The PM programme today
There link is to a petition complaining about what I said on the PM programme today.
Here is a transcript of the first part of the interview:Well I think they're still in my office. It's like occupying a CAB. We deal with people who have very serious problems. Like one problem we have been prevented with dealing with is that of someone who is not getting any benefits at all although they are entitled to them. We can normally sort these things out reasonably qucikly and the students are saying that "we are allowing people in and out of the office". Well, these are confidential problems. They're not problems that you can just deal with and announce to the whole world that you are dealing with them. You need to deal with them in confidence. It is only right for the constituent.
Are you annoyed
I am quite annoyed because it is so selfish of them to do that. I don't mind if they want to protest and talk to me and have a protest outside. But you've got to think there are people in society who are quite vulnerable who are short of money and are having all sorts of things, serious problems and these students don't seem to care about them at all.
Have you had a conversation with them about tuition fees.
I did have a conversation with the President of Birmingham University Students Union and one of the Vice Presidents a couple of three weeks ago. They asked to come and see me and I agreed to mee them and and we had a meeting. It was described as an occupation, but it wasn't in fact an occupation.
And how did that conversation go
Well, we had a discussion. You see my view is that the proposal from the government involves effectively a combination of the general taxation being used for perhaps a third of fhe funding and two thirds of funding coming from a collective form of funding based on graduates. Akin to a graduate tax, and my view is therefore that this is akin to the fairer alternative that we pledged to achieve or to press for.
Some people might find that hard to follow not least those who are sitting in your constituency office. It is not exacrtly the pledge you signed isn't it.
I find it hard to swallow that they care so little about vulnerable people that they are willing to disrupt the operation of my office.
The pledge is normally misrepresented by the NUS because the pledge has two strands to it. One strand is about not voting to increase tuition fees and the other strand is pressing for a fairer alternative and within there cannot be the concept that the amount of money that universities get has to be static the concept has to be that we are aiming to improve the system to a more equitable one. One that is based not on frightening off people on low incomes, but one that is fair and equitable one and that is the one that the government is proposing.
Would you say that you are a man that knows his own mind?
I am yes.
How are you going to vote on thursday.
At the moment I am very likely to vote for the increase simply because we cannot reward the bad behaviour from today. I have ...
Just a second, just a second part of your thinking may be to punish protestors
Well if they're going to behave this badly.
The problem you've got is this. If you reward this form of behaviour. If it has any effect which is a positive effect you are encouraging the behaviour in the future.
So you part of the reason you are going to reach your decision is based upon the protest.
Part of the reason has to be based upon the protest because I cannot allow that to have influenced me in any favourable manner whatsoever.
Why don't you know for sure how you are going to vote.
Because there are some factors that need to be identified between now and Thursday,.
What are they
One of the issues is what happens if people want to pay the tuition fees up front. I believe there should be some form of contribution towards lower earning graduates thats made during that process. There are also questions about the detailed implementation of the statutory instrument and the resolution as they come forward.
My view has been made entirely clear in that interview.Part of the reason has to be based upon the protest because I cannot allow that to have influenced me in any favourable manner whatsoever.
Let me be entirely blunt about this. Disrupting the office today was not acceptable. Hence it should not have any favourable effect on the view I take when I come to vote.
It may not have any negative effect as well. However, those who are pressing this petition are arguing that such occupations are acceptable and that preventing my office from dealing with people's problems is an acceptable part of the political discourse.
I do not think it is.