16/10/2011 The Politics Show West Midlands


16/10/2011

Jon Sopel and Patrick Burns are here with the top political stories of the week.


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What does Liam Fox's departure In the Midlands, the planning a

:00:44.:00:52.

people's causing problems for the Government. Is it a developer is a

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free fall in our green and pleasant land? And who runs our country, we

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1486 seconds

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Hello again from the Midlands, where we will be asking, who runs

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the country, the judges or the politicians? First some concrete

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proposals for the Midland's countryside. Opponents of the

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Government's planning proposals belief our green spaces are at risk

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from those desperate to get the economy moving again. On the other

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hand, planning regulations are often described as bureaucratic.

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James Morris is the representative for Lyme Regis. The newly-appointed

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shadow housing minister and for the Liberal Democrats, the Shropshire

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county councillor, have a kid. She is also a member of the Shropshire

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hills board. After a week in which unemployment in our part of the

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country was confirmed that almost 9%, with a relaxation of the

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planning laws help the construction industry get us back to work? Our

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environment correspondent has been to Warwickshire to investigate.

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Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire, built in the 15th century. Now,

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famously, this is a National Trust property with a moat, to protect

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those inside from attack. But these days, it is the National Trust that

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is on the offensive. And amongst the cream teas and gentle

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conversation, rebellion against the coalition Government's plans for

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planning. How many signatures have you got? We have had over 3,000

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signatures here alone and across the trust as a whole we know we are

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pushing 150,000, already. We are really concerned about the national

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planning policy framework, this draft that has come out. We are

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worried about the presumption in favour of economic growth above

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everything else. Making an enemy of the National Trust to spot some

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debate at the Tory party conference. He will not be surprised to learn

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that me and Mrs Pickles are partial to the odd scone and a warm

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beverage in the National Trust tea Room. But the planning system needs

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to be improved. There are businesses out there desperate to

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expand, to hire thousands of people, but they are stuck in the mud of

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our planning system. We will be opened to constructive ideas about

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how to get this right, but to those who oppose everything we do, my

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message is take your arguments down to the JobCentre, because we are

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going to get Britain back to work. Britain is not building at the

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moment. The Government points out that housebuilding alone is that

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it's the lowest level since the 1920s. They argue that red tape is

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stopping a development led a surge back to work. You cannot assume

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that 3,000 ft of offices would take approximately 3,000 people,

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therefore it is 3,000 jobs, simple as that. Half-an-hour down the road,

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this development has been going through the planning process for

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two and a half years. What is wrong with the process? It is far too

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complicated, 1,200 pages of planning legislation originally

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created in 1948 and added on to ever since. Interestingly, the 1948

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of planning acts had a presumption in favour of development, it was

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just after the war, when we required development. Therefore, it

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does require massive overhaul. But it is to be applauded, there are

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criticisms of it, but overall it has to be applauded.

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Government's plans have not only alienated the National Trust, call

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Conservative voters are unhappy. Even the Daily Telegraph is against

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this move, mounting a campaign and saying the Conservative Party is

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paying too much attention to developers who donate to party

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funds. It is fair to say that I am a supporter of the Tory party and

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therefore, personally, I do give a small amount of money to the Tory

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party. No different to what any other individual would to

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supporting a political party. the Government's plans are well on

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and four councillors on the ground of any political flavour, there is

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another problem. 46% of councils say they will have no core strategy

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in place before the new proposals arrive. According to one

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campaigning group, that will leave them vulnerable to poor quality

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proposals. It worries me that so many things have not been given his

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huge amount of thought, they appeared to be put together with

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the idea to promote the economy, which is fine, no problem with that.

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But the economy is a number of things, not just development.

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prepared councils, alienated core voters and angry demands for action

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on red tape, Baddesley Clinton has not seen a battle like it.

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It certainly has not. So, is this a charter for the developers story

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read back to the regeneration of the economy? There is more about

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this on my blog. Let us begin with the shadow housing minister,

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obviously the developer there in Warwick blames the red tape that

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was heaped upon them by your government, principally, for

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getting in the way or possibly 3,000 jobs, there. Nonsense, the

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problem in terms of its economic growth is not the planning system,

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it is the mismanagement of the economy. 1,200 pages in the

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planning legislation, you can see the case for a delay there. What

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happened was that for 60 years we had a planning system which has

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sought to reconcile growth and development. We desperately need

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that with a real say for local people and protection of the

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natural environment. What has happened is a lobby, limbs to the

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Conservative Party, have worked together with the Treasury to push

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an agenda to build any place, any time. Let me give you an example,

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we had a presumption in favour of brownfield development, they tour

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that up in favour of building anywhere, am why? Because they have

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said it is cheaper to build on greenfield land. I will come on to

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that in a moment. However, first of all, the county councils have to

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get their plans to get the one size fits all thing imposed on them by a

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Government. Are you going to have your plan in order in time in

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Shropshire? It is in place. Actually, we are ahead of the game.

