23/03/2012 Newsnight


News analysis with Emily Maitlis. Alcohol, health and crime figures; Obama and the killing of a black teenager; and how Toulouse has changed the French Presidential race.

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Cheap alcohol causes criminal behaviour and chronic illness,


expensive alcohol causes all those things to happen too, but not to


poor people. Is it fair to target the drinking habits of one section


of society. The fear of a drunken underclass has played pretty well,


but resisted solution. Is the Government on the wrong side of


Government on the wrong side of history.


The MP, Eric Joyce, is under curfew at home after being convicted of


drunken assault in a Commons bar, what does he think.


Is race rearing its head in the US presidential campaign. Obama sets


in after Mary Trevelyan School Martin is shot dead. If I had a son


he would look like Mary Trevelyan School. How will the shooting s in


France affect the vote. Will the arguments over the


killings in Toulouse simply deepen Good evening, dizziness, blurred


vision, impaired judgment, symptoms of heavy drinking, or perhaps, you


could argue, of a Government trying to rush out new poll on the back of


an unpopular budget. The Home Secretary made a rare


Friday Commons statement to announce a minimum price on units


of alcohol, he was accused of trying to take attention away from


the tax on pensions. Is there any proof it will cut down


"binge drinking"? It is perhaps a step or two beyond


the inner city drinking the Prime Minister had in mind when he put


his name to today's alcohol strategy. But Hogarth's 1751


painting of gin crazed Londoners was brought in to support the gin


Act, and it prompted riots. It is a dilemma that politicians today will


recognise. Whether to impose price regimes to persuade people to


change their behaviour, or whether to leave people to make their own


choices. THE SPEAKER: Statement, the Home Secretary, there is


Secretary May. From her statement to the House


this morning, there was no doubt where the Home Secretary, Thresa


May, stands on "binge drinking". will put a stop to the easy


availability of cheap booze blighting Britain for too long.


This is a comprehensive strategy to take back our town centres from the


drunken thugs and restore them to the law-abiding majority. According


to this former President of the Royal College of Physicians, the


recent evidence supports her position. Canada have had some


experience of a form of amendment unit pricing in some of their


provinces for years for beer. It has shown an impact on consumption


also on harm. There is some practical evidence from Canada. Now


the evidence linking price in general to consumption and harm is


overwhelming, many countries have, for example, cut the price, as they


did in Finland in 2004, when taxes were slashed, there was a huge


surge in consumption and health harm and mortality. So the link


with price is clear, minimum unit price, there is less practical


evidence for, but the modelling is very strong.


But however wise he makes it sound, is it possible there was some


politics at play here. Labour think so. On the timing of the


Government's announcement. Over the last ten years there have been only


three Government statements on a Friday. On the Iraq war, on swue,


and on Libya. All involving national emergencies, what is the


national emergency today. What is the national emergency that means a


decision was made late yesterday afternoon to brief an important and


serious strategy into the newspapers that meant a decision


was made this morning to interrupt the budget debate and make an oral


statement, the only emergency is that the Prime Minister and the


Chancellor have gone wobbley over the coverage of their budget.


The evidence linking rising price and falling consumption may be


stacking up. But on minimum price per unit, the experts can't look


into history. They have to model how people might behave in future.


