17/09/2012 Newsnight


Should GCSEs be scrapped? Should benefits be frozen to wages? Are troops in Afghanistan well protected? Should badgers be culled? With Jeremy Paxman.

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They will raise standards, they will be fairer and more efficient.


That was what the Conservative Government said when it first


brought in GCS Es, and that's pretty much what the new


Conservative-led Government is arguing for now they are abolishing


them. Or put it another way, if a change is such good news for these


people, why is the Government waiting five years before the first


of the new English Baccalaureate exams happens. The free schools


Evangelist, Toby Young, and an education campaigner are here to be


disagreeable. The Government ponders fresh budget cuts, wage


freezes have been a fact of life since the crash, Newsnight learns


that benefits may soon get the same treatment. More British troops are


killed by a rogue Afghan police detatchment, while two Americans


die at Camp Bastion, where Prince Harry was based. Did he get more


protection than other soldiers. Once we knew on Friday night that


the perimeter at bastion had been breached, he would have been moved


to a secure position, under effective guard. And this. I will


have another cup of tea. One false move and the badger gets it. As the


Government authorise a cull, is it time we stopped being sentimental


about animals. Springwatch's Simon King will defend badger rights,


from the Tory MP, Anne McIntosh. It is the best part of 25 years since


the Conservatives brought in GCSEs, when they said O-levels were --E


levels were clamped out. Now they want to scrap them and bring in


something called the English Baccalaureate. Nobody wants


standards to fall and children to fail, the only important question


is will the change work. You can turn over your paper now.


A spring pour-style maths lesson in central London. Michael Gove has


often praised the academic rigour of the small Asian state and its


tough exams. Students at the King Soloman Academy are learning to


master maths the Singapore way. two main differences between the


Singapore approach and the conventional approach would be, one,


in the style of teaching, which has much more of a concrete and


tangible element built into every lesson, and the second would be the


structure of the curriculum. Rather than structuring the curriculum


based on two -week units and moving from fractions to algegra, and


decimals, back to algegra and fractions. We spend six or seven


weeks just on one topic, then we move on to the next topic. What


that structure allows us to do is achieve depth and mastry rather


than breath and light coverage. Which is the way the system


currently works in most schools? Exactly, that is the way it


currently works in most schools. School starts here at 8.00am,


finshes most days at 4.30 and there is a lot of homework. Just five


days in, these new pupils say they enjoy it. Even if you are not


getting something, he explains it to you loads of times, he will


explain it again and it will still be fun. I think maths is really fun.


I have learned that you can do 60 questions in less than 50 seconds


which is really good and now I will improve my multiplication knowledge.


Over half the pupils are on free school meals, three quarters don't


speak English at home. The headteacher is ambitious for them,


he welcomes Michael Gove's reform. For me and our school, we believe


all children are capable of achieving academic success, and


reaching a high bar. And through the dedication of the staff here


and their families, we will help them to do that. For me, having a


high bar is a good thing, because it challenges us and them to make


sure the children are well educated and able to succeed after 16.


Broadly Michael Gove's plan is that GCSE will be replaced by the


English Baccalaureate, the first courses will start in September


2015. The exams will be more rigorous, there will be one test,


no moduals. And no course work in core subjects. And only one Exam


Board will set the exam in each subject. Critical to reform is


ending an examination system that nas rored the curriculum, forced


idea listic professionals to teach to the test, and allowed head


teachers to offer the softest possible options. We believe the


race to the bottom is to end, it is time to tackle grade inflation and


dumbing down, we believe it is time to raise aspirations and restore


rigour to the examinations. We on this side of the House, will not


support changes that only work for some children. We need system-wide


improvement, and we need change that enjoys genuine support from


the world of education and from employers. The truth is, that these


plans don't meet those challenges. This announcement comes in the


middle of the biggest controversy ever to hit the GCSE exam, over the


grading of this year's English language papers, that has seriously


undermined the credibility of the test, and the rows is not over --


row is not over yet. The difference between England and Wales is to the


best way of handling this, and late tomorrow some Welsh students are


likely to get new grades. Michael Gove is genuine about


consulting on the best possible exam system to fit with making sure


that we have the best available education for children of all


abilities, in every school, then he wouldn't be starting from here. He


would be starting from a discussion about what is in the curriculum,


what do we need to test, and what do we need to test it.


