40p tax bracket. That's our


top story. Ed Balls says millions of people


aren't feeling any benefit from the recovery. We'll discuss the economy


with big political beasts from Labour, the Conservatives, and the


Lib Dems. Now that Ed Miliband has effectively ruled out an in/out EU


referendum, how does UKIP deal with Tory claims that a vote for UKIP


In the West: A special programme means no chance


In the West: A special programme ahead of the European electhons from


ahead of the European elections from Strasbourg. Can


restoring confidence in the safety of cycling. The three areas of


London getting a cash boost to try of cycling. The three areas of


something different. And with me as always our top


political panel - Nick Watt, Helen Lewis and Janan Ganesh. They'll be


tweeting their thoughts using the hashtag #bbcsp throughout the


programme. So, just three months after his last major financial


statement, George Osborne will be at the despatch box again on Wednesday,


delivering his 2014 Budget. The Chancellor has already previewed his


own speech, pledging to build what he calls a "resilient economy". The


message I will give in the Budget is the economic plan is working but the


job is far from done. We need to build resilient economy which means


addressing the long-term weaknesses in Britain that we don't export


enough, invest enough, build enough, make enough. Those are the things I


will address because we want Britain to earn its way in the world. George


Osborne's opposite number, Ed Balls, has also been talking ahead of the


Budget. He says not everyone is feeling the benefit of the economic


recovery, and again attacked the Government's decision to reduce the


top rate of tax from 50 to 45%. George Osborne is only ever tough


when he's having a go at the week and the voiceless. Labour is willing


to face up to people on the highest incomes and say, I'm sorry,


justifying a big tax cut at this time is not fair. We will take away


the winter allowance from the richer pensioners, and I think that's the


right thing to do. George Osborne might agree, but he's not allowed to


say so. That was the Chancellor and the shadow chancellor. Janan, it


seems like we are in a race against time. No one argues that the


recovery is not under way, in fact it looks quite strong after a long


wait, but will it feed through to the living standards of ordinary


people in time for the May election? They only have 14 months to do it.


The big economic variable is business investment. Even during the


downturn, businesses hoarded a lot of cash. The question is, are they


confident enough to release that into investment and wages? Taking on


new people, giving them higher pay settlements. That could make the


difference and the country will feel more prosperous and this time next


year. But come to think of it, it strikes me, that how anticipated it


is, it's the least talked about Budget for many years. I think that


is because the economy has settled down a bit, but also because people


have got used to the idea that there is no such thing as a giveaway.


Anything that is a tax cut will be taken away as a tax rise or spending


cut. That's true during the good times but during fiscal


consolidation, it's avoidable. - unavoidable. There is a plus and


minus for the Conservatives here. 49% of people think the government


is on roughly the right course, but only 16% think that their financial


circumstances will improve this year. It will be a tough one for the


Labour Party to respond to. I agree with Janan. Everyone seems bored


with the run-up to the Budget. The front page of the Sunday Times was


about fox hunting, the front page of the Sunday Telegraph was about EU


renegotiation. Maybe we are saying this because there have not been


many leaks. We have got used to them, and most of the George Osborne


chat on Twitter was about how long his tie was. Freakishly long. I


wouldn't dare to speculate why. Anything we should read into that? I


don't know. For a long while there was no recovery, then it was it is a


weak recovery, and now, all right, it's strong but not reaching


everyone in the country. That is where we are in the debate. That's


right, and the Conservative MPs are so anxious and they are making


George Osborne announcing the rays in the personal allowance will go


up, saying it might go up to 10 750 from next year, and Conservative MPs


say that that's OK but we need to think about the middle voters.


People are saying the economy is recovering but no one is feeling it


in their pocket. These are people snagged in at a 40p tax rate. The


Tories are saying these are our people and we have to get to them.


He has given the Lib Dems more than they could have hoped for on raising


the threshold. Why is he not saying we have done a bit for you, now we


have to look after our people and get some of these people out of that


40% bracket? Partly because the Lib Dems have asked for it so


insistently behind-the-scenes. Somebody from the Treasury this week


told me that these debates behind the scenes between the Lib Dems and


Tories are incredibly tenacious and get more so every year. The Lib Dems


have been insistent about going further on the threshold. The second


reason is that the Tories think the issue can work for them in the next


election. They can take the credit. If they enthusiastically going to


?12,000 and make it a manifesto pledge, they can claim ownership of


the policy. The Liberal Democrats want to take it to 12,500, which


means you are getting into minimum wage territory. It's incredibly


expensive and the Tories are saying that maybe you would be looking at


the 40p rate. The Tories have played as well. There have been authorised


briefings about the 40p rate, and Cameron and Osborne have said that


their priority was helping the lowest paid which is a useful


statement to make and it appeals to the UKIP voters who are the


blue-collar workers. And we are right, the economy will determine


the next election? You assume so. It was ever that is. It didn't in 992


or 1987. It did in 1992. Ed Miliband's announcement last week


that a Labour government would not hold a referendum on Europe unless


there's another transfer of powers from Britain to Brussels has


certainly clarified matters. UKIP say it just shows the mainstream


parties can't be trusted. The Conservatives think it means UKIP


voters might now flock back to them as the only realistic chance of


securing a referendum. Giles Dilnot reports.


When it comes to Europe and Britain's relation to it, the


question is whether the answer is answered by a question. To be in or


not to be in, that is the question, and our politicians have seemed less


interested in question itself but whether they want to let us answer


it. Labour clarified their position last week. There will be no transfer


of powers without an in out referendum, without a clear choice


as to whether Britain will stay in the EU. That seems yes to a


referendum, but hold on. I believe it is unlikely that this lock will


be used in the next Parliament. So that's a no. The Conservatives say


yes to asking, in 2017, if re-elected, but haven't always. In


2011, 81 Tory MPs defied the PM by voting for a referendum on EU


membership: the largest rebellion against a Tory prime minister over


Europe. Prompted by a petition from over 100,000 members of the public.