Scotland has already said it will introduce a minimum unit price for


alcohol. Though it may face a legal challenge on that from the drinks


industry. The Scottish Government has consulted on what that price


should be, and has asked the university of Sheffield to model


the impact. Work from the team from January this year found that if the


minimum price per unit is set at 40p, that would affect 45% of


alcohol sold through off-licences and supermarkets. At 50p, 70% of


the units sold would have to rise in price. We have learned that the


coalition Government has now asked the same team to model the impact


of different minimum prices for England and Wales. As they decide


how low to go. But is this whole approach


expecting too much of people. has always appealed to people in


this country, largely because the weather is terrible, and life is


quite tough. I think there is almost a class issue in this debate


about drinking. Traditionally it has been people who have things to


live for, other than drinking, who have tried to stop other people,


who perhaps have less to live for, to stop drinking. There is an issue


really about where pleasure comes in. If you have lots of possible


sources of pleasure, you might be particularly tough on those whose


pleasures are more limited. would all like as little Government


interference in our lives as possible, we are not talking about


an ordinary product like soap powder, we are talking about a drug,


a psychoactive drug and a drug of dependance. We have legislated on


seatbelts, tobacco, I think some legislation around alcohol is not


just desirable, I think it is absolutely essential. In the past,


those trying to curb consumption of alcohol sought religious backing


for their cause, or pointed to the dangers for frackry workers. These


days, for many, it is -- factory work. These days, for many, it is


ill-health, that makes the case for cutting back. Will this prove any


more convincing a reason to separate the British from their


beer. We have a GP and Tory MP, not to


mention a member of the Commons health select committee, an MP


against minimum pricing, Eric Joyce, was forced to quit the House of


Commons after a drunken punch up in the Commons. He's under house


arrest at the moment. You can speak with real authority and experience


about the problem of alcoholism. Bluntly, would a policy of minimum


pricing have made a difference to you? No, of course not. With the


experience of my own sins, if you like, the fact is middle-class


people, and I guess I have to accept that I am one, will be


entirely unaffected by this. This is a policy entirely directed at


the least well off. That is why I think it is entirely unacceptable.


