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Archives for February 2012

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 13:37 UK time, Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Tonight's programme is dedicated to the government's controversial overhaul of the NHS.

The Health and Social Care Bill has completed its Commons stages but is having a difficult passage through the House of Lords, which has tabled a number of amendments, and is being opposed by many groups representing medical professionals.

If passed, the bill would give GPs control of much of the NHS budget and opens up the health service to greater competition from the private and voluntary sector.

Our Political editor Allegra Stratton will be joining Health Secretary Andrew Lansley at a 'listening event', where he will be putting his proposals to the professionals involved. Mr Lansley will also be interviewed by Jeremy.

In the studio, health minister Simon Burns will be joined by a number of medical professionals to discuss the measures and the impact on the health system.

We'll also have the latest reaction to James Murdoch stepping down as executive chairman of News International, the UK newspaper business that owns the Sun and the Times titles.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 17:27 UK time, Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The government's health regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), today said that patients who have undergone large head metal-on-metal hip replacements should be monitored annually for life amid concerns they cause serious health problems.

Tonight, we have the results of a joint investigation with the British Medical Journal detailing how problems with such devices have been long known, but no action taken to block their use and patients kept in the dark.

Professor Sir Kent Woods, chief executive of the MHRA will be joining Jeremy Paxman in the studio to discuss.

Also on the programme, Barclays Bank has been ordered by the Treasury to pay half-a-billion pounds in tax which it had tried to avoid.

Barclays are said to be surprised and embarrassed by the move to close the two schemes, which the bank says were in line with those used by other banks.

Joe Lynam looks at the nuts and bolts of the schemes that the Treasury described as "aggressive tax avoidance" and asks if this is a real change in approach to tax avoidance.

As Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum go head to head in the crucial Republican party primary votes in Arizona and Michigan, we have an interview with former candidate Herman Cain.

Liz MacKean has been in Newcastle with Ken McMeikan, chief executive of Greggs, meeting people who have been taking part in work experience at the bakers.

And Allegra Stratton has new information on the Budget negotiations happening inside Cabinet.

Monday 27 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 18:08 UK time, Monday, 27 February 2012

The Leveson Inquiry into press standards today turned its attention to the relationship between journalists and the police, and tonight we do too.

We have a one-to-one interview with former News of the World journalist Neville Thurlbeck. Then afterwards we will be debating the issues with Lord Prescott, former police officer Peter Neyroud and Jeff Edwards from the Daily Mirror.

Paul Mason has more on the A4e story and Allegra Stratton reports on Nick Clegg's backing for further changes to the coalition's NHS reforms.

Plus, Tim Whewell reports from Moscow on the claim that Russian and Ukrainian security forces foiled an attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - the plot is said to have emerged in January, but has been announced just days before the election.

We will be discussing the news with Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.

Friday 24 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 16:14 UK time, Friday, 24 February 2012

Tonight we have the latest on the protest surrounding the government's work experience scheme for the unemployed, which Employment Minister Chris Grayling has defended today, saying that half of those who joined it after the launch 11 weeks ago had now found a job, and that of the 100 organisations involved in the scheme and not one had pulled out.

We look at what the attempt to find a solution to the Syrian crisis at a major conference in Tunisia.

Our Political editor Allegra Stratton examines possible changes to community sentencing, whether it will have any effect on reducing prisoner numbers and whether the government is on the wrong side of public opinion.

Plus we have a report on the overnight disturbances at a Rochdale takeaway allegedly linked to a child sex trial.

Thursday 23 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 18:10 UK time, Thursday, 23 February 2012

David Cameron has said that he is sick of what he calls "snobbish attitudes" towards money-makers, arguing that business is the best way to "smash poverty" and warning against increasingly dangerous rhetoric that suggests wealth creation is anti-social and has no moral worth.

Tonight, David Grossman reports on whether the prime minister has a point and we debate in the studio with leading business figures - Waitrose Managing Director and Business in the Community Chairman Mark Price, Wates Construction CEO Paul Dreschler, President of Chocolate at Mars UK Fiona Dawson, and Greggs CEO Ken McKeikan.