Any questions to ask Mr Clegg, he's the Deputy Prime Minister. This is


a coalition initiative, it was the Liberal Democrat who reportedly


delayed the start of the new exam, and insisted there be one test for


all. Some doubt the changes now planned are really significant.


Lots of these changes were already in train. For example, the moduals


were going for 2014, the Baccalaureate subjects were already


in place, as an accountability measure rather than a curriculum


for all. The new GCSEs that were just introduced that were already


including more challenging questions. A consultation will last


three months, then in the new year Exam Boards will start to bid to


run the new qualifications. But the first students will only start


studying for them in three years time, after the next general


election. Here to discuss this are Toby Young,


who is the co-founder of the West London Free School, and Jan Hodges,


a former teacher and CE O of the education charity, The Edge


Foundation. Let's start to find some agreement first. Is there


something wrong with the current system? Absolutely, we believe very


strongly that the current curriculum is not catering for the


wide range of skills and abilities that it nieds to, we would very


much like -- needs to, we would like all students studying academic


subjects, but also vocational subjects, some overarching


Baccalaureate that necks all those achievements.


You would agree that the current system isn't working, is this the


correct solution to the problem? Yes, first of all, we have to say


it is uncontroversial that GCSEs are not working. We have


established that? Not for the same reason as January. We have


different reasons? One reason is the introduction of one overarching


Exam Board, the problem with more than one co-operation board, in


order to compete for business, they lower standards and you have a race


to the bottom. Another thing the reforms today will do is limit the


number of students getting the top grade in 98 -- 1998, 14% got A or


A*s, last year almost a quarter of all pupils got As or A*s, we need


to limit the top mark to the very best pupils. Also the introduction


of the English Baccalaureate will make a difference. The problem with


having more than one Baccalaureate is it eliminates the purpose of it.


The reason for having it is to make sure that all children, no matter


what their background get to study this core body of facts, and leave


school with some grasp of the world, and not at a disadvantage when it


comes to competing with children who have been to grammar schools or


independent schools. Let's take that key point, the key thing about


the English Baccalaureate and what he is promosing, what is wrong with


his -- proposing, what is wrong with his idea? We don't think


anything is wrong, no-one would argue the core subjects are very


important. We also believe it is important for people to experience


vocational subjects, engineering, those kinds of practical and


applied schools. You can't do an English Baccalaureate in those


subjects? No it is confined to the axe defplic core. We would like to


-- academic core. We would like it widened to take in the range of the


subjects. The illusion Baccalaureate won't be mandatory,


people won't have to do those subjects. It is not nearly as


draconian a reform as some people imagine. But the problem with what


you have been saying, is it can be code, it can be a smoke screen,


under which the curriculum is dumbed down. To give you an example,


in 2004, the last Government made foreign language no longer


mandatory, but they did make ICT mandatory, before coming on TV


tonight, I memorised a question set in 2010, what can you not do on a


computer, (a) send an e-mail (b) book a holiday) and the Examination


Board that set the exam was one of the boards that was exposed as


spoon feeding the answers to that. The answer was not trying before


you buy it, was it? That is it. not sure the relevance it has?


is the dumbing down that has taken place as a result of GCSEs.


does it possibly make sense not to do anything about this until 2017?


I think that was an accommodation the Secretary of State had to reach


with Nick Clegg. That man introduced as the Deputy Prime


Minister! He was introduced as Deputy Prime Minister. I think if


he had his way it would be introduced more quickly. I think we


need more debate and discussion, we need to ask harders questions about


why we want people to learn certain things, what is the purpose of it.


