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Coffee House General Election 2017

Sunday political interviews round-up: Fallon – We warned the NHS on Cyber Security

14 May 2017

4:17 PM

14 May 2017

4:17 PM

Michael Fallon – We warned the NHS on cyber security

Early this morning, Andrew Marr interviewed the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. Marr attacked the government for failing to adequately prepare for Friday’s mass cyber attack, which caused havoc in the NHS, creating many difficulties and rescheduled appointments up and down the country:

Marr: What patently this government has not properly invested in is defences against cyber attack you did not give the NHS the proper support and proper money to stop this cyber attack, with terrible results for patients up and down the country.

Fallon: In our security review, just over a year and a few months ago, we identified cyber threats as one of the three principal threats, and we set aside £1.9 billion to protect us better against cyber and a large chunk of that went to the NHS.

Marr: It didn’t pay for the upgrades in 2015…

Fallon: Hang on. We’re spending around 50 million on the NHS cyber systems to improve their security. We’ve encouraged the NHS trusts to reduce their exposure to the weakest systems, the Windows XP. Only 5%, less than 5% of the trusts actually use that system anymore, and there is money available to strengthen these systems.

Marr: But you did not pay for them to strengthen that system at the crucial moment in 2015 did you?

Fallon: That was an old system, we didn’t want them to use that. We wanted them to use modern systems…

Marr: So, you left those doors open?

Fallon: No we warned them and they were warned again in the spring…

Marr: So it falls on the trusts, not on the government. Is that what you’re saying?

Fallon: Well, we all have to work at this. The NHS wasn’t particularly targeted, the same attacks applied to Nissan on Friday, in other areas of the economy, and indeed, around the world. But let me just assure you, we are spending money on strengthening the cyber defence of our hospital system.

John McDonnell – The Robin Hood tax ‘is not much to ask’

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was invited to discuss his new policy proposal of a ‘Robin Hood tax’ with Sky News’ Sophy Ridge. The ‘Robin Hood tax’ seeks to raise money by taking financial transactions, particularly those of major banks, and the concept received considerable attention in the wake of the 2008 financial crash. However, Ridge challenged McDonnell by presenting him with a quote from the Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan criticising the idea of the tax:

Ridge: Let’s see what Sadiq Khan has previously said about this – ‘People will just go to other parts of the world where there is no financial transaction tax’, and he also described the idea as ‘madness’. And you can see why, because in the year to March 2016 the City of London contributed 11% of all tax revenue. I mean, that’s a big gamble.

McDonnell: It is, but we’re talking to a tiny fraction more, and when Sadiq was saying that, at that point in time, the European system had stalled. It hasn’t now, it’s moved on quite swiftly. So I think circumstances have changed, now’s the right time to do it. This is a small transactional tax. We’re asking for a small contribution from the City. We bailed out the City 10 years ago when the crash came, we poured hundreds of billions of pounds into it. Since then, £100 billion has been given out in bonuses in the City, so we’re asking for a small contribution [from] them. What to do? To fund our public services, to make sure our children are educated, to make sure we have a decent health service. It’s not much to ask you know.

McDonnell said that by targeting banks and hedge funds, the tax ‘was tackling a loophole’ and that he rate he proposed for the tax was ‘very small’ at 0.02%.

David Davis – There may be a clash over Brexit timetable

Brexit Secretary David Davis appeared on Peston on Sunday to discuss the government’s policy in the negotiations. He stated that he did not intend to adhere to the EU’s framework for the talks, and that the UK can look forward to many strongly worded arguments on the horizon:

Peston: Do you accept the structure of these talks – that you have to talk about money, migrants and Ireland before you get onto trade?

Davis: Not entirely, and that’ll be the first discussion.

Peston: So which bit of that don’t you accept?

Davis: Money and Ireland, basically. The European Union citizens in the UK, British citizens abroad, we all accept needs to be dealt with as fast as possible.

Peston: And can I just ask – they think that this could all be wrapped up by the early Autumn, on the rights of citizens. Do you think it could all be wrapped up, because they have laid out that they want to guarantee all rights, pension rights, health rights and all the rest of it, which is what people were saying in the Leave campaign, so that could be wrapped up quite quickly?

Davis: I think so. There will be arguments over fine detail… like whether the European Court of Justice oversees these rights after we’ve left.

Peston: Is that a fine detail? Because talking again to Brussels officials, they say that the European Court of Justice has to oversee these rights.

Davis: We’ll have an argument about that… The simple truth is we’re leaving. We’re going to be outside the reach of the European Court, we’re going to be outside the reach of all of the law-making capabilities of the EU.

Davis continued:

‘What we’re after is a very generous outcome. In effect, what we’re trying to do is to get a circumstance which effectively freezes the rights people already have so they will have the rights to welfare, they’ll have the rights to healthcare, they’ll have the rights to pensions, as they would if they were a permanent resident here anyway. The only rights they wouldn’t have are sort of citizenship rights – the right to vote in a general election… There are many ways of guaranteeing this We don’t see a need to give in to the European ideology on the ECJ – we’ve got very good courts.’

