Press Centre

Peston on Sunday

  • Episode: 

    2 of

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Sun 21 Jan 2018
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    10.00am - 11.00am
  • Week: 

    Week 04 2018 : Sat 20 Jan - Fri 26 Jan
  • Channel: 

Robert Peston returns with a new run of his live current affairs programme, providing viewers with an intelligent and lively approach to politics every Sunday.
Providing a fresh perspective on the major stories of the day with a stellar line-up of guests from across the political spectrum as well as cultural figures, Peston on Sunday introduces elements from the arts, literature, and humour to add to the discourse on offer. 
Robert Peston: Now this is only a week after the collapse of an enormously important provider of public services Carillion. You’re in charge of the purse strings, what’s it going to cost the taxpayer, this collapse?
Liz Truss: Well at the moment we don’t have a full estimate, we heard about the collapse last week, we’ve been working to make sure public services are going, that’s of course our most important priority. There’s a lot of investigatory work to do in terms of what the directors knew and when they knew it but also making sure that we can move those contracts on either to organisations within the public sector or to other private sector organisations. It’s right that that’s our priority, making sure things work, but of course we will be doing a, a sort of post review of understanding what the total costs are.
RP: Tens of millions, hundreds of millions, can you give us a ballpark feel for it?
LT: No, and I think it would be completely wrong to speculate at this point.
RP: But it could be hundreds of millions, it sounds like, in which case.
LT: Well, it will be a significant amount of money, it’s been a serious issue, things have gone wrong with Carillion. But what I think is important is that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We do have lots of public sector contracts with the private sector that work extremely well, whether it’s Crossrail, the Docklands Light Railway, energy companies, water companies [RP - sure, I mean obviously I want to talk..] that have brought down bills for people and are actually providing a great service.
RP: I want to talk to you obviously about the future of the private sector [LT - yeah] providing public services, but can I just ask you know it is your job to monitor public spending, make sure that budgets are under control, when did you first appreciate the gravity of what was happening at Carillion? You personally.
LT: Well of course government ministers received reports about how things were operating, we had contingency plans in place for Carillion should something happen but ultimately it’s a private company, they are the people that control that company, they are the people that decided when when they needed to report and the liquidators were brought in… [RP - were you shocked by..?] So ultimately we’re a customer, we’re a customer of Carillion, we don’t run it, and I think that's right… [RP - no, I understand that. So were you shocked at quite how much, how little there was in the Carillion kitty? Three billion of debts, almost out of cash at the beginning of last week. Were you really shocked by that?] Well clearly it’s a company that has gone badly wrong but it’s a company that mainly operates in the private sector, the issues were largely with their private sector contracts and of course there were very serious issues. But it’s wrong to rush to judgement just a week after it’s happened, what we need to do is look into it carefully, those investigations are taking place into what went wrong, what the directors could have done wrong, and what consequences must follow as a result of that.
RP: I mean the Prime Minister has said this morning in an interview in the Observer that she wants to punish directors of companies that oversee the sort of collapses that then damage pensioners, now we know that pensioners at Carillion will face losses because their pensions are moving into the so-called pension protection fund. When will we know the mechanism for for for in a sense taking action against pensions. It’s too late obviously for Carillion.
LT: Well first of all the Prime Minister made very clear in her article in the Observer how important free enterprise is for our country, how vital having that dynamic of competition and choice for the public has been in providing really high quality public services. But of course where there company directors who do the wrong things, who take advantage of pensioners, who raid the company pension pot, that is a problem and we will be bringing out a white paper shortly which will outline more details of the proposals on that front.
RP: Any idea of the scale of fines that could be imposed?
LT: Well this will be consulted on in the white paper that will be coming out.
RP: Or indeed who might make the decision about whether directors across the line, who who…
LT: Well we do have a, we do have pensions regulator that makes decisions...
