13/11/2011 The Politics Show North East and Cumbria


13/11/2011

Jon Sopel and Richard Moss are here with the top political stories of the week.


Similar Content

Browse content similar to 13/11/2011. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

Here in the north: The rising cost of heating our homes. A warning

:00:25.:00:27.

that fuel poverty could kill older people this winter.

:00:27.:00:30.

And will changes to legal aid mean victims of medical negligence

:00:30.:00:40.
:00:40.:00:40.

Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1881 seconds

:00:40.:32:01.

losing out? We ask North East MPs. Hello and a warm welcome to your

:32:01.:32:04.

local part of the show. Coming up: This Carlisle family received

:32:04.:32:07.

compensation after a medical mistake left their son with serious

:32:07.:32:12.

disabilities. But will cuts to legal aid deprive others of the

:32:12.:32:15.

chance to get similar help? But first, all of us are facing

:32:15.:32:18.

higher fuel bills this winter and it's a particular problem in this

:32:18.:32:22.

part of the world. Levels of fuel poverty are twice as high in the

:32:22.:32:24.

North East than the South, with increasing numbers facing hardship

:32:24.:32:28.

as they try to keep their homes warm. The Government has called on

:32:28.:32:31.

energy companies to do far more to help customers switch suppliers and

:32:31.:32:34.

insulate their homes, but is that enough? In a moment, I'll be

:32:34.:32:37.

talking to two North East MPs who have campaigned on the issue. First,

:32:37.:32:47.
:32:47.:32:50.

Mark Denten reports. In a community centre, a group of

:32:50.:32:55.

pensioners playing a game with a difference. Welcome to the

:32:55.:32:59.

wonderful world of energy efficiency bingo. You have won a

:32:59.:33:09.
:33:09.:33:11.

slow cooker. The differences is that we give an energy efficiency

:33:11.:33:15.

to BAFTA each number is called. We show people how to be more energy

:33:16.:33:19.

efficient in the home. Which they are so unusual game is a sign of

:33:19.:33:25.

the Times. The bingo players are finding it hard to pay their bills.

:33:26.:33:30.

Energy firms are not exactly popular. I am absolutely disgusted

:33:30.:33:35.

about it. All the profits they are making. They are still put in the

:33:35.:33:42.

prices up. They're making enormous profits. Surely they can pass

:33:42.:33:47.

something on to the consumer rather than penalising them, especially

:33:47.:33:54.

the older people. The energy charity organising the event says

:33:54.:33:58.

the government is not doing enough to tackle rising fooled -- fuel

:33:58.:34:04.

bills. It 21 % increase, you're talking about an extra 60,000

:34:05.:34:13.

households being forced into fuel poverty. The government is

:34:13.:34:18.

committed to eradicate fuel poverty in the UK by 2016. That is not

:34:18.:34:24.

going to happen. While many of our bingo playing pensioners' bills

:34:24.:34:30.

have gone up by 20 %, spare a thought for this family. The only

:34:30.:34:34.

feel they can use his loyal and their bills have run up by 50 %.

:34:34.:34:38.

They will spend at least �1,000 on oil this winter. But it could be

:34:38.:34:43.

more. You don't know how much is going to be when you ring up. You

:34:43.:34:48.

could get another cold snap and you might be running low on oil and you

:34:48.:34:53.

have no alternative but to buy some more at a high price. It is

:34:53.:35:00.

difficult to budget over the winter. It is going to get era as the

:35:00.:35:07.

months get colder. It might go up 10 % in a month. Here is the firm

:35:07.:35:11.

that supplied his will. They say energy prices are keeping bills

:35:11.:35:16.

high but the government is not doing enough to help. The rate on

:35:16.:35:20.

heating oil is currently 5% and that could be taken off and that

:35:20.:35:25.

would be a 5% saving two of the domestic user. The are the key cost

:35:25.:35:32.

that every company has his haulage. That is road -- road fuel duty.

:35:32.:35:36.

That currently has very high, in excess of 60p a litre, with extra

:35:36.:35:41.

increases planned for January. If that was reduced, that could be

:35:41.:35:47.

passed on to the customer as well. But here we have got more oil Phil

:35:47.:35:51.