Nicola Sturgeon – ‘We need to do better on education’

Appearing on the Andrew Marr Show, Nicola Sturgeon defended her record on Scottish education, where standards have been slipping since 2013. The most recent tests by Pisa (the Programme for International Student Assessment) found scores for maths, reading and science had all declined. Marr put the point to Sturgeon that ‘under the SNP, things have got worse’:

Sturgeon: I know, and I’ve said this many times before, I know how important a good education has been to me in my life. I want every young person in Scotland to have the best education, the vast majority of young people in Scotland do get the best of education but there are areas where we need to do better and I am not shying away from that.

Marr: And yet, under the SNP, something serious has gone wrong. Scotland used to be one of the best educated countries in the world…

Sturgeon: On many measures it still is…

Marr: …And you have all the powers, you have all the powers to change this, and yet things are going backwards.

Sturgeon: On literacy and numeracy we have a particular challenge but on many other measures of Scottish education that is just not true. We are not going backwards…

Marr: Literacy and numeracy are kind of important!

Sturgeon: You’re trying to conduct this interview on the basis that I’m being defensive here. I’m not being defensive, I absolutely readily accept the areas where we need to do better. That’s why we have put such effort into the initiatives and the reforms that we are taking forward. And the point that I was going to make… is that we are actually introducing more transparency so that I can be held more to account, so instead of sample surveys like the ones we’ve got, we will have information on every pupil in Scotland at the required levels, broken down… school by school, so there will be no hiding place for any politician on the performance of Scottish education.

Marr countered: ‘You said not so long ago that you wanted to be judged by this and your neck would be on the line – you’re looking a little Mary Queen of Scots at the moment!’ Sturgeon replied that education would be ‘the defining priority of however many years I am First Minister, and I hold to that’, and highlighted that ‘the other big challenge we’ve got is to close the attainment gap between richest and poorest’.

Rebecca Long-Bailey – Labour’s borrowing plans will see the debt fall over the next Parliament

Appearing on the Sunday Politics, Rebecca Long Bailey, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, attempted to explain her party’s future economic policies should Labour overcome the odds to win power this June, all while saying as little as possible. In a week where Labour’s draft manifesto was leaked before publication, Long-Bailey determinedly tried to impress on Mr Neil that he would have to wait for the official manifesto launch next Tuesday. The two repeatedly clashed over Labour’s proposals for borrowing, which Long-Bailey claimed would decrease the national budget deficit:

Neil: Now, you plan to borrow an extra £25 billion a year – John McDonnell’s already announced this – on public investment. That’s on top of the around £50 billion that’s already being planned for investment. You’re going to borrow it all. So that means… that many many years after the crash, by 2021/22, a Labour government would still be borrowing £75 billion a year. Is that correct?

Long-Bailey: No, what we’ve set out is £250 billion of capital investment and £250 billion for a National Investment Bank. Now, our financial and fiscal rules dictate that we will leave the government in a state of less debt that we found it at the start of the Parliament. So we aren’t going to increase the national debt at the end of our parliamentary term.

Neil: How can you do that though, if by 2021 you will still be borrowing about £75 billion a year which is more than we borrow at the moment?

Long-Bailey: As I’ve said, the £500 billion figure is set out over a period of 10 years…

Neil: I’ve not included the £500 billion!

Long-Bailey: Now this is a figure that’s been suggested by Dieter Helm from Oxford University as a figure that’s necessary to bring us in line with our other industrial competitors. Similar figures have been suggested by groups such as the CBI. We simply have to invest in the tools that businesses need to grow and thrive.

Mr Neil also quizzed Long-Bailey about Labour’s nationalisation programme, particularly over the National Grid, which has a market capitalisation of £40 billion:

Long-Bailey: …You’ll just have to wait to see what our final manifesto states on that one.

Neil: So, is it a waste of time to ask how you’re going to pay for £40 billion?’

Long-Bailey: I’d be patient Andrew, it’s just a couple more days to go…

Needless to say, Mr Neil didn’t get his answer in the end…

Michael Gove – Theresa May is a much better PM than I would have been

And finally, Michael Gove seems to be signalling that he may be looking for a return to government after the general election. When asked by Sophy Ridge if he thought that Theresa May was doing a better job than he would have done, Michael replied:

‘Oh yes, definitely… I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The demonstration of the way in which Theresa has made all the major calls on Brexit successfully, the obvious popularity that she enjoys, the stability and strength that she’s brought to that role. All of these reflect incredibly well on her judgment and her leadership abilities. So all I can do is take a step back and admire the way in which she has – on the economy, on education and on Europe, shown a degree of consistency and clarity as leader.’

Who knows? Perhaps Gove’s wounds from his pyrrhic battle with Boris Johnson last year won’t prove to be fatal after all…

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