Are we really preparing people for the 21st sent treatment will


requiring them to do three-hour written exams at the end, as the


only means of assessment, is that really preparing people for the


world of work. Employers want people who can problem-solve,


creative, innovative, I'm not sure that just sticking to academic


subjects alone, and just doing three R compassions will deliver


the improfpls we need. The current system isn't producing the people


we need? We are not disagree with that. It was interesting to hear


about Singapore, they have been rowing back a lot from a lot of


rote learning and preparation for exams. They are recognising their


young people need a wider range of skilgs and abilities. I'm not sure,


would you -- Kills and abilities. I'm not sure, -- Skims and


abilities. I'm not sure would you describe Singapore people as people


very skilled? I think it is a stereotypical portrait of an


eastern male as a nerd and incapable of creativity. I don't


think that is true. I think it is a myth to say you can't foster


innovation and creativity with rote learning. There was included 100


Latin phrases by rote for Shakespeare, but you can't say he


wasn't creative. The skills set as wanted by employers of the 21st


century, were the same as in the 20th century, and 19th century, and


stretching back to time immemorial. We need a range of knowledge and


skills, not downgrading knowledge to upgrade skills. I agree, that is


right. We have ended where we started. We know the Government is


committed to cutting the benefits bill as part of its efforts to


control public spending. What we haven't known until now is how they


are going to do it. Tonight Newsnight can reveal that the


Government is looking at freezing benefits and cutting the rate in


which they increase in value. It is bound to ignite controversy. Our


political editor is has the story. # Let me take you back to 2003


Let me take you back to 2003 indeed, back then the average salary might


have seen Anne crease in wage. Inflation hovered at a manageable


level, bright brass fittings, shiny pans, even a new bathroom suite,


were all, sort of, affordable. A decade on, that is unlikely, new


soft furnishings are only the half of T it is trickling a debate about


fairness in Government. People with salaries don't expect an increase


in their earnings any time soon. But people on benefits have seen


small increases to low incomes. Been fits are linked to inflation,


and inflation has been vigorous, the Chancellor tried to end this


link last September, then he was beaten back by the Lib Dems and the


Welfare Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith. But now the Conservatives


are returning to the issue. The Prime Minister floated an end


to this when he gave a speech on welfare in June. There are national


questions we have to ask. This year we increased benefits by 5.2%. This


was in line with the inflation rate last September. But it was almost


twice as much as the average wage increase. Given that so many


working people are struggling to make ends meet, we have to ask


whether this is the right approach. It might be better to link benefits


to prices, unless wages have slowed, in which case they should be linked


to wages instead. Newsnight understands that the Government is


looking at a new figure, they have estimated that had benefits


increased in line with earnings over the last four years since 200,


they would have paid out �14 -- 2008, they would have paid out �14


billion less from the Exchequer. The public research think-tank has


come up with its own simply imposing numbers, they estimate


over the last year, had working age benefits been uprated in line with


earnings, rather than the 5.2% inflation that they did go up by,


then �5 billion would have been saved. Looking at one benefit in


particular, the think-tank says it would mean that jobseeker's


allowance would now be �66.81, rather than �71 a week.


That 5.2% figure last September was probably an outliar, and people


don't expect it to be repeated any time soon. But wages are bumbling


along, and inflation is doing unpredictable things, it could


outpace wage increases for some time. To move things back to those


in work, those at the top are considering a par dime shift. As


earnings feel like they are being minaturised, Newsnight understands


that those at the top of Government are trying to bring what they think


is some parity to the incredibly shrinking family budgets. A freeze


to benefits being contemplated for two years, before a new link will


be imposed to earnings, but what to freeze.