Holmes but the energy bills are falling. Energy companies are

:35:51.:35:56.

paying of the majority of the costs to Linslade these houses and why

:35:56.:36:03.

are they doing that? Because of the government is telling them to. This

:36:03.:36:13.

external installation works cast costs and the energy firms must pay

:36:13.:36:18.

the larger share of the cast. Across Northumberland, we have

:36:18.:36:22.

carried out a million pounds worth of installation improvements.

:36:22.:36:31.

Energy companies have funded more than �700,000 of that. In just five

:36:31.:36:39.

years, the government wants to lend fuel poverty for everyone.

:36:39.:36:42.

Well, with me now is Guy Opperman, the Conservative MP for Hexham.

:36:42.:36:45.

Last year he pressed for the Office of Fair Trading to investigate the

:36:45.:36:48.

rocketing cost of domestic heating oil. Also with me Dave Anderson,

:36:48.:36:51.

the Labour MP for Blaydon, who's calling for more government action

:36:51.:36:59.

to tackle fuel poverty. The Office of Fair Trading said in response to

:36:59.:37:02.

this inquiry about competition in the oil industry that it was

:37:02.:37:08.

working pretty well. Do you accept that? What they said is what there

:37:08.:37:15.

was -- is that there was some competition. In Northumberland,

:37:15.:37:19.

where we have a particular problem, we have 17 different companies

:37:19.:37:25.

providing heating oil and 12 of which are controlled by one company.

:37:25.:37:29.

There's some limited competition but I would urge everybody not to

:37:29.:37:39.
:37:39.:37:41.

buy from one company. Prices went up by last -- last winter because

:37:41.:37:46.

demand went up. There is some degree of delivery costs and

:37:46.:37:51.

commodity pricing but if you go out and try and buy diesel or fail

:37:51.:37:57.

today, you will find that these particular companies are 5p per

:37:57.:38:04.

litre more expensive than the local independents. The bottom line is,

:38:04.:38:09.

the Office of Fair Trading has decided not to do anything about it.

:38:09.:38:12.

They did a market report and they are reinvestigating the matter and

:38:12.:38:22.
:38:22.:38:25.

taking it further. Energy bills have risen significantly but what

:38:25.:38:34.

can be done about it? You have to go back to how we got here. You

:38:34.:38:38.

have got a cartel there of six major companies controlling

:38:39.:38:48.
:38:49.:38:51.

everything. The very first meeting of the select committee three years

:38:51.:38:55.

ago, I asked a question of the companies, when are going to put

:38:55.:39:00.

your prices up at how much by and none of them would answer because

:39:00.:39:04.

they are all frightened of saying when and how much, our competitors

:39:04.:39:08.

will know and that will make us uncompetitive. He could people

:39:08.:39:18.
:39:18.:39:30.

fighting against each other. -- you have. You never hear the government

:39:30.:39:40.
:39:40.:39:42.

talking about other oil-producing nations. We threw away our own

:39:42.:39:46.

resources in this country, particularly the coal industry.

:39:46.:39:49.

There is plenty of rhetoric from of the Prime Minister on this but

:39:49.:39:56.

bills are still going up. The green deal has been introduced and the

:39:56.:40:01.

Energy Act was passed a month ago. The Green deal will change things.

:40:02.:40:09.

The government is making the energy companies pay for the insulation.

:40:09.:40:13.

They're giving some contribution out of their profits but the green

:40:13.:40:19.

deal is going to work for a system at the present stage. If we want to

:40:19.:40:22.

insulate our home and bear in mind there are 10 million homes that are

:40:22.:40:31.

not insulated, so they are an awful lot out there. We have to pay money

:40:31.:40:35.

for it under the old system. Under the new system, you get it for free.

:40:35.:40:45.
:40:45.:40:46.

That is the green deal. If you really wanted to help older people,

:40:46.:40:55.

you would not have cut the levels of when to fill allows this winter?

:40:55.:40:59.

They will be paid very good summers and it's exactly the same as the

:40:59.:41:03.

last government was doing. It is not the case that their records to

:41:03.:41:12.

the winter fuel allowance. Above 60 years of age, you get �200. �2.1

:41:12.:41:19.

billion is being invested in winter fuel. There is a lot of work being

:41:19.:41:27.

done. The Green dealers not free. The plan is that you will pay by

:41:27.:41:35.

the amount that you will lose. about winter fuel allowance?