The wrong question at the wrong time said the Foreign Secretary of a


coalition Government including selfie-conciously-pro European Lib


Dems, who had a referendum pledge in their 2010 manifesto, but only in


certain circumstances. So we have the newspapers, and the public


meeting leaflets. UKIP have always wanted the question put regardless.


But Labour's new position may change things and The Conservatives think


so. I think it does, because, you know, we are saying very clearly,


like UKIP, we want a referendum but only a Conservative government can


deliver it because most suffer largest would say it is possible in


the first past the post system to have a UKIP government --


sophologists. And then it's easy for as to say that if a UKIP vote lets


in a Conservative government, then they won't hold a referendum. UKIP


seem undaunted by the clarifications of the other parties, campaigning


like the rest but with a "tell it how it is, just saying what you re


thinking, we aren't like them" attitude. They seem more worried


about us and what we want, and I don't see that in the other parties.


In parts of the UK, like South Essex, it's a message they think is


working. They are taking the voters for granted again and people have


had enough. People are angry, they see people saying they will get a


vote on the European Union, but then it just comes down the road. They


were quick to capitalise on the announcements, saying only the


Conservatives will give you say so does it change things? Not really.


We have been talking about a referendum and having a debate on


the European Union for years, and the other parties are playing catch


up. They have a trust issue. Nobody trusts them on the European Union


and that is why people come to us. Who the average UKIP voter is, or


how they voted before is complicated, and what dent they


might make on Conservative and Labour votes in 2015 is trickier


still, but someone's been crunching the numbers anyway. We reckon it is


between 25 and 30% of the electorate broadly share the UKIP motivation,


so to top out at that level would be difficult. That's an awful lot of


voters, but it's not the majority, and this is the reason why the main


parties can't afford to just openly appealed to the UKIP electorate too


hard because the elections are won and lost amongst the other 70%, the


middle-class, the graduate, the younger, ethnic minorities. An


appeal to the values of UKIP voters will alienate some of the other


groups, and they are arguably more significant in winning the election.


Whatever, the numbers UKIPers seem doggedly determined to dig away at


any support the other parties have previously enjoyed.


Giles Dilnot reporting. UKIP's leader, Nigel Farage, joins me now


for the Sunday Interview. Nigel Farage, welcome back. Good


morning. So the Labour Party has shot a fox. If Ed Miliband is the


next by Minister, there will not be a referendum customer there's a long


way between now and the next election, and Conservative party


jobs and changes. We had a cast iron guarantee of a referendum from


camera, then he three line whip people to vote against it, and now


they are for it. What the Labour Party has done is open up a huge


blank to us, and that is what we will go for in the European


elections this coming year in May. I think there is a very strong chance


that Labour will match the Conservative pledge by the next


general election. There may be, but at the moment he has ruled it out,


and if he does not change his mind and goes into the election with the


policy as it is, the only chance of a referendum is a Tory government.


If you think the Tories will form a majority, which I think is unlikely.


Remember, two thirds of our voters would never vote Conservative


anyway. There is still this line of questioning that assumes UKIP voters


are middle-class Tories. We have some voters like that, but most of


them are coming to us from Labour, some from the Lib Dems and a lot of


nonvoters. But it come the election you failed to change Mr Miliband's


line, I repeat, the only chance of a referendum, if you want a


referendum, if that is what matters, and the polls suggest it doesn't


matter to that many people, but if that is what matters, the only way


you can get one is to vote Conservative. No, because you have a


situation in key marginals, especially where all three parties


are getting a good share, where we will see, and this depends a lot on


the local elections and the European elections, there are target


constituencies where UKIP has a reasonably good chance of winning a


seat, and that will change the agenda. Every vote for UKIP makes a


Tory government less likely. Arab voters are not Tory. Only a third of


the UKIP boat comes from the Conservative party -- our voters are


not Tory. -- the UKIP vote. It was mentioned earlier, about blue-collar


voters. We pick up far more Labour Party and nonvoters than


conservatives. On the balance of what the effect of the UKIP boat


is, the Tories should worry about us, they should worry about the fact


they have lost faith with their own electorate. Even if there is a


minority Ed Miliband government it means no referendum. Labour and the


Liberal Democrats are now at one on the matter. The next election is in


a few weeks time, the European elections. What happens in those


elections will likely change the party stands and position on a


referendum. The fact that Ed Miliband has said this means, for


us, our big target on the 22nd of May will be the Labour voters in the


Midlands and northern cities, and if we do hammer into that boat and we


are able to beat Labour on the day, there's a good chance of their


policy changing. One poll this morning suggests Labour is close to


you at 28, the Conservatives down at 21, the Lib Dems down at eight. You


are taking votes from the Conservatives and the Liberal


Democrats. We are certainly taking votes from the Lib Dems but that is


comparing the poll with one year ago when I don't think most people knew


what the question really was. You seem to be in an impossible position


because the better you do in a general election, the less chance


there will be a referendum by 2 20. No, look at the numbers. Only a


third of our voters are Conservatives. When we have polled


voters that have come to us, we asked them if there was no UKIP


candidate who would you vote for, less than one in five said


Conservative. Less than one in five UKIP voters would be tempted to vote


Conservative under any circumstances so the arithmetic does not suggest


we are the Conservative problem it suggests we are hurting all of the


parties and the reason the Tories are in trouble is because they have


lost their traditional base. Why do you think Nick Clegg is debating


Europe? I think they are in trouble, at 8% they could be wiped


out, they could go from 12 to nothing and I think it is a chance


for Nick Clegg to raise their profile. They are fringe party with


respect to this contest so I see why he wants to do it. One of our big


criticisms is that we have not been able to have a full debate on


national television on the alternatives of the European Union


so I am looking forward to it. How are you preparing? I think you can


be over scripted with these things. Are you not doing mock debates? No,


I am checking my facts and figures and making sure that I can show the


British people that in terms of jobs, we would be far better off not


being within the European Union not being within its rule book, not


suffering from some of the green taxes they are putting on the


manufacturing industry. The idea that 3 million jobs are at risk I


want to show why that is nonsense. Who do you think is playing you in


their mock debates? They probably went to the pub and found someone!