We look at the on-going workfare row and at the news that entrepreneur Emma Harrison has stepped down as the government's "family champion" amid a police probe into irregularities at her company A4e.

As part of its work, A4e handles millions of pounds worth of government contracts for welfare-to-work schemes

And Mark Urban has been to visit Mansour Dhao Ibrahim, one of Muammar Gaddafi's most trusted security aides who was in the vehicle with the Libyan leader when he made his ill-fated attempt to flee the city of Sirte on 20 October 2011.

They discuss Gaddafi's last days in the besieged city, the desperate doomed attempt to get out, the moment of capture and how he has himself been treated since he was detained.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

ADMIN USE ONLY | 19:02 UK time, Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Tonight Liz MacKean has more on the row over the workfare scheme looking at how it impacts not just the unemployed, but also those already in employment.

Joe Lynam takes us through the eurozone Greek bailout assessing the snags which have the potential to unravel the whole deal.

And Jeremy has an interview with Charles Dallara, managing director of the International Institute of Finance (IIF) and the chief negotiator for private creditors now facing a loss on their Greek holdings, about private sector acceptance of the eurozone deal.

Our Political editor Allegra Stratton has a piece on allowing free schools to turn a profit.

And we have an interview with John Lanchester about his latest book Capital - a post-economic crash novel set in London.

Monday 20 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 15:35 UK time, Monday, 20 February 2012

Our new Political editor Allegra Stratton starts tonight.

On the programme we will have the latest on the eurozone finance ministers' meeting in Brussels aimed at securing a second bailout for Greece.

In a change of plan instead of looking at the appointment of Professor Les Ebdon as head of the Office of Fair Access we have a film on Goldman Sachs and the role it played in helping Greece enter the eurozone.

We look ahead to the Budget in an interview with David Laws, a key figure in the Lib Dems' campaign to pressure their Conservative coalition partners to raise the personal tax allowance.

And we examine the findings of the official investigation into the relaxation of border checks last year and assess the action the government intends to take in response.

Last summer, UK Border Force chief Brodie Clark was suspended - and then resigned saying his position was untenable - after claims he relaxed checks beyond what had been authorised by ministers. In the aftermath Mr Clark told MPs he was "no rogue" and planned a constructive dismissal case.

Friday 17 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 11:09 UK time, Friday, 17 February 2012

Is Greece a country in freefall?

It faces a looming deadline in mid-March when it needs to make repayments on a 14.5bn-euro bond, or face bankruptcy.

The EU and IMF have demanded that Greece make deep cuts and restructure its economy in return for the bailout.

But how are the austerity measures affecting the people and the politics of the country?

Newsnight's Economics editor Paul Mason has visited the country and reports on the increasing disenchantment with the state and the political class, and the financial difficulties that many Greeks face.

We'll also be discussing in the studio.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 17:01 UK time, Thursday, 16 February 2012

Tonight we ask if newspapers have a future.

The Lords communications committee has said that the printed press is in "crisis", with local papers under particularly "severe" pressure. The committee suggested that ministers "think creatively" about offering tax breaks to newspapers to help them through a "difficult" time of falling sales and revenue.

The press has also come under extreme criticism in recent months, as a result of the phone-hacking scandal which led to the closure of the News of the World.

And now The Sun is embroiled in a crisis, with 10 current and former senior reporters and executives at The Sun arrested since November over alleged corrupt payments to public officials, prompting Rupert Murdoch to fly in tomorrow to take direct charge of the situation.

Peter Marshall reports and we debate in the studio with a former News International editor, a victim of hacking and a news website editor.

Also Mark Urban reports from Tripoli on the state of Libya on the eve of the first anniversary of the revolt that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

And following the news that UK unemployment rose by 48,000 to 2.67 million in the three months to December, we look at the row over an advert on the Jobcentre Plus website, which said Tesco was looking for a permanent night shift worker in a store in East Anglia, paying just expenses and Jobseekers' Allowance.