The most dramatic option includes freezing 90% of benefits, it could


bring in �7 billion. But it will require a freezing of benefits for


those on disabilities, which my sources suggest they would not do,


without significant amealation. The IPPR calculate that if all


working age benefits were frozen from 2014-2015, �4 billion could be


saved in the further two years, freezing benefits of those of


working age. To get to the �7 billion figure, the Government will


have to go to places they may not want to, freezing child benefits


and Child Tax Credits. The think- tank believes this would bust the


child poverty target, and if the next election is to be fought on


living standards, the Government would have found itself in a very


tight spot. The Institute for Fiscal Studies today urged caution,


believing any shift in uprating would have limited effects,


inflation this year has fallen more rapidly than expected, the effects


on forecast benefit spending will be small, their researchers told


Newsnight. The MP of Spellthorpe, disagrees, and thinks his


institutes believe they should continue to, and the Government


could have �6 billion out of a benefit of �80 billion f they froze


benefit for three years assuming an inflation rate of 2.5%. It is


important to look at where we have come from. Wages haven't increased,


people in low-paid jobs are not getting wage increases. It is only


right, across the board, to put a cash freeze, that means if you earn


�100, then you earn the nominal amount in year two and year three.


This can save the Exchequer a lot of money. This is not some joud


landish idea, the Swedes did -- outlandish idea, the Swedes did it


to sort out their problem, Israel did it recently in the last five or


six years, and tackled their deficit and public spending problem.


For some there is the parity argument, but there is also the


bottom line. The Chancellor needs to find an extra �10 billion from


the welfare budget, in order to keep cuts to other Government


departments, in future, the same as they are right now.


If you look back at what has happened to benefits in recent


history, benefits for children have gone up by more than prices, but


the benefits for the parents haven't. We have done some research


to look at forecasts of what will happen to poverty, based on current


changes to the benefit system. We are seeing a rise in poverty up to


2020. If benefits are cut further, we will see an even bigger rise.


Benefits are also paid to those in work, as well as those out. Ending


the link wouldn't clearly incentivise work, but the


Government thinks the status quo is actually retro. Paying for tea and


toast should feel the same for everyone.


Allegra Stratton is with us. How serious is the Government about


going through with this? If they are going to meet their �10 billion


cuts to the welfare budget, which the Chancellor has said they want


to, and the Prime Minister has repeatedly said he wants to, they


are serious. �10 billion, a wealth tax the Liberal Democrats have


proposed, brings in �2 billion, something like this, it is �4-�7


billion, �7 billion seems too harsh, but �4 billion is doable. You have


other policies, something like to child benefit, you are talking


about having to go to something like this if you are ever to get up


to the scale of �10 billion, otherwise you are around the �2,


this is what they have said they will do. You think they will go


with it? This is being considered at the to much Government.


With us now is Anne Begg, the MP for Aberdeen South, and also the


chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, also with us is


Jacob Rees-Mogg, the MP for north- east Somerset. You're not going to


sit there and say we are all in this together? I will sit here and


say it is right that benefits should not rise faster than


earnings. It is unfair on people who are working that their earnings


are rising more slowly than those people on out of work benefits.


can you dispute the fairness of what he's just said? Because most


years earnings do increase far more than benefits do, even when they


are linked to RPI as they were originally, now it is CPI. I think


it would be unfair to take one year where earnings were around, prices


are around 5.2%, and earnings about 2%, which is what happened last


year. And think that some how that will be the case from now on. The


people we are talking about are people who don't get a great deal


of money in the first place. Explain? Last year and this year


earnings have risen slowly more slowly than prices, so those on


benefits are getting more increase. You wouldn't dispute that?


absolutely want work to pay, that is right. We are talking about such


small, marginal amounts in terms it of the individual, it is �5 a week,


it is a lot if you are only on �68 as opposed to �72, or �73 it would


have to be. The difference for those who are on the lower end of


the scale is that it is the proportion of their income that is


affected, as opposed to somebody who is in work. You also have to


remember, of course, that more than 50% of benefits go to people who


are in work, they are at the low pay end. Give them a double whammy


of lower wages, and lower benefits, and they are going to be hurt quite


badly as well. There is another element to this that strikes one as


a reasonably dispassionate observer, that people on benefits at that


level are being penaliseded in a way that you promised pensioners


will never be penalised? That is a very good point. But promises were


made for this parliament, to pensioners, there is a triple lock


for them. I think that politicians ought to stuck to their promises,


even if they turn out to be very difficult to keep. But the


treatment you accept is completely different? Pensioners have been


given guarantees, not just by the Conservatives, but by all parties,


to protect their pensions, and I think we should not change that,


without having put it forward in a manifesto, first. I could say to


you, pensioners, many of them, vote for you and your party, people on


benefits very often don't? Don't vote, let alone Conservative.