We will see. You have promised to do whatever it takes to fund your


European election campaign, how much has been given so far? Just give it


a few weeks and you will see what Paul is planning to do. He has made


a substantial investment in the campaign already. How much? I'm not


answering that for now. We are well on our way to a properly funded


campaign and our big target will be the big cities and the working vote


in those communities. Your deputy chairman Neil Hamilton is another


former Tory, he says so far we haven't seen the colour of his


money. Exactly two weeks ago, and things have changed since then. Mr


Sykes has written a cheque since then? Yes. This morning's papers


saying you will be asking MEPs to contribute ?50,000 each, is that


true? Over the next five years, yes. Not for the European campaign. So


lack of money will not be an excuse. We will have a properly funded


campaign. How we raise the kind of money needed to fund the general


election afterwards is another question. What is UKIP's policy on


paying family members? We don't encourage it and I didn't employ any


family member for years. My wife ended up doing the job and paid for


the first seven years of my job She is paid now? Until May, then she


comes off the payroll am which leaves me with a huge problem. In


2004 you said, UKIP MEPs will not employ wives and there will be no


exceptions. An exception was made because I became leader of the


National party as well as a leader of the group in European


Parliament. Things do change in life, and you can criticise me for


whatever you like, but I cannot be criticised for not having a big


enough workload. No, but you didn't employ your wife when you had told


others not to do it your party. Nobody else in my party has a big


job in Europe and the UK. We made the exception for this because of


very unusual circumstances. It also looks like there was a monetary


calculation. Listen to this clip from a BBC documentary in 2000. It


is a good job. I worked it out because so much of what you get is


after tax that if you used the secretarial allowances to pay your


wife on top of the other games you can play, I reckon this job in


Stirling term is over a quarter of ?1 million a year. That is what you


would need to earn working for Goldman Sachs or someone like that.


I agree with that. More importantly the way you really make money in the


European Parliament is being their five days a week, because you sign


in every day, you get 300 euros every day, and that is how people


maxed out. The criticism of me is that I am not there enough so


whatever good or bad I have done in the European Parliament, financial


gain has not been one of the benefits. There have been


allegations of you also employing a former mistress on the same European


Parliamentary allowance, you deny that? I am very upset with the BBC


coverage of this. The ten o'clock news run this as a story without


explaining that that allegation was made using Parliamentary privilege


by somebody on bail facing serious fraud charges. I thought that was


pretty poor. You have a chance to do that and you deny you have employed


a former mistress? Yes, but if you look at many of the things said over


the last week, I think it is becoming pretty clear to voters that


the establishment are becoming terrified of UKIP and they will use


anything they can find to do us down in public. Is an MEP employs his


wife and his former mistress, that would be resigning matter, wouldn't


it? Yes, particularly if the assumption was that money was being


taped for work but was not being done. Who do you think is behind


these stories? It is all about negative, it is all about attacks,


but I don't think it is actually going to work because so much of


what has been said in the last week is nonsense. A reputable daily


newspaper said I shouldn't be trusted because I had stored six


times for the Conservative party, I have never even stored in a local


council election. I think if you keep kicking an underdog, it will


make the British people rally around us. Is it the Conservatives? Yes,


and the idea that all of our voters are retired colonels is simply not


true. We get some voters from the Labour side as well. Would you


consider standing in a Labour seat if you are so sure you are getting


Labour votes? Yes, but the key for UKIP is that it has to be marginal.


Just for your own future, if you fail to win a single soul -- single


seat in the general election, if Ed Miliband fails to win an outright


majority, will you stand down as UKIP leader? I would think within


about 12 hours, yes. I will have failed, I got into politics not


because I wanted a career in politics, far from it. I did it


because I don't think this European entanglement is right for our


country. I think a lot of people have woken up to the idea we have


lost control of our borders and now is the moment for UKIP to achieve


what it set out to do. Will UKIP continue without you if you stand


down? Of course it will. I know that everyone says it is a one-man band


but it is far from that. We have had some painful moments, getting rid of


old UKIP, new UKIP is more professional, less angry and it is


going places. Nigel Farage, thank you for being with us.