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Although I am in opposition, I must applaud the plan that is in place,

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it has engaged parish councils, we do have evidence behind what people

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want and mostly, it is about housing Lowes will people -- local

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people across Shropshire. I think other councils will be terribly

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vulnerable and really ought to have got their act together. It is not

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just Jack that is worried about this link with the Conservative

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Party. From my blog at a reply says localism up my for it, these plans

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are biased towards developers. It is not a local agenda, it is just

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big business. I think that is nonsense. We have got to focus on

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what we are trying to solve with this policy. We have got very low

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levels of housebuilding in this country, inherited from the

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previous government, the lowest level since the 1920s. This policy

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is about driving growth in a balanced way. It is a balanced

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policy by giving local people more say about how they housing is

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developed. We never heard plans, there will still be -- with the

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neighbourhood plans, they will still be subject to planning rules.

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When we have already got many of these plans which are evidence

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based in place, a development is not just about the policy issue, it

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is about quality and having enough money in the system to build the

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houses. When people cannot get mortgages and when developers, and

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also housing associations, are struggling to develop on the ground,

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it is not going to happen. There are 97,000 planning permissions

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already granted in the West Midlands, so what is the problem?

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That is exactly right. There is enough land with planning

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permission to build 300,000 homes already. The problem is that the

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economy and the mortgage market, why have your government torn-up

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the Bramfield first presumption? There is enough Bramfield had to

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build 1.2 million homes. I am very confused about his position. He has

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been arguing for the bringing back of policies that have came up with

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incorrect numbers. Developers want the freedom to build on green field

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because it is cheaper. We inherited from you the lowest level of house

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building since the 1920s. That is a crisis, there are millions of

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people who cannot get on the housing ladder, there are problems

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with social housing that we need to tackle. I want to move on from that

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very important point to a particularly difficult balance that

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you have to strike in rural areas like Shropshire where, obviously,

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you want to keep the local economy there the sustainable on one hand,

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but in other areas you have outstanding beauty, how do we

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achieve that balance of preserving the BT while allowing the Community

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to develop? For several days we have had a policy of only allowing

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small numbers of houses to be built at any one time in the villages. It

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means that a villages remain vital, children are produced for schools,

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although it is not quick enough, but the plan for the area of

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outstanding natural beauty has worked. We do have to, 4, 6 houses

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being built. How would you respond to the need for that balance?

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for certain, but a real say for local people and protection of the

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natural environment, and for the Government to stop pretending that

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the problem of housing is planning, when it is not. This new framework

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for talks very clearly about sustainable development, a balance

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between economic development and preserving the environment. That is

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still at the heart of the Government's planning policy.

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So, who exactly is in charge here? The politicians or the lawyer's?

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Only last month, Stoke-on-Trent City Council gave up on its plans

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to cut services for deaf children because of threats of legal

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challenges. Last year there was an epic encounter turf with a council

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on the education department. Now, within the next few days, another

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High Court judge will rule whether Gloucestershire County Council

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broke the law by withdrawing funding from 10 local libraries.

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That legal challenge follows a storm of protest over the council's

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plans for the community to take them over, while the authority's

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local leader needs to save millions of pounds. It is a recognition that

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the authority is facing some really tough challenges. The second issue,

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as I understand it, is that we have been given the green light to

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continue talking to communities and those putting their business cases

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forward. This series of legal challenges has left us wondering

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who is really in charge, who is running the country, politicians or

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lawyers? During the week I sat down with Phil Shiner, the senior

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partner at the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers. They are

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taking on Gloucestershire County Council. I asked him what he would

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say to council leaders like Mark Hawthorne? Local authorities, like

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all of us, have to obey the law. They have got clear legal duties,

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whether it is under the libraries and museums act, or the Equality

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Act. They have got a duty to consult with the public property --

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public properly, before they cut services like libraries. Another

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case came up in the summer in Stoke on Trent, where the council

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identified the teaching of children with hearing difficulties in

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schools as an area where budgets needed to be cut, but they backed

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off even under the threat of a legal challenge, because they

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thought it was too big of a brisker to contemplate. Is this a case of a

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democratically elected council being dictated to by the lawyers?