you can treat them as you like? don't think that's right. I don't


think the Government is that callous about the way it treats


people. I think it made certain promises, and it is right to keep


those. Do I think over the next ten years we have to look at


pensioners' benefits, I think we will have to. Do you agree with


that? I don't think we should be taking money from those who are the


poorest in society. Do you think pensioners are getting an easy deal,


when these sort of arrangements are looked at? They are certainly being


protected at the moment. Should they be? 50% of the welfare budget


is on the old age pension, 70% of welfare spending goes on those who


are offer retirement age. So the bulk of these cuts, all of these


cuts are falling on a working age population. It is the poorest in


society that are losing out. But is it fair? Is it fair that pensioners


should be privileged in the way they are? I wouldn't argue we


should be attacking pensioners, I don't think we should attack anyone


on the lower wage. You are going to wish it away this deficit?


Absolutely not. Why was it too difficult to keep a 50p rate of


income tax. That was too difficult or complicated, or cost far too


much money, let's go and hit the pensioners and hit the poorest.


50p tax rate doesn't raise any money, that is its problem. The


economy remains in a mess, the Government is spending more money


than it raises in taxes, or is likely to do in the foreseeable


future, and it is business -- the business is spending on welfare,


the biggest part of the budget. If we do nothing about welfare the


country is insolvent, we have to make tough decisions. You already


said most of the Welfare Bill goes to pensioners? That is why the


pension age has to rise higher than it is, and people have to work


longer. That is already going on. We have to be clear about this in


the election manifesto, whether we can maintain things like free bus


passes and the Winter Fuel Allowance. We mustn't break


promises given in the past, if we do the whole trust in politics


remains decayed. The one thing poorer people do is spend their


money. If we are looking at a means of reinflating their the economy,


they are the ones who should be -- reinflating the economy, they are


the ones who should be getting money, rather than those who save


their money. If we start to really starve the poorest of the money,


their communities get affect, they don't have the spending power in


the shops, and there can be a run- on effect. The deprived community


becomes more deprived as local businesses and shops close down


because the money isn't there. That, if Government was being sensible,


that's where they should be looking to inflate the economy. Thank you


very much. It has come to something when the


Defence Secretary has to go to parliament to reassure our elected


representatives that the safety of British troops in Afghanistan is a


top priority. He had to do it because this weekend two more


British soldiers were killed by supposed allies in the Afghan army.


Separately two Americans lost their lives, in the theoretically safe


compound of Camp Bastion, in yet another called green-on-blue attack.


I will be asking the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, what we


are still doing there, shortly. And if Prince Harry deserves special


protection. First, though, here is this report.


NATO insists after 1 years, the insurgency in Afghanistan is now on


the back foot, that didn't feel like that in Kabul today.


Protesters around the world have reacted against the anti-Islamic


film, produced in the USA, that ridicules the Prophet Mohammed. In


the Afghan capital, protestors burned cars and shouted "death to


America". Not what NATO needed after the humiliating attack on


Friday night at Camp Bastion. One of the most heavily-guarded bases


in the country. Taliban commanders, armed with guns and rockets, and


wearing suicide vests and US uniforms, killed two US Marine,


destroyed six Harrier jets, damaged another two, and destroyed


buildings. The cost was estimated at tens of millions of dollars. The


base is where Prince Harry is currently deployed, the Taliban


said they would have killed him if they found him. The attack was a


humiliation for NATO, and follow as whole series of called green-on-


blue incidents, involving rogue Afghan soldiers or police, turning


their guns on allied troops. The number of such attacks has been


rising. In the latest incident at the weekend, two British soldiers


were shot by a man wearing an Afghan Police uniform, four


Americans were killed in a similar attack. In 2007, there were only


two NATO troops killed in such incidents, but by last year the


number had risen to 35. So far this year there have been 51 green-on-


blue killings. Today the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, was