Tesco has said that the advert was a mistake, and should have been for work experience, rather than a permanent job role.

However, the debate about jobseekers being made to work for major companies without pay or risk having benefits suspended rumbles on.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 16:14 UK time, Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Some eurozone countries no longer want Greece in the bloc, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has said, accusing the states of "playing with fire" as Greece scrambles to finalise an austerity plan demanded by the EU and IMF in return for a huge bailout.

Tonight we examine Mr Venizelos' claims and ask whether it would now be better for Greece to default, if the eurozone is now strong enough to cope.

Also, Sue Lloyd-Roberts reports on how despite female genital mutilation being banned in Egypt since 2008, the procedure is still commonplace and often ignored by the authorities.

Plus, with Prime Minister David Cameron set to call for bars, supermarkets and the drinks industry in England to do more to help ensure responsible drinking we look at the detail of what he is suggesting and ask whether his calls are likely to engender real change or not.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 19:08 UK time, Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Tonight we de-code the varied messages on how the UK economy is faring which has seen a drop in inflation rates today, a recent rise in manufacturing, but the threat of a credit downgrade from Moodys.

Are we on track for recovery, and if so will it be sustainable long-term recovery? Our reporter Joe Lynam has been finding out.

Plus we have a report from Bill Law who is in Bahrain where police have been firing rubber bullets and tear gas at stone throwing protesters who have been trying to march on the site of the now-demolished Pearl Roundabout - the focus of pro-democracy demonstrations in the capital Manama one year ago today.

And Baroness Warsi, co-chairman of the Conservative party, claims that the British way of life - indeed that of all of Europe - is threatened by militant secularisation which is deeply intolerant of religion. Has she got a point? We will discuss.

Monday 13 February 2012

Len Freeman | 15:12 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012

The Greek government has approved an austerity plan in order to pave the way for a 130bn euro ($170bn; £110bn) bailout from the EU and IMF to prevent it defaulting on its massive debts.

The deal, which has not yet been finalised, could write off around half of Greece's privately-held debt, but news of the decision has been met with rioting in Athens, Thessaloniki and elsewhere.

Tonight our economics editor Paul Mason, who is in Athens, will report on the violence and ask what happens next. Can Greece deliver the cuts and will the bail-out money be enough to prevent a default?

Peter Marshall reports on the police raids which led to the arrest of five Sun journalists and the claim by the paper's associate editor Trevor Kavanagh that the paper's publisher - News International - is the subject of a "witch-hunt".

We will be joined to discuss the matter by Rupert Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff, lawyer Charlotte Harris who has spent years pursuing newspaper hacking claims, and former News of the World journalist Nick Ferrari.

We will also begin a week of special films marking one year on from the start of the Arab Spring. Tonight Sue Lloyd-Roberts investigates whether the revolution has betrayed women in Egypt.

Friday 10 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 13:25 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012

The grassroots website ConservativeHome has claimed that party insiders believe
growing public anger over the Health and Social Care Bill could damage future electoral prospects.

The site's editor, Tim Montgomerie, told the BBC he had written the piece because three Conservative cabinet ministers had contacted him with their concerns.

The Health Minister, Simon Burns dismissed the claims as "tittle tattle" when he appeared on the BBC's Daily Politics show.

Who is right and who backs the bill? We'll be finding out.

Our Economics editor Paul Mason is in Athens where protesters have clashed with police amid a strike against swingeing budget cuts approved as part of the latest eurozone bailout deal.

And we'll be examining the claim made by Downing Street adviser David Halpern that being lonely in old age will propel you to the grave more quickly than smoking.

Thursday 9 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 17:58 UK time, Thursday, 9 February 2012

Tonight we will have the latest on attempts to negotiate a European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout for Greece.

Eurozone ministers who have opened talks on the 130bn euro (£110bn) bailout fund in Brussels this evening have cast doubt on the Greek austerity plan which lenders are demanding is in place before the funds are unlocked.