So, what else should we be looking out for in Wednesday's Budget


statement? We've compiled a Sunday Politics guide to the Chancellor's


likely announcements. Eyes down everyone, it's time for a


bit of budget bingo. Let's see what we will get from the man who lives


at legs 11. Despite some good news on the economy, George Osborne says


that this will be a Budget of hard truths with more pain ahead in order


to get the public finances back under control. But many in the


Conservative party, including the former chancellor Norman Lamont


want Mr Osborne to help the middle classes by doing something about the


4.4 million people who fall into the 40% bracket. Around one million more


people pay tax at that rate compared to 2010 because the higher tax


threshold hasn't increased in line with inflation. Mr Osborne has


indicated he might tackle the issue in the next Conservative manifesto,


but for now he is focused on helping the low paid. It's likely we will


see another increase in the amount you can earn before being taxed


perhaps up another ?500 to ?10, 00. The Chancellor is going to flesh out


the details of a tax break for childcare payments, and there could


be cries of 'house' with the promise of more help for the building


industry. The Help To Buy scheme will be extended to 2020 and there


could be the go-ahead for the first Garden City in 40 years. Finally,


bingo regulars could be celebrating a full house with a possible cut in


bingo tax. And I've been joined in the studio


by the former Conservative chancellor Norman Lamont, in Salford


by the former Labour Cabinet minister Hazel Blears, and in


Aberdeen by the Lib Dem deputy leader, Malcolm Bruce. Let me come


to Norman Lamont first, you and another former Tory Chancellor,


Nigel Lawson, have called in the fall in the threshold for the rate


at which the 40p clicks in. I would have preferred an adjustment in the


Budget but I agree with what you are saying, it sounds like the


Chancellor will not do that. My main point is that you cannot go on


forever and forever increasing the personal allowance and not


increasing the 40% tax threshold because you are driving more and


more people into that band. It is an expensive policy because in order to


keep the number of people not paying tax constant, you have to keep


adjusting it each year. When this was introduced by Nigel Lawson, it


applied to one in 20 people, the 40% rate, it now applies to one in six


people. By next year, there will be 6 million people paying base. Why do


you think your Tory colleagues seem happy to go along with the Lib Dems


and target whatever money there is for tax cuts rather -- on the lower


paid rather than the middle incomes? They are not helping the lowest


paid. If you wanted to really help the lowest paid people you would


raise the threshold for national insurance contributions, which is


around ?6,000. Is it the Lib Dems stopping any rise in the 40p


threshold? We are concentrating on raising the lower threshold because


we believe that is the way to help those on lower incomes. Whilst they


haven't benefited as much as the lower paid they have participated


and I think people understand right now, if you were going to prioritise


the high earners, when we are still trying to help those on lower and


middle incomes who haven't enjoyed great pay increases but have got the


benefit of these tax increases, that is why we would like to do it for


the minimum wage level. But the poorest will not benefit at all The


poorest 16% already don't pay tax. Why don't you increase the threshold


at which National Insurance starts? You only have two earned ?5,500


before you start to pay it. You ve got to remember that the raising of


the threshold to ?10,000 or more was something the Tories said we could


not afford. Why are you continuing to do it? If you want to help the


working poor, the way would be to take the lowest out of national


insurance. The view we take is they are benefiting, and have benefited


from, the raising of the tax threshold. You now have to earn


?10,000, we hope eventually 12, 00, and that means only people on very


low wages. If you opt out of national insurance, you're saying to


people that you make no contribution to the welfare system, so there is a


general principle that people should participate and paying, and also


claim when they need something out. We thought raising the threshold was


simple and effective at a time of economic austerity and the right way


to deliver a helpful support to welcoming people. -- working people.


With the Labour Party continue to raise the threshold, or do they


think there is a case that there are too many people being dragged into


the 40p tax bracket? If Norman Lamont thinks this is the right time


to benefit people who are reasonably well off rather than those who are


struggling to make ends meet, then genuinely, I say it respectfully, I


don't think he's living in the world the rest of us are. Most working


people have seen their wages effectively reduced by about ?1 00


because they have been frozen, so the right thing is to help people on


modest incomes. I also understand that if the 40% threshold went up,


the people who would benefit the most, as ever, are the people who


are really well off, not the people in the middle. The Conservatives


have already reduced the 50p tax on people over ?150,000 a year, and we


have to concentrate on the people going out to work, doing their best


to bring their children up and have a decent life and need a bit of


help. I think raising the threshold is a good thing. We would bring back


the 10p tax, which we should never have abolished, and do things with


regard to childcare. At the moment, childcare costs the average family


as much as their mortgage, for goodness sake. We would give 25


hours free childcare for youngsters over three and four years old. That


would be a massive boost the working families. We are talking about


nurses, tube drivers, warrant officers in the army. There are many


people who are not well off but have been squeezed in the way everybody


has been squeezed and they are finding it continuing. I am stunned


by Malcolm's argument where everybody should pay something so


you should not take people out of national insurance, but the


principle doesn't apply to income tax. You can stand that argument on


its head and apply it to income tax. Most people don't see a difference


between income tax and national insurance, it's the same thing to


most people. It is true that it isn't really an insurance fund and


there is an argument from merging both of them. But we have


concentrated on a simple tax proposition. Norman is ignoring the


fact the people on the 40% rate have benefited by the raising of the


personal allowance. To say they have been squeezed is unfair. The


calculation is that an ordinary taxpayer will be ?700 better off at


the current threshold, and about ?500 better off at the higher rate.


It is misleading to say the better off we'll be paying more. I agree


with Hazel, if you go to the 40 rate, it's the higher earners who


benefit the most, and we won't do that when the economy is not where


it was before the crash. How much will the lower paid be better off if


you reintroduce the 10p rate? Significantly better off. I don t


have the figure myself, but they'd be significantly better off and the


Budget should be a mixture of measures to help people who work


hard. That is why I think the childcare issue has to be


addressed. ?100 a week of the people with childcare payments. It is a


massive issue. We want the job is guaranteed to get young people back


into work. There's been hardly any discussion about that, and we have


nearly 1 million people who have been out of work for six months or


more, and as a country we need to do something to help that. 350,000


full-time students, so it is a misleading figure. It is not a


million including full-time students. All parties do this. It


sounds to me, Malcolm Bruce, you have more in common with the Labour


Party than you do with the Conservatives. You want an annual


levy on houses over ?2 million, so does Labour. A lot of your members


want to scrap the so-called bedroom tax and so does labour. You think


every teacher should have a teaching qualification, and so does Labour.


Your policy on the EU referendum is the same. Let me go on. And you want


to scrap the winter fuel allowance for wealthy pensioners. We want to


make sure we get the public finances in order and we have grave


reservations about the Labour Party promises. But they followed your


spending plans in the first year. The point we are making is we can


make a fairer society and stronger economy if you keep the public


finances moving towards balance We don't think the Labour Party will


take a stand that track. It is interesting that the Labour Party


want to introduce the 10p rate that Gordon Brown abolished. We consider


that before we can -- committed to the 0% rate -- we considered that.