RP: Right, so it will probably be the regulator who would do that… Okay....
LT: On those types of issues, but this will be consulted on the white paper. The important principle though [RP - of course] is that when people take a risk, when they go out and build a successful business and we had a record number of businesses starting last year in Britain, that’s a great thing, it contributes to our economy. But where people filch from the public purse, where there are issues and they let down pension funds, they let down people who work for their company, then they do need to be dealt with, and that should be covered in company law. But it’s completely wrong to say, this model of having a strong and dynamic public sector that we’ve had successfully over the centuries and indeed have expanded in recent years we should somehow... [RP - so just to be clear, and I want to, obviously want to move on to other things, sure, and I want to…] Throw that out and have the government take over everything because one company has failed, I think that is wrong.
RP: Sure, I do want to move on to other things but I just want to check what you’re saying is that the view of the Labour Party that that this should be the end of outsourcing to the private sector, you completely disagree with.
LT: I completely disagree with that. If you think of where we were, it took eight years to build a school, it took months to get your phone connected. We had high bills in areas like water and energy, it was incredibly inefficient, the taxpayer ended up paying for losses made by nationalised companies, ended up raising our tax bills. We don’t want to go back to those days when we’re an incredibly dynamic economy, we’ve got all these exciting industries whether it’s artificial intelligence we’re leading the world in, autonomous vehicles, we don’t want to throw all that away for the sake of one company that’s gone wrong.
RP: There is an odd thing though which I want to, but there’s, but there’s a very important and rather odd thing that’s happening at the moment which is in respect of Brexit. So we’ve got Carolyn Fairbairn the boss of the CBI coming on the programme and what she’ll say because there’s been some briefing on this overnight, is that big businesses now want the UK to stay in the customs union, she doesn’t like the look of the kind of deal that you’re negotiating on trade with the rest of the EU, she’s basically outlining the position where businesses are closer to the Labour Party, which also wants to stay in what they call a customs union, than they are to your government. That’s embarrassing for you, isn’t it, to have the CBI you know effectively backing the most left-wing Labour Party that this country has seen in years?
LT: Well we care about all businesses not just big business, and it’s very important that we don’t just listen to the big players, we also listen to those who want to enter the market, the new businesses starting up, the exciting new ‘disruptors’ who might have different ideas about the way of doing things, and the whole point about the customs union, is if we remained in the customs union, we can’t run an independent trade policy, we can’t get the best possible deal on a trade deal with America, or the Far East where a lot of those new opportunities are emerging from, we’ve got lots of exciting companies that trade in areas like IP and services and I think we've got to be very careful not just to protect the existing big businesses in this country, but also look to the new businesses that are entering and might not have a seat at the table, might not be represented by the CBI, but actually have a lot of value to offer to our economy.
RP: No, I completely get that but it is very striking to me that you personally are obviously very comfortable with this gap emerging between as I say the government and big businesses, I’m going to pick up on all of that with you in just a few minutes, more from Liz Truss after the break.
RP: SInce Steve Hawkes of The Sun has accused you of being economical with the truth, he says you must know the cost of the collapse.
LT: There’s a difference, there’s a difference between the cost that the administrator finds and what the impact will be on public spending and public services and what I’m talking about is the cost to the taxpayer which there will be… [RP - yeah, and you said it’ll be significant, yeah okay] but we don’t know until we find out exactly you know which bits will be run by other parts of the private sector which bits will be run by the government department, where we can find savings and efficiencies, which I am constantly looking for.
RP: Now it did sound to me as though you think it will run to hundreds of millions but let’s wait and see. I do though want to talk to you about this issue of how radical the government should be. You are known to be one of the most radical members of the cabinet, so presumably you would agree with Nick Boles that the Prime Minister is being a bit too timid.