called to the House to discuss the price in green-on-blue deaths. He


was challenged by Labour MP Paul Flynn. Our soldiers are being


killed by their allies, it is not warfare, it is murder. We should


now take the decision that has been taken by our colleagues in the


Canadian parliament, in the Dutch parliament, to bring their troops


home. They have been home for two years. The French are coming home


early and so are the New Zealanders. There is no reason why we shouldn't


do what the country wants, and bring our brave soldiers home by


Christmas. All this, of course, at a time when NATO is preparing to


leave, handing over maintenance of law and order to Afghan security


and police forces. Last week in Afghanistan, the Defence Secretary


suggested there could be more flexibility and more British troops


than originally suggested might withdraw next year, ahead of the


2014 date set by NATO for the ending of combat operations.


Military commander on the ground are telling me, in sharp contra


distinction to what I was hearing from them only four or five months


ago, that they now believe their force requirements during 2013 will


allow scope for drawdown from current numbers, during 2013, on


our way to our objective of complete drawdown by the end of


2014. But today there was one hopeful sign in Kabul, with the


men's team at the world 2012 cricket championship in shrilaankka,


the Afghan women's team, who get no official report d Sri Lanka, the


Afghan women's team, who get no official support were out


practising. The Taliban would not allow women to play sport at all.


This is the kind of society NATO wants. It thrives, today, despite


bombers. Earlier I spoke to Philip Hammond,


the Defence Secretary. For what did British soldiers give their lives?


Like many other soldiers who have given their lives, they are there


to defend Britain's national security, to make sure that


Afghanistan can't be a base for international terrorists to attack


us and our allies, as they did with impunitive years and few years ago.


We have been told that since the start of the deployment, now we


have a situation where members of a supposedly allied army are


attacking us? We have set out a strategy to withdraw from our


combat role in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. In order to protect


our legacy, and to protect our national security into the future,


we have to make that transition by training and equipping the Afghans


to defend their own national security, and protect their own


territory, to make sure it can't be used by international terrorists.


That necessarily means our forces exposing themselves to a certain


amount of risk as they work closely alongside the Afghans. What you are


saying, effectively, if I read you correctly, is this, you are


committed to withdraw by the end of 2014, that in order for that to


happen the Afghan army has to be built up, and clearly, in the


process of building up the Afghan Army, vetting procedures have been


completely hopeless? There is a number of measures, both ISAF and


the Afghan Government are now taking in response to this spate of


green-on-blue attacks. You are right, that during the phase of


rapid build-up of the Afghan security forces, not enough


attention was paid to close vetting. The Afghans are now, woulding right


the way back through their force, re-- working right the way back


through their force revetting people. They have assigned twice


the number of direct rate of security people to the Afghan --


direct yaitd of security people to the Afghan Army, they are revetting


people when they have come back from leave, or if they have been A


wol. On our side we have put -- awol, on our side we have put in


place measures to make sure the troops are specially protected


where there is Afghan contact. And other procedures to make sure we


minimise the risk. We cannot eliminate the risk that our troops


face. This is a high-risk procedure, but it is essential, if we are to


deliver future security in Afghanistan, while being able to


withdraw ourselves from combat. these young men have died in order


that we can see the inadequacies of a poll say that we insisted upon --


of a policy that we insisted on? are building up Afghan security


forces, so we can first withdraw to a supporting role, a then come home.