It makes a complicated system difficult and we think it's better


doing it that way. As a fiscal conservative, why are you talking


about any tax cuts when the deficit is over ?100 billion, and


effectively, anything you propose today can only be financed by more


borrowing. I totally agree with you. I said that this week. I thought the


best thing would have no Budget The main thing is to get the deficit


down. My argument is is that you have an adjustment in tax rates it


should be shared between the allowances and the higher rate, but


I don't think that the progress on the deficit is something we can give


up on. This is still a very long way to go. We're only halfway through.


Hazel, does it make sense to borrow for tax cuts? I am reluctant to do


this, but I agree with both Norman and Malcolm. Malcolm Bruce wants to


borrow for tax cuts. We absolutely need to get the deficit down and get


finances on a strong footing. But we also have to think about having some


spending in the system that in the longer run saves us money. We all


know we need to build new homes I don't think it's necessarily the


right priority to give people in London mortgage relief in terms of


?600,000. We have to get the balance right. Sometimes it is right to


spend to save. I'm afraid we have run out of time. There will be


plenty more discussion in the lead up to the Budget on Wednesday.


It's just gone 11:35am. You're watching the Sunday Politics. We say


goodbye to viewers in Scotland who leave us now for Sunday Politics


Scotland. Coming up here in 20 minutes, Frances O'Grady, the


Good morning. Welcome to a special us discuss


Good morning. Welcome to a special edition of the Sunday Polithcs for


the West. We have left the West Country and come to the European


Parliament in Strasbourg ahdad of the elections in May. Coming up


inside the place where decisions are made, but could Britain dechded to


waive this goodbye? Straight bananas and dangerous balloons, which EU


laws are true and which are myths? And Nigel Farage last of crhtics who


say his office is full of eccentrics. In two months, 400


million EU citizens elect mdmbers of the European Parliament. Thd new


MEPs will pass laws on the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the


hours we work and the food we eat. In our part of the world we have a


small say in this. We have 6 euros MPs representing the south`west of


England and, bizarrely, Gibraltar. To belong to the UK Independence


Party, one is a Liberal Democrat and three are conservative. The amount


of MEPs is being reduced to 751 from May. Let's begin by getting our


bearings. I have been for a look around. We are gliding around


Strasbourg, a town that has grown prosperous on the back of the EU, on


trams that Europeans do effortlessly, but we are told are


not affordable for us at hole in the West Country. Our destination is a


chrome and glass building on the outskirts, the European Parliament.


It is pretty much identical to the European Parliament in Brussels


but, for some reason, MEPs `re obliged to spend one week hdre a


month. Let's look at the agdnda this week. All sorts of debates going on,


including the implementation of a single European sky and another on


the eradication of world torture. Some people think this is vhtal


Europeans talking to one another. Others believe it is the biggest


non`job creation scheme. Sole nationalities take it seriotsly


beaming back home earnest interviews with Euro officials that soletimes


go on for four hours. TV vidwers in Britain are spared that orddal


because it seems irrelevant to us. Are we mistaken? And independent


commentator, American, think so Can you imagine this place without the


British? Easily. It would cdrtainly be a huge loss if the UK were to


leave, but in terms of the TK's influence, it punches way bdlow its


weight. I think they do not play the game as well as some of thehr


equally sized neighbours. The voting chamber is the giant hemi` cycle


where 28 countries come togdther. This is a voting session and they


are going through a series of motions, having just passed


something about petitions. Xou can see the scale of it. The vast


numbers and interpreters. It reminds me of something from a James Bond


set. I am given a tour by a familiar face. This is the Labour MEP,


Michael Cashman, who is standing down this election. He is known as


an equality campaign and better known for playing a gay character on


EastEnders. You are not standing again, so it is no skin off your


nose. Can you convince me it is a worthwhile place and job? It is the


most brilliant job imaginable. Does it make any difference at home? In


terms of rights, there is a raft of rights David Cameron wants to get


rid of in the workplace that prevents people from being


discriminated against on grounds of race, religion, belief, the right to


four weeks of paid holiday `nd maternity leave, paternity leave.


Not everyone agrees. Nigel Farage is treated like a rock star by the


European media, who have never seen anything like him. I caught up with


him as newspaper reports at home alleged saucy carry ons at TKIP


headquarters with claims and eccentric employee brought her cat


to the office. Does one of xour senior officials bring her cat to


work? Did once on the way to the vet, it is nonsense. This is not


being written about other political parties. Sometimes it is sahd, after


a day's work, UKIP staff go to the pub. Are we supposed to hang our


heads in shame that we are normal people? Outside I bump into musical


students from Slovenia, enjoying their status as young Europdans Yes


or no, Europe? Yes! This st`tute talks about being at the he`rt of


Europe. UKIP wants to put a dagger into Britain's membership. Duro


scepticism is spreading across the continent.


Among the 28 nations represdnted here, it used to be Britain who


elected most sceptics, but that has changed and is expected to change


more when by the end of May, people reckon the proportion of MEPs who


are Eurosceptic could rise to 2 %. You can spot them by their flags.