:41:35.:41:41.

government was saying it was not going to replace the temporary

:41:41.:41:51.
:41:51.:41:52.

measure we had last year. If we were in power, it would be better.

:41:52.:41:59.

But let's concentrate on the people who do. The people who do read it.

:41:59.:42:04.

If you had universal payments, everybody who is entitled will get

:42:04.:42:12.

it. Some people desperately need this don't get it.

:42:12.:42:16.

Big changes are being planned for Legal Aid. The system, which gives

:42:16.:42:19.

people on low incomes free legal advice and representation in court,

:42:19.:42:22.

costs the taxpayer �2 billion a year. Ministers want to save �350

:42:22.:42:25.

million of that by targeting Legal Aid on what they believe are the

:42:25.:42:29.

most deserving cases. They also hope more disputes can be resolved

:42:29.:42:32.

outside court. But could that approach leave some vulnerable

:42:32.:42:35.

people without access to justice? Luke Walton has been to meet a

:42:35.:42:44.

Cumbrian family who were helped by the current system.

:42:44.:42:48.

Medical mistakes made during this boy's birth left him with serious

:42:48.:42:52.

disabilities. It left his mother fighting for compensation. Years

:42:52.:42:57.

later came a large payout from the NHS that allows them to get the

:42:57.:43:02.

support he needs. That battle for justice relied on legal aid. It ran

:43:02.:43:06.

into thousands of pounds for a medical report which is something

:43:06.:43:16.
:43:16.:43:17.

we could not afford to do. The legal aid was vital. It means Simon

:43:17.:43:21.

can live independently and have a property and at his support.

:43:21.:43:26.

Integer, clinical negligence cases are unlikely to qualify for legal

:43:26.:43:31.

aid. The government says families can use no-win no-fee deals as

:43:31.:43:34.

alternative but some liars fear of those on low income will be priced

:43:34.:43:39.

out. No-win no-fee cases won't be the answer because many of them

:43:39.:43:42.

won't be taken on because they will be considered too great a risk.

:43:42.:43:47.

Where does that lead -- leave the claimants were the most profound

:43:47.:43:51.

disabilities? Without the access to justice to obtained the awards of

:43:51.:43:57.

damages that allow them to at least have some degree of independence.

:43:57.:44:04.

It is a concern that stretches much wider. Every year, staff here help

:44:04.:44:07.

thousands of people with their financial and personal problems.

:44:07.:44:11.

But much of this work is funded through legal aid and is now under

:44:11.:44:15.

threat. Managers share-save restrictions to relay it would

:44:15.:44:20.

reduce the bureau's income by a quarter and mean job losses. Among

:44:20.:44:27.

the areas facing cuts are benefit, immigration and housing cases and

:44:27.:44:32.

there will be tougher means testing. The people like me who don't know

:44:32.:44:42.
:44:42.:44:46.

where to come, there would be nothing for them. We have over 2000

:44:46.:44:50.

clients who use me -- delayed. The vast majority was love problems but

:44:50.:44:54.

they would be able to come here to get the specialist advice they need.

:44:54.:44:58.

Supporters of reform insist that even after the changes, legal-aid

:44:58.:45:03.

will be protected for criminal law and more serious civil cases

:45:03.:45:06.

including care proceedings and domestic violence. They say the

:45:06.:45:11.

current cost is unaffordable. legal-aid system in the country is

:45:11.:45:15.

going out of control. The government has a responsibility to

:45:15.:45:18.

ensure that the money spent is spent wisely. It's also unhealthy

:45:18.:45:28.
:45:28.:45:30.

for the country as a whole. Far too often, people's first move is not

:45:30.:45:37.

cost-effective. This is one of the alternatives, at this mediation

:45:37.:45:40.

service in Newcastle, divorcing couples are steered towards

:45:40.:45:43.

agreement on issues like child custody and division of assets.

:45:43.:45:48.

Integer, this approach will get extra money from the government.

:45:48.:45:53.