LT: Well first of all Nick Boles is an exciting and energetic character and I think he adds a great deal to the Tory Party, he’s always putting forward new ideas. And I want his energies to be used in a productive matter that actually drives forward our country and I think coming up with ideas is a great thing, by the way I don’t always agree with him, ‘cause Nick has asked, argued for a bigger government and in fact I don’t think that’s what we need in the modern age where we have new technology and lots of exciting possibilities. But we have a massive task on our hands in Brexit and the Prime Minister made huge strides at the end of last year in getting to the second phase of negotiations, we’ve just seen Emmanuel Macron here last week talking about the progress we’re making, that has to be the number one priority of this government.
RP: So the priority but it must be many people would…
LT: And that is so important to get that right, Robert, so important.
RP: Look, listen, nobody would disagree I think with that, but the frustration for many including Nick Boles is the way that it is absorbing so much time and energy of the cabinet, that the really important domestic issues - housing, those on low incomes seeing their incomes stagnate, education, which Allegra was talking about, [LT - can I just challenge you?] they’re not being tackled in as bold enough a way he would say as should be the case.
LT: Can I challenge you on the point you made about people on low incomes? Between 2015 and 2017 those on the lowest incomes have seen a rise of seven percent in their ages in real terms so we are seeing those on the lowest incomes do better because of the national living wage, because of our policies of improving regulation so that more companies expand. [unclear]
RP: But typical earnings, I mean look - all the analysis shows, and you know we don’t want to go backward and forward but all the analysis shows that those on typical median incomes after tax, [LT - you just said low incomes Robert, so] after inflation no no no and then lower and then you know but just below that not right at the bottom but just below that are enduring a stagnation longer actually than in recorded history from before 2008 probably up until 2020, 2021.
LT: And we are recovering from a terrible crash in 2008 and beyond, but what we’re seeing this year is some positive, you know positive uptick in productivity, positive manufacturing figures and that’s because we have taken the measures of improving employment regulation, of lowering taxes, all of those things, and look at the environment, you know we have world-leading policies on the environment, look at what Michael Gove’s doing in areas like plastics, in areas like air pollution [RP - sure]. We are making big changes.
RP: I’ve got to pick up on, on one other thing. You were lord chancellor for a bit, the current lord chancellor is already a bit battered and bruised, widely criticised again as it happens by Nick Boles, but others as well for having announced that there would be a judicial review of the decision to give parole to the serial rapist John Worboys, and then almost immediately cancelling the idea of having a judicial review. Which bit of the decision making was wrong, was it the announcement that there would be a review, or the cancellation of a review?
LT: Well first of all I feel terrible for the victims of John Worboys, it was appalling and when you read about what happened it was absolutely appalling and I think all of us feel in our hearts we just don’t want him to be released at all, you know that’s completely understandable that that’s what people think and feel and it’s, you know, we do need to get tougher on areas like rape and sexual assault and we need to make it easier for victims to come forward to… [RP - but did the new lord chancellor make a mistake in announcing that he thought there could be a review, and then abandoning it?] Having said that you know we cannot try people in the court of public opinion, we do have to have proper judicial process, proper legal process, and what he has said is of course we’re going to look at the way the Parole Board works, we’re going to look at the way the courts work in terms of this issue, I do think they need to be more open, I think there needs to be more information coming out of them, but what we can’t do is retroactively look at this particular case and you know David’s received the legal advice, I’m I’m not privy to the details of that, but I’m sure he has followed the legal advice he is given in terms of coming up with that decision.
RP: But some of your colleagues, sure but but actually politics is not the same as the law as you know, he had the... [LT - and Nick Boles, and Nick Boles for all of his merits has not seen the legal advice either, so] No no, absolutely right but his view as even if you lost it was a stand worth taking.
LT: Well I don't agree with that because I think that it’s important we protect public money, I think the public would not want us to go pursuing legal cases that don't have merit and ultimately it has to be the judgement of the lord chancellor, not all of us have access to that information.