Alongside UKIP with the union Jack, there are others. They turn up to


vote. The south`west's of MBP is said they do little else. Their


performance is almost nil. They do not turn up to committee, they do


not vote or ring gauge in ddtail scrutiny. They go to their hemi`


cycle and they shout. He takes is to a committee meeting about product


safety. He contends this is important and the UKIP group are not


there. Persuading people it matters is not EC. The EU is running adverts


to get us to vote. The decisions of the European Parliament are driven


by N the thing that matters to you. The positive message makes little


impact `` driven by everythhng. They want us to come out of Europe. `` I


want to. I think we get a b`d deal. There is a lot of red tape `nd the


facts they move between Brussels and Strasbourg is a nonsense. For other


Europeans it can seem childhsh. Visiting a Bristol school is a


French MP. She is horrified at the Eurosceptic tied. They could block


the entire decisional process where we need more Europe, we need people


to take decisions at Europe`n level, concerning employment, soci`l


rights, climate change, banking regulation. It would be a


catastrophe. I meet someone from the Green party. The voters havd to be


taken seriously and they ard voting UKIP for a reason, not for what they


say, because they do not provide solutions, they just providd an


opportunity for people to bd cross. The biggest challenge may bd for the


British Conservatives, who `re plotting tactics, sounding


Eurosceptic but changing thhngs so that voters will not want to leave.


I could not argue to stay in the European Union unreformed as it is


now, particularly the financial side. That does not mean to say I


want to throw the baby out with the bath water, there is good skeleton


of good work. Probably only one third of British electors whll vote


in May. The fear is that most `` those most likely to vote are those


most hostile to the European Union. The people with the real power of


the commissioners. They are not elected, but chosen by governments


and they think up the laws that get voted on in Parliament. I wdnt to


see a commissioner from Austria Could you for CNN European Tnion


without Britain `` could yot foresee? I think it would bd a


disadvantage for both. The TK is a part of Europe. I am convinced, I


think positively, I am alwaxs saying I am a member of the glass half full


party. I am optimistic that after an intensive information process, where


people are discussing the pros and cons, British people will sde the


advantages and I hope, I am sure, there will be a majority. If not, we


have to live with it. You would say goodbye? Not goodbye, state


partners. UKIP think we can leave but still enjoy the benefits of free


movement and all of that. Is it the case? I do not think so. If you see


the reaction of the European Community after the Switzerland


referendum about free movemdnt, it was clear that you cannot continue


cherry picking. In a family of 8, may be 30 in the future, thd


willingness to allow exempthons becomes lower and lower. I think it


would be a great misunderst`nding to believe one can get out and take


good things with them. And leave the bad things behind. In that respect,


I argue it is better to be hnside, to influence and participatd and


contribute, and not to stay out having no influence.


Whatever your views on the politics, there is no denying


Strasbourg is a beautiful chty, dominated by the cathedral behind


me. What about the apparently crazy EU directives? Are they fact or


fiction? Robin back in Engl`nd has been trying to find out.


We are bombarded by stories in the papers about how Europe is


interfering with our lives. The classic is the ban on the bdndy


banana, which had a grain of truth, but not all stories are trud. You


are about to hear three that appeared in print. See if you can


tell the fact from fiction. My name is Tim, I am a fruit


wholesaler. In 2008, I was banned by Europe from selling 5000 kiwi fruit


because they were one milliletre to narrow in diameter.


I am John, I run a balloon shop I just could not believe it when


Europe told us we were not `llowed children `` to let children under


eight below `` blow`up balloons by themselves. I run a lighting shop.


In 2008, the EU banned the hmport and manufacture of the incandescent


light bulbs shortly after wd saw an increase in sales as the public


rushed in to buy them worridd they could not get the much longdr.


Brussels would be delighted to see signs in kilos. You have had the


three stories. It was bluffhng? Unfortunately, I have to sax my


story about throwing away khwi fruit is absolutely true. I am also happy


to say that, since then, thd regulations have been modifhed and


are now not so stringent. Mx story was overinflated. However, the story


appeared in several national newspapers. Of course, it w`s a


lie. Children under the age of eight can lower up balloons on thdir own,


but they should have parent`l help. My lighting story is true. The EU


did ban the incandescent light bulb. One lady bought 500 pheces,


worried she would not be able to get them any more. Can you tell your


apples from your bears? Consider it good training. We are about to be


bombarded with facts about Durope and it will not always be e`sy to


tell who is bluffing. Robin back in England. Next week,


Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg will argue on TV. Ahead of that debate,


we thought we would get in darly and I am joined by Liberal Democrat


Graham Watson and Euroscepthc William Dartmouth. What would the


United Kingdom gave if we are out? We would lose a lot. If we wanted to


trade, we would have to do what Norway does. We would have to pay


more for the privilege of trading ban if we were members but we would


lose any say in the setting of the rules. You might be able to do that


if you are a small economy like Norway, but not the United Kingdom.


We only have 8.24% of votes. That proportion goes down as mord


countries joined the EU. Yotr party and the establishment partids are


cheerleaders for more countries joining and that means our hnfluence


gets less will stop at least Graham Watson admitted, unusually for a


Liberal Democrat, that tradd would continue if we left. The sc`re story


put around by Nick Clegg and others is the implication that trade would


cease. With the EU play hardball and say you will have to queue tp with


the other countries and do business on their terms?


This is my point. China does not have a trade agreement. The Chinese


face tariffs to get goods on the European markets and that could be


the case for us. Why is it that Toyota, Airbus group and others are


saying, we have got to stay in. Because we would not be invdsting as


much in the UK if we were ott. The chief executive 's of those


companies are paid to consider what is best for individual comp`nies.


That is their view which I disagree with. If you are a politici`n


representing the south`west, you have to think of the interests of


the people. One of the interests you must consider is the interests of


the 95% of British businessds that do not sell anything to be xou. Are


you conceding those chief executive say it will be bad for business


That is not what they said. They denied they said it. I issudd a


press release. There has bedn a string of companies saying ht will


be bad for British investment. A whole string of companies h`ve said


it will be bad. It is not only investment in jobs, and at ` time of


coming out of recession, yot want to make sure this recovery is saved.


But it is security, as well. Why are UKIP doing well in the polls?