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The lawyers wouldn't see it like that. They would see it that a

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group of parents, or members of the community, identified that there is

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going to be a breach of the law and if that means that that particular

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local authority backed off what would otherwise have been an

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unlawful decision, that is what the law is there for. We know that

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earlier this year a judicial review went against the way the Government

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had decided to scrap the building of new schools in the future but

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surely this is another example of a democratically elected government

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introducing a policy and then the lawyers parking their tanks on the

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Government's lawn. I we get this political posturing. The

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politicians seem to want it both ways, they want to mouth off about

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what a great democracy we live in and a fundamental commitment to the

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rule of law, and do not lose sight of the fact that if we as a society

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a lose that commitment, we are in big trouble. We know that your firm

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is involved in the case of tuition fees in Scotland, which have caused

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give it a significantly worse deal to students from England, compared

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with anywhere else in the EU. I gather that that is a pre- cursor t

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something on an even bigger scale? Yes, it is. We have a big case at

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the High Court in London, where we are acting for two students who are

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challenging the decision just before Christmas of 2010, to raise

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the cap to �9,000. If we win, the Government will be told that the

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decision to raise the cap to �9,000 breaches fundamental human rights

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provisions and heard the poorer members of up our society who

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clearly cannot be running up debts of �60,000 in order to go through

:41:27.:41:32.

the high education system. Is it not a bit rich to throw the statute

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book at democratically elected councils and the Government who

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were trying to make the best of an extraordinary it bad job

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economically. What we do is sometimes, to shore up arguments

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that might arise under a human right so acts, or the newer

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legislation, we go back to the common law, the foundations of the

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rule of law. We are not reading statute books, we are unashamedly

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mining, sometimes, the rich seam that that is the common law of the

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UK. Thank you. There we are, our three posturing

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politicians are still with us, ready to start mouthing off again.

:42:16.:42:20.

James, you have got a real problem in your Government if there is a

:42:20.:42:30.
:42:30.:42:32.

successful text -- successful test case against the �9,000 cap. Phil

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Shiner is obviously politically motivated in what he is doing.

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denies that. Maybe what he should do is seek elected office and argue

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in the Public Square for the pros and cons of a particular course of

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action that the Government is taking. That is a fundamental

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aspect of our democracy. That is the most important factor in this.

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He might end up earning less money, but he would be held accountable by

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the people and that is why, in our democracy, that is the most

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important thing. In Stoke-on-Trent, those people concerned about

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services for deaf children in schools, it turned out that the

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court, rather than the ballot box, was more help to them. I have got a

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very simple view, politicians make the law, they should not break the

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law. If they are held to account by citizens taking them to the court,

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and they are found to have acted unlawfully, then they should change

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their approach. To give one example, here in Birmingham, earlier on this

:43:37.:43:42.

year, Birmingham City Council sought to take away care from 4,100

:43:43.:43:47.

people in substantial lead. Heartbreaking cases. I know many of

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the people myself. I was involved in driving a High Court action

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against that, which stop that happening. Wide? Because they

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failed to act in their -- they failed to fulfil their

:44:03.:44:07.

responsibilities under the Disabilities Act. You know the

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strains on the government to balance the books, do you have some

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sympathy? I have sympathy for anyone who is suffering from cuts,

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always have. There is a balance, but I would say both for central

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government and for local councils, you must always take the law into

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consideration and do what you have to do, because otherwise,

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politicians become above the law and we should be making and

:44:32.:44:35.

upholding the law, not just breaking the law. Councils who are

:44:35.:44:38.

taken to court are taken to court because they have not done the

:44:38.:44:44.

right thing. The simple point for all of you in a nutshell is that in

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an increasingly litigious environment, Parliament, councils,

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have to be very much more careful than it has been in drafting

:44:52.:44:58.

legislation. I think that is true. Clearly processes have to be gone

:44:58.:45:02.

through but we need to keep a balance that we are talking about a

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democratic society, where politicians are elected, to make

:45:05.:45:09.

decisions which they are then held accountable for at elections. That

:45:09.:45:13.

is a fundamental part of our democratic process. I think it is

:45:13.:45:19.

right that the equalities Act protects the disabled, women, those

:45:19.:45:22.

who suffer discrimination on the grounds of their race a or

:45:22.:45:24.

ethnicity, I think we should be proud of that and not complain

:45:24.:45:29.

about it. This is the point where I have to say that I am in charge

:45:29.:45:33.

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