Robert Peston: Overnight you’ve come up with a new in a sense policy approach to Brexit that you say represents the views of your members. You say that Britain should stay well this is what I want to ask, in a customs union or the customs union, there is a diff-, are you basically saying you want the status quo preserved?


Carolyn Fairbairn: Robert, let me come to answering that question, I must first of all… [RP - but you must answer the question though] I will, I will. First of all make a really important point, You are talking about, talking about big business. The clarity and urgency that we need on Brexit is coming from all sizes of business. You know at CBI we speak for 190,000 businesses, most of them are small, the clarity and the lack of clarity we have is a, it’s a, there’s a Brexit handbrake that has to be lifted, really important point, really important point… [RP - but the influence within the CBI would that be it’s not just about you, but I’ve been listening, I’ve lived and breathed the role of the CBI for something like 30 years, big businesses have a huge influence on the policy of the CBI] The issues around, the issues that we’re going to talk about today around customs union hugely affect smaller businesses [RP - sure, they do] in fact mostly affect smaller businesses, so now I’ll come back and answer your question...


RP: But this is what we need to know is, what is the policy?


CF: Yes, so this is a time for real evidence being brought into, into the debate. One of the options that’s been on the table for a while has been being a member of a customs union, that means frictionless trade within the European Union, not totally but it solves many of our problems. And would hugely importantly affect [unclear - interrupted] of the Northern Ireland issue… [RP - But Turkey Turkey is a member, has a customs union, it’s not a very effective customs union. I assume you’re not saying Britain should be like Turkey?] We can do much better than the Turkey deal, and one of the things that… [RP - But do you want, but it isn’t sorry I, I you know you’re not a politician, you’re a business person, so I would expect a yes or no answer, do you want to preserve our current customs union arrangements?] That is for the negotiators, what we are talking about is the importance of frictionless trade within the European Union, 53 percent of our trade is with the European Union and this is, this is the.. [RP - But that but that but that’s as unclear as the Labour Party’s position I mean it does as I said earlier, you look a bit like the Labour Party at the moment and one of the things people say about the Labour Party is they want to have their cake and eat it, they’re not being transparent about what they actually want] I think we are being very transparent, and so I think the job for business in all of this is to put a prosperity slide rule over all of the options on the table, and say what really counts and I think what we are saying very clearly today Robert is that in looking at this hard choice around customs union or not the value of our frictionless trade within the European Union is worth, is worth more than having the the the potentially unknown value of trade deals in other parts of the world. That is a choice that we that may change over time, but that's where we are now.


RP: So so, alright, so that does seem to me to be the important point… [CF - it is the important point] I’m glad we got to that, is to be clear for you, preserving the right to negotiate third party trade deals is not that important, more important is preserving frictionless trade. You’d be prepared to give up the opportunity for us to have our own bilateral trade deals with the likes of America and China.


CF: Two important points - there may be a time when the value of those kinds of deals eclipses the value of frictionless trade within the European Union. We do not think that day has come. In terms of the thousands of conversations we have had with businesses across the UK, that day has not come.


RP: So they’d be happy, you’d be happy to see Liam Fox out of a job in the next 10, 20 years.


CF: No, this is a this is a very important point. Liam Fox’s department is utterly fundamental and important to what we’re trying to do… [RP - why?] So the value of the relationships that we’ll put in, there is a huge amount that can be done within the system… [RP - which is, which is not about free trade but is just about other] Trade is about a lot more than free trade… [RP - alright, alright, but you are prepared, it is clear that you are prepared to make the sacrifice of that red line. And there are other red lines that you think the Prime Minister] It It is the only way… [RP - so so so just tell me about in general just to be clear because again you're giving a speech tomorrow in which I think you say you don’t believe these red lines should be red, they should be there to be negotiated away if necessary. So you don’t believe for example there should be necessarily no role for the European Court of Justice] I think we are, we are 14 months away from Brexit and there is no clarity around those hard choices. We think that there is an opportunity now 2018 a new year to revisit some of those red lines and I think you get to that place by looking at the options on the table. The Canada free trade deal I think we’re being absolutely clear and I’m being clear tomorrow would be a bad deal for Britain, because…


RP: You do not want Canada or indeed Canada plus plus plus, whatever that is.


CF: Well, I think pluses are very interesting, but there is no example of a deal at the moment that has all of those pluses in it. If you…


RP: I mean Macron has said we cannot have access to the European single market unless we stay in the European single market, he has you know said that again today on Andrew Marr’s show but he’s been saying it repeatedly.