One of the major advantages is that mediation is quicker and cheaper

:45:53.:46:01.

than using the court process. It is designed to work in a more peaceful

:46:01.:46:05.

way. With a legal aid reform did come into force next autumn,

:46:05.:46:09.

agreement on the wider question of access to justice still looks some

:46:09.:46:19.
:46:19.:46:20.

way off. How happy do you feel about the families like that being

:46:20.:46:24.

denied legal aid? I don't think there will be denied legal aid.

:46:24.:46:32.

There is a �6 million fund to cover extreme cases and of the 100 cases

:46:32.:46:40.

up and down the country, only two were on legal aid. Almost all were

:46:40.:46:44.

on conditional fee agreements. The funding criteria in relation to her

:46:44.:46:48.

legal aid in such cases is almost more rigorous because it's

:46:48.:46:51.

taxpayers' money that is being assessed and it's on a no-win no-

:46:51.:47:01.
:47:01.:47:03.

fee. Labour let this legal aid bill get out of control. It is sensible

:47:03.:47:06.

to push people towards mediation and keep people out of court.

:47:06.:47:14.

possible, that is what should happen. The Law Society says this

:47:14.:47:20.

will mean six and and 60,000 people a year will lose access to a legal

:47:20.:47:26.

avenue that was there in the past. They still will have alternative

:47:27.:47:32.

means of pursuing a claim. They won't be able to afford to take out

:47:32.:47:42.
:47:42.:47:44.

solicitors. Some of these people will not take it up. The trade

:47:44.:47:54.
:47:54.:47:54.

union movement will only support cases that have a 50 -- 50-50

:47:54.:48:04.
:48:04.:48:14.

chance of winning. The fundamental point is that if you are well off,

:48:14.:48:17.

access to justice remains as good as ever but if you're poor

:48:17.:48:22.

vulnerable it becomes lot worse. That is simply not the case.

:48:22.:48:28.

Disability rights, domestic violence, these are protected. It

:48:28.:48:36.

is clearly best to go forward with mediation. It is a much better way

:48:36.:48:43.

forward. What about a father who can't get access to his children,

:48:44.:48:52.

shouldn't he have legal-aid? He may have the ability to do so. There is

:48:52.:48:57.

still legal aid for certain cases in such circumstances. That is when

:48:57.:49:02.

mediation has broken down. Justice Secretary is being

:49:02.:49:06.

challenged by the Justice select committee and they gave different F

:49:06.:49:15.

-- different answers. We really don't know. People will not be able

:49:15.:49:23.

to challenge public bodies who loved and things wrong to them. --

:49:23.:49:32.

who'll have. You can challenge because there is a thing called the

:49:32.:49:36.

protective costs order. You suggest that almost nobody will be affected

:49:36.:49:41.

by this. We are in the biggest shake-up of welfare payments for

:49:41.:49:49.

decades. People will be affected in the way they find the litigation in

:49:49.:49:53.

the sense that the taxpayer will no longer be funding certain bits of

:49:53.:49:59.

it. But there will be alternative ways forward. Was going to take on

:49:59.:50:09.
:50:09.:50:14.

the cases of people claiming benefits? -- who is. There are

:50:14.:50:19.

abilities take these things forward. The Law Society is saying that

:50:19.:50:28.

660,000 people won't have access to legal aid. You're on Justice

:50:28.:50:36.

Secretary has said that you would have made similar cast -- cuts. We

:50:36.:50:45.

have to balance the books. Poor people will suffer. Those who need

:50:45.:50:55.
:50:55.:51:02.

the help the most. If we keep going though this Bill will go up and up.

:51:02.:51:12.
:51:12.:51:19.

This has gone on and people say it's a compensation culture. But

:51:19.:51:23.

you have to look after people at home and at work. That would stop

:51:23.:51:27.

the compensation culture. And that's about it from us. Both

:51:27.:51:31.

my guests are among a clutch of the north's MPs giving evidence to an

:51:31.:51:33.

inquiry which starts tomorrow in Newcastle looking at the new

:51:33.:51:36.

constituency boundaries in the North East. It continues later in

:51:36.:51:39.

the week with further hearings at Durham Tees Valley Airport. I'll be

:51:39.:51:42.

Download Subtitles

SRT

ASS