We will have analysis from our Economics editor Paul Mason and be talking to Greek Minister for International Economic Relations Constantine Papadopoulos, Greek Communist MP Liana Kanelli and Peter Altmaier, chief whip of the CDU in the German parliament.

Mark Urban reports on the battle for Homs, the kind of armaments on either side and whether in response to the ongoing violence other nations are intending to step up arms supplies to the Free Syrian Army.

As debate rages about the state of English football following the loss of both captain and manager of the national team Peter Marshall asks whether the biggest problem with the game is actually the prevalence of big money.

And we have a report on what supermarkets pay their shop floor workers and how despite being in employment many of them are still reliant on benefits.

Wednesday 8 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 13:41 UK time, Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The prime minister has rebuffed calls from Labour to axe the controversial Health and Social Care Bill.

The plans to overhaul the NHS in England are being debated in the Lords, amid a row over proposals to let hospitals raise more money privately.

The government has tabled 137 amendments to the Bill in recent days to try to head off a rebellion by Lib Dem peers.

On tonight's programme David Grossman looks at the troubled progress of the legislation and how important the NHS is to the perceived success of the coalition government.

We'll be joined by Health Minister Simon Burns and discussing in the studio.

Also, Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos is meeting coalition parties in an attempt to seal an austerity agreement to secure a new EU/IMF bailout.

The accord is likely to include a 20% minimum wage reduction, pension cuts and 15,000 civil service lay-offs.

Newsnight's Economics editor Paul Mason reports on why despite numerous fiscal measures the Greece crisis just won't go away.

And as tensions over the Falkland Islands increase ahead of this April's 30th anniversary of Argentina's invasion, we assess the impact of the recent war of words.

Finally, we have an interview with conceptual artist Yayoi Kusama, including a peek at her first British retrospective at Tate Modern.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 15:01 UK time, Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Tonight, as the Syrian army assault on Homs continues we ask what talks between President Bashar al-Assad and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Damascus will have achieved.

And what will be the effect of six Gulf Arab states saying they are expelling Syrian ambassadors in their countries and recalling their envoys from Syria?

Also, on the day that the Commons Health Committee has been hearing evidence on the PIP breast implants case we take an in-depth look at the story.

We have a report from our Science editor Susan Watts asking who has let the women who have been given faulty implants down and whose responsibility it is to remedy the situation.

Plus in the studio Jeremy Paxman will be joined by Health Minister Anne Milton, former glamour model Katie Price, feminist author Naomi Wolf and a dozen women who have had breast implants to discuss this issue and the wider question of why women have breast enhancement surgery in the first place.

Monday 6 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 14:32 UK time, Monday, 6 February 2012


There has been a change in the plan for tonight's programme. We will now have a report on the news that radical cleric Abu Qatada has been granted bail following a hearing at the UK's Special Immigration Appeals Commission instead of Paul Mason's Greece report.

Also on the programme Tim Whewell, who recently visited Homs, will be reporting on the situation on the ground in Homs, which has seen a day of heavy artillery fire in one of the fiercest attacks since an anti-government uprising began 11 months ago.

Plus, Mark Urban looks at what pressure the international community can bring to bear on the Assad regime, given the division in the UN Security Council. And what the Russians hope to achieve when Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, along with Foreign Intelligence Service Director Mikhail Fradkov, visits Damascus on Tuesday.

We look at the decision by Network Rail bosses, including chief executive Sir David Higgins, to not accept bonuses this year, and Jeremy Paxman will be speaking to Transport Secretary Justine Greening.

And our Culture correspondent Stephen Smith has an interview with the comedian and actor Jackie Mason.


The Syrian city of Homs is being bombarded by artillery fire in one of the fiercest attacks since anti-government unrest began 11 months ago.

The army assault comes after Saturday's veto of a UN draft resolution criticising Syria by China and Russia.

Tonight Tim Whewell, who recently visited Homs, will be reporting on the situation on the ground and why this is happening now.