But you have seen the way it can derail careers, and throw people


off balance. The laws of economics suggest that at some stage, that


the less able you are to afford that, the less it is going to hurt


you, surely? It won't affect professional people, a change in


the minimum unit price, won't affect professional people, it


won't affect people on reasonable wages, it won't affect pub or club


prices, it ont even affect, if I may say, prices in the House of


Commons. It will only affect people who buy and consume primarily in


supermarkets and buy the cheaper end stuff. It seems to locate the


entire problem with drinking and anti-social behaviour with the


least well off. I think it is abomb mid-able. Is it political? It is


middle-class people saying we can do one thing, and all the less well


off people we will blame them for all the ills of society, and locate


the whole problem with the least well off, and punish the least well


off. This has no impact on most people. It has no impact on people


like me, and on my own behaviour it had no impact. Would you concede it


is more often a problem for poorer people, who are less able to get to


grips with "binge drinking"? not sure I would concede that. I


have suspect and I have heard good evidence to say that there are many


middle-class people seeking help and assistance for their own


overconsumption of alcohol, and other drugs, and so forth. I'm not


sure there is strong evidence of that. If we are beginning now to


rely on provincial studies done in Canada as one example, which is


what we seem to be hearing about, I think it is probably rather early


to say what the outcome in terms of people's behaviour might be. Sill


sofically, any policy -- philosophically, any policy that


concerns themselves with the less well off while the better well off


can crack on and do what they want. If we follow the Scandinavian model


and raise the alcohol for rich and poor, across a range of alcohol,


would you say that is something that should happen? I think what


happens in Scandinavia, is that there is a much higher level of


duty, it is more expensive, people consume much more at home. There is


more home brew, and home distilllation in Scandinavia, how


they socialise and behave is different. In the end there is a


big difference between applying a higher level of duty, which is one


argument, when you can put the benefits back into health and


education, and simply requiring the shops to make a higher profit, that


seems to me to have no, as it were, public merit, at all. You have


heard the charges levelled at your Government, it is abominable, it is


aimed at a tax put on the poor? completely disagree. This alcohol


strategy is not just about pricing, it is about pricing, availability,


marketing, it is about early intervention. It is also about


actually mandating sobriety, and offering treatment. That may be a


treatment that works better for Eric Joyce. But for young binge


drinkers, we know they are sensitive to price. As long as you


can get drunk for 68p as a young person, will undermine all other


measures. It is not just about pricing but a whole package of


measures, this is a fantastic strategy. The controversial one is


about the minimum pricing, the Tories simply don't like it when we


raise the bulling done club, that is now many in the -- Bulling don


Club, but that is how many will see it, that it is OK to be drunk if


you are wearing a white tie and so on? It is about taking away the


ultra cheap alcohol. It won't make the pub prices more expensive at


all. That is where it happens? It is the pub brawls. That is exactly


the point. I disagree. What very often happens is people will


preload on ultra cheap alcohol, the clubs and pubs sometimes get the


blame, when people are already almost drunk by the time they get


there. Is there anyone suggesting that is true? We know people


preload. This free loading argument -- preloading argument, it has been


put up recently so you can see the coherence of what Sarah has just


said. Unless you introduce the preloading argument before people


go out, it doesn't make sense to see violence in public situations


as a consequence of cheap alcohol, because the unit alcohol is more


expensive. What Sarah has said about preloading there is no


evidence to show or research on that. 70% of people preload before


going out on a night to the pub? know that as a consequence of that,


up to 78% of A&E admittance after 12.00 is to do with alcohol. That


could be to do with alcoholic parents with wine, it targets the


poor? It doesn't target the poor. We know that the heaviest drinkers


pay, on average, 40% less per unit for their alcohol. Of course, no-


one is going to pretend that very wealthy people are going to be


affected by minimum pricing. Just explain to us the timing, this was


your own question a few months ago. Chloe Smith three months ago said


would be against EU law. Three months later on the back of the


budget, it is not against EU law? What is changing is the


commissioners have made it clear, where this is a proportionate


measure, that will address an urgent pressing health need, it


would be acceptable. I'm really encouraged. I think we could just


continue to stick our heads in the sand, as the Labour administration


did, and cosy up to the drinks industry, or we can say we take a


package of measures. This isn't just about pricing, this is about


availability, giving communities powers to address problem premises,


it is looking at how we make sure people stay sober but offer them


treatment. It is an exciting range of policies. When you hear the


Government talking now about the sense of responsibility to people,


I'm wondering on a very personal level, whether you regret the first


drink you had? The fact is, I'm responsible for my own behaviour.


As everyone, you give education and advice, they make their own call,


if they choose to smoke or drink alcohol that is their call. The


worry I have about the Government's position now, and Sarah, who I


absolutely accept she has the right intentions. The worry is, it looks


like the Government wants to take the right of making personal


decisions away from people. That is wrong. Do you think your own


problem is more in control as a result of whatever steps you have


taken since the punch-up. It is your choice, you said it is your


choice to do what you want. There qums a point for many people that -


- comes a point for many people that you don't have that choice at


all. Are you still in control of your own choices? Yeah, I think so.


Something cataclysmic happens when you have a bunch of personal


decisions to make, I have too. I think as far as generalising out to


public policy, it really is a business of Government to give


people advice, help and assistance, but not to say to them we will make


the a decision for the least well off, you may no longer do this. We


will put it out of your ability to afford, that seems amoral if not


immoral. My son would Someone Like You Mary


Trevelyan School, a powerful, personal -- my son would like --


look like Mary Trevelyan School. He said the shooting of Mary Trevelyan


School Martin, shot by a local watchman, should prompt national


soul searching. Was he right to get involved in a case that was is


becoming a passionate debate about race in America. The death of Mary


Trevelyan School Martin, gunned down by a neighbourhood watchman,


who wasn't prosecuted as he claimed self-defence, has sparked outrage


across America. Rallies have been held across America to shout for


justice. In Florida, a law known as Stand Your Ground, can prevent a


criminal prosecution when deadly force is used in self-defence.