CF: And this is the debate. So, we are really saying there needs to be flexibility on both sides. We are two extremes at the moment, we have a Norway deal, it's about the trade off between access and control. Norway gives a lot of access but not sufficient control and [unclear, interrupted] cannot the other end that space in the middle… [RP - but what why not this this is the bit that many businesses say to me and obviously I’ve been talking to businesses you know know that you were coming on the show, they think that you are being a bit timid on single market. They think that you should simply say membership of the European single market via EFTA, the European Free Trade Area, is the way to go, why aren’t you saying that?] Let me be really clear. So, single market access is hugely valued by business, we know that, the issue is how we get to it. Now, the EFTA arrangement does not give the same single market access we have now because it does not give a seat at those tables where the rules are formed. So I think this is exactly the kind of issue that needs to come back on to the table, the revisiting of the options in between Canada and Norway, which give the right result, and it’s not just about a good deal, a good Brexit for Britain, it’s about a good deal for the European Union overall [RP - and just in terms of] and and and Canada would not be a good [unclear].


RP: And just to be clear, in terms of flexibility on red lines, you want them all to be flexible. So for example if we got better access as a result of paying some money on a continual basis to the EU, continuing to pay into the budget, you think that would be a price worth paying?


CF: Robert, I really do think these are issues for the negotiators. If I go back to the… [RP - but they shouldn't be ruled out is what you’re saying] They shouldn’t, they shouldn’t be ruled out, what our role as business is to set up the prosperity implications of different options. WE are not politicians we’re not trying to be. These are decisions for our politicians. But what we I think can do and should be doing is putting the evidence on the table so that we understand the implications for jobs and growth and people’s lives, and that’s why we're saying today the customs…


RP: We’re almost out of time, I want to almost put to you in a sense the corollary of what I put to Liz Truss. Liz Truss doesn’t feel remotely upset that the government is nowhere near the CBI on this issue. Do you feel comfortable being closer to the Labour Party on this issue than you are to the government?


CF: Again I think that isn’t, that isn’t, we’re not political, we’re not here to take political decisions, we are here to say to all sides, European Union, all sides here, this is what will matter for growth and prosperity, we need to have a flexible, proper discussion about what that is, Canada won’t do and we think the practical decision around the customs union does pass that test.




Robert Peston: Just this morning, good morning to you, lovely to have you here. Just this morning Gerard Batten your colleague joined a chorus of voices among your colleagues saying you should quit. Are you going to quit?


Henry Bolton: No I’m not, no.


RP: And why not?


HB: The party needs cohesion, it needs direction going forward and it needs to continue the agenda that’s been initiated to reform the internal workings of the party. Its financing, its planning and so on, a leadership contest now would be financially almost unviable for the party. In addition we’ve got a national executive committee election coming up as well at additional cost, we’ve got to focus on the May elections, and we need to actually get the party fighting fit to be able to deliver its politics into the into the Brexit debate and what happens post-Brexit in terms of national policies. Without a a a steady move forward on this, then we’re not going to be able to deliver that. There’s not time to mess around with it.


RP: Now, your affair with Jo Marney attracted an enormous amount of media attention because of the things that she said about Meghan Markle, which were seen as racist because of some of the other comments that she’s made for example about Islam which seem to be in some ways anti-Islam and racist. Does, your colleagues say the fact that you’re with her reflects very badly on your judgement.


HB: Well, I’ll just say a couple of things on that [RP - please]. First of all that I’ve said that numerous times now that I find those comments abhorrent, unwise and offensive and absolutely don’t condone or defend them in any way whatsoever. Jo Marney has now resigned from the party, she has apologised publicly, she has apologised to members of the party and it’s now time that the party draws a line under that and moves on. As I say, we’ve got a job to do and that is to deliver the pro-Brexit voice into the debate on leaving the European Union and that’s what I’m determined to take forward. If the NEC decides to disrupt that process then they are themselves… [RP - this, this afternoon you’re seeing the NEC] I am, yes.