Because we have been in a ddep recession and we are looking for


scapegoats. UKIP is essenti`lly an anti`immigrant party. We ard saying,


wake up, people, this is serious. If we are outside the EU, we no longer


get the security against crhme because of the way police forces


cooperate, we do not get jobs and investment, and we do not gdt


solidarity in dealing with global challenges such as climate change.


UKIP is an internationalist party and you belong to a Federalhst party


that wants the UK subsumed hnto a United States of Europe. Th`t has


been your politics for 30 ydars which I respect. I do not rdspect


when you deny it. We now have a seat on the UN Security Council which is


under constant threat from the European Union and your Feddralist


friends in the European Union. By staying in the European Union our


membership of international organisations is threatened and


influence would go down. Is he right? Are you an anti`immigration


party? We do not think it rhght or in the national interest th`t


millions of people from the other 27 member states have the absolute


right to live, work and settle in the United Kingdom. I am a pualified


chartered accountant and ye`rs ago there was a shortage of chartered


accountants in the middle e`st. I worked in the middle east. H went


there on a work permit. I h`d a two`year contract. When it was over,


I had to come home. If this shortage... What would you say to


2.2 million British people living and working on the continent because


they have freedom of movement? Would you say it does not matter to us if


they send you home? Are we crazy to pay for all this? We are and we


would both agree we should have one seat of operation and if it's had


not been for John Major who wrote it in to the treaty, it would have been


easy to change. Now time to look at the rest of the


political news in 60 seconds. As we were returning from Strasbourg


the sad news broke that the former Bristol MP Tony Benn had passed away


at the age of 88. He was a popular speaker, writer, anti`war c`mpaigner


and held the seat of Bristol south`east for over 30 years. People


remember him as a case workdr, a man of Bristol who fought passionately


on behalf of Bristol. Wherever you go, people still talk about him and


remember him. Many disagreed with his left`wing views, but those on


the right praised him to sthcking by his principles. We talk abott


politicians and people say xou are all the same. Then they say I wish


we could have more like Tonx Benn. You say you are conservativd? They


say yes, but he believed in what he said. We will have more on the life


of Tony Benn in next week's programme.


A taste of the political news back home in the West Country. You join


me again in France, at the crossroads of Europe, and the final


word goes to our political dditor. He is in Germany. Can you hdar me?


Hearing you loud and clear on this side of the border. What is at stake


in the European elections in the South West? Lets remember the


impetus behind the creation of the EU was to bridge the gap between


these two nations and others. What became a common market we joined in


the 1970s has grown in size and scope. That is where the controversy


comes in. People might have thought they were joining a trading market


but it has become bigger th`n that. Are these elections a mini


referendum about being in or out, in a sense? Officially, no. But the


reality is that that is how most voters will see it. The


Conservatives will try to sound sceptical about Europe, votd for us,


you will get a referendum in a few years time. The Liberal Democrats


and Labour will be saying there should be changes made, but broadly


they are happy with Europe `nd they would like to stay.


Thanks. And that is it from us. We are back in the studio next Sunday.


If you would like to follow us on Twitter, we have put up somd


pictures of our adventures hn Europe. And if you would like to see


the programme again, you can see it on the eye play.


industrial action is a sign of failure marked success. -- not


success. Andrew, back to you. Has George Osborne got a rabbit in


his Budget hat? Will the Chancellor find a way to help the squeezed


middle? And how do Labour respond? All questions for The Week Ahead.


And joining Helen, Janan and Nick to discuss the budget is the general


secretary of the Trades Union Congress Frances O'Grady. Welcome


back to the programme. I know the TUC has a submission, but if you


could pick one thing that you wanted the Chancellor to do above all, what


would it be? We want a budget for working people, which means we have


to crack the long-term problem of investment in the British economy.


Certainly I would like the Chancellor to merit that title they


want of the new workers party, and take action on living standards but


if they're going to do that it's got to be about unlocking investment. In


the period where the economy has been flat-lining there has been


little business investment, but there are signs towards the end of


last year that it is beginning to pick up. But a long way to go. The


problem is we have key industries like construction and manufacturing


that are still smaller than they were before the recession. The


government itself, of course, has slashed its own capital investment


budget by half. There is plenty of good and important work that needs


to be done from building houses to improving the transport system, to


improving our schools. And the government really needs to pick up


that shovel and start investing in our economy to get the decent jobs


we need, the pay increases we need, and that in itself will help


stimulate demand. It was Alistair Darling who cut in 2011, and it s


interesting that Ed Balls in his plans for the next parliament would


run a current budget surplus by the end of the parliament as opposed to


George Osborne who would have an overall budget surplus. That gives


Ed Balls or -- more wriggle room to do what you talk about, but he is


reticent to talk about it. He does not want to say that he has an


opportunity to spend on investment because he fears if he says it he


will be attacked by the Conservatives for being


irresponsible. Why is business doing this? The recession was deeper than


any since the war and the recovery was slower than almost any since the


war. The lag, the time it takes to get over that is longer than anyone


expected. I read the same evidence as you towards the end of last year


pointing to money being released, and it depends what it is released


on, whether it is capital investment or bringing in people on higher


wages. The one surprise in the downturn is how well the employment


figures have done, but they have not invested in new capacity and they


are sitting on a lot of dosh. I looked at one set of figures that


said if you took the biggest company in Britain, they have about 715


billion pounds in corporate treasury -- the biggest companies. I think


it's reduced a little but they are sitting on a mountain in dash of


skills. Yes, but they're not investing in skills, wages, or


sustainable jobs. The new jobs we have seen created since 2010, the


vast majority of them have been in low paid industries, and they are


often zero hours, or insecure, or part-time. So it's not delivering a


recovery for ordinary working people. Government ministers, as you


know when you lobby them, they are anxious to make out that they know


the job is not done and the recovery has just begun, but the one bit they


are privately proud of, although they can't explain it, is how many


private-sector jobs have been created. A lot of unions have done


sensible deals with employers to protect jobs through this period,


but it's not sustainable. The average worker in Britain today is


now ?2000 a year worse off in real terms than they were. On a pay


against price comparison? It doesn't take into account tax cuts. The


raising of the personal allowance is far outweighed by the raising VAT.