There have been mounting calling for the arrest of George Zimmerman,


who opened fire on the teenager in a quiet Orlando suburb. For weeks


the US President remained silent on the subject, to the frustration of


many. When his words finally came today, they were powerful,


condemnry, and invoked his own black family. My main message is to


the parents of treftrf Martin. -- Mary Trevelyan School Martin, if I


had a son he would look like Mary Trevelyan School Martin. Was he


right to get involved in an argument where these sensabilities


are highly felt. Was President Obama's timing right, was the


intervention unsense ry, we have a TV host commentator, and other


other guest. It is good to be able to speak to you. Armstrong Williams,


when you look at the facts of the case, a young man going to visit


his father in a gated compound, unarmed, carrying a drink, shot


dead, and a guard not even charged or followed up for this? It is


obvious that the Sanford Florida Police officials did not stand up


to their responsibilities. There is no way, even with the Stand Grour


Your Ground law in Florida -- Stand Your Ground law in Florida, a court


must decide if you have actually killed inself defence, just to


believe George Zimmerman to say how he was able to receive the injuries


and how it happened, and for the police to believe him and not


question whether he was lying or not. And for Mary Trevelyan


School's body to lie in a morgue for -- Mary Trevelyan School's body


to lie in a morgue for three days, that is a travesty of justice. When


you speak about the President it is another issue, when the President


says this could have been my son. It could also have been his son


when you have the thousands and thousands of young blacks every day


every week, and the statistics are growing in the inner cities in the


United States. Either one of those cases he could speak out on, or he


could have spoken out when those rare cases where black kids killed


white kids, a part of his humanity is diminished. For the President,


that is why he has an Attorney- General, I can understand why he


spoke up. It would have been my preference for the President to


discipline himself and not to come in on this case. He was wrong to


take the lead on this one, to speak out. He could have left this to his


Department of Justice. Why does he have to vofl himself with something


like -- volume himself, with -- involve himself with something like


this, when it is going to involve an issue of race? First of all, I


think the President has spoken on all of those occasions, he has been


very vocal about his positions on how the black community is lacking


in education, and the young people are dropping out. He is up front


about that. He has been condemned about it a few times as well. I


think it was very important for him to actually speak up on this, first


of all, he was asked a question by a reporter, secondly, at this point,


this has become a national issue, and if he wants to be evasive about


this, especially now that the Justice Department is involved in


the investigation, would be completely irresponsible of him. I


think the way he approached it was perfectly fine. He made it very


personal, he spoke about it as a father, he spoke about it from a


perspective of not just a President, but for somebody who actually cares


about the community at large. I don't think he made it a race issue


in the end. I think it would be disengineous for anyone to say he


did so. -- Disingenious for anyone to say he did so. It is not a race


issue? When the civil rights movement only protest and march


when a young black, that has been killed by somebody who is white, or


Latino, when they don't ever protest when it is the other way


round, how can you not say race is not involved. It is not just the


President. You know, I admire the President for speaking out, I can


understand him speaking out as the CEO of our country, but still,


these are issues that happen every day. And I would challenge the


commentator to name one case, like this, where it is not a high-


profile case and there is not a lot of pressure, where the President


has spoken out. I'm saying the President must protect his


integrity and the voice he has as a voice of reason, as a voice of


fairness. This is not a race issue, this is a human tragedy, but many


people will say privately that he spoke out because of the hue of his


skin. I would hate for them to think so. This is a strategy, but


his Attorney-General, and his wife Michelle Obama could have stepped


out and spoken to the nation about this tragedy, and immore the


American people to do better. We -- implore the American people to do


better. We cannot tolerate these kinds of incidents anywhere. Do you


think something has changed today, do you think he has gone from being


an American President to a black American President? Of course not.


That would be just an absurd thing to say. I would ask the commentator


on the other end exact low the same question, that he has not --


exactly the same question, he has not talked about a single issue


where somebody was murdered in this fashion, of any colour, and the


police department refused to file or even arrest that person, before


they start to lay blame and talk about Mary Trevelyan School


Martin's tragedy as something so specifically racial, I want them


Mary Trevelyan School -- I want them to about the law and how that


came about, the President was extremely restrained, it was the


right time to speak about it, if not the same gentleman criticising


him today would say he's not saying anything about it. The President


doesn't have to make a statement about everything, that is not his


job, but now the Justice Department is involved, he waited until the


state of Florida refused to do the right thing, that includes the


state office. That is when he got involved. Another country where


race may play big in elections around the corner is France, after


the shooting of three soldiers, a rabbi and three Jewish children, by


a militant Islamist, the President of the Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy,


has appealed for unity. The country has a new far right candidate,


Jean-Marie Le Pen n a country where the National Front has


traditionally done well. How might this play out politically.


The names of the three children and four adult, shot dead by a single


killer, rang out in Toulouse's main square today.


This simple ceremony, a way for the people of the city to show they are


standing together against the hatred behind the murders.