There is nothing in conditions on the ground which would affect the


timetable of our withdrawal, is that correct? I don't think that is


true at all. It is possible we could be there after the end of


2014, if things get bad? We have made a commitment to be out of the


combat role by the end of 2014. Clearly conditions on the ground


have nothing whatever to do with it, they might speed up the withdrawal,


but that is it? We have got just over a two-year programme to


complete the transition to Afghan forces. There is a clear plan of


districts see qeingsally transferring to Afghan lead


responsibility, and for the allied forces to move into what they call


a Security Force Assistance posture. So we have a very clear plan. We


are executing it, and we are not going to be derailed from it,


however devastating the psychological impact of it is. We


will put in place the measure necessary to combat them, and we


will continue with our plan. That is what the Taliban doesn't want us


to do. It is because the Taliban recognises the impact that it will


have on their aspirations, us leaving behind a properly-trained


and equipped Afghan national security force, that they are so


desperate to disrupt this process. One further point, Prince Harry is


serving there at present, is he exposed to the same dangers as


every other officer there? He's an Apache pilot, he faces the same


risks that Apache pilots face as they go about their daily business.


He's no more or less exposed to risk than any other Apache pilot.


Any stories about him being bundled to safety the moment an attack


happens, and being treated differently to other soldiers there,


are not true? No, that's a different question. Clearly there


are fullback plans, I can't go into the detail of them. But once we


knew on Friday night that the perimeter at bastion had been


breached, he would have been moved -- Bastion had been breached, he


would have been moved to a place of guard. That was so he was receiving


special treatment? You asked me if he was at any greater risk. I told


you in combat he's at the same risk as any other Apache pilot. Clearly


if we have a VIP in theatre, and frank low, if I was there, or you


were in Camp Bastion, and there was a breach of the perimeter security,


anybody who might, by nature of who they are, be a target, would be put


into a secure location. So he's not serving there as an


order wry officer, is he? He is serving there -- An ordinary


officer, is he? He is serving as an ordinary officer, but there are


measures in place that realise he could be a target himself as a


result of who he is. If you are thinking up a storyline


for the episode of The Thick Of It, you would be hard-pushed to better


than the Government minister who allows the destruction of badgers.


The English people are notoriously sentimental about animal, they even


have a memorial to commemorate their effort for the war effort.


Now it is one move and he gets it. There may be no other way to save


cattle from bovine tuberculosis, now a license has been granted to


allow an experimental cull. Just supposing this sweetly odd old


fellow, sniffling about in the wind and the Willows, was really a


disease in disguise. We need all the help we can get. The science is


complicated, but farmer who lose their cattle and livelihoods to


bovine TB, don't share the sentimentalalty. Last year about


26,000 cows had to be slaughtered in the name of TB control in


England. In the badger cull, up to 6,000 badgers will be shot, in the


first two pilot areas named today. Over the next 12 years, as many as


130,000 could be sacrificed to save cattle. The Government predicts a


16% drop in bovine TB in the culled areas. You know, the scientists


know, and we all know it's simply not going to work.


Shooting furry animal doesn't make for popular politic. One opinion


poll suggests four out of five of us oppose the idea. In the sign of


the nervousness about the plan, Waitrose, Co-Op, and M & S, all


rushed tonight to say they won't sell milk from farms where badgers


are culled. Sainsbury's, on the other hand, has no problem with the


scheme. Joining us tonight is wildlife


cameraman, Simon King, and Anne McIntosh, who chairs Environment,


Food and Rural Affairs Committee. You're here in a private capacity,


I take it. Can you think of a policy more likely to lose you


support than this? Actually we are united in wanting a healthy badger


population. But you are doing it to help the badgers? You need, badgers


are on the increase, the incidents of TB in badgers, and through them


the incidents of bovine TB has increased. You are shooting badgers


because it is good for badgers? are looking to have a vaccine, both


for badgers and for cattle, but we are not there yet. This is a pilot.


In the meantime you are going to shoot them? This is a pilot cull.