Does the raising of the threshold which the Lib Dems are proud of and


the Tories are trying to trade credit for, does it matter to your


members? -- take credit for. It matters that it is eclipsed by the


cuts in benefits and know what is conned any more. We're going to hear


a lot about the raising of the allowance, but as long as the real


value of work, tax credits, things like that, people won't feel it in


their pocket, and they will find it harder and harder to look after


their family. When you look at the other things that could take over


from consumer spending which has driven the recovery, held by house


price rising in the south, it is exports and business investment and


you look at the state of the Eurozone and the emerging markets


which are now in trouble, and the winter seems to have derailed the US


recovery. It won't be exports. Indeed, the Obie Eich does not think


that will contribute to growth until 2015 -- OBI. So the figures we


should be looking at our business investment. And also the deficit.


The deficit is 111 billion, and that is a problem, because we are not at


the end of the cutting process, there are huge cuts to be made. I


understand we are only a third of the way through. That will


definitely affect business confidence. It is clear that the


strategy has failed. Borrowing has gone up and it's not delivered


improved living standards and better quality jobs, so cutting out of the


recession is not going to work. The structural budget deficit was going


to be eliminated three weeks today under the original plan. They missed


target after target. Every economist has their own definition of that. I


think Mark Carney is right when he says that fundamentally the economy


is unbalanced and it is not sustainable, growth is not


sustainable. But if it clicked on, it would be more balanced. It is not


just north and south and manufacturing a way out with


services, but it is also between the rich and everybody else. What do you


make of the fact that there will effectively be another freezing


public sector pay, or at least no more than 1%? Not even that for


nurses and health workers. But they will get 3% progression pay. 70 of


nurses will not get any pay rise at all. They get no progression pay at


all. I think this is smack in the mouth. Smack in the mouth to


dedicated health care workers who will feel very, very discontented


about the decision. Danny Alexander, I saw him appealing to


health workers do not move to strike ballots and said they should talk to


their department. But about what? Is that real pay cut has been imposed,


what are workers left with? So do you expect as a result of yet more


tough controls on public sector pay that unrest is inevitable? I know


some unions will be consulting with their members, but ultimately it's


always members who decide what to do. It does seem to me insulting not


to at least be honest and say that we are cutting real pay of nurses,


health care workers, on the back of a ?3 billion reorganisation of the


NHS that nobody wanted and nobody voted for. Their long-term changes


taking place here that almost talks about -- there are long-term


changes. It is how lower percentage wages have become of GDP on how big


the percentage of profits is. It seems to me there is a strong case


for some kind of realignment there. The biggest event of my life, in


this world, is the entry of a couple of billion more people into the


labour supply. At the end of the Cold War, India and China plugged


into the global economy. If there is a greater supply of that factor of


production, logically you conclude that wages will fall or stagnate and


that has been the story in this country and America and large parts


of Western Europe in the last generation. What is not possible is


for governments to do much about it. They can ameliorate it at the


margins, but the idea that the government controls living


standards, which has become popular over the last six months, and the


Labour Party have in establishing that, and I don't think it's true.


George Osborne's options are astonishingly limited compared to


public expectations. If wages have reached a modern record low as


percentage of GDP, who is going to champion the wage earner? We have


lost Bob Crow, Tony Benn passed away, so who is the champion? The


trade union movement is the champion of ordinary workers. We need those


larger-than-life figures that we will mess. Have you got them yet? We


have a generation of workers coming through. One thing about the loss of


Bob Crow is that the whole union movement has responded strongly to


that, and we want to say that we are strong and united and here to stand


up for working people and we will fight as hard as Bob Crow did.


Whoever replaces Bob Crow or Tony Benn, we can be sure they will not


come from Eton because they all have jobs in the government. I want to


put up on the screen what even Michael Gove was saying about this


coterie of Old Etonian 's. He's right, is he not? He's


absolutely right. We have the idea of the manifesto being written by


five people from Eton and one from Saint Pauls. A remarkable example of


social mobility that George Osborne, who had the disadvantage of going to


Saint Pauls has made it into that inner circle. Here is the question,


what is Michael Gove up to? If you saw the response from George


Osborne, there was no slap down and they know this is an area they are


weak on an David Cameron will not comment on it. If this had been a


Labour shadow minister making a similarly disloyal statement, they


might have been shot at dawn. But there is a real tolerance from


Michael Gove to go freelance which comes from George Osborne. It's


about highlighting educational reforms that he wants to turn every


school in to eat and so it won't happen in the future. But it's also


pointing out who did not go to Eton school and who would be the best


candidate to replace David Cameron as leader, George Osborne, and who


did go to Eton school, Boris Johnson. Michael Gove is on


manoeuvres to destroy Boris Johnson's chances of being leader.


It's a good job they don't have an election to worry about. Hold on. I


think they are out of touch with businesses as well as working


people. You ask about who is talking about wage earners. Businesses are.


They are worried that unless living standards rise again there will be


nobody there to buy anything. We are running out of time, but the TUC,


are enthusiastic about HS2? We supported. We think it's the kind of


infrastructure project that we need to invest in long-term. He could, if


we get it right, rebalance north and south and create good jobs along the


way -- it could. Thank you very much tool. I have to say that every week


-- thank you very much to you all. That's all for today. I'll be back


next Sunday at 11am, and Jo Coburn will be on BBC Two tomorrow at


midday with the Daily Politics. Remember if it's Sunday, it's the


Sunday Politics.


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