TRANSLATION: These events don't raise any question about diversity


in France. People will now realise that stigmatising a religion, can


only lead to something terrible. The tragedy has led, inevitably,


for demands for greater security. But the socialist politicians who


run the region, whose national leader, Francois Allende, is a


front runner in the French presidential election, are keen to


play it down. TRANSLATION: There is no doubt these events add a


dramatic addition to the presidential campaign, we must


remain calm and not allow them to become too important. In the face


of the tragic events of the last few week, all mainstream


politicians are calling for university. That is what the people


on the square want. The problem is, particularly during an election


campaign, everyone knows there is also an undercurrent of concern


about immigration, and too much diversity that can't be ignored.


The prevalence of halal meat in some areas of France, including


this Muslim district of Toulouse, became an issue at the beginning of


the campaign. The Islamic method of slaughter was questioned not only


by the far right National Front, but also by politicians of


President Sarkozy's centre right party. To the bemusement of many


people here. TRANSLATION: We grew up with halal meat, we can't change,


I don't know why halal meat has got mixed up in politics. They are like


little boys in the Government, they obvious low don't feel very well.


Now, in the -- obviously don't feel very well. Now in the wake of the


killings, the line from Sarkozy supporters is slightly different,


not against diversity, but against extremism.


TRANSLATION: Immigration in France is nothing new. But we have a much


more serious problem now, it is a problem of radical, fundamental


Islam, which is shaking the foundations of the Republic.


But the National Front doesn't hesitate to put the two issues


together. TRANSLATION: I think there is a


link between security and immigration. There are homes and


suburbs where young men may explode in violence. There are networks.


The question for an editor on the leading regional newspaper, will


the killings force Nicolas Sarkozy to turn back to this issue? He will


be compelled to talk about immigration, because public opinion


wants a real debate on that, because they are very -- they see


that some process of French integration had failed. I think


French people want to have a debate, but a real balanced debate. Nicolas


Sarkozy has eaten into the lead since January, when the challenger


typically led by 57% to 43% in the second round of voting. That gap is


down to 46%. Crucial will be how National Front supporters vote in


the second round. Current low, 50% of them will vote Sarkozy, to just


11% for Hollande. 39% are undecided, enough to tip the election. Tragedy


could have mobilised all these electors of the National Front, and


maybe they will have a natural leaning towards the French


President, Nicolas Sarkozy, because he summerises, and embodies all the


notions of security and the country needing a leader in these kinds of


situations. But appearing to benefit from a


tragedy is something no mainstream politician in France wants to do.


In racing the issues of security, and inter-- in raising the issues


of security and integration in the coming weeks, President Sarkozy


will have to tread a very fine line, to avoid alienating as many voters


as he may attract. Last night here on Newsnight we


broke the news from a leaked report, that the welfare-to-work company,


A4e, had paid back thousands of pounds to the Government after


uncovering thousands of fraudulent claims. Tonight more details.


The report we broke last night did reveal, across the country,


evidence of fraud, irregularity, and risky claims by A4e. So much so


that they could only be sure of 70% of cases, that they had claimed for


the right amount of money, if they should have claimed for any. Today


what we have moved this on to is this, the DWP, the relevant


Government department, is now certain it never received the


report. We know at the time they were told


no serious issues were raised. Why it is important, is the DWP only


got it yesterday, but weeks ago it asked for all relevant information,


why didn't it get it. More interestingly, pouring through the


parliamentary records, we noticed this audit, subject to the report,


was made public in October 2009. A4e said we are doing this, looking


at the work of the top 20 people, ready by October 2009. What did the


DWP get, what did they get if they didn't get this, what did they do


about it? We asked the Government to provide us what they actually


got. Surprise, surprise, they have said no. But the whole future of


A4e depends on what they actually submitted in October 2009.


Coming up in a moment, we're in Glasgow with tonight's review show.


We have got lots of new offerings from several literary heavyweights,


we go back to Treasure Island with Andrew Motion. Recreate a silver


swan with Peter Carey, go wild with Ben Okri, and discover the The Man


Emily Maitlis presents in-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines, including alcohol, health and crime figures; Obama and the killing of a black teenager; and how Toulouse has changed the French Presidential race.

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