And I think we owe it to the farmers and the rural economy of


the areas most badly affected, and to the badgers themselves, to


eliminate bovine TB, which we have singularly failed to do, or even


control it. There you see, it is good for them? May I start by


saying, I, the wildlife Trusts whole heartedly sympathise with the


farming community, we work alongside them every day, and we


have a strong and good relationship with farmer, and empathise with


those who have lost a herd with the outbreak, the outcomes are


devastating. Science has proved time and time again that killing


badge does not have a lasting -- badgers does not have a large and


long lasting effect on keeping out bovine TB. That is the problem here.


If you kill the badgers the incidents drop by 16%? That leaves


84%. You said it has no impact, it clearly does? Little lasting impact.


It has to be 570% efficacy, you have to kill 07% or more of the


badgers for efficacy. We don't know how much badgers we have. They are


hardly endangered? They are not, they are protected. We should be


proud of our natural legacy and heritage. We have what represents


25% of the badgers in Europe. you thought there might be some


connection between the way they are protected and bovine TB spreading


the way it is -- it is? The way to deal with it is not to cull badgers.


It is by vaccination with the badgers and the cattle. Also by


biohusbanding. In Wales they are vaccinating rather than shooting


badger, why are they able to do it and England isn't? We need to


proceed with the cull. We need to look at the fact that positive


reactors in cattle who are vaccinated will increase. You then


have the problem, and this is a personal view, you then have a


problem that if that is the case, what happens to the meat and the


milk from cattle who show signs of TB, after being vaccinated. Will


they be allowed, will the milk and products be allowed into the food


chain, will the meat be exported. You need to think this out before


you start a policy? We are united around the fact that it has to be


science-led. You just cannot continue with 26,000 animals being


slaughtered, that is an animal welfare cry us is, in any shape or


form, 26,000 cattle slaughtered in one year. That is a welfare scandal.


26,000 cattle is 100,000 badgers? think you have to grasp the fact, I


don't think Simon would disagree with this, any diseased badger will


die a grizley death, because it will be exposed and left to die by


its own set. The science doesn't support that. It is fact of life.


And I think. No it is not. I agree that you do have to find out


exactly, we are one of the few European countries to have


protected badgers, we need to know how many badgers there are in the


population. I think a limited, pilot scheme, will show whether the


results do follow the science, and whether it will produce a reduction


in the spread of bovine TB. never go to bed at night thinking,


you won't go to bed tonight thinking, oh myed God, we are going


to have to make another U-turn? This is a pilot cull. If we can


actually encourage more research, and encourage, and an earlier


development of vaccine, and what the implications are, for the


cattle that are vaccinated, you will find all sides would poll that.


The vaccine is there now, it is rolled out by the Wildlife Trust in


the counties, it is proving an efficacy of nearly 74% efficacy.


Which one is that. It is the BCG vaccine for badgers. We want


Government very much to put effort, and resources behind a vaccine that


is oral. The political bite in this, if the political U-turn comes in,


who knows, it will be because badgers are seen to be fluffy,


kaudley creature, it is not to d with the science, it is to do with


what they look like. That is why I'm not talking about that. You are


not a vegetarian, and you wouldn't have a problem killing rats?


million rats in Britain, who might carry TB, because they are mammals.


Are you happy to see rats rubbed out? I would like BTB rubbed out


and efficiently. You would vaccinate rats? No cattle that are


suffering. A vaccinated animal doesn't have the disease. I think


you accept if you vaccinate a cow, it will show a reactor to the


vaccine. I think there needs to be more testing generally, Jeremy, I


think we would all support the fact there should be more testing.


are talking about a different test? There are two different types of


tests, at the last parliament the committee looked at this, we


haven't had a chance to look at this in this parliament. If you can


increase both the research, and the testing of TB, in badger, and in


cattle. Undoubtedly, the Wildlife Trust, I support a robust testing


programme, increased security measures. I would agree.


Vaccination with badgers and cattle and anE U policy that work. That's


it for now, more in a while, interesting goings on at the


laboratories in Chicago, they are researching ways of improving the