Plus, Mark Urban looks at what pressure the international community can bring to bear on the Assad regime, given the division in the UN Security Council. And what the Russians hope to achieve when Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, along with Foreign Intelligence Service Director Mikhail Fradkov, visits Damascus on Tuesday.

We look at the decision by Network Rail bosses, including chief executive Sir David Higgins, to not accept bonuses this year.

As government talks in Greece to try to agree new austerity measures needed to secure bailout funds and avoid defaulting on its debts are delayed, Paul Mason reports on what measures the EU, ECB and IMF troika are actually demanding.

And our Culture correspondent Stephen Smith has an interview with the comedian and actor Jackie Mason.

Friday 3 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 14:10 UK time, Friday, 3 February 2012

Tonight we lead on Chris Huhne's decision to resign as energy secretary after learning he was to be charged with perverting the course of justice over a 2003 speeding case.

Mr Huhne said he was innocent of the charge, but would stand down to "avoid distraction".

Tonight we examine where the decision to quit leaves Mr Huhne, how damaging it is for the Liberal Democrats to have a second member forced out of the cabinet, and the impact on the coalition.

Also, bankers have been in the political crosshairs this week with RBS boss Stephen Hester waiving a £963,000 share-only bonus following widespread anger over the award, and his predecessor, Fred Goodwin, being stripped of his knighthood.

Today Labour leader Ed Miliband called for an overhaul of banking culture, saying that the sector was at a "crossroads" and adding that Labour will press for a vote on bonuses in Parliament next week.

Tonight our Economics editor Paul Mason reports on whether this is just a case of politicians taking aim at an easy quarry with little prospect of long term change, or whether reforming capitalism will be the lasting legacy of the economic crisis.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 16:18 UK time, Thursday, 2 February 2012

Last night we broke the news that the Student Loans Company's chief executive Ed Lester received his £182,000 pay package without deductions for tax or National Insurance.

Tonight we have a follow up report in which we reveal which ministers and senior officials knew about the arrangement.

Tim Whewell looks at the political dimension to the deadly football clashes in Egypt.

And we examine the call from almost 100 Anglican clergy based in London for priests to be allowed to follow their individual conscience on whether to hold civil partnership ceremonies in their churches.

And ahead of a major National Portrait Gallery retrospective of the work of Lucian Freud, Steve Smith has been talking to one of the artist's daughters, Esther Freud.

All of that with Emily at 10.30pm on BBC Two.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 15:26 UK time, Wednesday, 1 February 2012

An urgent review into claims of tax avoidance by top civil servants has been ordered by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, after a BBC Newsnight investigation.

The chief executive of the Student Loans Company (SLC), Ed Lester, has received his £182,000 pay package without deductions for tax or National Insurance.

The arrangement was agreed by the tax authorities and potentially saved Mr Lester tens of thousands of pounds.

Richard Bacon MP, who sits on the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, described the figures as "outrageous".

The SLC said it had "followed all government guidelines" on remuneration, but as Richard Watson reports, how does such tax avoidance sit with the coalition's stated aims to tackle tax avoidance and unfairness? We'll also be discussing the issue with Jeremy in the studio.

Also on tonight's programme, Pakistan's foreign minister says her country has no hidden agenda in Afghanistan, in response to a leaked secret Nato report on Islamabad's links to the Afghan Taliban.

Speaking alongside her Afghan counterpart in Kabul, Hina Rabbani Khar said allegations in the report were "old wine in an even older bottle".

The report says the Taliban are helped by Pakistani security services.

Tonight, our Diplomatic and Defence editor Mark Urban investigates how much support the insurgents have from the Afghan people and outside forces, and where their campaign is headed.

And, yesterday the removal of Fred Goodwin's knighthood was lauded widely, but today it has been described as "anti-business hysteria" by the Institute of Directors.

They were joined by ex-Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling, who said the decision appeared to have been taken "on a whim", as Mr Goodwin was not the only banker to cause problems.

David Grossman asks if Fred the Shred has been made a scapegoat for the wider failings of the financial industry?

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