RP: And what will you say to them about your relationship with Jo Marney, is it definitively over?


HB: I mean we’re still in touch. She’s trying to rebuild her life… [RP - which is why you saw her, you were photographed on the Tube] Yes, yeah there were a number of death threats against her which have been reported to the police, there were a number of other issues that we needed to discuss in relation to some interviews that were coming up and some evidence that we were putting to the national executive to demonstrate that within the party there are subversive elements working to undermine it and indeed to undermine myself. That is the sort of thing that I will be telling the national executive committee that they need to focus on. It is their job to ensure that the party is coherent, that it is unified and that it is in a fit state to fight going forward. It is not their job to start issuing moral judgements... [RP - You said a few days ago that you were putting UKIP before, you said a few days ago you were putting UKIP before love, as it were] I didn’t say that, but I’m certainly, I, I, entered the leadership of this party simply because I believe the country needs an effective voice in that Brexit debate and beyond about the future of this country as an optimistic confident prosperous and secure nation. Now we have to be projecting our voice quite decisively into that debate. When I looked at the other leadership candidates out there, and now when I look at those who are who are wannabe leaders, then I don’t see anybody who can both deliver the reforms that are required, and project the politics out there, so that’s why I’m in this.


RP: But do you think it should matter who you’re with when it comes to whether you lead the party or not?


HB: I fully understand that there is an issue in terms of public conduct, I didn’t issue… [RP - what did you do wrong? What did you do wrong?] That’s one of the interesting points, Robert. I, I don’t believe I’ve done anything wrong. I in my own personal life it’s a little bit of a mess at the moment, I need to sort that out of course, but I’m not letting it distract one iota from my job as the leader.


RP: I mean your wife was saying a couple of days ago she still hasn’t heard whether your marriage is over, is your marriage over?


HB: My wife and I have exchanged lengthy emails on this, we’ve spoken a couple of times on the phone, but that is my business. The business of the party and what the nation should be interested in here is whether or not we can deliver the politics that we were set up to do, and that we are determined to deliver, and that’s my job is to deliver that and...


RP: But for a party like UKIP which tried to broaden its appeal away from just Brexit, into being an essentially you know, a a a party of the family to an extent, some would say that your behaviour is not consistent with moving UKIP in a, away from just being a one-issue party.


HB: My vision is for an independent, independent nation that’s confident, optimistic, prosperous and secure. And hopeful. Now to do that we had to enter that whole debate about Brexit. Brexit is not just about leaving the European Union, it’s about this country regaining its independence in all areas of governance and administration so that we can actually make our own decisions about the future of this country and so that is through Brexit and beyond that this party needs to project itself to.


RP: Your predecessor Nigel Farage said that he thinks in order to settle the Brexit issue once and for all there may well have to be a second vote, a second referendum.


HB: No his point there was just to illustrate the requirement, the need, which I fully subscribe to and indeed that’s one of the things I’m working towards, is to unite and co-ordinate all of the different Leave campaigns, to mobilise and to counter what is an increasingly mobilised Remain campaign to keep us within the European Union.

RP: If Parliament, if Parliament votes down the Brexit deal, many would say there has to be a second vote. Would you object to that?


HB: Yes I would. It’s, it’s very clearly UKIP’s policy not to have a second referendum. However, we must mobilise the entire party, as we did for the referendum, and work with other campaigns [unclear]… [RP - is there an, is there an existential threat to your campaign, Patrick O’Flynn say that your party is on the brink of collapse, there’s a lot of talk about Nigel Farage setting up a new UKIP, UKIP Two, how close to collapse are you as a party?] If the NEC decides to go down the route of months of further infighting, and further negative media scrutiny by deciding that, to to to pass a vote of no confidence in me, then I think that the reality is that the party is probably over. Now that would be a tragic shame. Now… [RP - so this afternoon is a life and death moment for your party] Well no, it’s not exactly because there’s a further [unclear]...


RP: Unfortunately that is all we have time for, I’m awfully sorry but my great thanks to you Henry, Caroline, Liz, Ed and David, see you next week.